My players and I have not touched a (rule)book the last 5 sessions, feels good. Few thoughts

After GMing for a very long time and many sessions I realized today I don’t use nor need books or written rules anymore, and neither do my players (2 groups, 8 players, 10 sessions total) and the sessions are better for it, by far.

The game is more immersive, faster, “realistic” and above all fun. The game moves so much faster and we get so much more ‘done’. The players are more engaged as am I.

Of course I have enough of the more iconic entries of monstrous manual in my head. I also only feel I can do without written rules because I read so many OSR houserules, own a few of the well regarded OSR products, as well as having really studied a lot of Youtube videos on houserules/OSR variants of D&D being used by extremely experienced and thoughtful DMs.
Very much standing on the shoulders of giants.

In a nutshell my rules I use 90% of the time: everything (but damage) is 20 sided die based and I simply assign a realistic target number, I combine initiative and attack roll in a single roll, still retaining the basic class abilities, playing a more free-form magic system in which every spell requires an “attack” roll to succeed (which gets higher as player casts more spells within one day, especially if he repeats the same spell) and retaining Advantage mechanic and Inspiration and little else. Generally I am big on rulings over rules.

I have never yet encountered a situation where the above wasn’t fun, reasonable, consistent and readily accepted by the players, as long as I put some thought and brief explanations into my calls and am willing to (on those rare occasions that player suggests I might have missed ABC as factor) adjust my target number more often than not.

The only times I thought about grabbing a book was to have picture to show of a monster, but I find it is far more effective to spend 15 mins before each session searching the exact images that fit my planned adventure and NPCs really well and printing those or showing my laptop screen to the players.

Anyone else experiencing a similar process and outcome? Or, if you still reach for the PHB, DMG or MM, for which rules or sections do you still need it?

I used to be sceptical of OSR systems and games that were 2 to 30 pages of rules. No more.


Fundamentally, the game design of games like d&d 5e doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I can understand why some people like it, but I prefer games which can be run just as you describe. I just ran a game today for a hack of Into the Odd / Electric Bastionland I’m working on for a game jam, I’ve never played ItO/EB before nor this hack, and we had an absolute blast. Granted I created the hack, but still, I never needed to review the rules, and my players basically got it right away despite also not having any experience with ItO / EB, let alone my hack or the setting. It’s not even just that it’s lighter, but often times those rules in games like 5e just get in the way of letting us do what we want to do, even if we know the rules perfectly, and the design of those kinds of games also just kind of intrinsically discourages creative thinking.


Gaming goals. I simply do not have the time and/or patience to read 500+ pages to run a game.

My main grip with the larger systems like 5e or Pathfinder 2e is how the book is organized and laid out. It’s awesome and all that they have these rules for exploration or downtime, but it would be nice to have a blocked out text showcasing the procedure of using those rules and atleast making it easier to reference and search.

The closest I have come to memorizing rules has been for Mark Hunt’s Tall Tales B/X ruleset, but it’s like the lightest weight thing I have and it’s relatively easy to find everything if I come up short on an exact rule or detail. In my design work, I feel like it’s a goal of mine to develop a rule set that can be memorized and learned within a few/couple sessions of playing or atleast have easy procedures for everything.

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