Getting started with Free Kriegsspiel Roleplaying
This post is my attempt to lay bare how to play a roleplaying game using FKR methods. I will presume no prior experience. Actually, I will presume you don’t even have a roleplaying game. It’s alright, you won’t need one.
Mind you, this post is still just a brief overview. Each of the topics I cover here are just barely scratching the tips of their respective icebergs.
|Dreams by Rogier Hoekstra via Pixabay. Image used with permission.|
How to roleplay
First off, roleplaying is not acting. It is not stage-play. Instead, it is about saying or doing things that you would do given a role. That’s it. It might even sound familiar, like play pretend.
What you and your friends at the table will be doing is using roleplay to set up an ongoing fiction or narrative. When you roleplay, you are basically addressing the ‘facts’ that are in the fiction.
Depending on your role, you could change or add facts to the fiction. If you’re in a room with a sarcophagus, you might want to examine some things or say “I turn on a flashlight”. You switch the flashlight on, or you glean some more details from the sarcophagus. Anything that is physically possible is something you can attempt to do.
You and your friends will basically keep this fiction going on to play out fantastical adventures, be it in dark tombs or cold space stations in deep space. You can dive into detail as much as makes sense or is fun. For example, a fight could be exciting to roleplay beat for beat.
When you’re roleplaying with friends, you might come across situations where one of you isn't quite on the same page about what is happening in this fiction. No worries, this can be handled in many ways. It could be a simple misunderstanding - this could be cleared up by repeating the fictional situation and seeing who is on track and who isn’t.
If any of you happen to disagree about something in the fiction, you might want to resolve this using a dice roll or some sort of tie breaker procedure.
With a basic idea of how to roleplay, I would suggest that you agree on which roles to play. One of you should be a Referee, the player who basically runs the game or plays the world. If you’re reading this, you’re probably going to end up as the Referee. Your friends can be players who control player characters. Player characters are put in the fiction that the Referee creates. The players leverage their instincts and their characters to explore the fiction.
As the Referee, set up any scenario you’re comfortable setting up. Ask your players to come up with descriptions of their player characters. Describe the scenario to your players, frame where they start and ask what they do. Depending on what the player characters do, you’ll inevitably make changes on the fiction and describe it to the players.
You will also probably come into situations where it’s unclear what should happen next. For example, if two fighters are attacking each other, who hits first? Well, that’s when dice can be handy. Or maybe the fiction can be helpful. Is one of the fighters known to be fast? Then let that fighter hit first.
I typically keep a session going for 90 - 120 minutes. This is often enough to play a few encounters exploring rooms, dealing with strange creatures or talking to merchants in distant lands.
Many roleplaying games use dice. You can too! And you should let your friends try them out too. Overall, deciding when to use dice should somewhat make sense with the fiction. If something has a chance of happening, you could use a die to determine if that happens. For example, if a player character wants to jump from one ledge to another, you could ask them to roll a 5 or a 6 on a six-sided die.
You can use real-world probabilities for finding these chances, if you like. Or you can keep it simple, like saying “something really unlikely has a 1 in 6 chance of happening”. The simpler you keep this aspect, the quicker the game will flow. Mapping dice rolls to every conceivable event in a fight, for example, could really slow down a game.
A lot of roleplaying games will tie up game mechanics to dice rolls, but I advise to keep things simple. You can over time learn any roleplaying game to use at your table, but the important bit for basic play is to leverage the dice as described above.
Having run a single session, you will likely have gained more confidence in running roleplaying games. You might also find that you’ve prepared too much, or maybe too little. It’s alright, the process of playing is highly malleable and should be changed over time. Take lessons from each game, listen to your feelings and talk to your players. If something felt off about a session, try to question why that happened.
The next steps will likely involve preparing for more sessions. Once you have had some hands-on experience, it’s likely easier to figure out what you need for the next session. You can plan ahead as much as you want, but you will also likely experience that players stumble into places that you haven’t planned in advance. To best respond to such situations, it is best to take it easy and think things through. For example, if the players decide to enter a cottage that you hadn’t planned out: Keep it simple and just think through what you would find inside a cottage instead of panicking about not having prepared the location in advance.
I think it’s important to maintain a balanced amount of fun and prep. If preparing sessions becomes complicated or starts feeling like “prep debt”, take a step back and maybe simplify the process. Cut away “nice to haves” and keep the “need to haves”. You probably already have limited spare time, so adjust the “good enough” bar accordingly.
Finally, there are some good spaces to discuss FKR on Discord and on Reddit. You can always hop into my community discord too.
Oh, by the way, this blog post will likely change over time.