Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lite Review of Rule-Lite Game: PACE

On our way to Con of the North I wanted to try something new: the car game. I have a distinct memory of being in fifth grade driving 6 hours away to summer camp and listening to the other three scouts in the car (all 2 to 3 years older than me) playing a game I thought was simply called "D and D On The Way." I don't remember much else other than wondering what kind of game D and D On The Way was considering these kids didn't have a board, they didn't have dice, they didn't even have a book to draw their story from. This all came from one of the kids simply asking the other if they wanted to play D&D on the way to the summer camp. Looking back it was clear they were playing some ultra-lite version of D&D - I was just too young and completely unexposed to tabletop RPG's to recognize it for what it was. Some day maybe I'll develop my own travel version of D&D or similar fantasy game and simple call it "On The Way" but that's not what I came here tonight to write about.

I asked The Bro if he would be interested in playing something in the 4 hour car ride to the Twin Cities. That was Monday night, and we were planning on leaving bright and early Friday morning. A day later he said he was in and the fact that I didn't have a rule-lite system I knew outside of the one that requires a Jenga tower was setting in. I knew I had to find something fast, and something that preferably didn't require dice. While not as impossible to utilize in a car as a Jenga tower, dice would be kind of lame.

After searching through a variety of sites to find lists of free RPG's (there are a ton out there btw, never forget to try one out when looking for a good system!) including, I somehow came across the rules for PACE. Pace is described by its author, Fred Hicks, as a "24 hour game" which follows in the tradition of the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event. The game was designed in 24 hours and comes in under 24 pages, so if nothing else it met its goal superficially. It doesn't stop there though, there's so much more!

Character creation is a one-step process. Each player thinks of two or three words as a descriptor of their character type and splits 7 points between the words to give them their ratings. I never got a chance to create my own character, but The Bro and Brett (the other brave soul to join us in our trek north) played as capital city cops. My example of a character would have been Skeptic (3) Sharpshooter (4). Any gear that the character should have they get. Any test they attempt, they succeed in. The trick comes with degrees of success. The auto success is only a 1, but players can spend pips to raise their degree of success up to the appropriate descriptor's rating. Players can gain pips in a couple of different ways, but mostly by volunteering to fail a test. The greater the failure, the more pips gained. The rules have a couple of more steps to keep the pip economy flowing well, you should check it out if you're interested in a very narrative-heavy game where the players more than likely have a good chance of ass-kicking.

The other exciting part of the day, other than discovering Pace, was running a game that had no prep at all. Pace doesn't necessarily recommend this, but I was reading the rules for it late Thursday morning and didn't have much time. I didn't even settle on a genre until in the car and the guys chose modern day horror. I was thinking a Middle-Earth murder mystery would be a lot of fun (as I think Pace should work very well for Middle-Earth role playing), and I may still run that game someday, but I had a ton of fun making up not just characters on the fly but a basic plot as well. I daresay I was able to come up with a coherent and satisfying mystery as well, although that may be a story for a different day. It was a great experience, and I may have to investigate more free systems in the future (or simply run every game now in Pace - it's possible!).


  1. you should definitely post a recap of the actual plot that developed. Improv gaming is the best!

  2. Wow! So pleased to hear that my weird little experiment from a while ago worked out so well for you. Man, I need to go back and read that thing again. I've forgotten most of what I came up with.

  3. It was quite excellent and definitely something that worked in the car on the way. I loved it as I basically used one note card to keep both player stats on one side and my NPC stats on the other. You can't really ask for anything more when trying to keep a car game organized!

    I do intend to do a recap at some point of the story, hopefully sometime this weekend. I have to say that my players came up with some excellent characters themselves, which always helps of course!


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