n. An old soldier.

n. Someone who enjoys playing board wargames, particularly the counter-heavy strategy board wargames from the 1970s and 1980s.

n. Someone who enjoys playing previous editions of roleplaying games when newer, bigger, bloated editions of the game are available. <<—my paraphrase here.Β  heh.




Recently I’ve been contemplating a return to tabletop roleplaying games, a hobby I’ve really enjoyed off and on over the years. After seeing a new version of one of my all time favorite rulesets released, I mentioned this to a few friends, and one of them laughed and referred to me a “grognard” (see the definition above). I laughed as well. This is an old teasing argument going back and forth over the years regarding the complexity or simplicity of RPG rulesets. He favors more detail, while I favor simplicity. This isn’t just us. In the hobby this difference in philosophy can get quite heated and over the top.

I figured this would be good for a blog post from the perspective of the “crusty ol’ bastage”. πŸ™‚

Part of the reason (a huge chunk, actually) for my dislike of “crunchy” rulesets and multi-gad-zillion page source books is where/when I came into the “game”. I was a wargamer from junior high through the first couple years of high school. Avalon Hill, SPI, and that ilk.

THEN…I stumbled across a 30-page blue paperback book at a local hobby store in Denver in 1978 called “Dungeons and Dragons”. No editions, no “advanced”, just a little booklet. It intrigued

Original blue cover D&D book Click to see the actual material

me in spite of my wargaming background causing brain freezes trying to comprehend what it actually was. It took over a week to actually grok it.


Once that happened, it wasn’t a lightbulb going on, rather a thermonuclear explosion. I was off to the races creating graph paper dungeons with treasures and monsters. Back then there was no stigma about this, it was just something to have fun with during study halls or winter evenings with not much else to do, and a lot of people began playing.

Original Traveller LBB’s. Click the picture to go to the Publisher’s website.

In 1979/80 I found the Classic Traveller LBBs (Little Black Books)…and again, nukes went off. Bigger nukes. While I enjoyed the fantasy setting, my heart and mind was and always belongs to science fiction…and those three little books were a revelation. (I’d seen prior attempts that just looked wonky.)

In those two short spartan publications, universes opened up. No settings, no pre-canned adventures…just the minds of the players and the referees going places. Travelling and having adventures.

As the hobby progressed in the 80’s, that wonder and creativity withered…not from the publishers…they were going nuts on pre-canned everything…it was the players and referees. The originality of those first years where the games weren’t spoon-fed by modules and convoluted rulesets, rather CREATED on the fly during the gaming sessions, or by hours of toil by the referee to flesh out worlds never seen before, faded.

The desire/mindset evolved from “let us roleplay” to “let us roll-play”.

Then rulesets began to increase to insane levels where you could get carpal tunnel from rolling dice for everything from pulling out a sword to freakin’ breathing. (This was the time when the term “Rules Lawyer” came into being.) It was also during this time that I backed away from the whole mess for the first time.

My love of RPG never faded, but by then a LOT of people playing were about 70% unhinged. Getting calls all the time from players asking about DnD (1st ed.) or Traveller supplement 9 minutiae to begging me to run this module or that to trying to have mini-games with their DM (Dungeon Master/Referee) away from the group frankly drove me batshit.

So yeah, my fondness for simplicity and ROLEplaying over rules for everything and anything comes from how I learned how to do things.

New Traveller, cleaned up and modernized without a lot of bloat.

Seeing those classic LBBs updated and streamlined for our modern “tech” sensibilities put the “wow” back in my head.

Still 2d6 + modifier roll… 8+ to succeed. -happy shivers from the ghosts of my past. πŸ™‚












According to Mongoose Traveller Rulebook:
β€œThe Referee should only call for checks:
β€’ When the characters are in danger.
β€’ When the task is especially difficult or hazardous.
β€’ When the characters are under the pressure of time.
β€’ When success or failure is especially important or interesting.”

πŸ™‚ x 10

4 thoughts on “On roleplaying as a ‘grognard’

  1. Also only call for checks when you want to make your players sweat for no reason. Like when they are surfing on their phone and you want them to pay attention.

  2. Younger player here who’s never tried any version of DnD, and I don’t think aversion to rule-bloated games is a grognard thing. Every time I’ve tried to read the DnD or Pathfinder rulebooks, I’ve given up after a few pages asking myself “why?”

    Why do you need a specific rule for how much damage a player woud take from a fall from every specific height, for example? Can’t the GM just tell the players “a fall from this height would really hurt” or “yeah you’d probably die” and move on? For me, if you’ve got to calculate and roll constantly you’re actually removing believability while hindering the game master’s ability to build the narrative.

    1. I agree it isn’t specific, but it is a part of it. The evolution of ttrpg rules-sets have almost always gone for “more” rather than ‘enough’.
      If you follow gaming forums/groups/etc., you will find that a LOT of players/gm’s seem to want their hands held in any and all situations rather than using their imagination/common sense to
      see their way through a rules-set that leaves things to the referee or are an actual problem. The catch-22 is that for most game developers (thankfully not all) if they don’t cater to
      the $$$, they stay bedroom/self-published works.

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