Thursday, 12 December 2013

of Adventure!

Rapid-fire idea again. During a fairly ridiculous evening, the idea of an Enid Blyton-like game somehow came up.

As I recall, it was something like:

  • Pixar do loads of interesting films about male protagonists doing all kinds of fun things, but their film about a girl is substantially about Being a Girl.
  • Things are very rarely about Being a Boy.
  • I wondered what a Being a Boy equivalent of Hellcats and Hockeysticks would be like, and would be genuinely interested to see a take on fictional Being a Boy. I don't believe (borne out by female friends) that Hellcats is an accurate depiction of girls' schools (nor was it intended to be one), but what would the male equivalent pick out from the school experience? I'd like to see what was highlighted as core aspects of boyschoolhood.
  • Suggestion that the boys' equivalent would be grounded on things like Just William, though we don't think this would work as there's no real party structure for William most of the time, just a few NPC allies. Enid Blyton?
  • The Famous Five come up, but we notice they are all related. Someone suggests the Secret Seven, who aren't all related, but there are more of them than in a typical gaming group. Five Find-Outers? The .... of Adventure books come up. We can't remember if they were related or not, but they had a parrot.
  • Idea of game based on this sort of thing. I get carried away, as usual. After some naysaying, I suggest that we don't need to stick entirely to Blyton canon, and can probably ignore the classism, chalk-whiteness and fossilised attitudes of the actual books and just try to play with the fun bits.

of Adventure!

A group collaboratively build their mascot. If they really want, they could build more than one, but don't get carried away. Dogs are the most common mascot, but parrots, monkeys and so on are also good. Your mascot should ideally not be such things as A Girl, A Working-Class Person or A Homeless Man With A Strange Bond With Nature.

The mechanics should probably just be a simple system of dicepools and adjectives. You gain bonus dice for acting according to your stated character as long as it's at least vaguely related to what you're trying to do. Note that your adjectives don't need to make you better at the goal of the action in order to gain the bonus. For example, if you are ripping off Anne from the Famous Five, perhaps you are captured by smugglers (it's not likely, because as Anne you never get to do anything interesting, but just suppose). Anne might decide to meekly do some chores around the den while looking for a chance to escape. Because she is Domestic and Meek, the smugglers are easily convinced by this and she gains a bonus to her rolls for finding an escape route.

Having slept on it, I remember that my family actually played Enid Blyton pastiches for many years as in-car or holiday entertainment. You start with the Famous Five doing something, and take it in turns to "continue the story using" X, Y and Z. At some point one of these would inevitably be a pair of pants.* This is probably the most rules-light RPG I have ever played, and we started when I was old enough to know any Famous Five stories. Which just goes to show that RPGs are indeed good wholesome family entertainment that anyone can enjoy. Or something.

For any American readers, pants are an item of underwear, and should not be confused with kecks.

Skeleton Ruleset

Character generation

You create a Young Person to play. Adults do exist in the Blytonverse, but are not appropriate player characters.

Good Points

Everyone has five points to allocate. Use these to emphasise character aspects that should come into play. You can of course have as much other description as you want, but this won't provide mechanical bonuses. They are generally admirable traits, skills or interests.

Good aspects might include:

  • stubborn ("pig-headed", if you want to stick with the theme)
  • interested in science
  • fond of dogs
  • well-behaved
  • inquisitive
  • athletic
  • plucky
  • good at sailing
  • a natural leader
  • a good actor

Some things are accurate Blytonisms, but probably not good for play: there's not that many ways to use aspects like Fat or Ingenuous. Personality traits perhaps shouldn't be aspects unless they're likely to be mechanically useful, and are better portrayed with roleplaying. I allowed Stubborn because persistence is mechanically useful and Plucky because showing pluck is both Blytonesque and easy to apply as a bonus; however "irritable or "sensible" aren't easy to use.

You get a bonus die whenever you make a convincing argument that one of your aspects is relevant. You can use any number of aspects simultaneously.

Bad Points

Everyone must pick a weakness. It's entirely possible for your weakness to also be an aspect; Stubborn can be both a benefit and a drawback.

Antagonists gain a bonus die whenever your weakness is relevant. For example, if you are Timid, they gain a bonus die to intimidate you into revealing information.

If you can find a way to use your weakness as a strength, go right ahead.


The group collaboratively builds a mascot (some kind of pet), or more than one if they want, although having more than two is likely to get pretty out-of-hand. Each player can contribute one point to the mascot to define one thing about them. Unlike human characters, all significant abilities of the mascot require a point; they don't get freebies just because you decide that your mascot is a parrot-squid crossbreed and should be able to reproduce human voices, manipulate complex objects and slip bonelessly through small spaces.

For example, Timmy the dog is Brave, can Swim and Barks Fiercely. Kiki the parrot can Fly, Imitate Speech, is Small, Clever and can Manipulate Objects.

The story

I'm inclined to say this one should be a GM-less thing where everyone picks a generic Blytonesque adventure they want to play in (Smugglers in a Circus, Mysterious Island with Scientists) and then suggest twists as they come along.

Play proceeds in arbitrarily-defined Chapters in which a Thing Happens. One player is the Baddies and controls the antagonists during that Chapter, as well as having final say on introducing any twists or plot elements. While being the Baddies, their character should probably fade into the background. A Chapter doesn't necessarily feature all the characters; it might feature only one. Decide between yourselves when a Chapter ends; they should be relatively short. Everyone else should feel free to chip in with ideas unless they become annoying, in which case they should let up a bit.


Roll a d6 to try and achieve things that are significant or interesting. You get a bonus die whenever you make a convincing argument that one of your aspects is relevant. You can use any number of aspects simultaneously. You can also gain a bonus die if the situation makes your attempt easier. Make sure you make it clear what you're trying to achieve first, because it's not a very fine-grained system and it's annoying for everyone if you think you're doing one thing and the Baddies player thinks you're doing another.

There are three difficulty thresholds: 3, 6 and 9. These are chosen semi-carefully (I thought for several seconds) so that they allow for varying difficulty and dice pools. A 3 is straightforward for anyone and trivial with any advantages; a 6 is difficult without an advantage but straightforward with; a 9 is impossible without an advantage, fairly difficult with one, and fairly straightforward with three. Obviously it's possible to have more than three dice, but in general I'd expect one aspect plus one situational bonus to be the most common achievable pool.

If you roll the number or better, you get more or less what you wanted, or at least something appropriate depending on the natural consequences of your action and what's interesting. Rolling well might let you succeed even more successfully if it seems appropriate.

If you don't reach the difficulty number, you don't get what you wanted. Depending on what you're doing, you might just fail ignominiously, or something interesting might happen as a consequence. Rolling particularly badly might result in a particularly hilarious or disastrous consequence if it seems appropriate.

Genre rules

A few rules are necessary because of genre expectations.

  • Nobody gets killed onstage, and very few offstage
  • A child fighting an adult either flees or is captured. However, children may be able to create a situation in which they can overcome an adult. A group of four or more children can capture one adult. Adults can capture one child per free hand.
  • Bullets never hit anyone, which doesn't mean guns can be ignored. Simply interpret the rolls according to genre; for example, Bobby attempts to flee from the crooks but stops short when a warning shot spangs off the wall nearby.
  • There is no damage mechanic. Injuries are rare. Determine the effects of injuries as seems appropriate; the most likely are twisted ankles. Injuries are quietly forgotten about when that seems like a good idea.

There you go, 10-minute RPG written.


  1. I think I'd be more inclined to allow bonuses from personality traits. I can think of several situations in which being "sensible" might be useful, for example. "Tomboyish" also has fine Blyton precedent.

    1. I have to admit I'm struggling with those. What sort of things were you thinking of for Sensible?

      Tomboyish is a classic Blytonism but is fundamentally about how other people perceive you. I'm sure you could get use out of it, but at the same time it's sort of squirrelly. On the narrower sort of interpretation it's really just about mannerisms and clothing, which doesn't seem very useful unless you particularly want to impersonate a boy for some reason (which could well happen). If you take it at a more George level, then it's a really broad thing covering all kinds of athletics, courage, survival skills, and basically anything else Blyton thought was admirable, but then it's getting kind of OP, you know? Those should really be their own aspects.

      It's going to depart partly on where personality begins and ends. Some work for weaknesses; Lazy is easy, for example, also Hot-Headed, Stubborn as I already said, Inquisitive, Overconfident. Kind maybe won't be that useful.

      In general though, the sensible thing would be to allow whatever traits everyone agrees on as appropriately useful: not too broad, not too niche.

      On another note arguably I could have had everyone pick personality, skill and interest aspects but yeah, 10 minutes, and I'm not sure it would be an actual improvement.