You've heard of Eisen's Vow, yeah?
Okay, that's not unusual. It's only been called that for a while, although it's an idea as old as D&D itself. Over in his book The Elusive Shift (and on his blog, Playing at the World), Jon Peterson defines Eisen's Vow as --
the position that player enjoyment of the game is diminished by understanding how the referee resolves system events.
There's history behind this idea; in the interest of not re-hashing the wheel, you can also go listen to this here episode of the Roleplay Rescue podcast, where host Che Webster discusses it in detail and has a neat accent.
But anyway. The basic notion is that if the players don't know the rules, and you -the GM- handle all of that on your end, then the players are interacting with the world and not the game mechanics. This, as I mentioned previously, hopes to front-load immersion.
When I first read about it in the book, and again when I listened to Che's podcast episode, I was all, like, "Yyyyyyyeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh I dunno." Players -of which I am sometimes one- like knowing the rules to a certain point, so they know what risks they can and can't take. That's fair; that's just being smart.
You can argue that players can still learn what risks they can and can't take even if they don't know the rules, and they learn those limitations the same way they learn anything in life:
Plus, I'd rather my players poke around at the world because they can, not because they are told they can. I'd rather the risks and rewards in, say, fighting a handful of kobolds be present and evident by the information that I can give them, and that their characters grow in ability through lived, rather than tallied, experience.
And that's what Rovainne wants to be: a play experience. It wants to come alive at the table, to be a thing that the players sink into and enjoy.
And! Plus! Also! There's another advantage to this play style: in the absence of to-hit modifiers, armor classes, target numbers, feats, skill levels and such, creativity and description become paramount. Can your party defeat these kobolds? Maybe. Probably. How? What are your tactics? No no no, not "what are you going to do to get +2 to hit them", I said what are you going to do? Do you just wade in? Do some of you flank them out? Are you dumber than a kobold? What about the one with the spear?
The argument can be made that you can have a game that focuses on those same tactical considerations even if you have modifiers codified for every abstraction, and you know what? You can.
But you don't gotta. You can have a rich play experience that hinges on not having tactical modifiers and instead pretending that you're a knight and a scoundrel and a wizard's apprentice and a witch who have to get across this clearing in the woods, and there are some lizard-dog-things that say "No way", so what do you do about it?
Obviously, this requires a lot of trust between the players and the GM. That's why I intend to play this with an established group who I trust will trust me.
So the rules I'm using will be invisible to the players. But what rules am I using?
...that would be telling. But I'll tell you what they're not, and I can tell you that they're not those rules because I considered all of the below but ultimately decided that they didn't fit what Rovainne wants to be:
- AD&D 2nd Edition or Rules Cyclopedia - despite being my favorite iterations of Brand Name D&D, as I've already stated, Rovainne doesn't want to be D&D.
- Castles & Crusades, 13th Age, Labyrinth Lord, OD&D and its clones - despite being other great ways to play D&D, well...they're...still D&D. With all the D&D expectations that I'd just end up chucking out anyway.
- GURPS, D6 Fantasy, HERO FREd, Savage Worlds - despite being some generic systems that I liked, Rovainne resisted being those games because they just wouldn't easily bend to what Rovainne wants to be. They could, eventually, but...it seemed like a lot of work, and the temptation was there to go down pathways that could lead away from the pure experience of what the setting wants to be, and risks me turning it into something else just because it seems like a good idea at the time.
- Dungeon World - too much to cut out, again. Though I did consider a basic PbtA 6-/7-9/10+ target spread and interpretation, but I had the feeling that it wouldn't give me the right feel that I wanted. I co-opted some of the ideas, though...
- Fate Core/Condensed/Accelerated - despite being one of my favorite ways to tell stories and such, some of my players balked at the odds of rolling 4dF, and I just really don't want to argue about that.
- Cortex Prime - yeah, no, I ain't doin' that much work. Screw that. Nice game, but noooooo.
So the rules are none of those, and they're not a lot of other systems, either. They'll be my secret. Don't ask.
Now...you've probably noticed that I keep talking about "what Rovainne wants to be". That's a whole topic unto itself, and I'm looking forward to discussing it with you and telling you what it means and how it intersects with my jacked-up creative process, which is one of the original themes of this blog...
...but not right now. You've already had enough to read. Come back later.