About Swordfin Games and Simplicity

When I originally created Swordfin Games, it was nothing but an online location for me and my friends to get together and discuss roleplaying games. For years, it served as a springboard for many of the campaigns I ran and was a convenient place for me to disseminate information to my players. Since then, it’s become a home for my own roleplaying game, known as Simplicity. Why bother to write my own RPG when so many others exist? Well, read on for the full explanation.
I had been playing current RPGs for nearly a decade without much complaint. It wasn’t until I had a chance to revisit the basic RPG rules that had initially sparked my interest in roleplaying in the 80’s that I realized what had been lost over the years. That small red box with its two thin rulebooks made me remember that a roleplaying game should be about sharing a story with your friends, not referencing obscure rules or arguing about the interpretation of a lengthy spell description.
I was impressed by those rules from the 80’s. They were powerful, but they weren’t exactly what I wanted in rules set. Through the decades, I’d become accustomed to a level of freedom and choices granted by most newer RPGs, and while liberating in their ease of use, those old rules didn’t offer quite the level of flexibility I wanted going forward.
And so I searched.
I searched for a lightweight set of rules that would enable me to recapture that ease of play. I searched for rules that would allow me to build a fantasy world with ease. I searched for a set of rules that would be easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to master.
In all fairness, I found many RPGs that came close. There are many excellent retro-clones available on the market today, and their packaging and presentation is vastly superior to the original. That being said, none of them was exactly what I wanted. I wasn’t looking to rehash the rules of days past. I wanted something different, something that could emulate the same type of game play experience while allowing for flexibility and choice.
In the end, I found it easier to draft my own rules. After all, it seemed to be the only way I was going to get exactly what I wanted.
Simplicity began its life as a short document cobbled together with just enough to of a framework to make it playable by my gaming friends. The rules sat on the Swordfin Games website for several months while I continued to play my ongoing campaign.
Much to my surprise, I got a call from a friend who asked if he could use the rules to run a Wild West themed game at one of our upcoming weekend getaways of gaming. I was thrilled and of course granted my permission. At the time, the rules were just for players. I hadn’t drafted the section for GMs, so my friend didn’t have much to go on. To his credit, he made do and managed to pull off a brilliant game. This alone should be a testament as to how easy it is to referee a Simplicity game.
I had always expected I’d be the first person to run a game using the Simplicity rules. Instead, I was one of the first players. It was a proud moment that only left me feeling prouder when I saw how much fun everyone had. There were bugs in the rules. That was to be expected. Nevertheless, after that first game, I knew I was on the right track to accomplishing my goal of writing a simple, easy to learn, and fun to play roleplaying game.
Over the next few months, I worked on Simplicity when time permitted, attempting to mold it into a cohesive package. It was during this time I developed a profound respect for professional game designers everywhere. Organizing your thoughts into a document that you can utilize and reference is relatively easy, but trying to express yourself in a way others will understand is infinitely more difficult. Deciding on a level of detail that illuminates without overstating is even harder.
I do not envy professional game designers, nor do I aspire to be one. I’m just a normal guy with a family and a normal job. I do not have an editor. I make many mistakes with grammar and punctuation. I feel moderate shame at this, but it is not enough to stop me from sharing what I write. Roleplaying is a hobby for me, and in spite of my personal limits, I’ve written adventures, a campaign setting, and even a novel in the past.
All of my previous writing endeavors were for personal satisfaction, and I’ve never felt compelled to force them upon others or attempt to make money from them. The same was true of the Simplicity rules when I created them. My original intent was to simply use the rules for my recreation by running games for my friends. However, after spending so much time, care, and love on the project, I feel compelled to share it with everyone possible.
Many people may not see a simple 48-page rulebook as an enormous project, and by professional standards, it is not. But as I’ve mentioned, I’m just an ordinary guy. I tend to do all of my own design, writing, layout, and art. So, for me at least, it’s a decent accomplishment.
As you look around the website, you’ll notice the Simplicity rules are available electronically for free. The digital age is wonderful in this regard. Printed copies of the Simplicity Core Rulebook are available, as well. Obviously, I can’t afford to provide these for free, but I think you’ll find them very reasonably priced.
There are forums here where you can ask questions or make suggestions. I try my best to lend what help I can with my limited time, but honestly, all rule decisions in a roleplaying game are subject to the GM’s final say; so I encourage Game Masters to go with their gut when adjudicating these (or any) rules. After all, you know what’s right for your players. Never let the rules tell you otherwise.
Download a copy of the Simplicity Core Rulebook. Try it out with your friends. It might not be what you’re looking for. On the other hand, it might be exactly what you need to rekindle the storytelling at your game table. Either way, it won’t cost you a penny to find out.