member, 753 posts
Thu 5 May 2022
at 20:21
So what is free-form?
I'm an old gamer. I've been playing games for decades. I keep hearing about free-form but I honestly haven't a clue what that is.

Anyone kind enough in the community willing to teach an old dog some new tricks?

I'd be most appreciative of any links to foundational blogs, articles, or similar detailing the common expectations or assumptions of that play style.

Please and thank you.
 member, 1780 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
Thu 5 May 2022
at 20:37
So what is free-form?
Free-form is when there's no (or limited) mechanics to resolve a situation.  It's very much like the game of pretend that you probably played growing up.
 supporter, 741 posts
Thu 5 May 2022
at 20:44
So what is free-form?
In reply to Hunter (msg # 2):

Yep, except that grownups generally play better with each other.  One hopes, anyways.
 member, 2578 posts
Thu 5 May 2022
at 21:26
So what is free-form?
all the  games  I run are semi-freeform..I stay away from  pure freeform, because the ones i   looked into or player ( back in the  days).. we're  more Like god modes.

 I call Mine Seni-freeform, because  they are  my own system...players  can  create..find or Miss plot lines  as they play, there are framework rules to keep  the game...a game. and since its not a  'brand name'..i call it freeform.

I'm sure some  Gaming place has a  true definition..but this is mine!
 member, 29 posts
Thu 5 May 2022
at 21:35
So what is free-form?
Another word for verbosity.
 subscriber, 3370 posts
 Member before Oct 2005
 Creative Writing ROCKS!!
Thu 5 May 2022
at 23:38
So what is free-form?
I run 8 Freeform games.  I like to think of them as creative writing with a team of others enjoying spinning a great story together.  I always welcome new players.
 member, 7401 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Fri 6 May 2022
at 06:32
So what is free-form?
Hunter's got the cut-and-dried definition, ladysharlyne has the more "living, breathing" definition, donsr's 'semi-freeform' is probably close to how many of them actually play out.

tl:dr--think of it as a regular roleplaying game, except instead of rolling dice and referring to tables, the results come from the GM or other players.  You still declare your character's actions, attacks, etc, but there's no dice-rolling or other form of mechanics for conflict resolution (or, in the case of the aforementioned 'semi-freeform', the mechanics are extremely minimal.)

The In-depth Version--In my experience, freeform games, moreso than any other style, are heavily reliant on having reliable players with good chemistry.  The ones I've played generally involve the players posting what actions their character is undertaking, and possibly even explaining why those actions are being taken ("I throw a rock at the leader," as opposed to, "I throw a rock at the leader to try and knock him over to slow up the rest of his group," for example).  The GM then decides what the results of those actions will be (if the group is fighting a bunch of mooks, for instance, the GM may say, "Post your attacks and results, assuming that they all succeed, because these guys are nowhere close to your league," or, referring back to the earlier example, the GM may say, "You hit the leader, but the rock bounces off his helmet without any significant damage.  He does, however, appear stunned.")

This is where the 'collaborative creative writing' exercise aspect of it comes into play.  If you've ever read anthologies where authors are creating and contributing characters into an established world--Thieves' World comes to mind immediately, although that's a very dated reference at this point--the authors submit their writing and the editor comes back and says either, "That's good, let's keep that," or, "I like this part and this part, but this section right here contradicts what someone else has already written in their story" (or something similar.)

It's reliant on players who are devoted to playing their characters fair and true (which doesn't always happen--you occasionally run into players who are constantly revising their character's background so that no matter what happens, the character has some kind of experience in their past that could be considered applicable to the situation--one of the big knocks commonly heard against freeform gaming), who trust the GM to provide fair and consistent rulings, and also trust the other players to keep their characters true to the setting (like, you don't want someone in a Star Trek game to design an X-Wing fighter, even if the character has the skills to do so, because X-Wings aren't remotely similar to anything in Star Trek).

A good GM can nip most problems in the bud, if they're willing to weigh in on it.  Good players can also keep a lid on things (in one of the games I've been in, there was a character who claimed to have been researching the alien race which the PCs were fighting, and claimed that they were genetically modifying each successive generation to be immune to what was killing them now...which is not necessarily a bad premise, but the GM had already established that said aliens, while scientifically superior, were not particularly adept at rapid-fire genetic engineering, and would also inevitably make the aliens invincible, which also flew in the face of the GM's premise for the game.  Several of the PCs scoffed at the notion, including statements like, "How do you engineer someone to survive a .50cal to the face?" and the player in question dropped the point in short order.)  The big problem that most people complain about is 'god-modding' (or God-Moding), where a player will post something that dictates the actions of or effects upon other characters which they don't control.  That is, in most games, a cardinal're free to have your character say or do whatever, but the ONLY thing you control is your character (unless the GM has allowed you the leeway of having some subordinate NPCs which you also nominally control.)

If you have good players, these problems rarely show up.  If you have a good GM, most of the time that these problems show up, they never get a chance to really impact the game.  Every so often, you get a player who is just determined that things have got to happen their way, and they are a drain on both the other players and the GM.  That said, I've seen similar things happen in system-based games (with rules-lawyering or general Chaotic Stupid behavior).

There's also a strange option called 'freeform sandbox', where the GM literally does almost nothing and it's entirely up to the players to create anything beyond the initial setting.  I suppose, with the right people and in the right setting, that could be fun, but the couple of times I tried it, it rapidly started to feel rather pointless, as everyone was busy trying to engineer their own plot-line and nobody was interested in following anyone else's, so after a couple of weeks, nobody was getting anywhere.  I'm sure mileage varies on that one, as there are some people out there who rarely play anything that ISN'T a sandbox game...but I prefer a GM providing at least a little general navigation on a game.
 subscriber, 3372 posts
 Member before Oct 2005
 Creative Writing ROCKS!!
Fri 6 May 2022
at 08:22
So what is free-form?
There are also many types of freeform from, sandbox, Fan fiction, GM driven, sandbox, one to one, some fames are set up for individual stories inside tgem, and reactive freeform.  Look on the internet and you will find all sorts of ways to do them.

I run reactive (action/reaction) games.  I create the world and baseline story. My players have their own sub plots that tie into the world.  My players create their characters in their RTJ.  Together we work in that character to get them into the ingoing story.  In game it is as if you are that character and you interact with other characters as if you are your characters.  Some GMs barrate ir tell you the scenario.  In Reactive you are guided by what is happening in the moment.  I will tell when there is a time jump.  Sometimes who needs to be posting where if there gave been characters/players away.  Every character is important as the next.  No characters are killed unless the player wants their character killed because they are leaving (the worst thing a player can do imho is to come into a game then just  disappear with no word to the GM they are leaving because this leaves other characters/players and GM waiting and not knowing what is happening with you).

I have rules of etiquette, behaviours not allowed like no Godmoding, no powergaming, no bad attitudes in OOC and a few more but these are not systems etc.  I respect system games as much as I think Freeform should be respected.  There is room for all here.

Posting speed of games also vary from Slow, Moderate, Fast and Rapid fire.  Depends on your real life time you can post but the majority of Freeform imho should be at least one post a week if not just in the OOC. So everyone knows you are still around.  It is just wrong to ‘ghost’ a game ( not tell GM you are leaving when they make the effort to reach out to you by a PM and an Rmail then lo and behold you are seen running your own game.  Players can run their own games and still play in the ones they joined or politely tell the GM you are leaving.  This actually holds true for system games as well.  I don’t have dice rolls the majority of the time unless then it is a one on one fight or a contest.  Various GMs do things differently for their ganes.  We are all here to have fun ;)

This message was last edited by the user at 08:26, Fri 06 May.

 member, 87 posts
 Survival of the fittest.
 We're all gonna die.
Tue 10 May 2022
at 22:41
So what is free-form?
I play freeform games exclusively, when it comes to any type of written roleplay. I don't mind systems, when it comes to actually playing tabletop, but I've never liked it for collaborative writing. I feel like it breaks the flow of writing the stories. Generally, I break freeform into two primary types of game. Sandbox and Guided.

But that being said, you can also have a guided sandbox freeform game, and I would argue that in many ways it's the more difficult game to run. Because in a guided sandbox game, you're still providing plot hooks and storylines for your players. But since your players aren't 'one group' you're running multiple stories. Depending on how intricate you want to get, and how much you like to tie things together, it can be a lot of work. When I've run them in the past, I always like to have a team of GMs who are familiar and experienced with each other as writers and GMs to all contribute to the game and stories.

But ultimately, in my opinion, the most basic definition of freeform is a game without systems, or system based rules and mechanics. To me, this means any at all. If you use point buys, private GM rolls, stats and modifiers of any kind, etc... than it isn't a freeform game. It's a semi-freeform or peri-freeform, hell even a quasi-freeform game. Personally I don't like mechanics in my games at all. It means all the decisions are left up to the writing, not to the fall of the dice.