Thoughts on Organized Play (and Microlite74)
Every once in a while someone suggests that old school games need to have WOTC-style organized play in game shops to increase the visibility of old school games. Rarely, someone suggests to me that I set up organized play for Microlite74 since it is an old school game that uses rules more familiar to “current school” gamers. I’ve never responded favorably to that idea.
The first reason is probably obvious: money. Microlite74 is a free game and I am not a rich person (and since cancer hit my household a few years ago I’m actually closer to being a poor person). Running organized play in hobby shops across the world costs money to set up and more money to keep running. Microlite74 has no income to pay for this: it’s a free game. The “free game” part also means there would be little incentive for hobby shops to run “Microlite74 organized play” as they really would have nothing to gain from doing so.
The second reason, however, is the main reason I have no interest in Microlite74 organized play (or even sponsoring Microlite74 tournaments at conventions). Organized play and tournament play starts pushing the game towards standardized rules and toward lots of rules to cover everything because standardized rules that cover everything make organized play and tournament much easier. Room for individual GMs to make rulings and put there own spin on the rules is bad for organized play. As rulings are likely to be different from one GM to another, they make organized play very difficult to handle as players are confused by different table rules as they game with different GMs (and perhaps different players) nearly every time they show up at an organized play event.
Standardized rules with lots of detail are the last thing I want for Microlite74. I want the GM to be able to customize the rules as he or she wants to fit his or her campaign world and players. I don’t want to enable rules lawyers with lots of detailed rules that try to cover everything. I don’t want GMs pressured to use standard rules because every house rule or non-standard GM ruling teaches players the wrong way to play — that is, things they will have to unlearn if the ever participate in organized play or want to compete in tournaments. Sadly this type of pressure has been used every time organized play is a goal. Gygax did with first edition AD&D with his dreams of chess-like D&D tournaments and master/grandmaster titles. You still see it listed as a reason not to houserule 4e in many discussions of 4e online today.
I say (in my best Scrooge voice) “Bah. Humbug.” Microlite74 is designed as guidelines for the GM to use in creating his or her own campaign. I have no interest whatsoever in suborning this goal to the needs of organized play for detailed and standardized rules; so I will not be involved in setting up organized play nor will I adjust the Microlite74 rules or my advice to GMs therein to accommodate it. If some third party with money and time to burn wants to set up Microlite74-based organized play, that’s fine by me — just don’t start trying to encourage non-organized play groups to go RAW over rulings or to put the needs of organized play over their desire to use houserules, campaign-specific procedures, and on-the-spot GM rulings. And please, please don’t ask me to be involved. I simply have no more interest in organized play today than I did in tournament play back in the late 1970s and early 1980s — that is zero interest.