We like our tabletop roleplaying system Rosette Diceless enough that we've had a home game running every other week since August 2016, two years before the game released. At first it served as a valuable playtesting resource, but we've kept it going. We've incorporated other systems, switched our general playstyle, and had some dramatic twists and turns to our ongoing plot. We'd like to share our experience to give a better feel for how Rosette Diceless plays in practice and maybe inspire you to start your own game.
Our player count has shifted over the years, but in addition to Melissa and Gregory we've had five other playtesters that you can see in the credits of the book. Our initial concept was to run a science fiction campaign set on a space station, drawing inspiration from works like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon Five, and The Expanse.
Rosette Diceless doesn't have a single GM that determines the setting and plot. In order to build our game world, we used the excellent Microscope system, which lets a group collaboratively explore the history of a world, starting from nothing.
What we arrived upon was an alternate history of Earth where oppression and colonialism basically never happened, but upon arrival of a mysterious alien Visitor (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey) it was discovered that humans suffer from a strange malady called "xenophobia". Some time later, when Earth is controlled by godlike AIs called Engines, an independent station called Mea Culpa is established with the cooperation of the Visitor's Entourage to study — and find a cure for — xenophobia.
Our player characters include a Coil merchant, previously a terrorist fighting for his human-oppressed species's autonomy; a black-robed technoprophet with the Quirk "Majestic Like Death" who uses children of other species as their symbiotic voiceboxes; a Terran doctor who cuts a swath through society by combining her parochial charm with her aggressively libertine lifestyle; a genderless researcher from an ancient culture who is convinced that their hypernanotech is "magic"; an ambassador/spy who's a colony of microscopic creatures in a transparent suit; and a Geigeresque hivemind being who, in the end, became a renowned Terran actor.
Our experience running the Mea Culpa campaign shaped how we wrote Rosette Diceless. The most obvious influence is that the Science Fiction section of the book, which includes Traits like Non-biological and Ship Owner, is taken directly from materials we assembled to support our campaign.
Less blatantly, our playtesting helped us realize that we didn't want to allow characters' base Attributes to increase during play. We found ourselves in a sort of numerical arms race, where the base numbers in play were more important than actually story-focused advancements like new Skills and Quirks. In the end, we completely removed the ability for Attributes to increase during a campaign, capping Mind, Body, and Charm at a total of seven.
Additionally, our evolving characters and stories have inspired much of the Supplemental Materials we've released on the Rosette website. For example, the Alternate Play Structures article is a direct codification of some experiments we made when visiting a Risa-style vacation planet, and the Value of a Secret and Tracking Personal Development articles stem from challenges we encountered running a long-term game.
One major change that's happened over our game's lifetime is a shift from LARP to tabletop play. Rosette Diceless itself was originally focused on LARP play before we realized that we didn't need to describe it so narrowly. With our home game, we initially played on our feet more, but with our game's small size of three to five players, we don't get some of the advantages of LARP, including the ease of splitting into smaller conversation groups or exploring space and distance. Without those interesting aspects, we gravitated into chairs and have ended up being tabletop by default.
We've also found that our particular group of players tends toward very loose and high-level Conflict scenes. Unlike in many rulesets' combat systems, Rosette doesn't define a particular length of time for a turn: characters may take a few seconds to act or do something that lasts hours. Our home game tends to have each Attack in a turn represent something pretty broad, with maybe a few real-world minutes of roleplaying between turns. This means that we often struggle to finish a single Conflict in one four-hour session. We're often working to keep up momentum and manage the scope of our Conflicts, if only to work on our pacing.
Finally, our game has continued long enough that we felt as if we'd pretty fully explored the original story space. To encourage ourselves to keep our plot dynamic, we ran a second game of Microscope, this one taking place over a year or so of in-game time instead of centuries. We planned a "season" of background setting events, inspired by the TV shows that were originally touchstones for the game, and are currently playing through the same period using Rosette Diceless rules with the sweeping political events of our Microscope game happening as a backdrop to our more character-focused stories.
The Value of Play
Playtesting is vital for any game design discipline, and having an ongoing home game of Rosette Diceless has informed the development of the game, the subsequent supplemental material, and simply provided entertainment and social joy for our group of friends.
If you're playing Rosette Diceless, we'd love to hear about it. Post info in the comments or send us a link to info on your game at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media.