Jeff Treppel: Rules Are for Fascists

I don’t know much about Varg Vikernes, and I definitely don’t know what I can say about him without opening myself up to a libel suit.

I know even less about his roleplaying game MYFAROG (Mythic Fantasy Role-playing Game). I do know that some YouTubers like it and that Jeff Treppel of Metal Sucks does not.

Treppel wrote a review of MYFAROG back in 2015 that had a big effect on the design of Covenant. Or rather, one sentence in his review did:

Set in the antediluvian land of Thule, a repository for a bunch of generic fantasy tropes filtered through Vikernes’ own Norse-centric historical revisionism, this isn’t that far off from Dungeons & Dragons or Conan the Barbarian – only so racist it would make Conan creator Robert E Howard himself seem enlightened. Basically, you’re trying to survive in a barbaric, Iron Age land governed by the philosophy of a man who happens to be a big fan of Hitler, Nietzsche, and Social Darwinism. Varg has done a lot of research into the culture and lifestyle of prehistoric Europeans, but even the most historically accurate material has been so colored by his toxic worldview that it feels made up. Life in Thule seems to be nasty, brutish, and short, and it’s governed by a whole lot of rules. Fascists tend to like rules. (emphasis mine)

“Fascists tend to like rules.”

That one sentence is one of the reasons why I’ve tried to simplify the rules so much in Covenant. After all, I don’t like to think of myself as a fascist.

The question, though, is: Are rules fascist? I think a game, like a society, has to have some rules. Otherwise, you’re playing calvinball, which sounds fun in theory but frustrating in practice.

But you can go overboard with them. Just take a look at this table of swimming modifiers from MYFAROG.

MYFAROG swimming modifiers, Photo courtesy of Metal Sucks.
MYFAROG swimming modifiers. Photo courtesy of Metal Sucks.

You want to avoid that, if you can.

I think what you have to do with game design, like anything in life, is to find a happy medium. Game rules should be like a country’s laws: enough to ensure fairness and happiness, but no more.

What do you think? Do you agree with Treppel, or did he go too far? Have you played MYFAROG? Let us know in the comments.

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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