The Adventure Games Manifesto

As tabletop roleplaying game designers and players, we believe the community of so-called old-school descendant games needs a set of principles not tied to labels with limiting connotations.

We revive a historically attested term free from modern divisions. Our principles champion imagination and inclusive adventure beyond any one group. By grounding our philosophy in open-ended origins, we articulate broad values.

This manifesto avoids identifiers that alienate. We do not wage culture wars or indulge harmful nostalgia. Our principles stand on their own merits, rooted in RPGs’ original promise. We focus not on what splinters the community but on what brings an imaginative spirit of adventure to every group.

This document consists of three parts: 

  • The actual manifesto in typical language.

  • Game and design principles to make its content factual.

  • Frequently Asked Questions.

If you recognize yourself in what is written, you may adopt, reuse and improve it under the terms of the CC-BY-SA license under which it is released.

Version 1.0 – September 2023

The Manifesto

As players and designers, we embark on a journey to play and create tabletop roleplaying games rife with peril, strangeness, and imaginative variety. We shall craft episodic adventures forming exciting picaresque tales, not monotonous novels. Our stories will reward cunning ingenuity, not repetitive bloody slogs.

We set forth to design a game capturing the spirit of adventure, where the dice may not favor the players, yet their tales will overflow with perilous quests, unexpected encounters, and demand clever solutions. 

We will craft a realm embracing myriad possibilities, where heroes know triumph and defeat, revelation and confusion, as they journey through mystical lands challenging their strategies. While including combat, we measure our design by how it inspires quick wits and teamwork. Our adventures will be unpredictable and ever-changing.

Facing True Risks

In our tabletop adventures, risk and loss must feel real in order to make success earned and meaningful. Players should know that defeat is possible and that suboptimal choices will have consequences. While we won’t overwhelm them, challenges must feel perilous, with smart play and clever thinking required to overcome them. Character growth will come not just from accumulating power, but from learning from mistakes and bouncing back from failure. By making risks authentic, loss impactful but not permanent, we ensure players feel they are on a knife’s edge where both caution and daring are required. Our adventures will thrill because one false step could spell doom, but ultimate success comes to those who learn, adapt, and display sound judgment along with boldness. With true risks comes greater reward when players prevail by their cunning and resilience.

Embracing the Mysterious Journey

Adventure means stepping outside the known and comfortable. Our tabletop stories will take players to strange new lands filled with unexpected people, creatures, and customs. Travel will be transformative, forcing heroes to adapt both mentally and physically to unfamiliar terrain. While confusion may arise, persevering through the unknown will ultimately be rewarding. Mysteries should compel players to learn more about the world, overcoming initial unfamiliarity through courage and curiosity. Though strange at first, embracing differences will allow greater connections. We aim to design adventures where confusion gives way to wonder, where characters journey from closed-mindedness to open-heartedness as they explore. The true spoils of adventure are not just material victories but widened perspectives. By venturing into the unfamiliar, we gain the greatest treasure: realization that strangeness often holds beauty.

Crafting a Believable World

In our adventures, the game world should feel alive, complex, and responsive to player choices. It should be populated with an array of small-to-medium factions and groups, each with their own purposes, resources, and motivations independent of the player characters. Locations should have a sense of layered history, with ruins, artifacts, and secrets implying more than is explicitly revealed. The environment should create a credible setting that rewards players’ curiosity and allows them to leave their mark through meaningful decisions.

We will craft a realm embracing myriad possibilities, where heroes know triumph and defeat, revelation and confusion, as they journey through mystical lands challenging their strategies. While including combat, we measure our design by how it inspires quick wits and teamwork. Our adventures will be unpredictable and ever-changing.

Episodic Tales, Not Monolithic Stories

Adventure arises from variety, not repetition, so our tabletop game will craft episodic tales that feel picaresque, not like one long novel. Every gaming session will take players somewhere fresh, with new challenges to overcome. We will design adventures to be modular, able to be recombined in many configurations for maximum replayability. Within each story, players will have opportunities to make impactful choices pushing the narrative down unexpected forks. By emphasizing free-flowing creativity over pre-determined outcomes, we allow nearly limitless story possibilities. Our episodic structure means characters can undergo small arcs of growth and change that together form a grand epic. No two journeys will be the same when fueled by imagination. With emphasis on variety and player agency, our game will capture the spirit of unbounded adventure.

Wits Over Brawn

True adventure arises from cleverness and cunning more than brute force. We will design our game to reward ingenuity, lateral thinking, and imaginative solutions. Players should feel free to approach challenges diplomatically, stealthily, or unconventionally rather than always resorting to violence. Victory will come to those who outsmart foes, navigate tangled problems with insight, and persevere through challenges with flexibility. While combat has its place, it should feel situational, not inevitable. We aim for smart risk/reward systems that encourage daring over mindless hack-and-slash. By emphasizing brains over brawn, our adventures kindle the thrill of out-maneuvering peril through clever improvisation. Heroes act not just with power but wit, guile, and cunning improvisation. Thus adventure emerges from rising to meet challenges with all one’s faculties.

Empowering Creativity

We believe player creativity should be unbound when facing challenges. Our game will encourage players to attempt any plausible tactic or approach a problem, rather than limiting solutions to a predefined set. The Referee’s role is to adjudicate proposed actions, rewarding clever and well-executed ideas within the fiction. Players should feel emboldened to think laterally and engage problems with the full range of their characters’ abilities and resources. While success is not guaranteed, we aim to play systems that embrace creative problem-solving and provide the flexibility for heroes to try the unexpected. Our adventures emerge when players feel free to innovate, take risks, and unleash their full imaginative potential.

Empowering Adventurers

We believe adventure emerges from the active participation and imagination of players, adjudicated by a fair referee. Our game will create opportunities for players to make meaningful choices through engaging mechanics that promote agency. The referee’s role is to impartially adjudicate actions, not dominate the narrative. While guided by rules, the unfolding tales arise from players’ choices. We will design an inclusive RPG where everyone at the table feels their contributions matter, not just a tyrant game master. By keeping fellow adventurers invested from start to finish, we fulfill the promise of shared adventures where groups of heroes rise to meet fantastic challenges. Our manifesto centers the spirit of adventure within the gathered party, bound together on a journey of imagination guided by a referee upholding the rules.

This is a call to adventure for tabletop gamers who crave escape from the predictable. Ours is a table of boundless imagination, where every session is a new tale to be told. 

The dice await!

Design and Game Principles 


Our tabletop RPG aims to capture the spirit of adventure through game mechanics and design that emphasize peril, ingenuity, variety, and imagination. Players should feel challenged and engaged in stories where risks are authentic, outcomes uncertain, and smart play is rewarded.

Core Principles


  • The unfolding fiction emerges primarily from players’ choices (including the referee).

  • Game mechanics and systems provide meaningful opportunities for players to impact the campaign through their decisions and creativity.


  • Consider the referee as just another player, simply with a different role.

  • The referee should not shoulder the responsibility for the “success of the game” more than each other player at the table.

  • The referee is the “artificial intelligence” of the game world, not its god.

  • The referee has to prepare situations, not storylines.

Imagination over Predetermination

  • Episodic, modular adventure design focused on unplanned events and variety over pre-planned stories.

  • Flexible framework enables emergent fiction informed by players’ imagination and actions.

Cunning over Combat

  • Ingenuity, lateral thinking, and imaginative solutions are viable alternatives to combat when facing challenges.

  • Risk/reward systems emphasize daring, flexibility, and smart preparation over mindless hack-and-slash.

Growth through Adversity

  • Defeat and setbacks are meaningful possibilities requiring players to take risks seriously and learn from mistakes.

  • Authentic jeopardy provides opportunities for resilience and growth both fictionally and mechanically.

Journey over Destination

  • Adventures emphasize the transformative nature of exploring the unknown over collecting rewards and power.

  • Travel to strange lands tests and expands heroes physically, mentally, and perspective-wise.

Crafting a Believable World

  • The game world should feel alive, complex, and responsive to player choices.

  • Populate the world with independent factions/groups, each with their own motivations.

  • Locations should have a sense of layered history, with secrets implying more than revealed.

  • Allow players’ actions to leave a meaningful mark on a credible, intricate setting.

Empowering Creativity

  • Encourage players to attempt any plausible tactic or solution instead of limiting to predefined options.

  • Referee impartially adjudicates proposed actions, rewarding clever and well-executed ideas.

  • Design systems embracing creative problem-solving and flexibility to try the unexpected.

  • Focus on characters’ non-numerical abilities and fiction first, using mechanics only when needed to resolve uncertainty.

Implementation Guidelines

  • Lean into episodic, modular design for maximum replayability and surprise.

  • Include branching narratives that maintain player agency and involvement.

  • Develop engaging risk/reward systems that encourage daring and creativity.

  • Design meaningful consequences for poor choices rather than assured victories.

  • Focus advancement on breadth of capabilities over vertical power gains.

  • Incorporate strange lands, cultures, creatures that challenge preconceptions.

  • Emphasize wonder, growth, and broadened perspective from journeying into the unknown.


Why introduce a new term?

It is not a new term at all, in fact it dates back to the early days of role-playing and is widely attested in the publication of many classic games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, but not only. Here is a roundup of examples.

Aren’t you talking about Old School games?

Old School games have a definite time frame. Adventure Games may refer to any game that follows the principles contained in the Manifesto. Even if it is written today.

Furthermore, Adventure Games does not necessarily refer to a rules framework descended from D&D. Any rule system can power an Adventure Game if it respects its design and game principles.

Ok, so you are talking about the OSR…

OSR is an umbrella acronym that refers both to Old School games in the strict sense and to their retroclones, going from merely compatible games to games that are related in spirit but not in mechanics.

In addition, OSR has developed for nearly two decades to cover both a design movement and a constellation of communities. It has also become a commercial label.

Adventure Game is neither a commercial label nor a community. It is a set of design and game principles that also apply to OSR games, but not necessarily.

Do you want to further fragment the Old School/OSR community?

Quite the opposite! Adventure Game is neither a commercial label nor a community. It is a set of design and game principles that also apply to OSR games, but not exclusively necessarily.

It is cross-sectional and wants to unite, not divide!


The Manifesto above is based on the ideas that arose from this post by Ben Milton. Credit where credit’s due.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.

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