Reluctant Hero: Chapters
Things to Come

Player's Handbook

Website_mapcleaned_up Only a Game is a non-fiction role-playing game, played in text and pictures over the internet by no more than about a hundred players. Its Games Master (GM) is Chris Bateman, who designed some of the more trivial mechanics. However, much of the game mechanics were designed by an unknown entity or process known variously as God, the Universe, Fate, Time, Chance and a number of other names. 


In this role-playing game, or RPG, players take the roles of people who have fallen by chance into the reality (or mind, or sometimes language game), of Chris Bateman. The GM describes aspects of this reality to the players, who respond in a number of different ways. Most common is to say and do nothing at all. However, some players go and talk about the latest events in the game to other people. A few respond, directly or indirectly, to the GM. It is these responses, by and large, that drive forward what can be considered the narrative of the game (although it is, always remember, a game of non-fiction). There are occasional bouts of time travel, as parts of the reality exposed at an earlier point in time are brought up again by fresh comments.

The play is focused upon games and game design, philosophy of language, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion, although squirrels and nonsense also occur. The landscape of the reality the game is set in (Chris Bateman’s mind) is complex and changeable, but a few things are always the same: he never means to cause offence, he always believes that diversity is essential, especially diversity of thought and belief, and he is both pro-science and pro-religion. A large metaphysical wall has been built between these two regions in the reality, and while players are free to cross between them, a certain amount of resistance will occur when this happens. 

Unlike more commonly encountered realities, the reality used in this game is not always a tunnel and the play may flip from one reality to another, apparently at random. At one moment, players may find themselves in a grounded scientific debate with no recourse to metaphysics, in another, they may find themselves in a part of the reality that is dictated by Christian metaphysics (or Sufi, or Hindu, or Discordian, or…) and experiencing what that reality feels like. This causes some turbulence, but adds to the ilinx of the ride. 


There is only one rule, which is play friendly. Even this rule is occasionally broken, bent, twisted, nudged slightly, folded, spindled or mutilated, but usually everything runs smoothly. As long as there has been no intent to offend, everything usually works out.

Politeness is requested, but since standards of politeness vary wildly from culture to culture, and from individual to individual, a certain latitude must be allowed.

Character Generation

Most players enter the game as themselves, but a few adopt a persona to play with. Character development is random, but players have some control as to how their character will change as the game progresses. Players are encouraged to attach their character sheet below, using whatever mechanics they wish to invent.

Known Bugs

Occasionally, one of the plays will result in some of the players experiencing an intense discomfort or frustration, often manifesting as anger. In the worst instances of this bug, (often referred to as cognitive dissonance), the flow of the game may be disrupted. This is a known bug, resulting from design flaws in the firmware of the organisms used to play the game. An upgrade has been requested, but is not expected before the end of the game.

If you find yourself experiencing cognitive dissonance, take three short breaths and three long ones, step away from the game for a while, and come back to it later if you feel like it. 

Universal Disclaimer

As with all Chris Bateman games, the Universal Disclaimer applies. 

We hope you enjoy Only a Game, and look forward to playing with your reality soon!

The opening image is a recent map of the game’s progress thus far, generated using a rather cool tool I learned about from Corvus that maps websites. Please feel free to attach your character sheet (using any system of mechanics you like, real or imagined!) or post rules queries below. Thanks for playing!


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Chris Bateman
23rd Level Philosopher-Game Designer


Playfulness 95%
Mischief 88%
Sanity 5%


Ramble 60%
Engage Squirrel 80%
Resist Insomnia 17%
Remember Stuff 33%
Smile 75%

Special Abilities:

Once per day, Chris may exchange his mind for anyone else's

Jack Monahan
12th Level Concept Artist/Designer

Background: Jack, a dilettante and general layabout, was regaling a friend with his armchair commentary on game design one day. With the seemingly innocent remark "This guy's last name is very close to Batman. You should check out his blog on game design," the friend unwittingly sent Jack into the inescapable vortex that is Only a Game. Every escape attempt has failed.


Humor 96 %
Cookie Dough 79%
Brevity 3%


Digress 86%
Fake Accent 45%
Obfuscate 63%
Snooze 95%
Blog 13%

Special Abilities:

Nocturnal! Whether he really wants to or not, Jack will see the light of dawn before he finally goes to sleep. At which time, despite living half a world away from Chris Bateman, Jack will often be the first to comment on a new update.

[GM can i pls roll a new character]

Neil Bundy
15th Level Something Or Other

Background: Murky, involving various nefarious stuff and lots and lots (honestly a quite surprising amount) of not very much at all.


Lose Temper 88%
Perception 67%
Run 2%
Apathy 74%
Passive Aggressive 96%


Play Games Instead Of Working 55%
Sarcasm 79%
Type One-handed 12% (several skill points yet to spend in this skill)
Lurk In The Background 91%
Forgetfulness 83%

Special Abilities:

Every time a 6 is rolled (on d6), Neil can whoop with glee.

[I keep asking to roll a new char., but am told mine is actually better than it appears (to me at least)]
[Oh, and I *really* like the cool tool that pictorally maps a website - very cute!]

Peter Crowther
Not-entirely-on-the-level computer programmer

Background: Peter was a contemporary of Chris' at Manchester University, and has only recently given Chris back the files he's had backed up on hard disk for the last 15 years. More information can be found on his Web site.

Strength: 9
Dex: 10
IQ: 14
Health: 10

Standing in a field and having people throw projects at him (+25)

Depression (-5)
Memorable appearance (-5)
Reduced Will (4 levels, -20)

Blather endlessly (Mental/Easy) 16
Blather endlessly about computers (Mental/Hard) 17
Work (Mental/Bloody Impossible) defaulted to Will - 10: 0
Resist argument (Mental/Easy) defaulted to Will - 4: 6
Annoy people (Generally easy) 16

Duncan Munro
15th Level Tech-Head / 2nd Level Game Designer

Learning Capacity: 91%
Concept Reduction: 52%
Trivia Recall: 84%
Free Time: -7%

Blurt Out Bad Ideas: +3 when joining any discussion he is unfamiliar with.
Talk Out of Ass: +8 while defending any position he feels passionate about. 15% chance of real fact usage.
Condescending Tone: +7 Intimidate/-2 Likeability. Used unconsciously at inopportune moments, usually tech related.

Special Abilities:
Trivia Stun: Able to stun opponents by use of rapid-fire trivia. Temporarily increases Knowledge for the duration of the opponent. 20% chance of failure.
Computer Zen: Able to fix most electronics by simply being within 10ft of device. 40% efficiency boost to computers within a 100ft radius. +20 to Archaic Computer Knowledge checks.

1st level systems specialist

current station: energy conversion unit
planet: Terra
system: Sol


highly context-sensitive



Special Abilities:

unusually resistant to the mental and physical effects of time travel

Adam Rwantstochangehislastname
Level 0 Computer Programmer

Incorrect Grammar 3%
Nothing Useful to Say 99%

Try to be Funny 86%
Be Funny 41%
Stop Smiling 2%

Special Ability:
Procrastinate: 90% better chance to find a reason to not do what needs to be done. Always in effect.
Use Brain: Negates the effects of the Nothing Useful to Say attribute. 95% chance of failure. May only be used once per day.

Level 1.6180339887 muser & mutterer
Background: see Grimoire Backgroundicus

M | WS | BS | S | T | W | I | A | Ld
5 | 10 | 7 | 2 | 8 | 4 |2/1| 6 | 0

M = Moaning
WS = Worry Skill
BS = Bullsh*t Skill
S = Staying at work power
T = True grit (and we are chock full of that)
W = Wounds (avg number sustained after 1 week of drinking and karate practice)
I = ratio of Idiocy to smartness
A = Argumentative-ness
Ld = Leadership


Speed (at completing internet postings and emails) 1/27%
99% Pontificating about modern mediated culture.
77% Pretending to be clever.
Lucidity (of internet contributions) 12% - 63% depending on lucidity of reader
5% Programming
10% Researching

Special Ability:
pReScIeNcE - can predict own future within the ontological bounds of own dynamic, subjectively-defined reality. E.g. (10+5 / x {12 < x < 63} ) = Career Prospects.

I messed that one up...bloody html formatting

Patrick Dugan a.k.a The 99th

Level 27/Pi Designer-Writer


Bayesianism - *
Guitar - *
Storytelling - ***
Sophistry - ****
Fire Arms - *
Persuasion - **
Game Design - ***
Memeticism - ****


Burn - spends energy rapidly, producing a burst of crazy hot concepts, a randomly fluctuating percentage of which are useless. Can only be done once per day, decreses awareness for 8 hrs after peak.

Critical Analysis - I got the sharigan of game design theory, show me a piece of media and I can see how it ticks and copy those patterns, or evaluate why they're faulty or aesthetically problematic. Costs some energy over time, can be used with burn to stack roll bonuses.

Intuition - use as directed

Mordakian's Sheath of Invincible Theory - requires a new concept of theory for each use, gives a bonus to craft rolls for a short time.

Wordplay - Adds +1 bonus to the rationality roll of a piece of writing. Useless against players with Cthultlu's Eye of Unwavering Reason)

Utilizing my Drachurae Cycle system, of course...

Corvus Elrod - Omnae: 39

Vitae: 8, Terrae: 1, Hydrae: 9
Vae: 8, Aerae: 6, Pyrae: 10

Authority: 4, Endurance: 5, Aesthetic: 8
Posture: 7, Sleight: 8, Charisma: 9


Storyteller (+2)
Mimic: 6, Bluff: 9, Interpret: 11
Author: 10, Disguise: 9, Engage: 9
Empathize: 8, Rally: 3, Baffle: 10

Computer Tech (+1)
Diagnose: 10, Research: 9, Teach: 5
Intuit: 10

Designer (+1)
Illustrate: 6, Critique: 10, Thick Skin: 6
Character Design: 9, Pattern Recognition: 9, Craft System: 9

Unassigned Skills (+0)
Small Sword: 2, Juggle: 3, Shoplift: 8
Flirt: 9, Con: 7, Befriend Animal: 9
Intimidate: 4, Endure Pain: 5

Quinn Murphy

30th level hobbyist/ were-game designer

Earth 2 (specialty: working late)
Air 3 (Navel-Gazing)
Fire 3 (world-building)
Water 2 (keeping wife happy)

Jonathan AKA "Sitting Duck"
25th Level Psychology Major - 7th level Game Designer


Altuism: 85%
IQ: 129
Phyiscal fitness: 49%


Spelling 14%
Psychology 80%
- Sub Skill:Myers briggs personailty type 99%
Resist Insomnia 23%
Gaming: Too high of level to measure
Sub Skills:
Playing: 90%
Concept desgin: 83 %
Social while playing: 29% ( I play to win..sometimes I forget other people are playing for fun)

Special Abilities:
Always running a subroutine on how to read people and figure them out.(Soul reading + 29)

10th level Zerophile.

Irascibility in the morning: 90%
Cup of tea: 100%
Shameful ignorance: 90%
Muddle: 85%

Stumble and grumble = high probability

Vegetarian = yes
Cake = yum

Coma: the million year girl
Kline: Lets get out of time

Understanding what the hell this is all about: 1%

Casting cost: 25,M,F
creature:human pleasure-seeker

Each turn roll a d20. If under X, lose focus of long-term projects for immediate, hedonistic activities. X may not be known by anyone and may change at any time.

Tap: create a thingimajigie, flip a coin. If heads, add E to your mana pool.
E: create a thingimajigie,flip a coin. If heads, add E to your mana pool.

Power/toughness: 1/2

Right-o. I'm feeling terribly ignorant right now. But I'm curious enough to post and ask, "How does one... er... play???"

Hi Tuxedo! This post is something of a running joke... I call the blog a "non-fiction role-playing game", and so "players" (regular readers of the blog) post their "character sheets" here. If you've never played a role-playing game, then this joke will not mean anything to you! :) If you have, then all you have to do is post a comment describing yourself in RPG-like terms (although Bezman has gone for more of a trading card game sort of description, which is also fair game!)

I hope this constitutes sufficient explanation... Best wishes!

For those that know a little about the rpg FATE 3.0 /SotC


-Walks with a heavy heart
-Ancient Memory
-Restless Spirit
-Befriending the Great Spirit
-Lost in translation
-Look behind the Words!
-The Games bring us together
-Lets Hunt
-Smiling Monkey Hidden Apache

Von Lazuli
LvL 1 Orange.

Background: Von Lazuli is an Orange.

Be Orange Coloured: 99%
Be Orange Fruited: 100%
Anything else: 0%

Special Ability:
Once each day, +1 Ripen.

Andre C.

Career: Game Designer / Monk / Dilettante (Level 17 metapunk)

Key Skills:
- Game mechanics: 68%
- Martial Arts: 15%
- Sincerity: 85%
- Openness to new ideas: 99%
- Writing: 62%
- Listen to the universe: 25%
- Impress the ladies: 10% (80% when being himself [rare--gains boost for a single action or conversation, once every six weeks])

- Strange Luck: 85%

- Procrastination: 95%
- Talk out of ass: 75%


- Broadcast Prescience: Once per week can predict which episode of a television serial will be playing that day. Only affects the show coming up next.

- Assimilator: Rapidly understands and incorporates new ideas or creative tropes into existing cognitive framework (+35% to worldbuilding and waxing philosophical). 40% chance of failure when sense of ethics and fair play is directly challenged.

- Street Lamp Electrokinesis: by focusing his existential angst, can disable one street lamps in any given block at will, but only if he shouts "Evil!" immediately afterward (this is consistent, despite apparently violating basic causality).

Amy S
7th level Student/very amateur author/general layabout

Background: After discovering Only A Game far too late, Amy realised it might actually be incredibly useful for the few days she actually has left studying philosophy at - what is it american people call it, high school? - and that it appeals shockingly well to her shockingly geeky nature. She plans to explore the blog over the next couple of weeks, under the guise of revision.


Geek: 70
Cheerfulness: Infinite
Laziness: 67
Discipline: 12
Deliberation: 87
Creativity: 99

Specialty: Amy can drift off into incredibly detailed daydreaming either at will or helplessly and unwittingly.

1.level beginner/searching for the rules

Background:Found game by accident, doing a test-ride


Gender: female
Current Location: Iceland
Nationality: German
Career: none, but mostly gainfully employed
Talents: few
Interests: many
Humor: lacking
(according to American doctrine, Germans are genetically missing a humor gene)

Specialty: Looking for truth


10th Level Wanderer, 2nd Level Game Designer

Background: As a self-professed jack of all trades, Gilbu often finds himself with no idea where he is or what he's doing. Curiosity guides his impulses, and proverbial dead cats are cremated en masse each week as a result.

Talking Speed: 8
Thinking Speed: 7
Working Speed: 2 (+20 if time to deadline < 1%)
Creativity: 10
Productivity: 1

Potential: Once per day, roll a D20. If roll >18, +50 to productivity. Otherwise, -10 to sanity and skip a turn.

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