Nothing But Net – A Tennis Autobiography

Nothing But Net – A Tennis Autobiography is a GMless game for 1 or more players, spanning the career of semi-professional Tennis’ biggest underachiever – Rick ‘Nothing But Net’ Lawes.

You can PWYW for this title on DriveThruRPG or, or download a free PDF here. To get early access to monthly games, support me on Patreon.

“How do I begin to talk about a career that is known by so many as the most disastrous in the circles of semi-professional Tennis?

“Through the decades, there have been many who tried to uncover exactly what it was that forced my hand so many times and even more who asked why I never – if you’ll excuse the pun – truly gave up on this dreadful racket.

“In this, my first and only autobiographical work, I’ll recount each major moment of my career – the near misses, the dizzying highs, the crushing lows. Reader, I warn you; this is a cruel game and I have suffered more than most.” – Rick ‘Nothing But Net’ Lawes

black and white tennis racket

How To Play

To play, you’ll move through these phases, repeating some as you go:

ASSOCIATES OF MR. LAWES – Creating and updating the important people in Rick’s life


RETIREMENT – When Rick finally gives up

Associates of Mr. Lawes

Start here and revisit this phase whenever you want to add someone new into Rick’s life.

Everyone in Rick’s life – Rick included – is a terrible person. Before you examine the IMPORTANT MOMENTS in Rick’s career, create at least one character for each of the roles below. Describe their feelings towards Rick and his feelings towards them.

An Arch-nemesis, A Manager, A Mentor, A Best-Friend, A Super-Fan, Ex-Lover(s), Current Lover(s), Family Member(s), Rival(s)

When you create a character, roll 5d4 and allocate each result to a column from the table to find out more about them.

pair of crossed tennis rackets


Things tend to go wrong for Rick right before a big game. Before each IMPORTANT MOMENT in Rick’s career, roll 5d4. For every result of 2+, generate an ISSUE.

To generate an ISSUE roll 2d4, one after the other, and compare the result to the table. For each ISSUE generated, add a d4 to the MATCH POOL.

Have a scene to establish each ISSUE and describe how it affects Rick. Always include at least one person from Rick’s life.

1,1An non Tennis-related injury3,1An encounter with an old flame
1,2An unusual Tennis-related injury3,2A fallout with the umpire
1,3A complete unwillingness to train3,3A longstanding family feud
1,4An unexpected equipment malfunction3,4A noisy and very public argument
2,1An act of gross overindulgence4,1A perfectly timed act of vengeance
2,2A raging hangover4,2A well warranted comeuppance
2,3A bout of food poisoning4,3An ill-thought-out attempt at payback
2,4An awkward misunderstanding4,4A run-in with the law

Break(ing) Point

IMPORTANT MOMENTS for Rick are, mostly, Tennis matches, but don’t let that limit you. It could be an award ceremony, a wedding, or even an attempt to get into another type of sport.

To see how an IMPORTANT MOMENT goes for Rick, roll all the dice in your MATCH POOL and read the total. You may want to roll the dice in the MATCH POOL one at a time and take turns narrating how the various pre-game ISSUES affect Rick, or roll them all together and decide afterwards.

1-4SUCCESS – Despite everything, things go Rick’s way for once!
5-10NEAR MISS – Rick puts up a valiant effort, but just misses out on success
11-16TOUGH BREAK – A few glimmers of hope, but in the end it was a definite defeat
17-20DISASTER – Everything just went wrong today and it shows


No matter what Rick was doing, he’ll always want to tell someone about it afterwards – and probably put his own positive spin on the whole thing. 

After each IMPORTANT MOMENT, have an INTERVIEW with Rick where you dissect what happened. This could be with one of the big semi-professional Tennis publications, like Balls to the Wall or Net Gain, or just whoever Rick has cornered in a local bar.

Use the table for inspiration.

1,1/1,2COURTLY MATTERSGossip, Glamour & Award Show CoveragePoor
1,3/1,4LIVE TO SERVETournament Coverage & World RankingsRespected
2,1/2,230-LOVETennis-related Dating for the Over 30sPoor
2,3/3,4UMPIRE!Coaching Tips & Rules DebatesRespected
3,1/3,2THAT RACKETCoaching Tips & New Rules SuggestionsPoor
3,3/3,4NET WORTHFinancial News & Management TipsEmbroiled in Scandal
4,1/4,2WIMBLEDONEA Podcast About Previous Wimbledon EntrantsPoor
4,3/4,4OPEN FOR BUSINESSSporting Goods Equipment & WholesaleRespected
racket laid on the ground, with a ball placed on it


When the time comes for Rick to finally pack it in, declare his Retirement and hold a press conference. Invite as many big names in Tennis as you like and call around all the noteworthy publications.

When you hold a press conference for Rick’s retirement, roll 5d4 to see how well it goes, then deliver one final INTERVIEW, looking back on his career.

17-20A REAL SEND OFF – Everyone Rick invited turns up, including some blasts from the past
13-16POLITE APPLAUSE – About half of those invited turn up, including some unwelcome guests
5-12NO GREAT SHAKES – A few of the smaller publications turn up, along with a spread of fans and hecklers
1-4BLOW OUT – Barely anyone turns up, possibly not even Rick’s manager. A few troublemakers cause a scene

Rick is a glutton for punishment, and is always ready to come out of retirement for one big game, an exhibition match, or an ill-thought out return to the semi-professional circuit. If you choose to bring Rick out of retirement, decide what happened to him in the intervening years and what brought him back.