Friday, March 15, 2013

You can't put your wizard miniature in the same dungeon crawl twice!


Ok, first off, this is a brand new post.  Not one I transferred from the old new RPG blog.  So, the area around the text should be the same color as the actual blog background.  Yay!

Man, when is the New World Order going to take over and fix everything?  Shouldn't incompatibility be a non-issue in 2013?  Fuck the idea of Google or one giant corporation taking over.  No, that's not what I want.  That's not what 99% of us want.  However, I believe that an overriding system or authority or mandate will eventually manifest which saves our collapsing sociocultural infrastructure from being crushed by its own weight, as well as, blasting all the parasitic assholes which hasten our collective soul annihilation into space.  Who's with me!?!

Anyways, on to today's post.  It's an informal response to a blog post I read the other day:

http://jrients.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-to-awesome-up-your-players.html

I commented at the bottom of the author's post.  It has to be moderated first, but basically this is what I said (expanded upon here):  Not only is there no "one right way" to run a game, there isn't even a way that works 100% of the time for one group.  Things need to be changed up every so often or stagnation takes hold; ruining the game on a micro level and potentially ruining the entire hobby on a macro level.

Gaming methodologies require evolution or else they become prisons.  Even a nice, comfortable prison with curtains that serves your favorite kind of tea is still a prison.  Break out!  Do something different.  All those people railing against Jeff's blog post, as well as, those supporting him, will eventually have to alter their game's modus operandi or deal with the consequences.

Just as you cannot put your hand in the same river twice, a Dungeon Master cannot make the Player-Characters struggle throughout an entire campaign just to amass a couple hundred gold pieces or a measly +1 sword.  Not unless you want the fun to flag, the novelty to wear off.  The same goes for session after session filled with easily-won riches and power.  Where's the unexpected?  Do you know about the law of diminishing returns?  Once might be awesome, but the hundredth time means death for your campaign, DM.  Change things up before it's too late.

Would you want to see the exact same TV show (more or less) every year?  Hells no!  Even with a couple variations here and there, that would still get super boring, right?  I'm sure players feel the same way when each campaign begins and ends pretty much like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that, etc.

So, how does an enterprising DM keep things interesting?  He shifts gears.  If the PCs were struggling in the last campaign, then spoil them in the next one.  If it was magic and artifact poor, then make this campaign overflowing with the stuff!  Did all the characters begin the game as lowly peasants?  Well, make them lords now!  Of course, a certain level of challenge must be inherent in every adventure.  That isn't what you're taking away - you, self-aware old school Dungeon Master, are altering the way your PCs are challenged.

It all comes back to non-standardization.  It's so easy to codify rules and settings and ways to run a game.  Create a mold that works and keep mass producing campaigns based on that mold.  Makes sense - maybe it even saves time... nevertheless, it's antithetical to the Old School Renaissance [OSR].  Fresh, imaginative, revolutionary ideas are the lifeblood of old school gaming.

I'm not just talking about throwing a new monster into the dungeon or allowing access to a new spell.  That's OSR for noobs!  I'm talking about occasionally (if not frequently) retooling your whole approach to running the game and campaign creation.  This is not easy.  This is not quick.  And sometimes it's not very much fun, either.  Which is exactly why the OSR relies so heavily on community.  At the roots of the word "community" is the notion of sharing.  There are literally thousands of fascinating D&D concepts out there in cyberland which are utterly alien to you and your particular style of play.  Some of those concepts, such as going diceless or setting a campaign in Carcosa, might scare you.  That's ok.  Besides frightening us, exploration of the unknown is supposed to be fun, too, right?  After all, we Dungeon Masters send wizards, warriors, and thieves down into the bowels of the earth to encounter God knows what!

So, take some chances.  Don't just game awesome... game eldritch!  Oh, and let the OSR community hear about your results.  That keeps the OSR movement growing.

Framing this post in conclusion, I long for standards without the mistake that is standardization... just as I hope humanity achieves self-actualization via benevolent force in the next couple decades.  What I'm talking about is the Third Side.  Not black, not white, nor grey... but green!

Agree?  Hate my guts?  Don't know WTF I'm talking about?  Leave a comment!


Venger Satanis
Grognard de Noir