Thursday, November 11, 2010

In it for the Long Haul: Some Observations on D&D Campaigns

It's very interesting to me how the game that is Dungeons & Dragons has changed and progressed over the years.  Edition wars aside, techniques for doing things have changed with the times and evolved.  I think this is most visible in what I'm seeing of campaign settings in current games.

When I played in high school, I always had to be the DM.  No one else wanted to do it.  I learned what I could from other DMs wherever I met them and from Dragon Magazine, but there was no internet and I didn't get to any cons.  My experience among all the DMs I met, and all the articles I read was that a campaign was about a consistent world.  You placed your adventures in that framework, and the story that evolved was mostly episodic in nature.  You started at the base of designing the world and worked out from there. The map came first, and that allowed you to place adventures and cities in between them so you could link everything.  Once you had the map, the rest took care of itself.

What I'm seeing a lot of now is a very different approach to designing a campaign.  A predetermined story or theme is the central element.  The DMs out there are starting with ideas, and designing adventures around them to allow that players to discover the plot or wrestle with the theme.  The map comes last, if it comes at all.  It's all about ideas now.  Personally, I think this is great.

I always wondered why I couldn't really get my campaigns to feel like a fantasy novel for more than a few adventures at a time, but now it's obvious.  If you don't start with a story with villains and a predetermined plot progression, you don't get a fantasy novel experience out of your game.  Being a few years older helps make this way more clear too :).

I'm glad I'm taking this perspective with me as I ramp up my gaming.  I still want to stick with playing for a while, especially if I can find a group to play with on a regular basis, but I'm starting to lay the framework for a campaign I'd like to run.  Yes, I have a story I'd like to tell, and I'm going to tell it at some point.  Hopefully whoever plays it out will be as interested in it as I am.

For those making your own campaigns, I'd like to submit the following list of resources to really help you out. These individuals and the material they produce have had a profound impact on my thinking, and provided a wealth of ideas and materials.  Agree or disagree with them, they'll get you thinking and that's always a good thing.


Web Resources
Blogs....There are really too many to list.  Many of those I've mentioned on twitter have their own blog.  Read them (just do it! :) ).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting in the Groove for D&D Encounters

Oh blog, how I've neglected thee...

Actually it's just been really busy around here.  That's not a bad thing.  I'm going to do a much longer post soon concerning some observations I've made about how far DMing has come since I last played seriously, but until I can finish that, I'm going to talk a little here about getting in the swing of playing D&D 4E.

Role playing is old hat for me.  I can RP as little, or as much as the group I'm in wants.  Personally, I prefer a little at least, if just because it adds opportunities for fun and humor.  Role playing hasn't changed much.

The game, however, really has.  AD&D was always a mini game to a degree, but they were there to allow for better visualization and some minor positioning.  Now, where you are on the grid is everything.  That took some getting used to.  I'm happy to say that I've gotten used to it.

I am playing a knight (fighter/defender).  My character is all about keeping the enemy away from the more delicate characters that hit harder than I do, but can't take the damage.  This last session, I finally got myself in a position where just about everything that tried to get around me got punished for the attempt.  Of course having some good rolls helped too, but I wouldn't have gotten to even try to roll the dice if my position was wrong.

Yes, my discovery for the day is that in 4E combat position is a high percentage of the battle.