Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I suppose I've gotten used to it, but it strikes me weird that DMs do not naturally gravitate to adventures that are open-ended in their construction and design.  The adventure ideas I've put up lately aren't especially designed to be different from the norm - this is just the way I think when I imagine throwing the party into some situation which they must then manage.

Tim's comment yesterday made the point clear - an 'adventure' is just a hopped-up encounter that has enough threads for the players to follow.  Like any adventure that the reader might expect to fall into organically, it starts with meeting someone or observing something, whereupon everything that follows depends upon what the observer puts into it.

Being that this is D&D, we expected 'adventurers' to go find out the cause behind something strange or odd.  I would not expect the same from the reader.  If the reader were in a hotel in Dominica that was attacked by a group of men wielding pistols with the intent of killing a local businessman, I would not expect that anyone we know would load up with weapons and go to find out why.  But we do expect this of adventurers; in fact, we can almost be sure it will happen - especially if we touch some button by letting the player's meet the businessman's cute, recently orphaned, tear-soaked daughter.

Then again, I am the sort of person who thinks of a vacation in terms of paying for a flight and then 'visiting' whatever city or place I've gone to.  I don't look for someone else to pick my hotel or set up a tour for me.  I don't spend money on a book that tells me all the interesting places there are to see.  I don't schedule my vacations to line up with some festival or world-shattering event.  In fact, the less that's happening, the more normal the place is that I'm going to see, the better I like it.

I hate other people telling me what to look at because, for the most part, other people are very easily enamored with things that bore me shitless.  Simultaneously, I have found that invariably those same people lack the necessary knowledge about whatever it is they're showing me.  Every time I wind up being forced on a tour somewhere - usually through being thrown in the wrong people and going along to be polite - I always end up delivering half the tour myself, as my various interests in art, history, architecture, science and so on won't let me stand there listening to the tour guide give half the information about what we're seeing.  Thankfully, I'm a great presenter - so people are always glad I came along.  Unfortunately, I'm really not.

It's like forever being a DM who can't find a game in which he can play.  I like DMing; I have no strong desire to be a tour guide.  I really, really don't want to be shown what I should see.  I like to poke around, investigate, turn up at some lonely coffee shop and get into a four-hour conversation with the barista, sharing ideas and perspectives as they can only be shared away from home.  I like to stumble across a museum or a church, arrange a personal walk-through with the priest in residence who will chat for twenty minutes about where this particular image of cavalry originated and why the artist was driven to shoot his mother.  I love finding my way into an unexpected, off-the-track restaurant where I'm the only white person in the place, where I am served the best meal from Laos or Tanzania or Cappadocia I ever expect to eat again . . . where I am invariably welcomed by staff and other patrons as one of their own.

I like agency.  I don't understand people who want to give their agency away.  I don't understand how people can talk about an "adventure's end" in a game where the adventure never, ever needs to end, where it can just take a step to the left and follow the next string to the next logical development.

Gawd.  Maybe I was dropped as a baby.

1 comment:

JB said...

Happy Canada Day!