Monday, June 16, 2008

Enough Junk

I’ve made a terrible, terrible error, and I’ve made it straight out of the gate. In spite of writing at the outset that I wasn’t going to care what other people thought about what I was writing, I began to care about what other people thought. It is an easy trap to fall into.

One of the ways to develop interest in your blog is to go out and leave messages and comments on other people’s blogs; so I put a little effort into doing that. I dug up a number of D&D blogs and I commented. And took a little time to find out what they were talking about - that being fourth edition - and that’s where my problems began.

On some level I’ve been living in a dream world. I’ve felt that, despite being out of the community for twenty years, that there was still some 'connection' I had with others playing D&D. I knew about the changes in the game, but I simply put that down to the rules … I failed to realize how thought processes had transformed.

I won’t say “evolved” because things have, instead, devolved.

I’ve now found that I’m a sort of player who’s become incomprehensible. Which is a mystery to me, as I’ve continued to talk D&D and incorporate new players … it's only that I’ve vastly underestimated what they’ve said about my world being different.

What are the changes? That’s a bit hard to distill into a few hundred words.

First and foremost, it seems to be commitment. The dialogue seems centered around a) not being able to find a campaign; b) not being able to find a committed campaign; c) not being able to find a committed campaign where the players are serious; and d) endless dialogues about what’s wrong with the game.

Apparently my world is different. I’ve been running the same campaign for two years without a break and without resorting to other games. What I should have done by now is come to my players with something like, “Hey people, I was too bored to work on what we’ve been doing. But I wrote up this really neat 12th level dungeon last weekend; since your characters aren’t strong enough for that, let’s roll up some 12th level characters and play this instead.”

Or, “Guys, I’m sick of D&D. But I just bought a complete box set of Hackmaster Space. Let’s start a new campaign!”

Baffling. Like showing up for a baseball game and saying, “I’m sick of baseball… (fill in the rest).”

This is, however, what everyone is doing, according to what I’m reading. And everyone is sick of it, at least in terms of its lack of meaning or purpose. And the just released edition 4 is fully built to make “casual” campaigns easier to start and run.


So I’m out here making arguments about classes vs. non-classes when this is totally yesterday’s news. Classes? What the fuck are classes?

We haven't got a system we can play anymore. What we have is a fucking joke. Is it so impossible to hope for ONE game we could play on a Saturday nights.  Every Saturday night?  Hah!  Are you kidding?

Yeah, I guess so.

Between the people who wish they had that, and those who think it would be boring beyond words, there is no D&D as I understood it. There is no room for the sort of rule changes I’ve made … not for them.

Still, rule changes are all I want to talk about. Not some company’s changes, not another cheap character or town generator … but actual rules. The sort of rules that define the world and how players interact with it. And I will.

But I have to surrender any belief that other people will come on-line, see what I’ve written and incorporate it into their campaigns. They don’t have campaigns. I’m not very clear on what the fuck they do have … weekly random somethings. They tend to post about making their own modules: another fuckwit castle full of whatever the latest monster is. One more Den of Desolation on the Last Outpost of the frigging Desert of Despair. Where a rag-tag party of Indiana Jones’ wannabes can duel it out with traps and Final Fantasy entities to seize the Great Jewel of Arnhem.

Yes, bored they are.

Looking back over this rant, I see it's not that clear. I’m going to let it stand anyway. I’ve been thinking about this since Thursday, and sometimes emotion is not about grammar.


  1. Here is the other side to that.

    We've been calling loosely organized, non-periodical, game sessions 'one shots'. They're based on whoever has whatever interest in playing something (whatever game can get the largest turn out) and happens to be available for the time slot scheduled.

    They run about 4-8 hours on a weekend, usually a Sunday afternoon / evening. They don't require much more effort than sitting down to a pre-generated character and rolling dice.

    People don't go out of their way to attend these events as you can well imagine. While the interest in attending wanes, their frequency grows with the group who has the largest number of contacts in their little black book of dungeon crawlers.

    "Hello Dave, I'm running a game on Saturday at noon, can you make it?"

    Dave says, "No sorry I have..."


    "Hello Edward, I'm running a game on Saturday at noon, can you make it?"

    Edward says, "No, I have..."


    "Hello, Fred..."

    And on it goes until 5 or 6 people commit. Knowing that 1 or 2 will drop out before Saturday anyway and you're going to be playing with 4 or 5 people you've never met before.

    Sometimes a serious campaign can work for a while, but then it gets all screwed up because Adam moves to Timbucktu, or Dave gets a new job working nights and weekends or, or or... In the end, even if you're hosting a regular campaign you're looking at a revolving door of players and you're not hosting much more than a serial one-shot anyway.

    The question is, why won't these players commit to a regular game in the first place?

    I think its because the game sucks. What was once a wonderland of possibilities and adventure has turned into a laughable mockery of itself and the only way to get any kind of a kick at all is to join in on the mockery and laugh for a few hours at how cheesy we are playing this cheesy game and blah blah blah.

    What I am hoping to learn from your efforts with this blog is how to turn that tide and build a better, stronger and leaner version of the game I once enjoyed playing every weekend. A game that makes committing to a weekly or bi-weekly session worth something. Something that feeds the interest of the players to such a level that missing a session is a horrible loss on its own. That's what I hope to learn.

    Why isn't it like this...

    "Hello, Gavin I have an opening in my bi-weekly Saturday..."

    Gavin: "What time? I'll clear my schedule!"

    That's what I want to see happen. Keep at it, it's working. I've already learned a lot.


  2. If I may add something as well...I am currently engaged in a VGA planet game that I will probably not be done until I have married and produced offspring....Had I known the level of commitment that I would be required at the start I am not sure I would have agreed.

    I have gained a really neat friend in Texas, but I have also lost at least 5 hours a week to a hobby.

    Yet, I can remember a time when I would spend 5 hours a DAY on chess...without any type issue whatsoever...It might be a question of life cycle and timing.

  3. Hi all together,

    Where I live D&D is for the people - they don't know about OD&D that there is a disctinction O and newer D&D - a "boardgame". Full stop.
    No one who calls himself a roleplayer is going to play with these people who have a snarkingly look down upon our favorite hobby.

    But then I find always blogs from guys who has a son and/or a dauther and plays sessions/campaigns with them and "looks down" to us who don't have someone to play with only people around who "look down" on this boring "boardgame".

    It is soo fucking frustrating. Excuse me, but it is so.

    Come here to where I live, and try to found a RPG group. Please, do it. Maybe it is something I make wrong. Maybe I will learn something - how to found a group -. Learn how to bring together people who call your imaginative and creative hobby something unimaginative and uncreative _and_ to bring these people to have fun with such a "boardgame".
    And now comes the best point in all this: I live where the term "German boardgame" points at and has its roots.

    I have really enough ....

  4. Yes well, I confess, my daughter plays with me. That is because I played D&D all the years she grew up and she got hooked on the game. I do not play her in a campaign designed for her; she had to adapt to the way I've played all these years. Sometimes she gets pissed at any other player would.

    Sounds like you live in hell; I assume, Germany. I don't know about starting a campaign there...I don't speak German so that would likely be a problem.

    I certainly can't help it if you don't know the people you need to know. I've gone through dry spells myself without any players; but I always knew I could choke up money for an advertisement and seek them out. I suggest you try the German equivalent of Craig's List. The players are out have to find them.

    Mike and the other Anonymous:

    I'm sorry, I can't help you. I live in a world where people spend 20 hours a week working on their gardens or going out to the mountains every weekend all weekend to ski. The time you spend on VGA planets, some people spend getting over the hangover they got by spending 5 hours the night before getting drunk. There are people who spend 40 minutes a day standing outside some building smoking (not you!)...add that together over two weeks and you've got more than 9 hours.

    I work a full time job, I have 5 regular monthly columns I write for magazines, I have sex five hours at a time, I've written a novel and a half in the last seven months and I still find time to work on D&D 30 hours a week.

    You find the time if you want to.

  5. "You find the time if you want to."

    Exactly. Getting the game to the point where players want to find the time is what I'm working towards. It doesn't exist at the moment.

  6. Regardless of the changes in the game, the corporate approach to it, whatever ... regardless of these things, what you are writing here has great value and it will be taken and used by others, because the concepts and execution are top-notch.

  7. Wow. I suck.

    This is exactly what I've been doing for over a year. I can't stay committed to a system, let alone a game. I've tried, what, 5 different games in the course of 3 years, representing maybe 10 different campaigns? No wonder I can't schedule a game. My players are burned out.

    This post stings. I'll have to think on it for a while.

    Thanks, Alexis. Your archives are great.

  8. It is very interesting to start reading your blog from the beginning, as I am currently doing, and find out which things have changed over time, as it is logical to expect and which ones like this, are non-changing.

    I own a big collection of games but at the end of the day I only run a few of them, and I come back again and again. I think that's part of the success I have as a DM.


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