Monday, July 13, 2015

All Activity

Yesterday, I made some sweeping generalizations about a skill set surrounding small unit tactics, if certain fighters had such knowledge.  The big problem, for most campaigns, is the expectation here that is placed upon the DM.  Fundamentally, the DM is being asked to subvert their own ruleset or expectations in favour of granting the players (apparently arbitrarily) greater knowledge of their universe and a greater potential for managing it.

This just isn't possible for the ordinary campaign.  RPGs are structurally caught in a vortex surrounding the DM, the DM's troubles, the DM's limitations and ultimately the DM's emotional sensibilities.  While the rules for RPGs are directed at the players, the complex implementation of those rules has transformed the DM into the Star of the Show and the remaining participants as extras and bit players.

Contributing to this is the reality that the DM, making the world, is not nearly as replaceable as the players.  Like any primadonna who fancies themselves 'the Talent,' DMs can have someone removed from the set for nothing more than stepping on the DM's moment.  Structurally, the failure in role-playing has always been found in what prejudices the DM keeps sacred.

Proposing rules like Tactics deeply challenges the very tenor of the role-playing game.  To the present, 'fantasy' has been built on the premises (and the prejudices) of the founders and subsequent drinkers of the kool-aid who have followed.  Thou shalt consider weapon-use based upon these principles, Thou shalt respect the role-play and keep it Holy, Thou shalt respect the limitations imposed by alignment, Thou shalt minimize the dreams and wishes of the players to a scale the DM can envision . . . etc.

It is this last that I continuously challenge with my world and which brings the most envy from others who wish they could play there.  The limitations of D&D are not necessarily the sort of dungeon that can be made, the arrangement of player-vs-monster battles or the collection and spending of loot.  Let me say it in bold:

All Activity Potentially Falls Into D&D's Scope

All activity.  All of it.  Everything that can be dreamed or imagined, that can be expressed, that machinery or magic can enable so as to make it challenging and worth doing . . . ALL.  Every bit of it.  Not only what the DM wants to do or what the most vocal player at the table will allow, but everything that open minds shall willingly address.

When I see the umpteenth dungeon map being drawn out and shown, without any special notes or details except the map itself, I wonder, do we not already have enough maps of rooms and halls?

Time & Work
I do appreciate the work and the application.  I appreciate the value of dungeons, I have and run dungeons quite regularly.  I wrote a book about them.  But is this it?  Is this the whole game?  Is this the limitation of imagination that begins with the question, "What do you want to do?"

Is it this?

Or is this what the DM will let you do?


  1. It is surprising. The initial focus of the game has become such a monolith in fantasy tabletop rpgs that when presented with a world in which all activity is possible, players are often at a loss as to what to do, and when a player decides he wants to just become the best god damn fishermen in all the known worlds that it drives some DMs insane.

    That's probably why virgin players are often the first to come up with something like 'I want to go to the closest village have Hrothgar start a restaurant' or 'Can Hrothgar teach the local squires to play a ball game?'

  2. OMG I now want to play an epic fishing campaign. Imagine for a moment FANTASY FISHING. You need to hunt down an Kraken and catch it without damaging it too much, then bring it back to the chef before it fouls...


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