Monday, November 8, 2010

Not For A Lack of Trying

This will be the third or fourth time today I sit here in front of my computer and try to think of something to post that doesn't involve my dislike of Dungeons & Dragons. It is my sixth try in the last three days.

I used to like D&D. There were actually two times in my life when it was the game of choice for me and the fellowship of players I had the pleasure to game with. The first was from the time I first learned it and played it in 1977 until roughly 1983 or 84 when I learned there was a Star Trek RPG. The second time was when I taught the game to my ex-wife, who fell in love with it and wanted me to run it for her pretty much every day.

In the first instance it was Basic and than AD&D 1st Edition and in the second it was 3.0 and 3.5/D20.

I have so many issues with this game but the main one, right now, is this...

If you read the blogosphere and see what people say they are doing with it and its variations (such as Pathfinder, Labyrinth Lord, Sword & Wizardy, etc.), you get the feeling that some amazing stuff is being run. I mean between Jeff Rient, Zak Smith and the other much frequented sites you've got some crazy cool ideas being generated.

Thing is, that's not happening near me. It hasn't happened in any D&D game I have seen in the last 10 years. Its always the same damn town, in the same damn pseudo-Western European area, fighting the same damn monsters, ad nauseum. The DMs are telling the Player's what they can't be, can't have and can't do. Perfectly intelligent and creative people who read comics, play computer and video games and watch anime add NONE of it into their games. There is never a feeling of kinetic energy, no romance, no wow.

What I'm actually doing here is complaining for no good reason other than sour grapes. One of my New York groups is strinking rapidly do to work schedules changing while I notice that others, especially the D&D ones, keep going strong. Unfortunately, I can't play with my old NJ crew more often since time, distance and money still hinder that option.

So, what does a GM who likes story, is indifferent towards rules and likes to play something, anything, other than cookie cutter medieval fantasy do to find new players? If I put up something at my FLGS with the words Dungeons & Dragons on it I'd be bum rushed by inqueries in seconds no doubt. What about Star Trek, Ars Magica, Galaxy Quest, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Adventures in Oz? Can you hear the crickets?

I can. They keep me up at night.

Barking Alien


  1. You want to tell a story in your games? Then tell a story. If the players are comfortable with 3 point x-ity x, then run that rule system. Doesn't say you have to run the story you're ticked off about.

    If the story is good, the players will buy into it. You could try the old rule-system switcheroo a couple of sessions in if you really want, but to my thinking, the rules don't tell the story, the DM lays out the scene and the players bump into the props and that tells the story.

    Don't like cookie cutter fantasy? Throw in a Planet Algol style Gate-to-another-plane, or a Jeff Rient crazy Dungeon denizins' Christmas Parade. If you want to go gonzo, you have to be able to carry it off as bad gonzo, like bad comedy, stinks like a carrion crawler.

    Think the monsters are boring? Then mix 'em up. If the players can go up levels, what about a gang of Orc Hardboyz? A couple of 3HD Orc champions in amongst the cannon fodder can really upset a fighter's afternoon.

    Take your favourite Star Trek story and convert it into a D&D scenario - usually ST stories revolve around some fine balancing act where the characters seek to resolve a situation from a position of weakness - there's no reason the dumbest-ass fighter shouldn't get that.

    You, as story telling DM, call the shots in the game. Player gives you lip, he finds rotgrubs in his backpack!

    Yes, it's sad when your gaming group doesn't play much - mine doesn't, and when we do it's Bushido or Gurps: Goblins (as the author of the latter is one of our group). I would really love to play Traveller, but this will only happen if I run it myself. Sounds like you can still get players at your Games Shop, all I find are Warhammer boyz at the Games Workshop shop, or card game players at the other games shop I visit.

    Good luck with your quest.

  2. The point is not necessarily 'gonzo', just not so run of the mill that it feels like watching paint dry after having watched paint dry for hours already.

    I can run what I want to run but do people want to play that? The answer is, yes, some do but the vast majority seem to enjoy the drying of paint.

  3. Seems to me that you need to find a group (easier said, I know) that is playing fast, wahoo-style RPGs like Feng Shui or 7th Sea.

    You live in New York, dude. One of the largest cities in the entire world. I'm sure if you did a web search you'd find a gaming group that would fit your needs. Try !

  4. Don't be shy about not liking D&D. I don't care much for it either. The only reason I'm currently playing D&D is because it's being run by the most awesome GM in my county. If he ran one of those crappy FGU games from the '80's, I'd still knock down walls for a place at the table.

    If you're looking to pitch non-D&D campaigns at the local game store, try pitching the campaign rather than the system. Especially focus on things that make your campaign awesome. Put together an announcement about how absolutely fucking METAL your campaign is, and you'll get takers.

  5. @Doug Wall- I like your approach. It has potential, though I think if it isn't D20 I may loose some people. I'll try to be optimistic.

    @Erin Palette- I'll check out NerdNYC. Haven't hads much luck in the past but its a good idea.

    I go a lot more avant garde than the two games you mentioned. Both of those have way too many rules for me. ;)

    And yes, you'd think that in New York City, NY, capital of the freakin' planet, you'd be able to find more gamers interested in more unusual games. It feels like the opposite is true. Gamers in general seem more elusive here.

    Which reminds me, why do all the beautiful, intelligent, amazing geek girls also live outside NY. My gosh I can't seem to meet a single one, while at a convention out of state not long ago the place was practically overflowing with women. So unfair. And possibly a bit TMI. Sorry. Carry on...

  6. Hey, give me a place to live and a decent wage (say, 30k a year) and I will happily relocate to be your full-time GM. :)

  7. lol. Thanks I appreciate the offer. Truth is, I prefer to be the GM. Though if I could take you up on the rest of the offer I would... ;)

  8. Marketing 101: Target their emotions. Get them excited or interested about something and their brain will act to justify what they're feeling.

  9. Preach on, brother. I'm running a 4e game, but dream of the day when I can finally stab it in the heart.