Thursday, May 01, 2008

Doing What's Fun

Taking time out of his busy blogging schedule to actually, you know, play an RPG (Gee, maybe I should try that?), the Chatty DM has made some interesting observations:

Lessons Learned

  • Story trumps combat when a gaming group is getting tired of an adventure
  • Paying tributes to old memories is fun, at least for the DM
  • There is such a things as too many meaningless fights, no matter how retro-stupid-nostalgic one may get.
Oh yeah...

And here's where I stumble a bit when I hang out with the true grognards and dish about the old-school experience. For me, there was no such thing as a useless fight, because the players were simply scared to friggin' death of the dice. Seriously, you bring some 1st level characters built by Moldvay's book to the Caves of Chaos, and it can get ugly really, really quick. They did everything they could to avoid touching the dice, which meant everything could be a "story" encounter, including the stereotypical single orc guarding a chest.

Yeah, I know, we were weird. ;)

Anyway, the true lesson here, I think, is this: do what everyone is enjoying. Even if that means playing D&D without rolling any dice. It may feel odd, at first, but if you and everyone else is really having fun, run with it.


Badelaire said...

You know, it's funny. I've seen over the years many arguments for Player empowerment with the idea that all too often things fall to GM fiat, and therefore the PCs get screwed. Sometimes this complaint stems from newer rules light systems that assume a high degree of "make it up as you go along" just to keep the rules and mechanics to a minimum. Sometimes it also comes from the "darker side" of older gaming styles (not a good side, just a bad stereotype that probably has some basis in reality) of the DM vs. The PCs, and players wanting the dice to be the ultimate neutral arbitrator of all situations.

BUT, done right, this sort of quasi-diceless play can be even more rewarding, especially at lower levels where relying on the dice will more often than not result in failure for the PCs. At that point, if you can get the DM to allow you to "play it out", you'll avoid the threat of the dice just arbitrarily saying "whoops, sorry!"

As you say, enjoyment is paramount.

trollsmyth said...

But that hinges on the great Achilles' heel of RPGs: the importance of the GM. Whatever else we do, the bulk of everyone's enjoyment rests upon the GM's shoulders. A great GM can make any game a fun time, and a bad GM can ruin the best game.

A lot of the bloat of modern systems comes, I think, from trying to lift some of that burden off the GM's shoulders. It's a noble effort, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the energy that comes from a group all engaged in the moment of play, and whenever that happens, it's really the GM who creates and sustains such moments.


The Chatty DM said...

I think that you hot the issue direct on the head here in that older systems were downright lethal.

All encounters of old-school games were designed to have a good chance to kill characters all the time. Surviving and dealing in a creative way was the whole fun of the game.

Heck, I'd wager that such harsh encounters fostered story telling, much like it did in Rolemaster games (Fear of dice was caused by rules instead of monsters)

Sham said...

So many posts to catch up on, but this one jumped out at me. Good points.

"Yeah, I know, we were weird. ;)"

No, not really. I've always felt that in OD&D, the idea was to avoid encounters whenever possible, so that sounds like what you guys were trying to do. And yeah, the Caves of Chaos is going to gobble up low level parties who don't try to use logic and alternative methods for dealing with each encounter. There's nothing wrong with a referee rewarding inspirational play by forgoing the inevitable d20 rolls, if he feels the players earned it.

Monsters are supposed to be deadly, not just walking bags of experience. Avoiding their claws and spears is normally a good idea.