With the release of the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edtition) there has been the usual flurry of reviews and comments ranging from “this is the best…evar!” to “this game sucks!” It is the latter opinion about suckage that I wish to address.
I have been playing role-playing games since around 1977. The first game I remember really getting into was traveler. Those three little black books from Game Designers Workshop hooked me for good.My friends and I spend many hours enjoying the universes that we created. We had marathon traveler sessions at by old apartment in what was then the student ghetto of North Tampa. Those were the days when we would literally play all weekend.For the record, at the age of 65, I don’t think I could do those marathon sessions again although I might give it a try.
I got into Dungeons and Dragons through some of the players in my traveler group. I was a bit leery at first of the whole fantasy thing until one of those friends pointed out that Dungeons & Dragons was actually derived from a set of medieval wargames rules called Chain Mail. I had been playing Chain Mail since the early 70s and really liked it. So I figured I’d give this Dungeons & Dragons a try and I’m glad I did.
What made the game so much fun for me were the people who were running. Bob Peterson and Olof Rydholm brought the settings to life. They made the adventures more than just a dungeon crawl. Our group did more than just kill other beings and take stuff. And this made all the difference in the world.
The lesson that I took away from those games was that a game master can make any experience either a good one or a bad one. Thank you gentlemen I am forever in your debt.
Now to bring this up to present times I would like to address some of the criticisms of the new dungeons and dragons game. The biggest one I’ve heard so far is the same one that I heard and have been hearing for a number of years now is that the rules are very heavily combat oriented. Well, in truth they are my response is so what? The rules may be heavily combat oriented and trust me as someone who has run and played and written for the twilight 2000 game I am certainly familiar with combat heavy games. Well here’s a surprise! They don’t have to be. As game master, you have the ability to make these games as combat intensive or not as you and your players see fit. It can be done I know it can I’ve seen it and done it myself.
A good example of this comes from the call of Cthulhu role-playing game. One of the biggest complaints that I have heard about the game is that if the player blows a die roll they can’t get a vital clue. They miss it. My answer to that is simple. As a game master or in CFC terms more master, if that clue is vital and important enough to the investigation then I am going to make damn sure the players get it. They may not know how to interpret it once they get it but they will have it. There are a number of ways to do this the most basic is to of course fudge the die roll all well you are really made it type thing okay fine you know they get the clue. The best way, in my opinion, is to set up a couple of different ways that they can get the clue/item/artifact whatever they need.
As for the whole games suck… well for me it’s very simple. If I don’t like the mechanics or I’m simply not interested in the subject matter then you know what, I don’t buy it. Now I will say that I do play in a lot of games that well let’s just say I’m not all that interested in them but I like the people running them so I will give the game a shot.
Bottom line… In my view, it’s the people involved in the game/campaign that are the most important. The rest is just window dressing.
Play games. Have fun!