April 11, 2011

Pro-death play style

Underneath all of the old school vs. new school animosity, and the bickering over which edition of which game system is best, lies a difference of opinion about how much of the game should be planned out vs. rolled randomly.

I lean "rolled randomly" now, but I did not always.  With my first gaming group I was always looking out for the PC's, even occasionally fudging rolls because I did not want to kill them.  They were part of a great plot, and I had a story to tell.  Some people would say that I should have just written a novel, but the PC's did take the story to unexpected places.  Most importantly, we all had fun, and that is what it's all about right?

I realize now that my old style was partially based upon the old Saturday morning Dungeon and Dragons cartoon, and how friendly the DM there was to the PC's.   Since then, I've learned a little about the older editions of the game, the earliest groups, and how they played.  I knew that D&D was based upon war-gaming, but I was surprised to realize that there were so many chances for Instant Death in those early games.  I had a knee-jerk aversion to "old-school" because my first thoughts were of how upset my players would be if their character was killed after all the time we had invested into those PC's.  I failed to consider the question "What if my group had always played like this from the beginning?".

Now, years later, I've decided to run a new game with a different outlook.  PC's will die.  Not because I am actively trying to kill them, but because I have decided to let the dice land where they fall.  Before we begin our first game I will warn them that the world is a dangerous place (especially for dungeon delvers), and their characters will be lucky to survive more than a few game sessions... and boom, it is suddenly a whole new game.

I think the games will be more exciting for the players and especially for me, when death lurks behind every corner, every wandering monster, and every leap across the magma pool.  If someone dies they just take control of a henchman, or roll up a new first level character.  When the cast of characters changes a bit nearly every game session, it becomes much easier to accommodate for new players and absent ones.  It will also save me a lot of time.  Instead of spending all day plotting and planning every detail, I can just rely more heavily on the random charts and go see a movie or mow the yard.  I'll still be making dungeons and telling stories, but these new stories will also hold unexpected lessons from the school of hard knocks.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put. I also think this is connected to the complexity of character generation. Later editions can require so much choice and optimization before you even get to start playing, that high lethality can seem problematic.