Monday, March 16, 2009


Sometimes I wonder if we old school D&D'ers aren't just a bunch of crotchety old farts who are out of touch with the real world.

I mean, I read Wil Wheaton's blog. He played the hell out of D&D back in the day, when he was a kid, like we all did. Sure, it wasn't the '74 rules, but it was based directly on them -- it's effectively the same game. Sure closer than AD&D was at the time.

And ol' Wil has, through his celebrity blogger/geek status, gotten to get in on a 4e game with other geeks. And he loves it. He even got out his old Mentzer Basic set and read through it, which shows me that at least he can easily see a continuity between where we as a hobby were and where the current wave now is.

And that's cool. That's okay for them as likes it. They're having fun, and that's what counts.

But then I remember playing 3rd edition. I've had a lot of fun with it, but I also remember the rules arguments, the discussions, the sheer "trying to wrap our aging heads around strange and badly worded concepts" of it all (I still hate the unnecessarily complex "attacks of opportunity crap").

And I can't help but contrast it with the game I'm currently in. Aaron Kesher, over at Sandbox Empire, is the referee -- and I use that word advisedly. No lordly Dungeon Master he. He's just a guy with a world that he lets us visit. It's his sandbox, but it's our playground.

And play is what we do. We discuss rules, but only to see what fits us best as a group. We defer all final decisions to Aaron, because it's his world. We make bad jokes (okay, that's mostly me...). We come up with weird and strange notions (which Aaron makes note of...)

But we don't have the knock-down drag out rules arguments. We really don't.

We also don't have a lot of powergaming. Or any, for that matter. The routine goes like this. "Oh, man, I only have a twelve Strength? And a nine Intelligence?" "Don't worry; stats aren't as important as they are in later editions." "Well, okay..."

Twenty minutes later.

"Yeah, I think I would go ahead and pull the lever anyway -- after all I only have a five Wisdom!"

Players learn to have fun with their characters, warts and all. There's so little given in game terms that the players, highly creative sorts after all, simply have to come up with something interesting, whether background or quirks or philosophy or whatever.

And we're loving it! We don't need piles of rulebooks as high as a dragon's eye. We don't need power attacks or healing surges; we just go in their and risk death for gold and glory.

We also don't need a complex skill set. You want to do something? Go ahead and try! Depending on your stats, your personality, the Referee's whim and quite probably the phase of the moon, it might be easier or harder, but unless it's a specific class skill (such as spellcasting), you at least have a chance. And that's all you really need.

And death happens, don't think otherwise. Each death means a new opportunity to try again with a new character. We've played three times and I'm on my third character. Nobody has gotten beyond level one. But we keep coming back, and we keep having a good time. And if we don't like something in the game, we can always ask the referee to change it. He might not, but we know that we can ask.

So yeah, the kids out there can call me a crotchety old fart if they like. Their words pass by me like a spring breeze. They can have their shiny new 4th edition, too, and more power to them! Anything that keeps them off my old school lawn is fine by me. Plus they help keep my friendly local game store alive, which gives me a place to play. And if we show them how it's done, they might just join us and find out how much fun a good old dungeon crawl can be.

At least that's the way I see it.


Chris said...

"But then I remember playing 3rd edition. I've had a lot of fun with it, but I also remember the rules arguments, the discussions, the sheer "trying to wrap our aging heads around strange and badly worded concepts" of it all (I still hate the unnecessarily complex "attacks of opportunity crap")."

*nods in sombre recognition*

Been there, done that, threw out half the system because it read too much like a legal text for my (Mentzer and 1E AD&D-trained) tastes.

Good stuff CSAG.

Sham aka Dave said...

Hey, I resemble that comment!

kesher said...

My friend, I could not have said it better myself. The mindset is completely different. We're having too much damn fun to argue!

And isn't that the point?

Word Verification: hothmenc

Neil Ford said...

I believe I resemble that comment too ;)

Just returned from an dalliance with indie hippy games and I have to say, I much prefer the simple life. I am home.

- Neil.

Paul Weimer said...

There is a forgespeak phrase "Fun Now".

Aaron (not Adam! ;) ) manages to provide "Fun Now" for the oD&D games. That's golden

Paul (aka Torren, Cleric of Sol Invictus, praise be his power and name!)

kesher said...

Thanks, Paul (not Justin!) I've absolutely thought of Fun Now in connection with what we're doing. However, I think it's important to always remember that it's all of us generating the Fun!

In the indiegame world (and this is just my thing) I got too clogged up with expectations, I think. For whatever reason, finding my way back here, to this game, this community, has helped me to focus on only one expectation: Fun.

And that has opened up a world of possibility that I haven't had access to since I was 12...

Will Douglas said...

I remember that I wanted to say something else at the time I posted this, but forgot while I was writing it.

It's something Jimmy Buffett said in one of his books about the difference between Disneyworld and New Orleans.

He said that, in Disneyworld, you go there and fun is manufactured for you. Whereas when you go to New Orleans, fun just happens.

He said it better than that, but you get the drift. (OD&D is New Orleans.)