101 Days of D&D: Drifting, Falling

So yesterday it hit me, the wave of “uh oh” that’s been building for the last week or two. I’ve been spending a lot of my brain cycles that are dedicated to RPGs thinking of ways to drift D&D in a narrativist direction. I realized today that I’ve been spending too much time worrying about it. I’d gotten myself a little worked-up about it, in fact. I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out where this game is going to go, and I’ve been failing miserably. I ended up canceling the D&D part of our group tonight, and we ended up playing Munchkin instead (which is really fun, by the way). I can identify a few causes and at least a couple of things we as a group are going to do in order to help me remedy the situation.

The Causes.Out of the four “adventures” (scattered over five or six sessions) this group has played I’ve run them through two published adventures that are very much gamist D&D in style, and a couple of minimally-prepped, “wing it” style, more narrativist adventures. The first two were okay, but a little dry, for a lot of reasons: I didn’t really get behind the material, I didn’t know the characters very well (nor did the players), atrophied DMing muscles, etc.

Feedback was a resounding “meh.” The second two adventures went pretty well (#3 better than #4). At least two of us (me and the player I’ve gamed with the most out of this group) really enjoyed the latter two adventures a lot more than the other players. Enthused by that, I started exploring more ways to drift our game in that direction.

I’ll skip most of the navel-gazing angst, but I came to two realizations:

  • I had abandoned one of the primary tenets of this campaign and this project: let D&D be D&D.
  • Why try to drift D&D towards a more narrativist style of play when there are plenty of good systems out there that already do this well for fantasy roleplaying, especially, Burning Wheel, The Shadow of Yesterday, and The Riddle of Steel?

My main goals in running this D&D campaign and starting this 101 Days project were to learn D&D on its own terms and play it the same way. I wanted to do this for several reasons:

  1. the nostalgia factor (not to be discounted)
  2. get a bit of a palate cleansing from the last few rough sessions of Burning Wheel at the end of the summer
  3. do some gamist gaming to see if 8-10 months of playing mostly Burning Wheel had altered permanently the way I think about and play RPGs

With all this recent drifting stuff, I had been undermining a lot of what I had set out to do, even though it was interesting and useful. I want(ed) to try to get back toward the original intent of this campaign and blog series.

So, I got with my group and talked about things a little more in depth and out in the open. The result is that we’ve planned to alternate games: my D&D Eberron campaign alternating with… other stuff. The first dose of “other stuff” will be a Riddle of Steel one- or two-shot run by one of the players in my D&D game. We may then start a TROS campaign in that slot or do some more one-shots. We’ll see how it goes.

I think with the D&D game settling back towards its roots and the more narrativist stuff on alternate weekends, I’ll be doing much better soon. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks!

[EDIT: oh, yeah. One more thing. Can anyone ID the subtitle of this post? It’s unrelated to gaming. It’s musical.]

3 thoughts on “101 Days of D&D: Drifting, Falling”

  1. I had a couple of clear goals in mind when I started my last campaign, and I found it very handy to distill them into a few words each and paperclip them to the inside of my screen.

    That way, in idle moments (while the players where planning, for example), as well as every time I set up the screen, I saw — and focused on — my goals. Might be worth a shot.

    (Oh, and: “Drifting, Falling” by Ocean Blue?)

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