101 Days of D&D: okay, would you believe 43 Days of D&D?

This thread at the Forge has really gotten me thinking about the future of my D&D campaign and this 101 Days of D&D project.

First, read the thread. If you’re at all interested in role playing games, it’s worth reading through the thread. If you’re interested in narrativist role playing (and I mean that in the least confrontational way possible), it’s just about essential.

I’ve already covered some of this in previous posts, but it bears repeating, I think. When I re-started my interest in RPGs about 15 months ago, I had never heard of The Forge or the GNS model (or any role playing “theories” at all) or any sort of indie RPGs. I completely missed the start of all that when I was away from roleplaying. So, when I got back into roleplaying last year, I started exploring those sorts of games just to check that stuff out. [There was also a local guy (hey Roy! Miss you!) who was really into those games that helped me a lot. He moved away last year and our local gaming community is worse off for it. But, back to me.] I ended up loving several of those games (esp. Burning Wheel) and sorta snubbed D&D/d20/etc. for a while. I have a tendency towards snobbery sometimes. Those of you who know me in real life will have a chuckle at that. The rest of you will just have to trust me.

I didn’t get to play as many of the indie games as I bought and read, but I really enjoyed that style of play. Then our group sorta fell apart over this past summer, and I wanted a palate cleanser of sorts to clear the bad taste of the final few sessions. So, being in a nostalgic sort of mood, I turned to D&D, the current edition, though, not the stuff I played “back in the day.” I figured I’d give it a shot, especially since I was very interested in the Eberron campaign setting.

I started this blog series with the idea that it would make me work on my D&D game more often and would motivate me to learn the rules better and spend more time thinking D&D. What I’ve spent a lot of time doing is trying to figure out how to turn D&D into something else. It’s been really interesting, but has shown me that it’s not easy and and — more importantly — not worth it. D&D should be D&D and _____ should be _____. There are already systems out there that do what I want out of RPGs (more or less). There’s no point in trying to make D&D do that.

So, fast forward a half-dozen sessions of D&D 3.5 and 42 days worth of this 101 Days of D&D project to right now. I’ve covered a number of topics in this series that have helped me work through some issues I’ve been having with my roleplaying. Heck, just reading through the posts again, it’s so obvious that, despite my constant wish to “let D&D be D&D” I’m just not that into the D&D style of play. One of the players in my group (the one who’s been drifting D&D toward something else with me) recently said the reason I started up the D&D thing was because of nostalgia, and I think he’s right. But, it’s been really useful besides that. It’s shown me what I really want from my roleplaying, and, unfortunately — in some respects — that’s not the sort of play that D&D provides.

First, let me say that D&D 3.5 is REALLY good at what it does. There are a lot of reasons it’s as successful as it is. It’s the best at being D&D that D&D has ever been.

Second, the group I’ve been playing with has been really great. Except for Tim. He’s the one who’s been encouraging me to drift D&D towards something more narrativist and causing me all this RPG angst. :) But the group’s been great, and I hope to continue gaming with them in some form or another for a good long while.

Third, as if it weren’t completely obvious by now, I’m going to end the 101 Days of D&D project at 43 days. I don’t foresee a breakthrough of any sort that would “turn me around” and I’d like to explore some other rpg approaches now instead of in a couple of months. More on this below…

Fourth, I’m NOT sure about what to do about my Eberron D&D game. It’s been going in fits and spurts (some great sessions some “meh” sessions) for the last few months (it predates this project by a bit), and I’d like to bring it to some sort of conclusion instead of just ending it abruptly. I plan to talk to my players about it before tomorrow’s session. I don’t want to spend the next several months of sessions running D&D and not enjoying it just for the sake of the campaign, but I would like to get some resolution for as many of the characters — and players! — as I can. I guess I’ll have a follow-up post this weekend about that.

Lastly (for now), I’m not going to stop blogging about role playing. Heck, doing this project in public on the blog has gotten my interest in blogging back some. I hope to post more here about what I’m doing as far as roleplaying is concerned, and I’m also going to be blogging more in general, I hope. I also hope to get engaged in some of the great roleplaying discussions going on right now. The Forge thread cited at the very beginning of this post is a great example (though I think that one’s about played out). So, I’m not leaving, even though I am ending this project early.

See you around the internets!

101 Days of D&D: Setting stakes and conflict resolution in D&D

There’s a great thread on The Forge right now about setting stakes for conflicts in RPGs. Getting a good handle on setting stakes for conflicts in roleplaying can help any group get the conflict and excitement levels of their games cranked up a few notches so that things really sing. D&D players (and I lump GMs in with non-GMs here) often think more about task resolution than conflict resolution. Play becomes about rolling dice to see if an action succeeds not if a character succeeds at his goal.

Ja’el struggles with the lock on the door. The trio of hobgoblin mercenaries are charging down the hall, screaming and slavering, intent upon hacking Ja’el into tiny little wet bits. Ja’el’s task is to pick the lock. BUT, the conflict isn’t between Ja’el and the lock; it’s between Ja’el picking the lock before the hobgoblin’s get there. What’s at stake isn’t that Ja’el doesn’t get the door open; it’s that Ja’el doesn’t get the door open in time to get through it and down the stairs to safety before the hobgoblins arrive. [editor’s note: apparently, I stole this example (more or less) from the BW Revised book. I didn’t realize that until I saw a related message pop up on the Forge thread linked above. I carry a LOT of BW around in my head, I guess.]

By outlining stakes based on task resolution instead of conflict resolution, a metric assload of tension is inserted into the scene. It’s a seemingly little change, but it gets the players focused on what’s really going on in a game.

Continue reading 101 Days of D&D: Setting stakes and conflict resolution in D&D

101 Days of D&D: Web resources for Eberron DMs

I am unabashed in my enthusiasm for the Eberron campaign setting for D&D. I think it’s the best thing to hit D&D in a long time. In addition to the seven or eight sourcebooks for the setting, Wizards puts a lot of interesting stuff on their website for Eberron, too.

I use the following sources for adventure ideas (and to enhance my trivia and flava knowledge of Eberron, too) all the time:

  • Dragonshards: billed on the website as “Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron campaign setting, gives us the lore of Eberron, providing information about day-to-day life in Eberron, personalities of interest, history, and geography of this newest game world.” Each one has either great flavor to drop into your campaign or a great adventure hook. Some have additional rules (feats, spells, etc.) in them, too, but they tend to be flavor and not crunch.
  • Steal This Hook!: “This column brings you, the DM, a bevy of Eberron ideas to steal for your campaign. You’ll find several entrée-sized hooks and then a bevy of bite-sized mini-hooks in each installment.” They do these for the other campaign settings, too, but this is the Eberron one. Some of the ideas just don’t appeal to me but a surprising number of them are really good. The best session we’ve had so far in this campaign came right out of a Steal This Hook installment. Very useful for when you’re running out of time and are short on ideas for this week’s session or just for sparking ideas in general.
  • Sharn Inquisitive: “A weekly series of articles that might appear in the Sharn Inquisitive, one of Eberron’s largest daily newspapers. Use them as adventure hooks or local flavor in your Eberron game. ” I haven’t really used any of these yet, but I’m thinking about ways to use them in my campaign. If all of my players checked their email more often, I would consider sending them out (and perhaps expanding them some — I am a newspaperist of sorts, after all) to either add some background flavor to the game or to spur them to come up with adventure ideas themselves. I need to study on this some more.

Even if you naturally come up dry a lot — and it happens to all of us at one time or another — the sources above can get your Eberron game moving again. And, even if you’re normally overflowing with cool ideas for your game, they can still help you make connections and give you some alternate ideas for locations and things.

101 Days of D&D: the Big Picture

I’ve got this weekend off from my game — hmm, that sorta makes it sounds like work, doesn’t it? It’s not — so I’m doing some reading on the web and in print on general campaign management sorts of things, strategizing for the next month or so of sessions. I’m moving from the opening game to the middle game at this point. The players are starting to settle into their characters, and I’m getting my DMing “sea legs” back a bit. Up to this point, the campaign plot has been fairly erratic. So, I’m taking a step back and doing a little plotting and planning.

While I’ve started weaving in some action from what I sorta put forth as the core story for the characters in a previous post, I need something bigger that all of these smaller story threads will be working toward, and I think I think I’ve seized upon an endpoint.

Continue reading 101 Days of D&D: the Big Picture

101 Days of D&D: web resources for D&D GMs #1

Administrivia: VERY busy this week with work projects, freelance projects, and planning a trip to KC this weekend to get the MINI serviced and do some Christmas shopping, so I’m going to hammer out a few short posts for “101 Days…”, though I’ve got a couple of longer posts percolating around the ol’ noggin. I realized I need to pace myself with this project. I’m only two weeks into a 12-13 week project. First up: the first in a limited edition mini-series about web resources for D&D GMs.

  • Save My Game: is Jason Nelson-Brown’s weeklyesque column at the official D&D website about advice for DMs who are having problems in their campaigns. Many of the topics come from posts on the D&D forums where DMs have asked the community for help with a particular problem she is having in her campaign. I don’t always agree with Nelson-Brown, but his columns always give me something to think about in regards to my D&D campaign, and he has helped save my bacon at least once. In some upcoming posts about particular topics (as opposed to particular resources — the othe axis), I’ll have more to say about some particular columns. In the meantime, his column is a good place to start when you’re having problems with a D&D campaign — or a good place to skim and read BEFORE you start having problems.