Resources for the old-school renaissance.

edited February 2010 in Story Games
It's an interesting situation: I'm about to run a Swords & Wizardry campaign without actually having ever played the old editions of Dungeons & Dragons it's supposed to emulate. Now, I'm not too fussed about Getting It Right because it's all about having fun, right? But there's a lingering suspicion I'm under-equipped to run a crawl in the true style of my Dungeon Master forebears.

So, I was wondering if anyone has any information regarding old-school APs, podcasts, campaign-notes, essays or general advice floating about? It'd be awesome to sit down at that table with a mind spinning with awesomely retro things to hurl at my players.

Cheers,
Mike.
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Comments

  • I'd start at Grognardia and read through the Dimmwermount posts. I'll pull of some other ones as well.

    ara
  • Also some others:
    Fight On!

    Society of the Torch, Pole and Rope

    LotFP

    There is also the OD&D Board

    But it all come down to what kind of game to you and your players want to run that includes making up a lot of the rules, establishing the social contract, etc..

    ara
  • I've been doing my own sort-of parallel fantasy adventure development through the last couple of years - not quite old school, but similar. Here's a pretty good post from my blog, I outline the philosophical approach I've been using. It seems like it'd go relatively well with old D&D, too, at least in places.
  • I have been working on something similar - an old-school D&D game for people who never played the first time around.

    I think a good approach is to focus on fun stuff, and generally-understood "fantasy gamer" stuff, rather than specific D&D tropes. So - for example - when you're naming classes, call it a "Warrior" instead of a "Fighter" and a "Wizard" instead of a "Magic-user".

    I mean, I personally might want to see magic-users and descending Armor Classes in an old-school game, but that's because I remember them from 1986, not because there is anything inherently fun or cool about those things. So if you're playing with a group who has no nostalgic attachment to that stuff, why strive to re-create it?
  • I'd second reading Eero's post. They aren't just pretty good they are great. What Eero lays out works over and over again in AP. And it's a blast to play that way!


    ara
  • Eero, that is some cool stuff there man. I know this is going to be stewing in my brain for a bit as it nicely codifies what I like and want out of this type of play with stuff like D&D or Burning Thac0.

    Very cool.

    - Colin
  • I concur. Eero's post on this is resource #1. All you really need is that and a set of rules (any one of the many out there will probably do you fine).

    I recommend treating the the blogs, magazines, and other resources out there as a gigantic pool of awesomeness. When you need some awesome, dip your hand in and pull something out, but don't try to drink the whole pool.
  • edited February 2010
    (blush)

    Ah, yes - Microdungeons. It's an excellent source of short dungeons that in many ways hits the sweet spot of context for me. Just the sort of thing where I could just lift an arbitrary dungeon from there and improvise the rest of the backstory in play. I especially like how Tony's format completely eliminates the empty room as a pacing element. (Are they pacing elements in those old designs? No idea.) There's no need for filler encounters or anything, you can just run through the dungeon in one session, over 3-4 distinct and memorable encounters, instead of making a tedious production with a dozen random encounters out of it. I'm keenly waiting for the print version, or perhaps some sort of randomization tool that'd index and link these for ease of use.

    Another thing I'm pretty fond of are the massive hex maps they used to make for old D&D campaign settings. Stuff like this. The Dragonlance campaign is in many ways incomprehensible if you don't know about hex map wilderness campaigns, for example, so this is important stuff. I really should figure out some campaign that'd use this sort of thing - I've never played such a game yet.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenAnother thing I'm pretty fond of are the massive hex maps they used to make for old D&D campaign settings. Stuff likethis.
    Man, that map takes me back.

    Although that world was crazy incoherent (each "land" was completely unrelated to the ones around it in terms of both geography and culture), some of the "Gazetteers" for those places were awesome.
  • Potemkin,

    I totally forgot to ask. What kind of game are you and your players running? Hex-crawl, dungeon-crawl, urban, etc...

    ara
  • Thanks for the material, Akooser, Eero. I'm absorbed; I'll post back my gleanings once I've finished digesting.
    Posted By: akooserPotemkin,

    I totally forgot to ask. What kind of game are you and your players running? Hex-crawl, dungeon-crawl, urban, etc...

    ara
    Well, I was planning to start 'em in medias res before the doors to a dungeon, but I've a group willing to play for an near-indefinite time (3 years maximum, it would seem) so moving from corridors to hex-maps could be a real possibility.
  • Just my recommendation if you're doing a kick in the dungeon door (a great place to start) is to use Eero's postings on challenge based adventures. That will keep you going for awhile.

    Also Vincent Baker's article Practical Conflict Resolution Advice here scroll down

    Once or if you move to a hex crawl Ben's posts on the West Marches are the definitive how to.

    And I'll hold off on throwing more stuff out until you digest. I am curious as to what you come up with.

    Ara
  • The West Marches is a genius concept. I'll see how dungeoneering goes but perhaps in a few months I'll open up the world-map, invite more players and run one of my own. I've the good fortune to be part of a roleplaying society at my university, so I'm not short of willing participants.

    Cheers Akooser, this stuff is great!

    Now, how much authorship should I extend players? My indie-sympathies urge me to let players define a great deal of the fiction, but old-school traditions suggest that I be draconian and rigorously defend my (as-of-yet unwritten) setting-canon - Western Marches giving example of how the latter can enhance play.
  • "Now, how much authorship should I extend players? My indie-sympathies urge me to let players define a great deal of the fiction, but old-school traditions suggest that I be draconian and rigorously defend my (as-of-yet unwritten) setting-canon - Western Marches giving example of how the latter can enhance play. "

    From the Stuff to Watch thread Ken Hite

    and

    A post by Eero here

    ara
  • I think it's not a matter of "how much", but of "where and why" - in other words, don't just punt on your GM responsibilities, but rather make reasoned choices about where and when to seek player authority. For example, a pretty old school conceit is to extend a player's character authority into determining many things about the character's background, and therefore even the society and issues of that background. If a character is an elf, it's pretty old school -natural to have that player make major contributions about what it means to be an elf, which is the same as determining what elves are like in the game world.

    Probably the most important thing to my mind is to know the time and place - I could see myself asking the players in between session about what they think about the idea of placing a large desert to the west of the basetown of a campaign, for example. That's something the characters presumably know about either way. I wouldn't, however, make that same question when the characters have just heard that the McGuffin is to the west and the characters are preparing to leave for a long journey there - how is the player supposed to answer that sort of question, except by reminding the GM that it is in fact his job to decide and describe that sort of thing so the players can react to it, not the other way around. Tell me as a player that there is a desert to the west, and I'll know to pack extra water. Don't ask me whether there is such a desert, for on what basis would I make this choice?

    Of course that's just setting canon (or backstory, as we often call it nowadays). In my experience you can be much more equal about narrating conflict resolutions and such without making a mess of the GM role. By all means let players narrate their character actions without constant affirmations from you, too - I've never quite understood the point in asking the GM whether there is an inn in town when you could just declare such and expect the GM to correct you if he wants; presumably the GM is listening to what you say, so you don't need to explicitly ask his permission for every little thing separately.
  • edited February 2010
    I don't think anybody has yet referenced Matt Finch's Old School Primer. That's the foundational document for the approach and attitudes you should be keeping in your head while applying the rules. And it's short. If you want more concrete advice, I highly recommend a quick read through of the GM's section of the Swords & Wizardy Quick Start. Within the module, it provides very concrete suggestions to the DM as to what to do at each step of the way. I think between those two documents, you'd have enough inspiration to set your feet on the right path. Then go and do, and learn from doing.
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenDon't ask me whether there is such a desert, for on what basis would I make this choice?
    Woah (I know Kung-fu). Cheers, Eeuo, my DM-o-sphere has been expanded exponentially.
    Posted By: rafialI don't think anybody has yet referenced Matt Finch's Old School Primer... the Swords & Wizardy Quick Start..
    Oh man, these are tasty. The prime especially is pretty-much the frank advice I needed to make play shine. Thanks!

    Now, tell me Conan, what is best in life? Sandbox wilderness, megadungeon or setting/story-quest?
    It strikes me that these three are the standard forms of Old-School play, although none are exclusive. Importantly, I will ask my players this question, but I'd like to hear your preferences if you have them.
  • Conan likes wilderness adventure, I hear. The travel from one adventure location to another is important to him, not having a social framework to fall back on.

    I like the large dungeon (done it), I like wilderness sandbox (sort of done it), I like even set-piece adventures (done it) as long as they're well designed and respect the role of the players and their characters. I'd have to say that my choice would depend largely on personal GMish inspiration - first I'd have some idea of what I'd like to play fiction-wise, and that would then determine the structure.

    One way to look at this is as an issue of initial focus: if you start the play from the dungeon door, that's a different initial experience from if you start at an inn. My longest D&D campaign used a specific inn-based procedure: the players would make certain city-based information gathering moves, and I'd give them a list of rumours from a pre-prepared list on the basis of their effectiveness in this work-mongering. The information collection would then result in a number of different types of adventure hooks, among which the players would choose which to go after. These hooks would differ in terms of reliability, level of danger, consequences for ignoring, character-based relevance and so on, so the adventuring party would have to argue among themselves whether they should investigate a potential danger to the city, uncertain rumours about an enemy cult or other priorities.

    My point in describing the above is that if you'd find that sort of initial scene interesting, then you might want to go with a sandbox. If, on the other hand, you want to ensure that the first session is already solidly adventurous and not just logistical, then you might choose to start the game from the dungeon door. A sandbox is more work than a set-piece adventure like the Fury of Nifur (at my blog) in some ways, although good GM technique can cut the prep down to a minimum - I used to think up around 20 new hooks every three sessions when the characters got back to town, but I usually wouldn't make any detailed prep for the potential adventures behind them, improvising the necessary details on the spot as the game proceeded.
  • The funny thing about Conan is that the travel was almost never the point: Howard tended to handwave that most of the time. Tolkien was the DM making his players move their characters across the map hex by hex.
  • Well, yes. But the point is, Conan arrives in new places, and they're always places he doesn't really have any ties in. So it's clearly a sandbox setting, just one where the GM isn't that concerned with travel logistics.
  • Agreed, Eero. I made my remark in #20 largely because many of the Old School Renaissance blogs I read stress Howard as a primary source for OD&D, deemphasize the Tolkien influence--and then insist on playing out travel between adventure locations on a hex-by-hex, roll-for-random-encounters basis . . . replicating the rejected Tolkien experience far more than the Howard one.
  • Oh, that's certainly true. How curious, now that I think of it. Tolkien has a definite random encounter flavor, that can't be denied. It's a way of displaying the setting and pacing the storytelling; just like a typical approach to fantasy adventure roleplaying, you're not "really" travelling properly if there are not some challenges on the way to emphasize the idea that you've moved from place to place. Tolkien and D&D share this logic, certainly.
  • Howard will do the wandering monster thing from time to time ("Scarlet Citadel," anyone?), but it's really Tolkien who makes you track every league you've gone. (I'm teaching Lord of the Rings this semester, and I just noticed this D&D/Tolkien connection today.)
  • I think there's a mis-reading of Lord of the Rings here.
    Now it's been a while since I picked up my copy so I'm working from recollection, but, while there's a great deal of travelling, Tolkien certainly doesn't give the account of each mile in a standardized fashion. Sure, we know the distances and we know the times taken but its rare that the author unpacks the travelling experience unless it feeds into a set piece. Amongst the generally abstracted travel sections there are several instances of characters flying across a great many miles on preternaturally fast horses or eagles, or simply having their journeys described in a line or two ("... and back again.").

    It strikes me Tolkien doesn't like random encounter-tables much either... Although, I could be wrong.

    Personally, if the players have a taste for it, having them explore a wilderness Western Marches style could be just as rewarding as dungeon work.
  • Potemkin, superfast travel (or the handwaving of distances) is almost always limited to Gandalf on Shadowfax/Gwaihir--and it almost always takes place off screen. The rest of the time, Tolkien is very careful to describe the process of travel, accounting for the specific terrain traversed, the time taken to do so, and the specific distance in leagues covered. I'm rereading the book right now as part of teaching it to college undergraduates, and it's very clear that this is his customary approach.

    (For random encounters, I give you the crebain and the wargs in Hollin in "The Ring Goes South" as well as the orcs at Sarn Gebir in "The Great River.")

    My main point has not been that sandbox exploration games moving hex by hex are bad--if that's what everyone wants to do, they're wonderful. Instead, it's that that sort of game does not seem to be inspired in any way by the actual stories that Howard and Leiber and the other S&S writers were writing.
  • Yeah, the travel is a big thing. Mike's right that it's not strictly "random encounters" we're seeing in LotR, but rather carefully calculated set-piece encounters ;)

    But hey - dread drift, anyone?
  • Just to bring this back on topic...

    Potemkin,

    Have you checked out Luke's Rootless Wanderer thread here at storygames. It's another way of address narration rights.

    Rootless Wanderer

    ara
  • Posted By: Maltese ChangelingPotemkin, superfast travel (or the handwaving of distances) is almost always limited to Gandalf on Shadowfax/Gwaihir--and it almost always takes place off screen. The rest of the time, Tolkien is very careful to describe the process of travel, accounting for the specific terrain traversed, the time taken to do so, and the specific distance in leagues covered. I'm rereading the book right now as part of teaching it to college undergraduates, and it's very clear that this is his customary approach.

    (For random encounters, I give you the crebain and the wargs in Hollin in "The Ring Goes South" as well as the orcs at Sarn Gebir in "The Great River.")

    My main point has not been that sandbox exploration games moving hex by hex are bad--if that's what everyone wants to do, they're wonderful. Instead, it's that that sort of game does not seem to be inspired in any way by the actual stories that Howard and Leiber and the other S&S writers were writing.
    You're focusing in on one thing (detailed accounts of travel) while rejecting almost everything else. Early D&D was very much like S&S in its amorality, its greed, its human-centric worldview and its emphasis on law vs. chaos - all of which are pretty much anathema to Tolkien, and are much more central to the question than whether or not the Lord of the Ring superficially resembles a hex crawl. (In any case, don't forget the earliest forms of D&D didn't even have hexcrawls - that came later.)

    The crebain and warg encounters are in my view explicit examples of Sauron extending his spies and influence further Northwards and Westwards in search of the ring, and using his power and malice to influence things to his benefit. (He knows the ring is out there...somewhere. The avalanche/snowstorm in the mountains which drives the fellowship into Moria is another example of this.) This makes them almost the opposite of random; a true random encounter is exactly that - rolled up on a chart, with no meaning or relevance to anything outside of itself and what meaning the players/DM attach to it afterwards.
  • We're not entirely serious about the Tolkien thing, Jean. It's just an interesting detail.
  • Yes, it's an interesting detail, which is why I'm talking about it and trying to clarify a misconception.

    Early D&D has a very superficial similarity to Tolkien's work but in actual play the game is very much S&S, and it helps if you approach it in those terms. It works well if you envisage the PCs as, essentially, amoral rogues and tomb-robbers (the rules are set up for this; it's why you get XP for gold, for instance) rather than heroes of high fantasy (a style of play which the rules won't support).
  • A terrible idea:

    Hex-based Omnidungeon.
    As with wilderness exploration, each hex is 20-miles appox. but contains a 20-mile section of an interconnected dungeon complex on a breath-taking scale.
    A fantasy version of 'Blame!,' Tsutomu Nihei's techno-epic manga.

    Cyclopean structures, anyone?
    Posted By: akooserHave you checked out Luke's Rootless Wanderer thread here at storygames. It's another way of address narration rights.
    Yes, I saw. But yet it strikes we there's exceptionally little in the way of variation of the classic narration rights schema.
  • edited February 2010
    Oh, I'm not saying that S&S wasn't the dominant influence on OD&D--that's utterly clear. But more than just monsters and PC races came out of Tolkien and into the game at a relatively early stage. Gary and Co. may not have intended the Tolkien influence, but large portions of the player base kept drifting the game in that direction. Maybe not the first generation or two, but certainly those who started by the very late 1970s (when I got into the game). Middle-earth, Shannara, and Ushurak were as influential in my area as Hyboria, Nehwon, and Melnibone--if not more influential.

    Hex-crawling may not have been present at the moment of creation, but it showed up fairly early on, and it seems crystal clear to me that Tolkien was a factor there.

    Anyway, I'm done with this point. Sorry about the thread drift.
  • To reiterate and also get back on topic, it really helps if you do see OD&D as a S&S rather than a Tolkien-esque high fantasy game, arguments about influences set aside. The game will run much smoother if you assume:

    a) The PCs are rogues, not heroes - the rules expect this (XP for money, comparatively little XP for monsters killed, no XP for roleplaying) and demand it (PC death is pretty common, so nobody is going to stick around long enough to save the world even if it needed it);
    and
    b) There's a world going on entirely independently of the players, so encounters don't have to "make sense" and/or conform to any kind of plot or story.

    The key element of old school play is that it's sandboxy. Player initiative is important. A lot of DMs give their players a list of a dozen or so rumours when the game begins, so they can follow their own noses with an element of choice. Rumours might be as banal as "there's a troll living under a bridge nearby" or as deliberately weird as "an army of flying monkeys has invaded the lowlands". It's likely that at least one will be something along the lines of "you've heard talk from the locals about an ancient temple/cave network/abandoned castle/etc., etc.", i.e. a dungeon.
  • Posted By: noismsa) The PCs are rogues, not heroes - the rules expect this (XP for money, comparatively little XP for monsters killed, no XP for roleplaying) and demand it (PC death is pretty common, so nobody is going to stick around long enough to save the world even if it needed it)
    I like this. I will possibly quote this directly at my players; it's not just me who has to re-conceive play. Challenging assumptions and all that. Thanks, Jean.

    Hm, I was planning to start "kicking down the dungeon door." But, I wonder, Is it more appropriate to introduce the old-school, player-initiated gameworld through the convention of the Inn/Town hub?
  • If you feel that you and the group are clueless, I'd recommend starting at the dungeon. It's simply less hassle. Narrate: "After several hours of travel you finally find the foxhole farmer McGritty complained about. Except it's not a foxhole, not unless foxes are three feet tall and are in the habit of leaving the boots and anklebones of their victims scattered in front of the cave. The pitch black cave entrance is ten feet from where you've crawled in the underbush, the rest of the way being over hard rock. The sun is in the zenith and will only get lower from here. What do you do?"

    The danger in starting with the pub and the rumourmongering and all that is that the players might pick up the wrong cues about the point of play. Another danger is that the pubbery and travel might take so long that you don't have time to bite deep into the dungeon during the first session. Depends on the group whether this is a real concern, of course. The big benefit of starting at the pub is that it helps distill the in-character goals for the players; if you read that treatise of mine, you might have noticed how I think that player-directed motivation is a key part of successful fantasy adventure roleplaying: you want the players to internalize character motivations that they then struggle to execute, rather than just doing things because the GM told them to. But if you find that you have enough to juggle in the dungeon alone, then I believe that allowing the players to orient themselves can wait. Make the first dungeon a simple one, something where the characters can come back carrying a load of expensive furs or objects of art. Then they can waste some time haggling for them in town, hear some rumors and so on. Then, in the second or third session, you can ask them why their group is together and what sort of adventure they might be interested in next. A particularly clever GM would do the rumourmongering and orienting towards a new mission at the end of a session to have time to prepare for whatever direction the players choose.
  • Well, I'm running a brief meeting to do char-gen before the ritual of 'proper sessions' takes place. I could do generation, old-school indoctrination and 'shopping', then hash out some party-backstory and some vague setting/map-making.
    So, when play starts in the first session, we can kick down the dungeon door with a little less confusion.
  • At least in my opinion, if you are taking more than an hour to do character generation & shopping for your old school play, you are doing it wrong. It should be more like 30 minutes. And none of this "backstory" nonsense, you are only encouraging players to get attached to characters that may or may not die in the first hour. Backstory gets created in play, for them what survives to deserve it.

    Have your starting dungeon prepped (no world, no setting, name a nearby town if you must), meet, roll 6 stats & pick a class (takes 10 minutes), shop (you've got 20 minutes) and then kick down the door. Play.
  • Oh, I've impressed upon my players how little time things should take and how lightly they should hold their preconceptions. Fear not, Wilhelm.

    But you've taken a very sterile view of it all that doesn't suit my tastes.
    As for backstory, I want each player to tell me just of little of how their character knows one other: "We woke up on either side of the same woman this morning...", "We got into a barfight over a copper-piece...", "I'm the estranged husband of his sister...."
    A bit of harmless colour just to found growth into real characters.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenI really should figure out some campaign that'd use this sort of thing - I've never played such a game yet.
    Have you seen Gabe's stuff with large-world maps?
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/1/6/dnd-sandbox/
    Posted By: PotemkinA bit of harmless colour just to found growth into real characters.
    And that's probably enough. One relationship to one other character, in round-robin circle (might as well be "player to your left" and have them seat appropriately). Anything more can come out as color during role playing (to be noted by you as future fodder).

    And only give them 10 minutes to shop. If they arrive with some notion as to what class they will play, it shouldn't take long (surely you won't be so old skool that you do random stat order?! At least let them assign their 3d6 or 4d6-pick-3 results, if not build with 65 to 75 points...).

    I wanna play. :(
  • Posted By: David Artman(surely you won't be so old skool that you do random stat order?! At least let them assign their 3d6 or 4d6-pick-3 results, if not build with 65 to 75 points...).
    IRON MAN! IRON MAN! IRON MAN! IRON MAN! IRON MAN!

    Hells yes. Besides, In 0E (thus Swords & Wizardry) having very high or very low stats doesn't seem to be as defining as 'later' games; relating largely to XP bonuses more than a character's particular effectiveness.

    How-do-you-know-he-on-your-left sounds cool. Yeah, I don't want to swamp players with roleplay, but nor do I want to game-world populated by faceless pawns.
  • A bit of harmless colour just to found growth into real characters.
    All well and good. Just no crying when somebody is spitted on the end of a goblin sword 30 minutes later...
  • Posted By: rafialJust no crying when somebody is spitted on the end of a goblin sword 30 minutes later...
    I'd rather players be disappointed in the death of their character than unfeeling towards it.
    Roleplay is expedient in this situation in that it facilitates imaginative acuity and rewards continued interest in one's character.
  • Another vote for starting at the dungeon.

    I tried a West Marches-style campaign some months back with several veterans of early AD&D and giving them a lot of hooks and waiting for them to start exploring didn't work out too well. This is not to say that it can't, but it can be very dangerous to give players too much freedom before they've got their feet into the campaign. I think a dungeon will give them more investment in the moment. Once they survive it, they'll be much more likely to have their own ideas and initiative.
  • It should indeed be noted that mere rumours can't really match in-game investment in fictional goals. For instance, if the characters have the option to go after some minotaur Nazis because a NPC they've interacted with asks them for a real reason, that's a whole different kettle of orientation for a mission than if they've just picked the minotaur Nazis out as a generic adventure lead with no better reason than the fact that minotaur Nazis are always in season.

    Of course these more organic goals cannot be created in advance very well, which is why rumours are a fine starting point and baseline the characters can return to when they have nothing better to do. Starting the campaign with a dungeon is a fine choice in that this way the party isn't really running on pure rumor at any point: once they get back to town and choose their next step after the dungeon, they well might already have experiences and attitudes that color their orientation in the fictional world. For example, if the first dungeon introduced them to an ambivalently, potentially evil god of miscegenation, then they'll have extra context later for deciding whether to take up a job for or against the cult in question.
  • Well, iron-mode character generation was taken with all due ambivalence ('I'm a wizard with... 18 strength!?") and I've set them off shopping and generally thinking about what their class means ("What Religion do you follow, Cleric?") before the adventure begins later this week.

    Max, Eero - I think you're both right; promoting investment in the game at this stage can only lead to prolonged interest. Door-kicking it is.

    If I'm clever, having a range of NPC quest-givers offering immediate connections and, as you put it Eero, orientations can sit nicely atop a more abstract web of rumors which can, in turn, inform and expand upon the missions. The most simple example might be that rumors about monsters in certain locations can inform the PCs as to what they could expect from travelling into an area on mission-business.
  • 3d6 in order is the method of character generation dictated not only by St. Gygax and G-D, but also by the sweet sisters Reason and Prudence. Deviating from this simple method is a clear sign of ulterior motives that do not befit a dungeoneer.

    And yes, I myself find that advance information will immeasurably improve the D&D challenge scenario, which often becomes immeasurably dull and simplistic by my measure. I would say that it is very easy to give the players too little information, but very hard to give too much. The more they know, the more they can prepare, and the more the eventual failure or success means to them. I've myself noticed very concretely how players given ample foreknowledge happily buzz away with logistics, tactics, resource-consumption planning and other nuances of overcoming a challenge. Compared to this a group that learns to just sit dumbly and wait for the GM to declare the next encounter is a truly sad sight, especially when the D&D combat encounter in fictional isolation is nothing to write home about in terms of player engagement and challengeful variety. When the players have an even hand in any trouble the characters encounter, eventual defeat will also feel less arbitrary and more acceptable; after all, they knew what they were getting into, or at least knew that information is available and the GM expects them to take responsibility for their own fate.

    One of my most memorable "dungeons" ever was an evil temple. The players had full map of the place's layout, a crazy necromancer NPC ally, a half-finished tunnel to the interior, an army of necromantic abominations and ample alchemical warfare at their beck and call for an assault on the place. One session was spent in preparing and planning for the foray, another in actually executing it. The players could not have committed to being interested to the extent they were if I did not provide them with as much information as they cared to obtain via various ability checks and lesser stratagems.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenOne of my most memorable "dungeons" ever was an evil temple. The players had full map of the place's layout, a crazy necromancer NPC ally, a half-finished tunnel to the interior, an army of necromantic abominations and ample alchemical warfare at their beck and call for an assault on the place. One session was spent in preparing and planning for the foray, another in actually executing it. The players could not have committed to being interested to the extent they were if I did not provide them with as much information as they cared to obtain via various ability checks and lesser stratagems.
    Effortlessly cool. Information and continuity will be my watchwords.

    Well, it's my first session tonight. Wish me luck.

    Tell me, does enforcing in-character communication foster roleplay or just slow the pace of the game?
  • "Tell me, does enforcing in-character communication foster roleplay or just slow the pace of the game?"

    That depends on what your players find fun. Sorry that's kind of a crappy answer. I won't enforce such a thing unless it's serving some greater purpose or mechanical tied to the game.

    ara
  • Posted By: akooserThat depends on what your players find fun.
    Doesn't everything? Well, the opening situation is comprised of traversing a breach so I may get players to discuss who'll go first in-character for the sake of both atmosphere and expedience. If the players like it, they can keep it up.
  • Speaking of what players find fun ... I'm running some old-school D&D for people who never played ANY version of D&D soon(ish). What's the most FUN kind of character generation?

    Is it roll 3d6 in order and that's that, pick your class based on what your stats suggest? Or is it a kindler, gentler method - rolls a bunch of stats and divide 'em up based on what your chosen class needs?

    The D&D player in me automatically thinks the latter is more fun. But maybe it's not for first-timers.
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