Edition Wars (or OH, NO! Here We Go Again)

I’ve seen various people post about the announcement of 5E – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition release dates.  Some are jaded and feel that it has all been done before.  Others are offering a depressed, but optimistic, hope that it will be good.  Various forums have people shouting for their favorite edition or bemoaning the idea that Wizards of the Coast are trying to get more money out of them.  I was going to keep quiet about the whole deal and do my best to ignore it.  I can’t.

Having played D&D starting with the Holmesian Blue Book version of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and played through each and every version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to date, including the playtest version DnD Next, I have an opinion on this subject.  I’m tired of the fighting.  That’s my opinion.

Edition Wars did not begin with 3E.  They began with Basic and Advanced.  There was enough demand for Basic Dungeons and Dragons that TSR built an entire product line around the Known World (what would become known as Mystara).  This happened right alongside Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  People would meet up in game stores, at conventions, and, later, on online bulletin board systems to deride and attack the other side for selling out or being poor gamers.  This is not new.

The wars did not end with one’s preferred version of D&D.  People would fight over Role Playing vs. Roll Playing.  (Sound familiar?)  Munchkins were vilified by True Role Players.  Monty Haul Games were ridiculed as low brow, beer and pretzel games by those who believed themselves more sophisticated.  Gary Gygax even took umbrage against those who didn’t play Real Dungeons and Dragons (I talk about that article in this post).  It is all the same story: “Do it my way or hit the highway.”

It gets even uglier, when one considers other games by other companies.  “How could you play Runequest; it’s a D&D rip off?”  “Call of Cthulhu is just superior to any other RPG because it uses percentile dice and has a literary foundation.”  “How can you play Rolemaster?  It’s all tables.”  Go ahead pick a game and I’d feel comfortable betting that I can find a website that has proponents that feel that all other games are stupid.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Grognards have always existed.  They were even present at the release of 2E.  A long time ago, I was given a small, typewritten, piece of paper that humorously and ironically described the transition from 1E to 2E.  It talked about the shift from Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms.  It joked about the sudden change of paladins to cavaliers.  There were other sly observations about how the “new” D&D universe worked, but it ended with the very unkind idea that only stupid people would want Gary Gygax back in charge of D&D and that good, smart people would kill anyone who tried.  When it dawned on me that that type of thinking was fanaticism and the same ignorance espoused by those who didn’t want to change from their beloved edition to whatever new was coming out, I got rid of it.  I do not want to be one of those that promotes hate, even in what is meant to be a joke.  There will always be those who fear or hate change.  It is sad, but true.

To those who bemoan the fact that WotC is trying to make more money, I’ve only this to say, “Of course, they are; Wizards of the Coast is a business and if they don’t make money, they have to quit being a business!”  This is no different than Pazio selling Pathfinder or Monte Cook selling Numenera.  It is their job to make stuff for gamers to buy.  If you don’t want to support the people whose jobs it is to design, write, and publish games, game modules, and gaming supplements, then don’t buy the stuff they put out and quit trying to make those people that do buy their products feel bad for buying what they want to buy.

I doubt it happen, but I do wish the gaming community at large would grow up.  A new edition does not diminish your personal games in any way.  People playing with different styles of game play are not better or lesser than you and you do not need to “convert them to the true path of gaming.”  Maybe the newest edition on the block isn’t all that new in its concepts or game play.  Maybe it is a ploy to get people to buy more stuff.  Maybe it is better than anything that has gone before it.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  If you don’t want it, don’t get it.  If you don’t like it, don’t do it.  Unless gaming is a virus and one needs to be inoculated to prevent the spread of disease, let it go and enjoy what you have.

DMing with Charisma posted a response to this post and I really like it.

I found A Brief History of the Edition Wars by Admiral Ironbombs on his site Logic is my Virgin Sacrifice to Reality.  Please check it out.


Until we meet again, Game On!

Peanut Butter Fudge (or Let the Dice Fall Where They May)

I’m writing this post to get a few things out in the open.  1.  D&D is a game, not a novel.  2. If you are the Game Master and you feel that you need to fudge the die rolls to beat your Players, then you are playing the Game wrong.  3.  If you are making ANY of your game up on the spot, for any reason, fudging your dice rolls is just unfair.

Monte Cook posted a great article about Numenera and how dice work in that setting.  Reading it led me to write this tangential post.  Please check it out.

First things first, of the multiple reasons and excuses to fudge dice rolls in a game, wanting to tell a Story with character development and overarching plot lines is the least egregious.  A GM that is proud of his or her campaign and wants to share the breadth and depth of the world with his or her players wants to tell a good story.  That Game Master wants everything to according to a script.  Fudging dice does not make the Game a Good Story.  Fudging Dice makes the Game a Poor Game.

Not to dismiss White Wolf and the Storyteller System, but if you running a Game, then you are not telling a Story.  The Players are not telling a Story.  Story is what happens in the space between the GM and the Players.  The GM reveals the setting or stage, if you will, and the Players strut about upon it.  The Story is what happens as the Players strut about and run up against the setting.  NPCs, Big Bosses, the Environment are setting.  Players send their PCs into the setting to tear things down, to change the view, to build new structures out of the existing pieces , or to hit their heads on the  Setting.  If you want certain things to happen in your game setting and you want the PCs to do it, you are not running a Game.  You are trying to write a short story, a novel, or an epic and are using the PCs as the protagonists and it is not fair to your Players.

Telling a Story takes the danger out of the Game.  If you are running a Lord of the Rings, a Wheel of Time, or a Game of Thrones and the PCs are needed to fulfill some destined role at the apex of the story arc, then any combat, trap, or natural disaster is just fluff.  There is no danger, no chance of failure, until the final Big Boss and, even then, it may be a joke, if you want a Glorious Ending for the Party.  Roll the dice, let every combat make a difference.  Have your villains and your set pieces and know that the Players may go the path you hope they will trod or they may make a mockery of your well laid plans.  If the paladin, whom you wanted to slay the Lich-King and restore the kingdom, gets killed by a lucky roll of a goblin bandit, DEAL WITH IT.  It is a game and there is chance, in any combat, that the PCs will come out the losers.  If you fudge the dice in their favor, then the defeat of the Tarrasque, the death of the Lich-King, and the overthrow of the Arch Devil are ultimately meaningless.  The Players will never know for certain, if they truly won day through good luck and planning or if you threw the Game for the Story.

Secondly…This one is just sad.  You’re the Game Master.  You can always “win.”  You know all the secrets and plots of the campaign.  You can create NPCs with more power, more magic items, and more numbers than the PCs.  If you need to fudge the dice to kill off PCs or even to just challenge them, then you are thinking on the wrong scale.  You do not have to fudge the dice to best the players.

This point is doubly troubling to me.  It presupposes that there is a conflict between the Players and the Game Master.  This is a false assumption.  The GM certainly runs the challenges and plays the agents opposing the PCs, but he or she is not out to defeat the Players.  The GM is there to provide the setting, to offer plot lines, to fold what the PCs do into the over all working of the campaign.  There is no win or lose clause between the Players and the Game Master in D&D or any other Role Playing Game.  This is not football or chess.  If everyone at the table has fun, then it is a win.  If one person has fun and everyone else is miserable, then it is a loss.  Even Total Party Kills can be fun, if the Game is played fairly and for enjoyment.  A good GM makes Awesome happen for the Players.  Here is a good example of that in DMing with Charisma.  The play is the thing.

Lastly for this post, this point is, mostly, for me.  As I said before, I create much of my game on-the-fly.  It seems to me that if I’m making things up and fudging my dice, my Players don’t have a fair stake in the game.  If I decide to suddenly drop a vile dragon into a game and then regret it because it is too powerful or too weak to oppose the PCs, I might be tempted to fudge the dice.   Others may say, “So what?  As long as, the Players have fun what is the difference?”  If I do that, then I take away the Players’ power in the game.  I’m no different than the Storyteller in my first point.  If the Players decide to explore a series of caves that I have not filled in yet and I decide that goblins own the caves, it is not fair for me to fudge the dice, when the PCs start wiping the floor with goblin guts.  If I do that, then I am acting like the GM in point #2.  If I have to or want to make it up on the spot, then I’ve got to let the dice be the arbitrators of the outcome; otherwise the PCs are no more or less than puppets on strings.  The Players never have a chance to shine.  There is no challenge.  Players have the right for the GM to treat them fairly.  The GM has to be honest in all things.  It is all too easy to for GMs to overpower the Players in the game.  Keeping the dice honest gives the GM the power to drop challenges, too great and too small,l in the PCs path on a whim and let the Players decide what to do with that challenge.  It lets everyone at the table have fun.

Until next time, Game On!

Here’s a follow up post, I wrote on this subject.

Red Ragged Fiend has a good post on this topic (2018.08.20)

Inner World

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, I will begin what should be the last session of my Giants in the Earth campaign.  It will take place in the Inner World of Rilmorn.  I’ve done very little design on the Inner World over the years.  Thom and Mike helped me set out the parameters of the Inner World: 1) it is a world set on the interior of the Rylmorn, 2) it has a single, brownish star at its center, and 3) it is more “science powered,” than “magic powered”.  Ken, as Shae’Fer, encountered the Asianesque, jade dragon Shou Lung, when Shae’Fer was stranded in the Inner World.  Ken would be the person most active in the Inner World.  He, as his character, took volunteers from his homeland and placed them in stasis, so that they could repopulate and restore the world, if there was ever a Worldwide Disaster.  Later, Shae’Fer would hide a bunch of lich-related artifacts in the brown dwarf star at the center of the world, in a failed attempt to keep them out of Evil’s hands.  Recently, I decided that three, ancient, colony ships from alternate Earths had crashed inside Rillmorrin.  Each ship was run by an intelligent super computer named after a giant from that Earth’s myth or history.  That is everything I’ve done on the design of the Inner World.

The Inner World of Rilmorn is inspired by Pellucidar from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Skartaris from Mike Grell.  It was to be a place seeded with ancient monsters and super science.  I never built such a place.  It has always been a hazy, unformed realm that I could reference in metaphor and allusion.

The Brown Dwarf reigns above the Giants in the Earth,” is probably my favorite quote dropped by a “mad prophet” in my games.

So, what do I have in place in the Inner World?

  • A brown dwarf microstar that illuminates the lands and oceans of a hollow world
  • A realm where science is more effective than magic
  • 3 ancient, super computers in the remains of their spacecraft
    • Colossus comes from an Earth where American English and Celtic Christianity are the language and faith of the majority of the populace
    • Goliath is from a world where the Akkadian Empire remained a world power and their faith is that of the Sumerian and Babylonian peoples
    • Titan knew a world wherein the Greeks dominated culture worldwide
  • An ancient language based on the percentage of survivors of the total number of colonists; created and shared by the 3 AIs – Orthoni is 60% English, 30% Greek, and 10% Akkadian
  • A magical/runic alphabet called Dymetri that when written precisely produces magical effects
  • Dinosaurs
  • Kularin (winged folk) in stasis
  • Dragons
  • Dragons corrupted by Far Realm energies

Having all of this still unmapped and uncodified has left me in a quandary.  Should I use Numenera as my Inner World setting?  I was going to say, “Yes, since it appeared, serendipitously, the day before my last game” but I got to thinking about so many other ways I can use the setting.  Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’ll have a plan by next Saturday.  Anybody got any suggestions?

Oh, by the way, this weekend 7-9 March 2014 is CoastCon XXXVII.

Game On!