Why D&D? – part 1

The latest series of articles I’ve written on the topic of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder RPG campaigns I’ve run during the past few years has raised questions from both readers and myself as to why I’m devoting so much time to a game system, that’s seems, on the surface at least, ill suited for my gaming preferences and needs. This article is an attempt at finding at least some of the answers to these questions. Why D&D 3.5 or the retro-clone of that one, Pathfinder RPG? Why not something with less crunch and more storytelling freedom? There is no simple answer to this one.

I’ll start by listing some pro’s.

+ There’s a hell of a lot of history involved. D&D (The 1983 Mentzer Basic set) was the first game I owned and read thoroughly. The art in the books, and the feel of the text was captivating. The basic set really made me want to explore those dungeons, ruins and caves shock-full of strange monsters, deadly traps and glorious treasure. I was sad when the lovely cleric Aleena died. I both hated and loved that bastard Bargle, who’s still one of my favorite villains, right up there with Darth Vader, Khan, the Witch-King of Angmar, the White Witch and Megatron.

+ There’s an abundance of material available for every edition and version of the game, be it modules, campaign settings, extra rules, novels, or what have you. Granted, a lot of the material is shite, but the sheer volume pretty much guarantees that there’s bound to be some gems among the silt. There’s also something for everyone, and every gaming style imaginable. I’ve never been a big fan of so-called splatbooks, that is, supplements shock full of new powers, races, classes, magic items and such. The core books have always been all I’ve needed in this department. The campaign and adventure material, however, I’ve used extensively. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being it saves me a lot of prep-time when creating the actual content for game sessions.

+ D&D 3.5+ has a very large player base. Its relatively easy to get together a gaming group, be it for a longer-running campaign or some short pick-up games. Also, pretty much everyone is already familiar with the basic system, that is, rolling a d20, hit points, armor class, Vancian magic, experience, and all that. The basic premise is also quite familiar to most people, that is, a pseudo-medieval society with fantasy races such as dwarfs, elves, halflings, orcs and goblins, where you’re playing a hero or adventurer who’s career consists of fighting fantastic monsters and memorable villains, and exploring strange and dangerous places. There is also the communality aspect of the game. It’s “our thing”, a place to visit, talk about and explore.

+ The rules system, while far from perfect, does an adequate job of creating a sense of playing a game, where choices made, both during character creation, and in game tactics, has direct repercussions on what your character is actually able to do within the collective imagined space of a game session. I’m sure there are other game systems that provide the same, but so far, I haven’t managed to find “the perfect system”, which would cater to the particular needs of my game, and those of my players.

It seems I’ll have to make this article the first part of a series after all, even though I kind of decided to try and tackle this whole subject in one sitting. Next up, some of the cons (most of which I’ve already discussed in previous posts as relating to the games I’ve run).

2 responses to “Why D&D? – part 1

  1. Interesting, though my head’s full of questions:
    – Has it been difficult to find adventure material that would fit your taste and doesn’t require a total makeover?
    – Have you found other people with similar story-telling interests within the D&D player community?
    – What other rules systems have you tried out?

    My point is: How different your style really is? How much effort do you have to put into the seeking / editing of adventure material and training players that you get what you want?

    • Some thought-provoking questions there. Definitely material for a future post. For now, I’ll just settle for shorter answers.

      – I pretty much modify all the material I’m using anyway, so no, I haven’t found a single module or adventure I’d run exactly as written. Then again, what is considered “by the book” and what is “modifying the module”. I guess strictly speaking running a module by the book would be reading aloud all the read-aloud texts, using the dialogue provided as such, and not adding anything at all. I’d imagine such an experience wouldn’t be what I’m looking for.
      – My search for the perfect game has also been a search for players with similar tastes to mine. There have been some hits and misses, but I think I’ve finally managed to find just the people I need to play the kind of game I want to play. Some of these players are of a similar background to mine, that is, a background of Storyteller games, larps and such. Some of them originate from a D&D background. The gradual meshing of styles has also been an interesting experience as such.
      – If it is non-indie; You name it, I’ve probably tried it or at least read it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s