I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news. Beyoncé Knowles has given birth to a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the Internets are ablaze. The epic ears of the Wizards of the Coast are now listening to user feedback more than ever before, and in their direction everyone’s hopes and dreams for their favorite game have been launched. The system is rumored to be many things, two of the most common of these being “just another money grab” and “modular”. As my experiences with the R&D team over the past couple years have not included any signs of them being were-packrats who hunt shinies when the moon is full, I can only speculate about the game’s modularity. As it happens, that is the thing that gives me the most hope and the most worry about the upcoming changes to D&D.
Let me know if this situation sounds familiar to you: You’re the DM/GM for your gaming group and you’ve just wrapped up an adventure, and you have at least a whole week until the next one. You sit down the next day, or even that very night, and start the adventure planning process. Over the next few days you stay on track but before you know it the next adventure is looming and you feel like despite your best efforts the game is still not as ready as you feel it should be.
I believe that most DMs have only run a single campaign world, whether it was one big campaign that has been continued through various ages, or they’ve only managed to run one satisfactory campaign. The tendency for a DM seems to be to conserve the number of campaigns they run by reusing worlds or tying them together so that in the end the number of campaign worlds they run is as close to one as possible. I think our tendency as DMs is to keep things relatively stable within our game worlds unless they are split by something like a change in campaign.
I’ve talked quite a lot about worldbuilding and running roleplaying games in fantasy settings, but I’ve been planning on addressing modern and futuristic RPGs for a long time as well. One of the big hurdles that I have to overcome when thinking and writing about modern/future settings is that they seem inherently more difficult to deal with than their fantasy counterparts. For a modern or even a historic RPG I believe the difficulties come from the game being based in a real world that brings with it a vast amount of expectations from the players. If you’re running a game in these settings and a player at your table knows more about history than you, it can become very intimidating to even try to plan or run the game. Science fiction and futuristic games are a little bit better, but you’re still dealing with a lot of heavy science and realistic elements that can lead to issues where they might not have arisen in your typical elves and magic infused setting.
For well over a year now I’ve kept an eye on the material that our friend Dennis has been producing over at his blog The Spirits of Eden for his RPG setting, the World of Adel. I’ve talked to him a few times about his worldbuilding and the setting that he’s created, and every time we talk I marvel more and more at what he is creating. Today he has started a series of posts he is calling a Worldbuilding Diary and I was instantly impressed and inspired by it.
Yesterday I started playing the new game Dark Souls on the PS3 and the level designs in the game are very inspiring when it comes to planning out dungeons. One of the coolest things Dark Souls, and in fact many video games, does with its levels is interconnecting different areas in creative and unexpected ways. This is also an element that I see very rarely in tabletop RPG dungeon design, and that’s a disparity that I’d like to see changed.
Recently I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire books and really enjoying them, starting with A Game of Thrones and now I’ve just finished the second book A Clash of Kings. One of the major concepts of the series is that summers and winters can last for years at a time, and the books start during a long period of summer and focus on the Stark family whose motto is the very foreboding words, “winter is coming.” Though there are different seasons, the northern portion of the series’ fantasy world is always in a wintery climate and the narrative of the books returns to this area every now and then as a subtle reminder that winter is in definitely coming.
We have a new player joining our group, and her character debut is going a little differently than I’d seen before. I’ve seen detailed backstories written. I’ve never seen a player bring a list of demands that must be met if her character is ever to see the light of day. Of course, I accepted her terms. You see, she hadn’t played D&D before, and she never knew about the credo of the Evil DM — “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!”
I started playing and running 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons right as it was released. I started my current ongoing campaign back then with a party of 1st level characters and now three years later I’ve run over 50 adventures and the party is up to 24th level characters. The campaign has had its share of rough spots and tough times, but overall I’d say it has been an incredibly fun experience and something that I look forward to every other weekend. Dave was also running a campaign that was on the same track as mine only slightly ahead, but due to a myriad of reasons a few weeks ago we ran a day long, jointed finale that closed his game out in style and unrestrained awesomeness. What I’m discovering more and more over the last few weeks is that running epic level 4th Edition is some of the most fun I’ve ever had running or playing in any D&D game.
Charrette is a word that most likely means nothing to you, unless of course you studied Architecture or Design in school then it is a word that can mean quite a lot and the emotions it brings up vary widely from person to person. Charrette is a word used among architecture students to describe a design crunch/cramming session that derives from the French word for “cart”. The term became popular because schools in Paris would have carts pushed around to collect student’s drawings and it was not uncommon for students to continue working on their drawings for as long as possible by riding in the cart. For better or worse, the term has stuck through to this day and architecture students are still as bad as ever at finishing their projects before rigid deadlines.