GOING OLD SKOOL

I miss role-playing. Seriously. A storyteller who cannot tell stories is a sad fellow indeed.

I am starting up a small First Edition Dungeons & Dragons game in my town. There’s not a lot of interest in it, but I’ve found a few people who are willing to give it a shot. Although I am an avid lover of miniature wargames, there is a substance within role-playing that appeals to me. I believe it is called Imagination.

Dungeons & Dragons is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) game. It is limited only by the character you control and the ability to think up something to do within a given situation. It is different from the usual miniature game, in that, there is a level of The Unknown. The storyline can change in a moment depending on what the players decide to have their characters do within the given storyline.

In miniature games, we understand what’s going on and imagination doesn’t really come into play. The board is set, the models have specific abilities, and it’s all pretty clean cut. I move, you move, we roll dice … and sooner or later due to strategy or the roll of a dice … someone wins. With role-playing games there is a story being developed … partially told by the Dungeon Master but also by the players. And although there are moments of ultimate victory or defeat, the role-playing game may be a series of events that leads to an outcome which may or may not be a win.

And I’m aiming at the Old Skool edition of D&D because it’s just easier to play. Part of the heartbreak that has been evident in past attempts at playing D&D is the clunky nature of the game. What’s more important? That character sheets be a mile long with Kewl Powers or that players walk away from a short gaming session feeling that they had fun and enjoyed the evening of gaming? That’s not hard to decide. So I’m aiming at entertainment here, for me and the players, which is the whole point of playing Dungeons & Dragons.

In my new Dungeons & Dragons foray, I have the following details locked in place:

1. Players will create their own characters, but only essential stats will be used. The usual series of 4d6 rolls will be used, dropping the lowest d6. There is no real need for lists of skills and proficiency beyond the norm for a given class. Fighters are good with weapons, Wizards cast spells, and Thieves can hide in the shadows. Dwarves are keen underground, Elves hold ancient secrets beyond the understanding of normal human folk, and even a Halfling has a chance to become a hero. Keep the character sheet simple, and allow the players the ability to develop the character as they go. And character sheets will be one page, and one page only. No need for extra baggage.

2. Goals will be concrete.  Simply put, the players will know that their characters are going somewhere specific to do some specific. No tedious “random encounters” or “forced marches” through pages of modules. Get right into the action, just like a movie. We don’t have time in our busy lives to drag things out. We’ll have fun, and be quick about it. I want to get the players right into the thick of things right away. Pacing the Game is tough, but it’s worth it.

3. Key elements are important. This is Dungeons and Dragons so I think that the players should look forward to delving underground in some kind of maze-like complex, and should expect to actually face a Dragon during the game. Funny enough, I have played Dungeons and Dragons for a long time … and only twice has my character encountered a dragon during gaming. And frankly, both times were fun … even though my characters died during the encounter!

4. Danger! In Dungeons & Dragons there must be a sense of danger for the player. And that’s tough to do outside of the basic D&D editions. Why? Because character creation was so tedious. It could take two hours to properly create a 3.0 or 3.5 character! So Heaven forbid that a character get killed, because at that point the player probably just wants to quit … and frankly the Dungeon Master would feel the same way. But in Old Skool D&D, character creation is quick, easy, and simple. So if a character gets killed by mob of ghouls during the first game … it’s a loss but not so much that anyone wants to quit the game. And while we’re at it … character deaths should be significant as to not make the players feel like they are hopelessly doomed. Again, balance is as tough as pacing, but it must be done.

5. Short sessions! I’d rather play like a wild man through 6 or 7 rooms in a dungeon for a few hours, face a big nasty monster, and end the session rather than trying to dish out some 120 rooms module written for people who apparently have nothing better to do for an entire year than play through one game of D&D. Going for a short adventure will allow for players to come, and go. Commitment is a scary thing these days for everyone. So, I’m planning on the game to be short, to the point, and hopefully enjoyable. If that happens, we might play more than just one game … and that that would be cool. A monthly game of D&D would make me a happy man indeed.

6. Fun. And frankly … if it’s not going well and not at all fun … we are just going to quit and play something different!

So, that’s the big plan. I’m going to be recruiting a few players next week to roll up a couple of characters and plunge headlong into some D&D. Hopefully, it will not only be a short change of pace but will fuel the fires for me to return to my other gaming like WARMACHINE.

And frankly, I owe it to the guys that will give me a chance to actually let them see that Dungeons & Dragons can be fun if it’s done right. And I believe Old Skool is the right way to do it.

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2 thoughts on “GOING OLD SKOOL

  1. I cannot fault your logic. I think the capacity to do epic, sweeping narratives in roleplaying games keels over and dies once people start living in the real world, and the attraction in the short, sharp story becomes stronger. After having trouble keeping something going for ten sessions, I’m in need of a new approach, and something like this might be it. Good stuff.

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  2. Aye, I too have issues with the long, kewl charactersheets filled to the brim with skills and feats and powers. I miss the story and the mystery, ’cause they’re often drowned in the fluff and the paperworks. Good luck with this. Oldskool FTW.

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