My first edition was AD&D 2nd Edition. My first foray in the worlds of hit points, leveling up & armor class however, came much earlier with a video game called Dragon Warrior.
That’s right, video games led me to table top RPG’s. Sure it was 1989 and the video game boom was in full swing but something about those books, pencils, esoteric sheets of paper & dice drew me close like an explorer discovering something ancient and lost.
Secondly, there was a sort of anachronistic irony to the whole thing that was probably lost on me then but now is as evident as a hipsters mustache. Of course you play role-playing games with books, dice and pencils and paper (or parchment). This was a medieval fantasy game. At the time, mind you, RPGs were strictly fantasy so the flavor and genre of game were one in the same. I tell you this now because this is a big reason the game still exists in the digital age. It’s pure essence is old school. Old School is always cool. At the time, my 12-year-old self didn’t know any better but that is because old school is fundamental to life. It is wisdom. It is esotericism. It is the knowledge that all that is known pales in comparison to what is unknown. Old School is not a means to an end. It is an end itself. Sure I still played video games. But video game RPGs were like Cliff’s Notes to the real shit that was going on in D&D. It was like reading the Hobbit and then reading the Silmarillion. You can’t truly go back.
So, there will always be a place for the Old School in the world. Maybe technology will advance so far that one day we will be playing video games as the table top for virtual reality or some Matrix-like future or Ready Player One dystopia.
Likely, dice will still be rolled as they have been for thousands of years.
Which leads me to my next point. Chaos. Chaos manifests itself in the material realm as a 20 sided die. There is something about rolling the dice; Something about holding all the possibilities of the universe in your sweaty Chee-to stained hand. There is also something about being connected to the chaos. The die is more powerful than the Dungeon Master, who literally created the game. The die is the grand equalizer but for many moments at the table top, you have all the power. When the dice drop, the winner is always Chaos. Sometimes he is on your side and other times he isn’t. Anything that strays from the mean is secretly celebrated by those players trying to prove a rationality to the fortune rolls. We often time say things like,
“My dice roll better when they have been the freezer.”
But what we are really celebrating is the fact that the system cannot be gamed. They say there are more possible chess matches than there are grains of sand. I ask them, What is sand?
It is a type of game that is very rare, the cooperative one. When we cooperate and when we get what we want everyone is happy right? Most games end with a winner and a loser. In D&D everybody wins. Even when you lose you win. Why? Because who doesn’t love to roll a new character?
D&D Next is a reminder that Dungeons and Dragons is still living. It rattles us up out of our norm and threatens change upon us. It also awakens a hunger for new products that bring in new inspiration and reinvigoration for the price of real money. Companies know that the game will never die and because of this, there will always be new editions and improvements, business cycle notwithstanding. Just like when our character dies, there is a small sense of excitement that comes with the prospect of a new character. There is that feeling we get when the dice is in our hand before it seals our fate. There is a feeling when we open a new book for the first time and read about what others who are extremely talented and lucky have built for us and for the game. That feeling is always the same. Endless possibilities.
One day there may be more iterations of D&D than there are grains of sand. Likely, there already are.
No matter what edition you play, follow these three simple rules and watch your Dungeon Master skills blossom.
This means less about setting up your campaign & more about setting a schedule on when and where you will be playing. Set a timeline for how long the sessions will take with breaks in between. And no, I am not talking about bathroom or snack breaks, I am talking about breaks within the adventure where if someone needs to leave, they can exit the game without people having to NPC their character or come up with some silly in-game excuse for why Darius the Sunderer had to leave and take his kid to the doctor. Being prepared also means, having all materials, pages bookmarked, cards printed, etc.
Suggestion: Set up a Google Calendar and invite your buddies. Allow them to suggest other dates and times if your current calendar doesn’t work for the party. You can also share documents on Google Drive such as character sheets, maps & notes.
Look we get it. This campaign is going to lead into your first novel about Psionic Vampires. But remember, there are other creative people who have taken time out to also share their tales about their characters and their motivations. Leave plenty of room for their own story lines and plot elements. Your job is to steward the rules and make the game flow. When you find yourself explaining to your players how they think and feel, you have overstepped your boundaries. A Dungeon Master should be like an enlightened despot. He must be willing to take control but allow enough flexibility to make his players feel like it is their story as well. Maintaining a balance also has to do with story versus action. Storytelling elements are like gathering information, buying & trading items, general housekeeping & the like. Action is basically your battles, spell casting, traveling etc. Make sure you maintain a balance so that players can really get in touch with who their characters are in battle and out of it.
Suggestion: Always invite feedback at the end of the game. Be open to it. Your audience is these players and they will make you better if you allow them a forum for communicating their concerns & ideas. Also, not all feedback is negative.
The Answer is Yes Until the Dice Say No
This is a fantasy game. This is where your players want to do outlandish things. PC’s are like the protagonists in every major super hero/action movie out there. Don’t be the DM who gets gamed and then comes up with a rules justification for not allowing Litus Swiftwind to back flip off a moving carriage while casting Prismatic Spray at marauding orcs. You should want that to happen. If you are caught up in a situation where you are clueless on how to play out a scenario with the rules, then stop the game and let everyone get involved in setting up the percentages & parameters for said intricate move. If you don’t learn this now, when your PCs get to higher levels you are going to be in for it. Remember, don’t be the deciding factor when you get into grey areas with the rules. Come up with a dice mechanic that everyone can agree on and let the dice dictate success or failure.
Suggestion: Chances are that your players have imagined doing one or two outlandish things but have been timid about introducing it in the game for fear of slowing the flow. Be proactive and ask. This does wonders for the creativity of your game sessions and levels you up as a DM!
According to Wizards.com:
You may have just heard about this announcement: DeNA is currently working on a D&D mobile game. Arena of War is a party-based battle game set within the Forgotten Realms—and it has a heavy emphasis on boss battles! Worldwide release is currently scheduled for late July.
Look for further news and information about this title on their site.
The game will be free and supported on both Apple products (Iphone and Ipad) and Android devices.
Should be cool.
The Gods have returned to Krynn. In their absence Primal Magic (sorcery) was discovered as the High Magic (wizardry) left Krynn with the Gods. Mankind was to fend for itself and certain things changed. Our campaign begins in the current time frame of the Age of Mortals and an overarching theme that unites our party is that of Mortals seeking their own destiny. Other side themes that we plan to explore are the new balance 0f deities now that Paladine & Takhisis have been removed from the Pantheon and how that trickles down to the mortal realm. The inevitable competition between the varied magic that is now abundant in Krynn will be addressed. Lastly, of course, who are the new movers and shakers in the realm and what is their current agenda?
Tune in frequently as we will try our best to keep you updated.