Saturday, October 22, 2011

Keeping the spark

Writing the blog has been hard this week. After canceling my game Saturday and the upsetting events Monday I was having trouble finding the motivation. The net is a buzz with talks of what's wrong with 4E and the hopes for 5E. To be honest I find all the speculation kind of disappointing. Four editions of the game I love and everyone seems to be ready to point out the flaws and cracks in the armor. I see very little of people saying what has worked well and what should stay the same. To that end here is my opinion what should stay the same. (Editor's note: This was written before this weeks L&L column but delayed by my editing schedule and issues with iOS 5)

1. Team work - team work is the bedrock of d&d for me. Even during inter party tension or conflicting character view points; team work is what glues the experience together. If the players aren't working together the game quickly dissolves into a free for all.

2. Monsters - Iconic monsters are a cornerstone of d&d. What makes D&D monsters iconic? The monsters of D&D are powerful and different and strange. Their powers are fantastic, beyond reason. They offer challenges that once faced allow players to accumulate knowledge. That player knowledge makes facing a troll the next time different, less challenging. There is a reward to playing and defeating these challenges. After all whom would ever climb into a green face in a dungeon again after playing thru tomb of horrors. (Note Sarah Darkmagic writes a little about this in her blog this week)

Monsters should be iconic and by that I mean they should have powers or traits that fit them well. Kobold shiftiness is a good example. I am not condoning a system utilizing powers but if they are present they need to be different and overcome by clever play and not just mechanics. See even I can't write an article without making changes to the next edition.

3. Magic and wonder - D&D is an escapist hobby. We escape into story. We escape into environments. We escape into shoes that are not our own. Those experiences are bigger than ourselves and tap into some racial memory of times when the world was dark and the next village was a strange different world. We want the experience of the unknown. We want the rules of science to be violated. We want the fairy tale. Without this experience the world is two dimensional and without flare. D&D is in part the search for the childlike wonder of youth and part the broadening of horizons thru steps taken in another's skin.

4. Over coming odds with creativity - D&D is challenging and sometimes frustrating but the result of overcoming this challenge is a heady reward greater than the treasure to be found or the character we created. It defies the words chosen in a role-play encounter nor can a lucky roll replace its sustenance. We play D&D to exercise our mind and imagination and no matter if it be 5th or 25th edition this is a part of d&d that can not be replaced by technology or mechanics. At it's core D&D is theater of the mind and must remain so.

5. Social- D&D is a social game. The shared love of the past time. It Sparks blogs and twitter feeds. It drives the creation of virtual environments for the gathering of friends. Gaming groups span decades, they can be as close as families and share common bonds. Bonds based not only on common interests but also on the things that are shared between dice rolls. Like old poker buddies the game is more than the bets lost and won, dnd is a gathering of people from different walks of life sharing time and words.

If we keep true to these core things the mechanics will matter only as much as we have let them in the past. The edition wars have been around for as long as multiple editions have existed. They will be around as long dice are rolled and people gather to wile away the hours.