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Friday, February 17, 2017

Ignorance: The Player's Best Friend

For many of us, we are eternally chasing the dragon.  In this instance, the dragon represents those feelings we had the first few times we sat at the game table as players.  Do you remember?  You had no books.  You needed to share some dice, and they looked weird as hell.  Someone handed you a sheet and said something like, "Here.  You can play Grebon the Fighter," or that same guy had the guy next to you help you make what they kept calling a PC.  Maybe you know these people at the table, maybe you just know one or two.  The guy at the head of the table has a stack of books and more dice than everyone else, and he seems to be in charge.  After a minute or two of furious rolling, and scribbling, and making sure there was soda and chips in the appropriate place, that guy at the head of the table started to speak.

"You arrive at the edge of the town of Rethern, a tall wooden wall surrounds the place.  From behind the wall you can see billowing black smoke, you can feel the heat of flames, and you can hear screaming from every direction.  Underneath the screams, you can make out another noise...a low growl, a grunt, and a throaty laugh.  The gate stands open before you, what do you do?"

On so many levels, you have no idea what to do.  Are you supposed to talk now?  Do you roll dice to figure it out?  It says on this paper in front of you that you have a short sword, can I use that? What the hell made those crazy noises? Holy shit this is fun!

It's not that playing isn't fun anymore.  Of course we love the game, the hobby, and all that it entails but sometimes I know that I yearn for a game where I have no idea whats going on, where I don't know why it's happening, or how to deal with it.

The simplest way I can think of to recreate that feeling is to play a completely new game.  New rules, new setting, new genre...all of that can go a long way to spark those old feelings.  Interestingly, I don't do this much, nor do I often have an opportunity to play in a game I am unfamiliar with.  Mostly we stick with the same game, the same rules, and even the same players over and over again.  It's human nature that comfort and reliability trump newness, strangeness, and discomfort.

As a DM and a player, I try and keep things fresh when I can.  In the games I run, I introduce strange and never-before-encountered monsters that I find online or that I create myself.  Sometimes there are paradigm shifts that are injected that may not be normal for  players, such as a recent game where we all had to play members of this strange, new race of shapeshifters, hunted by all of the other human and demi-human races.  Maybe we're playing a game where magic is common, so we switch to a setting where it is rare and dangerous (Low Fantasy).  There are any number of ways in which we can keep things interesting, keep the players guessing and keep them engaged.

This week I've really not been posting, my attention focused on a series of new creatures/monsters for a mini-monster-manual of sorts.  I know that if i'm always looking for new material, then so are others.  How do you keep your 'old' game fresh, and your players involved and entranced?

Play Update:

For those who are interested, I'm planning on dropping these in now and again.  I Run/Play in a few games each week, all online via Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.

This last month or so I've started running an AD&D 1e campaign in Fantasy Grounds (my VTT of choice) now that Vodokar (on the forums there) has released his ruleset.  It runs on top of Castles & Crusades ruleset, so in order to play you need to have an FG license as well as the C&C ruleset (10$ from the FG store), but IMHO it's really worth it.  Vodokar has released at least 4 updates since its release, and it now handles multi-classing pretty well.

It's a pleasure to run, for several reasons.  Primarily It's just great to be able to play my favorite game via FG.  For most of my VTT life I've been running or playing C&C, which was the only available ruleset most like AD&D1e, and we enjoyed our games, but I really wanted to recapture that OSR feeling.  Vodokar's new ruleset nails it!

If you're not an FG person, it may be difficult to grok, but having all of the resources of the C&C ruleset available the moment you fire up the AD&D1e ruleset makes the DM's job really easy, as all of the reference material is immediately available to utilize in your new game.

The look and feel of the ruleset is great, evoking images and emotions about playing back in the early 80's that I had really missed.  The character sheets are great, and in order to keep it flowing old school style, I've been using images and creatures from my old books like Monster Manual 1 and Fiend Folio.

Using a free-to-use Dyson map I was quickly able to stock a dungeon with creatures, loot, and traps and the party was quickly on their way to delving into what I hope will turn into a nice little campaign.  I know Vodokar would very much like to produce some modules for the ruleset, which would be great for newer DM's looking for their first OSR experience via a VTT.  You can read more about the project here on the forums or feel free to ping me on G+ or Twitter to ask questions about it.

I'm not a big fan of recounting the events of the game, or streaming games, for people to check out.  Seems boring to me, so you won't see that sort of thing here, but as I get more info about rulesets or play/run more stuff I'll update the blog so you can find out about 'em (as an example, one of the players in my game is also the creator of the DCC ruleset also avail on FG.  I'm chomping at the bit to dig a bit deeper into that if my plate can squeeze in some space for it, but right now it's a tad full).