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Sunday, 29 August 2010

My Life And Roleplaying: "I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters..."


HeroPress gaming fun may be brought to you by the number "4" and the letter "e" in the near future.

I'm looking to share this belated-bandwagon-jumping goodness with The Tuesday Knights next year (once I am confident that I know the system and if it feels right).

As much as my roots and soul exist in the 'old school' of the original incarnation, and the various retro-clones that have been birthed in the last few years, I can't help but be drawn in by the shiny goodness of Wizards' latest releases.

I'm hoping that my experience with this 'new' game will be informed by my old school leanings (I'm planning to attend a launch event in Gravesend next month), but I also want to feel like I'm moving forward and learning new things (as I hack and slash my way through the dungeon).

It's as much a practical decision as anything else.

The Tuesday Knights stand me in good stead for a monthly game, but my efforts to make our meetings more frequent met with great resistance (something about people having 'lives'...) and, as I discovered when I ran Labyrinth Lord for them, a couple of hours every month isn't enough time to really get your teeth into a campaign. Especially when it's "old school" and the characters have a tendency to die if a random giant rat sneezes on them.

Now, I'm just spitballing here, but I have a theory that while the Grand Old Masters (Gary, Dave, Rob etc) may not have intended this to be the way their game was played, this conceit of starting characters effectively as established heroes is more on a level with how they actually played it "back in the day".

I mean, does anyone think that such legendary characters as Bigby, Tenser, Mordenkainen, Erac's Cousin and Robilar ever dared the ruins of Greyhawk with just 1d6 hit points to their name or a single spell in their spell book? (see update, below)

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Ironically it was news of the launch of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons that prompted me to talk to Steve, Pete, Nick and Clare into transforming our regular monthly games of Formula De into a role-playing group.

As it happened I got cold feet about running an entirely new system - having not gamed properly for 10 or 20 years at that time - and so I heavily houseruled Castles & Crusades (which seemed like a happy medium at the time) and launched The Tuesday Knights into Tekralh.

The problem also with meeting just monthly is it leaves me open to the infamous Gamer ADD and I'm always thinking of the "next big game" - not necessarily just the next episode of the current campaign, but a whole new campaign (and usually a new system) that I'd be running later.

Perhaps this latest fascination with 4th Edition is simply another phase of my ADD, but it has a lot of facets that make it seem more likely to stick around for a while.

Some superficial - for instance, I grok all the card elements, the large maps, the miniatures and tokens (which I know a lot of old schoolers don't) and the books are gorgeous (conversely, I never liked the look of the Third Edition books or the artwork; a lot of it was too ugly for my tastes) - but a lot comes back to the practicality I mentioned above.

Unlike it seems in American cities, gamers are as rare as hens' teeth round this neck of South East England. Sadly, when they were more common - during my childhood - I didn't take advantage of this resource and make the networks of friends and contacts in the hobby that might have stood me in good stead.

The fact is I don't get to game anywhere near as often as I would like; and I have always loved the ethos of "Dungeons & Dragons" - explore underground caves, kill things, take their treasure - and I strongly believe that my best chance of encountering more gamers is to concentrate on the most popular game and genre.

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The one phrase that has stuck with me throughout my gaming life is: "I'd rather be killing monsters".

I've had some amazing role-playing experiences that didn't involve bashing strange beasties or knocking the snot out of orcs, but if I had to choose one style of gaming to play exclusively it would be one that involved swinging swords, swashing buckles and slaying dragons.

So how does all this tie in with what I was saying a few weeks ago about "my plans"?

The simple answer is that I'd originally thought of creating a wacky, swords & planets, retro sci-fi game using my fantastic GAFDOZ miniatures.

But now, I've split my "wargaming" back off from the my "roleplaying" (at least for the moment) and will to continue to focus my metal mini buying on retro sci-fi (no rules system decided on yet) while my roleplaying veers towards Dungeons & Dragons (possibly 4th Ed).

As I said above, I've already been invited to this Essentials Red Box launch event in Gravesend (having had to pass on a Dark Sun event because it clashed with a planned holiday).

I'm hoping this introduction to actually playing 4th Edition (rather than just reading about it) will open a new chapter of my gaming biography. Even if it just makes me decide that 4th Edition isn't the way to go...

UPDATE (August 29, 10pm): Rob Kuntz just emailed me re: my incorrect assumption about the legendary characters in the Original Campaign. "Every character 1972 onward started as 1st level, Tim. Think about it in context even: we were play-testing a new game," he said.

7 comments:

  1. a couple of hours every month isn't enough time to really get your teeth into a campaign

    Be warned then, as D&D4 takes a long time to play. It's a good balanced system, but fights take a long time to play through; back when we were playing it, we'd get through once combat in a three hour session, with the fight taking up most of that time. We were playing once a week, and it was still considered a waste of our time; a monthly schedule would have been unbearable.

    The game can be tweaked to make this less of an issue, and one would hope it's fixed in the Essentials edition, but it's worth noting that if you only have a limited amount of time, and you want to do anything more than spend the session in one fight, then D&D4, out of the box, may not be the best choice.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks very much for that, Kelvin, it's that anecdotal evidence I've been missing. Everything I've read around the subject so far was leading me to that conclusion, but I wanted to hear it first hand from actual users of the system.

    There's a chance I might be joining a second group - although I haven't heard anything from them in a while - which would meet fortnightly, with the aim of trying 4e. So we'll have to see how that goes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know that the game has undergone a lot of changes since we abandoned it about eight months ago, and the Red Box might have fixed a lot of issues (indeed, it should have done so if it's to succeed as an introductory game), so I wouldn't dissuade you from giving it a try, especially at the price. Just be warned that it might not fit your group's situation.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's one of the reasons I'm hoping to get to the Red Box Open Day in Gravesend next month.

    It certainly hasn't been ruled out yet; in fact there are certain elements that I'd quite happily port over to an OSR game if that's the route I end up taking.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I mean, does anyone think that such legendary characters as Bigby, Tenser, Mordenkainen, Erac's Cousin and Robilar ever dared the ruins of Greyhawk with just 1d6 hit points to their name or a single spell in their spell book?

    Yes. I suspect that a great many characters died in Greyhawk, and that we know mostly about the ones who were smart and lucky enough to survive past the first few very dangerous levels.

    Rob Kuntz at least is still around on Dragonsfoot and whatnot. You could ask him about Lord Robilar.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rob's actually a Follower of this blog, so I'm hoping - if he sees this piece - he might chip in and clear that issue up. It's something I've been meaning to ask him for ages :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Not sure how things will go in the UK, but if you get on the DDI subscription it makes buying a ton of books unimportant. You'd be a month behind new releases, but a lot richer. Also, I don't think I have opened the DM guide more than twice. It is geared towards new gamers, and apart from traps and a list of what treasure a party should get per level, it is pretty useless. Traps will, I believe be in the online information, and all magic items are in the various Player's Handbooks. I tend to just give treasure out to appease the players. I don't expect them to have money (I often give them a patron), but they want money. 4e expects player to buy magic items, but players want to find magic items... If you don't get a set of three (PHB/MM/DMG), I'd skip the DMG all together at the start. If you don't get it in a set, try looking through it after getting your mind around the PHB. You may find it completely unnecessary.

    ReplyDelete

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