Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 27, 2012
And now for something completely different

I am strangely excited about a new game opportunity, more than I have been for years. If I had to sum up my gaming history in one phrase, I'd say that I played Dungeons & Dragons in the eighties, Magic the Gathering in the nineties, and MMORPGs in the noughties (or whatever you want to call that decade). But I never completely stopped playing pen & paper role-playing games, I just play a lot less now, and as a player instead of a Dungeon Master. So now I am excited about a possibility to become the Dungeon Master again, starting a fresh campaign, probably with Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rules. Our current Dungeon Master needs a creative break, and at the end of the current adventure I'll first do a test run, and if that works out run a campaign.

When discussing how MMORPGs should be designed, you sooner or later come across somebody asking the snarky question of why I'm not designing my own MMORPG if I know better than the developers. Obviously there are about a hundred million good reasons for not launching a MMORPG, or whatever making a MMORPG costs these days. But being a Dungeon Master in a pen & paper roleplaying campaign is about as close as you can get to designing your own game system. While the rules appear to be written down, in fact the Dungeon Master has a large degree of freedom inside the framework described by those rule books. There are usually lots of house rules, and just by selecting the difficulty of encounters and the rewards a DM already can change the nature of the game more than lets say the change of the nature of WoW between WotLK and Cataclysm.

Thus I do believe that there I things I learned from MMORPGs about motivating players and how to make a game enjoyable to its players that I can use in running a pen & paper campaign. But it isn't just me who evolved in the last 20 years, the Dungeon & Dragons system evolved as well. It is impossible as a MMORPG player to look at the changes in 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons and not see how they derived from MMORPGs. These days all D&D character classes have an identical number of spells and abilities per level, and the adventures actually have "quests" in them with an objective and a specific reward! What I like a lot about the 4th edition rules is how tactical the combat is. This is the sort of content I'm missing in MMORPGs: Tactical combat with no twitch at all, and a lot of time for everybody to consider their moves, where the challenge lies in thinking what the best move is, and not in how many milliseconds it takes you to perform it. And then of course a pen & paper game has some actual roleplaying, a feature long missing from most MMORPGs.

So what does this mean for this blog? Not a radical change, but you will see some posts with my thoughts about Dungeons & Dragons, and maybe less posts about MMORPGs. The jury is still out on whether SWTOR was "a failure", but it certainly failed to stem the tide of a general declining interest in MMORPGs. Thus widening the scope of the blog might be a good idea anyway. Assuming there are still people out there with an interest in pen & paper games. Are there?
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I'd like to see your thoughts on Pen&Paper RPG as an old roleplayer myself. It may be a niche market but its influence can be felt on many video games.
Sounds good to me. I look forward to trading about your games. One thing to bear in mind though is that the personalities of the players adds flavour to an after action report. I hope you can find a way to tell us about your players without compromising your friendships.
My last playsession was with second edition and its unlikely that I will get a group together anytime soon. Still, I would love to read about that stuff now and then!
Good luck.

If you want some ideas for plots, etc try reading some of the chapters from our current and old games at:

Gobble gobble.
I'm still playing pen&paper RPG, so I'd love to hear you write about it. (Well, on hiatus currently due to our GM being abroad for a year, but will pick it up again). I don't know D&D that well, we're using a system called Rolemaster with tons of house rules (current campaign is between 15 and 20 years old, although I joined more recently, 8 years ago).

We've been moving towards computerizing the pen&paper though, buying the rulebooks as .pdf, and some of us bringing laptops with character sheets and whatnot.
I'd definitely be interested in your D&D experiences and comparing them with mine - I've been lucky enough to have been playing with the same bunch of people for 20 years.
Absolutely yes!
I'm also about to start DMing after years of not playing any pen&paper at all. Yes, also due to a somewhat jaded view on the currently not evolving mmo-genre, SWTOR might be my last themepark-mmo, although i have some hope in GW2 to innovate the genre a bit and relite my interest). Heck, i even recently reinstalled VANGUARD to re-experience the feeling of an actual big virtual world an i think i will dabble a little bit in Telon just for the fun of it an maybe to gather some ideas for my pen&paper campaign.

So i haven't decided which system i will play with my players, but i never got warm with d&d 4e, so i'm currently looking into some open scource systems basing on AD&D 2e. And PAthfinder looks interesting, too.

Aardwulf also recenty made a nice post about D&D opportunities in 2012:
I would be very interested in hearing thoughts and experiences in running pen&paper RPGs. I'm not much of a fan of the 4th edition (from what I've heard, a lot of people prefer whichever system they first learned), I prefer 3/3.5, but the basic principles and themes are still the same imho.

Plus, since I stopped playing MMOs, I've bounced around a lot, and recently have been fiddling around with the NWN toolset, designing my own RPG module, so this hits sorta close to my current interests anyway.
DnD4e makes a fun board game to play with friends, but there are many better things to run an actual RPG in. (4e doesn't *stop* you running an actual story, but it really doesn't help you, either).
Ah, though we would be getting there in the comments thread, and sooner too :)

I had almost the same reaction as you, Inquisitor !
Then I said to myself : Gosh, doesn't that sound just like a wow-hater ?
Funny that we should find the same argument in that somewhat related field (even though, if we are serrious one second, the only role you get to play in an MMORPG is the one of the crazy megalomaniac of incommensurable power, part of an army of freaks that the second half of the world (NPC) conspicuously tries to treat like they are kind of a normal person).
You say completely different. I disagree. As you say yourself there are a lot of common mechanics and principles. Hell, AD&D rules live today in most RPGs
I'll read this with interest Tobold. I too play the occasional game of D&D with friends when we manage to meet up in real life (otherwise we play MMOs online instead).

You're very correct that the DM/GM of such a game has tremendous room for creativity, something we'll probably never see in MMOs. But also the players have much greater flexibility as well. RPG forums, books, magazines etc are replete with the idea of DMs having to 'wing it' - because there is rarely one set railroaded solution to a problem or encounter.

This for me is the single advantage that D&D or other RPGs have over MMOs. Forget the fancy graphics, the massively multiplayer online element, the epic battles; give me greater freedom of how to approach problems as a player character in an MMO and I'd be very happy indeed.

In any case I look forward to reading more posts on this!
I've never played a "pen & paper" RPG so I don't understand yet what you'll be doing and writing about but I will read with interest, at least at first. :)
I'd read with interest. Gaming is gaming.
I am far more interested in DnD these days than MMOs. When I started reading your blog I was a hardcore raider and now I have gone back to DnD in a similar way to what you have. I approve this change.
I used to play back in the days of Basic, then Advanced. How different is D&D now (4th ed?) from the old advanced rules?

Just curious if it could really have been improved much. Or is it like WOW, where the more they tried to improve it, the more of the magic they lost?
I've played my share of dnd over the years. I think the reason I find 4e so refreshing is the end of the "I guess I attack again" turn. Having even two or three options on a given initiative is such a huge improvement.... Although combats take several times longer. In a few hour session, I bet you're lucky to have 3 combats in 4e if you expect a reasonable amount of RPing.
Definitely interested. Played Basic/AD&D in 1979 to 1983 or so. One of the guys I played with just dusted off his books and figures and started a campaign with his 10 year old and his friends.

He's been asking me for advice since I've been playing WoW. Excellent timing, Tobold, I linked him this post.

Looking forward to reading about your experience. How would one find an adult group, do you suppose?
Yep, I'm an old-school roleplayer and still run a weekly campaign. I'll be very interested to hear how things go!

- Hugh @ MMO Melting Pot
I am excited to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Avid D%D player over here and I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on 4e and hopefully garnering some fresh ideas for our gaming from your insights!
My interest in pen&paper is more theoretical, simple because I'm lacking a group to play.

I'll be interested to see what your post on that topic will be about.
"I played Dungeons & Dragons in the eighties, Magic the Gathering in the nineties, and MMORPGs in the noughties."

Me too!

Very much looking forward to your thoughts on modern D&D.
Go for it, this sounds interesting.
Quite an interesting connection you make there between MMOs and P&P RPGs. I noticed also that my MMO experience in the noughties (nice expression) changed the way I look at other genre game types: MMO playing has increased my interest in the exploration factor ("What else is in this world?") Looking forward to your notes on RPGs!
I would continue to read your blog every time with interest. I do not have any experience with D&D but have always been fascinating by the games and culture. Look forward to your pen and paper adventures.
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