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?