Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 15, 2013
What kind of adventures would you like to play in D&D?

If I had to summarize the events of my current D&D campaign up to now in a paragraph, it would look something like that: The players started out being sold into slavery from an orphanage, were shipwrecked on an island, escaped with the help of the goddess Selune and were teleported to what has become their new home base in the Nentir Vale. There they investigated a mysterious death and disappearing standing stones in a village, discovering that a demon was inadvertently liberated there. They helped a barony to reinstall their rightful ruler in a rebellion, before hunting down the demon in an underground temple with a rift to a parallel plane. On killing the demon they were transported to that parallel plane, and are currently in a vampire castle where they need to kill the vampire lord to get back to their own world.

As you can see, a lot of things happened over 5 levels of gameplay. And only very little of it involved dungeon delving. And while I am not necessarily representative of anything, I do think that this sort of adventure with lots of story, lots of NPCs, and different interesting locations is very much what "modern" D&D looks like. It is a game of interactive story-telling, of role-playing mixed in about equal measure with combat.

Now Wizards of the Coast is working on the next edition of D&D, called D&D Next. And there is something like a beta test for this edition, with WotC handing out early versions of the rules plus adventures to test the new system. And one thing I noticed is that the adventures provided are not of the modern style described above. Rather they are all of the "classic" dungeon delve, hack'n'slash variety, like the Caves of Chaos, or the newly included Mines of Madness. The Mines of Madness adventure starts with the players in front of the entrance to said mines, being told that they are looking for some fabulous artifact in there. End of story. The decisions they have to take are of the type "you come to a crossing, do you go left or right?", and instead of NPCs to interact with there are series of rooms with monsters and traps.

Now before becoming DM in my current campaign I was a player in a campaign which could go on without any combat for months, and as this is with the same group of people I'm sure they noticed that my campaign has a lot more combat in it. In the vampire castle they are in there is the possibility, due to the castle's sandbox-y nature, to have several fights in a row. But there are also a lot of interesting NPCs to interact with, roleplaying scenes where the players need to decide whether to trust somebody, clues to find, and interesting choices to make. I am not a fan of hack'n'slash dungeons, where there is no logical rhyme or reason to an accumulation of rooms full of exotic monsters which seem to have no purpose whatsoever than to engage adventurers in combat.

And I am starting to wonder whether D&D Next as a rules system is designed for this "classic" style of adventuring. Which would be somewhat weird, because one of the main complaints about the current 4th edition of D&D was that the rules were too much designed for combat, and didn't give enough room for roleplaying. When I listen to a podcast of Mines of Madness, there is a lot *less* roleplaying going on than in my 4E campaign. In fact in that Mines of Madness games the player characters are apparently treated as disposable pawns, with multiple deaths in the dungeon each dealt with by the introduction of a replacement pre-rolled character coming out of nowhere.

What do you think? Are "classic" hack'n'slash adventures back in fashion? Have people given up on more involved stories where dialogue with NPCs is actually necessary and not just some random exchange of words with a tavern keeper or blacksmith between dungeon crawls? What kind of adventures would you like to play in D&D?

No, I think that those dungeon-delving adventures are there to ease people into the genre and/or new rules, both players and DMs. They are simple enough while people come to grips with the capabilities of their characters and eventually open up to a more traditional "role-playing" style.

There are of course people that just want pure hack-n-slash, but those tend to get bored rather quickly, so it's futile to have a new ruleset cater to them exclusively.

Also it's interesting that you think that D&D Next might be too combat focused, as I (and a lot of old timers) already consider 4E as too rigid, game-y and restrictive.
It's much easier to run a more hack-n-slash type of campaign. It's take more work, more prep, and more skill on the part of the GM to run a really great story based campaign. I was sort of thurst into the role because of my group who had the odd the habbit of stopping just about any random NPC and asking for their life story.

I would put forth the idea that the more pure hack-n-slash the dungeon, the more game-y it becomes. You are leaning the RPG away from its strengths and into areas (combat resolution) which are frankly better handled by machines (computers).

Where you really see an RPG shine is when you have the creativity that no algorithm could ever replicate come into play.
Also it's interesting that you think that D&D Next might be too combat focused, as I (and a lot of old timers) already consider 4E as too rigid, game-y and restrictive.

Actually I was talking about the adventures that are currently presented with D&D Next. I am not certain that there is a huge influence of the rules system itself, as I never had any problem to play a roleplaying-heavy session, adventure or campaign in 4th edition D&D.

In my opinion you don't need rules to roleplay, thus any rules there are affect mostly combat. If you players have "the odd habbit of stopping just about any random NPC and asking for their life story", it doesn't really matter what rules system you are playing at that moment.
To a great degree, though, the adventures in *playtest* need to combat-heavy as they need to shake out the basic class and combat mechanics.

Thus dungeon crawls are ideal testing material at this stage.
I like a mix of story and combat, though I prefer the story part most of the time. :)

There is roleplaying within combat as well, you know, the "high fantasy" heroic stuff where a witty action from the PCs will have them do stuff that is beyond what their character sheets enable (with the discretion of the DM, of course). Since we are so used to the more... free-form combat system in the previous versions (no need for grid + tokens, lots of improvisation when it comes to movement, actions and targeting), we just find that the rules-heavy systems of 4E are not for us. Even 3.5 was a bit "too much".
In my opinion you don't need rules to roleplay, thus any rules there are affect mostly combat.

This is precisely the answer to your own worry/complaint. They're running a beta-test, and what needs testing are the combat systems, character balance, etc., so they've put out modules that focus heavily on those systems. They don't need to test conversation or character backstory and motivation.

Given the backlash against 4.0 being so combat-focussed, I don't think we need to worry about the final product lacking in roleplaying aspects. ...Hopefully.
My kids play hack-n-slash adventures when they get together, and I just accommodate them when I DM for them.

Me, I prefer more in depth adventures, not so much hack-n-slash, but I can't stand so much RP-ing that nothing gets done.

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