Today’s D&D Next post at the Wizards site by Bruce Cordell is titled Time to Heal and discusses the role of the Cleric class and how it relates to healing through the life span of Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a nice little recap of how healing and the Cleric class have both worked in previous editions, and then there is a poll asking how people prefer the mechanics to be handled. Reading about how healing worked in previous editions brought forward some experiences that I am dying to share with you.
The 4th Edition of D&D brought about the only long campaign I’ve ever managed to run, and I attribute a large part of that to the ways the new edition changed the role of being a Dungeon Master and the tools it provided. After D&D Next was announced the online RPG community went crazy, and I saw a number of people sharing lamentations that 4th Edition was now “old” and “going away”. I’ve finally managed to wrangle my thoughts about D&D Next, and they are overwhelming in their hope that whatever D&D Next is it allows me to continue running 4e D&D.
Let me know if this situation sounds familiar to you: You’re the DM/GM for your gaming group and you’ve just wrapped up an adventure, and you have at least a whole week until the next one. You sit down the next day, or even that very night, and start the adventure planning process. Over the next few days you stay on track but before you know it the next adventure is looming and you feel like despite your best efforts the game is still not as ready as you feel it should be.
I believe that most DMs have only run a single campaign world, whether it was one big campaign that has been continued through various ages, or they’ve only managed to run one satisfactory campaign. The tendency for a DM seems to be to conserve the number of campaigns they run by reusing worlds or tying them together so that in the end the number of campaign worlds they run is as close to one as possible. I think our tendency as DMs is to keep things relatively stable within our game worlds unless they are split by something like a change in campaign.
It has been a few weeks since my last Architect DM post, but I’ve been brainstorming a handful of different posts and this one came to the forefront as something I want to discuss. My last post introduced some of my general thoughts about worldbuilding for modern and futuristic games, which is a genre that I plan on talking about more in the future. However, this week I’d like to discuss something I learned in architecture school that can be applied to your games and make your life as a DM/GM easier.
I’ve talked quite a lot about worldbuilding and running roleplaying games in fantasy settings, but I’ve been planning on addressing modern and futuristic RPGs for a long time as well. One of the big hurdles that I have to overcome when thinking and writing about modern/future settings is that they seem inherently more difficult to deal with than their fantasy counterparts. For a modern or even a historic RPG I believe the difficulties come from the game being based in a real world that brings with it a vast amount of expectations from the players. If you’re running a game in these settings and a player at your table knows more about history than you, it can become very intimidating to even try to plan or run the game. Science fiction and futuristic games are a little bit better, but you’re still dealing with a lot of heavy science and realistic elements that can lead to issues where they might not have arisen in your typical elves and magic infused setting.
For well over a year now I’ve kept an eye on the material that our friend Dennis has been producing over at his blog The Spirits of Eden for his RPG setting, the World of Adel. I’ve talked to him a few times about his worldbuilding and the setting that he’s created, and every time we talk I marvel more and more at what he is creating. Today he has started a series of posts he is calling a Worldbuilding Diary and I was instantly impressed and inspired by it.
If someone asked me for a single bit of advice to improve their roleplaying games, whether as a DM or a player, I would tell them to spend as much time as they can reading the great fantasy and sci-fi books that are out there. For the first several years that I was playing RPGs I was not an avid reader and had not even heard of many of the classics, including ones that everyone should have heard of like The Lord of the Rings. At the time I thought many of my friends were insanely creative or stricken by some miraculous form of otherworldly inspiration, but as I’ve read more and more of the books out there I began to realize that most good ideas in our RPGs have been inspired by or even directly ripped from other sources. For example, in one of the first D&D games that I ever DM’d a player showed up with a character named “Muadib” and I remember thinking that it was a very unique and interesting sounding name. A year or two later I started reading Dune and groaned when I realized he’d simply lifted the name straight out of that book.
Yesterday I started playing the new game Dark Souls on the PS3 and the level designs in the game are very inspiring when it comes to planning out dungeons. One of the coolest things Dark Souls, and in fact many video games, does with its levels is interconnecting different areas in creative and unexpected ways. This is also an element that I see very rarely in tabletop RPG dungeon design, and that’s a disparity that I’d like to see changed.
Recently I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire books and really enjoying them, starting with A Game of Thrones and now I’ve just finished the second book A Clash of Kings. One of the major concepts of the series is that summers and winters can last for years at a time, and the books start during a long period of summer and focus on the Stark family whose motto is the very foreboding words, “winter is coming.” Though there are different seasons, the northern portion of the series’ fantasy world is always in a wintery climate and the narrative of the books returns to this area every now and then as a subtle reminder that winter is in definitely coming.