It was two years ago today that I posted my “Hello World” post. I decided to start a blog as an experiment, to allow me to play around with WordPress, and to create a place where I could organize my thoughts while getting back into D&D. I’m a little surprised that the blog has lasted so long. As it turns out, I rather enjoy it.
Two Years Ago
I was just getting excited about D&D again. For years previous to this time, I had been playing various on-line games and busy with RL concerns. Also, I had been moving about quite a bit, which made gaming difficult.
My situation changed, and I expected to remain in Corvallis (where I grew up and where my friends were) for some time. I broke my addiction to WoW and began thinking about D&D.
I found myself without any books, modules, dice, miniatures, maps, notes, or other gaming paraphernalia. I was truly starting from scratch, exactly like someone just discovering the game. It occurred to me that, by documenting what I did to gather together materials and how I went about preparing to run a new campaign, I could help out new DMs who had questions about how to get started.
I don’t remember ever sitting down and writing a list of goals for the blog. But my general idea was to detail what books, supplies and accessories I needed to get started, describe the process of creating a campaign from scratch, and to share my ideas and experiences relating to D&D.
Here is a quote from my About page:
My main goal with this blog is to document the creation of a fantasy world and the preparation that goes into running a campaign.
How Did I Do?
Well, initially I did write a few articles about how to get started. But they were very basic and deserved a lot more detail than I gave them. I discussed some sources for supplies here and there. But again, they could have been greatly expanded upon.
Looking over my previous posts, I see that I’ve talked a lot about my house rules, how they came about, why I do some things a certain way, and what I’ve tried that didn’t work. There’s not much on how to get started as a DM (what to do first, what to do next, etc). I’ll give some thought to how I can better present a more detailed, step-by-step approach and put out more articles on helping new DMs get started.
Initially, I tried to set up a regular schedule for writing posts. That didn’t work at all. Sometimes I feel like writing daily, other times I may let weeks (or months) go by without a single post. That’s not going to change, so I won’t worry about it. I’ll try not to let long periods go by, but regularly scheduled creativity just doesn’t seem to work out.
What I’ve Learned So Far
While writing this blog, I have been forced to take a close look at every aspect of D&D. As a result, I have come up with a number of new house rules, modified some of my existing rules, and re-written many aspects of my own game.
Beyond that, I’ve spent a great deal of time looking into every version of the game: OD&D, BD&D (Holmes/Cook, Moldvay, Mentzer), AD&D, AD&D2, 3.0, 3.5, PF. Each has its own set of rules. But I didn’t realize before this, that each ruleset also has its own feel. I started out playing OD&D, but the first rule book I ever owned was Holmes basic. It was mysterious and exciting and full of magic. I assumed that this was due to everything still being so new to me. But when I go back and read it again today, it evokes the same feelings of wonderment that I felt when I first picked it up. When I read 3.0/3.5/PF, the wonder just isn’t there. The rules are dry and antiseptic. Don’t get me wrong. I like this edition (et al) very much but, for me, it just don’t capture the essence of D&D that first got me excited about the game.
By nature, I love math and science. I gravitate toward programming and web design. When 3.0 first came out, I remember thinking that the rules were more logical and did a better job of making sense of everything. In other words, there was more realism (that word deserves a few articles all by itself). In the real world, I love working with things that operate by strict rules and precise syntax. I thought I wanted such things in my fantasy world. I was wrong.
For example, monsters now have lists of standardized abilities and feats. Each entry would list which of these abilities and feats that a particular monster possessed. It was logically laid out and made sense. But by doing so it turned the mysterious into the mundane.
Every magic item now lists what spells are needed to create the item, and how much it will cost to make. Suddenly, magical items were reduced to commodities. For me, it was the difference between watching a magician perform an amazing card trick, and watching a salesman demonstrate a trick deck (who then offers to sell you the deck for $19.95).
Reading the forums, it quickly became apparent that there is now a widespread epidemic of metagaming and min/max’ing. Players no longer focus on classes; they instead discuss optimum builds. It took a while, but eventually I realized that this sort of attitude toward the game is a natural extension of the way the rules are presented. Rules are described almost exclusively by the mechanics and the math involved. Naturally, players began focusing on the mechanics and the math (in order to create optimized characters), instead of focusing on the fantasy and magic of the game.
Although I like the 3.0/3.5/PF ruleset very much, I came to realize that this isn’t what I wanted from D&D.
First and foremost, I want D&D to capture the magic that I saw when I first discovered the game. For me that was a combination of OD&D, Holmes, and 1e. Of all the things I’ve learned from writing this blog, that revelation is the most significant.
I have created my own custom set of core books (DMG, PHB, MM) which have been largely rewritten and incorporate all the house rules used in my game. I have recently been going through the PHB and identifying areas that could be presented differently, in order to remove the textbook feel and incorporate the sense of mystery I feel when I read the Holmes rulebook. It’s a long way from done but I think it will be worth it.
4e – That Other Game by the Same Name
I don’t remember when it was, exactly, that I left D&D. It was probably around the time that 3.5 came out but I’m really not sure. During my absence a lot of changes had taken place, the most significant being the appearance of 4e. I didn’t know anything about it (nor about the perpetual edition war it ignited). It was simply something new, and (when I first returned to D&D) I decided to embrace it, in hopes that it was something I’d enjoy.
I bought the core books (DMG, PHB, MM) and a bag of dice. Shortly after that, a local bookstore went out of business and I was able to pick up a bunch of other books at 50% off. Then, a semi-local game shop closed up and I picked up more goodies at 70-80% off. Before I knew it, I had a dozen or so books which kept me busy reading for months.
There were a lot of new ideas in 4e. Some concepts were very interesting but the application didn’t feel right to me. Sadly, some of the core changes (such as healing surges) really bugged me and were so integrated into the new system that it would be all but impossible to pull them out.
I won’t go into what I didn’t like about the game (as that is not the point of this post). Suffice it to say, 4e is not D&D to me. So I abandoned it.
I don’t regret the time I put into it though. It allowed me to test some new ideas. There were a few gems to be gleaned. Even what I didn’t like about 4e helped me identify and define what I did like about my own game.
Next Year’s Goals
So what, if anything, should I try to change this next year? It would be nice to have a regular schedule for posts. That just isn’t going to happen though. Medical problems regularly interrupt what I want to do for days at a time. In the summer (when I’m able), I’d rather do something outside. Beyond that, sometimes I just don’t feel like writing and when I force it, I’m not happy with what I post so I don’t want to do that. I will make an effort not to let long periods go by without any posts though.
I’m getting into mapping more so expect cartography posts from time to time. I highly recommend all the Profantasy products (specifically CC3, CD3, DD3, and FT3).
For those that don’t know, most of 3.0/3.5 D&D has been released to the public domain under the Open Gaming License (OGL). This allows 3rd party publishers to release games and accessories that use this material. I’m more than a little interested in releasing my own customized core books (DMG, PHB, MM – although they’d have to be renamed) as well as related accessory products. PDF distribution through places like RPGnow make it easy to sell such things. I will definitely look into doing something like this but the time requirements may well prove to be too great. Either way, expect a couple of articles on the subject.
I’ve also been meaning to do more DIY projects. With all the wonderful map making programs and graphics available, everyone now has access to everything they need to print their own battlemaps, room and corridor sections, paper miniatures, etc. Once I get going on these projects, I’ll post downloads of what I create, as well as articles describing the process.
Lastly, I plan to finally start building my miniature collection. At last, I have what I need to find the miniatures I’ve been looking for and some sources to get them at decent prices. I’ll post pics of what I get. But that’s just the beginning. They need to be painted and I’ve found some great tips on doing that. Expect a few posts on how that works out.
I’ve had a lot of fun doing this and I really enjoy the feedback. Let me take a moment to add that it’s ok to post comments. :)
I probably get 20 times as many emails as comments. I don’t mind them at all, but others might enjoy reading what you have to say as well.