Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dungeons & Dragons

Although I didn't play very often, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) factored into my teenage years quite a bit. I loved reading the rulebooks and developing ideas for campaign settings (a campaign setting is the background where a series of game adventures - the campaign - take place). Eventually, I would apply those development techniques to writing projects. When Wizards of the Coast released their fourth edition, I decided to run a campaign that would be played by two different groups. One group is made up of a couple of guys who play occasionally at my house. The other is made up of people who sign up to play my campaign at the Pasadena D&D meetup held at Game Empire.

At the moment I'm taking a break from D&D to catch up on writing (and other stuff), but I'll probably be playing again sometime in March. The new games will be a little different, in response to gameplay from the previous sessions. Here are two changes that involve writing:

Standalone Adventures - My original campaign structure for the two groups was an epic made up of two interwoven plotlines. The plotlines were structured so they would lead up to a grand finale, a single game session where everyone played. It would take a year to play through to completion. When I tried this structure out, I discovered that players would often forget what happened during the previous session. In addition, new players who joined the game in Pasadena would have trouble getting up to speed with the continuity. Keeping a set of journal notes online (and on index cards) helped a little bit, but the extra work really wasn't worth my time. The solution I've decided on is to run adventures in the future that can be completed in one session. The adventures still take place in the same setting, and if players are interested, I'll have a bible of the setting online.

Mechanics First - When I wrote the original campaign, I started out with a "high concept", and fleshed the storyline out from there. This approach works for a movie, but it doesn't guarantee that the players will become immersed. In fact, the situations where the players enjoyed themselves the most were a result of game mechanics. An example of a mechanic would be a trap that the adventurers encountered while they were searching for something. The new adventures that I run will actually be built around mechanics, rather than a story concept.

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