The Mad Aardvark

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Reply – Dungeon Master’s Creed

Posted by madaardvark on March 14, 2009

I found a post on another wordpress blog I’d like to respond to, found here:

The Dungeon Master’s Creed

My response, point by point:

1. All very well and good, but I’ve noticed that people looking for rules systems that are clear and simple don’t care as much about what those rules represent.  I can tease through a complicated rule system as long as those rules reflect the world they represent.  I haven’t seen a good mechanics system that took that into consideration for years.  Instead, they rely on a ‘universal’ system that can supposedly be applied to anything.  That’s rarely the case, and instead we end up with a generic system that is inadequate for what any game needs.

2.  I disagree completely.  I want separate books for those who play the game and those who run it.  I don’t want players to think ‘what can I get,’ instead enjoying excitement and wonder.  When players know too many rules, especially monster or NPC statistics, where is the surprise value?  I have heard horror stories of players buying modules that their DMs are planning to run, just so they have a video game equivalent of ‘Insider’s Tips and Tricks’ rather than letting themselves imagine living through the adventures.

3.  Nothing is worse than a supplement that has a lot of ‘new’ things that detract from the spirit of the game, just to have something new to sell.  If there is no need for a new rule, don’t write one.  If a monster doesn’t fit with the style, scope, or spirit of the game, leave it out.  And, especially, ‘original’ ideas are too often irrational and idiotic.  Give me a supplement that gives me a better way to play the game, a new way to think about it, aspects that previous books didn’t consider, but do not throw new ideas at me just because they’re new.

4.  I agree with this to a point.  Adventures should be able to stand on their own without tying in with other published adventures, and be easily dropped into a campaign already in progress.  However, I also like it when they follow a theme or suggest a longer story that I can adapt and expand.  That’s what turns a string of small adventures into an exciting campaign.

5.  My experience has shown me that computers are antithetical to the overall role-playing experience.  There has been enough of a reliance on video games as the model for new tabletop games as it is.  When players think of the role-playing experience as a video game first, that’s a problem.  They let the DM dictate their next moves for them, assume that there is a ‘correct’ way to achieve goals, and generally lack ambition, assuming that the game will unveil all of the major plot points for them – just like playing computer RPGs.  That, and a face-to-face game night is always better than an online one.  Any game can be played online; don’t even worry about that.  And selling pdf files instead of actual books just asks for people to download torrents en mas and care even less about the content of the books, or lack an ability to put them all together conceptually as one single body of work.  Then they become rules and stats rather than a living, breathing world.

6.  I certainly want a combat system that works differently for one-on-one combat than it does for army-to-army combat.  Rules, again, represent something about the world, usually an abstraction.  In warfare-style combat, individual skirmishes are less important than the overall goal of the combat scenario, and the rules should represent this.  As a side note, ‘wargamers’ should seriously do their research.  Tactical warfare reenactment is much more exciting and rational than Warhammer nonsense.  And for a first-hand one-on-one combat experience, stop swinging foam swords and pick up a fencing weapon, and branch to historical reenactment from there.  Learn something that comes from generations of experience rather than pictures in a book and/or flashy anime garbage.

7.  I demand rationality over simplicity.  If the system makes sense, then modification is easy.  Just keep following sense rather than ‘cool and flashy.’  Anime is a terrible waste of time.

8.  I can agree to point 8 completely.  But that is because a stat block is something reserved for a support character.  Main antagonist NPCs should get their own Appendix in the back of the module.  With a nice long explanation of their motivation and tendencies.

9.  Flexible and unrestricted is only a problem for people with no imagination who can’t divorce themselves from abstract rules that never could and never should represent ALL the choices available.  Again, rationality.  A strict system is fine, fine, fine, as long as it makes sense.  I can change whatever I want if it all makes sense.

10.  I’m not sure I understand this point.  If the game only ‘reflects’ the genre, how can the genre grow?  If the game ‘redifines’ the genre, well so what?  Things that are new, interesting, and good tend to do that.  It’s called evolution.

11.  Game designers should pay attention to what players want while being able to guide the players to what they need.  Players, I’ve noticed, are notorious for wanting to know every little secret of every little corner of a campaign world.  They badger game designers relentlessly with questions that should be left unasked, or answered within the confines of a particular DM’s campaign somewhere.  This allows campaigns to become unique instead of replays of canonized material.  Canon is the death of creativity.  The answer to questions about canon should be ‘whatever you want it to be.’  Players should beg to their DMs, who in turn should sit themselves down and come up with something.

12.  They used to pass these out in game shops all the time.  Fast play rules on new and old systems to generate interest and, thus, sales.  Doing this in an electronic format is okay by me, but I’d like to have something physical I can hold.  Not only does it not give me headaches while I stare at it, but it shows me that a company cares about the hobby.  Just be prepared to sell me a real book with pages in it.  If someone else wants their pdf, by all means, sell it to them.

And in return, we will…

1. Sure. If the game is worthwhile.

2. Not sure what is meant by ‘our game.’  I hope that means the preferred game that ‘our group’ plays.  I don’t like seeing fanboys take over a product.  I hear a lot of people complain that Big Business has ruined the hobby, but they fail to note who’s doing the actual writing and artwork.  It’s usually some fan who’s ‘been playing the game for years!!1!’ but doesn’t know how to write a plot or motivate a character.  The Big Business doesn’t care who’s writing and doesn’t understand what a fanboy is.

3. We’re all restrictive to who we expose games to.  I make no promises, other than to do what I can to make the hobby better in and of itself.  I won’t include suckos that make the hobby any worse than it has gotten.

4.  The things in Greywulf’s post I’m responding to do not guarantee a good game.

5.  Again, I need stricter criteria than Greywulf.

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