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Monday, July 9, 2018

Let D&D be D&D

I don't generally use the blog to vent or rant, but I had a conversation reently that got under my skin a little and wanted to work out some of the thoughts it generated. It is gaming-relaed, but forgive the combative tone.

I was talking with my brothers about campaign ideas I had -specifically old-school BX style D&D. We have gamed together off and on over the years since we were kids and I was thinking about trying to ramp up a regular game again.

“You have some cool ideas, but it’s still wizards and elves and fighting monsters for gold or XP. We’ve done that to death.”

Needless to say, this was a little disappointing to hear. Mostly because I recently came to realization about gaming. It's not profound or anything, but I think it has finally sunk in with me.

Don't run a game you don't love.

Whether it's a campaign, module, or system, if it doesn't get you excited to see it happen at the table, you should not be behind the screen. Game-mastering is just too much effort. Especially as adults with families, jobs, and so many demands on our time. I might sit down to an adventure or a system that isn't my favorite as a player. Maybe it's to try something new or just to be social. More likely a member of the group is the one who is excited about it and wants to run it. That's fine. But gone are the days where I choose a game to run based on whether I think it might entice others to play.

Like Joseph Campbell's advice to "Follow your bliss," this idea applies to life in general, but this is an RPG blog, so I'm confining it to the subject at hand. This brings me to the title of this post.

Let D&D be D&D.

Yes it's a game of elves, wizards, orcs, dragons, and yes dungeons too. Yes you have many artificial mechanics that attempt to represent different abstract concepts with varying degrees of elegance or success. Yes its most basic premise is to go into a cave or ruin, fight monsters, take their stuff, and try to get more powerful so you can fight other monsters.

So what?

At a minimum it's still a chance to play a game that lets you have fun with friends. At its best, the 'game' part fades into the background and the players get to tell a story that none of them -DM included- got to see coming. Can other genres and systems do that too? Absolutely. Will some people find one game more fun to play than another? Sure. No one is saying you have to play a particular edition or version of D&D, or D&D vs some other system, or even that you have to play RPGs as opposed to any other hobby. But the "Been there, done that." attitude just irked me.


  1. I have many adult friends that may need to sit and think about their relationship with D&D. Its OK to do something else before you are bored and ready to throw your dice across the room, we still love you.

    1. That’s why God invented Magic the Gathering.

  2. Could you co-DM for one of them running a game that they want to run? Having more DMs is better than relying on one.

  3. Perhaps I have plebeian tastes but I never get tired of elves, wizards, orcs, dragons, and dungeons.

  4. I played in a lot of D&D tables with people "tired of dungeons, dragons, orcs, gold for XP and all that." What I got instead was childish, simplistic intrigue plots made of several aimless encounters with various NPCs, clue-after-clue railroad investigatons and stuff like that, OR "storytelling" consisting of watching NPCs and events unfold in "cutscenes" between long combat "encounters."

    Nah, try being creative with your dungeon first. And drop the novelist BS. I'll take a good, immersive crawl any day over this crap.

    1. Or frankly, don’t worry about being creative. Just referee. The players will bring the story.

  5. I'll only run OD&D or B/X D&D or one of their clones. I know the kinds of games I prefer & crunchy or story-teller style games are not my style. I don't want to fuss with a tun of rules or multiple hour combats in games like 5e D&D, 3.5 D&D/PF or Rolemaster. I'll even be hesitant to play them either.

  6. I agree with you point of view, however, your brother should run the game he wants. That's what frustrates me about players sometimes. They don't always appreciate the commitment DMing takes.

  7. "Don't run a game you don't love."
    Thanks. I needed this reminder. At times I flail around trying to draw in new players by running things I don't love. It's a mistake every time.

  8. I heartily agree. I've learned over the last few years that I don't love RPGs; I love D&D. I'll play someone else's RPG to be social of evenings, and do my best to understand it ... but if I'm going to run a game it's going to be D&D. Preferably B/X D&D.

    I've tried to develop a Call of Cthulu game, or a d6 Star Wars game, or whatever, but I never could frame it right. But D&D is just right. Es ist heimlich