Suggested Blog Post, and an Anti-Module Rant (Free-Writting)

I am working on an article now, and it isn't ready. I do, however, like to try and post something at least once a week, this will be one of those free writing, unedited, first-draft things, so consider yourself warned.

Oaks Spalding has been doing some phenomenal work on his blog Save Versus All Wands, my favorite being "Why Do Player's Enjoy Being Puppets?", there is also a link in there to another good article where he defends Gygax from a younger user of D&D. Both are very well written and if you haven't seen them yet, well, there they are.

Now at the end of the article, I would like to point out a comment. A very negative comment that is strange, apparently there is a large enough caucus of people who believe some strange things and are loud enough to be heard. The most obvious belief is that there is only one way to play the game, and that is through modules. I've seen this opinion crop up a lot in the last few weeks, and it is okay to feel that way. If modules are your thing GREAT! They personally bore me to death, but to each their own. What bothers me is the aggressiveness of the campaign. At first, I thought that it was a joke. Many of us are networked together to take the game back from Corporate America and restore it back where it belongs, at the table.

Our goal should be a simple one, remove all prep. Run a game for anybody at any time any place. Perilous Dreamer from The Ruins of Murkhill is an example of a Dungeon MASTER, notice the stress on the Master.  We call ourselves Dungeon Masters, but for most of us, we're students.

I have studied lots of modules, I've got a good collection of them from all different eras. I have never run most of them, modules to me are more trouble than what they are worth. They say that they help you save time, but I must be doing it wrong because after reading, memorizing, correcting errors, tailoring it to my table, chopping it up so it's better organized, adding to it, cutting out garbage, I spent more time prepping the thing than I ever have just done my own thing.  The worst part about modules is that, without fail, half way through, after I'm done prepping the thing, I get bored of it. I had played this game during prep, I don't get to play it at the game table. That, to me, sucks. Another thing that sucks is that at the end of the day, this wasn't "OUR" game, it was somebody else's, I was just an editor. I felt like this soon after DMing and getting screwed by TSR, and being tricked into thinking that it was a failure of mine that my setting doesn't comply with the latest and greatest published version of it.

By studying a good variety of modules, and being critical about the content, figuring out what works, what is a trap, what we hate or love about something, I learned what has been done already and can begin making my own design choices. The game is customized solely for those who show up on gameday. I am no longer studying modules, they are repetitive, repeating the same formula over and over again, the newer the module the more it hides its formula but the formula is still a repetition of the old ones.

I have found fresher ideas by directing my studies to war games. I find that applying wargaming theories to D&D creates a more open world that feels more complex than it really is. A story does not have to dictate progress, I enjoy that element, but I am not a slave to it. Committing to actions, making decisions, interacting with the world around them, that is what dictates progress. In a video game, if you lose a scenario you have to try again until you win, this isn't the case in D&D. That is part of what makes it work, if you fail, the world doesn't stop, it keeps going.

I used to think that the DM was in charge of the content, but they aren't. The player is. The DM designed things, but the more open the better. If you have an interesting design, the players will do their damnedest to find it, and if you did a really good job, then they won't even notice that they haven't found it yet.

If the story plays itself out as a reaction to the players, constantly changing and morphing into something that was not predicted by the designer, is it actually a story, or is it something else?

This stuff all sounds very complicated, but it isn't. The only prep that I really need to do prior to the game is to mentally put myself in this place. If my players are at a loss for what they should be doing, I can give them different options, but typically this isn't the case.


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