I an old gamer. Not as old as some but definitely older than the majority that I interact with on a day to day basis. This however does not make me more or less passionate than any of you but it does give me some perspective that most don’t.
I grew up in a time where we had no internet or movies on demand. Video games amounted to side scrolling pixels that did not talk or cast hollywood voice actors to supply dialogue and buying comic books meant I only needed a dollar in my pocket to buy the latest issue of GI Joe.
The 80’s was a time when a child’s imagination could run rampant. Between all the amazing cartoons that where born in that era and the over the top action/sci fi movies its no wonder that this generation is falling back to it in an attempt to replicate the bar it set.
One of the biggest influences in my life during my younger years as far as a creative and literary point of view was Dungeons and Dragons.
I was introduced to D&D very serendipitously through the ramblings of some fellow school mates back in Grade 7 . A new kid in town had gathered some people and introduced them to the game. Having heard this I approached him and asked him if I could get involved as it sounded very exciting ( In 7th grade when you hear people talking about wielding swords and fighting minotaurs you kinda take an interest)
It wasn’t long after playing a few sessions with this new kid that I started assembling the books I needed to play on my on with my friends. Sourcing out the books through a local stationary store and trying to convince my mom to pay $45 for a box with some dice and books with Dragons on the cover was the first step but after I had my BASIC box set in my I was set!
As soon as I turned the first pages of the players book I was hooked. This was a game that would allow me to create worlds and characters and essentially unleash my young imagination upon my friends. Sure there where rules that I had to follow but they where far from restrictive. In fact as I soon realized the core rules in my hands didn’t provide enough information to keep up with my imagination; I craved more.
Fast forward 30 years later and the world I live in is a far different place.As it pertains to my beloved Dungeons and Dragons I can safely say that anything my teenage mind could have dreamed of is now avaialble in a book or supplement of some kind. The game has grown so big that we are now playing a 5th edition of the game with more revisions and changes to the rules I played as a kid that a library wouldn’t be able to fit them if they where compiled into a series of book!
Last year I was faced with a dilemma. I had decided to start an ONLINE Dungeons and Dragons weekly game session and needed to pick a version of the rules that would fit my playstyle as well as be engaging to my players. Do I choose the then outcasted 4th edition or take a step back and join the masses in playing 3.5 edition. Better yet should I just jump ship and join the ” Pathfinder Movement”?
I glossed over my bookshelf and staring back at me was the answer. My original Dungeons and Dragons ” Red Box” from the early 80’s was sitting on my shelf alongside his more ADVANCED brethren waiting for someone to brush off the dust and take a stroll down memory lane with him.
Im going to walk you through how to run a BASIC Dungeons and Dragons campaign ( or at least kick it off, the rest is up to you) and how to ensure that you and your players don’t succumb to the ” More is Better” school of Role Playing in 2015.
What you Need
The core set comes with a set of dice and 2 paperback books. Thats it. Don’t worry, you wont need more than this.
Set Expectations with your Players
In order to ensure that everyone the same page when you finally start your sessions you need to make sure that the players in your campaign are prepared for the experience ahead of them . Specifically you need to explain that this version of Dungeons and Dragons IS your grandfathers Dungeons and Dragons. Players expecting a wealth of gameplay options and a bevy of statistics cluttering up their character sheets are in for a rude awakening.
Classes and Races in BASIC are synonymous and the ability to have a split class didn’t exist back in these more primitive times. That is not to say that the players all of a sudden have their creativity stifled by a lack of rules or options. This game is a proverbial gateway to your imagination. Remember ” Flavour trumps gameplay”. If one of your players wants to create an Elven Ranger then let him. How? Simple, Roll a ELF character and give him the title of ‘ Ranger”.
Equip him with a bow and long sword, whip up a awesome description of how he looks and some backstory and voila…Elven Ranger. In this version of Dungeons and Dragons the rules are a slave to your imagination…not the other way around.
Players who have had extensive exposure to the more Advanced versions of the game will have the most struggles with down shifting but if you have any new players in your group they will not miss a beat.
Take time to emphasize that the game will place more of an emphasis on story telling and roleplaying not tactics and miniature combat.Ill explain more as we go along but for now try to unlearn what you have learned and embrace the simplicity of the game.
Pick your Style
This is where you are going to set the tone of your campaign. When I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time my Dungeons Master chose a more ” Realistic” style and by that I mean that he wasn’t creating an epic fantasy story with our characters at the centre of the story. Instead we rolled characters with no presumption that they would survive the first step into a dungeons we took. Death was at a premium if we rolled bad and some of us even had alternate characters standing at the ready in case we dropped mid session. This is not a bad style to play as it forces the players into a ” Gamers mentality” and just like any game you cant always win it.
The danger of this style is that you run the risk of players not forming an attachment to his/her character and this will ultimately restrict the imagination of the player when role playing. Human nature has taught us to not get attached to things that could be taken away from us.
My advice is to use a hybrid system. Make your players aware that you plan to tell a tale of swords and sorcery and dragons and everything in between but not to expect a free pass through all the perils ahead. Tell them that while the game will take on some cinematic flavour there will be times that decisions need to be made and if bad judgement is used and or outright stupidity then there will be no guarantee that the current batch of heroes will survive to tell the tale.
By taking some time to establish the ground rules and grace your players for the type of game your going to run allows them to enter it with confidence that you have there interests at heart and that you aren’t just a Bad Dungeons Master who doesn’t know what he is doing.
In the next part of this series I will be diving into specifics on character creation and how to pick a setting for the players to start their adventures in the world of Dungeons and Dragons BASIC