Today’s question: How has a game surprised you?
I’ll admit to having been completely surprised by how much I really dig D&D 5th Edition. After 14 years of immersion (as a player, a DM and a designer & publisher) in the crunchy complexity of 3rd Edition (and it’s d20 derivatives, like Pathfinder), and after finding the dramatic redesign of 4th Edition completely not to my liking, I had pretty much no interest in 5th Edition.
Then I looked at the “Basic” PDFs that Wizards of the Coast made available, and immediately went out and bought the three core books. I was amazed at how streamlined it was, and how many influences it bore from more modern, narrative games, yet still managed to be Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a cliché, but it truly felt like a distillation of everything I loved from 2nd and 3rd editions, and awakened a nostalgic love that went back to my Basic/Expert set days. (And that might be the most surprising thing of all.)
My only regret is that I haven’t had the time (or the playing group) to actually run a game yet.
Well, it only took 8 days for us to reach a disappointing question. That’s pretty good. (And, looking ahead, I see that this is pretty much the worst of the lot, so that’s a pretty admirable achievement, overall.)
I will posit that, given that Dungeons and Dragons had it’s best sales year in the game’s 45-year history in 2017, topping even the popularity heyday of the early 80s; that more than 7500 unique broadcasters are streaming games over the internet to an estimated audience of over 9 million people, introducing more and more people every month;, that the game has featured as plot elements in mainstream entertainment ranging from STRANGER THINGS to COMMUNITY; and just last night, Joe Manganiello appeared on a popular late-night talk show to discuss D&D with the host, Steven Colbert — that the question is more than a bit ridiculous.
People are playing — in bigger numbers than ever before.
If anything, what we “need” to do is to show people that there’s more out there than D&D — and, frankly, that’s already starting to happen as well, with a number of very popular streams devoted to non-D&D RPGs.
So… keep up the good work, folks? We’re doing just fine.
Today’s question is “How can the GM make the stakes important?” — which initially struck me as an odd question to ask.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it’s one of those things which is perfectly obvious to somebody who has been GMing for a long time (nearly– JESUS CHRIST — four decades at this point for me), but might not be evident to somebody just starting out.
The simplest answer I can give is this: The GM can make the stakes (whether of an encounter, or an adventure, or an entire campaign) important by listening to the players. Players will tell you, in any number of ways, what’s important to them, both as players, and also as their characters. Use that knowledge, and have the stakes relate to those things that they’ve told you about. If a player is obviously really into deep roleplaying of relationships, have an encounter revolve around the potential of damaging their relationship with an important NPC. If a character is really invested in their personal magical item, have an adventure involving the search for an ancient text which describes the history of that item, including potential clues to hidden additional powers, and prophesies of its future.
(This is another reason why it’s good to have the players collaboratively involved in the creation of the campaign, as I mentioned yesterday. The conversations you have during that process will give you a wealth of information on what the player values, and is hoping will be important in the game.)
Simple: Make the stakes involve things the players care about, and they’ll be important.