Saturday, October 3, 2009

Drama and D&D

It's been a while, but fortunately, not for lack of gaming. I've been busy working on a private wiki for my players where I've been posting many of my thoughts on the game and much of the work for the KoK campaign that I'm running.

It's no uncommon thing for gaming groups to break up, reform, and break up again, whether due to life's responsibilities or the social monster Ars Ludi warns us about. My own group has gone through one of its shortest cycles ever due to said monster, which reared up in a social/moral incompatibility that has forced at least one couple to leave the game and may have lost me another couple. If any of my players reads this blog, I'm not out to point fingers over that particular issue, but to point out something that I discovered almost immediately afterwards.

My wife and daughter are new to the role-playing thing. As was often the case with new players, it is sometimes difficult to get them comfortable in the group dynamic. Well, after the break-up, I sat down with them and my youngest brother and rolled some dice.

They loved it.

It turns out that what was keeping them silent for so much of the game was my group's--and one player in particular's--propensity to go for drama instead of adventure. It was a propensity that I was well aware of and was trying to nip in the bud with a West Marches-style sandbox, but nevertheless the old scene-chewing kept rearing its ugly head. It took six sessions and outright being ordered by a superior officer to even get the group to head towards my version of St. Gygax-at-Urheim, and they still haven't progressed into the tunnels beneath.

On the other hand, I set my family's new characters down in a free-city on the far side of the mysterious Duchy of O'Par, gave them a quick background and a few rumors, and they found the Caves of Chaos before the little one had to go to bed. We're going to do their first exploration of the Caves on Tuesday, hopefully with another friend or two's characters in tow.

And they loved it. No drama (or attempts thereof), no grandstanding, no complicated backgrounds that needed filling in, just two humans and an elf, coming to a backwater city on the very edge of civilization to find their fame and fortune and happily diving into the adventure without once turning to the director and asking, "So in this scene, what's my motivation?"

It occurs to me that maybe I've been trying to hard to play with the same group of friends for too long. There's an enormous pleasure in watching a group of neophytes attempt to navigate a module I was first introduced to some twenty-three years ago. I have several other potential players trying to work out their schedules to be able to come who are just as new to the game. D&D is a great avenue for drama, but its the sort of thing that one should be eased into after getting a chance to mow down some orcs, not have forced upon them in their first playing sessions.

You'd think I'd have had that figured out already. Sometimes you know something, but it still takes a little epiphany to make it really click.

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