söndag 22 mars 2015

First post

I've been playing RPGs for close to 25 years, and I started following the old school D&D blogs a bit over five years ago. Since then I've made some abortive attempts at blogging; this is supposed to be a new start. My purpose is mainly to organize my own campaign material, and also as an experiment to see if I can actually get some followers. I'm going to be writing in English even though it's not my primary language, mainly to get a broader audience but also as an exercise.

The other night I ran a simple dungeon adventure with three players. It was a very simple setup: They woke up in an underground cell and needed to find their way out. During a few hours of play they explored a bit of the dungeon, searching for an exit. They fought some monsters and triggered some traps, made some wise decisions, made some poor decisions (like firing into a melee), made a few poison saves, found some treasure. They learned why they were there (kidnapped by thieves to be sold alive to Valusian snakemen), found an ally (a thief who survived the ensuing massacre when the business deal with the snakemen went south) and accepted his offer to lead them out.

It all went pretty well, I thought. But a few hours before the session, I didn't. I had a map ("Portion of underworld beneath the city of Zargosa"), and the scenario premise ("Kidnapped by thieves to be sold to snakemen") and some notes about what was to be found in some of the rooms. But there were probably 50 rooms on my map that lacked a description. I didn't really know what to put in them. And I thought that maybe I wouldn't be able to keep up my player's interest for three hours.

How do you make a dungeon interesting? I really don't know. I'm still learning. I've always felt that they could be, it's just that the RPG- and LARPing culture that I encountered in Sweden during the late -90's/early -00's did their best to discourage me of that notion. "Killing monsters in cave systems was something we did when we were kids; mature roleplaying is about storytelling and complex character interaction", something like that. Or maybe that's just the way that I perceived things.

Anyway, encountering the OSR was something of a vindication of my beliefs. A lot of people were apparently having a lot of fun exploring dungeons, and not only were they doing that but they also were using rules that were quite far removed from the nightmare of arithmetic and people-spending-15-minutes-per-combat-round-arguing-about-the-best-way-to-position-their-miniatures-on-the-combat-grid that was my experience of D&D 3.5.

So since then I've read a LOT of blogs and even GM-d a few times, but I haven't had the time to run a regular campaign. Maybe I still don't, but I intend to find out through trial and error. In the meantime, I have to come up with adventures for my players.

The one big eye opener that I got from reading OSR-blogs wasn't really that dungeons are fun; like I said, I already knew that. It was really this: The rules don't tell you how to play. And it almost made me kick myself, because it's so simple when someone points it out to you. I used to think that there was something central lacking in my understanding of how you were supposed to play an RPG, despite having done so on and off for 20-odd years. I used to pour over the "how to be a story teller" chapters in White Wolf's rulebooks, trying to find some answer to the question of how to be a perfect GM. Like I hadn't been providing my own answer to that question since I was 13.

And it occurred to me as the hour drew near that the same answer still  applies when you sit and try to run an old school-style D&D game: "You invent the fucking game yourself." Pardon my Klatschian. And the invention's not a precision clock, it's Frankenstein's monster. You stitch together a bunch of illicitly obtained bodyparts, run a lightning current through it and laugh maniacally as it comes to life. You put some stuff together and see what happens. If your players don't like it, you'll notice. If you don't have fun, you'll notice. It's not that hard. The hard part's in not making it harder for you than you have to.

Anyway, as I was preparing the other night I discovered a bunch of prepwork that I had laying around from previous sessions. Among them a list of 30-odd dungeon rooms that I apparently thought could come in handy. Consider this an IOU on the Joesky tax. This post was just a warming up exercise, I'll try and stick to primarily posting gaming material.