I played BECMI instead of AD&D 2e (which I now know is what that was). I missed 3e, 3.5, Pathfinder and 4e and only returned at 5e. So I’m not very qualified to chart the evolution of D&D – DM David has a good history of it and talked with SlyFlourish about it.
I’ve also talked about the changes between BECMI and 5e already.
Instead, I’ll look at the evolution of my game. It has certainly changed from how I played as a teenager (which was just hack, slash, gain XP, gain treasure, level up, repeat).
When I restarted D&D, I started running a game for my family – wife, daughter and son. I could tell my wife wouldn’t be interested in hack-and-slash, so I pulled out all the stops to try to make it interesting in other ways. I’ve also changed over the past 30 years, and I want something a bit richer, more story and less gratuitous bloodshed. I introduced an assortment of posters in the pub, some of which led to potential adventures. Characters who appeared in Castle Caldwell then appeared in Threshold as well, and other characters started reappearing, so that it could feel more real. Clifton Caldwell developed into a character rather than just a name, and gained a family, a business and staff.
I tried my first mystery-style adventure, thinking that would give more role-play opportunity, and had one of their new friends as one of those captured. After a while my wife found asking the same questions of different characters rather repetitive, so she tried rapping to a guard to try to persuade him to let them in. He wasn’t impressed but I was.
We also had a chase through town with complications – lifted straight from the 5e DMG. I also developed areas of Threshold, including developing Fogor Isle as the rough area and drawing up a large version of the map.
They went cross-country and went on a rescue mission for horses that had been stolen by orcs. By this time I had the Wilderness Tiles, and made up an area for the orc camp using them – my wife said it made a huge difference for her in understanding what was going on. Theatre of the mind doesn’t work so well if (like her) you don’t have a mind’s eye…
And that was where I realised I was fighting a losing battle trying to make it interesting for my wife and daughter and abandoned trying to get them into it.
Then I discovered ORC Edinburgh and started organising regular sessions without involving/relying on my family. Another break with tradition to have a hobby which didn’t involve my wife.
With the new group, I carried on developing Threshold – Clifton Caldwell became more developed and became a patron, and they started finding their way around the town. They also discovered and cleared out the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands near the mountain pass between Threshold and Verge, and went back and forth between there and Threshold. They gradually expanded to include Verge, and were ambushed by gnolls on a winding mountain road using Heroic Maps’ geomorphs. The storyline was growing from the module into my own campaign.
In parallel, I started another campaign in Darokin, and this was my first storyline which I had completely developed myself; I discovered I had done too good a job of selling the end battleground, since they decided to go straight there rather than following the roundabout path and picking up the pieces of an artefact first, so I was caught completely on the hop and tried filling using modules from DriveThruRPG…do people really find these useful?
Then came the rescue campaign, which I based on Hoard of the Dragon Queen to save preparation time…but couldn’t help tweaking and making it mine, and also found that I still need to do a fair bit of preparation to run someone else’s module well…
Thinking back, I’ve learned a lot, and certainly evolved quite a bit, particularly since I was a teenager, but even in the last couple of years since starting a regular campaign.
- I am much more interested in developing the world and the background than before, and I definitely want to be able to control the overall story arc, even if it’s up to the characters to fill in the details.
- I have (re-)gained the confidence to create my own sessions and adventures for a regular campaign, and I much prefer that now to using someone else’s pre-packaged…though I’m very happy to borrow ideas…
- I have started using dungeon tiles, and then moved away again to simple sketches on perspex (plexiglas) over my Chesser grid since it’s quicker to sketch something out than find the right tiles (one of these years I must make some sort of index…).
- I have evolved my campaign tracker, session tracker and monster tracker.
- I have moved from BECMI to 5e…and then started tweaking it.
- I have gone out to look for players who I didn’t know before, and made new friends as a result.
- I have discovered how bad I am at regional UK accents other than Scots. I can do Scots, and even different regions of Scots (though my daughter always cringes), and I can do French and German, but not Cockney, Estuary English or Welsh, for example. Nor does my Italian work very well – I’ll need to work on that since that’s my signature accent for Darokin…
- I have discovered how much I seem to know, and become much more comfortable at playing by feel rather than by ruleset. In fact, I’m getting so that I’m uncomfortable if I am having to go to the rules of specific new 5e features – it slows down the whole session, and I feel I have to allow people what’s in RAW for their class/race unless I’ve already ruled differently, but they tend to have generous interpretations of the rules, and some of the real 5e rules seem so powerful after BECMI I don’t trust the interpretation until I’ve seen it for myself.
I wonder how much further my playing style will have evolved by next year’s #RPGaDay.
Tomorrow we have “Connection”.