Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 9:04 PM
I spent my last blog post talking about how in the run-up to D&D Next, people were often aruging less about rules and more about their remembrances.
Then I spent a few days actually reading forum posts here at WoTC, EndWorld, and RPGNet, and realized that, nope, people actually were vehemently arguing about rules. Their idealized version of the rules, or their obscure, bizarre interpretations of the rules, leading to inane discussions that say plenty about the state of the hobby and those gamers who bring their pitchforks and torches to the internet, and less about the actual state of D&D itself. The I want to play D&D, but I don't believe in classes or levels sort of arguments. People are tossing around terms (quadratic wizards and linear fighters) as if these were discussions of national security or geopolitics. At this point I imagine the current designers are regretting their decision to even engage in the current discussions or reveal some of their proposed plans, because every utterance is dissected with a rhetorically sharp scalpel.
I think it's pretty clear that the designers shouldn't give us the game we actually ask for, because by and large we have no idea what we really want, but we sure can tell someone else what they can't have.
And it's not like there aren't a million and one versions of D&D-games. Instead of arguing about what D&D doesn't have, maybe some of these warriors should just migrate to a game that gives them what they want. Or even better yet, design it and get their friends to play it with them, and if it's succesful, maybe they've won the fight after all.
I have to admit. I don't get it. I really don't. The anger, the despair, the you've lost me forever if you do, or don't do, x diatribes. I love the game, always have, but whatever the rules are, once they're in my hands, I've always made them my own. I've never needed to convince anyone else they had to do it my way, and I never had to argue with someone about why they didn't.
D&D has always been my game. I always just ran it the way I enjoyed the best, framed with whatever the current rules were, and have always been fortunate enough to find people who agreed with me. The rules have always had different iterations and different designers, but at my table, in the depths of my dungeons and in the middle of my far-flung campaigns, it's always been my game.
I've never relied on anyone to design my fun...
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 7:03 PM
A few weeks ago I had prepared a long blog post about D&D Next, and the profusion of posts I had seen on RPG forums by people who were already prepared to dismiss, rather vehemently, (and in my mind, foolishly) the next iteration of D&D based only on a few possible rules or on some proposed ideas, because they were already certain it wasn’t their version of D&D. However, after rereading it and admiring my acid-tongued wit, I shelved it and went on to do some prep work on my current game.
Because, after thinking about, I’ve come to believe the issue isn't whether the new version of the game uses THACO, or Vancian spellcasting, or an AEDU power scheme; or whether Gnomes are in the core, or how Rituals are explained, whether the skill list is long or short, or if Rogues have Sneak Attack or Back Stab. The “splitting” or fragmentation of the D&D community over "editions" isn’t based on rules, or any particular edition, it’s rather based on remembrances. All everyone wants to do is recapture the feeling they had when they were first introduced to the fantasy world that is D&D – that first year of playing, those first characters, those first adventures. And while for a lot of us, that was a long time ago (thus, the rise of the old school clones and a fondness for the original modules), for others, it was 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th edition. Thus, the edition you were first truly introduced to, -and- the time period in which you first learned to play and enjoyed the game, is and always will be the "truest" D&D to you.
With D&D Next I believe the designers will do a good job of capturing the best rules of all the eras of D&D, and probably will be able to give us a version that beats with the unique heart of what has always made the first role playing game special, but there is nothing they are going to be able to do, with rules or advice or modules, to give you or me back that first, best D&D experience. In my case, it was those crappy dice I had, those goofy childhood friends I played with, those wildly imbalanced characters and those “homemade” magic weapons and those silly house rules which made so much sense then but are ridiculous now. No version of the rules will allow me again to sit on a Saturday night in my friend’s basement for 12 hours, trying to live through the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (although the current DDi article is great) while listening to Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
Whatever form the new rules take, they’re not going to be a time machine.
All that being said, I know from PAX East one of the things they are trying to do is shorten the expected game time – you know, get through a dungeon in a hour or so, and maybe a whole campaign in a couple of months, and I do think that is a good thing. I know I can’t spend 12 hours in a basement every weekend anymore, and although I love the concept of a long, ongoing campaign, the reality of my life is that those sorts of epic gaming arcs and sessions are simply out of reach. It doesn’t I mean I don’t long for that, or think fondly on the times when I was younger and could commit to, or create such opportunities, but it does mean I’m realistic about what I can give to the game now.
And that sums up my attitude about any new edition of D&D - I'm also realistic about what the game can offer or give back to me. New rules, different rules, different art, better packaging, more playtesting. Sure - I can expect all of that. I've been playing for over 30 years, and I've seen it all in some measure with each new version or iteration of D&D, yet, somehow I've had great games with all of them. But none of them have been able to capture the milieu of when I first learned to play - those summers in the basement and the joy of first flipping through the books and struggling to learn arcane rules I can barely remember now - and no future editions will give me back those experiences, no matter what rules they have.
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Monday, January 9, 2012, 8:11 PM
...a new edition of D&D is on the way.
This is interesting, but not terribly unexpected news. As I said before (actually, in the post just below), I'm not sure I really need any more rulesets. However, I will watch with great anticipation like everyone else, and I'll join the playtest and I'll buy it when it hits the shelves. I've had a blast running 4E, and have been running campaigns as deep and immersive as any that I've ever run in any version of D&D. I like the 4E system, but then again, I've liked all of the versions of D&D, because, well they're D&D, even though I've never been blind to their faults. I do believe in supporting the most recent iteration, because I believe that helps support the businesses that support our rather unique hobby. Will it be the iteration I play most? I don't know, but I'll be rooting for it to be a huge success. Just like I root for Goodman Games' DDC, Rule of Cool's Legend, and a host of others. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the strength and popularity of D&D - and therefore WoTC -is often that tide.
No one's asked me, but here are a few things I wouldn't mind being considered going forward:
One thing 4E got right was DM prep - one page monster sheets with everything I need to run said monster right there, easily laid out without external reference, is key. I don't want to have to -study- and annotate my monsters before playing to figure what they do.
Tactial 4E combat was great, but I have to admit - I'm little worn out on the emphasis on a grid. I would like to be able to play without grids and minis and all those things. Hell, do away with a lot of that range/movement related stuff period. Make it three rings: Close, Medium, Far (like guys who are in "close", slugging it out with swords and axes, and those who always want to be "far" back from melee, lobbing in arrows). You can move and make a melee attack against any creature in the same ring as you, or one "ring" away at a small penalty. It takes two move actions to get to anything two rings away, but you forfeit your standard action to get there. Ranged attacks can hit any ring. You can have Medium burst attacks that hit enemy in that ring/range, etc. All of this is off the top of my head, but anything that steamlines movement, range, etc., but still allows you to play with some positioning without resorting to minis is fine by me. We do this all the time in our superhero games.
I really liked the 4E Essentials builds. I hope something like them stay, and I always felt if 4E had started with that sort of class structure (basic attacks, stances, and the way the arcane/divine classes were presented) then it might not have been as divisive. I think the AEDU system is cool, and it never bothered me, but there is an elegance and ease to the Essentials builds. I loved the Essentials Hexblade. I also liked the regular 4E concept of the Warlord class, and would like to see that carried forward.
I really hope the Player "mini game" of tweaking and optimizing their characters by turning dials on their "builds" is tossed aside. That means less feats and all that stuff. I would rather characters be differentiated by their class/race, their in-play characterization, and yes, the magic items they have (which a DM can monitor and control), then all of the hardwired character op stuff that Players have access to by cherry-picking feats and paragon classes, etc.
I'm sure there are other things I could think of, but I imagine we'll all have months to throw our hats and opinions in the ring. It seems like they (the designers) hope to please all of the people all of the time - an edition that bridges them all - and I can't even begin to imagine how that is possible, but I'll enjoy watching them try...
...and be cheering them on all the way.
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Sunday, January 8, 2012, 9:41 AM
I had to wrestle with a lot of changes over the last part of 2011; I was transferred across country - an interesting change - but one that required a lot of work. That being said, before I moved my group (The Bannerlands) was able to wrap up our Epic 4E Campaign, and since I've settled in Virginia, we've moved our gaming to the VTT - a new sand-box campaign set in Dol-Thamar. It's been a bit of a slow start, as we've had to get through the holidays and learn the VTT interface itself, but it's promising, and for someone who has played face-to-face D&D for over 30 years (and quite frankly prefers its), I do think it has the possibility to keep a good group like mine together, when the threat of moves and relocations would otherwise spell the end of it. I like the guys I play with, and want to keep telling the stories we've been sharing.
Of course, the end of the year brings the requisite lay-offs at WoTC, and more recently there have been the articles in The Escapist, and Ryan Dancey's comments on EnWorld. It's all more of the "end of the world" talk, and although some of it is interesting (and Dancey does provide some fascinating insight into the workings of the PnP RPG industry), I've found myself loathing it more than usual. It always surprises me when gamers fail to understand that their hobby is someone else's profession or business, and that business decisions have to be made in order for books and games and whatnot to flow out into our hands. Sometimes those decisions are good, sometimes they're not, but it's pretty clear if you lurk through the message boards, those decisions are guaranteed to upset someone.
One of the things I think Dancey (but let's be honest, it's not like he's an uninterested observer in all of this) was particularly compelling on was his talk about social networks, and that the real trick with PnP RPGs is developing a group of people who will actugally get together, stay together, and play them. I'm not presenting a full picture of his argument here, but my gist is that the strength and weakness of our hobby stems from any one person having a live and consistent group to play with. I think that's true, and it's one of the reasons I've tried to always keep an active group together, because often I can convince them to try a game, any game that has struck my fancy, if we've already been gaming together (in our preferred system of a choice) for a while.
Here's the thing, no matter what happens, all of us have enough game "rules" to last a lifetime, in about any genre we could imagine. I actually don't need WoTC or Paizo or Green Ronin- I have their rules, multiple iterations of them in fact, as well as lots of free rule sets on the Web. I really don't need the RPG business to survive as a market commodity (although I want it to, because I love buying that stuff!) - what I need are RPG players - people willing to sit down with me and try PnP RPGs, and that can be much harder to find.
That's why it amazes me that people are so vitriolic decrying one game system or another, or that they spend as much time as they do hand-wringing and worrying and lashing out. They think they're attacking a set of rules, or better, a company, but what they are really attacking is another gamer - they're attacking our hobby. I don't care whether you're playing Pathfinder or 4E, whether you're playing BASH or ICONs, Traveller or Alternity. As long as you're playing something, and introducing others to the concept of PnP RPGs, then I am rooting for you. If some spent less time trying to convince others what not to play, and more time positively introducing people to RPGs period, I think the hobby would be healthier.
I applaud all the efforts by any company to broaden the audience for PnP RPGs. Are they all the attempts I would make if I were the head of things? Nah, probably not, but that doesn't matter. They're a business - they want to survive - and I think they know that surviving means not just selling books, but selling an idea - a hobby. Surviving and succeeding means creating a RPG hobbyist that will carry his/her enthusiasm forward to others.
So, I'm down on our hobby right now. Not because of what the industry is or is not doing, not because of the fear that new editions are on the way or because there's a perceived schism in the community or because of any decision by any company at all - simply because of some of the gamers in our hobby themselves.
It would be nice if people focused more on the games they play and positively introducing people to the RPG hobby we love, than wasting time arguing and debating over the RPG business itself.
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Monday, April 4, 2011, 9:57 PM
Where I reference Charlie Sheen, the NCAA tournament, and D&D all in one blog post…
I’ve been DMing D&D for 30 years; from nearly the first moment I was introduced to the game and picked up a twenty-sided die, I’ve spent the preponderance of my gaming time on the DM’s side of the screen. This wasn’t always my first choice, but rather necessity borne of two realities. First, in order to keep playing the game I loved, I often had to shoulder the DM duties: it was always easier to entice my friends to play if I did most of the work! And second, the few other DMs I gamed with generally sucked; so much so, it was simply more fun to run the game myself than endure those miserable sessions. It’s not to say I couldn’t find an occasional one-off game that was okay, but it was - and although 4E is easier to DM than any edition, I think it still remains - exceedingly hard to find someone with the energy, enthusiasm, and ability to run an engrossing weekly, campaign-based game (my preference).
Make no mistake, maintaining a campaign is hard work. D&D is a game, and the DM’s “side” is pretty thankless. Those who choose to play the “DM” are often frustrated novelists, control freaks, or simply the guy who actually bought the books and has the most miniatures. In older style games the DM position tended to be more “adversarial” – where the DM hoped to outwit, out think, or out survive the Players - although I think that type of play is no longer en vogue. Instead, the DM now is expected to get his game enjoyment predominantly from the narrative he weaves with and for the Players, and from the tools he uses to stitch that narrative together: hanging plot hooks, drawing maps, creating new monsters, making up new artifacts, etc. The “game” is not about the DM besting the Players or vice versa, but rather about the DM and Players cooperatively creating a compelling and interesting narrative; after all, how many times have you heard someone say that you can’t really win or lose an RPG, it’s simply about telling a great adventure story?
So, in this vein, although it’s difficult to say whether I have been a “great DM”, I have been a dedicated one. I diligently put in the work with all the tools I mentioned above, and I considered myself “old school” tough but fair. Yet, I was absolutely a modern “Michael Bay” DM as well; if something could explode, it did. Everything “erupted” and “oozed” and it’s as if every creature was strung on wires and every object was filled with gas and napalm. I thought of each adventure as a movie without a budget, and schemed accordingly. Every scene was filmed from a helicopter and every set piece had a huge tracking shot. Adverbs and adjectives dangled from my plot hooks, and I sought both to challenge and entertain the Players. I hoped that every time Players walked away from one of my campaign sessions, they had been amazed by the sights and sounds. My enjoyment from being a DM was often derived from the fact that my Monsters were formidable, that my Encounters were devious and creative, and that my Players knew (without a doubt) that they were in the presence of a DM who really cared about his game and put in a lot of energy and effort.
In effect, I wanted to “wow” them with my creativity and cleverness, and as long as my story was interesting, and my Encounters ruthless and exciting, complex and devious, then regardless of the outcome, we were all having fun. I mean, after all, it’s wasn’t about the winning and losing, it was about the story…
And then for the first time in an extremely long time, I had the chance to simply sit back and be a Player. A full-fledged Player, running not one, but two PCs!
I’ve been managing my most recent ongoing Campaign for a couple of years, and one of my old friends, who I’ve gamed with for 20 years, had the opportunity to join up, and offered to run a huge adventure for a few months so I could actually take a break and just play. I knew my friend was a good DM, and I was excited beyond measure. I drew up a Paragon Essentials Slayer (“Bloody Bad” Dray) and an Essentials Mage (Dayereth Dust) and, excited by all of their abilities and features, settled back to enjoy the “other side of the screen”.
And, my friend was every bit as good a DM as I knew he would be. The Adventure was interesting and clever, the monsters were extremely hard and fought with superior, realistic, tactics, and the Encounters were full of detail, color, and “cool things”. And yet, as each battle got harder and each Monster more difficult, as they Story grew more involved and the set pieces got more elaborate…as I struggled to wring out every bit of effectiveness I could out of Dray and Dust, something happened…I didn’t just want to experience this amazing Story we were all creating, I actually wanted to win the damn thing. So, as an example, it suddenly mattered to me whether Dray was Dazed or not, because I really wanted to use one of his opportunity action abilities (which he couldn’t while Dazed). Thus, while it was awesome that the monster that had Dazed him was incredibly described, had “hand-crafted” powers, and was generally “cool” beyond all measure – as I sat there fumbling with dice I couldn’t use, I grew desperate to show how “cool” my character was as well, and to feel like I was effecting the battle and helping my Party. And as we had more and more Encounters with admittedly awesome and diabolic creatures that also could Daze pretty much at will, I began to feel more and more frustrated as a whole suite of Dray’s abilities were turned off and useless.
Each fight was spectacularly well-planned. The monsters were clever; they were thematically appropriate, and they used realistic and brutal tactics. They were truly monstrous…and as a Player I began to hate them every time they appeared, because I knew that my character would be next to useless.
Similarly, I loved Dust’s ability to control and manipulate the battlefield. Yet, most of his big Dailies had Save Ends effects. And in our most desperate of fights, when we needed those powers the most, the creatures always saved against those effects…always (more on this below). While it made those fights into nail-biters (and well, into some outright defeats also), from my perspective as a Player, they were also disheartening. Dust was not cool, or awesome, or amazing…he was simply failing and losing…albeit, losing spectacularly.
Slowly (and brutally), it dawned on me. It didn’t matter whether the battle was “exciting and dramatic” – that it was occurring on a huge precipice with flaming arcs of lava and sentient chains that whipped from the ceiling. As a Player, rolling a miss on a critical Encounter power, flatlining a Daily, constantly being Dazed or Stunned – these things simply sucked, and would have sucked just as much as if the Encounter had occurred in a 20’ x 20’ room with blank walls. Thus, while the Narrative itself could be “exciting”, the Game part – you know, the part where you actually have to roll dice and succeed at something, well, that part could be underwhelming. I would wait for my turn, it would finally come around, I would creatively describe and then launch into my best attack, only to roll a…2! What the hell? I would then inevitably mutter “uhhmm, I guess I missed”, and then flip my Attack Power card over. I found it hard to enjoy the DM’s cleverness, during those times I was frustrated by my PC’s failures.
Look at this way - the run of VCU through the NCAA tournament was exciting; it was a great narrative that the media was eager to seize on (commentators love to find a “story”, a human element that the viewer can relate to). And as VCU “killed” more Giants, that narrative was even more compelling. Yet, none of those teams that lost to VCU reveled in the fact that they were part of one of the tourney’s true “feel good stories”…they’re never going to look back fondly at the tournament and the VCU Final-Four run. So while they were part of the VCU narrative – a great collegiate sports story if there ever was one – in the end, it wasn’t their story. For those teams, it was and always will be, just a brutal loss.
Let me stop just a second and address the obvious protest – I am not suggesting that a DM never test PCs, or that Players never experience frustration or defeat, or that every fight or Encounter is an automatic “win”. But as a DM it’s important to remember the “game” part of an RPG; the part that does involve chance and the (often) binary result of success/failure, and it's this part that gives an RPG its tension and makes it more than just a collective exercise in ad-libbed story telling. As a DM I never cared when my Monsters missed or fell or failed – I had hundreds more and none of them individually mattered; they were only there to challenge the PCs. But as a Player, failing often over the course of a game night or over several critical Encounters did matter - and I was reminded just how little one could enjoy the story, when a big part of that story involved the PCs falling flat on their faces. Just as much as a any good DM should occasionally challenge PCs weaknesses, they can and should also play to their strengths as well. It’s not just that Monsters and Encounters are designed to be a challenge, they are also designed to be overcome…
Here’s the thing, people rankle at comparing RPGs to a videogames, but there is a common denominator: people don’t fire up a videogame hoping to lose, planning to fail, or never expecting to get to the end of the story or the final boss battle. They want to win, and I think Players in RPGs want to “win” as well. Sure, they hope the story is engrossing, but at the end of day, what they really want to do is have their PCs succeed in using their unique and cool abilities, defeating the monsters and obstacles, freeing the princess, finding the gold, and simply being, well, awesome. As Charlie Sheen has said, they all want to have that Adonis DNA; the warlock brain, the tiger blood, and the titanium spine!
Having DM’d for so long, I think I had lost sight of that. I thought we were all having fun if my Adventure and Encounters were amazing and my Monsters incredibly challenging, but it was less about my efforts to “wow” the Players from my side of the screen, and more about the ability of the Players to “wow” themselves on their side. I think it’s also important to not view the DM and Player divide so starkly; after all, I guess I have a PC as well: his Class is DM, and his Role is Creator. And his Feats and Powers are all designed to help, in some nicely subtle ways, the other PCs be awesome.
None of this is to detract from my friend’s DMing – this really isn’t about his particular Adventure or some of the difficult Encounters we faced. It was an exceptional Adventure that I would jump back into in a heartbeat. It’s just that I had forgotten how it feels to roll the dice from the Player’s side, and how unforgiving and brutal those dice rolls could be. How it's easy for a a good DM to challenge (or hamstring) a Party, but how hard it can be to simultaneously stop congratulating yourself on such cleverness, and support the Party as well. It takes an extremely deft touch to both challenge the Players and simultaneously root for their success, definitely easier said than done. But during my stint as Bloody Bad Dray and Dust, I was reminded that I want my Players to enjoy our Game because their PCs are ultimately winners, not because I am a creative or clever DM.
I returned to the DM’s chair a few weeks ago, and this past Sunday the Players were engaged in a knock-down, drag-out, DEFCON 4 battle. Things were exploding, blood was flowing – my creatures were fast and smart, my terrain interesting, my tactics clever. If I could have reasonably tossed in a helicopter (in Arvandor, no less), I would have. The best moment came, however, not when my monsters pulled off a fiendishly clever tactic, or I described in amazing technicolor detail the give and take of the battle, but rather when the PCs circled together and took out one of the main creatures with some great tactics, better die rolls, and a Critical Hit. The Players all high-fived and clapped each other on the back, chortling with glee at their success - and in the spirit of Dray and Dust, I found myself cheering right along with them Although they may never remember my descriptions, my tactics, or the specifics of what I did as a DM for that Encounter, my Players will remember what their own PCs did, and that for me means we were all winning.
As already noted, it’s not hard to challenge a PC’s weakness. Yet, it can be just as fun to play to their strengths. Here are some practical suggestions for a night of “winning”:
Just my thoughts. And oh year, here’s a few others;
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Thursday, April 22, 2010, 3:38 PM
I was in my Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) the other day (which in truth is a comic store that carries other games – the general trend), and noticed that the Role-Playing section had been dramatically scaled back. Where there used to be Mutants and Masterminds (natch), Dark Heresy, Call of Cthulu, and a sprinkling of other games (Cortex system, etc.) there was now only D&D 4E and some Pathfinder. Knowing the owner well, we talked about it as I flipped through some comics, and he admitted that the sales simply were not there for those other games; they couldn’t “pay for their” shelf space. And, he added, that was even given that his sales goals for those RPGs were extremely modest. Nevertheless, when I told him that I was going to GenCon, he told me to keep my eye out for the next big “RPG breakout”, and he would make sure he got it into the store…at least for a while.
But I think we all know there won’t be another big pen and paper (PnP) RPG “breakout”. Those games - as a genre - are obsolete, a niche interest of those who grew up with them (kind of like 70’s oriented radio stations). There is D&D (and to a much lesser extent, Pathfinder) to serve as the “face” of PnP RPGs, and then there is, well….those games we’ve all purchased that sit on our shelves, that we meet once a year at GenCon to play, or that we scour the Internet looking for like-minded souls to talk about
And here’s the thing, it’s not necessarily that RPGs are dead, it’s just the definition and availability has changed over time. World of Warcraft and other computer/video games have redefined RPGs for a modern audience and the 21st century. For many of us who grew up playing tabletop RPGs in their heyday (the 70s and early 80s), we often don’t really consider these forms of games “true” RPGs – they are not a good substitute for 5 friends around a table and the visceral aspects of character sheets, dice and the like - but for most people, they’re close enough. With computer and game console RPGs, you get a homogeneous, easy-to-learn experience that can be played at almost any time to accommodate any schedule, backed by the best “special effects” money can buy. Frankly, the PnP experience as it is routinely encountered can seem, well, pretty mundane, compared to that.
The fact is, a really successful and entertaining PnP RPG experience can be hard to craft and execute, and requires a good and dedicated DM/GM etc. D&D 4E has made a better effort than any version of D&D, maybe any PnP RPG, to make the “job” of being a DM more accessible (notice I didn’t say easier, because “easy” is simply a slim matter of degree for a hobby that isn’t that easy to begin with), but my anecdotal evidence (accumulated from conventions, game stores, the Internet, and games I’ve tried to join) is that there are very few really good DMs out there. We’re often a cadre of frustrated novelists, control freaks, or self-aggrandizing “game designers” who our own worst enemies whenever we try to promote and advocate the hobby we enjoy so much. And if we hadn’t grown up playing these games, there’s very little chance we would tolerate the idiosyncrasies of our own hobby. Thus, for someone who in their 20s or 30s gets a less than stellar first introduction to PnP RPGing, they often return back to the modern format that they find more accessible, stimulating, and simply qualitatively better – the computer/game console.
That’s why later this year Wizards of the Coast is making even more of a concerted effort with some D&D 4E products to really target a newer, younger audience; because they understand if you don’t get them interested in PnP games when they’re young, you’re likely never to do it, because the RPG options (for those who are predisposed to enjoy that sort of thing to begin with) are so much expansive and high-quality than they were even 15 years ago.
My history with RPGs is probably no different than others in my age range. A friend showed me D&D when I was 11 or 12 years old, and I got the basic boxed set and introduced it to my 3 best friends in the neighborhood. I picked up the hard-back AD&D books when they were available, and we spent the summers playing (hanging out in my parents’ basement listening to “Baker Street”). I loved the idea of RPGs, and since there were no real alternatives (as the actual dawning of the PC was still a few years away and game consoles were limited at best), we threw ourselves into the only real form of that type escapist entertainment that we had. Every now and then I would even buy some new RPGs (Gamma World, Boot Hill, Aftermath, Villains and Vigilantes, Champions) and we would all learn them together as well; not having any idea how “bad” at playing these games we might or might not be, or how lousy a GM or DM I was. And the truth is, my friends probably played these games more because they were my friends and enjoyed hanging out with me, and less because they were “true gamers” (like I am) at heart. Thus, I alone carried the “torch” on into college, and luckily found a few more like-minded (or open-minded) friends there, and hammered out a way even through moves, a career, marriage, and children to keep sporadically involved in my hobby until the Internet gave me a “safe harbor” to really connect with others who still cared about PnP RPGs. But over the intervening years, all those high school and college friends I introduced to PnP RPGs moved on - they all play MMOs, or console RPGs, and the like, but their later (read: late adult life) attempts at PnP gaming were unsatisfying. The rules seemed too unwieldy, the DMs too difficult, the logistics of getting a group of similar people together too complicated. It’s not that they still didn’t enjoy the idea of RPGs, it’s just that the passage of time had taken away some of their accessibility, but had in return created plenty of acceptable alternatives.
And these were guys who grew up with me playing pen and paper RPGs! Imagine trying to get someone who never has had that youthful experience to invest in such an enterprise now. Of all of us, I was the only one who really kept my hands in the hobby. And curiously, I’m the only one who doesn’t enjoy computer, console, or online games. If I am going to RPG, it’s going to be around a table, with dice, and with other people.
There will always be others like me, but our ranks are thinning fast. So who is there to really buy and teach, and thus create, a “breakout” PnP role-playing game? If one comes from anywhere, it’ll probably have to be a licensed property that is aimed squarely at and for kids (such as a Harry Potter RPG, which might have been successful a few years ago), but beyond that…? There are great adult PnP RPGs still being made: Eclipse Phase, the Dark Heresy stuff, etc., but each year I see fewer announced, and those that do arrive often sink fast without a trace. There are not enough of us gamers to sustain them for long, and they’re not being targeted, taught or introduced to kids young enough to really buy into them for the future. Thus, there isn’t fertile soil for a new PnP RPG resurgence to take hold in, and thus almost no chance for a PnP game to explosively grow. But maybe WoTC will succeed – they’ll introduce a new generation of kids to PnP games through D&D 4E, and those kids will grow up with the hobby like I did, and then other table-top RPGs will have a chance to flourish as well.
Or pen and paper RPGs will go the way of answering machines. Who really has an answering machine anymore, or VHS tapes, or monochrome monitors, or even drives a stick-shift? There are better, easier, and more modern alternatives, and time has quietly and unmercifully passed those other options by…
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Thursday, March 11, 2010, 9:39 PM
Recently in our D&D Bannerlands Campaign, the Party traveled to the Feywild, where they encountered a “lost” traveler: a man who had been wandering that verdant realm for untold years, his original purpose and identity a mystery. As he had traveled, he had turned his body into a living “map” and lexicon, with Feywild landmarks and locations tattooed onto his skin. The Party was able to copy parts of this “map” to make their own: I anticipate it will be a useful guide as they continue to traverse that difficult and alien terrain.
Similarly, almost a year ago (real time), when the Party made a brief sojurn into the Shadowfell, they encountered a man seeking his lost love – another “far traveler” out of time and place – who bequeathed the characters a mechanical map, an artifice for travel and teleportation that they have used several times since.
Two “lost” worlds…two lost men…two maps…
This striking similarity has not occurred to the Players (yet), and if/when it does, I hope they don’t chalk it up to a simple surfeit of creativity on my part. Because in this campaign, the themes of lost kings, kingdoms, and travelers; of lost chances...of desperate people seeking redemption by finding their own personal “El Dorados” and using maps (both literally and figuratively) to guide them there, have all been woven into the fabric of the Campaign all along.
In fact, it's probably the entire reason for the Campaign.
To some extent, this revelation shouldn’t come as a surprise – when I moved into my new home (as a result of my divorce, and concurrent with the start of the Campaign) I began collecting and displaying old maps. Clearly, the Campaign’s themes of search and discovery were echoing a transition in my own life, where I’ve been forced to plot a new course through relatively uncharted terrain and waters. And the Campaign – anchored firmly in the “points of light” concept promoted in 4th Edition D&D - has become something of a “map” of my world and worldview as well…both my personal life and the Campaign are places where I am slowly but surely filling in some blank spots on the vellum; where before there had only been written - here there be monsters….
Of course, I don’t want to make this overly dramatic, after all, this is just a game we’re talking about. But although I willingly DM for the opportunity to play this great game, I know I truly enjoy DMing when I get to use the game to share a Story that interests me, or explore themes and problems that are on my mind. To that end, I like to lace the individual sessions and encounters with Campaign/Story “Easter Eggs”, and utilize this Community Blog and the Group forums to work on the shared Campaign history and narrative, drop hints and rumors, and flesh out those parts of the Story (as opposed to the game plot) that I want to share and that often get missed in the blur of our 4 hour Sunday meetings. In that sense, the “real” Story I’m creating/sharing/DMing often extends beyond the individual encounter and dungeons, beyond the plot, and beyond even the game table itself. And since I do all this to increase my own “payoff” for DMing, the Players can experience the game simply as a game, and never touch the real Story beneath its surface.
But for the few who do look deeper, there is plenty to find, and I get to share in those moments when the “light goes on”, and they finally see the borders and boundaries of the Story we’ve been mapping together all along...
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Monday, February 15, 2010, 10:46 AM
After a three month DMing hiatus, where I actually had the chance to just play in the world my gaming group and I have spent the last three years creating (and as an aside: I had a tremendous amount of fun with both a Half-Elf Cosmic Sorcerer and Shadar-Kai Spiked-chain wielding Assassin), I've picked up the reigns of The Bannerlands Campaign again. I used the opportunity while I was "off", however, to get Arc 3 of the Campaign plotted out, and came up with the following idea: the Quest Challenge: a Skill Challenge writ large. However, unlike a traditional Skill Challenge, which typically uses a series of Skill checks to resolve a single event, a Quest Challenge involves a series of events (i.e., quests - which can be comprised of Skill Challenge Quests, Adventure Quests, etc.) to resolve a larger Campaign plot. Just like a regular Skill Challenge, Quest Challenges are accomplished by the Success/Failure mechanic, but by choosing and attempting a Quest Challenge, the Players and their PCs are directly writing the future of the Campaign.
One of the things I really strive to do as a DM is get Player investment: find those things they want to do and give it to 'em. And as much as I like to "tell a story", the reality is, it's our game, and my story is worthless unless the Players acutally want to "read it". Therefore, even though I "seed" the game with all sorts of plots, hooks, rumors, etc., and typically do have an "overarching" theme or end-game storyline in my head, I try to take my cue on how we get there from my Players. That way, every Sunday when I sit down behind the screen, I know I am sitting in front of Players who are as entertained and interested in what I'm doing as I am in doing it.
Thus, I took all of the rumors, threads, NPCs, and plots I have hinted at or tossed out during the first two Arcs of the Campaign and compiled them in my master "Quest Challenge" offering. Since the PCs are mid-Paragon, they truly are in a position to participate in the "rebuilding" of our "version" of (Bael) Nerath if they so choose (and that's been one of the plots I have been toying with - the resurrection of the former Empire), and the Quest Challenge is our "roadmap" for doing that: it provides and combines plenty of Player choice (some harder to accomplish than others) with a tangible result: both Experience points and real participation in the Campaign narrative. Although the Quest Challenge presented here is hardwired into the lore and history of the Bannerlands Campaign, the mechanics are instructive for anyone who wants to plot or organize a Campaign this way.
Here's the Quest Challenge I printed up and handed to my group. It's a lot of information, but shows how I set it up. And as you will see at the end, I also gave the Players the ability to completely opt out of the Challenge(s), and provided them with other choices, all again drawn from the texture and history of our game:
HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS A CROWN: THE BANNERLANDS QUEST CHALLENGE
You’ve carved a place for yourself amidst the ruins of the Bannerlands: Al’Veydra has become your home, a safe haven, and a beacon in the darkness since Nerath’s fall. And yet, events have continued apace in the world beyond your walls – events that even now threaten the peace you’ve brought with your blades and bought with your blood.
In the west, Lord Hesrith Andelyn (called the Half-Eye, and now the self-proclaimed Mark of the Vale) is attempting to locate the heirs of the original six Nentirian noble Houses (one of which was House Reyar): houses that were crushed by the Grand King of Nerath during the War of the Robe and the subsequent Morrigu invasion. In the absence of an appropriate or confirmed heir, Lord Andelyn is invoking the ancient Nentirian “Rule of Leaves” which allows him to act as regent of those “crownless” Houses and gives him control of their lands, properties, and lieges until a new heir or House is named.. He wields a blade he claims is Blackweir, the lost sword of Gyrrin Nentir, the last Lord of The Vale, who was killed when Dal Avar was flooded by the arcanists of the Grand King during the War of the Robe. Thus, with both guile and force, Lord Andelyn is assembling a new Nentirian army, ostensibly to head off the threat of…
…a new Grand King. Within the ruins of Banner, Nerath’s former seat of power, a blind boy known as Gavilan has been identified as a surviving heir of House Nerath, and thus, the true Grand King. In a land that has remained plunged in chaos and darkness since the fall of its empire, this news has been greeted with joy (and some skepticism) by those towns and villages and remote hamlets that have struggled on alone and unprotected. A new Grand King means a rebirth of Nerath, along with its all of its attendant glory, prosperity, and safety. With word that the arcane college of Morvrey has approved and verified Gavilan’s heritage, and that the boy king has powerful allies and a swelling force of armed men drawn to his flag, the stage is set for a new War of the Robe: a battle between an independent Nentir Vale, and a resurrected (Bael) Nerath.
But if this weren’t enough, there are two more kings who would wear crowns…
…the Great Veyd, reincarnated Troll Warlord, whose kingdom once encompassed all of the Nentir Vale: where Humans and their ilk were used as slaves and fodder when Bael Nerath was nothing more than groups of squabbling bandits fighting over parched earth. Although his former sanctuary in the Trollhaunt Warrens lies abandoned, from his new lair in the Feywild, the ruthless Troll has his eyes set on the lands that were once the hunting grounds of Trollkin and their thralls…
…and Casava, the Ghoul Lord (The Blood Marrow), who has created a ghastly simulacrum of a kingdom in the remains of the Drow outpost, Cozule. Having taken control of the Undead left there (Undead created by the machinations of Dal-Morvrey the Void Lich and his Planar Helm), Casava has expanded his reach throughout the Underdark, drawing to him the restless Undead that lurk there, giving them a barrow kingdom under the earth…
Lord Hesrith Andelyn: Self-proclaimed Mark of the Vale
Rook: Former mercenary, warrior, and adventurer. Principle advisor to Lord Andelyn.
Marbryndan: Former adventurer who once spent time in Gant and knew Lord Andelyn when he was younger; recently appeared from a long sojurn in the HastwithDesert. Principle advisor to Lord Andelyn (has great authority due to their prior friendship, and is the main architect for the search for the Rings of Acarot – rings that Lord Andelyn plans to bequeath to the new leaders of the Six Houses).
The Six Houses: At the time of the War of the Robe, there were six main noble Houses in the Nentir Vale. House Nentir, House Andelyn, House Harken (of the Harkenweld), House Caine, House Gardmore, and House Reyar. Other than Hesrith Andelyn, only one other true heir (to date) has been found: Lady Lessa Caine.
Gavilan: The titular Grand King, the true heir of House Rath (the founders of Bael Nerath) and the last blood of Severis Rath.
Redleve Summoner: Redleve is the current head of the Arcane college, Morvrey; he has certified that Gavilan is the true blood of the last Grand King. Principle advisor to Gavilan, and presumed regent.
Torment: Former adventurer. Advisor to Gavilan.
Nestor’s Shield: Former adventuring party. Gavilan’s personal guard.
Addawyr of the Night: Former adventurer who had been solidifying his power and authority in the ruins of Banner. He has been pushed aside, but not deterred, by the rise of Gavilan.
The Great Veyd: Self-proclaimed Warlord of Veydra.
Curran Jep: Former resident of Al’Veydra. Advisor to the Great Veyd (teaches the Great Veyd about the current “world’ he has found himself reincarnated in).
Rain of Tears: Adult gray dragon. Ally of the Great Veyd.
Casava (The Blood Marrow): Former retainer of Galo Harken; he was killed during the failed wedding of Galo Harken and Elsa Reyar. Turned into a Ghoul and has spent the last two hundred years learning the Underdark tunnels beneath Shard Keep and Al’veydra.
Unlike a traditional Skill Challenge, which typically uses a series of Skill checks to resolve a single event, a Quest Challenge involves a series of events (i.e., quests - which can be comprised of Skill Challenge Quests, Adventure Quests, etc.) to resolve a larger Campaign plot. By choosing a Quest Challenge, you and your Companions are directly writing the future of the Bannerlands!
All Hail the (Grand) King
Excited by the prospect of (Bael) Nerath’s rebirth, you recognize Gavilan as the new Grand King and pledge him your blood and your blades!
4 Quest Challenge Successes before 3 Quest Challenge Failures
Success: As shown above, each individual Quest earns you a certain number of Quest Challenge successes (and unless otherwise noted, you earn one Quest Challenge Failure per failed Quest). Additionally some of the Quests also give direct “bonuses” to other Quests; bonuses to Skill Challenge Quests come in the form of direct plusses to the Primary Skill rolls; bonuses to Adventure Quests take the form of changed adversary composition, etc. If you’re successful at the “All the Hail the (Grand) King” Quest Challenge, you are considered subjects and protectors of the Grand King (with all the rights and responsibilities attached), succeed in garnering Nerath’s support and protection for Al’Veydra (which means you have allies to back down both the Great Veyd and Casava), and have input over the rise of the new Nerathi empire.
Failure: If you fail this version of the Quest Challenge, you’ve weakened Gavilan’s claim as Grand King, have strengthened Lord Andelyn’s position and added legitimacy to his call for the Nentir Vale’s independence, and have fanned the flames of a renewed War of the Robe.
And earned the enmity of Lord Andelyn’s Nentirian allies for both yourself…and Al’Veydra…
Don’t Tread on Me
Honoring the independence of the Nentir Vale, and suspicious of the claims of a new Grand King and those who support him, you heed the Mark of the Vale’s call!
6 Quest Challenge Successes before 3 Quest Challenge Failures
Success: As shown above, each individual Quest earns you a certain number of Quest Challenge successes (and unless otherwise noted, you earn one Quest Challenge Failure per failed Quest). Additionally some of the Quests also give direct “bonuses” to other Quests; bonuses to Skill Challenge Quests come in the form of direct plusses to the Primary Skill rolls; bonuses to Adventure Quests take the form of changed adversary composition, etc. If you’re successful at the “Don’t Tread on Me” Quest Challenge, you are considered protectors of the Nentir Vale (with all the rights and responsibilities attached), succeed in garnering Vale support and protection for Al’Veydra (which means you have allies to back down both the Great Veyd and Casava), and have input over the governance of the Nentir Vale.
Failure: If you fail this version of the Quest Challenge, you’ve broken Lord Andelyn’s claim as Mark of the Vale, have permanently undermined the Vale’s bid for independence, and positioned yourself (and Al’Veydra) as future enemies of the Grand King…
Plowshares into Swords
Unwilling to inflame a new War of the Robe, you declare Al’Veydra’s complete independence and raise your own new banner – creating your own kingdom!
8 Quest Challenge Successes before 3 Quest Challenge Failures
Success: As shown above, each individual Quest earns you a certain number of Quest Challenge successes (and unless otherwise noted, you earn one Quest Challenge Failure per failed Quest). Additionally some of the Quests also give direct “bonuses” to other Quests; bonuses to Skill Challenge Quests come in the form of direct plusses to the Primary Skill rolls; bonuses to Adventure Quests take the form of changed adversary composition, etc. If you’re successful at the “Plowshares into Swords” Quest Challenge, you have liberated Al’Veydra and the surrounding Grey Downs from either Vale or Nentirian control (with all the rights and responsibilities attached), have established yourselves as lords or kings of your new domain, and can rule as you see fit...
Failure: If you fail this version of the Quest Challenge, you’ve lost Al’Veydra’s bid for independence, and likely positioned yourself and Al’Veydra as mortal enemies of the Grand King and the Mark of the Vale…
BUT WHAT IF YOU DECIDE...
…that you don’t care about the politics of the Bannerlands? That’s perfectly fine as well, because there are two “alternate” Campaign arcs you can pursue…
Dungeons & Dragons™
Al’Veydra has been a fine home, and it will be a great place to visit, but the whole word still awaits…
Unwilling to make Al’Veydra your responsibility, and uninterested in the political turmoil in the Bannerlands, you strike out to “Far Horizons”, pursuing the Adventure and Treasure that made you adventurers to begin with. Some rumors that have caught your interest (as you recall, bits and pieces of some of these were first learned when you camped in Daven after battling the minions of Malachi the Mad Mage…)
Sail the Sea of Stars
Al’Veydra has been a fine home, and it will be a great place to visit, but the world(s) beyond the Vaer await It’s time to put the Helm in the Galleon (i.e, Al’Veydra’s Blade) and head into the Sea of Stars and the Well of Worlds….
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Friday, December 18, 2009, 5:18 PM
You’re slogging through the 14th level of the Crypt of Karashtos, deep beneath the flesh funnels and bone vaults, when you encounter a group of undead: a cabal of wraiths and blazing skeletons, flanked by zombie thralls and ghoul outriders. There’s no way around, and no way to negotiate, and although the creatures do not represent a huge threat to you and your heroic band, nevertheless, you have no choice but to fight your way through their rotting hands…
And you pull out the miniatures, the DM starts meticulously drawing the map, and a long, but necessary (or at least unavoidable) battle begins…Don’t get me wrong, I love 4th Edition D&D, and I absolutely love 4E combat, but the truth is – particularly at Paragon levels and above – even “simple” battles can take a while, eating up time in a game night that is probably already stretched. I think this is a positive reflection of the great underlying game mechanics and the wonderful tactical choices players have, but any way you slice it, these great combats slow down play, never more so than when you’re pretty sure of the outcome anyway. I’ve successfully replaced combat with true Skill Challenges, I’ve incorporated Skill Challenges directly into combat as a way of streamlining the process, I’ve tossed minions out as fodder (which also serve to make the PCs feel powerful), and I’ve simply hand-waved some affairs, but none of these has quite felt “right”, and I’m not sure they’ve accurately captured the resource management aspect of the game that combats/encounters are supposed to highlight. Clearly, it can be difficult to challenge higher level PCs, but one way I believe the game is designed to do that is through appropriate Encounter design and pacing – creating a constant tension between the Party’s resources (powers, healing surges) and those resources’ availability throughout an adventuring day.
So in thinking about this, I’ve created the “Combat Challenge” – which is a hybridized Skill Challenge that uses Combat modifiers rather than Skills, and allows a DM to “short hand” combat for those situations and areas when a real battle would logically be unavoidable, but the outcome is fairly certain (and when eliminating the combat and/or foes as a whole seems so obviously transparent). This type of challenge is designed to keep the Party (and game night) moving forward without worrying about maps, miniatures, etc; while still draining some resources and not cheating the PCs out of the vicarious thrill and tension of the fight!
Please note: Use at your own peril - this has not been play-tested, but please feel free to do so, and tell me if it works or what changes you might make. Again, this was designed principally for certain types of combat situations: like a long slog through Underdark tunnels or sewers, or racing through a huge dangerous forest; fundamentally, those situations which are “high conflict”, but (given the party level), “low threat”.
COMPLEXITY: A Combat Challenge can be any complexity, but typically a 4 or 5 works best.
DC: The DCs for the Combat Challenge are the defenses (AC, REF, FORT, and WILL) of the highest level creature in the combat, +2; or simply the creature with the best overall defenses, +2. The +2 reflects the vagaries of terrain, movement, and the powers of the creature itself. So if the Party was fighting a mixed group of Undead (as delineated above), and the highest level creature had defenses of AC: 24, REF: 22, FORT: 25, and WILL: 21, the DCs for the Combat Challenge would be AC: 26, REF: 24, FORT: 27, and WILL: 23).
THE COMBAT ROUND: THE BASICS: each player picks an At-Will or Encounter power (Dailies are addressed below) and makes an attack roll against the Challenge DC of the targeted defense. As long as 2/3 of the Party successfully hits during the Combat Round, the Party gains a Challenge success. Thus, in a 5 PC party, as long as 3 of the 5 PCs hit, the Party gets a success. In a 6 PC Party, as long as 4 of the 6 hits, etc. If “too few” of the Party tally hits for that Combat Round, the Party suffers a Challenge Failure. Successes and Failures are counted up just like a regular Skill Challenge, and PCs who use Encounter powers have to “deduct” them from their available powers for the rest of the Challenge (Note: PCs can also “burn” other Encounter powers or Feat powers that modify their To Hit rolls, or grant them additional To Hit rolls, etc).
BEYOND THE BASICS: If a PC wishes to use a Daily (attack) power he/she gains +5 to his/her To Hit roll.. If the PC spends an Action Point, or uses a Daily (combat relevant) power of a magic item, he/she automatically hits for that Combat Round. Thus, as the Party starts to accumulate a Failure or two, the PCs will be more apt to stretch their resources to succeed at the Challenge.
A Combat Round Success: The Party gains a Challenge success.
A Combat Round Failure: The Party gains a Challenge failure. And each specific PC that failed his/her Combat Round roll has a –1 cumulative penalty to the next Combat Round roll. Once that PC successfully hits, the penalty is negated.
CHALLENGE SUCCESSES: Every Challenge success adds a cumulative +1 bonus that the Party can assign to one or more PCs for his/her Combat Round roll. For instance, if the party has accumulated 4 successes, they have a cumulative +4 bonus that they can give to one PC, or split between multiple PCs. When the PCs have successfully completed the Combat Challenge, all of their Encounter powers reset, and they earn experience equal to 50% of the full XP value for the Encounter.
CHALLENGE FAILURES: Once the Party garners 2 failures, each PC has to expend a Healing Surge. On the 3rd failure, the Party has failed the Combat Challenge and each PC spends another Healing Surge. Failing the Combat Challenge does not mean the PCs are defeated however, it just means the battle did not go as easily as anticipated, and the adversaries did not die as quickly or as quietly as hoped! The Party still earns some experience equal to (only) 10% of the full XP for the Encounter, the creatures are dead, and the Party is free to move forward into the depths…
As a DM, you decided which encounters are eligible for the Combat Challenge, and then let the Players decide whether they want to fight it out round for round as normal, or just take the challenge.
I welcome any comments, and of course, your mileage may vary...
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Saturday, December 12, 2009, 12:17 PM
In my current Bannerlands (4th Edition D&D Campaign), I've turned over the DMing duties for a few weeks so I can enjoy sitting on the other side of the screen, make preparations for the next story arc, and just generally recharge the creative batteries. I'm also taking the time to dig through some games I might want to introduce my playgroup to during 2010.
In that vein, I've followed some threads at EnWorld about why RPGs aren't more popular, and to me, it's very easy. There just aren't that many "true gamers". There are plenty of "casual gamers"; i.e., people who don't mind showing up regularly, rolling some dice, knocking back some sodas/beer, and heading home, but those gamers aren't the lifeblood of the hobby. Because of time, family, or life commitments they play if the "table is set for them" - but they're not the types to really read the rules outside game night, religiously buy the books, or truly delve into the hobby beyond the immediate game that's been introduced to them.
That falls to the "true gamer" - and in most game groups, there is only one, and that's usually the DM or GM. Thus, in my group, if I want the other players to pick up a new game, I have to do all the work. Buy the book(s), make the characters, teach the mechanics or create cheat sheets for combat, etc. One of the great legacy of the D20 era was that once you mastered the mechanics, you could pick up a wide variety of games implementing that same "engine". Now, it seems each new game is a set of new mechanics, and although for us "true gamers", that's not a problem (we're going to sit down and read them anyway, no matter how complex), for the people we're trying to broadly introduce our hobby too - that's a huge problem.
Thus, I would urge any company producing a new RPG to keep this in mind: make it easy for me to teach and present, and I can teach it to that many more people. Here are some simple things that work:
With these things in hand, I can throw a new game - even with new rules - at my group without much angst. With premade characters, I can start a game without wasting a game night making PCs (and if the group likes the game, they will then spend the time making characters later). With combat sheets, I can get into the game without wasting hours explainging the rules, and with a premade adventure, I can highlight what is best about the game, without spending hours making it up myself.
And then if they love the game, I can turn those "casual gamers" into "true gamers", at least for that game...
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