Sunday, September 6, 2009, 5:29 AM
My daughter is 8, and she is interested in D&D. I have been working part-time for WotC pretty much since she has been born, so she has either heard--or taken part in--countless discussions about D&D and watched me play in or run many games at our house. She has expressed an interest in playing, so a few months ago my wife and I put together a little campaign with just the three of us. We all had fun, but I could tell it wasn't quite what any of us were hoping it would be.
So after a short break from that game, and after a time when we started reading the Harry Potter series, I thought I would try to tackle the game from a fresh perspective. What if the D&D characters lived in the Rowling's world? How could I use the 4e D&D rules to create a fun game, interact with a neat story, and give everyone a fun time?
When I asked my wife and daughter if they were interested in playing such a game, they were very enthusiastic. I figured they would be. I decided to keep the same basic plots as are found in Harry Potter, and keep the same basic setting and characters. I decided to take Harry and his pals out of the mix by setting the game a year or two before those characters come to Hogwarts. That would let the PCs be the heroes, keep the setting somewhat recognizable, and play upon the themes already established.
After talking about what my two players wanted in the campaign, I decided that the two PCs, plus one other NPC, would be students at Hogwarts who were only 8 years old, but because of rare and advanced magical talents, they were accepted and enrolled early. They would spend the first few sessions doing some of the cool "pre-Hogwarts" activities: traveling to Diagon Alley to buy supplies, riding the Hogwart's Express, etc.
Now came figuring out how to translate some of the magic of that world into the rules of D&D. More on that later . . .
Friday, August 28, 2009, 5:20 AM
The life of an LFR global admin is a sexy one. I cannot deny it any longer. Fast cars, faster women, booze, and things unmentionable in this family-friendly forum.
Yeah, ok. In reality, I am going to spend most of the next 72 hours editing, reviewing or rewriting 9 different Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) adventures. At more than 40 pages for most adventures, we are talking easily about 400 pages of work.
Think of it this way. Take the adventure books (the ones with a majority of the combats) from WotC's off-the-shelf adventures Keep of the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth, Pyramid of Shadows, King of the Trollhaunt Warrens, Demon Queen's Enclave, and Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress. Line them up in front of you, and then start editing. Edit all the text for grammar, spelling, flow, formatting, and readability. Review all the stat blocks for formatting, consistency with published monsters, errata that may have been released, and proper leveling. Make sure the entire adventures falls within the guidelines for adventure creation. Make sure treasure is consistent and meets the needs of a majority of players. Think through the play flow to make sure nothing important is missing. Look for potential problem areas with DMs who are too literal. Check the adventure against comments from WotC on the approved proposal. Check the adventure against playtest notes. Are the skill challenges formatted correctly? Do successes and failures add up correctly? Incorporate playtest notes. Do the monster and challenge XPs add up properly? Check to make sure the numbers for XP, gp, and treasure carry correctly to the rewards section. Are all the new magic items properly referenced in the back? Is all the Realms fluff appropriate and matching what is in the FRCG? Does the boxed text work? Is the adventure fun? Are the combats and challenges fair? Are the maps correct? Do they need to be completely recreated based on edits I have had to make? Are the adventure questions right? Are the story awards appropriate?
I would estimate this consists of about 20% of the questions I ask myself during the editing process. And then, after the adventure is edited, there is a bit of paperwork needed to make sure the adventure details get into the database and tracking form properly, and the authors' information gets to RPGA HQ properly.
Now that I have thoroughly depressed myself, I should get to work. :-)
Thursday, August 27, 2009, 5:11 PM
One topic that has been on my mind a lot is players' enjoyment of their games, specifically games they play in the Living Forgotten Realms campaign. As one of the global admins of that campaign, roughly 30% of the content for that campaign crosses my desk at one time or another. Those who know me know that I take my responsibility in the campaign very seriously--to the exclusion of other things I might rather or should be doing.
So after working too many hours writing or editing or reviewing material for the campaign, it is frustrating to see feedback about something that I worked on saying that it was a less-than-positive experience for the player. I have a background in creative writing, and I have taught creative writing classes, so I have finely honed my ability to provide constructive criticism in a positive manner, as well as take criticism for what it is worth.
RPGs are not creative writing, however. When I get a work of fiction critiqued, it is very easy to focus in on what is taste, what is useful, what is not, and what I can learn from the critique. RPG adventures are a whole other ball game. Without being able to see the game played out, it is impossible to tell where things went wrong and if something in the design/editing of the adventure was flawed.
This is why, over and over again, I beg DMs to make sure the players are having fun. As a DM, I never run an adventure exactly as written--especially not my own. And I never run a game the same way twice. If the players do not walk away from the table feeling satisfied, having had fun, then the blame is mine and not the adventure's. I once ran an adventure where all the NPCs were animated objects--nary an intelligent, coomunicative enemy (or friend) to be found in the whole thing. Brainstorming with some DMs more experienced and imaginative than I led to ways to make the game fun--even for those who wanted extensive roleplaying. I would not have been able to make the game fun for those players without help--but at least I was wary enough to know my limitations and seek help.
I think I have a point here somewhere. Ah yes! DMs, I am now on my knees begging you. You are the filter through which the PCs and players interact with the world. You are it: the beginning and the end. It is not always possible to make sure everyone has fun because of player attitudes and table composition. But for all that you can control the game, I beg you to do so. It may be antithetical to everything you hold dear. You may have to listen to players brag about how they are whupping up on your monsters while you know you are pulling punches to keep them alive. You may have to give personality to a footstool. But please, as a personal favor to me, take one for the team. When I hear people saying their hobby is fun rather than saying how this or that adventure sucked, know you are saving me a few hours sleep, and I appreciate that more than you know.