Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thoughts on D&D's Endgame Back in the Day

The main goal for my AD&D MU was to build his 500 foot "Tower of Epic Phallic Symbol" so all would know his power. All the campaigns centered on looting gold and magic for the purpose of gaining power in the campaign world. Adventure and exploration were what you did to gain money and magic in your quest for world domination and reputation. It was a game of ambition. It wasn't about the combat...you fought only when you had to. Fighting wasn't balanced and all wussified with an expectation of success based on your uber-build...there was actually a more than decent chance you would die back then. Why attempt it?

That's still the way I play today. That sort of mindset is frowned upon in society these days. The political correctness of the 90's did a lot to kill off a generation of gamers who may otherwise have appreciated such a style of gaming.

I remember in 1976-77, in Second Grade, after gym class, whoever won whatever game we played that week got the right to sing at the top of their lungs a portion of the Queen song "We are the champions, my friend...", and shout out the part "NO TIME FOR LOSERS" and taunt the other team. What did that do for us? Whoever was on the losing team wanted to win next week and we would practice and try harder. We wanted to be winners and be able to wear the mantle of winners for the week. It made all of us better.

Now, everybody gets a trophy for showing up. You're a winner just for fogging up the mirror held under your nose. That sort of mindset isn't one that encourages the type of game I play. The endgame with latter editions is assumed to happen, rather than something that exceptional players strived for and achieved only after the harshest of trials. Now you get it just for completing X # of tactical combat encounters which you knew you'd win anyhow, because the rules are designed to let you win.

8 comments:

  1. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. I think that a decade of 3x and 4e instilled in myself and my players that all fights are winnable, because that's how the game was written.

    What I've found as a result, is that if PCs start to take a beating, some of them will get very upset, perceiving the encounter to be unfair or that I'm "doing it wrong."

    If I ever play D&D again it will be with an older edition to keep things refreshingly brutal with less certain outcomes.

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  3. I think you can play that style with newer games, or at least with 3.x. You just have to let the players know up front, and warn them that the monster stats will not be as per the MM, that you wil largely be making changes as to all of them. That way they can't predict the difficulty of each encounter. It may be easier to get something like this going with a newer edition, as it is hard to get people into the older ones. Then again, if you want real grit, go for the older editions, where the players can't make any magic item they want easily, the dm was still running the game instead of the other way around, and save or die still reigned supreme.

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  4. Like a lot of people, you seem to be using the phrase "political correctness" to mean "something from now that I'm against".

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  5. Anarchist, just to finish your definition, I would say "Something from now that I'm against because it used to be different and I liked it that way, and it only changed because of Bullshit reasons having nothing to do with its own merits, but with catering to the pansy-ass sensibilities of a vocal minority."

    There. That's better.

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  6. Great posting! And I think you last statement concerning PC is 100% correct!

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  7. I think the rot set in when Fantasy Role-Playing Game was replaced by Fantasy Role-Play. A game implies chance, luck and the possibility of losing -no matter how hard you played, no matter how clever your plan.

    There's a whole generation that doesn't handle defeat well because they haven't handled it at all. When they do lose, there's endless crying and whining. Whatever happened to losing with dignity, then trying harder to kick their ass next time?

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  8. Not only are the victories not earned, but character death is seen as universally bad. I've found that death can be as fun as life, depending on the circumstances. Of course, if you spent hours or days plotting out your character's rise from level 1 to godhood in 3E, you may feel as if an "early" character death has robbed you of all that time... and now you'll have to do it again. But over-blown modern character creation is another topic.

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