New Year, New Game
For some time now, I have been struggling to start up a new RPG campaign for my home group (i.e., wife and kids). We’ve had a lot of fun playing different games including those run with Savage Worlds, Conan 2d20, Apocalypse World, and more. These games fell apart for a handful of reasons—moody teenager, tired parents, screwy work schedules, etc. One of the key problems we’d run into is my own brain. I’d get into it and we’d start strong and the players would run their characters through some adventures, but then I would fail to know what was up next.
I mentioned a few months back that it was time to start enjoying RPGs again. They’ve always brought me a lot of joy and I had lost sight of having fun—all work and no play doesn’t make for much to look forward to. I even mentioned one of my ideas for a new campaign: an adventurers’ guild. I continued to allow this and other ideas percolate. However, something horrible happened—end of year reports and lining of new year projects for work. Ugh. Talk about cutting into my game time. This wasn’t all bad, though. It turned out I could listen to things unrelated to work. From there, ideas grew and I ran across several “Aha!” moments, which brings me to today.
Dungeons & Dragons Again?!?
I wrote about D&D 5e a long time ago and how it had so many things I liked from various editions. Here I was, jonesing for a new game and I also have my hand on a number of playtest materials including Pathfinder 2nd Edition and Savage Worlds Adventurers Edition (SWADE). I could easily play in either of those new shiny games, but I slowly came to the realization that the sweeping rules changes—even as I was learning the new rules—could be problematic for both me and my players. If not problematic, annoying.
I started with D&D. It’s always going to be a part of my RPG library. There are things I don’t love about 5e, but I have learned / am learning ways to deal with it. The base rules are somewhat intuitive. They aren’t hard to explain, learn, and even master.
Another reason for me to turn back to D&D is because there is so much support out there for it. Beyond the regular updates that come out from Wizards of the Coast, you’d be hard pressed to look for homebrew, roleplaying game ideas, stories, and more online and not come across things dedicated to Dungeons & Dragons.
A Quick Note on YouTube & Inspiration
During the time I was working, I started listening to a number of videos on YouTube from some excellent folk. For the most part, there was a lot of discussion on Dungeons & Dragons. Arguably being the most popular tabletop roleplaying game in the world, this should not come as a surprise. I’m not big on live plays, but hearing discussions and explanations of rules, world creation, game concepts, and even fun stories about playing are all things that apply to my sensibilities.
One YouTuber I have been listening to for years is Andrew Armstrong of Dawnforged Cast. Andrew is a gamer, a voice actor, and an educator. He first hooked me when he was doing whiteboard style lecture videos on how to play Pathfinder and later D&D 5E. Andrew is great when it comes to explaining things and he does preface everything with explaining he’s talking about his experiences and personal preferences. He’s done well as a professional DM and gaming personality.
Watching some of his videos, I somehow stumbled across Taking20 and Cody C. Lewis. He does the same sort of talking head / presentation videos Andrew does, but he’s more vibrant and energetic. He’s charismatic. As it turns out, he’s in sales, so it makes more sense. He also understands business, if you watch his video on defending the business model of D&D Beyond, it’s obvious and it lends well to my own background and interests. This guy understands the math behind the systems as well, which is definitely a weak spot for me. He was the first one I listened to that had some ideas on how to “fix” some of the D&D 5E rules that had plagued me since the game’s release. Other videos (not mentioned on this blog) up until then had either been poorly done or poorly thought out or “wouldn’t this be a cool idea” without really considering the math. OR, previously videos I listened to were rules explanations and clarifications, which were good, but I needed something that stepped beyond and explained how to modify rules, which Cody definitely did for me.
For years, I had heard the name Matthew Colville. For whatever reasons—I don’t know why—I never looked him up until I started listening to more of these videos. Boy, do I feel dumb. Matthew does the lecture/explanation videos like both Andrew and Cody. He is very well spoken and read. He had some great ideas. He understands the math, but also understands and espouses that sometimes the math just isn’t fun—do what’s fun, do what’s entertaining. He has a plethora of good points. Using 4th Edition powers in a 5E game? How could I not have thought of this before?! I’d probably cut off my left arm to play in one of this guy’s games.
Critical Role. Matthew Mercer and his crew do a tremendous job. They probably should. They’re trained actors/improv folk. They have been playing together for years. They have editors. I am not a fan of liveplays, but I listened to some of theirs in the car. They were good, and I love that people enjoy it for a number of reasons. I feel bad for new players who don’t understand the chance of their new games and gaming group pulling off what Mercer and his crew pull off is right around 0%.
In any event, I listened to / watched a number of videos. It stoked my creative flames and gave me some great ideas.
Inspiration for My Own D&D Game
Between those videos and podcasts I listened to and even some articles and blogs I had time to read, I came up with / was gifted with. These ideas were for world building, rules modifications, and gaming tactics. I sat down with some new tools and new ideas. I started having fun creating in my head and on my keyboard. As I did this, however, I realized I set myself up for disappointment. What I wanted to do—and still want to do / am doing—to do right is going to end up taking a very long time. Also, some of the rules I want to change or add, I never have, so I don’t know how they’ll work out.
I took probably 6 pages, front and back, of notes from things I heard and read and my own ideas mixed in. It’s going to take time to delve into some of my ideas. It is going to take testing for some of the rules. So, I came up with an idea. I am going to continue working on my idea while I do something I have always tried to avoid. I am going to run pre-made adventures for D%D 5e. I am playing with the family and I explained that there is probably going to be some changes and retconning along the way, but if I wait to do everything I wanted to do, it could be years before I ran a game again.
The Home Game Begins
This is one of the crafts and hobbies where copying from our peers and shamelessly stealing from a near limitless pool of others’ ideas is welcomed. It’s like the old saying: “plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.” And, when you take someone else’s idea and build upon and change it, people cheer you on and help you out rather than tear you apart for it (exceptions exist, of course). I’ll talk more about some of the ideas I have and things I have tested and our experiences with it coming up. For now, I did start running the home game this past week and it had its triumphs and failures. I’m looking forward to the next game and the rest of the fam is as well.