Most of these dastardly bovines take the form of "truisms" or "either/or" situations. For instance, I've read opinions such as:
- 1st level/low-level PCs are "amateurs" (funny, aren't 1st level fighters in B/X called Veterans?)
- PCs are not heroes, they are "adventurers" (an adventurer can't become a hero, willingly or not?)
- Story games vs. sandbox games (never the twain shall meet)
Anyway, with all that said, onward to the letter of the day:
When I started out as a teenager, my friends used to like to develop elaborate backstories for their characters. To my young self, who was I to deny them that, something they clearly saw as fun? And I was more than happy for the help in fleshing out the world, elaborating on their backstories. To us, that was the source of motivation to sally forth to adventure. It was all in the spirit of "cooperative storytelling." And I find that this type of game makes players more invested in the campaign, usually.
Call "teenage-me" a victim of the dreaded "Hickmanization" of D&D from back in the day. I really don't care. I've had plenty fun gaming this way, and last time I checked fun was one of the big reasons for roleplaying...or any other pastime for that matter.
However, I'm willing to concede that there are also limitations to the story-driven game (and I keep using that term but it really irks me, because I don't want people to think that I accept the standard negative connotation of that phrase).When I started my C&C campaign in summer 2011 (the first campaign I had run in years) I carried on my old tradition of story-based gaming with the new group of people I met. And they were also very inclined to that sort of game. We had a lot of fun. But, unlike when I was a kid, we adults don't have time to show up to every game session on a consistent basis. Therefore, there were nights when, if a couple specific players didn't show up, I was loathe to run a session without those players being there. There were nights when sessions were cancelled due to this fact of adult life.
Again, I was just as guilty of cancelling as the players. But I felt the need to do things differently with regard to the foundations of a future campaign, i.e. make the next campaign less about the backstory of characters. In other words, play what many consider to be a more "traditional" old-school fantasy RPG game.
The downside of story-based games, to me, is the dependence on players showing up. I don't want to keep a game going without the players (and their characters) that were integral to the formation of the game. It can also make it hard for new players to join the group, as their characters will not have been in existence at the creation of the campaign (and therefore are not part of the campaign's inception). This may lead to a lessened feeling of investment.
That's why I'm looking forward to a more sandbox approach to characters. Not that old-school characters are generic and disposable. But I want to go with little to no backstory for once. I feel like there's a fine line between cardboard PCs and interesting PCs in Classic D&D, and a player's creativity and attitude is what places them on either side of that line. The players will get out of it what they put into it. That's one of the strengths of Classic D&D: your character isn't just a gestalt of feats, powers, equipment, and all the other stuff that goes into what can be called a "character build." Your character is who he/she is thanks to how you play that character, how you describe their appearance, personality, actions...you know, how you ROLEPLAY that character.
So, what I'm doing is trying out a different style of play. I'm not rejecting my story-based gaming past for the "true religion" of the idealized/deified sandbox concept. But this Labyrinth Lord campaign will be my first real foray into a different style of play for me, and I'm excited as all get-out!