Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What's my hang-up when it comes to traditional D&D, eh?

I need to get something out. Maybe someone(s) out there can be my temporary RPG headshrinker... like a virtual Lucy van Pelt setting up her psychiatrist booth at a moment's notice, whenever there's a nickle to be earned from some Charlie Brown type.

I know I've written several posts recently about my internal flailings pertaining to D&D, but I felt like I needed more catharsis.

Anyway, here's my issue: I can't seem to shake the desire to do straight-up, traditional D&D. What I mean is, every time I think about running a sword & sorcery game using the Crypts & Things rules, or running a cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic future campaign using Savage Worlds, eventually something inside me moans "Oh but that's not D&D! You need to GM D&D!"

Am I fighting against simple inertia? What's my hang-up on D&D? I continually ask myself what I'm looking for, why I can't shake this feeling. What is the genesis of this yearning, this "fear" of branching out from D&D? Does anyone else out there feel this constant internal push to stick with the "original fantasy game?"

My latest yen is to run B/X D&D (with the B/X Companion and Complete B/X Adventurer from JB at B/X Blackrazor included) in the Dawnforge campaign world. It haunts me! Argh!

Look, I know most of you don't really know me and all the inner workings that make me an individual, so I know you can't really diagnose the specific origins of my obsession. I guess I'm just looking for a bit of "misery company." At the very least, you know that I struggle with Gamer ADD, and I'm sure that particular bogey man has something to do with this.

I am still relatively early in my return to the table-top after a long hiatus, so perhaps something inside me has determined that I am not yet done re-exploring my D&D roots, at least when it comes to being a game master. I currently have no problem being a player in games that are not D&D-centered. Therefore, I'm not sure how long it will be before I can run anything but D&D-esque games. There's also the fact of my life situation as a busy husband and father with full-time job and a mortgage, which lends a certain desperation to my gaming activities, as I have little time to prep and play RPGs.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. In the meantime, I'll be struggling internally...


  1. I have a very similar experience. I buy and read tons of different rules (not just TSR/OSR materials). I'm fascinated by them. I see the good in them and I see how cool they would be to run. There's a lot of great stuff out there, but in the end, the only thing I see myself running is...early D&D + clones.

    I can only speak about why this is for me, and I don't pretend to suggest that this is the case for anyone else.

    The first part of it for me is this. Early D&D + clones are in my comfort zone. I feel like I have the rules ingrained in me well enough that I can run a game smoothly. Given the demands of real life on my time and energy, however cool another system looks to me, I just blanch at the time and effort it would take me to develop the same level of comfort (I won't say "mastery") with another system.

    The second part of it for me is when I really think about how "the story is the thing." I believe ANY system will work for that, since story really depends more on the players and GM than on the system. So then I ask myself, how is using a different system going to help the group create a better, more intriguing story (answer "none"), and is it worth it to really absorb a new system (answer "no").

    And so, here I sit comfortably with my old-style game.

    I agree with you too that playing is a different matter. Given the opportunity I'd play anything really, as long as my GM is comfortable with the system s/he is running.

    1. Bard, both your first and second parts describe my feelings exactly. I value my gaming time (generally around 6 hours once a week) too much to invest in learning a new game - we just want to get in there and play. Thus, when I look at a non-D&D game I do so with an eye to scavenging bits and pieces for my D&D game.

      Bottom line for me personally is D&D does what I want it to do. Plus I actually like it.

  2. Conceptually D&D is an easy 'get,' You guys have swords and spells, there are the monsters and treasures. Take a hit and be somebody, baby.

    That's very appealing. It resonates mythically - I'm gawddamned Beowulf! - and it makes for a game in which it's easy to keep score - w00t, level four!

  3. Drance, I'm going to take a stab in the dark:

    Maybe what you really want to do is write your own neo-clone! :)

    1. Ack, noooo! Don't even kid about that! Seriously, I'm pretty happy with the few house rules I use when I play B/X D&D or Labyrinth Lord, so I don't really feel an urge to create my own clone. Honest!

  4. After writing a fantasy heartbreaker myself, I can offer this: D&D is enough. Simply, take OD&D or 1E or 2E and tack on the house rules you need for that specific campaign. Take 3E and give the players a list of exactly the prestige classes and feats available (again, chosen specifically for your campaign). It's good enough. You don't need to do something else. That's actually a big problem for me because D&D has so many problems with it that nag me and beg for fixing. At some point after so many fixes you say "I'll just rewrite the system, I basically did that already". And then you realize you'd need to rewrite all the magic items and spells and monsters, which is just too much work to validate it.

    Then also you realize your game has things wrong with it, and it's not perfect, and many things are just a tradeoff instead of a direct improvement.

  5. Drance, I have this very same problem.

    I have something like 60+ rule sets in my collection. I quit D&D in 12th grade and ran all manner of things during college, but for the last six years or so, I find that I really just want to run D&D... (or stuff that is mechanically based off it, like Stars Without Number)

    I have all these ideas for other games, but when it comes time to work on them, my mind and heart wander back to traditional D&D.