Making Good Gamers Great Gamers

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Jason’s reading list:

RPGs
AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide
D&D 5e Player’s Handbook
D&D 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide
N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God (AD&D; currently DMing)

Other books
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Playing at the World by Jon Peterson

Recently completed
Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (AD&D; played through as a PC)

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

How can you have a great AD&D experience online?

Good games don’t die.  They adapt with you.

This is a lesson I’m learning, as I’ve just begun DMing an AD&D campaign online using Roll20.  Of course, your skin may crawl even hearing such a proposition!  Playing AD&D online?  Doesn’t that violate the very nature of the game?

Well, I will admit that there are several setbacks to playing AD&D online.  But they’re not insurmountable.  Instead, if you take on those setbacks one by one, in the end you’ll find yourself enjoying AD&D in a whole new way.

An AD&D group like you might be used to.  The good folks of GaryCon.

Playing AD&D online will not be the AD&D of your earlier years.  It will be a new thing.  That’s what good games do.  They don’t die–they adapt with you!

Here’s how you can enjoy a whole new phase of AD&D online:

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Should you reconsider D&D alignments?

You’ve heard it said–maybe you yourself have said it:

“There’s no point to character alignments in D&D or any other roleplaying game.  It’s an unnecessary hindrance to players!”

Or if you’re a proponent of alignments, you’ve seen the eye-rolls from players and other GMs.  I mean, who really takes those kinds of rules seriously?  Should alignments even exist in roleplaying games?

Well, I am taking those rules seriously, as I play my way through First Edition AD&D.  And I’m not simply finding them tolerable, I’m actually really enjoying the rules on alignment.

As someone who played 4th Edition D&D consistently for about four years (and has even dabbled a bit in the last year, believe it or not), I’ve experienced the other side of alignments.  In the 4e Essentials book, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, alignment is discussed in this way:

“A character’s alignment describes his or her moral stance.  Many adventurers…are unaligned, which means they have no overriding moral stance. … Most people in the world, and plenty of adventurers, haven’t signed up to play on any team–they’re unaligned.  Picking and adhering to an alignment represents a distinct choice.

If you choose an alignment for your character, you should pick either good or lawful good” (Mearls, Slavicsek, and Thompson, pg. 43).

As I’ve played 4th Edition, my experience has been that 4e alignment rules functionally led to no alignments at all.  Which is fine!  I just think it’s an unfortunate drift from their original function.  So why were alignments originally written into D&D?  And how can their rigorous use  actually benefit our games?

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Is it possible to lose at Dungeons & Dragons?

There was only so much that could be done about the slime.  We did what we could to scrape it off our barbarian and thief.  The barbarian himself smashed a lantern over his head to burn it off.  But alas, within mere moments, they were gone.  Dead.  Transformed into slime themselves.

And so, the druid, cleric, and fighter–our lieutenant–made the long walk back to the inn in Saltmarsh.  And that was the end of the story.  Period.  The module was over, the enemy undefeated.  We had failed.

Seriously. ALWAYS LOOK UP.

We’ve probably all heard the anecdote about a parent walking in on a D&D game and asking, “Who’s winning?”  The players all groan with the son or daughter responding, “Nobody wins, Mom!”  The parent then leaves the room confused, but glad their child isn’t out doing worse things with worse friends.

But the other night, when we completed The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, I busted out laughing and said, “We just lost D&D!”  So what exactly happened last Friday?  How did we lose in the game of D&D?

A problem for DMs to deal with

I’m learning that some AD&D modules (The Village of Hommlet and Saltmarsh, in particular) have points at which players can make the wrong decision.  And if they make that wrong decision, the module concludes.  The players have failed to achieve their goal.  In Hommlet, the players all perish.  That’s easy to deal with, because you can simply roll up new characters and pick up where you left off.

It’s not so simple in Saltmarsh.  If the players make the wrong choice, the bad guys leave town.  And it’s hard to beat the bad guys, when they’re gone!  The module is over.  Do not pass go–do not collect $200–do not move on to module U2!  And we made the wrong decision.

When players make poor decisions like this, it puts the Game Master in a difficult spot.  Does she stay true to the module?  Does he let the players fail?  Or maybe retcon the decision and give them a second chance?  Beyond these questions, should modules even be written this way, where a binary choice can be so damning to the characters and the story?

As someone who “lost” The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh–as someone who went away disappointed not to experience the end of the module–yet as someone who was happy with how the story ended, let me share my thoughts on what you as a DM can do to prepare for these moments if and when they come:

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Tips for a first-time AD&D DM

So you’re interested in the way things began?  You find yourself wondering with nostalgia and curiosity, “What was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons like when it was first released?  What did those first players think, feel, and experience?”

These are the thoughts that make you a first-time AD&D Dungeon Master in 2017.  These are the thoughts that brought me to that place.  And so here I am, preparing for my second campaign as DM.

Even though I had GMed many other RPGs–at least fifty games of D&D 4e, maybe more of FFG’s Star Wars RPG, with a smattering of others–I felt like it was best to start by going through some published AD&D modules.  If you’re a first-time AD&D DM, I’d encourage you to do the same: pick a good published module for beginning characters and start from there.

But if you are indeed going to take that route, let me give you a few words of advice that will put you light years ahead of where I was when I first started this journey:

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Star Wars Destiny: The Good, the So-So, and the Bad

Let me begin with an apology to my many new readers, who are devotees of AD&D.  Never fear, I’ll be back on the AD&D train in Thursday’s blog!  That said, I’m not just an AD&Der.  In fact, I’m not just a roleplayer.  As you know, gamers are like craft beer drinkers.  We’re rarely monogamous in our commitment to one specific game.

So I do play a lot of AD&D.  But I also am a huge fan of the Star Wars Living Card Game [LCG].  So much so that I actually traveled cross-country to play in the World Championships last year.  That said, I was disgruntled and nervous to learn last year that Fantasy Flight Games was releasing another Star Wars card game: Star Wars Destiny.  What would this mean for the LCG?  What would happen to my gaming group?  And what about all the time and energy I’ve invested in this game?

First of all, games come and games go.  That’s a fact of life.  But my concern was that (a) Destiny would make more money, (b) Destiny would steal LCG players, and (c) the LCG would be abandoned by players and FFG alike.  So, in response to this, I swore that I would not be playing Destiny.

But then it came out.  And…um…I may have bought a few packs…..

I doubt anybody is really an expert on Destiny yet, but I’ve played a fair share of games.  So I thought I’d pass along what I’ve experienced, especially since a number of my Twitter followers have been asking.  So here’s my take on Star Wars Destiny, as a committed player of the LCG:

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Why and how I’m playing First Edition AD&D

You might be wondering why a guy like me would be playing First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.  And yet, here I am in 2017 playing AD&D more than any other tabletop RPG.


It’s strange especially now!  In my opinion, tabletop roleplaying is going through a bit of a renaissance.  5th Edition D&D is drawing new players in and old players back.  The success of sites such as DriveThruRPG makes independent games readily available.  And beyond that, the vast variety of games available simply makes it a very fun and fertile time for tabletop roleplaying.  So, yes, it is odd that I would go back and play AD&D 1e.

Since MadCleric.com has recently seen an upward spike in new readers, I thought I’d give you a more clear and comprehensive on the when, why, and how of my current AD&D project entitled, Chasing the Dragon:

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