Who needs “Magic Missile?”

My last post helped me air out some problems, but it also gave me some perspective. Better perspective. It reminded me of what I’m trying to accomplish, and what the name of the category, “Create Expectations” is supposed to be about.

A “sanitary” approach to game mastering is important. Players can’t play if they don’t know how, and the best way to build up an understanding and an interest in the game is to be fair, impartial even. I’ve seen far too many groups fail out the door from Killer Game Masters driving players away with brutality. But the brutality was fun.

Hearkening back to some deep discussions I had with my friends from when I started roleplaying, I recall the important attachments each player forged with their characters, even if they lasted no longer than half a level or so before meeting a gruesome death in the dungeon. Every character mattered. They all had stories.

Recently I mentioned the idea of bringing back “rolling for hit points.” I think I was feeling other symptoms of this same thing I’ve been feeling for a while. It’s this sort of longing for a yesteryear that I have trouble remembering clearly. I think what I’m missing might well be Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s a strange thing to miss, but I kind of get it. Fourth Edition broke a lot of things, and it didn’t really do much to fix them. Third Edition didn’t really know what it was doing either, but it had fun and left things open to interpretation.

There’s little room for interpretation in Fourth Edition.

So, what’s a game master to do? What’s a player to do? Does one bring in more elements of the older game system? What do you do to bring back the feeling? To have it again? There’s a clue in the name of my category, “Create Expectations.”

What I’m trying to do in my own game, with my own group, is to train a new group of players who can (and will) think for themselves. I’m not missing the game, the system, I’m missing the dialogue, the interactions. The oddball characters and the off-the-wall decisions. The sanitary approach to the game facilitates rules mastery.

It’s about making habits. Meeting regularly and arriving on time. Being prepared to play, to share weird anecdotes from life, and to make bad decisions and see what happens. Also, it’s about being willing to read some weird stuff that isn’t true and using it as a basis for making assumptions about a reality that isn’t real.

Maybe I’ll propose a game using Third Edition rules, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Maybe they’ll like the idea, maybe not. The important part now is finishing the campaign. Reaching thirtieth level and Ascending To A Higher Plane Of Existence. It’s about finishing what we started, and then trying something new.

You know what I hated more than having players not invested in the game? I hated the game never going anywhere. This experiment has been one in creating and meeting expectations. Our group has gotten this far, there’s another game on the horizon. We’ll be able to look back and say, “we did this” when it’s all over.

But we can’t do that if we never finish. So, toughing it out begins now.