I didn’t play this game. I watched my wife play it over her shoulder.

You Find Yourself in a Room

This isn’t so much about the game but a tangent that arose from thinking about watching someone else play the game. Inspiration is complicated.

This really isn’t about the game at all.

It’s about the words: “you find yourself in a room.”

I’ve been mulling them over and trying to apply them to a variety of different situations. Really, it’s more about those words than anything else. I’ve been picturing everything in the context of, “you find yourself in a room.”

My journey through the world of D&D has been backward.

After reaching a point where I realized that the “narrative” style of play just wasn’t working for me, I’ve been going back and discovering all the interesting facets about OSR play that I never really understood.

Stuff that I don’t think makes sense unless a group initiates you. I’ve never actually played with a group that could be described as “OSR.” I’ve played with cutthroat, backstabbing jerks before, but that’s totally missing the point.

And a lot of it leads back to the words, “you find yourself in a room.”

I think understand now how a dungeon of 80 rooms can have 60 empty rooms and not be considered a complete waste of time. I think I understand why mapping is important and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I think I understand why tactical maps and miniatures are “nice things” but are pretty much separate from the whole dungeon-crawling experience and it really has nothing to do with “visualizing” the dungeon.

From one perspective, it’s a much more efficient way of doing things.

It solves many, many, many of the problems experienced by GMs who want that “narrative” feel in their games. Props like maps and miniatures are crutches, too many times. That’s what I’m getting.

Ability scores so often get hand-waved with the bonuses that are tacked-on and the rerolls granted, but should define the character. Hand-rolled ability scores are as important to a PC as player-drawn maps are to a dungeon.

That’s what I’m getting.

And that level of abstraction is freeing.

It helps me to realize for example, that dungeon-crawling is about “checking rooms.” Every scene revolves around walking into a room and asking “what do we see?” It distills the game down to that point.

When the game is about saving lives in a hospital, the statement “you find yourself in a room” becomes, “there’s a patient in front of you.”

I’m tempted to call this the game’s “thesis.”

The game is about the contents of the room. (Or the patient’s condition.)

But it’s more than that — it’s also about the context you’ve created with the last room you checked — and the rooms you know are ahead of you remaining to be checked. That’s what I’m getting.

And that’s why some things like “logic” don’t technically matter.

Sure they do, but if you can’t make a room description interesting you’re going to find trouble engaging your players in anything else found in your dungeon.

Hey, that may even be the problem with the game Vampire.

The game should be, “so you need to go out and drink someone’s blood.”

And then you go from there.