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Thread: Let's talk about Luke's D&D explorations

  1. #1
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    Default Let's talk about Luke's D&D explorations

    I'm sure most of us have read Luke's thread over on G+ about BWHQ's experience playing D&D. Elsewhere he posted what I read as uh...frustration with opening up this conversation to the general public, mostly in the vein of hating on the "it's all about the magic of the DM" and "rules don't matter" commentary. At least that's how I read it.

    So let's talk about the thread but only sort-of in public!

    After noodling on the thread for a few days I have a couple takeaways:

    1, which I mentioned to Buzz already: I think we're super-lucky he didn't attempt this investigation prior to any version of BW, because I think BW would then have been designed more as a direct response to D&D than it is. Which is to say, pretty much not at all: BW reads and plays to me like the result of a game of Telephone, where the first person describes what D&D looks like at the table, the next person describes how Shadowrun works, a third person takes those first two and filters it through a lit crit and/or screenwriting class, and 30 people later you end up with BWClassic. So, yay. Good timing and providence.

    2 hits on the whole theme of sentimentality. Totally 100% agreed that sentimentality, IMO among anyone who ever spent a session with the red box or earlier, makes it nearly impossible for them (us!) to be objective about the text. My gut, initial reaction to the thread was "Why on earth is Luke so fixated on hewing so close to the text? None of us really did." A few days later, my final take is "Why on earth didn't we play to the text? How is it that learning 'how to play Dee and Dee' became a social, rather than a technical, exercise?" Seriously, even though lots of copies of the text were available to us, we would always cherrypick the stuff we wanted and discard the stuff we didn't. Part of the social exercise of being taught the game was being taught that the rulebook isn't an authoritative source for anything beyond character advancement and weapon stats. Personal theory: The cult of the DM was probably born out of charismatic, skilled DMs who believed their own bullshit.

    Anyway, it's a worthy read. I'm especially grateful for it because I know I'd never have the patience, or possibly the ability at this point, to grind through the process objectively and even-handedly.
    It might help: Getting Past the First Turn
    At the wiki: Paul B's Belief Workshop, among other things

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    For full disclosure regarding #2. I started with the Cook Expert set when I was a wee lad. And it was as you described, weapon stats and advancement in service of the cult of the DM.

    I think perhaps that our young minds could not comprehend this activity as a game with rules, rather we conceived it as the kid behind the screen on a power trip fucking with us that we loved and not-so-secretly wanted a slice of.

    I moved on to AD&D in 87 or 88. I bought those books from KayBee Toys in Braintree by switching the price tags. No one cared; I think they wanted the weird books out of their store. We played vigorously through 8th grade and highschool. We had a tight-knit group: Jason, Jon, Kevin, Tony, Chris, Me. We vied for position as GM with the best world, each trying to spark his cult and finally claim complete dominance. We each claimed to have secret knowledge and high level characters from "other campaigns." We only looked in the rules when we were trying to fuck one another over. Retributive Strike, motherfucker. Look at all that damage.

    I left AD&D to play Shadowrun and Rifts for a few years, then came crawling back for a last fling in the 90s—eschewing 2nd Edition as something multicolored and unpalatable.

    My point is that I was steeped in nostalgia for the game, boiled in bad play culture. It took a long time away, a lot of introspection, a lot of arguments on the internet, a lot of laboring over my own games, a lot of angry fans, a lot of panels, a lot people saying "I've been playing since the 70s and…" before I could cut the cord and try to look back objectively.
    "Athos—Porthos, farewell till we meet again! Aramis, adieu forever!"
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    The nostalgia crowd most likely learned to play D&D via cargo cult. My early experiences with D&D certainly had little resemblance to the Mentzer set we were supposedly using. Later on my friends goaded me into running AD&D 2nd Edition and I kept confronting "rules" they insisted were real and not house rules, despite not being in the text.
    Also: ninjas.

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    Oh God. Please don't take my post as a cue to 1) wax nostalgic about D&D 2) bitch about D&D.
    "Athos—Porthos, farewell till we meet again! Aramis, adieu forever!"
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    Re power-tripping kids.

    True fact from the dusty redacted Paul files: I once tried to lure back a runaway friend by offering him 2000xp when he snuck into our house to steal PB&J. And it worked.
    It might help: Getting Past the First Turn
    At the wiki: Paul B's Belief Workshop, among other things

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    Yeah, I've tried a couple of times to bring my folk back to my Moldvay box to give it a run "as written and intended", and they keep trying to play it like it's 4e. Until the second one of them dies, then it becomes "let's just throw as many xeroxes at this problem until one of them gets through." Of course, the latter is as much my fault as anyone's, but I am determined to get some folk through it eventually. Perhaps this move to Waterloo is just what I need to get folk through the Caves of Chaos and really break out of old habits. Fingers crossed.
    --Aaron

    Oh, and did I say Range and Cover murders people for breakfast? Range and Cover murders people for breakfast.

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    When I think back to my initial experiences, out games at least resembled the rules in Moldvay and AD&D - but we liberally mixed the two. When in doubt, we applied what I much later (last year) realized was "Say 'no' or roll the dice": if there's a reasonable chance, assign that chance, and let them roll. Dice heavy, pretty tactical, and rather monty-haul.

    Moldvay in kids hands was very different than Moldvay in adult hands. Tho', to be honest, since Alston's Cyclopedia came out, I've really not tried running Moldvay/Cook, nor am I likely to.

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    You know, I think your revelation that you had prior experience with Cook and AD&D really improves the whole story, gives it new context. I had read that thread thinking that somehow you had dodged around an early D&D experience and all the goofy cultural stuff that came with that.
    It might help: Getting Past the First Turn
    At the wiki: Paul B's Belief Workshop, among other things

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    Paul,
    Right! I didn't want you to think I'm some latter day messiah. I'm damaged goods. Playing the game, I can clearly see the pitfalls, the temptations to really fucking bad behavior. And I'm steering around them best I'm able, but it's like driving a bus up the Andes. Sometimes you get stuck, sometimes you fall off.
    "Athos—Porthos, farewell till we meet again! Aramis, adieu forever!"
    --D'Artagnan

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    In 2002 I spent 6 months riding around in buses in Los Andes. Just you saying that brought back gut wrenching, coca chewing memories. Save versus potholes or die!
    Inspired by Bobo's Sig
    Rule 6 of Kurt Vonnegut's Rules on Short Stories
    Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
    from Bagombo Snuff Box.

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