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October 1, 2008 / jadettman

D&D thoughts

Lately, I’ve been working on prepping a playtest session of D&D 4E. There are a lot of things that I like about the game’s new version, at least on paper, and I’ve been trying hard to keep with the spirit of the game. Unfortunately, it’s just hard sometimes not to think about the ramifications of some inherent game elements.

First, you play Adventurers, people that intentionally go off into the wilderness, or down into a dungeon, to fight monsters. Now, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Adventurers so much as the notion that their goals are to fight monsters. Adventurers actually occur in our world, they are the big-game hunters, explorers, and archeologists that pushed out into the far corners of the world. Fighting monsters, though? I’m trying to think of a reasonable analog here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that D&D is supposed to be a game of Wonder, Magic, and Adventure. It’s based on a mish-mash of fictional adventure stories that include Conan, Lord of the Rings, The Dying Earth, and Fafrd & the Gray Mouser. Having now gone back and read many of those stories, D&D seems to have gotten a bit confused somewhere along the way. Most of those stories involve incidental monsters, monsters that you have to fight because you want to loot the ancient temple that they just happen to be in. Looting, however, is not Heroic.

The literary exception to D&D canon, of course, is Lord of the Rings. There the heroes are fighting monsters because they are on an epic quest and their epic enemy has monsters to throw in their way. The Fellowship of the Ring are heroes and they fight monsters. They are doing what they do for the good of the world and they are willing to sacrifice themselves to do it. They aren’t in it for the loot, they are in it to save the world!

Gah!

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system I’m going to get back to prepping my game.

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5 Comments

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  1. Yoki / Oct 1 2008 7:54 am

    Hello Jason,

    I was actually impressed with how the new Shadowfell setting/idea helps impress the fact that monster fighters are actually heroes. The world has fallen, there are monster encrouching from every corner, who will stand up to them? Your player characters, that’s who!

    TTFN,

    Yoki

  2. Britt / Oct 1 2008 8:26 am

    An important motivating aspect is that monsters are naughty and bad, and if you don’t kill, they’ll probably try to kill you (not to mention other innocent bystanders.) So killing monsters is a good in and of itself (and it has its own mechanical reward, XP).

    If wildlife was still skulking out of the woods and devouring villagers, we’d probably be organizing parties of people, acting out of necessity, fear, and (not least) a desire for some macho adventuring, to go into the wilderness and kick the bejeezus out of them.

    It’s only our hippy-dippy, ecosystem-loving, predator-valuing 21st century ethics that get in the way of such good clean fun.

    Personally, I blame the film Never Cry Wolf. Thank goodness nobody’s made a movie called Never Cry Kobold. (Although I have to admit I’d totally pay money to see that in the theater.)

  3. J.A. Dettman / Oct 1 2008 4:43 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking about the “monster = bad/evil” thing. I’m just trying to come up with a satisfying way to have all sorts of crazy monsters without the whole “but the goblin has little babies at home too” mentality.

    I want monsters that are monsters, not creatures with ecological niches.

  4. James / Oct 2 2008 11:38 am

    Many people think are “monsters” in our real world, and many people behave toward these “monsters” exactly the way you describe adventures acting. The fact that these monsters often have family at home does not seem to be a problem for the modern adventurer. People hate what they see as monsters. I think there are plenty of people would line up to go to Iraq and kick some unknown Iraqi in the head and fly home (Hey Jalal Talabani here is a way to get your economy going). I would say that there are a lot of people who have the exact motivation of adventures you talk about above. Think about the people who did the killing in Stalin’s Russia. I do not think it is unrealistic that a group of adventure’s would go into a cave just to kill kobolds because they think that Kolbolds are monsters.

    Also I would love to see Never Cry Kolbold!

  5. Britt / Oct 3 2008 8:06 pm

    Forget Iraq; “Boot Somebody in the Head” tourism (henceforth BSITHT), implemented in Washington DC (particularly in the Capitol Hill neighborhood), could totally fund the bailout.

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