Producers of Dungeons and Dragons , Wizards of the Coast, put out a survey to better understand tabletop gamers and their preferences. Sean thinks it would be interesting to have Brett take the survey. If you have not taken the rpg survey, we encourage you to do so, but feel free to answer the questions out loud with us.
On one hand, I can agree that players can really skewer the feeling of a story if they have wild character concepts that don’t work well with the rest of the group, but I’m not 100% certain that it’s just D&D that has this issue. The FFG Star Wars games are pretty clear on what they are presenting regarding tone and character archetypes, and I still had a player that wanted to play an Earth astronaut that got lost in hyperspace and ended up in the Star Wars galaxy “because he could just play a human.”
We also had a player in the local Adventurers League games that seized on every instance where the AL rules said that you can “reskin” some elements to customize a character. This was primarily for things like “I want this kind of mount, but it’s outside of the HD of what I can get,” so you can say that “X is Y” so that you can use the stats of something that is within the limits. Another example they gave was if you wanted to play a Star Elf or an Avariel, where there aren’t stats for these characters as player options, but you could just say you are a wood elf with wings that don’t work, or a high elf that’s actually a Star Elf.
He started pushing this to say that his character had the stats of a dwarf, but was actually a talking dog, or that his bard has a keytar for his instrument, and eventually, the group needed to just say “stop.” There was nothing in the rules that said “you can play a talking animal,” or use anachronistic instruments, but he took that little sliver of encouragement, and shoved it wide open.
Normally I would say this is a group that hasn’t had a well-defined session zero, but given that this was Adventurers League, people vaguely discussed what they wanted to play for a season, but whatever they show up with at the table is what they have. That said, I can see where D&D may have a little more of an issue with this, because none of the core D&D books mention session zero concepts, and AL does encourage people to show up with what they have. So I guess while I made the point that other RPGs aren’t immune to this, I just walked myself back around to realizing why D&D may have a little more of an issue with this.
I started game mastering because I loved thinking about “what if” my favorite characters did things that weren’t in any of the media they were featured in. I would have super elaborate stories for my G.I. Joes, Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and Star Wars characters. Even when I was fairly young, I was thinking “does this seem like the kind of thing they would do, but haven’t?”
When my sister received the magenta Basic set, it was because she loved fantasy stories, and because my parents were actually kind of doing the opposite of some parents with the Satanic Panic. “Let’s get our kids this thing that’s supposed to be edgy.” That said, her friends weren’t as into fantasy as she was, and she let the box sit for over a year, so eventually, I snuck into her room and claimed it for my own.
If I hadn’t started running, nobody would have played, but it was also an extension of my super elaborate play scenarios.
The only thing I have to add probably isn’t precisely on topic. But Jared’s outlining of the “issue” not being confined to D&D but also, say, FFG Star Wars puts the following anecdote in mind:
To frame this tale, let me add that I’ve run FFG Star Wars, precisely ten sessions of it, sessions comprising three distinct narrative arcs. This was for (to me) young people. These people were in their early twenties, so you can understand what is “young” to me. Anyway, I told them that the only thing that was “canon,” for me, was the Original Trilogy (I was not prepared to keep up with their Mandalorian cultures and Sith Lords and Clone Wars and who knows what else). I ran. I had a good time. They had a good time. They asked me to do more. I said no thanks. Mic drop. I walked into the sunset.
Later I learn that some in this group were continuing to play. Some new people had entered the group. One of the new gamers told me about his character and something “cool” his character did.
“I play this droid, right? And there was a whole squad of stormtroopers. And I strapped all these thermal detonators on me. And the others in the group threw me into the squad of stormtroopers. The bombs went off and the squad was obliterated and because of [insert some Talent] the blast didn’t hurt me and I’m just fine.”
This might not be exactly what Jared is talking about. More on topic with that is this: a close gamer friend of mine who is in a 5e game says that the party feels like a traveling menagerie. Everyone seems to be playing some sort of anthropomorphic animal.
The point is, of course, that many gamers want different experiences from their games. The FFG player I mentioned wanted to exploit Gamist loopholes—or “break” the system—in FFG SW. Others, in 5e, seem to want to be [ridiculous] fantastic beasts.
WotC regularly omits The Known World/Mystara from the list of campaign settings for some reason. I think there is only one mention of Mystara by name in the 5E core books—in the DMG. And the Isle of Dread is also mentioned. But otherwise that’s it, despite how fleshed out that campaign world is from the Gazetteers.
They also had a Hollow World setting too which never seems to get a mention either
Hey all, first time poster. Started listening to the show last year and the way the hosts highlight the community is affirming and welcoming. The kind of openness and genuine interest that Sean and Brett display are the features of the gaming community that keep me enthusiastic about the hobby. Props to everyone on here for being a positive force!
I started playing RPGs in middle school because I always wished I could do more in the video games I played. When my friend across the street showed me his AD&D books my mind was blown. I was no longer confined to what was on an NES cartridge! I think wanting to DM/GM was an extension of that, now I would only be limited by what I could create (and what others would play).
Thinking about the survey and something that came up on the episode, I hope WotC is planning to expand into VTT. I would pay good money for an online platform to run 4th edition D&D. The tight design of the combat was a wonderful way for me to experience that video game-type experience that attracted me as a kid. Maybe if enough people answered positively about 4e on that survey I can play it more!
I’ve heard that request/hope from a number of folks who are 4th edition fans. I’ve only played it once so my comments on it are more about the group I was playing with than the system itself. I often say, “I didn’t enjoy it much” but that’s just a short cut to avoid having to tell a longer story about how annoyed and bored I was with the group I was playing with at the time.
In regards to wild character concepts and traveling anthropomorphic menageries I too have come across this in 5E on numerous and disparate occasions. I’m not sure if 5E helps buoy that type of character creation or if it is a generational thing.
Personally I do not find that type of gameplay fulfilling. If I wanted to be in a party or GM a game with talking Deer People and Anthropoid Cockroaches I’ll run a gonzo post apoc game like MCC, Gamma World, or Umerica.
When I compare the last three iterations of D&D with the first two editions I get the feeling that a type of power creep more in line with a supers game has evolved.
This is a feeling I’ve been mulling over for the last few years now.
Not sure if this is the right place but can yall do an episode on how to GM for $$? How to get that paper! How much to charge. What to expect.
and one on how to run a game on the fly? You sit down as a player and the group makes you GM. You have to use player queues to run the game.
THanks for the topic suggestions. Yo topic boy @Fafhrd!!
Or Low Life
I dig the whole Mystara/Known World/Hollow World setting. I wonder if part of the reason it gets less attention from WotC for 5E is a) it was for the old Basic game more so than AD&D, b) it didn’t really have much in the way of fiction compared to Realms and Dragonlance in particular and c) there is so much great third party setting content for it (see Vault of Pandius, Threshold magazine).
There was some additional note about it in the WotC books. I know Saltmarsh had references to where to put some of the adventures. Maybe in Yawning Portal too. At least one Mystara monster, the Nagpa, was in a book too (Volos?).