Wednesday, 21 February 2018

What is the Blogosphere for now? New Modes of Play

Zak S recently put a post up on G+ (which I hope he won't mind me paraphrasing and quoting from) to the effect the OSR or DIY D&D or whatever you want to call it has been a success: it has its own momentum now and it has actually become possible for people to simply make things and publish them without having to pass by the traditional gatekeepers of the hobby. He closed by saying, "The way of talking about games we had was designed for a situation of convivial stylistic and commercial underdoggery which no longer exists in the same way...different things are going to seem interesting or worth saying, and we're gonna have to figure out what they are."

I think this is especially true of the traditional D&D blogosphere. A few years ago, when Monsters & Manuals hit its 1000th entry, I put up a post bemoaning the decline of blogs. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been so hasty, because actually my own blog entered a bit of a "Silver Age" shortly after that that lasted a good two years, during which my readership exploded to levels never before experienced. It has gone down a bit since then, but that's mainly attributable to me posting less frequently and with less quality, I think, than previously (parenthood has given me a permanent -2 to my INT score; I hope it's not cumulative with each baby).

But it's indisputably the case that blogs aren't what they were, partly because the "stylistic and commercial underdoggery" has gone away, and partly because so much has been written and said that needed to be written and said that it feels as though we've run out of things to write about. There is always going to be call for more creative content (monsters, art, new rules, etc.) but any more writing about the principles of good play would probably now be flogging a dead horse. We've got 10 years of that behind us.

I think, though, that a few big undiscovered countries remain - enough, in fact, to provide plenty of grist for further elucidation and insight. For starters:


  • Nobody has posted anything definitive yet about running underwater adventures/campaigns
  • And for that matter nobody has posted anything definitive yet about running wilderness exploration adventures/campaigns either 


More than that, though, while we have become very good at ploughing the furrow of "rogues exploring a sandbox in order to get rich", what we have only begun to scratch the surface of are different modes of play. Think of all the metaphorical internet ink that has been spilled on how to successfully run rogue-PC-oriented sandbox games, and consider that there is surely an equivalent amount of that ink to spill on how to effectively run games that have different sets of starting parameters. What, for instance, are best practices for games in which the PCs are "good guys"? What about best practices for games about spying or diplomacy? What about best practices for games in different eras - pseudo-Victorian period, pseudo-Ancient Greece, pseudo-WWI? What about games in which the PCs are defending an area from invaders? And so on.

What I think it boils down to is: we've said most of what we need to say about dungeons and hexcrawls. But there are more things in heaven and earth than that.

27 comments:

  1. An old post, but talking about the same thing:

    http://roguesandreavers.blogspot.com/2014/03/campaign-frames.html

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    1. I remember that post. Still agree with it pretty much.

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  3. One thing that I've seen very little on (and have a few ideas that I'll be testing out this year) is something really old-school: campaigns that combine RPGs with wargames, in the way that Arneson and Gygax combined D&D with Chainmail.

    I think I'm right in saying that PC levels originally equated to how many men a hero was equivalent to in Chainmail battles. So the command of armies and massed battles were a significant part of the original conception.

    I was talking to an old friend at the weekend who played in a campaign that combined D&D (or equivalent) with Hordes of the Things. That's something I've always wanted to try. There would be huge potential for "zoom in/zoom out" gaming, in which the PCs determine the fate of armies in tabletop battles, and then a reactive GM runs RPG encounters that show things in close-up.

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    1. Yep, that's another angle waiting to be explored for sure.

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    2. I've been doing this on my 4e game with swarms. Build a unit of troops as a swarm of the same level as the PC and he can fight in and alongside it.

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    3. I am pretty sure there is a lot to dig on Warhammer's side for the zoom in/zoom out gaming

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  4. There might be 10 years of ideas out there, but they seem to be poorly indexed.

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    1. I agree. There have been many attempts to index and make searchable OSR blogging, but with limited utility and pickup. There is a lot of institutional knowledge but the texts are spread out and hard to condense.

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    2. I must concur that this was my initial reaction to that affirmation - that unless one has been very diligent in reading several blogs *and taking notes*, the information is diffused and not accessible to many..

      Ancalagon

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  5. That -2 is most definitely cumulative. But, good post!

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    1. I'd say −2 INT for the first baby, and then −1 for each subsequent one.

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  6. I'm actually trying to write out a system for playing a land-lubber and adventuring underwater. The problem I'm running into is unlike Patrick Stuart, who apparently knows a lot about caves and underground lifeforms, I know basically nothing about the ocean beyond what I learned in 5th grade biology.

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    1. Do some research and try to find out the five best books on the subject. Read them. Make notes. Then go on from there.

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  7. How would you differentiate "wilderness exploration adventures/campaigns" from hexcrawls?

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    1. I was asked this on G+ too and said: "Basically, a campaign in which interacting with the geography is a main goal. How do you make climbing a mountain interesting and gameable? How about blazing a trail through a forest? How do you make hunting and tracking a monster in the wilderness interesting? How do you create useful and realistic-seeming maps of small-scale wilderness areas? A hexcrawl is straightforward (it takes a day to cross a 1-mile mountain hex; you encounter a griffin) but that isn't really a game in which the wilderness itself is important. "

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  8. Entertaining
    perhaps I need to do that underwater fairy land this year

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  9. Here are two posts of mine about running underwater adventures. Not profound but serviceable:
    http://maziriansgarden.blogspot.com/2013/11/simple-underwater-rules.html
    http://maziriansgarden.blogspot.com/2013/12/reflections-on-running-underwater.html
    http://maziriansgarden.blogspot.com/2013/12/three-ways-to-breath-underwater-in.html

    And my underwater dungeon is here. I'm doing a snazzy, better version of the same with Gavin Norman now. We'll see how it turns out.

    http://maziriansgarden.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-submerged-spire-of-sarpedon-shaper.html

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  10. I've run a short (6 month or so) pirate campaign and it was quite challenging - I think there is a need for guidance for alternate frames. It's easy to miss an important element and the resulting game just doesn't quite work right...

    Ancalagon

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  11. I should really be writing more about our Boot Hill campaign - rotating referees, player-versus-player, player character troupes, blending different games.

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  12. So basically, "Now that we've written and read a crap ton of stuff about D&D, let's write more about D&D".

    Ok. I guess.

    I've covered games that aren't about hexcrawling murder-rogues. Of course, they weren't fantasy games. I've even talked about fantasy ganes that aren't about hexcrawling murder-rogues, but those weren't about D&D.

    Personally, I'd love to see blog posts about different kinds of D&D games too, because from what I've seen thats largely what D&D is about

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  13. In other awesome news, you've been given another glowing youtube review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4F67RFcW6E

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    1. Thanks! I already saw that one - very chuffed with what he had to say.

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  14. There IS new ground to be ploughed, ground *I* would like to plough...if only I had time to get back to my blog.

    I wouldn't equate children with a loss of intelligence (I have two kids myself and my brain feels the same or better these days); it's more the equivalent of suddenly becoming a multi-class character and having to split your XP. You just don't "advance" as fast as you used to, pre-child.
    ; )

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