Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Branching Out

The Apprentices have been playing for over a year now and are talking about starting their own D&D games with their friends. I was tempted to give them each an extra copy of Moldvay Basic and a copy of The Lost City (they already have their own basic rulebook but it's easier to play with two, and B4 is a nice self-contained adventure) but while they like Basic D&D, well, 4th Edition is what they want to try with their friends.

I'm OK with that as it is this generation's D&D of the moment but it left me at a little bit of a loss - they have dice & Player's Handbooks but they don't have a DMG or a Monster Manual. They don't have any mini's of their own. They don't have a battlemat or wet-erase markers of their own. HOW ON EARTH ARE THEY GOING TO RUN A GAME? How the heck did we run games without all of that stuff? I've been running with a bunch of mini's & a battlemat for 25+ years now and it's hard for me to remember how we handled some of this stuff in the time before. I know we weren't as concerned with tactical positioning back then - the game didn't really demand it in quite the same way as 3E or 4E -  but they're going to need some of this stuff to run a session the way they've seen me run it. They don't even have DM Screens!

So I looked around at things and the one item that solves more of my problems here than anything else is that !$$%^&#$&^@$^ Neo Red Box set that I trashed late last year. Finding myself in a somewhat hypocritical position is not a comfortable feeling, but I did want to explain my thinking. Extra introductory rule book: Check. Introductory adventure: check. Monster stats: check. Monster tokens: check. Handy box to store notes and maps and character sheets in: check. Thirteen dollars at Amazon because I need at least two of them: check

My alternate option was to pick up a DM Guide/Kit and a Monster Manual/Vault for each of them which pretty much doubles my cost, minimum. DM screens and dungeon tiles might follow down the road somewhere, but I'm thinking we will see how this goes with the intro set and if it goes well then there are birthdays and holidays where these other options could come into play.

The one thing I am getting more on board with is the monster tokens. With them showing up in many of the newer 4E products I realized I kind of like the idea - not so much for me, as I have a pile of mini's that's only going to keep getitng bigger - but for a kid starting out and trying to haul his stuff back and forth to friends' houses and all it's a pretty handy way to go. I think that even if you can round up miniatures for the PC's and then use tokens for your enemies then that should work just fine too as a transitional stage.

One other note on bringing in new players: I used to love grabbing a big thick RPG book and sitting down to pore through it on a Sunday afternoon or a summer weekday. No one handed me most of my gamebooks - I looked through them at the store, read about them in Dragon, scraped up some money, and bought them, usually one at a time. So I might buy Gamma World while a friend bought Boot Hill and another friend bought Top Secret and then we would all trade the books back and forth after we had read them. GURPS, Shadowrun, and Rifts were all pretty good-sized books that we were all excited to acquire. Nowadays though, I thnk trying to bring in new players with a 500-page rulebook is doomed. Even with my apprentices who rip through fiction like it's an addiction, from Harry Potter to Ranger's Apprentice to the Drizzt books, when I handed them the Champions 4th  edition Big Blue Book I could see their enthusiasm waver. When they look at some of the other books in collection there's a definite cuoff point where it starts to look more like homework than fun. Old Basic D&D, Savage Worlds, Old TSR Marvel - those all went over fine as far as "read this and then let's talk" but there's no way they're going to get excited aboiut something like Aces and Eights, Hero 6th Edition (Two Huge Books?!), or maybe even Pathfinder. The one thing that does seem to help is color and illustration. That shiny new DC Adventures book was a big hit. D&D 4E, Star Wars Saga, Pirates of the Spanish Main - none of them are small books but all of them are full color and have quite a few illustrations and that seems to lighten the load in a way. So despite some of our old school sensibilities the art and layout does make a difference for some people - for sure the younger crowd. Remember the things they are judging it by are not whether it looks better than an early 90's GURPS book - they are comparing it to Facebook and Wizard 101 and WOW and Call of Duty and Force Unleashed and all of those other birght shiny things that they spend time on. The imagination is there but it takes a stronger effort to punch through and ignite it than those black and white doodles in the original PHB.

Hopefully the new seeds will take as they journey thorugh junor high and high school and they will start having games that don't require me or rely on a bunch of my stuff to have fun. I'm not sure about the future in that regard but they will at least have the option. That's what I can do for now.

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