As I’ve mentioned before, I used to enjoy playing role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and I still have this odd fascination with them. Recently, I got together with some old friends and tried to run them through a short scenario using the rules from the D&D 4th edition: Starter Set.
It was a total disaster.
Before we even started, I had two of the players call me with requests for revenge on another player who had wronged them years ago in another game. I made a lame attempt to honor both requests, which I shouldn’t have done. It slowed the whole thing down and was pointless. Bring dice, not baggage.
The starter rules do not provide any information on creating your own characters, so we had to use the pre-generated characters included with the game. While this does get things going faster, it removed any opportunity for the players to feel connected or interested in the player characters. Similarly, the use of the pre-generated scenario removed any opportunity for me, the DM, to feel connected or interested in the storyline or encounters.
Honestly, I was never very good about using purchased scenarios in my games. I was much better at telling a story when it was MY story.
We made it through some preliminary stuff all the way up to an initial combat encounter, and I looked at my friends and said, “Are we enjoying this? I remember this being fun and this really isn’t that fun.” I was met with varying degrees of apathy and agreement, so we put it away and played Galaxy Trucker instead.
For a week or so afterward, I felt like that was it for me as far as RPGs were concerned. Boardgames are more enjoyable and don’t require long periods of preparation. But then I saw a link to the Dungeons and Dragons podcast that was featuring Scott Kurtz, the creator of PVP Online, the guys from Penny Arcade, and Wil Wheaton. I downloaded an episode onto my trusty ipod shuffle and gave it a listen.
What I heard was everything I remember that was fun about playing an RPG: sitting around a table with friends, acting goofy, yelling at dice, and being part of a story as it develops. Because of this, I really want to give it another try. One more time, I think, will make it clear if I’m ready to rediscover a worthwhile hobby or just chasing nostalgia.