Friday, April 24, 2009

On the Merits of Dungeons

The other bit of gaming I did last weekend (besides Trollsmyth's Labyrinth Lord game, which was particularly excellent and which I know I haven't been writing about enough, even considering that it's harder for me to blog as a player than as a GM) was a couple of hours of Swords & Wizardry, in the previously mentioned boyfriend's brand new dungeon.

He's hooked. Wishing-he-had-graph-paper-in-class, can't-wait-to-play-again, completely, totally, fantastically hooked. He's got a bunch of ideas about how to expand his dungeon (currently a Mayan/Aztec/conquistador mash-up thing, but he's thinking the next level, accessible through a big ol' pyramid, will be Napoleonic Egypt) and has started suggesting new kinds of games to play, including a ship-going, ocean-hopping game. He finally gets why I spend so much time on this stuff.

Because he didn't, the first couple of times I tried to get him into gaming. (Real gaming, not that weak-ass computer stuff all the kids are into these days.) Part of it, the first time, was that he was gaming with a bunch of people he'd just met for the first time; part of it was he's able to get into it a lot easier when it's just me and him. He still kind of thinks of Dungeons & Dragons as something that he'll get made fun of for, a feeling that, while I don't really share it, I do understand. Less people means less waiting, too, which particularly helps with someone who's only other gaming experience comes from computers.

But I can't help thinking that maybe, just maybe, some of it is the style of play. He likes planning expeditions, picking out equipment, being cautious, and exploring. The other two games he's played were a lot more character based, more about goofy antics and "acting out a role." Which is great for a lot of people, but for whatever reason that kind of game didn't quite click with him. The dungeon does.

From here, I expect he'll branch out a bit, once he's got the core experience down and he's ready to move on to bigger and better things. But it just drove home to me that there is real value in the dungeon style of play, even simply as an introductory stepping stone: a straightforward, structured shallow-end in the pool of roleplaying. (Though that's definitely not all it is, as I'm learning in Trollsmyth's game.) Give up the dungeon entirely, and you lose players for whom it works in a way that more "sophisticated" styles of play really don't.

So score one for the Old School Renaissance. This really is turning out to be the Year of the Dungeon.


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  2. He's hooked. Wishing-he-had-graph-paper-in-class, can't-wait-to-play-again, completely, totally, fantastically hooked.Gabba gabba!
    One of us!

  3. I'll go out on a limb and take this a step farther.

    A few of my friends like pen-and-paper RPGs, but the rest are just kinda uninterested. I would feel the same if not for the broad spectrum of experiences within this single game-- dungeons, army versus army warfare, politics, exploration, wilderness survival, puzzles, and more.

    Every combination of GM and players has their own mix of games within the umbrella of the whole game, which keeps the experience interesting throughout the years.