I didn't think anyone would read this far back. Now I kinda feel bad about the huge amount of time since I added anything to this blog.
As it happens I do feel this way still, and I'm of the opinion that it was more stagnation for me. The trouble is that I don't have a ton of free time to play, so I can't reach beyond the group that I'm in and a few play by post games. The group is in the middle of a D&D campaign right now, and one of the players really dislikes the idea of using different game rules.
Fortunately the play by post games I'm in are Call of Cthulhu so I am getting a bit of a change of pace there. Moving into another setting has been fantastic! Not only does it let me explore new themes and environments, but its prompted new areas of interest. The Cthulhu concept has really resonated with me and I've been diving into the writings from H. P. Lovecraft that inspired the game. From those I've gotten a ton of new adventure and character ideas to use in future games.
It was a short trip from Lovecraft to the other stories that shared space with his work in the 1930's pulp magazines. There's a huge collection of fantastic stories that can easily inspire new ideas to use in games. They've also lead me to a huge curiosity in the Savage Worlds rules, that I'm very eager to try. Just reading through the diverse settings available for that game has really stirred up my imagination.
To wrap up this little monologue, I'm not dissatisfied with D&D or the fantasy genre. I just have a desire to explore new ideas and settings. Each new one I read doesn't just offer a new campaign or story, instead they all introduce new ideas and themes that can cross over to any campaign. I'm of the opinion that tabletop games shouldn't follow patterns or be formulaic, each adventure sure pit the players against decisions that force them to explore their characters. Exploring different settings brought me in contact with a ton of ideas for those sort of situations, and I think that's the inspiration I was really looking for.
I know this is an older post and I am not even sure if you feel the same way anymore, but for gamers out there dealing with gamer malaise. Sometimes you just need to upset the cart and broaden your horizons. Try cool games like Little Fears, Alpha & Omega and Mouseguard that change up the genres. Or if you need something closer to home, the fantasy rpg, Shroud of the Ancients, is almost done and they are looking for backers to support the release - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...venture-d5-rpg .
Find friends (or stick with friends) that make it fun and take a break from the status quo. That's my two cents.
Conversions are certainly an option, and its what I'm looking at doing with the Iron Kingdoms basically. I haven't looked into those other settings that you mention, aside from Shadowrun (which I played a bit a long while ago), so I'm not sure what they have to offer. Perhaps I'll look them up later on and see how they compare to the other ones I've considered using.
you could take a totally different setting entirely, such as Deadlands (Steampunk - from savage Worlds) or Shadowrun's setting (cyberpunk with magic) and just put DnD mechanics behind it. I plan to take Hellfrost from Savage Worlds and convert it over to 2nd edition DnD with a bit of modification. To me playing in a world with Vikings (West), Romans (East) and Saxons (in between) is a very attactive situation. I do plan to whittle down the number of nations and extend the ice age further south a bit. HellFrost even has the setting book separate from the actual game mechanics book, so you could Very easily put it into DnD.
I have the luxury of the extra time... learning to improvise is definitely the way to focus. Thats just something you have to hone as you go... plus the level of detail and "flavor" expected by groups vary so widely thats its hard to give any advice in that regards other than keep a notebook with a few ideas written down you can drawn on as you go - just rudimentary notes or concepts you can adapt as needed.
I agree with you 100%, if everyone is having fun then there's no need to make changes. That's the case we're all enjoying the game.
As I mentioned some of the changes were required, the twin boys took away all my prep time so I needed to learn to improvise more. The writing isn't really needed, but I think it'll really improve the game. I don't have the ability to write what I feel are interesting modules and adventures, at least not something I'm excited to read.
Fortunately by picking up on what the players are interested in I can keep them engaged. I still would like to improve that ability.
Well... the thing to think of beyond all your criticisms is "Is the group having fun?" So, if both from a player and GM perspective, you are having fun, then acknowledge all your hard work FIRST. Yes, there's always ways to make it better. In fact, sometimes i make it worse for some of the group, for just one session so one player can get his particular type of roleplaying in... If you know some of your behavior patterns, you can obviously change them on purpose in order to throw a curve ball.
I guess its always good to be self reflective, but if everyone is having fun there's no need to go too far afield. Tweak a few things to give your players a surprise and a challenge for yourself... but not at the price that it makes your job as GM harder or much more time consuming (unless thats really what you want).
The only criticism i have of most GM's is the reliance on "modules" - i write all my own materials these days and that makes it a lot more difficult. However, its more rewarding. Maps i struggle with and sometimes use modules for that... but thats it. There's too much that goes a long with a module - i prefer to completely wing it and make it up on the fly with a few notes or have it all worked out ahead of time... using modules as filler, i find forced me into directions i did not want to go.
I guess its a question of your GMing style. I tend to draft an outline of events that will happen during the campaign, which coincides with the machinations of the NPC's (both good and evil). Then I drop the players into the game and offer them a few quest hooks that lead them to discover whats going on. At which point I prefer to take away the guidance and leave them to decide what course they should take to disrupt the plans of the evil NPC's.
The idea is to give the players a lot of freedom to drive the story. The timeline is just there to provide motivation; they may not see all of the events, but they'll see the result of these events in one form or another. Obviously their actions will change the timeline, so I'll adapt that as needed to show that they are having an effect on the world.
So having something like those domains which are totally open for the players to figure out and solve on their own is right up my alley. They lack the timeline for motivation, but I would think the ever present danger of the domain should be enough to keep them moving.
Thats how the majority of my play scenarios are written. I do a few planned encounters though... most GM's do prefer some linear advancement; though a lot of them are just encounters with results - not necessarily linear. However... its more about the story and weaving together people, places, events, and a immersive experience that makes the players go "wow, that was freakin cool". I write a section on "continuing the adventure" that lists several ideas for added plots and ways it ties in with other scenarios - but i really prefer to leave a lot of it open ended. Then i share them with the players when done, and let others use them for GMing in other groups. My weakness is media and maps... total amateur and i hate taking the time to do it.
So its not all that good then. Glad I didn't waste a lot of time with it then.
Still though at least you'd get the name on your character sheet, so it was a start. Which is more than the new character builder gives you.
It didn't add anything other than the name of whatever you wanted to add. It wouldn't allow you to add your custom items to the CB's math.
If I remember right, the old version did have some method for you to add in custom house ruled stuff which was removed from the new version. I never made much use of it, but I recall that option being there.
The CB could certainly stand to see a lot of improvements. My group has simply been using the old one, but of course the old CB doesn't have the Dark Sun content. So we have a shared account on the computer at the store where we play, and use it for any final character tweaking.
I would have LOVED to have seen them add a local data base, so that you could really add some house rules and custom content to the CB and the game. I suppose that isn't a priority because it doesn't generate any cash flow.
I would unfortunately have to agree with a lot of what you said here. I personally do not like the new character builder at all. In fact, I still use the old one, even as out of date as it is becoming. I rarely read the Dragon articles, and I always come up with my own content for my games, so modules are of no use to me. Nonetheless, I have a standing DDI subscription... Is it worth keeping?... If I was in a financial pinch, it would certainly be the first thing to go.
I used to think the same of my collection of dead tree books, I still do in fact. Its pretty impressive to point at a mountain of books and say "Yeah, I've read all those". You'll also never beat a printed book for flipping through to find some text or skim through a section.
It was more the laws of physics that pushed me toward getting a nook. The shelves my books were on were literally bowing and threatening to snap under the weight of my collection. If I tried to get any more on there I would have to play some book tetris to get them to fit, then likely the bookshelf would have given up and dumped them all to the floor.
As I said I still prefer the printed books, but without the nook I would have been hard pressed to store more stories.
My wife got a nook and i tried it out. I still prefer my library - its like a symbol of accomplishment for me - some measure of how far i've come in life. Its filed with mystery, history, academic, sci-fi, fantasy, speculative, and all manner of other books that sort of represent me as a person. And yes, i draw on all those to tell my stories - which i weave into multi year camapigns in-game. The sum of my experience goes into who i am, which is reflected in my actions - and gaming (specficially GMing) is a big part of that.
Really its about why you do it. I can't play WOW or game online because i crave the social interaction of having somebody there. Its just different. I could be playing just about anything if i am a player, but i do sort of lay down the law if i'm a GM (and i only play one system now). Its less about the mechanics and more about setting and story - whatever mechanics work best for that and get in the way least of having fun. If thats a consistent single set, each time, then so be it. If its the same simply out of apathy - throw yourself into a group that uses a system outside your boundaries and see what happens.
Agreed on everything there...it does make one more creative. I'm now writing my own fiction.
You're probably right, the system isn't bringing a whole lot to the table. Realistically speaking, the group is going of players to bring a lot more fun to the table than the rules can. That said there's a lot of different settings out there. I suppose I was fortunate in may choices that I didn't play game with the same settings.
It just seems that every gamer I meet has played or is familiar with dozens of different game systems. I doubt I'm missing anything by not knowing too many, I just wonder if there's some exploration I need to do.
As we get older, RL takes up a lot more time. As for stagnation, IMHO system doesn't matter. Many systems fall into the same genre (D&D and Pathfinder) and one plot could fit into either system real easily. It's just taking the time to learn a new set of rules. Me - I'd rather NOT learn a new set of rules but think of more plot twists and complications without the usual fight monster get treasure.
My philosophy is as long as I'm using more little gray cells, I'm not stagnating.