Friday, May 22, 2020


I'm taking a break from running D&D.

I write that sentence, and then I stare at it. Then I stretch, then I write this sentence. In about thirty seconds I'm going to get up and microwave another cup of cold coffee, maybe use the bathroom, then return to the keyboard.

[*sips hot coffee*]

Almost a year ago, I made a decision to really get back into AD&D, or at least make a valiant stab at it. I wrote a few posts about rangers and illusionists, and I watched (or listened to) a LOT of webcasts on AD&D, the best of which are the two Grogtalk dudes in Florida who I find HIGHLY entertaining (their antics, self-deprecating humor, and snarky comments often make me laugh out loud).

But it's hard to run an AD&D campaign without like-minded players. And I have no such players at the moment. OD&D has been quite enjoyable...better in many ways than AD&D. Customizable as it is, it's quite easy to make it as "Advanced" as you want it. But the same old gripe returns: why bother doing the work, when you can just play the (Advanced) game that already exists?

[*sips coffee; thinks for a moment*]

There are two issues that arise from the game I've been running. One is the small pool of players I have available: I don't want two or three viable regulars; ideally, I'd like five to seven. Even four players is too small a number for the type of game I want to run.  The other problem is the age and ignorance of the kids. Or just that they ARE kids...I'm not saying kids can't run or play D&D, just that I'm not comfortable running the type and style of game I want with kids. Not with my own, not with other peoples'.

[*sips again; pauses again*]

Taking a break from running doesn't mean taking a break from reading or designing or (possibly even) designing for the game. It just means what I wrote: I don't want to run a D&D campaign at this time. And this is sad because...well, the game is meant to be played, right? And if I'm not playing or running the game, do any of my jotted thoughts or designs or writings count for much? I can't see that they really do...and consequently that makes me feel...I don't know. Like a fraud, I suppose.  At least, like someone who has no right (or less right) to talk and write and theorize and design then someone actually doing the work of playing and running the game.

Plus it's sad because...well, because I want to run, but I'm tired of being frustrated. Someone once said something like "no gaming is better than bad gaming" and I wasn't so very sure I agreed. Certainly, I would have had a harder time buying into that expression back when I lived in Paraguay. Now, well...I'm starting to come around to the idea.

So, I'm taking a break. Been playing quite a bit of BattleTech the last week. Been considering running some Boot Hill and Top Secret for the kids (my kids, anyway). Maybe some Marvel Superheroes or D6 Star Wars. Lightweight stuff that requires little in the way of world building or investment.

I can't run D&D that way anymore. I mean, I can, but dammit, it's not satisfying. Not to me, anyway.

[*pauses to get reheated coffee from the microwave*]

One-off games of D&D are not my thing anymore. The game is designed for longterm play and development over time. That, at least, is how I derive the most enjoyment: watching characters (my own or those in my campaign) go from being pawns and patsies to individuals of note and legend. Watching their impact on the fantasy world. Seeing how the setting changes based on the actions of the protagonist characters.

Those other "lightweight" games? They are designed for minimal impact. The Succession Wars continue whether or not the Mechwarriors' lance is wins or loses a battle. A gunfighter in Boot Hill may affect the fate of a small western town, but the mythical west continues unheeded. The actions of the agents in Top Secret cannot stop the Cold War, only foil (possibly) some villainous scheme bent on world domination...and failure simply means an end to the game itself (always with the possibility of starting it up from scratch). The same holds true for Star Wars and Marvel: the game is structured and limited by the impositions of the genre and setting.

Which makes for easy, light gaming...if not especially deep or enriching stuff.

Oh, I have toyed with the idea of doing something non-D&Dish but equally "deep:" adapting something like Heroes Unlimited to the concepts found in Savage Worlds' Necessary Evil or even LESS conventional (like The Boys)...but again, I don't really have the players to do that sort of thing. Mature gaming demands maturity, and I don't just mean the ability to curse and drink beer. I'm talking about the ability to be amused by something more than the vicarious thrill of sniping law enforcement with imaginary firearms...enjoying genre conventions while subverting them requires one to understand them, no? D&D, that's a lost cause at the moment.

Anyway. It's Friday, and it's Memorial Day weekend and for the first time in its nearly fifty year history, there will be no Folklife Festival in Seattle. This is the extremely depressing for Yours Truly but, you know, people are dying all over the country (still)...I mean, what are you going to do? And depression and disappointment are par for the course these days. Maybe I'll get around to doing my taxes or something.

Regardless, D&D will NOT be on the menu.

Hope the rest of y'all are doing well. I know this whole post is kind of a bummer, but I hope the the near future holds good things (and good times) for all of you.



  1. I believe there to be ‘seasons’ of D&D. There’s time at the table but there’s also the productive work you can only do isolated in the tower. The medium is deep. Embrace it!

  2. I didn't think your post was a bummer. It was rather thoughtful...introspective and I could relate having been there at times in my decades of being a gamer. I do find myself at a place in my life, wherein, I feel no gaming is better than bad gaming. For a time, I "forced" myself to run for a group that I just didn't jive with,which led to me walking away from the group and the game for awhile, before returning and finding with the right group my fun had returned.

  3. I struggle with this as well, the single biggest factor for me being players who care/show up. If I cannot get a solid - and consistently showing - group together week to week, my interest falls quickly. I have probably started four or five campaigns over the last five years that flutter into death after a couple of months of players not showing up regularly. I guess it makes sense. Why will I spend hours preparing a game session only to cancel it because only 2 of 5 players show up. I tend to end and start over, only to repeat the situation a couple of months later. Exceptionally frustrating. Just know that you are not alone!

    Could also be a side effect of online gaming. It is easier to cancel and people feel less bad about a simple no-show online.

  4. Physical groups trump online groups by a factor of 5.

    And like anything else, you HAVE to put the work into it constantly to find and refine your table with good people.

    Take a break and then try again!


  5. Try you some DUNGEONPUNK RPG PWYW


    Try some Graphic Novel Freeform Supers RPG!

  6. Total agreement. I don't play one-shots at cons unless there's something especially intriguing (seeing a DM's style or peeking at a new game's unusual rules). It's the ongoing campaign that interests me these days. Though lately I'm doing that with 5e. ;p

    On a completely unrelated topic, what part of Seattle are you in?

    1. I live in a neighborhood called Greenwood which is in north Seattle (north of the downtown area). The neighborhood known as Ballard (an older, larger 'hood that was once it's own city before being incorporated into the Seattle metro area) is just south of me.

    2. I think I said before; Ballard is the part of Seattle I know best. Greenwood is nicer. There used to be a marvelous bookstore on N 85th street, with wooden board floors. Is that still there?

    3. The “Couth Buzzard” perhaps? That’s on Greenwood Avenue proper, just south of 85th. I don’t know of another bookstore on 85th itself, and I’ve been in and around these parts since ‘97 (my home is on 87th Street).

      Used to be you couldn’t throw a rock in this town without hitting two used bookstores and a coffee the books are (mostly) gone. We still have two in my neighborhood, a couple more in Fremont, and another two (three?) in Ballard, not counting comics or game shops. But there used to be twice that many in Ballard alone. At least we still have several nice libraries (though they’ve all been closed since the pandemic).

    4. Yes, I think the Buzzard was the one. Bookstores have gone like that everywhere: all those that I used to visit are gone. Not that I mind the internet replacing them. More convenient.

    5. Ha! I'm up in Langley, on Whidbey Island. If you ever make your way up here, give me a shout. :)

    6. Really? For some reason I thought you were a bit farther south and east of Washington. Ever make it out to the DragonFlight convention?

    7. I used to be in Austin, TX. Only moved up here about two years ago. Haven't been to DragonFlight yet; I've barely made it to anything up here beyond Emerald City and Norwescon.

    8. Right on. That Whidbey’s liqueur goes great on vanilla ice cream, just by the way.
      ; )

  7. I know what you mean - not that I'm not currently enjoying running D&D - I am, Basic, 1e, and adapted 5e - but that sense of frustration about the possibilities and requirements, getting the right players, etc. Definitely applies most to AD&D, which is the most sombre, thoughtful system, the system which most encourages a game of arcane interlocking interests, plots, branching choices, etc.

    When I run Basic, it's mostly fairly light and "silly", though the gameplay can be very clever and good; when I run 5e, even as adapted, both the feel and the mechanics proper give it a shiny, glossy feel; but not so for 1e. So I get what you mean/feel.

    You'll be back in the chair before long.

    (As well as Star Wars, Deadlands, either Classic or SW, might be a good pick.)

    1. I considered Deadlands...a game whose fluff and tone I admire mightily...but it's such a clunky system. And SW isn't really my cup o tea.