Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Post-Dungeon" People

The other night, while discussing the upcoming game for Monday nights, I had a spark of thought, and wanted to share it. Credit for the spark goes to +Kyrinn S. Eis, though I cannot say if the thoughts I present below are in line with hers.

The term Kyrinn used was "a post-dungeon person." I like this term, it has a nice ring to it, and gets to the point: a post-dungeon person is someone who does not play RPGs thinking that a dungeon crawl is the only type of game out there, or (more likely) they avoid dungeon crawls altogether.

My disclaimer here is that, I think, everyone enjoys a crawl every now and then. I probably don't crawl as often as some of the old grognards, but I do love a good dungeon crawl. Emphasis on "good." The other thing about me is that I enjoy more types of games than a dungeon crawl.

So what's my point? Well, I think a key distinction between gamers should be less about "old school" and "new school" styles, and more about what game we are playing.
I often hear haters, on all sides of every fence, complaining that "such and such just isn't D&D" or "<xyz> ruins <abc> about the game." What if, instead, we recognized that we are playing different games with the same name? D&D, and all RPGs, really, are usually more versatile than we give them credit for being. Yes, the original D&D games were written for dungeon crawls and wilderness hex crawls. That means that "dungeon crawl" and "hexploration" are the games you are playing--not D&D! (Rather, it's more important to identify what game you are playing outside of the name of the rule set.)

This is a big part of why I try to name every campaign or game I run, even if that is a name just for me. It allows me to separate MY game from the rules set I"m using to facilitate the game. So, if you choose to only play a "traditional" or "old school" game, that's great. Use D&D, use a retroclone, use True20--whatever you want. But keep in mind that no matter what rules you use, someone else is using those same books to accomplish a different goal; they are trying to play a different game.

My point here is not to cause dissent or to upset and offend. These are thoughts I have, and you are free to respond to help me reshape them, and I am free to keep/discard/change them during the discussion.


  1. One thing that playing a lot of different game systems has made me realize, is that game systems should be selected AND modified based on what kind of things the story is going to be about, and I think the idea of a truly generic system is a design flaw -- sure, it can work, but the rules engage the story in a fairly bland, universal way.

    D&D is interesting in that it sits in a weird position between a generic game and a very specific, focused on. You could definitely argue that different editions approach different campaigns and play styles differently.

    One thing I am enjoying about running a stripped down rules-lite game, like B/X and its variations, is that I can easily graft on new subsystems and little house rules that are specifically designed to game-ify elements of the story that are common to the focus of my campaign. I think this is what ACKS does -- it's a variant/houseruled focused game that makes some very specific assumptions about the world and the kind of campaign it supports.

    Also coming into this discussion would be a mention about GM'ing style, and how certain systems can support more varied GM'ing styles than others. Burning Wheel, for example, I feel like is intended to support a VERY specific style of GM'ing style -- whereas the variety of campaigns you can play with it are very wide. B/X D&D is more the opposite, supporting many different GM'ing approaches, but emphasizing spells, sorcery, and exploration.

  2. I like this a lot. It would be a great way to not only change the discussion but create excellent tools to describe campaigns or adventures.

  3. I think a lot of old schoolers would agree that 2nd edition D&D was the version that pushed D&D out of "the dungeon" as the principle assumed activity of playing the game.

  4. Agreed.

    I'm also growing weary of the absolute codification of the dungeon as the mythic underworld and all of the other 'RaW' concepts being nailed down as the way a thing truly is -- in this case, what dungeons or wilderhexes are and what they are populated with (and why they are there, etc.).

    For example: A ruined city during wartime has all of the same elements as a 'classic' dungeon, but has a very different feel, and its above ground-ness allows more mobility and a variety of access points for all sides in the conflict, including retreat and resupply issues.

    As regards rules supporting playstyle, v. making a fit, I think that over-specialisation can be a bad thing, if the game setting allows for more variety than the system engenders. Likewise, any system can be made to fit, and sometimes the tight fit and filing off the corners can be a fun part of the experience.

    I'm just baffled why gamers are arguing about a purely optional pastime and which version of which imaginary reality is truer to a set of old or new books. I realise that intellectual folks like exercising their noggens, and debate and argumentation is part of that, as well as the law of stating one's opinion = objective absolute declarative statement.

    Just kinda silly in the scheme of the big picture is all.

  5. Wasn't D&D as orginally written "post dungeon"? It was about dungeon raiding, wandering the wilderness, and having battles with fantastic forces. Yes "dungeons" are in the name and I love em but the original game used a set of wargaming rules as it's foundation and dungeons were where one hunted baubles an maguffins to do well in battle.