Thursday, December 10, 2015

5e and Me

As I read through my blogroll today, I happened upon JB's anti-5e rant. As a rule, I don't jump into discussions like that; it's his blog, it's his opinion, etc. However, it did get me thinking on my own present 5e game. 

To review, this game started out as Keep on the Borderlands, though I threw in Tower of the Stargazer, Wizard's Challenge, In Search of the Unknown, and a couple of dungeons of my own design as well. I run it sandbox style. 

My players are all new to D&D. For two of them, I am their second DM and this is their second campaign. (Though their first D&D5e/modern D&D experience) For the other three, I am their first DM and this is their first experience with D&D in any incarnation. 

My players are all veteran PC gamers. All of them played or play World of Warcraft and League of Legends. I'm not sure how or if this colors their approach to tabletop gaming. Having never played either of those games, and being interested primarily in games of an older style, I haven't much perspective on the issue, and I feel like anything I say must be taken with an old-man-shaking-his-fist grain of salt. (And yes, I am aware that I'm one of the younger bloggers in the OSR at the age of 34, but I am also the oldest in this group, with age differences ranging from 6-11 years younger.)

The game itself seems to be driven by the acquisition of experience points. The players want to get xp. They do things that will net them xp. They do it because they get xp for it, not due to any particular character goal or motivation...aside from, I suppose, the acquisition of personal wealth and power. (You could argue that this goal was a strong part of older editions, as well) 

In terms of immersion, this campaign has to be one of my weakest performances as a DM. I feel like I describe the dungeons well enough, but the NPCs have little in the way of personality or flavor, which is something previous gaming groups have lauded in me. In fact, there seems to be very little in the way of RP at the table. The players are in a state of quasi-OOC at all times, and their characters' personalities are essentially just their own real life personalities. I don't know why any of them came to the Keep, nor what their purpose is aside from accumulating treasure and experience. Actually, this isn't 100% true; the party's necromancer has aspirations of rising within the Mage's Guild of the Keep. 

While I enjoy the game, I feel like it has none of my usual...pizzazz. I don't think this has anything to do with 5e necessarily, nor the players' background as WoW players. It might have something to do with the fact that all but one session have been played in one of two public venues.

Part of me is curious as to how this game would roll differently (if at all) if we were running, say, Swords & Wizardry or some B/X. Then again, two of the players play in a Cyclopedic D&D game... (albeit a heavily house ruled version) 

It's no secret that there are versions of the game I'd rather run, but at the end of the day, I prefer 5e to 3.5 or 4. 

...I could get down on some florid-ass 1e, tho. Terraxian forever. 


  1. Public venues will do it. New players already have to overcome a certain degree of self-awareness when starting the game, I can't imagine how it must be in public.

    1. Our most recent session was at the house where two of the players live, though one session out of the public eye wasn't enough to mitigate things. I might be moving the game to my house in about two months.

  2. It's hard to pin it on any one thing sometimes. I'll say this: if you haven't GMed this particular group in a different system before, then it is hard to pin it to 5e unless certain mechanics are getting in the way of RPing etc. And perhaps the module doesn't inspire you?

    1. I think it's probably a combination of new/unfamiliar group and new/unfamiliar edition. I don't know 5e like I know the older editions...I could run B/X or 1/2e in my sleep.

      As for the module, I love Keep. I also love the various other modules I've stuck around the map. (I use modules that are more location-based than event-based, with the exception of Wizard's Challenge.)

      I think it might also have to do with group familiarity. My older gaming groups are people who I gamed with for years. These guys I only met earlier in the year between March and just a few weeks ago, depending on the player.

      ...on the other hand, I'm often pretty energetic with strangers in convention one-shots... perhaps because I only see those people once per year.

      I'm guessing it's a combination of things.

  3. I agree with you about public spaces and shyness, although in my case giving the players something to do during the "down time" of an adventure helps. For instance, since I had them using miniatures, I assigned the (B/X) thief a mini of a halfling rogue from the ToEE board game. He then proceeded to have his mini climb onto everything in sight, without saying a word; I pointed out that, even though his character wasn't a halfling, he might as well have been.

    Also, the public space which I have run games at has a big-screen TV in the back where the tables are... and last time, the store owners had it streaming live coverage of BlizzCon. The player sitting directly under the TV could hardly hear a word I said the entire session.

  4. Gaming out in public? I can't imagine it! Back in my younger days I remember a bunch of us crammed into a little apartment, and we were sitting all over the place while the DM took up the entire table, bitching because of the heat.

    In regards to 5e, I looked over the rules and I don't understand most of it, I'm a 2e holdout and much of it is gibberish to me, but it does get a different generation playing the game!

    You say that you are running Keep on the Boarderlands, did you find the conversion to be difficult?

    1. Nah, the conversion wasn't difficult at all. For the most part, I just plug in the 5e monsters...orcs are orcs, kobolds are kobolds, etch. The only major change I made was switching an ogre to an ogrillon.

      We have since switched to running at the house where two of the players live. Sadly, it has yet to really do anything for the RP...