Tuesday, 9 June 2015

I Miss the Wonder of Exploration (edit) & Weirdness

Bar two sessions of LFR around five or so years ago, I have not actually played D&D since 1985 and have only played it a few times since I first discovered the game in 1981. After a single session of playing to learn how mapping worked, I started DMing immediately and rarely returned to the player's side of the screen.

Half of my regular players have had me DMing them since 1984 and I have largely adapted my DMing style to suit their playing preferences... and I realised I am missing out. As per the post title, I miss the wonder of exploration.

While we play 4E - and have had a few sessions of 5E as well - my long-term players gave on extended adventures, especially dungeon crawls, decades ago before 2E was released. The attention span isn't there so I end up compressing almost everything into one- to two-session mini-adventures simply to hold their attention... and I simply miss the wonder of exploration.

As a DM, there is something really wonderful about creating something weird and/or mysterious and having your players becomes entertained by interacting with it. The other half of my players still like this... but the old timers are the problem and they dominate. (I still remember the Pool of Watery Wonders in Caverns of Thracia - the only adventure I played through to the end - and how some clever play allowed us to scry, summon a water elemental, and then teleport same into the minotaurs we could not have fought on our own. That's still the highlight of my limited time as a player!)

Even though we are in our 40s, there are still new things to explore in D&D and I miss the opportunity to do so under the pressure to deliver the results every session. It's time for some new blood... and a new group to run in parallel with my principal group.

Let's explore!

(Edit) I missed a really important point in my first draft of this post: I also miss "the weird". For those of us who came into this hobby in the early 80s or even earlier, "the weird" was a staple of the modules - as they were called - that we played. X2 Castle Amber was possibly/arguably the best example of this but the magic pools in B1 In Search of the Unknown were my first encounter with such.

As my games are fairly serious and set in "serious" locations, I have missed out on "the weird" and I want it back. I've been prepping an Undermountain-based game for my wife's family on the assumption that I can grab their attention for a few minutes and get them to try something new (considering where I am living, I expect that I will simply bribe them eventually) and Undermountain really is a licence to bring out "the weird".

My Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign is about to cross into the Abyss and I am seriously racking my brain trying to think of things that should not be that would be appropriate in an excursion to the Abyss. In other words, I want to bring "the weird". Hopefully by doing it right it will bring out a bit more of the explorer mindset in those players... and, no doubt, improve my own DMing.


  1. I completely relate to this post. (However, an old player has returned to our game and is trying his hand at DMing, which is a nice break for me after DMing for about 8 years straight).
    As for a sense of exploration: the new DM has infused a sense of new blood. He loves everything 'computers' and plans to set up some virtual table software (Fantasy Grounds) just to assist him in mapping at our face-to-face table. I believe this may infuse that sense of exploration, as we move out tolkens further ahead, the map's fog-of-war will reveal what's around the next corner. In a way, it becomes like a video game - instilling all that wonder about what's in the next area (as opposed to old-school pencils and grid paper that was more of a chore for players, than adding "wonder".)
    I will keep you posted on how this all turns out.

  2. I think new blood is the key. In my case, that means new players. That said, if I could find someone prepared to put in the work I might be prepared to play again... for a while at least. :)

    It's funny how you mention video games. My favourite way of playing Baldur's Gate and other games of that ilk is by cheating with a character editor. I'm not interested in combat: I just want to make choices and see how the story develops.