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Monday, 6th May, 2002, 07:31 PM #1
How to keep players motivated (or, "change that smelly old carrot once in a while")
The more I think about it, the more I realize that the old D&D boxed systems did a marvelous job of handling munchkin tendencies... by giving players new foci and new goals and new carrots.
Remember the Basic Set? Handled levels 1-3, the entire thing was "enter the dungeon, slay the beast, grab the treasure, go home." It was all about survival in the dungeon, including mapping and 10' poles. The "carrots" were gold and magic items, but in moderate amounts and only minor in power.
The Expert Set (levels 4-14) introduced wilderness, the concept of "Name" level, and rules for building castles and keeps. One carrot here was moderately more powerful magic items and larger amounts of gold... but the main "carrot" was to reach "Name" level (9th) and spend all that gold creating a stronghold where they can gain followers (IOW, becoming a real leader of men). It kind of implied that once characters start hitting 9th or 10th level, it's time for them to "settle down" a bit and stop the "hunt, slay, grab treasure, lather, rinse, repeat" process.
The Companion Set (levels 15-25) introduced rules for ruling a dominion, rules for planar travel, and rules for mass combat. The implication? Characters of this level don't spend most of their time hunting beasties in dungeons, they are concerned with larger matters as they are now barons and counts (and advisors to such). The characters lead armies and explore new dimensions. The "carrots" here became effective administration not just of a small group of followers, but of a city or a feif, including defending that feif against armies. In addition, the carrot of "planar travel" was there - players could explore new and fantastic realms. Magic items - especially weapons and armor - became fully fleshed-out (much more so than in AD&D until 3e) and customizable.
The Masters Set (levels 26-36) introduced characters to the highest levels of play and added the rules for seige warfare as well as weapon mastery (IMO a better idea than weapon proficiency/focus/specialization, though somewhat broken in its implementation - the second-most powerful weapon by damage at high levels is... a DAGGER?!?!?). But the "carrot" was no longer the accumulation of magic items or even of worldly power - the "carrot" was questing for artifacts in the search for immortality.
The problem, IMO, with AD&D - and even 3e rules - is that the "carrot" never seems to change. The core rulebooks barely touch upon the possibilities of keeps, strongholds, feifdoms, kingdoms, and planar travel. I am REALLY looking forward to the stronghold builder's guidebook for this reason - it will "fill the gap" currently missing in 3e.
I have applied the same pattern that the old D&D Boxed Sets gave me to my 3e games... when players start reaching the point where it takes a REALLY big threat to harm them, it's time to coax them into building and ruling a keep or stronghold and get some followers (leadership feat or not)... a wholely different set of challenges. Once they have that taken care of, I drop a noble title on one or more of them and let them figure out how to deal with ruling a kingdom (and include some mass combat to let them get out their aggression). They also start taking short planar jaunts to get them used to planar travel. When they get a handle on THAT, it's time to start introducing the concept of artifacts and divine ascension - including LOTS of planar travel. When they get a handle on THAT, well, they're demigods and therefore NPCs and we start the process all over again... the challenge of "survive, slay, grab treasure" is fresh again by this time.
This of course means I keep my old boxed sets close at hand for the rules on such things as stronghold building and mass combat. But thus far, it has worked wonders on my campaigns... I think a lot of people who missed that Boxed Set time miss out on the progression of goals inherent in the sets. I have DM'd literally hundreds of players over the years, from jaded old-school guys to wide-eyed newbies, and have only had one guy I could label as "munchkinesque" - and all of the feedback I received from my players (even from the munchkin) is that I run great campaigns because they never get bored - there's always something new and different to learn or do.
I have guys that haven't gamed with me for years asking me when I am going to start another campaign so they can join in again (currently, I'm a bit busy with house-hunting and other less-than-fun real life things, though I read and write RPG stuff almost every day). I attribute that success to my changing the carrot from time to time - a skill I learned from the venerable boxed sets (thank you, Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and Frank Metzger).
This is of course IMO, YMMV.
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