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One DMG to rule them all

Kannik

Adventurer
Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to play in campaigns using every edition of AD&D, from my first forays into 1e all the way to today’s 4e. In terms of the number of campaigns and hours played most of my experience was probably clustered in the 2e days -- I can think of at least eight campaigns that I was in. But even inside of that one edition, the styles, tones and “ways” these campaigns were played were quite varied.

Some were strung together dungeon crawls, and some were rich with running stories. Some were heavy on the random tables, while DMs controlled everything in others. Some were very deadly, others were far less so. I did the Tomb of Horrors, I did the grand mystery of the kingdom epic quests, and I even Spelljammed for a bit. Some campaigns sported a plethora of additional material and house rules, while others were straight by the book. Some were heavy on the dice, and some were heavy on the DM call. The first miniatures I ever saw used to track combat were during my 2e days. None I played with thought the game really any much different than 1e (in that it didn’t have a different headspace, it was just a different ruleset).

The gist of all this is that if I were to try to collect all my experience playing 2e games I would be hard pressed to come up with a singular or succinct style or group of characteristics that I could point to someone else and say “now THAT is what made it 2e old skool gaming.” Not able to at all. There was so much diversity even back then. My experience with 3e is equally varied as well. (I only played 1e and 4e under singular DMs each time, so I have less data there.)

As Penny Arcade so well lampooned, D&D can be so many things to so many people – to which I would add that it doesn’t matter in what time period they were playing or what ruleset they were using at the time.

Which is why I think the most important book in the DNDN pantheon could be the DMG. The rules are important, absolutely, and monsters to flay, critical, but the inclusion of a section that covers all the different styles/tones and ways of running a campaign as well as what bits of the DNDN rules best support those styles could be the linchpin that achieves the “every edition” and “every campaign” goal of Next. And make it really sing.

Get some good writers (perhaps recruit from outside of WotC -- this may actually be something that WotC best does by not writing it themselves, such as they had Robin D Laws write in the 4e DMG2 ) to capture a majority of the themes, methods, styles, ways and arcs that D&D is known for. The “Ways D&D and your campaigns can be played.” Write a few paragraphs on each, including what it is, what/who it appeals to, what it can provide, and potential pitfalls, and then follow up with a short section that says “to support this, use the following DNDn modules: x, A, and 3.”

This will let people who want to recreate their favourite game style an immediate way to jump in and do so right out of the blocks, letting them experience the game in the way they want to and not be disappointed by things they don’t want in their gameplay. I can also, and perhaps more importantly, see it promoting inclusion, a solid mention from the developers that says “yes, you can do this with D&D, it’s cool!” It may even have people be interested and inspired to try something new, just from reading the different ways of play.

So a call to Wizards! Please! Let me know why I would want, and how I can, play and run a campaign a certain way in DNDN through the inclusion in the new DMG of brilliant essays and accountings of the many play styles of D&D, from its beginning days to its most recent ones.

(TL;DR – last paragraph pretty much captures it all ;) )

Peace,

Kannik
 

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LostSoul

Adventurer
You should check out Vornheim by Zak S. It's interesting in that it's mostly just a collection of random tables and play procedures, but it doesn't prescribe a specific mode of play. I think it would be as helpful for a game of Burning Wheel or Sorcerer and Sword as it is for hard-core WotC-D&D.
 

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