#RPGaDay2018: Day 13 – Describe how your play has evolved

It is still August, right? No? Oh well, I’ve started, so I’ll finish…

Well, I’ve had plenty of time for my play style to evolve, but my “play” has always been as a DM.

I started in the early 80s as a teenager with the Basic set, quickly expanded to include Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals (never got to Immortal play, though…)

My approach then was very much smash-and-grab. Experience was based on treasure earned and moral dilemmas were things that happened to other people.

I had a couple of threads going.

I had a campaign with a friend where I was DM and also played a cleric, and my friend played two characters, a couple in love (or at least lust) – this featured quite significantly in the play (we were teenagers…).  I think they were a magic user (male) and a fighter (female). Since I was also a player, this was rather about finding things to fight which were challenging (but ideally not deadly), killing them and stealing the treasure. I remember doing B2 Keep on the Borderlands, X1 The Isle of Dread, and then after that I created my own domain extending the maps in the Basic and Expert sets.  I was into building our characters (ability-wise), gaining levels and gaining spells and powers.

Since there were just two of us, it was easier to get together, so we got to quite a high level – my memory is high teens (where BECMI goes up to 36).

I also had occasional games with a bigger group of friends. In those I wasn’t a player, but I was still a “nice” DM, trying to help the PCs succeed and progress. I was probably a bit generous with magic, and my monsters weren’t really into strategy other than “charge”.

Fast forward 35 years (!)

My games are much more about characterisation, intrigue, challenges, puzzles and the real world. There’s no guarantee an encounter will be balanced or achievable, and running may be the best option. But talking often works, too (I annoyed one player/character when I decided the group ransacking the church weren’t interested in talking).

I’m also getting better at making the NPCs use their abilities effectively. My last session (in X2 Castle Amber) had barely any fighting, and what fighting there was was rather neutralised because I actually had the NPC (Charles d’Ambreville) use his spell list rather effectively against Magdalene. As soon as she attacked him he cast Darkness, so the only person able to find him was the druid who turned into a tiger and hence could smell him. In this he managed to make his escape (I’ll not say more here in case any of my players are reading…)

I still have a natural inclination to play “nice” (I would definitely qualify as Lawful Good), but I can switch on nasty-ish when I remember, and I’m getting better at remembering. For example, in my “Swampmarsh” campaign which is playing Horde of the Dragon Queen in Karameikos/Mystara I have added an NPC who is a definite back-alleys guy. The group had captured the rear-guard, and asked his thoughts on what to do with them. Now me, I’d have naturally said “tie them up  but don’t kill them,” but I managed to remember his character and say “just slit their throats.”

I’m really in it now for the story – a realistic story, with realistic people some of whom are bigoted/racist, in a world that feels expansive and rich. I have a big story arc in mind which the characters are starting to see the first hints of, and that’s what I enjoy. In fact, having just put both campaigns onto standard modules, I’m feeling a bit short-changed because it’s not my world. Expect things from the main arc to creep in…

And I am definitely GM. I have NPCs in the party, but they are either support or for some plot reason, and I don’t feel attached to them in the way I did to “my” cleric.

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