Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Selling a different game experience

After my first game of AD&D nearly 30 years ago, the first thing I did was start making character, even though I didn't have a rulebook. When I finally got books Christmas of 1981, I went to town. Character building, equipping, and planning was a mini-game in and of itself.

After my return to D&D in 2000, I found that that mini-game had vastly expanded. Designing a character had become central (as it was in many games), and certainly the new edition keeps that as a crucial part of the game experience. As a result, character creation in the newer editions has a dual effect. On the one hand, it is an obstacle to just sitting down to play and thus is an obstacle to new players. On the other hand, it is a portion of the game a new player can engage in between games on his or her own, thus is appealing to new players.

Personally, I can do without all the excess work. After years of running Hero System after leaving AD&D, I have had my fill of customizing characters just so, and see the beauty of simpler systems, even class and level systems I once would have lambasted. But I am not so sure it will be easy to get my friends to walk away from newer bells and whistles. As my friends Will and Rich wind down their campaigns, I may try to convince them to take a leap of faith toward all this stuff I have been working on.

And it is a leap of faith. I am asking them to change their ideas of what constitutes the game, and their relation to the parts. And that is no small request, given the investment many players have in the game elements of character creation, combat efficiency and rules-based tactics.