Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Another Quick Word on D&D Essentials

I see one big missed opportunity with the new Red Box: 1 on 1 play.

In order to describe what I'm talking about, let me give you a little personal history. My first RPG was the predecessor to the original "red box", the version I call the "purple box" with the Erol Otus cover. My first GM was my mom, and my first adventuring party was, well, me. I was an only child and we were on vacation at my grandmother's house when my parents got me the game, so there was no one else to play.

My mom used the very basic dungeon creation rules to create a random adventure, the details of which completely escape me, but thirty years later I'm still playing RPGs so it must have been interesting at the time.

The new "red box" starts with a solo adventure, which could be run by a GM for one player easily enough, but it then jumps to an adventure written for a GM and four players... WTF? Isn't this supposed to be aimed towards people completely new to the hobby? How often do five people, completely new to the hobby, just happen to get together to play a game? I think that something similar to my personal experience is much more likely to happen.

Now, it can be argued that a DM can scale the adventure, or that a player can play more than one character, but that misses the point that this is supposed to be for completely inexperienced gamers. Scaling up an adventure is generally easier than scaling down. Write an adventure for one player, and if there's two it's just a matter of tossing in more monsters. Write an adventure for four, and if there's only one you've got to completely redesign any "big bads" in the adventure. That's not something a DM completely new to the hobby is going to feel comfortable doing, especially not with the minimal guidance given in the material included in the new Red Box.

Maybe my personal experience is a thing of the past, maybe with roleplaying more widespread it's easier to find a group and so this isn't a big deal. I disagree.

Back to my personal experience, this time some of my first impressions going through the new "red box". As I'm looking at the stuff in the box it dawns on me that this might be something I could get my non-gamer wife to try. The whole thing with the cards and map and tokens might just be something she'd be willing to play with. Then I look at the main adventure that's designed for four players and I set that thought aside with a sigh. Another missed opportunity.

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