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2020: What’s been happening with the DM?

In gaming, 20 is a great number. Natural 20. Critical hit. So you’d think that a year with two 20s in it would be good. 2020, right? Think again.

2020 has been an annus horribilus in the most classic sense. Pretty much everything has gone down the pan. In the past couple of months we’ve seen ourselves in lockdown and as a result of the worldwide situation, three gaming conventions I was due to attend have first rescheduled, and then ultimately bitten the dust, along with various other social events and holidays. I’ll be sad not to see some of the people I expected to see at Tabletop Scotland, UK Games Expo and Conpulsion but these are tiny sacrifices if it means that lives can be saved. There’s always next year. In fact, many conventions have moved online and one positive side effect of the Covid-19 crisis is that I’ve been able to attend conventions which I’d never have been able to attend in the physical space such as Gary Con. Both my son and I were lucky enough to play in two games at Gary Con – an excellent little 5e Adventurer’s League episode and the fantastic “12,000 to 0”, a Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel run by the fabulous Daniel J. Bishop. Both games were a lot of fun and there was some cool Gary Con swag as well.

The impact of lockdown on my gaming has actually been fairly minimal. While I’d definitely moved to playing more games at the table in the year prior to lockdown, my main game was still an online game – currently Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Previously it was a fortnightly game, but the sudden realisation that two weeks between sessions during lockdown was going to feel like two years, prompted us to move it to weekly. Now every Friday we can be found on Roll20, drinking Rum and making very little narrative sense. It’s been a great escape from reality and a real mental health boost for all of us. Apart from a few initial teething problems resulting from millions of gamers suddenly moving their games online, Roll20 has been pretty stable and is holding it’s own nicely with the huge influx of traffic.

Outside of 5th Edition, I’ve continued my long term flirtation with the OSR by delving even deeper into Dungeon Crawl Classics. I am running my first convention funnel (The Portal Under The Stars) at Con of Champions this coming Sunday and I’m also signed up to run it at DCC Day in June.

My flirtation with the OSR has been growing for a while. I’ve made no secret of the fact that D&D 5th Edition is probably my favourite incarnation of the game, however sometime I find myself disillusioned with the focus on “builds” and archetypes, combined with the style of the official Wizards of the Coast adventures, which often seem predictable and cautious (lest they should offend a Twitter lynch mob – more on that in another post).

Of course, my love for the OSR is more about what it is than what it isn’t. It reminds me of a simpler time in gaming where rulings trumped rules and adventures were about disappearing down holes in the ground, killing bad guys and returning with the loot. Along the way you’d encounter traps, puzzles and a million things that could kill you at low levels. Life meant something because death was an ever present companion. That said, I have no great desire to go back to old school mechanics and all the issues that brings so DCC slots into that space perfectly for me. Old skool cool with new skool rules.

So that’s us all caught up to the middle of May. I don’t expect everyone to be back at the gaming table in person for a good few months yet, possibly even this year as ongoing social distancing measures and people’s natural reluctance to take risks will likely result in some huge changes in how we socialise for the rest of the year at least.

Return of the DM View All

I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.

5 thoughts on “2020: What’s been happening with the DM? Leave a comment

  1. I think 5th edition is also my favorite so far, though I recently discovered and am liking Dungeon Crawl Classics (the picture you led your post with made me smile). As for “builds” and such I’ve noticed that has seemed to really be big in D&D ever since 3rd and as big as it is now I’d say it was worse with 3.5 than it is now.

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  2. Hi Ann. 5th Edition is a very elegant edition. It combines an old skool feel with really slick mechanics. I’d agree with the idea that builds is less of an issue in 5e than in 3.5 etc. I don’t necessarily disagree with the concepts of builds per se. Where I find it detrimental to the game is the idea of players focussing entirely on that. Some of the best characters in my games (and in popular fiction) aren’t the super optimised heroes, but instead the weak and the flawed.

    Stick with DCC though. It’s a great system. It’s not without it’s flaws (it’s possibly a wee bit too table heavy) but it’s produced some fairly memorable adventures when I’ve run it, largely because of the quirky story elements it throws in with spellcasting and fumbles.

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  3. Playing today one of the early D&D editions like Basic and Advanced, apart for a form of nostalgia deeply rooted in us, older players that started in the late 80’s / early 90’s, has really no purpose, in my opinion. I am talking here about rules and game mechanics, because you could play a good old dungeon crawling also in the latest d20 versions of the game, namely the 5th thanks to its simplicity and adaptability. You could (re)create the same feeling of that so-called Golden Age, with much less effort.

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    • Much less effort in what way? I’m a fan of 5th Edition but it’s not the only version of D&D and it’s not the only RPG out there. Not only does DCC do a great job of recreating those early days of gaming, it’s also a great game in it’s own right, with modern unique mechanics that can’t be replicated in 5e. You need to understand that people might want to play OSR games because they love the systems in their own right, not just because they remind them of the past.

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