Skip to Content

Why aren't computer RPGs (especially MMOs) as much FUN to play as old-time D&D?

Note: While this is a board game designer's forum, I've decided to include this because some of what has happened in RPGs, has or can happen in board/card games.

Why aren't computer RPGs (especially MMOs) as much FUN to play as old-time D&D?

Oh, but they ARE as much fun, you say? Yet I don't see much evidence of that. For so many people it seems like a lot of work--"the grind"--aimed at rising in level. People don't enjoy the journey, they only enjoy the destination ("I'm 80th level!"). That's why there's a big market for sale of items and gold and even entire accounts for such games, the market addressed by "pharming". (More details later.)

How did this happen? We can observe that in hard core video games in general, this "ennui" seems to be a problem (ennui: "a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom"). The journey isn't much fun. People brag that "I beat the game," often throwing in an impressively-short time, or that "I made maximum level", but they don't appear to have enjoyed it. How many of the hard core say "did you enjoy playing?", instead they say "how long did it take you to beat the game?" They want the result, not the experience. It's as though a ten year old who wants to be wealthy when he's 60 would be happy to jump from 10 to wealthy 60 without experiencing the years in between.

Focus on “Leveling up” and lack of Group Play
Where games involve character levels, there are two possible reasons why this has happened. I played First Edition AD&D for 29 years; my highest level character made 14th, but the last two levels were from magic items and he never actually played higher than 12th, which is just as well because the game doesn’t handle 14th level at all well. Most of my many characters didn't make double figures of levels. It took a LONG time, many long adventures involving several people, to "level up". I recall one character that took ten adventures to get to second level. So of course, I played the game not to level up, but to enjoy the adventure--as we all did. (I can even remember discovering that a character had risen a level, but I hadn’t noticed because I’d not tallied the experience points from the past several adventures. “Leveling up” was not the objective.)

I know a former WoW pharmer who says he could reliably go from 1st to 30th level in 16 hours. Nowadays in video games, it's quite easy to rise in level, and not surprisingly the objective of many players becomes rising in level rather than enjoying adventures. How many players say "I really enjoyed that game;" instead they say, "I made 80th level".

Perhaps much of the reason for this change in objective, and consequent change in enjoyment, is the solitary nature of MMOs and computer RPGs (something that has ended for folks who join guilds and participate in big raids). Face-to-face D&D is a social game, one that you enjoy with friends (or people who become your friends), one where much enjoyment is taken from the talk and activity between (and often during) the actual adventures, as well as from the adventures. This is only now starting to become common in MMOs and online RPGs. In times past, people playing alone didn't have other people to share their adventures with, to commiserate with, to recount old events. Lacking that, what could they do? Concentrate on "leveling up".

Too Much Like Work
But even in online games we find people doing more and more that seems like work. Nick Yee, then of Stanford University, wrote a journal article called "The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play" published in 2006. He uses data from over 35,000 surveys completed by MMO players. From the abstract: "Video games . . . transformation into work platforms and the staggering amount of work that is being done in these games often go unnoticed. Users spend on average 20 hours a week in online games, and many of them describe their game play as obligation, tedium, and more like a second job than entertainment. Using well-known behavior conditioning principles, video games are inherently work platforms that train us to become better game workers. And the work that is being performed in video games is increasingly similar to the work performed in business corporations." (Google "Nick Yee Labor of Fun" for a PDF of the article.) Some of this “work ethic” may be because players pay to play the game, so they feel obligated to play even if they don’t enjoy it. But that’s a minor factor, as those who really don’t enjoy it will quit.

Even when many people participate together, the experience of actually playing the game is rarely social. Listen to accounts of the big raids in MMORPGs. Every person is assigned a task (DPS ["damage per second"], healer, etc.), must do that task with precise timing, and does nothing else. Each person's experience is uni-dimensional, a cog in a machine rather than an independent actor. If a few people mess up their timing or role, the whole raid can fail. Because of the time pressure, there's no opportunity to think, to use strategy, or to enjoy what's happening once the raid starts. Does that sound like fun? Contrast this with old D&D played at a leisurely pace, with lots of time to think and enjoy what's happening, where every character could act independently while keeping the good of the group as a whole in mind.

The "play" has become work to too many people. I remember talking with someone who was a major officer in a fantasy MMO guild for many months. He finally realized that it was work, that he wasn't enjoying it, that people treated him badly if he didn't do exactly what they wanted, or if the raids weren't successful. So he quit. There are similar examples in Yee's paper.

No Fear of Death
The other reason for the change in focus involves character death. In First Edition AD&D you actually feared character death. If you died, it hurt your constitution or your experience points, or both; at worst, you were dead and gone. In an MMO or standalone RPG, character death is generally something between a minor inconvenience and no trouble at all. If death is not to be feared, it matters much less what you do during your play, and you can pay less attention to it. The details of play tend to blur because your full attention isn't required. (Megaman 9 (for example) shows how even a minor fear of death changes a game immensely. See http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=21324.)

The co-creator of D&D (Gary Gygax) put it this way in one of his last publications (Hall of Many Panes)” “a good campaign must have an element of danger and real risk or else it is meaningless–death walks at the shoulder of all adventurers, and that is the true appeal of the game.”

"Pharming" highlights both sides of this problem. If people enjoyed playing the games, would they buy characters and items from pharmers? And if the games ordinarily required more than a dreary, predictable "grind", could pharmers produce enough such items for the demand? At the very least, the scale of pharming would be much smaller.

Obviously, a good human referee can provide more interesting adventures than a computer. Moreover, in D&D the actions of a character can change the world, whereas in MMOs that’s rarely the case because they’re designed for thousands of players. Once again, if what you do makes no difference, you’re less likely to pay attention to, and care about, what you do.

Similar Trends in Tabletop D&D
In tabletop Dungeons and Dragons itself we can see an evolution toward this same fixation on "leveling". Second edition D&D is much like First; Third Edition D&D (3.0) is a very different game, a kind of fantasy Squad Leader, with the emphasis on players finding ways to "minimax" the system via unearned advantages (such as myriad books and articles containing new feats, skills, and prestige classes). Each character can be a one-man army, very different from First Edition where "combined arms" cooperation was absolutely necessary to survival. In First Edition fighters cannot withstand the enemy without magic-users who deal massive damage to groups, and magic-users cannot survive if the enemy gets to melee range. Characters must help each other out, and each kind of character class provides an important component of "combined arms" success. (Clerics provide defensive magic and medical help, rogues provide scouting and stealth, etc.) It is rather like American football, with fighters as linemen, clerics as linebackers, rogues as wide receivers and secondary, and magic-users as quarterback and running backs. Just as a football team will fail if some of its parts fail, the First Edition adventure party will fail if some of its members fail.

In Third Edition, every character type is designed to survive pretty well on its own. Part of this evolution is attributable to the reduction in size of the typical adventuring group. One of "Lew's laws" is "the survivability of an adventuring group varies with the square of the number of characters in it". Our First Edition parties averaged seven or eight characters; Third Edition specifies four. 3.5 is essentially the same. When there are only four characters, there's rarely a practical way to prevent the enemy from getting to the magic-user(s), who must then be able to cast spells in the face of melee opposition, who must be harder to kill, and so forth. Fighters, with the proper feats, can kill several ordinary enemies in one blow. And with "buffs" from the spell-casters, a fighter can take on a ridiculous number of monsters.

Further, you are supposed to rise a level in about 11 encounters, and could have several encounters in one adventure. In other words, leveling can occur so often that it can become the objective, rather than focus on enjoying the adventure. When I set out to convert some First Edition characters to Third, the first thing I did was double their level to be at a near-comparable place in progression. The game was also designed to scale up to 20th level (and later 40th), whereas First Edition starts to break down when characters got well into double figure levels.

Fourth Edition D&D appears to be for larger adventuring parties, and characters have many powers that only help other people in the party, not themselves. It appears to be designed to encourage groups to work together. Character "roles" have been added to emphasize cooperation and "combined arms". Individual characters are very hard to kill, but don't have a lot of offensive capability. Yet the general take on Fourth Edition is that it has been "WoW-ified", made to be more like World of Warcraft, with easy leveling and all the other things that have made WoW so widely popular. Fourth Edition may be a good game, but it's not D&D.

Is this “bad”?
Is it "bad" that people play for the destination rather than the journey? In and of itself, no--every person has his own reasons for playing a game, and those reasons vary drastically. These people can enjoy the game, even if they're not having fun. Yet when the result is something that's more like work than play, you have to wonder what is wrong. Yee quotes a registered nurse who played Everquest: "We spend hours—HOURS—every SINGLE day playing this damn game. My fingers wake me, aching, in the middle of the night. I have headaches from the countless hours I spend staring at the screen. I hate this game, but I can’t stop playing. Quitting smoking was NEVER this hard." Maybe there IS something wrong here.

Further, when games are designed to emphasize leveling up, those who want to "enjoy the journey" are left behind. Is there anything game designers can do to help restore the fun? We can’t quite put the creativity of human referees into computer games. But already in some games, what a character does changes the world according to his view of it. (And what the players do very much affects EVE Online.)

We're in "the age of instant gratification". Levels are easy to earn because video gamers expect to be rewarded at every turn. 30 years ago, experience points and the occasional magic item were sufficient reward; now expectations have been raised, and levels are the expected reward. If a designer takes away those easy levels, will people play any more? What a difficult situation! I've designed many commercially published or forthcoming boardgames, but I've never tried to design a role-playing game, and now I wouldn't even contemplate it because of the problems I’ve described. Perhaps it's in the "casual" (and usually free-to-play) MMOs where this problem is being countered.

Games are entertainment, not Life
Younger readers might howl that video games are NOT easy. Yet most long-time players recognize that, generally speaking, it's a lot easier to succeed at a video game than it was decades ago. Death has no sting, games are automatically saved for you, heck, some games even aim your gun for you! I'm not saying that easier is "bad", because it's what the market requires, so that people don't have to work for their entertainment; yet somehow, the entertainment has become too much like work for the hard core players, even when they're successful.

Fundamentally, then, it may be that these games aren't as fun as old D&D can be because they are designed to stroke the egos of pseudo-competitive people who think they've accomplished something important when they reach maximum level. Good D&D players know better. I remember a teenager who had an "18th level magic user", but had no clue how to play it. He may have made it up (rather like buying an account, but much cheaper!), or he may have played with a "Monty Haul" referee. Your level didn't say anything about how well you played, and for that matter nobody outside your little group cared how well you played–you weren’t competing with the rest of the world. We played to have fun, not to brag about our level or our loot (though we surely enjoyed such things when we attained them).

"Casual" players in general, and Nintendo among major publishers, haven't forgotten that games are entertainment. You don't prove anything about your worth by being a "bad ass gamer", you don't help your family, your friends, your country, your world. Commercial video games are not training for life, they're a pause from life. It just doesn't matter whether you "beat the game", or how quickly you beat the game, any more than it matters whether you complete a crossword puzzle or Rubik's Cube. Casual players know that; some hard core players seem to have forgotten it, and those are often the people who "grind", who don't enjoy the journey, because they think "beating the game" is truly important even as the rest of us wonder where they got such an unrealistic, immature notion.

Comments

I think the main reason is

I think the main reason is not that the journey is not fun.

When you are playing Might and Magic, Baldurs Gate, Mass Effect, Pillars of Eternity or whatnot, your level at any particular point is irrelevant. The world is built with your expected level in mind (so is a tabletop campaign).

While in MMOs your level determines and limits your interactions with other players. This is why there's drive to "get to 80". The main reason for grinding is the urge of being "better" than other players.

Lowest Common Denominator

Full disclosure: I was a DM/referee for nearly 20 years in home-brewed AD&D campaigns (most often 2nd edition, sometimes 1st Edition after the reissues). I'm calling out D&D in my comment here because that's what I grew up on and primarily played when I was invested in RPGs.

I think that in order to appeal to as many people as possible (and therefore gain as many players as possible), D&D has shifted from providing a variety of challenges to providing a variety of perks.

Your observation on 3rd edition is on-point, as the primary draw of the game became about how long it would be before a player gained their next feat or ability score increase. In earlier editions of the game you would have THAC0 and hit point increases, and magic users would increase their spellbooks/spells per level. I went as far as allowing players to utilize non-weapon proficiencies to customize their characters, and could still provide considerable challenges. The "Complete Guides" series in 2nd edition foreshadowed the overload, with more variety designed to attract gamers who wanted constant positive feedback in exchange for time spent just sitting at the game table. The 3rd edition concept of Feats blew this way out of proportion, in my opinion, and it was a major turn-off of the game system for me.

If I set aside time for RPGs, I would likely stick with a house-rule-modified 2nd Edition/AD&D campaign. The newer editions just don't speak to me.

Thanks for this write-up. It afforded me a nice trip down memory lane. :)

Gaming is now heavily

Gaming is now heavily focus-tested with the aims of appealing to the widest demographic possible. It's all about reducing feel-bads and increasing feel-goods, to the point where people who play games don't even realize they're chasing empty feel-goods (levels, money, energy, etc.).

Temple Run is a terrific example. The base gameplay is fun – see how long you can last! Simple, easy to start. Then it's filled with all this garbage – collect gems that improve your sustainability and highscore. Which means the more you play it, the higher your scores naturally become independent of how long you survived. This invalidates the initial reason to play (achieve a highscore) in order to add progression and micro-transactions. Who cares if I died if it helps improve my next score?

Yuck.

Squinshee wrote:Gaming is now

Squinshee wrote:
Gaming is now heavily focus-tested with the aims of appealing to the widest demographic possible. It's all about reducing feel-bads and increasing feel-goods, to the point where people who play games don't even realize they're chasing empty feel-goods (levels, money, energy, etc.).
I completely agree. Storytelling has taken a far-back backseat to these kinds of rewards.

The style of play is

The style of play is demarcated by what the players can hope to accomplish. What can you do with a barrel in an MMO? Can you get inside it? Can you ride it down a waterfall? Can you cut through a thatch roof to bypass a locked door? Can you look at human faces gathered around the table to contextualize the experience as real life socialization? MMOs are more fun for process-oriented people who find accomplishment in moving from Point A to Point Z.

Tabletop roleplaying encourages critical thinking and creative solutions without arbitrary boundaries. A good game engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, thereby pairing a healthy imagination with analytical exercises. They thrive on abstraction.

Digital RPGs are fundamentally a left brain endeavor with right brain marketing. Imagination and creativity are constrained by rigid, linear computation that allows the player a limited role in the storytelling process with options that sometimes defy intuition. The lack of social context makes imagination a liability, as engaging the right brain results in an experience that more closely parallels maladaptive daydreaming behaviors and repetitious fantasy life.

It's not so much a matter of relative fun though, as the two are entirely different beasts catering to those different parts of the brain. An MMO is more like one of those peg games at Cracker Barrel than a tabletop RPG. They are more comparable to interactive televisions shows. Instead of just watching the Golden Girls, you can actually control Sophia or Blanch and barge around the set, smashing furniture, jumping on tables, and engaging in antisocial behavior that might even get you kicked out of a playground in real life. Unlike a tabletop RPG, Sophia remains constrained by the boundaries of the set.

I've been playing D&D for over thirty years now and computer games just as long, although Temple of Apshai doesn't quite compare to modern games. I play tabletop games to engage socially and mentally. I play computer games as a form of escapism to avoid complex thought processes and diffuse stress. I could probably accomplish the same with a kid's pound-a-peg set or a punching bag, but yes, I like the illusion that makes it seem less like repetitive drudgery.

You should give Neverwinter

You should give Neverwinter Nights 1 a try, no game ever came closer to the PnP D&D experience.

The worlds are easy to create with the toolset, Dungeon Masters have many tools at their disposal and its even possible to host small persistent worlds that function kind of like a small scale MMO hosted and made by the players. To be whatever they want it to be.

I've had great experiences in that game, usually on servers where everyone easily became max level so that the whole dumb leveling thing was not a factor anymore. It's a stupid concept either way and I tend to despise leveling in most games.

Also visited some extreme servers.. Like those that had perma death, required like 20 items just to be able to sit down and rest which could only be done once every 48 real life hours, eating and drinking was needed or you'd die, gold was extremely hard to come by and no proper warnings for dangerous areas with enemies that instantly kill you.

But the thing is, the game allows you to emote and describe all actions to your hearts content and allows for systems to roll dice for it too for any of your abilities.

But personally, I just dont like rolls, abilities, leveling and all that. Its too abstract and does not represent a character properly at all. I'd rather see more RPG's ditch the leveling stuff all together or adapt it.
It should not be about levels, but could be more about the level of masterty in specific skills.

Hitpoints, attack points, damage points and such.. better to not have that be an endlessly increasing slope either. Its dumb.
Seems better to just make hitpoints seperate for each limb, and the maximum being 100 hitpoints. And a sharp sword should always be effective. Well maybe not against a ghost or such. But it should not stop being effective because the opponent is more powerfull.

Would also be really neat if for once in an RPG outside of Neverwinter Nights, I'd get to play a character who is not a mass murdering corpse looting psychopath.

Willem Verheij wrote:You

Willem Verheij wrote:
You should give Neverwinter Nights 1 a try, no game ever came closer to the PnP D&D experience.

Would also be really neat if for once in an RPG outside of Neverwinter Nights, I'd get to play a character who is not a mass murdering corpse looting psychopath.

Neverwinter was great. Its best feature was that the very robust scenario editor was augmented one person playing as an invisible Dungeon Master character who could make ad-hoc tweaks as the game progressed. You could even chat in place of scripted dialogue. It is as close as any game has gotten to the tabletop experience. That said, you search barrels for healing potions, so it is still far from the same.

Personally, my benchmark for computer RPGs is Ultima 4. It was the first game that I can think of to introduce morality. You couldn't win by playing as a psychopath. It is unfortunate that the industry went in the opposite direction. I'm not a fan of Jack Thompson, but his characterization of games as "murder simulators" hits closer to home than it should.

Depending on how the server

Depending on how the server is made there wont be health potions in barrels actually, all that is customiseabe. Loot can be made very realistic.

Some morality is good yes, and I really wish more videogames would adapt the lawful/chaotic spectrum alongside the usual good/evil spectrum. It allows for more interesting dialogue choices.

NWN1 actually had some good dialogue options for the player. You could be a lawfull good palladin but still be a tough guy and not some dumb naive person who gives all their money away.

In many RPG's the dialogue options tend to be:
"No reward is needed, here take my money instead."
"thanks for the reward."
"GIMME MOAR MONNEY OR I'LL KILL U!"

Yep.. I'd really would like to be able to play a bad person who is not braindead for a change. Good thing Neverwinter Nights and other multiplayer roleplaying does allow for that.

A GUILD

Willem Verheij wrote:
Yep.. I'd really would like to be able to play a bad person who is not braindead for a change. Good thing Neverwinter Nights and other multiplayer roleplaying does allow for that.

Personally, I would start a "GUILD" for Thieves, Bandits and Assassins. It could cost a fixed amount of dollars (Gold, credits, whatever) to become a member. The next logical step would be each player goes out to steal, borrow, find, etc. valuable goods which get translated into dollars where the player gets a percentage (%) and the GUILD collects the rest.

It could be like those "Pawn Shops" (IRL). Get a good deal on a Magical Sword... But you know you're supporting the GUILD when you visit one of their SHOPS! Hehehe...

More subtle than just a plain Bandit... You would have an infrastructure to maintain!

Just an idea - I'd like to see in a Fantasy MMORPG.

Note: What would be cool is if the Guild Master had a updated list of all the RICHEST people in the game. This way he could post Assassination missions or general theivery from those players... Sort of like Robin Hood! LOL

Update: If you buy that Magic Sword, there's a limited lifespan for it. Meaning some Thief or Bandit will eventually come looking for that sword to return it to the GUILD! Hehehe So some of the BEST weapons could be bought from the GUILD - but you have to remember that at some point in time - that weapon will need to return to the GUILD or you will need to make some kind of arrangement...

Quote:D&D has shifted from

Quote:
D&D has shifted from providing a variety of challenges to providing a variety of perks.

This has happened to a great many kinds of games, especially video games. Reward-based instead of Consequence-based.

Unfortunately, the nature of capitalism makes "rules bloat" just about inevitable. See "RPGs are prisoners of capitalism" https://youtu.be/fZy6Lvc7kxY

Quote:
It's all about reducing feel-bads and increasing feel-goods, to the point where people who play games don't even realize they're chasing empty feel-goods (levels, money, energy, etc.).
Yes.

The endlessly increasing slope (leveling etc.) is a way to increase the challenge to keep pace with the player's (not character's) skill at the game. It gives the game different stages, which is usually good for pacing. As someone pointed out, if your character is about as capable, well into the game, as it was at the start, you're more likely to take chances (and sometimes get killed), because you don't lose much compared with that starting character.

A bigger consequence with

A bigger consequence with increasing "feel-goods" is that new gamers then become accustomed to how those types of games rewards players. This puts them off to games with actual consequences and challenges.

Dark Souls and the like are a direct response to this type of player satisfaction and its popularity indicates that gamers still like challenge, which is reassuring :)

High difficulty is one way I

High difficulty is one way I suppose.

Personally I only tend to care about being challenged by the gameplay if I REALLY like it and feel very comforteable with the controlls and how all the systems work.

With Super Mario World 1 I really had that down. I completed the special road and was able to fly over any level that had enough room for me to lift off with the cape. I really felt in full controll there.

But in many games, I simply don't care that much and tend to give up on tough challenges once it stops being fun. I gave up on Assasin's Creed 3 at the part where I was forced to sail a boat since I hated those controlls and terrible camera. Already was rather annoyed by the changed melee combat system to begin with.
Never finished that game, and never cared about how it ended. Story was not that interesting anymore at that point to me. Never understood why the heck my character had to be sailing a ship when he never was on a ship before.

But it can also be for the story that I give up though.. it is why I gave up on Mass Effect 3 pretty early on. I loved the first two games but the third one was just stupid.
Ship computer becomes a sexy robot for.. reasons? Earth is under attack and in the meanwhile everyone takes their sweet time to gather reinforcements while judging by the initial attack, earth would have been conquered in a matter of hours.
There simply would not be time to go look around for allies and do various tasks for them, go shopping and whatever. It killed the urgency.

They kind of killed the consequences there. I dont know how the story ends, and I dont even care to know. I heard its disappointing anyways.

Autopilot

Quite a while ago (2009?) I advocated (on Gamastura) an autopilot mode, so that people playing video games could let the game play for them when the challenge level was too high. MAN, did I get a bunch of drivel back from the hard core. I think they were afraid they'd be enticed into using it, soi objected to the very idea (even though Nintendo had already implemented it in a few games).

It's not different in principle than having a very easy difficulty level, but it would help people who want to partake of the story of the game, and aren't all that interested in the challenges.

But we're talking about so-called "games" that are actually puzzles, not games where you play against someone else. Many people faced with a tough puzzle want a hint, at least.

An Autopilot Of Any Other Name

You could make an argument for Autopilot = Fast Travel

This started in adventure games where the player was granted a "mount" or vehicle, and then evolved later into "fast travel" across the map. The general argument was that the player had already paid their dues, did the grinding, didn't deserve to constantly deal with the random encounters, etc. so fast travel was earned. In later games, fast travel evolved into being a matter of course (Skyrim comes to mind), and random counters were no longer seen as part of the game experience, but rather an inconvenience. It's like the industry standard now, focusing the game on fewer key encounters, to the point that even the same locations are re-used for completely discrete, unrelated plot points.

Of course, this is also an observation of the amount of thought generally invested in generating random encounters, or the fact they're called "random" in the first place. But hey, you're working in a budget and deadlines. You can only do so much.

As a DM back in the day, I'd have all sorts of side encounters planned for when players would travel from place to place. Minor encounters (never "random") were plotted out a dozen at a time, sometimes spinning off into longer, campaign-influencing storylines. But even as a hobby, I ran out of time to flesh out everything as I wanted. I can't imagine the stress of being under a financial and release-schedule deadline for a AAA game company.

They are impersonal

Let's face it, MMORPGs are boring because there's no human interaction. It's the person against the software and occasionally joining other players to beat the software's challenge.

AD&D was great because everyone played in the same room at the same time face to face. We figured out how to overcome obstacles and achieve results against the evil DM (lol). A good DM was firm, fair and consistent. They ran a great game and everyone couldn't wait to get back to that game, whatever it was.

You can't get that with a video game of any kind. The closest I've seen to an AD&D game was Diablo. Still, once you got up in levels, it got hard. It was predictable and there's no DM to determine if you need help, you kept trying till you won or gave up. At a certain point that's not fun anymore.

Friends remembered your successes and failures and we all shared in the GP and booty at the end of a great AD&D game. Each story had goals, hazards and rewards. And there were plenty of the modules to purchase if you didn't make them yourselves.

Buying Ral Partha miniatures and painting them up personalized the game for each person and it was a source of pride. Game play was straightforward and simple yet challenging. What could anyone ask for? The DM had the hardest job and when we got a good one, we kept him around all the time.

I miss those days. They were great. MMORPG's et al are fine. I have a lifetime membership to STO and it's fun to play once in awhile but it always feels kinda hollow when I win a battle or get new stuff. No one is there to share it with.

That's my take about it. Others will disagree with me, I'm sure but those days left me with great memories. I haven't had a video game ever do that. Never.

Mike Atencio wrote:Let's face

Mike Atencio wrote:
Let's face it, MMORPGs are boring because there's no human interaction. It's the person against the software and occasionally joining other players to beat the software's challenge.

Tell that to the guy who threatened to beat up my friend in the Kmart parking lot. That's what I miss. A bottle of Jack Daniels, a copy of Diablo, and a local server full of people who threaten to track you down and kill you over the smallest slight.

Mike Atencio wrote:
Buying Ral Partha miniatures and painting them up personalized the game for each person and it was a source of pride.

My friend just painted up a Ral Partha figure for the game we are currently playing. Have you seen Dark Sword's miniature line? I'd call them the spiritual successor to Ral Partha, although Ral Partha Europe and Iron Wind would be the actual heirs. It is no surprise that Ral Partha U.S. went out of business though. I've never met a person with greater contempt for gamers and gaming than their president.

Mike Atencio wrote:
I miss those days. They were great.

Man, I get the impression that what you really need is a gaming group to actually play with. Is there a game store in your area? Are there kids playing at the college who'll let you join in? I'm doing the unlikely route of starting up a gaming group through the local 4H to teach gaming, so there are lots of ways to get back into it. The hobby is so mainstream these days that even in my tiny town I've incidentally walked in on multiple RPG sessions at the bookstore, library, etc.

Great discussion

At the risk of simply concurring with my BGDF friend, Soulfinger, his comments, "I play tabletop games to engage socially and mentally. I play computer games as a form of escapism to avoid complex thought processes and diffuse stress." really struck a chord with me. Like Soulfinger, we have years of playing RPGs because we're an active participant vice a passive player.

I'm a 35 year D&D player (though admittedly avoided 4th Edition and am now playing in a 5th Edition campaign with my daughter) and I run a Serenity campaign and play in a D&D 3.5 Edition campaign using Skype a few times month. Nothing beats the creativity in terms of movement and describing your combat sequences; the dialogue between and among PCs and NPCs; and enjoying a well-developed story to which you contribute directly to its arc.

Cheers,
Joe

The Professor wrote:I'm a 35

The Professor wrote:
I'm a 35 year D&D player (though admittedly avoided 4th Edition and am now playing in a 5th Edition campaign with my daughter) and I run a Serenity campaign and play in a D&D 3.5 Edition campaign using Skype a few times month. Nothing beats the creativity in terms of movement and describing your combat sequences; the dialogue between and among PCs and NPCs; and enjoying a well-developed story to which you contribute directly to its arc.

I'm curious to know more about your experience running a game for your daughter. I am gearing up to run a game for my 10-year-old son, but I had a lot to think about with that. Most superficially, I decided to model his experience after middle grade fiction, which is a reactive relationship with the character's immediate world, rather than young adult fiction, which is a more introspective look on how the character fits within the greater world. That's going to result in a much more straightforward Red Box village and dungeon setting.

More importantly though, I sat down and really contemplated whether role playing was a good hobby to introduce him to. I hadn't done that with console games, and one day it sunk in that the Lego games that he was playing were essentially Grand Theft Auto Junior. As a hard-line proponent of RPGs, I had never assessed the hobby from an objective viewpoint, but I got to thinking that I'd spent so long railing against the ridiculous accusations of the Evangelicals that I may have dismissed reasonable concerns and criticisms along with the nutty ones. This ground up approach has really helped me to start redefining the role playing experience that I offer as a DM, and I think that it is going to translate equally well to the older group of "kids" that I'll be introducing to the hobby.

Running a Game for Millenials

Soulfinger,

As my daughter reached 10-11 years of age, she gravitated to the stage and by extension has taken theatre class every year in high school. As she'll pursue the performing arts in college, she's a natural for role-playing, which is admittedly a great place for Improv.

Moreover, if you include a few more kids around the same age, you'll introduce or reaffirm team-building, social skills, problem-solving, and myriad other skills beyond just the "social" ones often posited by proponents of RPGs.

We had a great time last week, I'm looking forward to the campaign as we progress both in levels, but in terms how the characters develop over time.

Cheers,
Joe

The Professor

The Professor wrote:
Soulfinger,

As my daughter reached 10-11 years of age, she gravitated to the stage and by extension has taken theatre class every year in high school. As she'll pursue the performing arts in college, she's a natural for role-playing, which is admittedly a great place for Improv.

Moreover, if you include a few more kids around the same age, you'll introduce or reaffirm team-building, social skills, problem-solving, and myriad other skills beyond just the "social" ones often posited by proponents of RPGs.

We had a great time last week, I'm looking forward to the campaign as we progress both in levels, but in terms how the characters develop over time.

Cheers,
Joe

I am so grateful for the diminishing misogyny in the hobby. It is still there, but it is comforting that your daughter won't be entering that 80s-90s environment that relegated girl gamers to peculiarities for the neckbeards to gawk at. I've been impressed by the parity between genders when I see young people playing these days.

Do you find it is different running a game for a girl than it would be for a boy? When I've run for (almost wrote "from") male teens and preteens, the experience is almost identical to when I was a kid. They want to duel their characters at the end of the session. They vacillate between cooperation and backstabbing. Power and treasure are massively appealing. The girls I've seen playing are often struggling to find a voice. The teen boys running the game fail to frame things in a way that interests them, so I am curious how you adapt your style. Does your daughter's theatric inclination lead to more in-depth NPC interactions?

I'm hoping to add to my son's group, but right now his friends include an English kid with a speech impediment -- I just can't understand a word he says -- and the son of a pastor, whose values are similar to our own, but they have an admirably slower approach to cultural exposure that doesn't include killing monsters and taking the cash from their pockets. Great friends but not the gamer crowd. I'm hoping this 4H experiment will change that.

For a group of teens it might

For a group of teens it might also be interesting if a girl is the dungeon master since girls tend to be more story oriented than violence oriented at that age.

Other than that, girls tend to be as diverse as guys. Some do want to fight and kick some butt with their character. It can help to encourage them maybe if you run the game by using something from their character background. Its a good way to get anyone more involved I suppose, if they seem a little left out in the group.

It could be something simple like meeting a fellow dwarf if the outsider is the only dwarf in the group.

Willem Verheij wrote: Other

Willem Verheij wrote:

Other than that, girls tend to be as diverse as guys. Some do want to fight and kick some butt with their character. It can help to encourage them maybe if you run the game by using something from their character background. Its a good way to get anyone more involved I suppose, if they seem a little left out in the group.

Thanks. It was confusing how I phrased it. I was referring more in the latter case to games where I was present as an observer, coaching the teenage DM on how to improve his game. Engaging players isn't something I have trouble with (keeping them sober is my losing battle).

I'm curious about the Professor's experience running for his daughter since . . . quite frankly, it is very unlikely that my own daughter will ever be able to play an RPG at any age. I am going to run a game for my son, but I have an innate paternal curiosity about how that experience would be different with a daughter (maybe tinged with a little jealousy), if that makes sense. It's a unique set of insights I can't generate from my own experience, which would potentially help me run a better game.

Well what is your daughter

Well what is your daughter like? what are her interests?

In an RPG you can play to those interests, especially in D&D. It can help to draw her in.

Or is she just not interested in playing any kind of role?

Willem Verheij wrote:Well

Willem Verheij wrote:
Well what is your daughter like? what are her interests?

In an RPG you can play to those interests, especially in D&D. It can help to draw her in.

Or is she just not interested in playing any kind of role?

Well, she loves Minecraft, Totoro, and My Little Pony. She is a wonder at navigating her tablet. She is also severely developmentally delayed with very low tone, can't speak a word, and is still struggling to transition from her g-tube to a normal oral diet. We try to keep our hopes up. After all, we'd been told that she'd never walk, and she had two severe medical conditions spontaneously resolve without medical intervention, which proved to be unprecedented. Still, she turns 8 in December, and the feeling that she'll outgrow it all has started to fade. As much as things have improved since the days when we were sleeping in shifts suctioning vomit out of her mouth every fifteen minutes, racing to clear her airway before she turned cyanotic, I worry ceaselessly about her ability to function in the world as she continues to mature into it. Sadly, D&D is among the many things I don't expect to be able to share with her anytime soon. Sorry if that's too much information.

Couldn't agree more!

Soulfinger,

Having attended my first Con this year, Origins, I was frankly surprised but also wonderfully excited to see the rough parity for attendees along gender lines. Many young or older women were not only playing games, but they were teaching many different games, and still others were working with or as designers for games...exciting times.

I will say, and this has already been echoed by a few others below that my daughter certainly enjoyed the storyline aspect and how she could involve herself in the arc more so than any desire to hack-and-slash (which would've proven quite difficult as a Wizard, but you get the idea) her way through the dungeon. To your point, she definitely wanted to engage with many more NPCs than I recall doing at the same age.

It's interesting that you mention a pastor as a friend of 20 years in New Jersey is playing in a 4e game, run by his pastor...so I pray that yours will find value in the enterprise.

Finally, I would be remiss if I let you know that I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. You face unbelievable challenges for your daughter and I pray you keep your strength.

Cheers,
Joe

Yeah, back in the day, the

Yeah, back in the day, the women at cons tended to be someone's wife or girlfriend, attention seekers in skimpy costumes, or women hired to promote a booth so that sweaty nerds could grope them and take photos to prove that they had in fact touched a girl at some point in their lives. The last time I went to a convention it was surprising to see women who looked normal, like they didn't have a pewter dragon collection that rivaled the number of cats in their home, and who were there to actually play games.

I expect that your daughter's style of play has proven quite rewarding. You aren't waiting for her to grow out of the bad habits so endemic to young gamers. Of course, she is also fortunate to have you running. I saw that with some of the teens playing at the local bookstore. There was a kid whose uncle had taught him and given him his books, and he was remarkably well balanced in how he played. Really, the biggest negative difference was that half the kids couldn't stay off their cellphones, which was a huge disruption. I think my son is going to do pretty well at it. My biggest concern is that his character will get killed and he'll cry about it. That was an issue for me when I started, but then again, he is twice as old as I was.

I have the good fortune to have many friends in ministry from different denominations, as I have a passion for theology and debate, so I know there's a lot of gaming going on in the nation's seminaries. The vicar at my parent's church was huge into TORG. The pastor at my old church was a tremendous Star Trek nerd. This friend has a different cultural context than what I'm accustomed to though. Although we are both basically Arminian, he maintains a PG lifestyle that really impresses me. I'm considering extending an invitation, but that thought was part of what prompted my recent reevaluation of what makes a good game. For example, were the inclusion of clerics and magic to prove problematic for him, then shouldn't they be for me? I'd totally dismissed the idea in the past because evangelicals were the ones kvetching about it, and what are they ever right about? But, now that I see cultural Christians as something wholly removed from Biblical Christianity, it gives me a fresh opportunity to assess things.

Thank you for your kind sentiment and prayers. My daughter is actually doing quite well, remarkably better than we had ever hoped, and we can't discount anything in the future because her progress has been nothing shy of miraculous. The hardest work right now is getting my wife's health in order.

Proper DMing

I remember vividly running an adventure for, of all people, my father, mother, and uncle. While I knew the books inside and out, I hadn't really honed the internal mechanism for throttling back on damage and the like to ensure that the story arc continues. My father would lament the fact that three well-heeled, armored individuals were killed by a couple of pussy cats (okay, they were actually a pair of Lynx, but whatever). The point being is that you have great control as the DM to not let that happen...especially at his age where a dead character could be the last straw in ever playing again.

You are an amazing individual providing care for so many in your home...Stay blessed.

The Professor wrote:I

The Professor wrote:
I remember vividly running an adventure for, of all people, my father, mother, and uncle. While I knew the books inside and out, I hadn't really honed the internal mechanism for throttling back on damage and the like to ensure that the story arc continues. My father would lament the fact that three well-heeled, armored individuals were killed by a couple of pussy cats (okay, they were actually a pair of Lynx, but whatever). The point being is that you have great control as the DM to not let that happen...especially at his age where a dead character could be the last straw in ever playing again.

You are an amazing individual providing care for so many in your home...Stay blessed.

Hah! A player in my last campaign felt morose the rest of the evening when he had to use a horn of blasting to wipe out the hundred menacing cats populating a wizard's abandoned library. In first and second edition, domestic cats were no joke. They could take out a first level wizard, although so could falling into a thorn bush. I can't even imagine running a game for my parents, especially now that my father doesn't know who he is. I miss playing with my brother though. It was entertaining to find that the little C64 game that he programmed in the 80s, "Medusa's Cave," is still available on emulator sites.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content


blog | by Dr. Radut