Friday, February 11, 2011

Swords and Wizardry Post Mortem

Well, the S&W campaign has officially ended. While it had been on hiatus for quite some time, it is officially 6 feet under now. Essentially, scheduling conflicts and differing levels of commitment broke the group apart. The tipping point was once the DM rejoined the workforce, there were more players with spotty attendance than regulars. A few recent drama emails flew around so now it's safe to call it a done deal.

Just in case anyone was still interested in my few and far between gaming exploits. I'll add a little more after the jump.

Overall, the game was a straight up dungeon crawl. All time outside the dungeon was heavily abstracted and essentially a time to shop, rest, find more hapless hirelings, and do paperwork. The dungeon itself was based off, in some part, from the recent products detailing Castle Greyhawk, in particular, I believe, the products made for Castles and Crusades, but I wasn't the DM so I can only guess.

Personally, I enjoyed the game. It was very casual and not time intensive (3.5 hours a session), so it fit me well. I had never really played or ran a dungeon crawl campaign like this before, so I gained some insight and experience both of things to do and not to do.

I wonder how much of this game was inspired by the recent OSR obsession with going over old gaming ground. Not that it is an entirely bad thing though.

I learned a little bit about how to keep a dungeon setting fresh and a few examples of how dungeon dressing can be interesting when it is not certain if it is meaningful or just cosmetic. A few bullet points:

  • Restocking a dungeon is critical. Through most of the campaign, any cleared areas were essentially safe areas. This fact was mentioned towards the end of the game's lifetime, so hopefully the DM was going to incorporate this aspect sooner or later.
  • Wandering monsters and timekeeping. I don't think we ever ran into issues with either. Again, towards the end, these issues were brought up and I assume some change was on the way. Or the DM couldn't roll a 6 for a wandering check worth a damn.
  • Short sessions have their drawbacks. In discussing the two issues above, if we rolled a random encounter right at the start of play, we've essentially cut out a significant part of gaming time to explore new areas of the dungeon. Same issue with leaving the dungeon, we either hand-wave it away or we can't end the game night outside the dungeon. Not an insurmountable problem, but an interesting balancing act. The wandering encounters and dungeon restocks would have to be good and seamless enough to not be easily discernible as such.
Also learned a little bit about player psychology. One player didn't like the game because, in his words:
The point of a hack&slash game is to kill shit, collect the loot, buy better stuff, then repeat these steps over and over. However in a game like S&W where there is no better shit to get this style of play is pointless. In 8 months of gaming, Galathos [his PC] managed to level one single time, but yet had the best armor one could get, a magical +1 weapon (it doesn't get any better), and a stream of gold flowing from my ass like a fountain. What was the point of continuing to play?
Actually sounds like a spot on description of online RPGs. So a player motivated by reward and not just the intrinsic properties of the game. This might be something to consider for my brain storming efforts with Experience and Advancement.

All in all, I enjoyed the sessions. Not like it was the best gaming ever, but serviceable. A degree better than the few sessions of 3.5 I played as a PC and then the few 1e sessions I DM'ed with that group a few years ago though. But this fact had more to do with the people playing rather than the system.


  1. SOme good observations there. Sounds like at least one of your players had different expectations than you/the rest of the group.

    I read on someone else's blog that having a pre-game meeting/social event, to discuss expectations, can be profitable.

  2. That's a great idea. Most pre-game meetings usually focus around character generation, but rarely do they discuss expectations. Of course, there are still normal human social complications. Essentially, most people are not really going to speak up and be honest about their expectations and would rather just play whatever. Then feelings fester over time and some small issue tends to bring out all the early issues that were repressed, so to speak.

    I had a similar situation, as I referenced in the aforementioned 'drama emails.' Essentially, half the group had hectic life schedules with jobs/families/etc, and the other half of the group was either college students or unemployed. So scheduling conflicts were the trigger to bring to light issues over expectations that weren't clear at day 1.

    Of course, non of this is specifically related to D&D, but to social interaction in general.

  3. Sound to me like the GM was pretty stingy. Or maybe he just didn't realize that original D&D characters are much weaker then their Advanced counterparts. A small party doesn't have much options oppenent-wise at low level. 8 months of kobolds and skeletons would drive me crazy.

  4. Maybe the DM was, maybe he wasn't. But if this player was a Monty Haul type, he definitely wouldn't be happy with the game. I enjoyed exploring the dungeon as much as the combat, but each player has their own expectations. And these expectations never came to light (at least publicly) until after scheduling conflicts had done a number on the game. So how could the game be good when people were only willing to be honest when it was more or less dead?