Reading a post over on Story Games, I began to get a bit nostalgic for the days of my youth that I spent on Red Box DnD. The subject of the article I was reading was “Did we (indie game enthusiasts) enjoy DnD back then, and can’t now or Did we never enjoy DnD that much and didn’t realize it at the time?” and as someone who enjoys “indie” RPGs (which I define as games which give narrative control to the players and feature light rule sets, your definition may vary) I admit I’m not as enamoured with DnD as I was years ago. It just doesn’t grab my imagination and inspire me like it used to ages ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to enjoy it, and rekindling those memories made me want to play it again.
As I waxed nostalgic, I considered running a brief game for my wife and daughter. I initially discarded the idea, because my daughter (9) doesn’t “get” RPGs yet. While she’s very creative and very imaginative, she’s also very much insistent on including things inappropriate to the genre, or that no one else finds interesting as main focal points of shared narratives. Starting any given game, she will want to set the game in the world of Terrapinia, or go off searching for Pokemon, despite the purported genre or focus of the game. She also is very much a spotlight hog, and when prompted for some narrative input, will run wild, dictating much more information than asked for, altering other people’s characters, adding world elements, running amok, never pausing for breath. As of the last few times we tried to include her in games, we decided she wasn’t quite ready yet.
Thinking about the things that DnD and “indie” games do differently and the problems we were having playing RPGs with my daughter more or less concurrently led me to an interesting idea. Perhaps old basic DnD is the perfect game to start playing with my daughter. Perhaps it’s exactly it’s problems that made it perfect for us as children, and will make it perfect for her. Basic DnD is very simple. It’s very limited in scope, and it’s scope of where it is and isn’t malleable is rigidly defined. There’s no shared narrative control in Basic DnD. The reality of the game world is what your DM says it is. There’s no spotlight hogging in Basic DnD. You get one round of actions, then the next guy gets HIS one round of actions. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
On a larger scale is the lesson that we’ve all been told before. There are no BAD RPGs (No, not even FATAL). There are just different RPGs for different people, and if someone wants to play an RPG but isn’t enjoying it or “getting” it, chances are there’s a better fit out there for them.
So maybe we all loved DnD specifically because it’s problems allowed us to enjoy it. Maybe that’s no longer the case for some of us, and that’s fine too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go re-read The Keep on the Borderlands. I have a game tonight.