“Hate it or love it the underdog’s on top” - Hate it or love it. The Game, 50 Cent.
I’ll save the long backstory, let’s just say I remember when playing any RPGs was grounds for a beatin’, for real. I feel like D&D has been breaking through to the common spaces since 3E. I ran D&D 3E for my co-workers and boss at Reuters back then, in the office even. D&D delivers an action-adventure experience for newcomers and old alike —for sure if you play RAW. Start tinkering with that and you takes your chances. But tinker we do! That’s the D&D pedigree, right? House rules all the way down. Guilty! ✋🏾
I ran a few one-shots when 5E first came out. Then a random dungeon campaign. My IRL group made some characters that were trapped in some strange, forgotten dungeon. We played to find out the how and why’s as we try to find a way out. The dungeon and encounters were randomly generated as we explored using the tables in the Dungeon Masters Guide. A solid five or six sessions before we moved on to other games.
My next campaign came later with friends in the Chicago area when I was in town for work, roughly every 2-3 months, it was a homebrew setting built around the player character choices. Six players at maximum. The Storm King’s Thunder Campaign book remains the longest run I’ve had in 5E and that was a wild ride. I’d love to get Dragon Heist or the Icewind Dale adventures to the table! I learned that when I embrace the game as it is and only apply GM lift to fit the emerging situation and not some ideal I’m after then I have fun, I enjoy the results. YMMV. D&D also is one of the rare games where I’ll accommodate more than four players at the table. House rules, baby!
The Critical Hits
Touchstones. D&D has won the hearts and minds of celebrities, politicians, pastors, yes..pastors I know a few. Kids that can’t yet read even. My kid pitches it to me like it’s the new sliced bread and ‘5E’ is just a cool title dressing. His mom talks about the cooks playing in the kitchen where her side-hustle is. I made friends with some strangers in an RV park in Texas during election week. D&D Mojo is strong. You can be on the train or get plowed. I like that players have a bunch of fiddle character bits to tinker with. We talk about those and make sure it is in the game we’re playing. From race, class, backgrounds, drives -I make them work for that inspiration point. With a sizable table, vets can help the newbies. I even use a caller these days for getting a handle on big groups.
But I Hate…
I loathe the character advancement cycle. Milestones, XPs, whatever…I hates it. As written advancement is very formulaic. The DM knows when leveling will occur and what encounter did it. That ruins the game for me. It means I the DM am in control of advancement. I’m not fond of that. There’s no appeasing me here. DM makes encounters, encounters have XP values that players use to level up. It is all math after that. Hates it. Hates it. Hates it.
Milestones A.K.A. ‘Everybody levels’. Sucks. But at least it is honest. It’s my default way of handling advancement, a lot less math, and encounter fiddling too! Hates it less. I don’t have a better solution here, so I’m just ranting. Nostalgia whispers to me there was something to having different XP requirements per class, but I also love XP for gold and west marches games.
Whose House? (Rules)
I have some house rules I like. Above all, I like players rolling for defense checks instead of me making attack rolls. This one trick alone saves me so much table bandwidth. I throw hoards of creatures easily because those five goblins need five defense checks from a player instead of me making 5 attack rolls. I also dump initiative, combat is simultaneous. I have a post —as do several other bloggers about how to do this. It’s fantastic. I also like turning up the lethality by using the D&D combat supercharger rules. And now my combats are fast, fluid, and frenetic! Like the streets finding its use for things, we borrow the things that work for us. I’m likely to have you roll your approach ala Blades in the Dark style over letting a party debate a plan. I’ll use your Cha like a Burning Wheel circles test. Right now I’m reading the alpha version of Symbaroum for 5E. Pretty sure that’s what I’m running next!
My family is big. Like brothers and sisters from other mothers big. My pop was firm on two things though. First, we are all we got —we’re family. We gotta find a way to stay that way for the rough days ahead, and rough days are for sure. Second, there ain’t no halfies or steps —we’re all brothers and sisters, period.
So nerds, geeks, dorks, and grognards —we’re all still gamers. D&D is part of our gaming hobby, not halfies, or a step.
‘And I'm gon' shine, homie, until my heart stop’ - Hate it, or Love it. The Game, 50 Cent.