Saturday, February 5, 2011

Advice for Players from... the Players Handbook

There's a whole section in the back of the Players Handbook called "Successful Adventures." I liked to think I was being pretty slick, since I read it over and over, and none of the other people I played with at the time seemed to even realize it existed in the "flyover country" between the spell descriptions and psionics.

What is painfully evident to me now, that didn't really register at the time, was how geared that advice was to a very specific mode of play, and it wasn't mine. To wit; play with a large party (7 or more players) in what we would now call a megadungeon environment. Here are some of the italicized portions from the section:
  • set an objective
  • survival at lower levels is usually dependent upon group action and team spirit
  • A map is very important because it helps assure that the party will be able to return to the surface
  • Avoid unnecessary encounters
  • Do not be sidetracked.
  • If the party becomes lost, the objective must immediately be changed to discovery of a way out.
  • Co-operation assumes mutual trust and confidence

There is a throwaway paragraph about urban and wilderness adventures, basically stating "what was just said for dungeons goes for them, too." So a page and a half about how to conduct a successful dungeon adventure, where the implicit understanding is that the dungeon is large enough that there are multiple possible objectives, the place is large enough that it is easy to become lost, and party members turning on one another is a Bad Thing.

Elsewhere we also see references to a Party Caller, who actually is responsible for guiding the party as a whole, with the implication that with ten or more people, such a role is necessary because otherwise there would be too many people to be able to run the game effectively.

It was certainly a different world in Lake Geneva than the vast majority of us in the late 1970's and early 1980's saw. We usually played with four players including myself, often just one on one, and the dungeons were small and focused. "Being sidetracked" meant exploring two rooms and then getting on with the business at hand.