Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Confession

So I've now been running a campaign continuously for over two years - my players have toppled tyrants and walked the planes, and have storied histories that transcend any game-summary or character sheet. Increasingly I grow less interested in the game-world: the endgame pieces are now all on the board and moving, the characters approach the awesome power of high level and are challenged only by lengthy combat with high-level foes. The mysteries are dragged kicking and screaming into the open, to be dispassionately discussed as tactics and stratagems.

How many dragons can you throw at a party before the thunder of wing-beats and a roar that makes mountains shudder is suddenly prosaic?
How many devils do they need to batter before Asmodeus becomes comic evil rather than cosmic evil?

I no longer think about my campaign in the shower.

When the world is at stake, I find I'm crazing something smaller and humbler: the tension of low-level player-characters in terrible danger. Combat that is quick and dirty rather than an onerous list of high-powered abilities and the lengthy explanation of riders. The dreadful arithmetic of 8d8 damage. The 'Gordian Knot' solutions that cover every character sheet which squeeze out the quick-thinking of low-level play. It has become a little tired, a little staid.

My "Say Yes" and "Rule of Cool" philosophy increasingly feels like fiat - like playing with kid's gloves. I've killed several characters this campaign, some brutally, but I increasingly feel like I'm not a DM, but a cheerleader for the player-characters. That they are teacher's pet.

I want to go for something a little scary and cruel. I want my players to feel fear again, to scan the battle-mat with feverish eyes. To lean in to monster descriptions. To wonder, and fear, and strive, as only a hungry Wizard with 9 hit points can.

So I'm working on a new project called Into the Gloom. Details to follow.

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