14 thoughts on “On which side do you stand?”

  1. I don’t think the “busy adults schedule” make me like more or less one or the other approach. I think the big difference is that in an improv style of gaming you have fun in creating a story, while withe the High Prep style game you get your fun in experiencing said story.

    Is the difference between writing and reading a book.

  2. One or the other at any given time. I jump back and forth from game to game, switching between low-prep that just involves photocopying DW playbooks and high-prep that involves things like creating excerpts from Mythos tomes that may or not be discovered by the PCs.  

  3. I don’t see these as necessarily exclusive at all. The only difference is, in the traditional arrangement the GM is encouraged to create a bunch of stuff before the game begins, while in the more modern one the whole group creates a bunch of stuff while they play.

    Play a *World game for enough sessions and you’ll have “a vibrant history of lands, people, and events” anyway, and it will contain the input of several creative people instead of one.

  4. Early D&D often was more on the improv side than the high prep side.  And while games like modern D&D do encourage a lot of prep, they certainly support improv play well, and games like Dungeon World support high prep play well. So I don’t see a big divide, more of a tendency in one direction or the other. Myself, I like the entire spectrum, with different reasons for different parts.

  5. I was a D&D GM for more than 20 years and i don’t understand how can you say that D&D supports improv play. I think that supporting someting implies that the thing supported is somehow made easy by the thing supporting her. D&D, IMO, tolerates improv, doesen’t support it.

    BEWARE it’s not a better/worst argument, just my opinion that different things do things differently. (p.s. no extensive experience in DW, so I don’t say anything about that)

  6. I once had a friend tell me that he was thinking about running D&D, but didn’t think he could put in all the work to make a big map and a gazeteer full of information about the world. He saw things like Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms and assumed you needed that much in order to start a campaign, but he wanted to ‘be original’ and make it himself. I told him that the big boxed set with the map and 300 pages of setting is what you have after running a game for 10 years, not before.

  7. The more one person preps, the less likely their stuff is to actually interest me. Especially when it comes to plot and motivation. Low prep, and taking the players’ input, guarantees they are interested. Besides which,  if you don’t have the time to write the stuff, I certainly don’t want to put in the time to hear about it. (Your gamers may vary.)

    Another way to put it: If I wanted to hear a story, I’d read a book. Personally, I game to collaborate on making a story and making meaningful choices.

    There was a great article somewhere comparing the typical D&D party to superhero comics. An protagonist puts plans into motion and tries to accomplish things, whereas an antagonist in a story usually just tries to stop whatever the protagonist is doing. Here’s the thing though – in superhero comics, the villain is the protagonist, and the hero is the antagonist. Same for the typical D&D party – completely reactive. The party is interchangeable, they fill the slot of the antagonist in the GM’s story. (Again, it could be a great story, and entertaining for some players, but it’s not what I’m here for.)

    Dungeon World specifically tells you not to prepare a plot ahead of time. Prep setting stuff and threats, yes. The world goes on outside the players. But DON’T tell the players what they do, they get to be protagonists. D&D 3 and later encourages preparing all the encounters ahead of time (at least for each session) – it’s difficult to come up with enemies on the fly, and players usually expect a balanced challenge level. Still possible, but not supported IMO.

  8. Theres not a better example for telling players what to do then in media res openings. Theres times to point the way and times to let choices point everyone.

  9. Immediately prior to switching to Dungeon World, I was running Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, an OD&D clone. When I ran into Dungeon World, the GM’s Agenda and Principles were very similar to what I was already doing, but formalized.  I built a world, I left lots of blanks. I identified forces that would change the world if nothing interfered; Fronts without the name.  And because of the nature of play, I frequently had to improvise encounters, and it’s about as easy in OD&D as Dungeon World.  My experience is that a sandbox style of play really calls for relatively light prep and a lot of improvisation, and the OSR writers I’ve followed seem to agree.

    Improvised play in D&D got increasingly difficult as editions wore on, but it was certainly possible and happened.  That’s the perspective I was referring to “supported,” but I understand why others would disagree.

  10. I’m definitely one who thinks that folks who grew up with 4e or even encounters think that’s DND; 4e was very tactical by default and some folks felt that took away from the story they’d always played DND for.

    The main difference isn’t improve vs high prep between DND and DW, IMO. I have ran whole campaigns with basic DND, through 3.5 that were mostly improv; but a lot of it was my improv.

    In DW, you’re meant to build it together. You still don’t have to, just like in DND you can ask the same types of questions and move the game along just fine. The normalized curve for die rolling and what it means can feel different, but that’s really up to the DM in both scenarios. 4e for me would be the toughest to do this with. Its also nothing like what the other editions are.

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