March 7th, 2002

Whiskey Tango Bravo Foxtrot Over...

Rant coming, brace yourself:

I just picked up the new issue of Dragon. I usually really enjoy Dragon, and I was looking forward to this one since it's principal topic was world-building, an activity I'm just coming back around too after years of being uninterested. Then comes the Dungeoncraft article, and I began to snarl.
The 7th rule of Dungeoncraft- "Running a good D&D campaign is about building a world, not about building a story." Now I take exception to this idea simply on its merits to begin with. The reason, in analysis of game after game, that I run successful campaigns is because I build in a compelling story that makes the players want to come back every week. My stories also tend to transcend worlds, being easily uprootable and placed into any setting, though I'll do my best to add elements that make one game world distinct from another (The villainy of the Red Wizards of Thay or the intolerance of the Theocracy of Pale, etc.). So that's my first, but not my biggest gripe with Mr. Winninger's take on campaigning.
My biggest gripe is his proclamation of what is, essentially, a taste issue as a Rule of good D&D campaigning. If he prefers a purely character-driven campaign with little in the way of pre-written story, more power to him (though I've found that such games usually devolve into little better than HackMaster scenarios, when you can get the players to move at all). But for him to subsequently invalidate my own preference in gaming styles by saying that "the spirit of the D&D game begins to crumble" indicates that he feels there's some sort of "right" way and "wrong" way to run D&D and that I find positively offensive. I don't play in Evil Campaigns, it doesn't suit me. That does not mean that it is somehow wrong or makes for an non-entertaining game for those who do prefer such a style.
Don't get me wrong. I've liked Mr. Winninger's work up to now, and I've even incorporated some of his ideas into my own campaign-building framework, but I think he's attempting to invalidate a perfectly legitimate (and, in my experience, highly succesful) way of DMing in the name of some ephemeral sense of Player Freedom, something that exists even in the presence of a fully-developed plotline. RPG plots, by their nature, have to allow for more than simple linear motion. These are, after all, RPG players.
Okay, rant over, I now return you to your regularly scheduled forum, and await such replies as may come.
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