D&D Summer Camp #2: D&D Killed the Board Game Star

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12 Jun 2019 08:01 - 12 Jun 2019 08:04 #298260 by Mantidman
Mr. Barnes,
Your children will remember these stories that you have created together. My boys, now almost 20 and 18, still remember the first adventures that they experienced. I think that there is a part of us that needs tales and stories and that they are so much more memorable when they are created. Enjoy this time and keep notes, I still have a notebook with the highlights of the adventures that my boys experienced.
Sincerely,
Todd
Last edit: 12 Jun 2019 08:04 by Mantidman. Reason: clumsy typing fingers
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12 Jun 2019 08:34 #298262 by drewcula
I've enjoyed reading the OP and all of the replies. Great stuff.
And still, part of me thinks this also largely comes down to a perfect window of opportunity for the Barnes clan. Tweens are stuck at home with dad for the summer, and they need some structure. The family bond is strong enough that they can sit down for a period of time and play make believe.
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12 Jun 2019 22:44 #298314 by san il defanso
I mostly agree with everything Michael wrote here, with the caveat that I do think it's important for board game designers to keep on pushing what is possible in terms of narrative and modular design, two things that are pulled from other types of games. It's true that too often designs that are informed by CCGs, RPGs, miniatures, etc., are trying to imitate those experiences, rather than taking what works best and melding it with what works best with board games. Every kind of game can almost be thought of as a sub-medium, and crossing those streams often results in really strong games. Stuff like Talisman, Dominion, Space Hulk, all of those are informed by other types of games. I wouldn't want designers to feel like they just need to stay in their lane.

I also agree that the current burden of being a DM is quite overstated. The official published things I've run (Mines of Phandelver, Tomb of Annihilation, and some of the Yawning Portal adventures) have all been pretty much a matter of reading it enough to be familiar with how things go. Part of that comes down to how I run games, which is pretty loosey-goosey, but it's really not that hard.

Frequency of play does make a big difference though. I think my enjoyment of D&D ramped way up when I was able to play weekly. Everyone has the rules internalized and you can really get into the overall swing of the plot. I actually think THAT'S the big weakness of D&D, more than the "workload." It's getting a regular group that can commit to being there are the same time every week. That's pretty tough with people who like playing board games, because you really need to sacrifice board game time to make it work. Trying to ADD it to your gaming life has never worked for me.
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13 Jun 2019 01:32 - 13 Jun 2019 01:33 #298320 by Space Ghost
I tend to agree with Barnes on that so many games are really attempting to distill the excellence of the lifestyle games (Magic, Warhammer, D&D) into a shortened tabletop format. Unfortunately, so much of the excellence comes from the "lifestyle" aspect of those games. So many times, I think a lot is lost in this emulation.

I am beginning to think that is why I enjoy so many games from the 80s through mid-90s. A lot of them are established before this ramp up of so many games trying to emulate these other mediums. Related to Barnes' Middara review, that is what makes it more pleasant in many ways -- it's trying to emulate JRPG, which is not a crowded area. This makes up for the fact that there is really too much stuff in the box.

In some ways, I feel like emulation is this generations brand of creativity -- look how many movies are remakes of things from our childhood. Now that we have purchasing power, the tug on nostalgia heartstrings is out in full force. This kind of direct remake used to be more rare. Look at Heroquest, for instance. It was simple and not really trying to be D&D, but served as a much better D&D introduction that actual D&D products (like Dragon Quest or Dragon Strike).

Many modern dungeonquest games seem to be trying to emulate D&D by way of Heroquest -- but that is like trying to capture the original by copying a copy, but the copy was trying to do something different. That's why so many modern dungeoncrawls feel like overcomplicated kid's games -- because Heroquest at its heart is a kids game.
Last edit: 13 Jun 2019 01:33 by Space Ghost.
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13 Jun 2019 07:28 #298327 by drewcula
Long live Heroquest.

Drewcula = kid at heart
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13 Jun 2019 09:15 #298339 by jason10mm
Great article. As my son starts to get the reading competency and attention span for more games I'm always waiting for the time to spring DnD on him. 5e is such a revelation compared to 3 and 4e. RPGs need to have some basic rules to establish left right limits and give a sense of success/failure not wholly predicated on the DMs whim but otherwise can be wide open. Compared to board games which are almost always closed rules systems with few mechanisms to reward player actions other than min/maxing the game system to the hilt to get the predetermined trophy.

I still remember several classic DnD moments with friends 20+ years ago. I struggle to recall any seminal moment from a game of Shogun, Fortress America, or Axis and Allies (though I'm sure there were many). Board games by their nature reward in the moment since all you are really doing is besting a system of rules or perhaps your opponent. But an RPG hits all the emotional range since you can become completely invested in your character.

I'ds be interested in a comparison of some of the "junior" RPG systems like "No thank you Evil" which I'm always on the cusp of ordering and then it drops out of print for a few months. I'd like to try the DnD adventure system or Mice and Mystics on him but they may rely too much on rules to make the game work and I know my son will just start playing with the minis and making up his own stories before I could even get the game set up.
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14 Jun 2019 18:30 #298407 by engineer Al
This was a great read, Michael. I've really been enjoying these articles. You are making me regret that I never played D&D with my daughter when she was at that age and still believed in magic. What a lost opportunity. She would have loved it!

I'm looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures. . .
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14 Jun 2019 23:52 #298415 by Michael Barnes
Wow, noted game designer Eric Lang called this article “specious, sanctimonious, and eye-roll inducing”. Sounds like I am right on target!

Nate, I think you are correct that it falls on board game designers like Mr. Lang to keep experimenting with narrative and figuring out how to tell a story with a fixed rules environment. Once again, you’ve only got to got Reiner Knizia to see where this can be successful, and the reason for the success is that the best Knizia games have actual themes beyond “like D&D in a box”. Amun-Re would be a great example of this- yet there is zero flavor text, no over the top illustrations, and no faction/character special abilities.

Digression- I’ve come to think that faction/character special abilities are about the laziest way to illustrate subject matter in games today. Especially after Root and to some extent Cthulhu Wars rewrote the book on that concept.

Jason, I looked into some of the “kid” RPG stuff out there and it was a big nope for me. I don’t want an imitation of D&D made simpler for no good reason in light of 5e’s strides in terms of accessibility. I want the real D&D experience, beholders and displacer beasts, spell memorization, Tomb of Horrors, magic missile, the whole thing. I want my kids to get specifically into D&D, it is the foundation. Later they can explore. But this is like taking them to church for me.

The frequency of play issue that Nate mentioned is definitely a thing. It certainly helps that I have a captive audience that I can play with anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day at home- I don’t have to round up a group and get together somewhere. IMO, that makes D&D a perfect game for families.

I’m also looking at running a game over Skype with some other family members and a friend involved. But I expect that to be much slower moving, and I’m keeping it to low commitment, short stuff like the TftYP adventures rather than long storylines.

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15 Jun 2019 01:33 #298418 by Space Ghost
Too bad Lang wouldn't reply here -- debate over these issues is how real ideas move forward.

Sounds like 5e is good -- I might have to check it out. I have a ton of stuff from 2nd Edition, and haven't played anything since. I tried to play 3rd edition, but I couldn't get into it. My kids are 5 and 7, so this sounds like something we could gear up to in the next couple of years...

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15 Jun 2019 09:36 - 15 Jun 2019 10:34 #298424 by Michael Barnes
Twitter reactions to this have ranged from good, solid debate to complaints about how an article about finding gaming joy and rediscovering the values of a classic game with my children is “insulting”, has a “superior” tone. and how my kids “lack the comprehension” to understand that pictures and text on board games are narrative. Good to know I’ve still got what it takes to piss off weirdly defensive board gamers!
Last edit: 15 Jun 2019 10:34 by Michael Barnes.

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15 Jun 2019 10:57 - 15 Jun 2019 11:03 #298428 by ubarose

Michael Barnes wrote: Wow, noted game designer Eric Lang called this article “specious, sanctimonious, and eye-roll inducing”. Sounds like I am right on..


It’s been picked up on social media and has been going around with an intro comment like “Michael Barnes says RPGs are killing board games.” Followed by only the image, title and your lead “A storytelling epiphany. So there has been a bit of a pile-on on social media.

Oftentimes when articles get shared like this, the person or organization doesn’t even read the article, they read the title and the lead to create their preface comment. Or they may just skim it to pull out the quote that will get the biggest response. Then often times the commenters don’t actually read the article. They just respond to what they see on on social media.

We have to be mindful of our titles, and leads. More complex articles may additionally require an explicit first paragraph stating what the article is about.

Probably would have gotten a different response on social media if the title was D&D Summer Camp #2: D&D has Killed the Board Game Star for Me, and then elaborated a bit more in your lead/sub title - A storytelling epiphany: something something something.

A bit of outrage does drive traffic, but on the other hand it can backfire as an article may end up ignored by the audience you actually want. So it is a bit of a trade off. If you don’t mind the outrage, than it isn’t an issue.
Last edit: 15 Jun 2019 11:03 by ubarose.

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15 Jun 2019 11:17 #298430 by Michael Barnes
“In our opinion, smell the glove”
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15 Jun 2019 11:39 - 15 Jun 2019 11:58 #298433 by ubarose
“In our personal opinion, we feel that individuals should consider smelling the glove. However, those that are disinclined to smell the glove, should not. In the next several paragraphs we shall explain why we feel individuals should consider smelling the glove, how to smell the glove, where to smell the glove, and next steps after smelling the glove. We will also address why those who are disinclined to smell the glove should refrain from smelling the glove.”
Last edit: 15 Jun 2019 11:58 by ubarose.
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15 Jun 2019 21:39 #298449 by jason10mm

Space Ghost wrote: Too bad Lang wouldn't reply here -- debate over these issues is how real ideas move forward.

Sounds like 5e is good -- I might have to check it out. I have a ton of stuff from 2nd Edition, and haven't played anything since. I tried to play 3rd edition, but I couldn't get into it. My kids are 5 and 7, so this sounds like something we could gear up to in the next couple of years...


Ha ha ha, actual debate is long dead. It's all about confirmation bias and echo chambers now. There is a popular video game forum I am routinely temp-banned on simply because I deviate slightly from the group-think you MUST have in order to post there on certain topics.

I'd say try the 5e starter set. You actually don't need much to roll over a lot of 2e into 5e. So far at least they have kept 5e relatively simple and consistent so that the rules get out of the way of the story. Which is why you see so many streaming games. I don't think the more mechanistic 3.5e or 4e would translate as well. 5e is nice because everything is "roll higher than".

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16 Jun 2019 09:52 - 16 Jun 2019 13:01 #298460 by Michael Barnes
I’ve been playing board games for over 35 years, writing about them for over 16, I’ve been in business selling them, I’ve co-founded two Web sites about them, and I’ve helped to give other writers platforms to write about them...and I am apparently anti-board games. Then I remember that I’ve been -over- the board games honeymoon -longer- than some people have been playing.

Anyway, that starter set Jason mentions is a STUPENDOUS value. Amazon has it for -$12-. It is literally all you need to play. It even has pregen characters with instructions on their sheet to level them up. It has the Lost Mines of Phandelver, which is an amazing intro adventure that could give you weeks and week’s of enjoyment- it’s extremely easy to run with almost no preparation. $12 to play D&D with up to five people for a month or more.
Last edit: 16 Jun 2019 13:01 by ubarose. Reason: Moderation
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