Friday, January 15, 2010

I really really want to play D&D some more.

I've been toying around with the idea of implementing quests a little better in D&D. At least than I would have before. Earlier, what I've done is treat them much like quests in a video game function: give the players something to do, with maybe a sub-goal or two and then they complete it for some "Story XP."

This is fine, but my aim is to make D&D more engaging and dynamic when I'm running. My hope is that this will keep people interested in playing consistently, and getting more involved in the game. So I've been thinking about how I can make quests a little more dynamic. Here's what I've come up with, along with some advice from the DMG2.

The first thing is to make quests seem more personal for the characters. The DMG2 says this is an excellent opportunity to build and develop character personality. Give the PCs something personal to try and accomplish and it helps them decide what adventures to take and what decisions to make. This in turn shapes the character on a much subtler level than, say, charging in to attack every time they see an orc (which is another GREAT way of adding character depth by the way).

Plus if the quests hold personal interest for the characters, it, once again, engages them on a deeper level. And then of course you can play with the ideas/goals of the quest, either pushing the party to cooperation or conflict depending, which adds a wonderful dynamic to the party's roleplaying, and helps keep both group and individuals distinct.

So let's say, for example, that I've got an adventure that takes place in a forgotten citadel, where the PCs are going to try and stop some cultists of Orcus from carrying out their diabolical plan. I can use quests to give the characters in the party differing goals that they'll try to fulfill within the dungeon itself. So where the druid might want to travel to the dungeon to try and undo some dark ritual that the Orcus cultists have conducted to drain power from the land, the fighter might be motivated to retrieve the sword of a legendary warrior, said to be entombed within the walls of the imposing fortress. And while this is happening, the rogue's nemesis' trail leads to the citadel. Already this gives the party three different goals to pursue there, and it prompts further roleplaying/involvement in the adventure.

There's the dynamic of the party trying to decide which goals to pursue first, which promotes some intraparty roleplay, and then there's the added focus on each character as they near the climactic encounter of their personal quests (maybe the Fighter has to deal with the Spirit of the Warrior somehow, or while fighting off cultists, the druid has to counteract the ritual) which opens up new options for the group besides simply combat. It's even better if this happens during a fight when player energy levels are already high, or works to punch up a lower energy transitional moment within the game.

And this means that I can hand out rewards a little more personally, and be a little more forthcoming in encouraging the players to be proactive about having their characters come up with their own quests. The DMGs say that D&D is a cooperative storytelling game, and the latest one encourages players to be more involved in the narrative process. I'm inclined to agree, and I hope that this will make for a more engaging game all around.

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