Sunday, 14 August 2011

More From Ian

A section of the hobby has put forward the argument that ready-made scenarios are actually harmful to "true" roleplaying. They claim that this leads to stereotyped play, with referees reading descriptions from a booklet, and relieving them of the need to think on their feet. Adventures are thus "spoon fed" to the players, and things become less exciting than watching a soap opera on TV. Proponents of the use of published adventures maintain that this is the fault of the referee: his attitude is one of relief at avoiding all that work and one of trust in the written word. A published adventure should be treated as an aid, not the divine gospel. Whether on the matter of published adventures or any other aspect of refereeing, once the referee ceases to think about the material, he is dead.

From Ian Livingstone's Dicing With Dragons.


  1. Definitely old-school DMing here. Maybe a bit too old school for me - I have no problems using published modules and like the proponents in this quote, I treat them as guidelines not as RAW.
    As for "once the referee ceases to think about the material, he is dead." is that because the players will kill him or because Ian Livingstone is going to come round the DM's house with a broadsword?

  2. Lol! & Agreed! Surely behind this old debate are the issues such as

    1) what style of play is favoured by the group? Diceless? Dice? Some would simplify this to roleplaying versus rollplaying, although this, like Livingstone's view above, is a simplification masking a more complex picture.

    Some groups prefer rolling dice for the cathartic excitement they bring....gambling! (but not as we know it!)... & may also live other trappings of the game: minis, tiles, decent props.... All of these effect how the game is played... And whether they want to get in touch with their inner thespian or not ;)

    & does diceless gaming make one better at roleplaying? The theory is that the system encourages it...but that is no guarantee!!

    2) is your GM a b@$t@rd? Nuff said. It won't matter whether they are running their own story or a premade one, it will be sh#te.

    3) Even if they are running an excellent pre-written adventure or their own material, if they are a rules lawyer you are doomed. Likewise, if they like the sound of their own voice too much, if they expect you to share the same love and have the same interest in having a complex understanding of a setting you loathe (eg for me, forgotten realms).... you are in trouble!

    4) do you like the game setting/ genre? As mentioned I loathe FR, along with dragon lance, supers cyberpunk & most sci fi!!!!), it won't work...(for me, no matter how god-like the gm skill is!) Thus will you connect to the story (premade or homemade)?

    5) can the gm tell a story? Can they manage a bunch of maniacs, as in the players? Do they feel comfortable in the role?

    there are so many other important questions... and ultimately a good pre-written scenario can be ruined by a bad GM, just as a good GM can mine the good gems/ ideas in mixed scenario and breathe life into it.....