Thursday, July 26, 2012

Theme? What theme?!

On many of the blogs I stare at for 15 minutes and claim to read it has been said that D&D has a theme of adventurers who gain wealth and power by plundering the countryside for valuables and danger.

While I will certainly not dispute that this happens in an overwhelming majority of games, and to some extent in my own, I do contest that this style of play is somehow built into the D&D game.

In my experience, the rules for dungeons and dragons are a framework onto which players and DMs can weave their own scenarios. The theme of a game may be the fall of a nation, the danger of ancient knowledge, or anything, really.

One needs only to look at the fabled Appendix N and examine the themes explored in the material from which the game draws.

Will your players become more powerful? Most definitely. Will they gain fabulous wealth? Maybe. Will they seek out adventure? I hope so.

Wealth and power are tertiary, however, to the adventure. The great draw of any RPG is to see what happens next and to decide how your character reacts to it. Everything else is just fluff.


  1. That's true, but what experience is awarded for exerts a strong pull. Incentives matter. That why 3E and 4E seem like they are about fighting, because the reward system is primarily oriented around killing monsters. Those game can be played in other ways, but it requires extra and explicit work. The same is true of the older games, which reward treasure more.

    1. You make a good point. My perceptions are somewhat colored by my roleplay heavy attitudes. When I first started playing, we didn't use the XP rules. Characters just gained levels when they needed to. I tried to use the same concept with my groups now, but had to stop as the constant chorus of "do I level?" was driving me mad.

  2. Plus 2nd Ed encouraged large XP bonuses for good RP in the DMG and even in several modules. Plus in 2nd Ed. characters get XP for doing what thier classes were meant to do. Thieves so many XP fer stealing gold, wizards per spell cast etc... Clever strategy gets xp too. Finally XP for monsters is rewarded for defeating them which doesn't necessitate fat fucking murdering them, really. Play it as written and still its more than mayhem and plunder.