Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Joanna Gaskell on how D&D works…

“D&D is, after ail, a truly unique invention, probably as remarkable as the die, or the deck of cards, or the chessboard.” — J. Eric Holmes

This is classic: this video of Joanna Gaskell talking about her campaign. Everything that can go wrong explodes in her face. Every possible rookie mistake that can be made, she does it:

  • She over-prepares, creating a crazy massive setting.
  • She’s got this crazy ruleset that is cryptic, alien, and maybe even inimical to what she’s trying to do.
  • She whips up wild house rules just because.
  • The rules she has are full of tricks and traps and odd properties and it is really easy to go and do wrong or stupid things with them. She makes a dozen campaign-breaking errors, and keeps going anyway.
  • The players are given a wide open sandbox and end up wandering hither and yon completely missing the Big Story for random reasons.
  • She keeps playing with this mess for three years as players come and go dropping in and out for whatever reason.

Chaos. Pure unadulterated chaos! And yet… out of all this grey goo of gaming weirdness… at some point, something clicked. Things fell together, the stars aligned, and something happened that was awesome and exciting and meaningful and unexpected and it was so mind blowing that it really was really the crack cocaine of epic gaming.

And maybe no one cares. Maybe you go up to people at cons and you’re like, “let me tell you about my campaign” and peoples eyes glaze over and it doesn’t mean anything to them and if you wrote a novel about it, it would be absolutely atrocious. Still, something happened. Something specific to your world and your group and it was freaking cool. This is why I’d argue that D&D was discovered, not invented. Because this sort of thing is inevitable for anyone that really sticks to it. It emerges in any serious, long running sandbox campaign… in spite of what the game was designed for and how it was engineered!

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