(Not) Selling Your Game Idea

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I haven’t written about D&D in awhile — Our group went on hiatus for November when we realized that everyone was pretty much busy as far as scheduling goes. Ostensibly, we’re going to start things up again this month, but who knows how well that will really turn out. A few people did show up yesterday, and we had a bit of a talk about our games, but not enough to play.

One of the members of our group, the one who hosts all the time, is notoriously fickle. And, as I figured and feared, a month of not playing has given him some disruptive ideas. In particular, he wants to start his own, new group, kicking out some of our regular members for no particular reason that I can see. He’s also indicated that he no longer wants to play either of the campaigns we were playing (Spycraft and Warhammer-Fantasy-inspired D&D).

The latter I wasn’t terribly surprised about. For the past, say, four or five months he’s been talking about rewriting the rules to the Dragon Star campaign setting. Dragon Star is a third party campaign setting which, as you might expect, is kind of a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. It was published for D&D 3.0, but apparently there’s some minor rules glitches between 3.0 and 3.5 and D20 Modern that require fixing. Since he’s been spending all of this time and effort to modify the rules, he now wants to run a campaign in Dragon Star. I saw this coming a mile away and I tried to defuse the situation before it came to this point, but it seems like I was unsuccessful.

You see, the problem is I can’t say anything interesting about Dragon Star. The idea of playing a game in Dragon Star hasn’t been sold to me. Take all of the horrible triteness of high-magic D&D, throw it into space and introduce high-technology from D20 Modern and D20 Future. This is not appealing to me. Tell me what type of story you want to tell in this campaign. Tell me why it’s cool to have magic & technology, and why this isn’t game breaking. Tell me why it’s cool to have 50 different player races other than the fact that I can choose the most optimized race to make my character game-breakingly powerful.

What sort of stories should you tell in Dragon Star? Tell me that. Is it supposed to be like Star Wars, with the players taking on the roles of rebels against the Dragon Empire? Are we supposed to be agents of the Dragon Empire working to suppress a rebellion from the Drow/Humans/Whatever? Are we supposed to be military officers who fight off the “Aberration Threat” of the Illithids and other Underdark creatures? Are we part of a minor house or planet in the Empire that’s reaching to increase its status? Each of these has a different theme, but I’ll be darned to say what sort of theme a campaign in Dragon Star would have. Don’t tell me that it’ll have all of these elements — The fact that we’ve got magic and technology and a million races and a million planets means that we’re already covering way too much for a compelling narrative. Pare it down and make me care.

If we’re going to play rebels against an Evil Empire, why not play Star Wars? If we’re going to play as future cops, why not play Star Trek? If we’re going to play horror, why not play Call of Cthulu? Any one of these systems appeals to me more than Dragon Star. I know them, I’ve played in them, watched TV shows or movies about them, read about them. It takes something special to get me to want to prefer something new and unknown over these — So what’s special about Dragon Star?

It seems like the idea here is basically to combine the extreme brokenness of high level magic with the extreme brokenness of high technology. We’ve run similar high-technology games in the past, and it’s simply too damn problematic to have a character with a belt of Cryogenic grenades of 8d6 cold damage, etc, at level 1. Magic is more balanced in play, but when you get into enchanting technological items or using magic (such as haste) to allow you to use more technological items, you’ve got serious problems on your hands. I know right off the bat that this is going to degenerate into Monty Haul extremely fast… Maybe I can still put a stop to the madness before it begins.

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