What kind of adventures would you like to play in D&D?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 April 2013, 4:55 am
If I had to summarize the events of my current D&D campaign up to now in a paragraph, it would look something like that: The players started out being sold into slavery from an orphanage, were shipwrecked on an island, escaped with the help of the goddess Selune and were teleported to what has become their new home base in the Nentir Vale. There they investigated a mysterious death and disappearing standing stones in a village, discovering that a demon was inadvertently liberated there. They helped a barony to reinstall their rightful ruler in a rebellion, before hunting down the demon in an underground temple with a rift to a parallel plane. On killing the demon they were transported to that parallel plane, and are currently in a vampire castle where they need to kill the vampire lord to get back to their own world.

As you can see, a lot of things happened over 5 levels of gameplay. And only very little of it involved dungeon delving. And while I am not necessarily representative of anything, I do think that this sort of adventure with lots of story, lots of NPCs, and different interesting locations is very much what "modern" D&D looks like. It is a game of interactive story-telling, of role-playing mixed in about equal measure with combat.

Now Wizards of the Coast is working on the next edition of D&D, called D&D Next. And there is something like a beta test for this edition, with WotC handing out early versions of the rules plus adventures to test the new system. And one thing I noticed is that the adventures provided are not of the modern style described above. Rather they are all of the "classic" dungeon delve, hack'n'slash variety, like the Caves of Chaos, or the newly included Mines of Madness. The Mines of Madness adventure starts with the players in front of the entrance to said mines, being told that they are looking for some fabulous artifact in there. End of story. The decisions they have to take are of the type "you come to a crossing, do you go left or right?", and instead of NPCs to interact with there are series of rooms with monsters and traps.

Now before becoming DM in my current campaign I was a player in a campaign which could go on without any combat for months, and as this is with the same group of people I'm sure they noticed that my campaign has a lot more combat in it. In the vampire castle they are in there is the possibility, due to the castle's sandbox-y nature, to have several fights in a row. But there are also a lot of interesting NPCs to interact with, roleplaying scenes where the players need to decide whether to trust somebody, clues to find, and interesting choices to make. I am not a fan of hack'n'slash dungeons, where there is no logical rhyme or reason to an accumulation of rooms full of exotic monsters which seem to have no purpose whatsoever than to engage adventurers in combat.

And I am starting to wonder whether D&D Next as a rules system is designed for this "classic" style of adventuring. Which would be somewhat weird, because one of the main complaints about the current 4th edition of D&D was that the rules were too much designed for combat, and didn't give enough room for roleplaying. When I listen to a podcast of Mines of Madness, there is a lot *less* roleplaying going on than in my 4E campaign. In fact in that Mines of Madness games the player characters are apparently treated as disposable pawns, with multiple deaths in the dungeon each dealt with by the introduction of a replacement pre-rolled character coming out of nowhere.

What do you think? Are "classic" hack'n'slash adventures back in fashion? Have people given up on more involved stories where dialogue with NPCs is actually necessary and not just some random exchange of words with a tavern keeper or blacksmith between dungeon crawls? What kind of adventures would you like to play in D&D?
Tobold's Blog

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