My earlier blog entry on the World's Largest Dungeon has got me thinking about maybe trying again to run the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons. During my first campaign I didn't give 3E the total effort I could have exerted and I whimped out when the power level started to rub against my comfort zone. I know I can do better than that. D&D 3E may not be my favorite incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons, but I feel kinda alienated from my own hobby because I'm not playing the Big Game. Sure, I went through my "D&D sucks, [insert random game here] rules!" period in the early nineties, but I can lay a lot of that attitude at the feet of TSR and its misdeeds. The rest was youthful exuberance at discovering other gamers who actually played other games. It wasn't long before I was back kicking doors and swording orcs.
More importantly, I've come to a conclusion regarding my Game Mastery skills. I like to try lotsa different things, but I really only have my "A" game going when I am running a classic fantasy dungeon crawl. I look back over my years of GMing and I see things like the Dungeon of Doom as the high points. I put a lot of work into the Dungeon of Doom and it played out very well. I'd like to rebottle some of that lightning without it being a dusty old system that "nobody" likes to play any more. The solution seems to be to sit down and write a multi-level underground extravaganza for 3.0 or 3.5 D&D. The alternative systems (earlier versions of D&D, fantasy-flavored Savage Worlds, Castles & Crusades, BESM d20, SenZar, World of Synnibarr) all shrink the potential pool of players for relatively little gain. Savage Worlds at least gives me a readily available player base, but how long will it be before it is no longer the local flavor-of-the-month?
Pat was over today and he and I talked this situation out a bit. As usual, he is uber supportive of whatever direction I want to go. He referred to Black Fire, the draft game linked from Ron Edwards' Gamist Essay. I went back and re-read it but I don't see how it fits into a proposed 3E campaign. Pat, if you read this, could you drop a note in the comments section explaining what you have in mind?
One of the things we discussed was the perennial problem in modular games: what do we take out, what do we put in? Pat lobbied for a serious consideration of some of the materials in the new Unearthed Arcana. I'll have to take a look at that. Another factor to consider is what will players be able to use for making characters. I bounce between the two extremes of "three corebooks only" and "any published classes and races are fine". One option helps keep a tight focus to the game, the other really allows the players to cut loose.
If I'm really going to tackle a 3E campaign the first thing I need to do is re-read my copies of the core books. Right after I'm done putzing around with SenZar.