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Thursday, January 21, 2010

[Gaming] D&D is Only as Good as the DM-

Excerpted from:

by Gary Gygax

(The Strategic Review Vol. 2, #2 -- The Last issue before The Dragon)

It is reasonable to calculate that if a fair player takes part in 50 to 75 games in the course of a year [!] he should acquire sufficient experience points to make him about 9th to 11th level, assuming that he manages to survive all that play. The acquisition of successively higher levels will be proportionate to enhanced power and the number of experience points necessary to attain them, so another year of play will by no means mean a doubling of levels but rather the addition of perhaps two or three levels. Using this gauge, it should take four or five years to see 20th level. As BLACKMOOR is the only campaign with a life of five years, and GREYHAWK with a life of four is the second longest running campaign, the most able adventurers should not yet have attained 20th level except in the two named campaigns. To my certain knowledge no player in either BLACKMOOR or GREYHAWK has risen above 14th level.

By requiring players to work for experience, to earn their treasure, means that the opportunity to retain interest will remain. It will also mean that the rules will fit the existing situation, a dragon, balrog, or whatever will be a fearsome challenge rather than a pushover. It is still up to the Dungeonmaster to make the campaign really interesting to his players by adding imaginative touches, through exertion to develop background and detailed data regarding the campaign, and to make certain that there is always something new and exciting to learn about or acquire. It will, however, be an easier task. So if a 33rd level wizard reflects a poorly managed campaign, a continuing mortality rate of 50% per expedition generally reflects over-reaction and likewise a poorly managed campaign. It is unreasonable to place three blue dragons on the first dungeon level, just as unreasonable as it is to allow a 10th level fighter to rampage through the upper levels of a dungeon rousting kobolds and giant rats to gain easy loot and experience. When you tighten up your refereeing be careful not to go too far the other way.

[Bolding mine]


  1. I like how Gary says high body counts are a sign of poorly-run campaign. I agree. I've always thought that "old school" DMs who continually kill off PCs in order to keep running out the same goblins and orcs to level 1 PCs are lazy and unimaginative.

  2. As I've been reading all these online debates about which are the best rules systems, I have to admit my first quiet thought happened to coincide with the title of the article.

    Nevertheless, I think a good DM is more handicapped by a heavy tome of rules far more than by a detailed "top-down" campaign setting.

    But then, I'd say that, being a rabid EPT fan.

  3. @Christian: ...or chock full of power-iisues. :D

    @Rob: Spot-on, Noble one! :D

  4. Good advice for running a long term campaign, certainly!

  5. It's a situational thing. I've been in campaigns where the body count was high and had a blast. The humans were at war with immortal beings from another age. The tricky part was even though we were overwhelmed in a head on confrontation, the GM made it a blast to do covert operations (the fantasy version).

    I write a bit about the expectations of GMs and players. The best game is when those expecations on both sides are the same or close enough.

  6. @JB: Yeah. It was fun reading through that issue. Neat stuff that relates to a lot of what's going on in bloggyland: EPT, range of Bows in Chainmail, this article, etc.

    @Tim: I cannot disagree wit that, either.
    --Let me say, though, that players who don't know what they want but only know what they don't want are ... challenging, to say the least. ;)

  7. Gee, what if you have a couple of dumb players?
    Not all deaths are the fault of the poor DM/GM/referee. Sometimes the players do dumb things and are just begging for that extra warband of bugbears to show up.

  8. I'm just posting what the Grand Dungeon Master wrote. Don't kill the messenger. :D