Escape your corporate masters!

I’ve been playing D&D 5e for almost three years now at Valhalla’s Gate. And now online because of the Covid-19 think. (Bummer…I much prefer in-person games. More social.)

But this isn’t my first foray into RPGs. I played D&D 1e (the white box with three pamphlets) back in the late 1970s.

The thing about that 3 pamphlet set from the ‘70s is that there weren’t a lot of rules. It was just a skeleton of game rules.

That was good. It meant we had to use our imagination.

In doing so my group from back then did something that I’ve never seen anyone else do since.

There were four of us. We didn’t have one GM and three players in the party. That’s the "corporate party line" of how to play. No…

We had four people so every time we got together (usually about 4 hours at a shot) we would have 20 minute turns, timed with an egg timer.

During the first turn, Person A would GM. Person B would play (along with a party of NPCs that person B mostly controlled). Person C would play the monsters or other NPCs. Person D would get 20 minutes to relax, take a bio break or whatever.

Then when the 20 minute timer rang, we did musical chairs and it was time for the next GM/Player/NPC/take a break combination.

All of this took place in a game world that we all participated in creating.

As you can imagine, this made play MUCH different than the “everyone in a party”, corporate stooge kind of play that’s common now.

(I call it corporate stooge play because WotC and other game manufacturers are, in my opinion, making games less and less creative and more and more like board games in the hopes of roping more people into buying their products. So throw off your shackles, free your imagination and try something different!)

How was if different, you ask? Several ways:

• Play went much quicker because we didn’t have the 20 minute conversations about whether to listen at the door, pick the lock or kick it in and go in swords swinging. One player means one person decided. And a 20 minute turn timer meant they decided quick.
• Each player got more time to follow their own interests, character development, etc.. Again, the “one party” system means that nobody gets much time to do their own thing because it delays the game for everyone else.
• The monsters were tougher. Since the GM is usually overworked, battles with lots of monsters tend to have, well, stupid monsters. Tactically stupid. But if you have a non-GM person playing the monsters, suddenly they get a lot smarter. They don’t do Zerg rushes at over powered players. They set cleaver traps. They ambush. They kite players, whittling them down. They go for the healers first. They don’t make their treasure easy to find or loot.
• Each person got to try different roles. Player, GM, NPC and monster. Or just kibitzer. Not only did this make more variety for everyone, it made each person better at each of those roles.

I miss it. I think it was in many ways better than how we do the “one party” play.

Obviously this doesn’t describe every possible aspect of playing this way, but don’t ask me to elaborate. Part of the idea is that you get to be creative, not only in your character and setting, but in how you play the game.


I’d love to hear what you try and how it works!

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