Yesterday I read Mike Mearls’ Legends and Lore post on The One Hour D&D Game and found myself nodding along with what he had to say. I think I agree with what he’s doing here, he’s trying to up D&D’s speed of play. My list of games run recently goes like this: D&D 4E, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds. In truth, I’ve started to realize that’s because I’m trying to increase Speed of Play. When I talk about speed of play, I’m talking about the ability of the Game Master to make the session in a short period of time. I’m talking about the actual game taking up less time for everyone to have the amount of fun they associate with the hobby.
Which I think is what Michael over at Neuroglyph completely missed when he posted his article about a few D&D Next Legends and Lore topics(You’ll have to scroll down to find the section on the One Hour D&D article). With all due respect, I think he’s discounting the experiences of others who play the game when he makes statements like “Today’s Legend & Lore article strikes me as both baffling, and shows a complete detachment for what D&D gamers really want from their game.” Pretty hyperbolic, ain’t it? I’m a D&D gamer for the most part, and… I’d like it if I could play in an hour. Well, specifically, I’d like what I think the Neuroglyph article’s author is missing: I’d like to play A LOT in an hour. At least a lot more than I can with the current representations of D&D. If I can run a side trek adventure in an hour or so, and a “full length” adventure in a four hour game session, I’m a pretty happy man. This not only supports epic, campaign style play, but also episodic or sandbox play. I understand that “D&D is not a board game,” but I think that the style of game Mike Mearls is designing supports a wider range of play styles. I understand it when the Neuroglyph article says that it’s not about how much game you can pack in, but it IS about getting an amount of game done with which your group is satisfied.
I’ll sum this up with a response to his closing argument about the idea of a “One-hour D&D adventure,” which I really take to mean being able to control discretely how much time the mechanics of an adventure are going to take, so that you can focus on the role playing and story and (Let’s be honest, this is D&D) heroic combat/exploration.
So, Neuroglyph says “Adding an expectation of one-hour D&D adventuring into D&D Next, and making that concept part of the design paradigm goes wildly against what “classic” D&D has always been: a role-playing game where it takes as long as it takes to get through an adventure and a campaign!”
Ah, sorry, I think you’ve overstepped your mandate here. “Classic” D&D has been about the Dungeon Master controlling every aspect of the game and world. D&D 4E was, in some people’s opinions, an excellent example of this on the monster and DC end of things. However, this was at the cost of verisimilitude. What I think Mearls wants the DM to have control of is the amount of time it takes to play, and the ‘amount’ of time that it takes to play the game. He’s talking about modular complexity, and the flexibility that it gives players. In order to achieve that, he’s breaking the game down into a unit of real-world time. That’s good, that’s modularity. Modularity is an idea that has worked for GURPS for years. That’s a game with three combat systems and a host of optional rules, and a successful one at that. I think that starting with a base line, and working upwards to modular play, might just be what D&D Next needs to be successful.