Thursday, November 18, 2004


I suppose it would help to note exactly how I'm approaching this specific set of musings. First off, I'm an English teacher at an elementary school on the outskirts of Seoul, working with 3rd and 5th grade students in a public school. It's not a bad gig, all in all, and more than likely, a lot of the updates that will go into this blog will happen when I'm at work. (Go figure. I have a fair amount of free time when I get done with classes for the day... Therefore...)

This is my second year here in Korea, having spent the previous year at a hellish place to the south that's better left unmentioned at present. Once you've done your year in the trenches, for whatever reason, you can then go on to a far cushier public school job and relax.

The thing with Korea is that, despite a nearly ubiquitous presence of such things as Diablo and Warcraft, the idea of pen & paper role-playing is nearly unheard of. I've actually seen specials on the 'bizarre trend' of such games played without benefit of a computer. (Of course, this was on one of the video game networks, which are devoted to following championship games of StarCraft or similar... I wish I was making this up...)

So, with this in mind, it's nearly impossible to find other gamers of any sort. Teaching English in Korea is hardly the first choice of your standard gamer geek. For one thing, it requires a bachelor's degree just to get over here in the first place and to hear a lot of the foreigners I've met here, if they were gamers before, that was a hobby they got out of after college. (Apparently, I'm just the type of person that never grew up... Not a huge surprise there, but still...) And well, with the cross-pollination of anime and gaming, there's a better chance of meeting people who game in Japan.

What this is leading up to is that, despite any leanings I might have towards other games, I'm running with a smaller pool of gamers. And with less people, the result is less of a selection of potential games. And what's the most popular game of recent times, to the point that it's come close to killing the gaming industry again?

Dungeons & Dragons, of course.

This is not to say that I dislike D&D. In fact, it was the first game that I learned to play, back in 6th grade, so many years ago. I've played through 1st and 2nd Edition, which were my favored games in middle and high school. In my opinion, Ravenloft is one of the finest products to ever be published for any system. I've paid my dues; I've got my cred.

The thing is, Dungeons & Dragons is just one of a universe of games. And despite what Wizards of the Coast would have you believe, D&D is really only well-suited for playing, well, D&D. Even they admit it. The D20 rules are best suited for dungeon crawls. That's the default setting for their game, and to be frank, trying to shoe-horn a dungeon into science fiction or contemporary genres is a problematic thing.

But that's a complaint that I can explore better later on. For the moment, we'll suffice to say that, while I like the game, it's not the only game I'll play. And if I'm going to run a game, there are other systems I'd rather use. But to my basic annoyance, this is the game that other people want to play.

One other note: My degree in college was in writing, which was actually an outgrowth of my interest in running games, as the plot contruction and development has certain sorts of parallels. As such, while I like playing games as well as the next gamer, I really prefer to run them. I've spent a lot of time perfecting certain aspects of my games, and to me, it's a lot more fun to plot out a game than play.

So, with this in mind, I've spent a certain amount of time here in Korea looking for a group to run games with. And wht I've ended up with the understanding that most of these guys want to play D&D, even if I'd rather run something like Deadlands or Exalted or ... hells, Torg. And to be honest, I haven't spent a lot of time with 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, if only for the fact that it was coming out about the time that I was getting out of college and leaving the States to come to Asia.

Yeah, sure... It's not rocket surgery or anything, but if I'm going to be running a game, I want to know a game pretty well before I delve into it.

And that's another problem that I have with the game that has been suggested most recently: Of the people that want to play, I'm the most likely to run the damned thing while simultaneously being the least experienced with the new ruleset. And the last thing you ever want to face in a gaming situation is having your players offer to help you with rules. Trust me on this.

Anyway, with a lack of options open to me, I'm going back and reading through the 3rd Edition rules again, with the idea of altering the game to my own preferences. And well, this is the outlook I'm taking when I'm sitting down and monkeying with this blog as a means to publish my notes on the process.

And well, being the sole voice of dissent on a topic such as this is amusing.

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