Yes, yes, I know we all play roleplaying games. But one thing that has been missing in most of the games I’ve played since returning to the hobby has been…well…roleplaying. Our games used to run something like this…
DM: Okay, you remove the steel grate and drop your silk rope down the shaft. After a second you hear it land at the bottom with a splash. Extinguishing the parties torches, you peer into the darkness as your eyes begin to adjust to the velvety blackness. The dank smell of mold assails your nostrils and you can hear the faint sound of dripping water. What do you guys do?
Dwarven Warrior: I’ll go down first. I sheathe my sword, slide my shield onto my back, and slither down the rope…but only halfway! Do I see anything with my infravision?
DM: Nope, it looks like the floor is covered with cold water but you can’t tell how deep.
Dwarven Warrior: Okay, I slide down the rope slowly and see if I can reach the bottom. I yell up at the others “Don’t drop me boys, I’m almost down.”
Halfling Thief: “Ha! If you didn’t eat so much you wouldn’t have to worry!”
Dwarven Warrior: “Quiet runt, or I’ll eat you next!”
DM: As you reach the bottom of the rope you dip your feet into the water and find that it’s only ankle deep. The water seems unusually cold and you’re standing in what appears to be an old sewer of some kind. The walls are hewn from a grayish stone which is now saturated with water and largely covered with bluish-green algae. There is a small tunnel to the north. It’s large enough for you to walk through, but your taller companions may have to stoop a bit. [DM rolls some dice] You can faintly hear the sound of splashing water coming from the corridor the north. In short order, the splashing grows louder as whatever it is seems to be speeding toward you. You can now hear the sound of clanking armor and a voice barking guttural orders.
Dwarven Warrior: “Come on guys, we’ve got company. Hurry up before I take ‘em all myself!”
You get the idea. I’m not the greatest player in the world and I’m certainly not the greatest DM but we enjoyed being as vivid as we possibly could. It really helped with the immersion and fired our imaginations. The role playing was actually fun. It wasn’t something we skipped over just to get to the combat. I don’t know if the emphasis upon description and RPing are features or hallmarks of old school gaming but in every single game I’ve participated in since returning to the hobby about 6 months ago, they tend to go more like this…
DM: Okay, you see a hole leading into a sewer. What do you guys do?
Dwarven Warrior: I’ll go down first. Do I see anything?
DM: [rolls dice] Nope.
Dwarven Warrior: Okay, I slide down.
Halfling Thief: [Yelling from the kitchen] Where is the Mountain Dew!?!
DM: Okay, you’re in the sewer. [rolls dice] You hear some orcs running toward you. What do you do?
Dwarven Warrior: Hurry up and get down here guys I only have half my hit points left over from the last fight!
Granted this evidence is anecdotal since it relies on my personal experiences over the last six months. Still, I’ve played with close to six different groups in that time. On several occasions, the DM says he’s been playing since the White Box or since AD&D was first released. What’s the deal? I’m beginning to wonder if my gaming groups as a kid were just filled with oddballs or if people just don’t play that way anymore.