Greatest Hits 2009: D&D Lego

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 26, 2009

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2009. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

I’ll admit that the title is a bit of a tease since the article isn’t really about Lego at all. It’s actually about playing in a campaign that relies on a story and characters that everyone knows and loves, as many of the Lego inspired video games do.

The more I’ve thought about this approach to gaming the more I think it would be a lot of fun. The more popular and familiar the setting, story and personalities, the more interesting it would be to adapt it into a D&D adventure.

Of course, if following this kind of established story feels too much like railroading then I suggest you take a look at our article Playing a Recognizable Archetype. Sometimes it’s fun to just take familiar characters and then let the story unfold in a completely unexpected way.

Whether you choose to try either of these approaches to D&D or you just conform to the traditional way of building characters and campaigns, you should always strive to make your campaign exciting and your characters memorable – even if they were drawn from somebody else’s imagination.

As a side note, for those who might be interested, I’ve since completed both versions of Star Wars: Lego as well as Batman: Lego. And even thought I’m a huge Batman fan, I must admit that not knowing where the story was going and who I was likely to encounter (like I did in the Star Wars games) really made it feel like something was missing. I liked Batman: Lego but not nearly as much as I did Star Wars: Lego. Never underestimate the comfort of familiarity.

From July 29, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: D&D Lego.

Just because I’ve seen Star Wars 100 times, does that mean I’m cheating when I play Star Wars Lego? The game follows the plot of each Star Wars movie with incredible accuracy. So does knowing where the game is going give me an unfair advantage? Does my familiarity with the heroes and villains ruin my experience? Not one bit. In fact I bought the games and have enjoyed playing them for EXACTLY that reason.

After playing Star Wars Lego every night for the past week I realized that this familiarity really appeals to me. It doesn’t matter that I know the story backwards and forwards. It doesn’t matter that I know which villain I’m going to face around the next corner. My love for this story and its characters is what brought me to this game and what’s kept me glued to the flat-screen for 50 hours of game play (so far). Upon making this realization my mind immediately started thinking about how to apply this epiphany to D&D.

When I’m the DM I try to come up with a campaign that’s original and interesting. I often look for influences in the popular media like TV, movies, comics and novels, but I take painstaking effort to make sure that nothing I’ve borrowed resembles its original presentation too closely. After all I don’t want the players to have an edge during the adventure just because they’ve read Batman: No Man’s Land or seen Raider of the Lost Ark.

My experience with Star Wars Lego has me questioning the value of my original methodology. If the source material I’m drawing from is good (or in the case of Star Wars, great) then why change or hide the similarities. So what if the PCs know the story? The very fact that they do know the story will help me as the DM keep things moving in the right direction.

Since the basis for the adventure will likely need to be altered a little bit to fit in a D&D style game, the PCs will probably be curious to see how I’ve re-imagined their favourite TV show or movie as a D&D adventure. Perhaps the Death Star is a fort build on the back of a gigantic flying creature. This curiosity should hold true for the villains as well. Just what class is Darth Vader? How does a light saber translate into a D&D magical item?

By letting the PCs in on the style of the game they’re more likely to make PCs who fit the mold of the heroes from the story they’re emulating. What race and class do you think best fits Luke, Leia, Lando, Han and Chewie?

So the next time you’re looking for inspiration and find it on the big screen or in a comic book, don’t worry about hiding the source of your inspiration. Hold as true to the story as possible and encourage the PCs to have fun role-playing a part of pop culture.

Have you ever tried this kind of campaign? Did the PCs known where you got your ideas from at the beginning of the campaign? How long before they caught on? Did they keep to the original story or did they try to change the ending?

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