Who knew that former US President George H. W. Bush was a Game Master, and a groundbreaking pioneer at that! He spoke about points of light campaigns in 1989 almost twenty years before D&D 4th edition. What’s that? He didn’t mean that? Let me look at that link… Well I feel like a fool!
In all sincerity I knew what the quote was about, I remember hearing it back then. The link to Wikipedia above explains that the origin of the “thousand points of light” is from the Magician’s Apprentice by CS Lewis. But the D&D points of light campaign is another matter entirely. When I first read of the concept in the run up to D&D 4th edition I was intrigued. But I have a long running campaign and the idea of the points of light style game really did not mesh well with the world I had created over 20+ years.
Every edition change entails some mechanical changes in ongoing campaigns. If you consider my world was first played in D&D Basic, and then went on to be adapted in AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, D&D 3rd edition and 3.5, you’ll see I’m no stranger to change. However I don’t like hand waving stuff that is an integral part of the campaigns consistency. If dwarves could not be magic users before, why can they be now?
So I like to create in game rationales for this type of changes. The change from AD&D 2nd edition to D&D 3rd edition was easy since the games where set in the same world but in distant continents. Still I created in game explanation for many changes. When D&D 4th was coming out I was fully on board and while I was unsure how the whole points of light concept would carry though I was ready for other changes, tieflings were already in my campaign since 2nd edition, they looked different but that was not a problem per se. Dragonborn where another matter, so even before I made the rule change I began to work a rationale of where the race would come from. I was set! All that was left was for D&D 4th ed to come out.
And then I read the books. Don’t get me wrong I liked D&D 4th edition, I still do. It’s a game with a clear purpose, delivers well what it’s intended to be, and it certainly dared to sacrifice some sacred cows I thought they’d never touch. But I could tell this was a different game, that its feel and game play would be different from what I was used to, so I decided NOT to jump in into my campaign right away and instead do a trial run using the points of light idea.
That turned into our 7+ month D&D 4th edition campaign. We played weekly during that time and went all through the heroic tier and into paragon. Those where some turbulent months, with rebellions at the table over the system, some players disliking it so much they quit the game they have been playing with me for decades, exploring the tools the system provided, and telling a pretty entertaining story along the way. Ultimately we decided the system was not for us and moved on to Pathfinder.
With D&D Next coming up I’m suddenly thinking about adaptations all over again, I am not sure I will switch my campaign if I play it. IF I get to participate in the playtest (WotC pick me, pick me! I only bash you semi-regularly!) I will most thatn likely create a mini-campaign just like I did for 4th edition.