Since TV writing and gaming are different types of episodic storytelling there are natural overlaps between the two, but I have never seen a roleplaying game better suited for the TV drama-show structure, than 4th edition D&D.
I am not the first to make the gaming and television comparison, but I really started thinking about it after watching an interview with Ron Moore about the writing of Battlestar Galactica. He made it sound like the writers on Battlestar were throwing all these surprises out (eg. so-and-so is a cylon!) having only a vague idea of where most of it would lead. They left it open-ended enough, that they could use the framework of the established world to pull it all together in the end (or as needed). I thought this was a very clever way of writing any kind of series, and immediately made the connection to campaign structure.
A 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign is structured in three tiers of 10 levels each. The Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers each represent a new chapter in the characters’ adventuring career. If we go by how it’s laid out in the rulebooks, you could describe the three tiers as epic, epic’er and epic’est. As DMs, our job is to give the players this feeling of Progressive Epicness (not a real word, but it should be). Above all, it is the DMs responsibility to ensure everyone has fun by being fair, and providing challenges and adventures. And fun for the players ties into expectation and surprise. I will get back to those in a minute. For now, just bear with me. Continue reading