But what is story really? A story usually has the following elements:
- Setting: Not necesarily a published setting with its own boxed set and colorful maps, but a an environment.
- Characters: In RPG terms, this would be both PCs and NPCs
- Plot: Things that happen.
Now, the Old School fan I referred to above was probably talking about a prescripted story (who on earth enjoys that?) or the idea that a good story could trump dice rolls as has been promoted in some non-D&D games.
But in terms of the definition above, D&D has always had stories. Players and DM's are often seem in gaming stores retelling stories of their old games if they aren't posting about them online. One of the things that always appealed to me is that D&D can be about anything you want. That was one of the great discoveries made by Dave Arneson and his friends when they decided to abandon Napoleonic War Gaming for Fantasy Roleplaying. If you read through the First Fantasy Campaign or any of the other stories from the Twin City Gamers, you will see now much they experimented.
However, D&D still comes with a set of assumption about what the game should be about. What the story should be like. Although you don't have to play it that way, there is a reason why D&D is usually about young heroes setting into a Dungeon or other dangerous environment, killing monsters and taking their stuff. That is a story right there.
The setting can be a desert, the elemental plane of fire, or an icy frostland. But it is most often a place with room for the traditional classes, monsters and technology (equipment) found in the rulebooks. Usually there are also some underlying concepts of Chaos vs. Law and possibly Good vs. Evil which can be a little more subtle.
Characters in D&D are defined by class and race. In movies and novels, an important characteristic of characters is motivation. In D&D motivation is in part represented by Alignment. In addition, all PCs are by default assumed to be interested in Fortune & Glory. Now players can change this up, but the game does assume that the PCs are interested in getting gold and loot. If you decide to play a Paladin or other Lawful type, then perhaps other things are more important.
So the above are the premises of the default D&D story. What happens if you change some of those assumptions? What if the PCs aren't looking for gold, but instead work towards overthrowing the Emperor? That is where the wonder begins. The possibilities of D&D are endless!