Monday, January 16, 2012

My thoughts on D&DNext and Edition Wars

Like everyone else that has an interest in D&D, I've seen the announcement for D&DNext/D&D5e. It didn't even come as a surprise to me, since I'd kind of "seen it coming" over the past several months, through the various D&D articles, the blogs I read, and tweets from people I follow. I was surprised that they decided to go with the Open Playtest right from the start. Surprised and quite pleased.

One thought I'd expressed right from reading the announcement was that I hoped that we, as the collective fanbase, could approach the new edition with a positive attitude, rather than swamping it with negativity. I think that E. Foley (Geek's Dream Girl) put it rather well on her blog: http://geeksdreamgirl.com/2012/01/09/new-year-new-dd-please-dont-bring-your-old-old-old-drama/

This got me thinking about Edition Wars, as I've seen plenty of articles and blog entries crop up about this. I can see that one is going to be inevitable, but at least with the open playtest, the community will be aware of the direction that the designers are going in, and the designers can stay aware of how the community feels about their choices, and adapt their plans accordingly. I hope.

Personally, I've never participated in Edition Wars, no matter what editions were on the two sides of the battle lines. I've played everything from Holmes edition Basic D&D in 1979 up to 4th edition D&D Essentials just last week. I certainly have my opinions and preferences, but I've played each edition that has come along without serious complaint. My most vocal complaint about the game, over the years, has been about how they turned Rangers into two-weapon fighters in 2nd edition, but I didn't not play 2nd edition because of it. I just tried out other classes, and I eventually played two Rangers under those rules, without complaint.

When 3rd edition D&D game out, I loved it. I bought it immediately, and I bought 3.5e when that came out, and I played in several games using both. Most of the games were online, simply due to my work schedule not allowing me to participate in regular tabletop games, but I played. I posted about the game on a D&D forum, which I eventually became a moderator for, and I ran and played in several games on that forum. I designed house rules, most notably converting the Star Wars RPG system of Vitality and Wounds over to replace Hit Points (long before the Unearthed Arcana came out). I was also revising the multiclassing system so that spellcasters wouldn't get quite as hosed as they were getting (compared to other classes), and I was working on a system for masterclass and magical weapons and armor that would give weapons and armor mundane masterclass bonuses for attack and damage and defenses, but you would add magical abilities and powers to the item to turn it into an actual "Magic Item". So, I definitely wasn't just enduring or toughing it out. I fully embraced the system.

However, by the time we came around to 2007/2008, I was getting seriously burned out on 3.0/3.5e. What I once thought of as "detailed and thorough" was coming off as "overly-complicated and rules-heavy". It wasn't that the game was bad. I'd played it for 7 years without feeling this way. So, the game wasn't the problem. I was. I suppose I knew the rules so thoroughly, and had played around with them so much, that there wasn't anything novel about them anymore. Once that happened, my ADHD brain started to look for other diversions.

I ran a Moldvay-edition Basic D&D game with some online friends, mostly because I had just won a copy of it in an eBay auction, but also for the nostalgia. The simplicity of the rules was invigorating!

As a result, my next 3.5e character, Geldan, (who was also my LAST 3.5e character) was the most vanilla human fighter I could make with the rules. I basically did whatever I could to make him as close to a 1st edition fighter as I could. The most "extraordinary" things I gave him were Cleave and Great Cleave, and that was only to emulate how a 1e fighter would get 1 attack per level against less-than-1HD creatures. Other than that, he was a completely boring "plate-armor-with-longsword-and-shield" fighter, and it was the most fun I'd had with a D&D character in the last few years! My turns took about 15 seconds to resolve (allowing extra time for confirming and resolving critical hits), and I was just able to relax and have fun with it! I even dealt the killing blow to the Big Bad Evil Gal, at the end of the campaign, who was hovering 10 feet off a sheer cliff while we fought her minions on the cliff! Geldan drew his sword and charged, running and leaping off the cliff, landing a critical hit that did nearly maximum damage!

Then 4th edition came out, and just like Basic D&D, it was incredibly refreshing. When I started playing it, it made me feel like I was 10 years old again, sitting in my friend's attic, running Brandon the Fourth, human fighter, for the first time, wanting to do great things and have great adventures. The rules were simplified. Character creation was something new and exciting again. The new powers that characters had in 4e made me think of all the stuff that I wanted my characters to be able to do in the old days, but was told that the game didn't work that way.

One thing that has irked me in the past few years, and has gotten my back up a few times, has been the 4eD&D hate. I just didn't understand most of the criticism, since I was having so much fun with the game, but I just chalked it up to everyone being different and needing something different from their rpg, and didn't bother to fight or feed the trolls. However, one of the negative claims I read was "It's a game designed for Attention Deficit 10 year-olds!", and that one struck a bit closer to home.

I was pretty angry when I first read that. I'll even admit that I ragequit the meetup.com group that it was posted on. However, having thought about it since then, I have to say that statement has some truth about it... but not in the negative way the person who wrote it intended.

As I said above, 4th edition D&D made me feel like the ADHD 10-year-old kid I was back then, and that's a GOOD thing. It got me excited about playing D&D again! I was enthusiastic about making characters, rather than viewing it as a grinding chore. I was excited about playing through encounters, rather than viewing it as a grinding chore. So, I'm quite happy that Wizards created 4th edition, and I'm happy with how it changed the game. It may seem a bit dramatic to say this, but it's quite possible that if 4th edition hadn't been released, I might not be playing Dungeons & Dragons anymore, and the thought of that makes me more than a little bit sad, because the game has been such a great part of my life!

So, for 5th edition, or D&DNext, if that's what they want to call it... bring it on! I'm not bored with 4th edition yet, but I'm really enthusiastic about what they're going to come up with for the next iteration of the game!

2 comments:

  1. Can't we all just agree 2nd edition was best and leave it at that?

    ;)

    ReplyDelete