Sunday, August 2, 2015

D&D never went off the rails

At what point did D&D go off the rails?

My opinion?

D&D never went off the rails. It never jumped the shark. No book, no Gygax rules-as-written-or-it's-not-D&D paragraph, no spell, no monster, no module, no edition. Never.

What happened, instead is this. D&D kept growing, evolving, changing, and moving. Books kept getting written, modules kept getting purchased and used, new players kept joining and old players kept dropping off.

At some point, you and D&D grew together. The stuff that was out was magical to you. The new stuff was the kind of new stuff you wanted, generally (and what you didn't was small enough to ignore.) At some point, though, what you wanted from D&D either was in a different direction than what was coming out (your tastes evolved) or you didn't need anything new (your needs basically froze.) Then, suddenly, D&D had gone wrong.

But it didn't. It just went elsewhere. It changed from what you wanted into something else. Or you changed from what you were to what you became. More likely, both.

D&D 4e? That was the game some people wanted. Same with 1st edition AD&D, the Greyhawk supplement, 2nd edition, those splatbooks, Unearthed Arcana, etc. etc. etc. If it was what you wanted, you'd mark the date of the death of D&D later than someone who didn't want that stuff. It feels downright odd to have people explain how the system went from great to suck before you experienced your most magical moments with the game. It's like having someone say a band you like was good up to album X, and you got into them with album Y. It's actually kind of insulting, too - you didn't show up until it sucked, so therefore you like the bad stuff.

Personally, I abandoned AD&D when 2nd edition was starting to come along and I found Rolemaster and GURPS fit better with what I enjoyed. Unearthed Arcana is much derided but it was the basis of the single greatest AD&D campaign I ever ran. Yet for some D&D went off the rails and became something "other" when the thief showed up. When you and what was out for and coming out for D&D overlapped enough, it was fine. When you and it went different directions, you just diverged. It didn't start to suck, and neither did you. You just took a different fork in the road.

And that's pretty much my opinion on the subject. "Not for me" and "bad" are not the same thing. Things that change really go from "for me" to "not for me" or vice-versa. I really only find the badly-done to be bad (error filled, poorly written, etc.) and the rest is just for me or not for me.


  1. That's the best position on D&D as en evolving beast I've seen.

  2. Excellent point, and well said.

    D&D's not for everyone, just like GURPS is not for everyone, etc. Having started on BECMI, then AD&D, I actually really liked (but barely played) D&D 2E, especially the "Players' Option: Skills and Powers" book, which basically introduced the concept of point values to races and classes--very GURPS-y, and what made me want to play GURPS.

    I still like D&D, and have played all editions. 4E was different and fun--even though the adventures and structure tended towards combat, and was less old-school than I liked.

    While I GM a 5E game and it works for me, I prefer the additional details and combat mechanics (active defenses and DR instead of AC) that are available with GURPS. There are some cool mechanics in 5E (advantage, for example), and the flavor/feel/setting is obviously pretty great: a ready-to-go game out of the box, so to speak, like D&D has always been. I think books like the Player's Option series would be a great addition, to make it "tweakable," so to speak.

    It is strange, though, that people rail against this edition or that one with such vitriol. D&D never went off the rails. If people don't like the new editions, stick with the old one. Why is it such a big deal? (Other than a lack of "official" new products, but that seems to have been dealt with fairly well with the OGL and the OSR crowd). Who knows?

    Also, your band analogy is spot-on.

    1. I should have mentioned the OGL/OSR thing, but it seemed a little tangential while I was writing. But it's an important component - whatever you play, there is new stuff coming out for it. It's no longer the end of the material, just a different publisher doing it.

  3. You'd better stop being so reasonable or you're going to get kicked off of the internet.

    1. I'll miss it when that happens.

      Maybe they'll let me start if I compare someone to a certain German leader during WWII . . .

  4. A lot of people seem to feel that, if they don't like the flavor of something, then it's existence is an attack on what flavors they do like. And, that someone who doesn't like their flavor, must be attacking them, personally, and is out to destroy their access to the flavor they like. Every time there has been a change of edition, a change in flavor, people have acted as if the RPG police will come and take their books and dice away, and force them to buy into the new stuff, then and there.

    The problem with D&D has always been that it's too complicated. Too much a hodgepodge of subsystems that don't really have any real relationship, except that they are in the same game. You get use to how all of it works (or enough to get by), and then they go and change it. And, it doesn't have to be much of a change, either, and you are back at sea again.

    To further the rift between editions, or even the minor tweaks, D&D has always had an organized play aspect to it. You have to play the game THIS way at the tournament, or at the weekly game meetup, because that's how the game is SUPPOSE to be played. If you don't, you will be shunned by the community.

    4th Ed got a lot of gripe for being a bad game. It was an odd man out, of all the editions, as it wasn't an organic change. It's existence was corporately imposed, almost overnight, rather than developed through the normal slow process. The real problem though, was that it's core system is really a SF game, rather than a Fantasy game. Further, it was intended by the parent company (Hasbro) to change D&D into a game they understood better, one that sold toys (miniatures). But, like the goose and the golden egg, doing all this killed the miniature game, which had been flourishing. And, people started to vote with their feet and wallets, and Hasbro figured out (for now) to keep their fingers out of it.

    I prefer simpler rule sets, any more. I always have, really. But, for a long time, the only "real" game in town was D&D, so I bought in. Now, I no longer feel that I need to, so I don't. GURPS is, at it's core, a much simpler game. Yes, lot's of options, but the core mechanics aren't really complex. A am also a big fan of the worlds second oldest RPG, Tunnels and Trolls, who's latest edition just dropped on DriveThru.

  5. For me it was a kind of mutual separation (around the time AD&D2 came out). AD&D2 was going one way, and I was going another. D&D has always at its core been about going down a dungeon and hitting things until they stopped moving, and that wasn't a style of play that interested me any more (it still isn't).

  6. I agree. Assuming a well-designed and well-presented gaming system, it is really about personal taste and preference.

  7. "Personally, I abandoned AD&D when 2nd edition was starting to come along and I found [...] GURPS fit better with what I enjoyed."

    That's approximately it for me. Or rather, I had a preference for GURPS and I didn't have a D&D group to keep playing with (which I would have; the play's the thing, not the rule set), so I was no longer keeping a hand in. I played 3rd edition once, and it took me days to build a character because the assumptions I was by that time used to making when building a character had become so divergent from D&D's assumptions that the game didn't make any sense to me. But clearly it wasn't *inherently* weird and overcomplicated. Everybody else, who were regular D&D players, picked it up just fine. It was just a different flavor of weird and overcomplicated than the one I had become accustomed to.

    1. Makes sense. I didn't abandon AD&D because of 2e, so much as it was starting to roll along at the time I was discovering Rolemaster and GURPS was coming out. So I just veered off - when the 2nd edition books came out, I was already elsewhere. It would have happened anyway, I think, even if 1st edition went on forever.

  8. I played from Moldovay through 2e, but had been playing through an assortment of other systems, eventually settling on GURPS as my primary game that I pirted other systems into. Then came a long stretch while I had small children and no group, and I ended up giving away a lot of my games.
    I tried 4e recently , but it was not to my taste; the power level was too high on the outset for my tastes. I always enjoyed low level play, and that is why DF 15 is one of my favorite suppliments.

  9. This applies to a lot of other hobbies too.

    "LEGO started to suck when the introduced flesh-colored licensed characters"
    "LEGO started to suck when they introduced Bionicles"
    "LEGO started to suck when they introduced Star Wars and Lego licensed products, even though the skin was still yellow"
    "LEGO started to suck when they introduced minifigures"
    "LEGO stared to suck when they introduced sloped bricks and everything wasn't rectangular anymore"

    Me? My favorite sets and themes are largely the ones from the late 80s through the mid 90s because that's what I grew up with, but I have no love lost for many newer things like the Heroica boardgame line.

    My preferred flavor of D&D is probably 5e or maybe Basic, but I've never actually _played_ anything other than 3e (and that heavily "houseruled" by our teenaged ignorance and misunderstanding). My preferred flavor of GURPS is that campaign I'm never going to run.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...