Sunday, January 1, 2012

Escapist: Reflections on the State of D&D

This morning I read the Escapist articles on The State of D&D.

They tread over familiar ground, but there are interesting quotes and perspectives to be had. Here are links to the articles, they are worth a read: The State of D&D: Past, Present, and Future.

To be forward the author has a conflict of interest (developing a retro clone) and that informs his perspective at various points.

There are a bunch of interesting quotes, I was taken with one of Mearls':

"Let's just play D&D," he said. "Just cut all the bullshit that can get in the way, and say 'Look, we have all these different ways you can express yourself in the game,' and let's just give people what they want. Don't trick people into things they want or just come up with something new for the sake of it. [Let's] get back in touch with what makes role-playing games great, what makes D&D great."

As much as I appreciate the spirit behind this quote, it just isn't realistic. WotC - whether it's the current employees or not - have encouraged edition wars. So now we should all just walk zombie-like to the new 5th edition of D&D being created by 3E bean-counter Monte Cook? No thanks (sorry Monte I'm a qualitative guy 100% with D&D. You don't need to quantify as much as you think you do).

Perhaps I'm different than some (most?). The game mechanics matter to me, but the aesthetic of D&D matters just as much. The hero-out-of-the-box look isn't something I subscribe to mechanically or aesthetically. It's fast-food D&D. When I start rolling out art previews for the Barrowmaze you'll get that idea.

Moreover, if the 5th edition of D&D is more interested in establishing property than gaming - i.e. goblins aren't goblins but hellspawn goblins or whatever - that will tell me all I need to know.

The last item: WotC MUST stop talking about D&D singular, and start talking about D&Ds plural. This is a fundamental reality in the gaming market. They should be supporting multiple lines of D&D - this is the goose that will lay golden eggs, not The-One-D&D-To-Rule-Them-All approach. Get your head out of the sand.

That is all. Happy 2012.


  1. Well said. I'm going to have a read of the Escapist articles, but WOTC has steamrolled D&D so many times I have a hard time believing anything their employees say.

  2. It's not so much that those at WOTC *encouraged* the edition wars as much as they *created* them. Not by, as might seem obvious, simply creating 4th edition, but rather in the manner employees denigrated past editions in public and by extension, those who played them.

    Of course, I admit, I tend to hold a grudge.

    I am with you, aesthetic matters. Hell, *everything* matters. All we can do is wait for 5th and see if the designer changes at WOTC means that hard lessons have been learned.

  3. WotC determined the specific subject that gamers bicker about (4th vs 3rd vs previous editions). But I doubt they created the bickering itself. In the olden days didn't people just talk about how RuneQuest is pretentious, D&D is unrealistic or Tunnels & Trolls is silly?

  4. @anarchist - I remember the "olden days" bickering exactly as you do. If you played D&D and not something more enlightened like Runequest, you were looked down on!

  5. I read those articles, and I think the future might be represented by James Raggi: a few micro-businesses that collect the best material created by amateurs, and do the layout and marketing that those amateurs aren't interested in or good at.

  6. @Kiltedyaksman: Thanks for pointing out those articles on The Escapist. It was a very good read. I am curious to see how the future of 'D&D' turns out. If it is more like the current edition I will be dissapointed. 4e just did nothing for me and sessions felt like playing an unending board game. I just want balance of rules to keep things moving along and a system that allows and encourages imagination and inspiration from both player and DM. I just want fun. Too much to ask for, eh?

  7. I have loved everything that Cook has ever done. But WotC and I are through. So I won't be seeing his next work it appears.