The State of Dungeons & Dragons: Future

Headdrivehardscrew

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It's become somewhat hard, if not impossible, to gather a group of people who are willing and able to give tabletop role-playing a proper go. People these days have their heads full of media-induced and what seem to be mostly other people's dreams, and while a decent number are willing to give it an initial go, creativity seems somewhat scarce amongst the more consumerist-minded escapists. That, and the power to focus on something for a little longer than just an hour, just one session, just one weekend.

I do hope there will be a revival of sorts, and I do hope there will be digital D&D quality titles for all tastes and all systems available. I still have a bookshelf full of splendid D&D and AD&D artificial ADD, and up to the Beholder series the trip was even fun in digital form.

Hell, I even got the JAMMA Mystara and Tower of Doom, even though they were mostly empty calories. My Rulebooks and Creature Compendia have inspired three generations now already, and they will continue to do so. If a revision manages to revive not only the 'franchise' but the whole idea so it become viable again, all is good. If it ends up betraying its own nature just because some 'leading professional service' suit or some other high-paid ignorant optimizing agent tries to fit it into the ugly world of potentially relevant statistics, facts and figures, it's about time to kiss it all goodbye.
 

happyelf

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It's really obvious that the writer of the article is hostile to 4e, and trying to hide that instead of being honest about it.

The idea that 4e is for people with 'limited imaginations' is absurd, and it's kinda pathetic that somebody got paid to write that.
 

JesterRaiin

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happyelf said:
It's really obvious that the writer of the article is hostile to 4e, and trying to hide that instead of being honest about it.

The idea that 4e is for people with 'limited imaginations' is absurd, and it's kinda pathetic that somebody got paid to write that.
It may seem like that at first, but please, forget about emotions for a moment and tell me - judging by official adventures and campaigns released for newest edition of D&D - don't you feel that it became some sort of tactical hack and slash game ?

As far as i can see, adventures for D&D are now almost solely about "tactical encounters" and while you need some imagination to survive them, it's completely different kind of imagination than this required for role-playing.
 

r_Chance

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Good series of articles. I've played a long time and I don't plan on stopping while I have players. As for no new bood, I advise the Computer and Game Club at a high school and I have kids wanting to play P&P. Some have played before, others are new. I think I'll stay optimistic about the hobby's future...

*edit* Btw, Ryan Dancey is involved with a Pathfinder MMO that is under development. That might account for some of his pessimism about P&P. The outfit is called Goblinworks. We'll see what they come up with.
 

Taronus

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The articles are indeed a good read, however I don't like the generalisations made about DnD (3.5, pathfinder, 1st-2nd ed. clones, 4e) being the only line of rpgs that matter in the industry.
That last comment by Ryan Dancey left me agast, I didn't expect to hear something so pessimist and defeatist by someone who is supposed to love the hobby. I don't know if the current state of White Wolf made him say something so uninformed (or just trying to sell an MMO), but there are a lot of new and old rpgs who show great promise and are for many people considered superior to DnD, and are not even close to being as expensive a hobby as model trains (nor as boring). Even if wizards/hasbro somehow kills DnD it will certainly NOT kill the hobby; for many Rpgers, myself included, it was only a "gateway drug".
By the way, all that talk about 4e or pathfinder being better than the other is rather silly, it is just a matter of taste, if you enjoy the game you are playing, you are doing it right; besides it is a FACT that GURPS is better than both!
 

Intensifizer

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Another article with nothing but negativity directed at 4E and another thread with people who have terrible DMs complaining about the "lack of roleplay" in 4E.

Blurrruruhgg.
 

XT inc

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I just want an all encompassing program that allows me to manage every aspect of my campaign in full detail via laptop, desktop or Tablet.

I don't even need it to have multi-player support like a dice roller room, I'll take a half assed version that lets me plug in dice rolls, and do my rolls via pc or dice and then plug it in.

Imagine a full WoTC connected and supported program that let you extrapolate monsters and items, and character sheets into an application that lets you que up your encounters, edit attributes and auto roll initiative. (buy monster manual 3 get a dlc copy to plug into your 4e utilities)

Moving through the int tracker like an RPG where you can readily see abilities and when they can be used, and what is on cool down and what status is applied, super quick and easy way to see player hp and status so if need be you can lay down those fudge rolls, decide that a roll 2 below an enemy AC is allowable, set it in so remains that way til the end of the encounter.

If need be pay for DLC, wham just que up a module and plan it all up.

Or go All out and build it into a multi-player RPG, that is just based on the game and no bullshit, a grid based rpg with side sections where the dm controls out of battle sequences etc. Let the players go to shops on their own and spend their gold on what you say is allowable so you can get the mundane stuff out of the way unless your pcs are into that stuff.

There are so many ways to make it more intuitive and use technology to smooth out all the bumps and hassles of juggling pages so my mind does't become a loading screen when I have to juggle the whole universe at the same time, on pages and pages.
 

mrscott137

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Well, I haven't been around long enough to see 3rd edition or the rest of it (Only been playing for 2 years) But before we had access to rulebooks of any sort, I played a single tutorial game with my uncle whilst I was on holiday. I enjoyed the hell out of it, took my findings back to my friends, and we agreed to get the rulebooks. We already played warhammer, so we got a board and some dice, used all the rules I had from memory, looked vaguely online and made the rest up (Some 70% of the stats and rules) and played enjoyably for half a year in this system, we got the rulebooks, and we now enjoy good structure, but from those days of improvising everything, we learned something and that was to never let rules get in the way of the Role-Play. We play with 4E rules, but we use 9 alignments instead of 5, we have random items which each person chooses as a little token of backstory, have separate specilisations in made up jobs with made up rules.

4E is a fantastic combat simulator, but if the role-play isn't to your liking, then just make up rules to make it better for your party.
 

Taronus

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Intensifizer said:
Another article with nothing but negativity directed at 4E and another thread with people who have terrible DMs complaining about the "lack of roleplay" in 4E.

Blurrruruhgg.
The "lack of roleplay" said for whatever system is meaningless, you don't need rules to roleplay the same way you do for combat, in my opinion "no RP rules" are better than "roll diplomacy to have the npc obey you", besides if I am not mistaken, 4e has more RP rules than theprevious ones (it added skill challenges). However what 4e did to "hurt Role-Playing" is that it made the combat (even more) a war of attrition, in result having the combat portions of a session be so freaking long that there is little time left for actual roleplay. Still if there is energy in you enough, after a 2 hour long combat, you can roleplay all you want.
 

happyelf

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JesterRaiin said:
happyelf said:
It's really obvious that the writer of the article is hostile to 4e, and trying to hide that instead of being honest about it.

The idea that 4e is for people with 'limited imaginations' is absurd, and it's kinda pathetic that somebody got paid to write that.
It may seem like that at first, but please, forget about emotions for a moment and tell me - judging by official adventures and campaigns released for newest edition of D&D, don't you feel that it became some sort of tactical hack and slash game ?

A far as i can see, adventures in D&D are now almost solely about "tactical encounters" and while you need some imagination to survive them, it's completely different kind of imagination than this required for role-playing.
Certainly, there were problems with early 4e modules, but you're doing the system a huge disservice by pretending that's representitive of the system and it's qualities.

The game itself has far more support for roleplaying and non-combat than 3e did- it has a whole system for non-combat skill challenges, the DMG and DMG2 have better advice for story, character, and campaigning then any previous book, and there are better options for improvisation as well, because the game does a better job of showing gms that tthey can improvise, and giving them help with it if they need it. Helping with this stuff is hard for any game to do, but 4e does it better than most, especially with it's excellent advice sections.

It's also absurd to claim that 4e's campaign settings are set up for 'hack and slash'. Some people didn't like what they did for the FR, but it's not as if people wren't harshly critical of it before the change, too. All the other campaign settings, large and small, have been top notch. Eberron and Dark Sun both got excellent releases, and alternative takes on settings like Neverwinter and Nentir Vale have also been high-quality.

I'm not the one being emotive here. The hostility to 4e is not about 'roleplaying' or 'creativity', it's people who don't like change, and value nostaliga over good design. There's nothing magical about crappy old rules that don't work right. There's nothing 'roleplaying enhanced' about playing a game who's designers didn't do a very good job of balancing classes or other options.

The backlash against 4e is understandable to a degree, but it's reached a height of absurdity and bile, and if WOTC bows to it, they will only be alienating their actual customers, in prefernce for people who are happy buying Pathfinder, and won't be happy with anything but another retread of 3e.

There are plenty of legit critisms to make against 4e, especally the early modules, and the combat grind- but fwe if any of them are included in this article, or other typical 4e-bashing screeds, which focus on nonsense like '4e is less imaginitive' and '4e prevents roleplaying' and other uninformed drivel.
 

JesterRaiin

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happyelf said:
JesterRaiin said:
happyelf said:
It's really obvious that the writer of the article is hostile to 4e, and trying to hide that instead of being honest about it.

The idea that 4e is for people with 'limited imaginations' is absurd, and it's kinda pathetic that somebody got paid to write that.
It may seem like that at first, but please, forget about emotions for a moment and tell me - judging by official adventures and campaigns released for newest edition of D&D, don't you feel that it became some sort of tactical hack and slash game ?

A far as i can see, adventures in D&D are now almost solely about "tactical encounters" and while you need some imagination to survive them, it's completely different kind of imagination than this required for role-playing.
Certainly, there were problems with early 4e modules, but you're doing the system a huge disservice by pretending that's representitive of the system and it's qualities.
(snip)
I see.
Since there are no emotions here, i would like you to consider such situation :
On the one side we have older players and GMs...

those who remember Ravenloft being a module for DnD not the demiplane of Dread. Those who witnessed fall of Tyr. Those who visited even most exotic countries of Faerûn and encountered no wild surge on the route since there was no such thing then. Those who remember times when Vecna and Cyric were only mortals. Those who took part in the War of Blood. Those who believed that Spelljammer is real and they tried to find it and seize its power.

...Do they really care about changes in system ? Sure they may whine about this and that, they may find something better, something worse, but those are minor elements. They - players - are mature enough to create from scrap and mantain single campaign for YEARS. If they are willing to use their energy, their adventures can be rich in elements, deep as Mariana Trench second to (maybe) only such epic tales as Kalevala or nordic Eddas.
Next installment of D&D can be all about space dwarves and orc zombies and they will still have their fun the way THEY WANT.

On the other side of this spectrum we have newcomers. New to RPG, new to D&D.
They are interested in RPGs, they ask, they hear that D&D is all they really need. So, they buy Red Book (or similar starter pack), and try to play. They still don't know what it is all about, so they need to use official adventures and scenarios such as ones presented in Dungeons of Dragon e-zines. And what kind of scenarios are there ?

I don't want to depreciate all this hard work, but since Dragon #155 they are mainly about tactical encounter=>next stage=>tactical encounter=>next stage ad infinitum. Official modules are no better. It's not that i've bought all of them, but i try to stay up to date. :)

Thus, newcomers will start to think that "this is what RPGaming is all about". In their eyes, RPGaming consists of characters fighting endless fights with some short cutscenes when they have to choose between some simplified dialogue options not unlike of Skyrim.

So.
TRUE - and i'm ready to kick ass of everyone who says otherwise - THERE'S SUPPORT for hardcore roleplaying in last edition of D&D. It was always there. Those sourcebooks depicting new locations, items, characters serve this purpose.

True, people can play as they want, but (and that's my point) they CAN do it only because they already know how to do it, thanks to their vast RPG experience. I feel (i may be wrong) that nowadays D&D isn't capable of producing both DMs and players capable of role playing the way it was meant to.

With that in mind i think that article of Mr. Tito, this one we're discussing here is very true.


It is almost pure D&D-ish problem. Since 4ed i switched to Pathfinder. I don't want to start any Jihad here, but when i compare modules for both systems and settings (let's say Golarion vs FR/Eberron) i really think that D&D forgot what RPGs really are about.
 

Jumwa

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LordPsychodin said:
I think the biggest problem is he fails to see his success as actually being a success.
I've played every edition. do you know what? I don't want 5th edition to look like 4th edition. But I don't want it to look like 3rd, 2nd, OD&D, basic, OSR clones, or pathfinder. Do you know why this is?
Stop being sensible.

Don't you know this is an excuse to wank on and on about how x edition was the best and everything else sucked, especially y?

But seriously, great post, all of it.

I've a lifetime of books in general I've been thinking about lately. If I move, there's just far too many of them to deal with. So I've been gradually ditching the hard collection with digital ebook versions that are actually practical.

I'd like to see D&D go more digital. Give us more electronic tools to organize games without fiddling with pens and paper. Online tools that work through browsers to play with our busy friends or those far away. Heck, give me programs to organize a game of D&D through my tablet.
 

Zom-B

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Headdrivehardscrew said:
It's become somewhat hard, if not impossible, to gather a group of people who are willing and able to give tabletop role-playing a proper go. People these days have their heads full of media-induced and what seem to be mostly other people's dreams, and while a decent number are willing to give it an initial go, creativity seems somewhat scarce amongst the more consumerist-minded escapists. That, and the power to focus on something for a little longer than just an hour, just one session, just one weekend.
And this is the only reason tabletop RPG gaming may go the way of model trains. It's just darn difficult to get a group of four or more together. I think three is a reasonable number to get together, but not optimal for an RPG experience. On the other hand, three is great for things like MtG and a lot of board games.

Personally, I've also found that games like D&D that are as steeped in nerd-culture, rules, lore and all that jazz just aren't that attractive to someone who might like gaming and games, but isn't interested in learning or playing something as dense as D&D.

Case in point: my wife enjoys games and fantasy worlds and having fun, but there's no way I could get her even interested in a D&D setting, let alone get her to navigate rulebooks, expansions, etc. It's not even really got to do with complexity, though that is part of it. On the other hand, source material is king for new players and my wife has glommed on to Mouse Guard using the Burning Wheel system. So much so in fact, that she was willing to split the cost of the deluxe edition. (my wife purchasing an RPG box set. Amazing!) The rules are relatively simple, but it's the idea of playing as one of the heroic mice from the comics that really appeals to her, appeals in a way that playing, say, a magic using elf never would.

On the flip side of that, between the wife and I plus my two regular gaming friends we've only managed one session and that was a character creation session. I'm fairly certain we'll get more play dates locked down, but trying to regularly get any more than myself, my wife, my cousin and our friend together is a herculean task.

In the future that's why online RPGs and bite sized board games that you only need one day to complete will probably rule for the foreseeable future. Sure, there may be a time when getting a group together on a weekly basis is feasible for more people, but for now, there's a reason that videogames, MMORPGs and mobile gaming are king.
 

Zom-B

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JesterRaiin said:
On the other side of this spectrum we have newcomers. New to RPG, new to D&D.
They are interested in RPGs, they ask, they hear that D&D is all they really need. So, they buy Red Book (or similar starter pack), and try to play. They still don't know what it is all about, so they need to use official adventures and scenarios such as ones presented in Dungeons of Dragon e-zines. And what kind of scenarios are there ?

I don't want to depreciate all this hard work, but since Dragon #155 they are mainly about tactical encounter=>next stage=>tactical encounter=>next stage ad infinitum. Official modules are no better. It's not that i've bought all of them, but i try to stay up to date. :)

Thus, newcomers will start to think that "this is what RPGaming is all about". In their eyes, RPGaming consists of characters fighting endless fights with some short cutscenes when they have to choose between some simplified dialogue options not unlike of Skyrim.
This is especially true when many new players idea of an RPG is formed by things like WoW, Skyrim and other videogames, where the RPG elements are all to do with character building for the purposes of defeating monsters and player choice in attitude, actions, alignment and personal choice are necessarily limited by what the game can provide. Most videogame RPGs are simply unable to account for, or include the options, to deal with or allow the majority of choices that are available in a PnP RPG. Videogames barely take into account non-combat abilities and scenarios, and most that do include some of that are limited to black and white morality choices and speech ability checks.

To me, PnP were always best when the rulebook was simply a reference for how to figure out how player choices should be worked out when interacting with the game world. The rules should never bog down players in technicalities, unless of course that's what a particular group wants. I think that the "role play" element has been lost somewhat, in favour of video game style stat building and min/maxing.

(best captcha in a while: lickser beer)
 

Alex_P

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"How do we get all these guys back together, so we actually have real communities, not just a bunch of separate smaller communities, that don't really interact in any way?"
This is a problem of tribalism, not divergent games. You don't need to be playing the exact same game to have something to talk about. You just have to have something to say other than "My game is the only one with real roleplaying."

To whit:
Mearls admits 4th edition might have gone too far in creating a perfectly balanced game. "We've lost faith of what makes an RPG an RPG," he said, admitting that in trying to please gamers with a limited imagination, 4th edition might have punished those with an active one. "There's this fear of the bad gaming group, where the game is so good that even playing with a bad gaming group, you'll still have fun."
Did he actually "admit" that in so many words or are we just editorializing?

-- Alex
 

keideki

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This series of columns has been both insightful and concise. Thank you for putting them up Escapist. You have given me something new to talk about at the D&D table this weekend.

BTW: My group plays Pathfinder, 3.5, 4th (Dungeon delves only) and our own homebrew system, we just alternate.
 

LadyRhian

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I got my start in the Caves of Chaos, ever so many years ago. I was 10. I learned to play in Summer Camp, and my first boxed set was the light blue boxed set of Dungeons and Dragons. I'm 44 now. I played through Basic, Expert, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (never really got into Master Rules and beyond in D&D), 2e, 3e and 3.5e. I never got the urge to pick up 4e, because I didn't like what I was seeing.

Yeah, you can roleplay, but just about every published module is combat after combat after combat. And if I wanted to play hack and slash, I can do that without resorting to 4e. I don't doubt there are DMs and GMs who can make it more than that, but so far I haven't seen any do so. I still feel no urge to pick up 4e, and I still have ALL my old modules and rulebooks and boxed sets (I picked them up on Ebay for a song back when everyone was getting rid of the old stuff for the new- their stupidity was my gain). I also have doubles for a friend that loves to play 2e, but can't travel with her books.

When D&D turned into "Advanced Combat Simulator" in 4e, they lost me as a customer. That's not what I play for, and not what I'm interested in. Combat is only part of the whole- there's exploration and roleplaying as someone and something else. If there is a 5e published, if it isn't interesting to me, I won't spend money on it... I have tons of published modules and ones I made myself and the imagination to make more if needed. WOTC lost me as a patron, and it seems they won't be picking me back up any time soon. It's sad, but D&D was more than just a combat simulator- I see it almost as an old school FPS like Doom, where exploration was key to success, to a modern FPS where you are channeled down a single long corridor and can't explore or do anything but go in the direction the game wants you to go. That's not what I am looking for.
 

DarthPrefect

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Jan 3, 2011
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I represent the newer school of D&D-players, having gotten my start sometime after the release of D&D 3.5. I also live in a part of the world where role-playing games in general and D&D in particular is a very rare hobby, and only a very few people play it, with the nearest hobby store carrying RPGs being a seven-hours drive from where I live. A friend's older brother introduced my group of friends to the game, though, and most of us got pretty heavily invested in it - within a couple of years, I had hundreds of dollars worth of D&D books lining my shelves, much more than I was ever able to find use for playing the actual game itself (and yet, that didn't stop me from buying more, more, more). As the setting we used when we first started, the Forgotten Realms became my setting of choice, and there's only a very few books released for it under 3.5 that I didn't wind up purchasing (and a good deal of 3.0 books was picked up as well, because they helped me learn more of the lore of the world, of the flavor, which I'd fallen in love with). I had my experiments with homebrewed settings and purchased a few Eberron-books as well (I like the setting, I like the feel of it, but when I'm the only person in my group who knows the first thing about it, and has any reason to want to play it over the FR, it didn't really get much use), but in the end I always came back to Forgotten Realms. I even started buying the FR novels, as did a couple others in my group, and though I've heard a lot of criticism about them in the years since, I thoroughly enjoyed the books and the setting, and I would have gladly gone on supporting the setting (and, therefore, the game) for years to come in the future as well.

Then, 4E came around. Like a lot of people at the time, I was skeptical, I didn't want my massive 'library' of books to become obsolete. At the time, I was part of a play-by-post community devoted to the Forgotten Realms, with each DM taking on his own region (so one person would run Waterdeep-campaigns, another would run his in Icewind Dale, and so on), one that had been around since the days of 3.0 and already made the change to 3.5. Most players and DMs were heavily opposed to converting to 4E, being happy with the way the game ran, but personally, I wanted to give it a try at least, to find out for myself if this new edition would lure me in or leave me cold. When the game came out, I'd moved to another town - the one town in the region to have a FLGS - and so I stopped by there, had a look at the core rulebooks... and I was pleasantly surprised. I liked what I saw, at least in theory, and I wound up purchasing the core set, and later the PHB2 and DMG2 as well. It wasn't the same game that I'd been taught, but I could tell I could learn to enjoy this one as well. Then, something happened that stole every ounce of sympathy I had for WotC, who's products I had by then spent most of my disposable income on for several years. I'm talking about, of course, the Spellplague.

As someone who cared more for his setting than the game system, the changes WotC did with Forgotten Realms in 4E felt like a betrayal. To this day, when I look at all the changes they made, I can't point out a single one that I prefer to the way things had been before. A Dragonborn empire sprouting up, just because they had been included in the Player's Handbook, when there was no justification for them in the lore of the Forgotten Realms? Dozens of deities being killed off to 'streamline' the pantheon, some of them among my favorite deities in the setting? And a century-long leap ahead in the timeline? Ugh. It felt like someone had tried to make it a Forgotten Realms designed for people who *didn't* like the Forgotten Realms in the first place, instead of updating the setting for those of us who loved it, had spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars buying sourcebooks and novels and video games based on it. Selling me more Forgotten Realms should have been the easiest thing in the world, but instead they chose to go after another market entirely. It frustrated me to no end, and though I know I could have used the old setting with the new rules, I was displeased by WotC enough at this point to want nothing to do with their products - I had a ton of 3.5 books, more than enough to keep playing in 'my' Realms for as long as I wanted to, with no need for new updates and supplements.

A couple of years later, I first heard about Pathfinder, and though I remained skeptical at that point, I realized that the changes in the system were far less intrusive, and the changes they did make were ones I happened to agree with, in some cases changes that I'd wanted to see happen for a while. I went into it slow - $10 for the PDF of the Core Rulebook seemed a fair entry point, and the more I saw, the more I liked. I can easily convert any 3.0/3.5 statblock from my Forgotten Realms sourcebooks to Pathfinder, making it much easier for me to convert to it than 4E, and as I started learning more about the Pathfinder campaign setting, Golarion, I came to enjoy that as well. Today, I'll gladly play either 3.5 or Pathfinder (with Pathfinder a slight favorite if I got to choose), and I have two settings to play them in, and chances are good WotC has seen it's last penny of my dollars - well, at least for their RPG products, some of their new board games look interesting, and dungeon tiles and miniatures could always come in handy. . .
 

Draconalis

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Greg Tito said:
"When 2nd edition really got focused on story [in 1989], we had what I call the first era of RPG decadence and it was based on story. The idea that the DM is going to tell you a story, and you go from point A to point B to point C. The narrative is linear and [the DM is a] storyteller going to tell you a static story, and you would just get to roll dice occasionally. 3rd edition came out and said 'To Hell with that,'
That... and the d20 system... are what I hate about 3rd edition.

Giving people the power to make whatever they want leads to people trying to be creative, but end up being dumb. I have always found that working within the confines of limitations brings about true creativity. Sure my Dwarf can't be a pally, but he can be a fighter/priest that aspires to be as like the paladins he witness in his youth.

Ugh... all these articles are doing for me is making me miss, and hate all the editions that aren't 2nd... all the more.
 

Alex_P

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LadyRhian said:
When D&D turned into "Advanced Combat Simulator" in 4e, they lost me as a customer.
People said the same thing about 3rd Edition when it came out. Is D&D4 more combat-oriented? It's really a matter of perspective.

At the end of the day, D&D as a ruleset tends to focus on fighting, swag, and dungeon traps; the rest kind grows up organically/haphazardly (depending on who you ask) around that structure. 3rd Edition's DMG, for instance, flat-out said that "deep immersive storytelling" meant avoiding the game rules (and spending an hour talking to shopkeepers, but that's a different story...).

No doubt D&D4 didn't match many players' established expectations of how "roleplaying" fits together with rules. That's not the same as cutting it out, though.

And let's remember that D&D grew out of what was basically a "combat simulator" to begin with.

-- Alex