Friday, January 27, 2012

It's All D&D

Well, at it's heart anyway.

Long ago the foundation was laid for Dungeons & Dragons by the old gods of Gygax, Arneson, Kunz, Kask, and others. This foundation has continued to be at the core of the game. I see that core to be:
  • Levels
  • Hit Points
  • Initiative
  • d20 to attack*
  • Saves
*In the wee early days this was not the case--but it has become for me an essential element of what D&D is, tho the game can be played with other methods almost identically.

Quite simply that is the basic structure if you ask me. With those and those alone you can play a game. Remove those and the core begins to change into something else. Now, I realize that this is a bold statement, and perhaps takes in more games/editions/versions than some are comfortable calling D&D. But I look at it this way: if those elements are present, I am going to play it almost like I always have with little reference to other more obscure or less essential rules. And more importantly play it in the tone or fantasy sub-genre I want.

Classes are the basic feature of our games that really define the way we play. They can be as complex, simple, well defined or blurred as you like, but classes are an essential part of D&D identity.

Levels are also an aspect of play that is closely connected to classes. Without levels much of the metapurpose of D&D design is lost.

HP, initiative and the d20 to attack are all defining componenets of D&D combat, that if lost or substituted would sacrifice the nature of play.

And lastly, the effect of saving vs the many noncombat encounters are what I consider the core resolution system of non-combat encounters. One could argue that ability checks or skills or the like are essential, but I don't feel this is the case--even though I someitmes use them. I can flow with D&D with or without these components, but saves are essential to me.

So what does this imply? Simply put it implies lots of games are okay by me. With these structures in place I can play them with my preferred rules lite, fast and flexible style of play in my gritty, somewhat dark and deadly flavor of a fantasy world.


Drance said...

Preach it, brotha! I am with you all the way! You know what they say about great minds, right? Well, check it out:

Anonymous said...

With a tent that big (big enough to include 3rd and 4th that is) you're going to let in a lot of games that "aren't D&D". Knock-offs, fantasy heartbreakers and such.

I think T&T has all those things. Final Fantasy the video game has all but saving throws. Encounter Critical has all but d20 attacks. I don't know Arduin well, but it ether has all or most, and etc.

Chris said...

@ Anon: Thanks for the clarification. Yeah, that's basically what I'm saying--with the exception of the video games. Apples and oranges there I'm afraid. But amongst actual tabletop RPGs, yeah--I could prolly pick up T&T and play it pretty much like I always have--without worrying about the fiddly bits. (Altho' doesn't T&T use a d6 for everything? Not sure that fits exactly ...)

And yes, Arduin fits just fine. Really cool tone there, but again it would end up playing like most other games in the same vein.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Sorry--I messed up my last comment. I meant to affirm your comments Drance, but 4e changed a bit for me in the fact that powers had to be used by all classes--that was a little weird. Aside from that and minis tho' I pretty much played it like I always have.

(There I think I got it right this time:)

Eric said...

But what happens if we change the definition of those words. Is it still D&D if one changes what each of those terms mean?

Liberal means Liberty but elements in society have redefined Liberal as something its not.

So while I agree with you that these are core elements of D&D, and it would appear the developers of 5e want those core elements, it does not mean they are the same thing they were back in the Old Days of Gaming.

OSRIC has all of those elements, so why do I need 5e? or even D&D at all?

Look if it was not for the "Edition Wars" would there ever had been a 5e? What if everybody just got along and said, fine you play your edition i'll play mine.

What then?

I'm a consumer and up till 4e I bought anything coming out of the Coast made by the Wizards. But they burnt me, and not only me a lot of other folks. Here was a company I loved belittling my style of play. It was dumb on their part, so they threw us a bone, the Red Box.

No good, so now we have a company back tracking and trying to regain our trust. Why?

Because I'm a consumer and by the LAWS of CAPITALISM, I give them money to provide me with something I want.

Like any industry that screws up (New Coke) they have to back track, repair the bridges and regain trust. Well in my mind they have a lot of work to do.

But if it wasn't for folks complaining and not buying a product they did not want, would we even be seeing a 5e, or would we know be seeing the shut down of WotC RPG line?

As much as folks hated it, the "Edition Wars" may have saved the game we love.

I hope 5e is something on my shelf come next year, I hope its the kind of game that functions in a way that fit my style of play all the way from OD&D to 3e, but if it doesn't well...I still have OSRIC.

One last thing, I do get ranty a bit, but we need to be able to have civil discourse when it comes to the game. And we need to hear from folks that disagree, thats how things improve.

Lets all hope for the best, and just plan for the worse.


Chris said...

Thanks Eric! I hear you loud and clear. Often in an attempt to redefine what D&D is and is not, it can all come down to definitions. And yes, I agree that if someone were to change what I meant by those basic core ideas, then I would have a problem with it.

I assume for the sake of my readers--the predominantly old school gaming crowd--those are fairly well defined ideas. My desire is not in any way to water down what D&D is or is not.But to point out that for me--for me personally--I've essentially been playing the same basic game for the last 30 years regardless of name, version, edition number or shiny new cover.

And frankly I think what WoTC is doing with their edition revamp is trying to put the genie back in the bottle--which is the point of my most recent post.

Peace and thanks for taking the time to comment.

Eric said...


I want to jump on board with 5e its just hard to right now and like you for 30+ years D&D has been D&D regardless of edition. The Keep on the Borderlands has always been my players goto base of operations.

I wanted to like 4e but as more and more "Sacred Cows" where lead to the slaughter, my zeal abated.

So with a timid hand I peek in on the WotC forums and other goto stops and see whats happening, and yes I am guilty of Edition War rants. And maybe I should tone it down, maybe not.

I just don't know yet...


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