Sunday, February 15, 2015

D&D 5e, the New Wave and I'm Still Old School

Well, 5e, aka D&D Next, is in full swing and my wonderful kids and wife have bought me all the existing rule books, which I have been reading off and on for the past few months.
And it's not a bad game really. But then neither was 4e speaking in strictly "gamist" terms. 4e was an imminently playable game, tight rule-set (if you liked long combats); but not my preferred schtick. This version is far more narrativist in style, but I find that not hard to believe since the latest new wave in gaming is to go extremely rules light and narrativist in structure. Games like Dragon AgeDungeon World13th Age and Savage Worlds are all part and parcel of a certain approach to gaming that favors "storytelling" over simulationism or gamist elements. In fact I'm sure there are some in the D&D Design/R&D departments that would consider such a comparison high praise.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that 5e is some sort of clone of those earlier interpretations of this gaming style or tries to copy their approach. It is it's own game as much as each of the above are as well. However, my point is that as I contemplate the game I learned and grew up on in the early 80's, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons I find my feelings trending more towards this expression of dissatisfaction and disaffection.

Though I'll admit this computer game designer is likely just tooting the horn of his most recent employer at the expense of his old, the things he says ring out with a certain clarity and truth to me. Personally I don't think Paizo is the new messiah, I've been to church with the Pathfinders and failed to be converted. But it does seem that they know what they are about. They know they are playing to 3.5 fans and continue to do so with power and joi de vivre. For these reasons I agree that the D&D brand has lost its way. Some will of course disagree as they have all during the age of the edition wars. These defenders will, like social commentators, explain that TSR and then WoTC were simply responding to the demands of gamers across the world that were crying for something different, for something new wave.

And so here again we have the new version, 5e, D&D Next, or simply Next. Not a bad game at all. It just, once again, isn't my game.


SpookyOne said...

I agree.

My imagined impression of the new editions of Dungeons and Dragons would be modifications of the AD&D system, like what we saw between 1e and 2e. I was expecting a few tweeks here and there - with similar tinkering to the BASIC RULES game.

I don't know what gamers were crying out for in terms of trashing the original game system ... Some gamers (and company executives) will always want to find a 'better' system so they can pat themselves on the back (sell new product) and be satisfied that they have moved 'everyone' into a more enlightened era.

If these sorts of people wanted a new game system they could have called it something else (not D&D!) - although they would lose out massively in terms of marketing.

Anyway, I always thought that the real problem with 2e was the relative decline in good story telling and a lack of grit in the politically correct 2e time period. There was a first edition X-factor missing IMHO.

At my 2e site, THACO DRAGON, I (hopefully) put some of the 1e sensibility back into the equation, albeit it is still a 2e centred site ... (shameless promo for the site here:)

I also keep writing adventures for the site at the linked THACO DRAGON Adventures page. So far I have 12 stories, none of them play tested because I no longer have a gaming group!

Here is a list of the Adventures with their levels:

Menace of the Slime Cult (5th)

Cabin Carnage (3rd)

Trouble at Woodend (1st)

Dungeon Adventure (2nd-3rd)

The Temple of the Yellow Skulls (4th-5th OA)

Attack on the Hall of the Cult (4th-5th)

Forest Trouble (2nd)

Raiders of the River Temple Ruins (3rd-4th)

Desert Rescue! (8th)

The Temple of the Snake King (4th-5th)

Rats! (1st)

Caravan Guards Wanted (1st)

I fully agree with where you are coming from Chris.


Chris Jones said...

Spooky One,

Nice to meet a fellow traveler. Love your site by the way. Going to make sure that I link to it on my blog. And it sounds like we are in similar mode--sans gaming group. Look forward to hearing more from you and checking out your adventures!


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