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.