mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

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The Game is Dead, Long Live the Game.



It is like the guys at Penny Arcade wrote that comment specifically about my Oubliette campaign! So here is the deal. Once upon a time, I didn't play Dungeons & Dragons at all. Oh, I still played oodles of roleplaying games, but the Second Edition had left a bad taste in my mouth, so I stayed away. Then the Third Edition came out. I gave it a spin just to kick the tires...& it was great! Not only that, but it professed an open source philosophy that really gave the hobby a chance to flourish; it was a real Renaissance under the Open Game License. Heck, I ran my first Oubliette campaign on a heavily modified variant. Then came the Fourth Edition. It had problems. At first, I defended it but, as you can tell from my recent reviews, it let me down. Fundamentally, it is a tactical simulation, not a roleplaying game. You can tack on roleplaying elements, but I used to do that with Battletech too-- that doesn't make it an RPG. The fact that 4e was, by necessity, a high magic, high fantasy game was a problem. The fact that it was radically combat oriented was a problem. I have other specific faults I find with it-- gold piece values for Rituals, magic items that don't scale, the feats are all really terrible-- but those are more nuts & bolts. That said, there are important innovations. Minions-- great. Solo monsters! Also great. The codification of At-Will, Encounter & Daily powers. Great. Themes! I like those. & as I'm more than willing to remind people-- if you want to play something like Third Edition, play the excellent Pathfinder.

So a Fifth Edition is coming. Like the comic above alludes...I don't really have a horse in the race. If you read my musings on House Rules you'll notice that I've run my last two campaigns on a lightly modified version of the World of Darkness. I'm happy with that, & I'm not likely to switch to a level based, class based system. Seriously, that comic basically hits the button on the nose, if you don't mind my butchering some metaphors. That being said, I have psychological investment in Dungeons & Dragons. It is the face of the hobby to the outside world. I don't want Hasbro to stick it on a shelf somewhere. I want it to remain vital & valid & I want someone to run a campaign that I actually get to play in. So how can that happen? Well, Wizards of the Coasts used the word "modular" in their press release. That! Do that. Make it modular, make it really modular. Make every single book its own little Unearthed Arcana. Publish a core rule set that is simple & flexible, & then publish books in limited print runs that appeal to both Dungeon Masters & Players. "The Book of Grit" is a supplement with low magic options, including rules on how to get rid of Hit Points & replace it with a more lethal damage system. "The Book of Psionics" has rules for, well, psionics as well as Dark Sun races & classes. "The Book of Grimm" has rules for the Feywild, for all kinds of fairytale stuff, for special elf options. & so on. & use the framework provided! You don't need all new psionic powers. Design spells so that they are able to be mixed & matched. Make classes that use lots of Daily powers, make classes that use lots of At-Will powers...don't make your classes all the same, with a different spell list, like you did in Fourth Edition.

Give people options on how to play the game. "The Book of the Great Wheel" for those who want the old cosmology. "The Book of High Fantasy" for anyone who does want swords that glow with video game fire, "The Book of Historical Fiction" for anyone who wants to play in a historical setting. & give it a robust open license! When your competitors start selling your product for you-- well, great! The d20 system flourished during the OGL years; everyone played Dungeons & Dragons because there was such a wealth of material available. I have lots of books from third party publishers...but I have even more Wizards of the Coast books. Forget about the "online" aspect, while you are at it; hiding content behind a paywall doesn't make you friends, & hasn't worked for almost anyone. When I bought Dragon magazine, I got content that was superior in quality to the work showcased on DnD Insider...& I owned it. I could take the magazine with me to game. I didn't have to log in to a finicky site every time I wanted to check it out. & to players I say: realize that Dungeons & Dragons is an intellectual property, with issues of branding to consider. Hit Points, Levels, Classes & Races are not going anywhere. That is what the public at large thinks about when they hear the words "Dungeons & Dragons." Telling Wizards of the Coast to abandon them is fruitless, because that is their identity. Now-- if they embrace the modular aspect, they can give Dungeon Masters the tools to abandon them, & I think they should. Heck, I think between a "Book of Live Action" & a "Book of Tactics" they should cover the spread from minis to no minis, from almost no rules to THACO. Give the audience a choice of what they want to play.
Tags: 5e, dnd, ideology, oubliette
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