Monday, February 13, 2012

Hate the player, not the game.

Well that title isn't exactly fair but I wanted to make a point. I've been lurking around reading various reviews and concerns over the upcoming Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons and have come to a realization.

I am (was?) a total jerk.

I started playing RPGs with AD&D Second Edition. My group continued to play it well after 3rd and 3.5 rolled out, resorting to places like ebay and amazon whenever a new player started or a book needed replacing. After years of time and hundreds of dollars spent, the very thought of permanently shelving all that great stuff seemed out of the question. It had value besides monetary. It was nostalgic, we were used to it and it's simple black and white art (sometimes black BLUE and white!) was just our style.

To an avid tabletop gamer; changing a long-use game system is like changing your lifestyle or social scene. Imagine being a disco fan in the late 70's. (admittedly a bit before my time.) Clubs were drying up and the radio going to rock or even country. It would be scary for any die hard fan of the genre. Do you keep haunting the near empty clubs and playing records at home, or join in the new scene and be part of something fresh? It's a hard pill to swallow.

A pill that my group and I have swallowed a few times now. After years of sticking with 2e we had finally made the switch over to 3.5 right before 4th edition came out and to be honest, we liked it! Gone were pesky Thac0 scores and negative armor classes. Weapon and non-weapon proficiencies replaced with skills and feats. There were quite a few useful rules that replaced years-old house rules and grappling still sucked.

We played 3.5 for about a year and took a brief hiatus for a few months. A few of us got new jobs, two of us bought new homes, etc. During the time off I looked into 4e and slammed it, referring to it as a 'tabletop MMO.' On our return to gaming we moved from 3.5 to Pathfinder. It took the system we liked and turned it into a system we loved! It cleaned up a lot of stuff -auto success spells, combat maneuvers, skill point distribution and more. To date it is still what we play and I don't anticipate switching any time in the near future.

Just because we've found something that we enjoy is no reason to bash the current or even next edition of D&D. I was being stupid to bitch and moan about 4e being like an MMO. WotC is taking their product in a direction that they feel will be more profitable and draw new gamers to the table. You can't knock them for that. There are plenty of other games out there to play, old and new alike. Just because you don't like what a publisher is putting out doesn't mean it's complete garbage - maybe it's just not the right game for you. Just because I don't play 4e doesn't mean I want to see it die. I want it to thrive and continue to introduce new players to the hobby. You never know, maybe one day they'll be sitting at my table playing a different game.

If he had legs his jeans would be so tight.

Don't get me wrong here, I have nothing against being a grognard or single-system gamer. What I do see as a problem is veteran gamers smashing and down-talking new or different games when they've never ventured out of the comfort zone. Tons of sites out there are already slamming 5e when it hasn't even been released yet. WotC says "We're going to try and make the players happy by asking for feedback," and many reviewers respond with "Oh god, how unprofessional, it's gonna suck extra hard if they talk to all these new/young/opinionated/etc players." Yet if they said nothing about it besides "Hey we're making a new edition. We'll let you know how its going." Players would get angry for not feeling involved, they would be upset that their opinion didn't count.

I think WotC is doing the right thing. They are (in their own way) acknowledging the failure of 4th edition and are trying to work with the community to make a better game. Backed by a parent like Hasbro, they really have the ability and cash to push pen and paper gaming back out into the spotlight, to revamp a culture that is being consumed by CCGs and MMOs and no one should hate them for that.

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