Sunday, 23 February 2014

Don't Make Me Roll For Initiative - D+D Was Forty

Never say anything about this blog not having it's finger on the pulse or accuse me of ranting. That said, D+D was forty last month, apparently although no one is quite sure what the date was which amused me a little. Like the little orphan it has become (with it's father in the form of that nice Mr Gygax and mother in the form of TSR both sadly long gone) it seems to be walking up to the head of the orphanage and asking "please sir, can I have some more."

This piece of information has sent me on a trip down memory lane. It's nearly as old as I am. I have been role-playing since about 1983. So I have not quite been there from the beginning but I have been doing this for a while now. For me, it started with seeing an advert for Tunnels and Trolls in Military Modelling Magazine. I then made my dad go into a shop called Games in Liverpool to buy it for me and I can't imagine how much of a fish out of water he must have felt.  If you are reading this, thanks dad. I know you may not understand it but it has given me a lot of happiness over the years. Then came figure painting, then wargaming, then the board gaming (if you don't count Escape From Colditz and Risk) and even a bit of Larping. Over the years I have embraced my inner geek with a fair bit of gusto.

I quickly moved on from Tunnels and Trolls and D+D in favour of Traveler. This is the game that changed the way I viewed role-playing and still guides me today. I rarely play high fantasy games. I play way more sci-fi and modern games.

Whilst going through the zombies the other day, looking at tarting them up,  I found a few that were amongst the first minis I ever purchased. What a day it was when they first arrived. They have been repainted since I got them as I think my early attempts as a 14 year old, in enamel, were not all that great. Things have changed a bit since then though. I remember buying them from a couple of shops in Chester for around thirty pence each. I have rooted through eBay a few times to find stuff that I missed out on at the time and don't see any of them going for that kind of money any more.

Anyway, this was supposed to be about D+D. D+D has never been what I loved to play, it's more something I played because it's what other people wanted to do. I guess that I have to acknowledge it's place in role-playing. If it's good enough for Vin Diesel and Wil Wheaton, it should be good enough for me right? Well no, the excesses of post buy out D+D have turned a found memory into something of a living nightmare. 4th edition turned my stomach and 3 and 3.5 were not much better.

I think I feel sorry for WOTC because I can see what they were trying to do. Take the offline experience and turn it into something that can be done online. Sadly, to facilitate a failed attempt at this, they turned D+D into something that was kind of akin to Pokemon with cards you have to print out yourself and if you don't buy the program to work them out, you have to do all the maths yourself. The computer games they have produced so far and the tabletop environment that seemed to die off are nothing like role-playing as I recognise it. The trouble with computer games is that they are limited. There is almost always only two options, use the stated solution or leave the room.

Oh, maybe I should do the compliment sandwich thing now. What I did like about 4e was the way the presented scenarios. Rather than just a basic map and some stat blocks, the presentation was fantastic. Nice maps is always a bonus although I would like to see what could be done with online, printable versions of them. The really clever bit was giving the DM tactical advice about how to run a combat. I think I would go as far as saying that as a referee, 4e is one of the easiest games to run. As a player, it starts to suck from character generation on. The one campaign I played in, I played a warlord. My main option in combat was to figure out who was going to do the most damage and give them another go. Tactically the right thing to do but not the most enjoyable.

When I realised that D+D was forty years old it made me think back to the early days. Then I started thinking about how much I dislike D+D again. These days I all but refuse to play it as a game. It's not my thing anymore. maybe the next version of D+D will be more what I am looking for.

My Sunday morning in bed ends now, time to get up and clean the house and buy cat food.


  1. Interesting thoughts. I missed the D&D boat so can't compare. I've known board games, 40k and Fantasy battle and all those inbetween. My only Roleplaying experience was the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series though very much battle orientated there where numerous side quests and encounters you could talk yourself out of.

    Probably my most Roleplay type Experience has to be the Fallout and Fallout 2 games they where such open ended stories you could do pretty much what ever you liked.

    1. The big difference bewteen pen and paper and computer games is that there is so much you can do. Fallout is quite a big sandbox to go an play in but there really are limited ways to solve problems. You are lucky to get two or three. In the real worlds (or as close as a PnP game can get) there are so many options. If you can't get into somewhere in a tabletop game, you wait till dark and jump over a fence, dig a hole under the wall, or knock someone over the head and steal their uniform and ID card. Hey you may even try to persuade them if you a feeling lethargic.