Friday, May 16, 2008

D&D on the brain

As the release date gets closer, I'm having a hard time keeping my excitement in check, so I'm going to subject you to another post on the subject. This is your warning, if you don't want to read a post delving into the arcana of the difference between the current transition and past edition transitions. You have been warned. So here we go.

There's a small but very vocal group of current D&D players who are very much opposed to a new edition. They have many complaints, but one of the biggest is that the current designers, started bad mouthing 3rd edition the minute 4th was announced in order make it look better by contrast. This upsets them because they feel like 3rd Edition was really good, and they are annoyed to be told that the game they've been playing for the last 9 years is a sucky inferior imitation.

Now of course that's not quite how I see it. The thing is that anytime you're coming out with a new edition, people are going to want to know "Why? Why was a new edition necessary?" So there's a fine line between extolling the improvements of the new version and pointing out the failings of the previous version. I'm inclined to believe that they intended to do the former, but people took it as the latter. And so I'm a little curious as to why. More particularly I'm wondering what happened with previous versions.

The transition I'm most familiar with is the transition from 2nd Edition to 3rd. And I think that's the transition that most people are familiar with, most people in the D&D community that is. It's somewhat instructive to consider that transition. TSR the original company which published D&D had gone out of business and been acquired, there was a big chunk of time when nothing new was being produced. On top of this 2nd edition just wasn't built to be smoothly expanded on, instead there was a menagerie of busted kits, and classes and powers and options, it was a mess. So when people talked about how much better 3E would be there were no die-hard 2nd edition fans that got offended, people were honestly just glad that D&D was still going to be around.

Just about everything I mentioned about the transition from 2E to 3E is the opposite now. D&D has been going strong, it's a system that expands well. There has been some power creep, but not a ridiculous amount. It's still pretty tight, and on top of all that, since 3E was opened up, you have a huge number of third party publishers who have stepped into fill the gap.

I think a closer analog would be the transition from 1E to 2E. I didn't follow things as closely back then, and of course there was no internet (well there was, but it was exclusively the domain of a few hundred people at a few universities and in the military). So I can't speak to all of the details, but my impression is that the attitude was much closer to the current attitude then the attitude that existed between 2E and 3E. And I think that's part of the problem. People are comparing apples and oranges. They're using the last transition as their reference point when there's almost nothing in common between the two.

Is it possible that 4E came too soon? Sure. I'm pretty excited now, but there was a time when I would have strongly argued that point.

Did designers come down a little hard on the perceived flaws of 3E? Sure I could see that, but they've been working in secret on 4E for a couple of years. I think they can be forgiven for being overly exuberant.

Is 3E a great game? Yeah. I would in fact argue that it's the best role-playing game for the kind of game I want to run, up to this point. Of course it's my hope that 4E will be even better.

Anyway I've droned on long enough, and since no one is actually reading this I'd better wrap it up.

I was hot and I was hungry...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meh. 4e doesn't interest me at all. We've got the core books on order, and the hubby will be running a test module for our gaming group, but I promise you that you won't catch me running it. Not ever.

I have enough 3.X books to keep me happy for the rest of my life.

6:57 PM  

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