Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Obligatory 5th Edition post

My experience with an D&D beyond 1st edition could fit into a thimble. In the early 90’s one of my players wanted to run D&D, so she went out and bought the 2nd edition stuff. She ran a few games, but I don’t really recall the major differences in systems.

One of the main reasons I stuck with 1st edition all through the 90’s was probably because most of my players tended to have very little gaming experience until they came to my games. “I always wanted to play but never go the chance” people. I of course was the “seasoned veteran,” and was able to lead these gentle lambs through many a campaign with 1st edtion. Hell, they didn’t care. That was a time of wide-eyed wonder for my players, it seemed. And I often had a lot of females in games then (at one point in the mid-90’s outnumbering the guys at many sessions), and in my games they tended to lean heavily towards role-play (especially shopping trips, which in D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Champions was always great for developing those “winging it” DM muscles), so task resolution was not the main source of fun during those times. We’d have these amazing several hour session with minimal combat or action.

From around 2000-2008 I was not gaming, and not even really keeping up on what was going on with D&D. My stuff was all in boxes in a garage, and my internet interests were more about comic books, music, and movies.

Then out of nowhere *BAM* I’m running games for a regular group, reading about D&D and other games constantly online, and started this friggin’ blog. Gaming and D&D was all up in my grill. Still, I’m not exactly Grognardia James in terms of my knowledge of the history of gaming, and what is going on in the OSR. Obviously I’m a much better talker than a listener. Powergame Dan sometimes marvels at what I know that is going on in gaming and the OSR, but really it’s reading Grognardia and a couple of other select forums that gives me any particular knowledge on what is going on. And that knowledge is not exactly deep even after three years.

And in all honesty, looking at online stuff about gaming is starting to lose it’s luster. “G whiz” factor is gone. It might be different in my case if I was back in semi-retirement gaming-wise. I’d look online and do a shitload of “remember when.” But with a full and regular group going, I’m trying to enjoy that more. In some ways because I’ve slowly realized that it is a fairly rare and precious thing.

As for 5th edition, well, it’s not very relevant to me. I don’t think D&D is relevant at all any more. You don’t see it getting played by characters in films or TV shows like you sometimes did in the 80’s and 90’s. You never hear it getting joked about. Even the Ubergeeks on The Big Bang Theory don’t play it. In dorkdom these days, it seems pretty bottom of the barrel. If you watch Attack of The Show for a week you might hear a smarmy D&D reference, but even in venues like that it is rare.

So I don’t much care. I have a KOTOR campaign going, a Runequest campaign just started, a 1st edition setting to get back to, a player who is regularly running 1st edition games for us, and am itching to do some Call of Cthulhu before too long. I have plenty on my plate. So let me join the throngs of “happy wanderers” and toss my own “I wish them well” into the ring. That’s it, Mac, Smile and wish them well. But it’s ok if inside you just don’t give a rats ass.


  1. I agree with you entirely, with one small divergence ... actually I think D&D has had a little uptick in pop culture lately. Community did a full episode as a D&D game last season. Several notable celebrities/sports figures have proudly admitted to being D&D nerds. It still kicks around and I can see its influence here and there. Also I swear they've parodied it on Big Bang Theory a bit .. though probably in such an obscure way it really didn't count. I think D&D is extremely iconic and has left a deep impact on popular culture in America and the UK ... an entire generation of writers grew up playing it (as most writers were geeks/nerds as kids ... lets face it).

    Beyond that I care ... even though ... I like you find D&D not very relevant to me personally anymore. I hope tabletop gaming goes on and continues to have some success. Like it or not D&D takes up shelf space at the local game shop, it is still probably the main "gateway" to tabletop gaming for many, many players. So just from the "healthy" industry I hope they do well. I don't have the luxury that alot of you guys out here in the blog-o-sphere seem to have. I'm a guy who had a amazing gaming group .. that had to move away to a new town. Finding a decent gaming group as a middle aged guy ... who is picky ... doesn't want to game with kids or store trolls ... it god damn hard as hell. So just from that perspective ... please 5th ed ... bring some people back to the hobby. At least make the store owners some money :)

    Seriously though I hear ya and pretty much feel the same way. Yes indeed having a full and regular group is a precious thing! Cherish it and enjoy it while it lasts, as I'm sure you well know .. they can inexplicably vanish :)

  2. I'm in the same boat. Unlike you though, my break from gaming was back in the mid 80's and only lasted about a year. So I didn't miss anything...really.

    But I've not been quite as lucky. I've had all sorts of different groups and because of that, have traversed all sorts of rules.

    I even DMd 3E! Yeah...for about 2 years. And then when 3.5 came out I threw up my hands and quit. Went back to what I knew best AD&D.

    As for 5E... I hope the best for the brand. It was something that's been ever present in my life for a very long time, and I'd hate to see it die. Not that I really give a flip for 4E, 5E, Hasbro or even WotC. But the brand means something.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that you've got a great blog. I've been reading it since you wrote your first entry. Demogorgon is an old favorite after all!

  3. Lord Ex: "...Finding a decent gaming group as a middle aged guy ... who is picky ... doesn't want to game with kids or store trolls ... it god damn hard as hell..."

    I rarely state why I wasn't gaming during that time starting around 2000, but you just stated pretty much why I didn't game for those years. Very good summary. I could have gone to game stores and cons to try and get regular players, but at what cost? AT WHAT COST? Seriously, it's hard. I love my group. Could it be better? Sure. Could it be a lot worse? Fuck yes.

    Gamerdude: thanks man, I appreciate you saying that.

    I think my main thing in not caring too much about the continuing of official D&D is that I got a kick out of doing something rare and underground. One thing that I did, as a fairly normal American guy (loving comics and working Ren Faires seems pretty normal next to gaming, right?), that was sort of "out there." If it wasn't getting produced anymore, it would be even more of a fringe thing. But really, if I had the vote and it was continue D&D or D&D dies, I would vote for them to continue producing it.

    As for breaks in gaming, I've had a solid year or so off a couple or three times over the decades. And during much of the 90's we were lucky to get in a once a month session. But those would be on the weekend and we would drink up and toke up and play for upwards of 8 hours. I wish we had played more often during those times, but thosse day-long games were epic. D&D, Cthulhu, Champions. Man, just the best times.

  4. I loved 3rd edition and 3.5. For me, it was like they basically took all of my (and my friends') house rules and made them official--attacks of opportunity, ascending AC, base attack bonuses instead of THAC0 charts, etc. Skills instead of proficiencies, skills you improved at! These things really did it for me.

    When 4th edition came out, I was like, WTF? The current system is fine! The only problem was the glut of supplements and all the extra rules/feats/prestige classes/etc. I knew something was wrong when 3.5 stuff focused all on encounters as if they were the be-all, end-all of D&D. I compared my 2nd edition and early 3rd edition stuff to the latest Eberron supplements and was bothered by how little setting detail there was and how much everything relied on feats, items, spells, and encounters.

    When 4th edition came out as a completely combat-oriented system, I wasn't surprised. Dismayed, but not surprised. I refused to make the move. Heck, I didn't even move to Pathfinder (although I applaud Eric Mona and Paizo). I felt no need. I was happy with the 3.5 core books and a bunch of 2nd edition settings. Why change?

    Then, the schisms occurred. The OSR evolved and many of its members had this elitist "we're real men because we roll 3d6 six times and if my 1st level fighter has 1 hp that's how I roll" attitude. The 4th edition supporters basically acted as if everyone else was a luddite and destined to be evolutionarily deselected as primitive.

    And all this happened as I was finishing my thesis and gearing up to go live in South Korea for three years.

    Now that I've returned, I find the entire gaming community in the States has just gone tits up. 5th edition will be a disaster, mark my words. They design philosophy behind it is a piss-poor attempt to regain confidence in WotC's ownership of D&D. In the end, they're going to please no one by trying to please everyone, and everyone will just end up staying with their preferred iteration and probably not drop the cash on the new books (which are likely to be priced at $50-$75 a pop).

  5. I am greeting 5E news is a roar of apathy. I find it hard to get worked up about this. I will follow the news, but I have little actual emotional response.