Wednesday, April 15, 2009

D&D is a Grand Romance

So there's this response to the usual complaints about the Wizards of the Coast editions of D&D that goes something like: "What are you guys complaining about? You've got your own games to play. Stop talking about how you don't like ours."

And that's a perfectly legitimate position. Personally, I see a lot of value in figuring out exactly what it is you don't like about a game, especially a game that can be easily compared to a game you do like, but within the internet community those discussions often wind into less useful complaints. It's a lot better to get some enthusiasm going about the game you do play than spend all your time grousing about the game that you don't.

But it's like this: Imagine that you know a guy. (Or a girl. Adjust the pronouns to taste. Works either way.) A guy you really, really like, and who likes you back. You start dating, and it's great. He gets you, you get him, and you spend a couple of really wonderful years together. Sure, some of the time things get frustrating, neither of you is perfect, but you're able to work past that. You start seeing a future together.

But then he changes. First a little, then more and more, until suddenly that thing that you had, that perfect something between you, is gone. You break up, and he moves on to some other tart, who's younger and richer and better looking. You find a new guy yourself (if we want to take this metaphor way too far, you clone your old boyfriend and download his old memories into the clone) but even if you're glad your old boyfriend is happy, it still hurts.

Now, I can't speak for everyone who plays an older version of D&D in preference to 4e. All I've got is my own experience, of being way into 3rd Edition with a major company supporting it and being part of the dominant gaming experience, and then trying to move on to 4e and finding out that it just wasn't for me, at least as a long-term, go-to kind of game. I'm happy with the D&D I have now -- both my beloved 3rd edition and my new old school flames. But that doesn't mean that it's not a little weird to have everyone playing and discussing and caring about something else.


  1. To confuse the metaphor even more...

    Watch the movie "Bubba Hotep" ( ). Is your boyfriend (or D&D) the real Elvis or the Impersonator? Which one do you want to fight Cowboy Mummies with?

  2. Well, using your metaphor, I think the original argument goes:

    If you can clone a younger version of your partner that you like more, and who hasn't changed, wtf do you care if they do change?

  3. In my case, in the '90s, "she" started to fall apart and engaged in all sorts of self-destructive behavior. She couldn't decide who she was, and kept accusing me of being tempted by every new woman we met. Eventually, we were forced to perform an intervention. She's looking better these days, but I'm starting to worry again.

  4. I'm a whore then, because I'll pick up any gal who I even remotely think I might have a good time with... I could digress into some very graphic sex details here, but I'll spare you.

  5. My apologies for inflicting this metaphor on all of you. It's immensely silly, but it got into my head and wouldn't get out.

    Gives a whole new meaning to "Sex and D&D" from Phil & Dixie, huh?

  6. It all seems tame after this post.

    I dunno, Natalie, would that sort of thing encourage your megadungeon player, or send him screaming from the room? ;)

  7. Dragon sex? Screaming from the room.

    More generally in D&D . . . well . . . he's very interested in an off-hand comment I made about spending gold on "ale and whores." (I'm using the Arnesonian "you have to spend gold to get XP for it" rules.) And he likes the idea of romancing an NPC lady-adventurer.

  8. Okay, now that I'm a little less embarrassed about this whole thing:

    Stuart: Bubba Hotep rocked! And Cowyboy Mummies have been scientifically proven to make every metaphor 312% better.

    Wickedmurph: That's actually what I'm trying to get at here. It doesn't make sense to care. But a lot of people do anyway, because we build relationships with these games.

    trollsmyth: I hear all these horror stories about 2nd edition, but I know nearly as many people who play 2nd as 3rd. Chalk it up to lousy management screwing up an otherwise solid game, I get.

    Mad Brew: "Game whore" has a much better ring to it than "gamer ADD."

  9. I hear all these horror stories about 2nd edition, but I know nearly as many people who play 2nd as 3rd. Chalk it up to lousy management screwing up an otherwise solid game, I get.Exactly. Until recently, the version I played was 2e at its core, with bits from other editions tacked on. The core books of 2e were a solid, perfectly playable game.

    Things got weird as time when on, though. There was a lot broken, for instance, in Tome of Magic. Editing went down the drain. I have a book published by TSR from that time which describes "an orange of mountains". With the rise of White Wolf's World of Darkness, 2e tried to become a game of Victorian horror with a new version of Ravenloft. Forgotten Realms became this massive shibboleth with a mountain of resource books. The Options books tried to make D&D anything and everything: skills-based or mini-centric or point-buy...

    Beyond D&D, TSR tried to launch a CCG, and then a collectible dice game. They were making more money selling novels than gaming stuff. They kept trying to launch a Buck Rogers line. When the end came, it was a shock, but looking back, the signs were all there.

  10. I started out with OD&D, then bought AD&D. Never played it. Then bought 2E. Never played it either.

    When I want dungeon hack, I pull out OD&D. If I want serious fantasy roleplay, I use my Chivalry and Sorcery campaign.

    Does that mean I'm two timing?

  11. *Gah* This leads into the "old school games = tonsil hockey with your ex" metaphor; familiar, but still exciting.

    What is it with people today? Is the sap rising or something?

    *edges slowly away from the sex-maddened grogs* ;)

  12. When I want dungeon hack, I pull out OD&D. If I want serious fantasy roleplay, I use my Chivalry and Sorcery campaign.

    Does that mean I'm two timing?
    Yes it does, you hussy!

    Of course, given the number of systems I've played, I suppose I have no room to talk...

  13. Bubba Hotep is an alltime classic, and I'm loving the metaphor. In my case, I stuck with my ex through most of the '90's, tarted her up with medieval-celtic clothes and tried to ignore her more... erratic behavior. Of course, I was seeing this scary goth chick and a freaky girl with an orange mohawk at the same time...

    Now I remember her fondly, but my new girlfriend is low-maintenance and fun to hang out with... which is cool, because now I have a wife and a kid on the way, so I have less time for extra-curricular... umm.. what were we talking about again?

  14. The exact same thing happened to those of us who are/were 2nd Ed players. I still describe the release of 3E as The Great Betrayal.