Monday, October 27, 2008

Left Behind by Modern D&D

Every so often I go by RPGnet, just to check things out, and see what the latest word is on noisms's Monstrous Manual reading. I'll see this wall of [4E] tags, generally in front of character optimization threads or arguments, and occasionally I'll get this very strong sense of not belonging to modern D&D.

Which is weird, because it's not like the content is that different from the usual talk on 3.5 forums. While I do enjoy a bit of character optimization, my tastes usually run towards poking around the strange corners of the system rather than actual character optimization, and even for that I have a limited tolerance. So I never had much to say on the usual 3.5 forum, either.

But I still felt basically at home there. 3.x D&D was my game, the game that I started on, the game I knew and loved. Even when I wasn't playing it (which was most of the time, my major campaigns being based on d20 Modern and Arcana Evolved) I still basically understood it, and could discuss it, and cared about it.

But now? I go into the D&D forums and it feels like I'm not even on the same planet as some of these people. Even the people saying things I've said myself about the game in the past -- it's easy on the DM, combat's fun, fast, tense -- I just can't quite grok, because I keep wondering when they're going to notice that the tension is completely artificial. And the ones who are talking about this or that supplement and how humans are suboptimal and how this power combines with that other one--no clue, man. None.

Not that 4e is a bad game. On the contrary, it's a very good game. But--it's like this. I see someone say "D&D," no qualifiers. I know what that is, I've been playing that since I was twelve. Then I see the words like "starlock" or "dragonborn," and I have to do a double take. "That's not D&D," I think. But it is.

It's an unsettling feeling.


  1. It happened to me the first time I played 3.x... months after it had come out, I said "this isn't D&D. what the hell is my thaco?" And I blew it off. Eventually I got into it, knowing it wasn't going to be 2nd ed. ADD, but I played it anyways here and there.

    D&D is what you make it. Whether you are bending bars/lifting gates or buying ranks in swimming...

  2. It takes some getting used to--that odd feeling when people talk about your system without a number after it, and you assume it's "your" part of your system, and then they talk about something that just plain didn't exist in the edition you were trained on...

    You don't have to accept it if you don't want to. As long as you're not trying to force other people to not-accept it, who cares?

    (If it's any consolation, there are a couple of systems--this one included--in which I don't accept it either. You're not alone.)

  3. I've been wanting to play 4e in an old school style sandbox campaign. Looking at the rules, I don't see why this isn't possible. But I haven't been able to try this yet.

    I think it's all the same D&D. It's all in how you play it. The rules change but the game remains the same.

  4. I hear ya. the immersion breaking nature of combat has been...difficult to get used to. However, it is more than made up by the loose and free flowing feeling you get when out of combat.

    My players are still in the "uh...what do we do now?" level of skill. I keep telling them that all the RP skills for 3.5 were kept, but they are still hesitant to use them - like it's a trap or something!

    It's new, and scary to a lot of folks. You may never get over it, and that's fine, you still have a LOT of materials to fall back on.

    My own solution was to make the first game I ran MTG the RPG game. Once the players saw it was pretty slick in a "non-D&D" setting, it was a snap to switch over.

  5. I've noticed that D&D has had an identity crisis for almost the entire length of its history.

    When it came to 3e, I liked the imaginations the books brought out for me, but when I ended up playing those imaginations never seemed to come to fruition. So, I ended up sticking with old D&D.

    But even so, I can really relate to you on the 4e thing. Practically all my friends around me are into 4e now, and I can't help but feel alienated when they talk about it.

  6. I think that this process might be harder for people who have played mostly one version of DnD. I've been playing the game since the red-box era, and pretty much totally skipped 3.x (except for the computer titles). For me, going to a new system isn't all that unusual. I've been through so many versions of "DnD" that I don't really consider any of them to be "my game". Although I did a lot more work in 2e than any other.

    I'd say the thing to remember is that just because 4e is what's commonly discussed right now, it doesn't mean 3.x is any less fun, viable or playable a game. All the rulebooks still work, all the dice still roll, and best of all, DnD is a game that allows you to easily develop material yourself.

    If you really love 3.x, stick with it - you might have to DM, though - as a DM myself, I'd play 3.x, but never, never DM it again.

  7. Wow, comments.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have no intention to stop having fun with the games I am playing -- which may include 4e again, sooner or later. All those 4e-forum people look like they're having fun themselves, so I wish them well. It's just culture shock, y'know?

  8. You're not the only one. And I wouldn't fret about it - the only versions of D&D I play now are 2e and BECMI, and it doesn't bother me that they aren't the official supported versions. If you like 3.x the best, keep playing it - I bet it'll be easy to find people who feel the same way as you.

  9. noisms: What's really funny is right now, the only D&D I'm playing is your 2nd Edition game, and the game I'm planning to run is Swords & Wizardry. I still have some stuff I want to do with 3rd--an all psionics game, for starters--but dang, that old school stuff is cool.