Recently Mike Mearls (of WotC), one of the chiefs involved in the supervision of D&D in its present form as well as one of the captains of the D&D ship as it steers its way into the future, wrote this great article about the state of the hobby. I like what Mike says even though I do not like what the company he works for is doing to D&D.
His article reminded me of a D&D encounter I had over the summer. At the time, I was playing and DMing 4e with the same group of guys I have played with for 20 years. I was travelling in the Green Mountains of Vermont with my family. We wandered into a Barnes and Noble to peruse the gaming books (D&D) and to have a chai latte. While poking through the D&D books, I encountered (see the title) a couple D&D fans who were sitting on the floor goobing back and forth about which sci-fi authors they were into. The first, rounder, goober asked me why I was even wasting my time looking through the 4e books. He assumed that I must be new to D&D, otherwise I would not have been wasting my time. He suggested I go home and try to find some 3X/PF stuff online. The other goober suggested that after 2e the game changed and he had not been happy with the state of the game for years. They were starting their own little edition war and I was caught in the crossfire. I responded, innocently, that D&D was a great game and that no matter what edition one plays, D&D is an awesome game about exploring dungeons and filling sacks with loot. I finished looking at the books and caught up with my wife and daughter.
In my last few posts I let my anger and irritation about the direction Wizards has been taking get to me. I have cooled off and coming back to D&D with a new plan… or with some new plans!
The first thing I have to say is that, for my group and me, our tryst with 4e has ended. I am glad 4e came along because it (along with Fantasy Grounds II) has gotten us playing again. The announcement of 4e got us psyched about D&D again. We played 4e on and off for about a year before we started getting tired of it. There were 2 elements of 4e that were dragging on us. First, for some of our players (all veterans) it was too far off from older editions of D&D. They had started playing with AD&D (mostly). The changes from AD&D to 2e and then 3X/PF were slow and gradual enough that the required adjustments had never been too difficult to make. And we always discarded newer elements that we did not like. The problem (for them) was that the newest incarnation of D&D was too different from the games we had always played. It was taking us way too long to get through few encounters. The powers and the new classes originally seemed like they would speed play up and make D&D bloodier and faster moving. What actually happened was just the opposite. The adjustments that players were required to make just to play were sweeping. We found it nearly impossible to bring mechanical elements of older editions into 4e while it was similarly difficult to strip away parts of 4e we did not find appealing. Our group was slowly moving toward wanting to switch back. WotC’s decision to do a laughable job with its DDI/VTT combined with its introduction of CCG-like elements to 4e were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The second element that pushed us away from 4e will be discussed in my next post: Moving Forward to the Past: Back to 3rd Edition