Monday, May 28, 2012

The Problem with Forums and D&D Next

So, I been reading and reading and reading the WotC forums. Posting in a general non-confrontational way, which is how I roll outside this blog. Here, though, I can spew that venom. Lance the boil before it explodes, so to speak.

I mentioned last time that I feel that the whole DDN (Dungeons & Dragons Next) is a big fuck you to 4heads (Why 4heads? Because your forehead is what you smack when you facepalm). The thing is that the forums are all a buzz with the same old tired arguements that will never been resolved. And here they are in no particular order;

1. Vancian Magic. Love it or hate it. Debate ad-nauseam. For those of you who aren't in the know, Vancian magic (pronounce Vance-e-anne) is based on the memorize/forget from Jack Vance's Dying Earth series.
2. Save or Die. Love it or hate it. Debate ad-nauseam. This is another throw back to old stuff. Succeed on a single roll or your character bites it. Lots of people don't like it. I personally find it a tiny bit more satisfying then insta-death. As with many things, its fine in moderation and used with discretion (like beer).
3. Linear Warriors vs. Quadratic Wizards. Dear god, if I hear another one of these fucking arguements, I swear, I'm going to kill someone. Warriors have a set progression, wizards get exponentially better as they go along. Fucking deal with it.
4. This is a Table Top RPG Not an MMO. Oh, for fucks sake!
5. DDN is a Step Backwards. Yup, it is. Old school and 3.X fans can agree on one thing, 4th ed ain't for them.

Guess what all you 4heads? You have been out voted. The people flocking to the OSR (Old School Revolution) and Pathfinder show that. WotC has no choice but to listen as their funds drain away. It doesn't matter that you are buying books or wasting money on your D&D Insider subscriptions, at the end of the day Hasbro sees all that money walking into the pockets of someone else. That's THEIR money that's being lost. It needs to come back. The fact that Pathfinder is neck and neck in sales with D&D 4 is showing that there is something drastically wrong.

That's the long and short of it, 4th lost.

See, there's the problem. I've said it before 4th Ed is a fine game, but it ain't my D&D, and from everything I can see, it ain't a lot of people's D&D. There are some significant problems with 4th, and they are the base of everything that is being fought over above. The whole thing is an edition war with carefully hidden and subtle agendas. Here's it broken down by how the editions do things.

1. Vancian Magic. Guess what edition completely abandoned Vancian Casting? That's right, 4th! Have people always had a problem with Vancian magic? Ayup. However, homebrewing it so that it worked differently was fairly common, but not a matter of real animosity. Mostly it was a 'that's cool' type of thing.
2. Save or Die. Guess what edition completely abandoned SoD? That's right 4th! That's one of the biggest problems OSR people had with 4th, is it was really hard to die. Even something as simple as a medusa's gaze was a series of saves (from what I understand). Old players were used to tons of character death. I can't imagine a Tomb of Horrors for 4th ed, it would be almost unplayable and everyone would survive.
3. Linear Warriors vs. Quadratic Wizards. Guess which edition had warriors getting powers that rivaled that of the wizard? That's right, 4th! Every other edition, warriors, fighters, fighting-men, whatever, had a very strict progression. To be honest, I can actually sympathize with this, except for the fact that they are all decrying the warrior as boring 'Move then smack, that's lame!'. Oh, boo-hoo, you lost a bunch of neato-keen abilities, which leads me to the next point.
4. This is a Table Top RPG Not an MMO. Here's the thing, there's a crapton of shit from MMOs in 4th ed. Neat powers for warriors, etc. The thing is that there is no other RPG that I can think of, that concentrates on 'battle field control', 'strikers, defenders, tanks', or 'party combat roles' as much as 4th ed. That is something that gets under the skin of people. The thing is that 4th ed plays more like a skirmish level board/war game or MMO then an RPG. Hell, I can think of plenty of wargames that do the same thing (only better), much like Maulifaux. Maulifaux is almost D&D 4th ed for wargamers. Like I said, it's a fine game, but not my favorite RPG.
5. DDN is a Step Backwards. Don't give me this bullshit. I'm sorry, but that ain't true. Guess what? 4th Ed wasn't a step forward, either. There hasn't been anything truly unique in RPGs since the mid-eighties. It might have codified stuff that was happening already. Seriously, isn't a werewolf's change nothing more then a 'once per month' power? The 4heads keep talking about a 'modern game for modern gamers' but guess what? RPGs are cyclic. Congrats, the whole idea of extremely codified and exact powers is on the way out. Wait twenty years, and they'll be back. Right now 'let's play pretend' is dominating. People right now want simple and quick. A single page character sheet, not a 4-5 magnum opus for a 1st level character.

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with 4th except it chased away people. Which means it chased away money from Hasbro. I have a feeling that the play test and the forum is more of a way to just lance the boil (like this blog!), find out what really angers people and gauge the reaction. The thoughts and opinions of the 4heads doesn't matter. They already lost. People vote with their wallets, and enough money has been going to other games, that Hasbro has to change. It's like the huge uproar with Barbie back in the 90's, enough people complained about the 'Math is hard' on a talking Barbie, it disappeared. 4th ed is the bad talking Barbie of RPGs. Hasbro has to change it.

Though, if you asked me, what I would think would be best, I would say to have all editions be available as Print on Demand. Change the names, and give all of them the Open Game License, and let the development take care of itself. Keep DDN as the primary, but let people get what they want. That ship may have sailed, though. There are too many free .pdfs out there (many of them supplied by WotC themself).

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