Thursday, September 16, 2010

Underdark Gazette: A good post and my comments

The Underdark Gazette did an interesting post dealing with a quote from Mike Mearls with some ponderings about D&D and WotC in general.
I've posted some quotes from the site and my responses below.

Underdark Gazette:"Making the old material available in Print again would be nice, but I don't need WotC."
I would love to see old editions of games released. As a matter of fact I think "revising/updating" some of the old material and releasing it under a "D&D Classics" line would be brilliant. Same basic game, but with some of the warts removed. (An updated '91 Rules Cyclopedia would be my vote for updating and rerelease... G.G)
Of course it would be nice if there were also a few pages added or at least an online guide for people who've only played 3e/4e to convert THAC0 & descending AC to BAB and ascending AC. (Purist may disagree, but I think Sword & Wizardry had the right idea with this one. Doing both so old and new fans could play the game the way they prefer...G.G)
While I've always disliked descending AC/THAC0, I grew up with it and can deal if I have to. My newer/younger players have only seen it in my old books and think it is the dumbest thing they've ever encountered. So if I run older editions I have to convert. Which makes game play easier, but prep is a pain.

Underdark Gazette:"And ultimately, they did players and publishers of pre 4e editions a favor."
I wonder just how much of the market share the OSR and Pathfinder have taken from 4e? (I'm sure D&D still holds a majority of the market, but I bet the other publishers are chipping away at it...G.G) I bought a few 4e books when it came out and was willing to give it a chance. The game wasn't bad, it did what it was designed to do, but my group and I didn't like it much.
Pathfinder, Dark Dungeons, Basic Fantasy,or even my old D&D/AD&D books give us more than enough fantasy systems. (Though it would still be nice to have new D&D books to buy... G.G) I'm not making any claims that 3e or any other game is better (Preference is subjective and can not be right or wrong...G.G), but non-4e games just fit our style of play.
Underdark Gazette:"Repeating history and dismissing the hobbyists who've made emotional and financial investments in their game, looks like just one more dick move, from WotC."
This is my #1 beef with WotC/Hasbro and 4e. Being told that 4e was just a stupid rumor and then finding out they'd been working on it for 2 years left a bad taste in my mouth. I lost what little respect I had for the company after that.
I do think if they would put older edition pdfs back up for sale(cheap) and release updated print versions of older editions, they could go a long way towards closing the rift with former fans. We may not play 4e, but we'd at least keep supporting the company.
I just can't believe that no one at Hasbro has thought to capitalize on the OSR movement or to support the very loyal 3e fans. Don't get me wrong I love Paizo's material, but why would WotC want to give those customers to Paizo?
A much revised/updated 3e system released under under a new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons banner would sell like hotcakes (IMO...G.G). Keep the mechanics compatible with 3e/3.5 but give it a definite old school AD&D feel/look (like they tried with the new Red Box)and I'd buy it for sure.

A Paladin In Citadel said: "My only concern is, do the bright-lights at WOTC really get the core of what makes D&D, D&D?"
Personally, I think that a majority of the guys at WotC, the ones that are left anyway, "get it", it is the suits at Hasbro that don't.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Edition Wars? Are we really still doing that $#!^?

While I don't get a lot of quality Internet time anymore, I do try to visit all the blogs and forums I can when the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately I still keep seeing a lot of old school vs new school, pathfinder vs 4e, system x vs system y, I'm right and your wrong, I'm smart and you're dumb, blah blah blah blah.
I actually encourage the younger/newer gamers that I meet to stay far away from a many of the blogs and message boards related to our hobby. If I were looking at a lot of these posts from the perspective of a newbie or even a person who is just returning to the hobby, I'd want to stay far away from other gamers.
It is really sad that people who claim to love an industry so much spend so much time belittling not only another person's favorite game, but the people that like said game. What's even more sad is that a fairly large percentage of these gamers are adults and have been with the hobby for 10+ years. I think it would be safe to say that more than likely these same people are at the very least in their 20's, yet still resorting to childlike, playground behavior.
The plain and simple fact of the matter is that what game you like, what game I like, and what game some guy in Zimbabwe likes means jack shit. The only time people need to like the same game is if they are in the same gaming group. What you like has absolutely no impact on what I like and vice versa. So why the need to "prove" your game is better? I just don't get it.
I started playing RPG's well over 20 years ago with a hodge podge of D&D books from the 70's, AD&D books from the 80's, and a few miscellaneous books that came from various box sets. All of which my mom bought me at a yard sale. My friends and I loved the D&D cartoon so convincing them to play the game was not difficult.
None of us knew a single person that had ever played D&D and because our books were from different editions, we didn't have the best understanding of how the game was supposed to be played. Hell we didn't even have any of those funny dice the books said we needed and our Monster Manual was a little booklet that contained about 10 monsters.
So we house-ruled the shit out of it, created our own monsters and emptied every game of Yahtzee in our homes of their d6's. Our first characters sheets were on blank pieces of notebooks paper as were our dungeon maps. Was our game being played "correctly", were a bunch of kids with only the vaguest understanding of the game able to create balanced monsters and proper house-rules, not by a long shot. Yet, despite our handicaps, those games are some of my fondest gaming memories.
I moved a few months later and didn't find anyone to play D&D with until I was a freshman in high school. By this time I'd gotten some of those funny dice, graph paper, some actual characters sheets and because I still longed to play I bought more books(I got a real monster manual) when I got the money, and had a better understanding of the game.
Naturally my high school gaming group was more experienced, so our games became a little more detailed and "proper" than my original group. The DM we played with was big on playing by the rules and we were all OK with that, for a while.
When he was unavailable we'd all take turns running games and when it was my turn, the games tended to be more like the ones in my original group. I only used the rules as a guideline and always tried to make sure the game was fun above all else. I never tried to get a TPK, though it did happen. I was a little too generous with the treasure, but I also put the group up against some opponents that were way out of their league. I required the players to think and react rather than relying on what a rule said. No one ever whined that my games were broken or unbalanced. No one ever bitched and moaned that I had done exactly the opposite of what a rule said to do. None of that mattered because we were there to have fun and as long as that was accomplished then the game was a success.
Since we all went to school together there were times we just wrote down a few stats on some notebook paper, from memory if possible otherwise we just made them up, and I'd run games for the group right there in the back of class. We didn't take our gaming gear to school so we had no dice, I made up the stats for monsters and yet we still had fun. It was with this group, during those at school games, that I started expanding my RPG experience to include sci-fi, supers and other genres besides fantasy. We were making the stuff up so it didn't matter whether we were fighting dragons, zombies or Darth Vader.
The most important part of all of this is the "we". That's what matters, everyone in the group is having a good time and participating. Eventually, I became a full time DM for a different group and have pretty much run every single game I've played in since. I've always let my players have a say in what kind of games I ran and what was fair. While I may come up with the scenarios and make the rulings on things, the game isn't just about me.

When I started playing D&D, I had no understanding of the rules and we made the best of the situation. As I got more books and a better understanding of the game I began to incorporate more of what the rulebooks said. After all the creators of those games had often thought of rules for things that I had never encountered, and they were often pretty good rules. Still those older editions were pretty light on rules, when compared with newer games.
As the years progressed players wanted rules to cover more things that popped up in game or options that officially allowed them to do something. So the game creators obliged and thus we got 2e AD&D, which was a "tighter" game than 1e or basic. Then came 3e and the d20 system.
Of all the D&D editions I feel that 3e was quite simply the most versatile, but with that versatility came an abundance of rules. This same rules/option increase can be seen in just about every single system that has survived from those earlier days. It doesn't matter if you play Palladium, Hero, or D&D, the core books have gotten thicker or there are more of them, but that's not necessarily bad.
All these extra rules and options have done is put down on paper the stuff we just made up back when I first started playing. They brought consistency to our games. Back then if someone new came into our group we had to explain all the house-rules we had made up to give us the options we wanted. Even though we all played D&D, the way my grouped interpreted the looser rules may be very different than how your group interpreted them.
With the newer editions  it became easier to walk in and play with other gaming groups and know what was going on with only a quick run down of the house-rules. Which once the the rulebooks began leaning towards making what you can do "official", those lists of house-rules seem to be much, much shorter than they were 20+ years ago, if they even exist at all.
Did all of these rules and options "break" our beloved game? No, because in the front of nearly every fucking RPG book I own it clearly states that if you don't like a rule or an option in the book, then throw the damn thing out. The only important part is having fun. The RPG industry didn't burden us with a bunch of rules that tied our hands and kept us from doing things we wanted to do, we did that to ourselves.
This brings me to the point of this little diatribe of mine. The edition wars or even system wars are juvenile and stupid. There is not a single thing you can do with your edition or system that I can't do with mine and vice verse. Unless of course one of us lacks the imagination and ability to think freely or feels like we must slavishly adhere to the rules. I mean come on, they are just game books and it isn't as if they are divinely handed down to us.
If I want "x" ability/spell/skill to do something in my game and my group feels it is OK, then that is how it will be. If I want to run a skills challenge, which I have been doing for years, I don't have to do it the way it says in some rule book. Although I can do it just as it is written,  I am just as likely to do it in a way that contradicts the rules. Primarily to keep the story moving but also because I think it will benefit the game.
Now to be clear I don't throw out all the parts of a system and just do whatever comes to mind. I actually like the fact that the books come with options and solutions to things I used to have to make up on the fly. So yes I do like my rules, but I am not their slave.
If I want to play an "old school" game, I can break out my Rules Cyclopedia, AD&D 2e books, Villains & Vigilantes, any Palldium book, or a retro-clone (Dark Dungeons, Basic Fantasy RPG, GORE & OSRIC are my personal favorites). Of course I can play the exact same kind of "old school" game with D&D 3e, Pathfinder, D&D 4e, Hollow Earth Expedition, Cortex, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, Mutants & Masterminds, Savage Worlds or pretty damn near any RPG on the market. The reverse is true if I want to play a "new school" game. All the rules do is give you the basics, and some guidelines that you can follow or ignore.  It's not the rules or the system that decides how a game is played, it's you.
I own hundreds of RPG books and I cherish every one of them. There are some I prefer over others for one reason or another, but I have gotten something good out of every single book I own. I have books for systems that I probably will never run and I have books that are falling apart because I use them so much, but none of them are useless or worthless.
Now is about the time that some of you, the one or two that actually read what I write, may be calling shenanigans. After all haven't I said that the Palladium system needs to be reworked and that I quit playing 4e because my group and I don't really like it? Yes I have and I do stand by every word.
At it's core the Palladium system isn't bad. The basics are pretty much just like every other RPG, you have a target number, roll dice to hit. The problem with Palladium is that their information (options, rules, etc) are spread out over so many books and even within the core Rifts book are poorly organized. The system (predominately Rifts) has become an unwieldy mess of books and rules. As common as it is for some people to call out WotC for being money grabbing jerks, Palladium is just as guilty.
Can you run/play Rifts with just the core Rifts book? Sure, but you will only have a handful of villains, unless the GM roles up some GMPC villains using the O.C.C's in the book, and there is only one R.C.C. Want to play something other than a human or dragon hatchling, too bad you have to buy another book. Want to know more about magic, there are more books for that. Want to fight vampires, aliens or some other monsters, too bad you need more books. It almost seems as if each Palladium books is equal parts game resource and advertisement for other Palladium books.
Don't get me wrong, and I've said this before, I love Palladium's stuff. I also wish my gaming group were willing to play the system. They just don't like it and don't want to buy the books. When people tell you that house-ruling is pretty much required to make the game "playable" (I have been told this more than once by people devoted to Palladium. To be quite honest even Mr. Siembieda, who is a really nice guy, once told me at Gen Con years ago that alot of players throw out a majority of the system and run it on house-rules), then the system has gotten too bloated for its own good and could use some fine tuning. What's the sense in even having rulebooks if you end up throwing most of the stuff out? This is an instance where a new edition is not a bad idea. Still I just can't help being drawn to this system. The 50+ Palladium books I own can attest to that.
As for 4e I personally don't have a major problem with the system, it does exactly what it is designed to do. My group and I just don't want to play it.
I freely admit to being a fan of 3.x and Pathfinder is our system of choice. I own 4e books, I've ran 4e games but my group clearly told me they wanted to play "D&D" (which to them is Pathfinder or any older D&D edition). 4e just wasn't their cup of tea.
As a GM/DM, 4e made prep time easier and I won't deny that, but the group didn't like the character options. They really didn't like the fact that the classes were designed to fill a specific role and I can't disagree with them on that. I could have easily thrown out what we didn't like about the game, but why bother when we would have just changed it into Pathfinder. So we stuck with 3.x and Pathfinder is our default fantasy game.
Of course I think Pathfinder made GM prep much easier when compared to 3e or 3.5. Of course that is just my opinion. My players like the changes to classes and so we are happy with the system. We have no reason to change.
Now where I have a major issue is with WotC. In the lead up to 4e they stated more than once that everyone talking about 4e was wrong. There was no 4e and 3.x was going to be around for a while. I also remember more than a few comments by WotC staff members at Gen Con and on message boards that leaned heavily towards insulting when it they spoke about the people saying that 4e was being developed. (OK on the boards they claimed to be WotC staff, and I took them on their word, but can not prove the validity of this.) Then the very next year at Gen Con, they not only announced 4e, but said that they had been working on it for something like 2 years.
They made this fine presentation about all this really cool stuff that was going to be available when the game was released and then didn't come through. I actually got excited about some of the features they were supposed to have available, but the closer it came to 4e's release, they still didn't even have test versions up.
So my beef with 4e is and has always been WotC's attitude towards their fans. At the time they seemed to be telling us that because they own D&D all of us mindless, geeky sheep would believe and buy whatever they shoveled our way. I just didn't take too kindly to that attitude. Now I know there are some really great people working at WotC, a few of which hinted at displeasure with the company's POV during some brief conversations and this is not their individual views, but it did and still does seem to be the WotC/Hasbro view. I gave the game a chance and still may even buy the Red Box, but I won't pretend that their actions didn't sour my view of WotC and the current D&D brand a great deal.
Now the thing I find the most upsetting is the things I continue to see around the net. I freely admit that fans of all editions have been openly acting like royal asses, but I find that more often than not a majority of this poor behavior is coming from 4e fans.
 I've seen insults towards 3.x, OSR and player's of completely different systems that range from them being mindless sheep (I'll address this in minute) to them being simple or close minded. WTF?!? How can having a preference for a certain system or edition mean you are dumb or close minded? I don't think less of 4e players because of their choice. Hell if you were running a 4e game and asked me to play I'd probably do so gladly, unless I was running a game that same night. As fun as it can be to GM a game it is nice to sit on the other side of the screen every once in a while.
Now as for the mindless sheep comments, which seem to be the most popular, how is continuing to buy products that support the game you are already playing more like being mindless sheep that replacing all those books you bought just because there is a shiny, new, but completely incompatible edition available? It seems to me that the sheep like behavior is going with the rest of the flock to the shiny new pasture, when the old pasture was just fine.
There have also been a lot of insults thrown towards Paizo because they decided to stick with the edition that basically created the company. Mostly that they are selfish, money hungry hacks. Again I have to give a big WTF?!?
 Just like every other company, including WotC/Hasbro, they are there to make money. There is nothing wrong with that and they likely wouldn't last long if they didn't at least try to make a profit. The important thing is how they view and treat their fans/customers. Besides there was a demand for a product that they were already knowledgeable about, so why shouldn't they keep going with it?
I've had nothing but good experiences dealing with Paizo staff and customer service and have yet to hear anyone that has honestly dealt with them say different. While I have never personally dealt with WotC in that way, I have heard just the opposite about them.
Paizo includes all of their potential customers in their playtests, and everyone from freelancers up to the top bosses are on the message boards interacting with fans, asking and answering questions. I've never seen that on the WotC boards. The only time I've had interaction with, supposed, WotC employees online has been on other boards. Like I said before most of them that I've spoken with, online or in person, are great people who love gaming as much as the rest of us. (I've only met one WotC employee, whom I think was a boss, that was a dick in person. Right after that, and maybe because of it I don't know for sure, a couple of other WotC creators whose name I won't mention, spent a good 10 minutes just chatting with me at Gen Con) The company is where my problem starts and stops.
Now before it seems like I'm picking on the 4e gang, let me set this straight. I'm not saying, in any way that 4e players as a whole are being asses online. That would not only be a generalization, but a very poor one at that. I know a few 4e players, online only, I don't know anyone personally that still plays 4e, and they seem like stand up guys and gals. So for the "good guys" in the 4e gang, don't be offended. Of course I do realize that I'm probably going to get ripped to shreds in the comments, but I know it is just that select group of loudmouths and they do not represent the 4e group as a whole.
It has just been my personal experience that the most hostile gamers on message-boards seem to be the ones claiming to be 4e players. I say "claiming to be" because I don't know them personally and they could just be ass hats that are trying to stir up trouble. It is just that a majority of these jerks represent themselves as 4e players and given that it would be kind of silly for a non-gamer to spend time on RPG boards just to stir up an edition war, I accept that they are in fact 4e players.
Now to turn my accusing little fingers away from the 4e crowd I have to say that I'm disappointed in a lot of the OSR players as well. Most of the old school gang seem to be 30+ years old and yet too many of them have been participating in the edition bashing as well. I expect better from people in my age group (Again this is only directed towards the jerks who continue to stir up trouble and insult fans of newer editions). Going old school is fine, I'm running a Rules Cyclopedia game next weekend, but old school does not equal better. It is just your preferred style of play. Enough with the elitist attitude. There is nothing wrong with people playing AD&D 1e/2e, 3.x/Pathfinder, 4e or any other d20 game on the market. I would encourage anyone, especially someone new to the hobby, to play which ever edition/system they want, just as long as they are playing and keeping the hobby alive.
Now as for the 3.x/Pathfinder group. I've seen more than a couple of you stirring up trouble on the boards as well. Please stop acting like dip shits. Just because some of us stuck with a version of the rules we prefer does not make us anymore superior to other players than they are to us. 3.x/Pathfinder may be my system of choice, but it is not the end all, be all of gaming. Every system/edition has its flaws, if you claim something different then you aren't reading the same books I am.
In all sincerity, I'm really not trying to be mean or attempting to offend anyone. I'm just really upset with how I see some of my fellow gamers acting towards one another. I just think it would better serve the community and industry if we all got along better and supported each other. Even if our opinions differ. Otherwise we may be responsible for tearing apart the very hobby we all claim to love so much.

One last thing. For all of you that claim Pathfinder is not 3.x but an entirely different game. You are both correct and wrong. It is a different game because it is not called D&D, but it is just as close to 3.5 as 3.5 was to 3.0. I have no problem using any of my 3.5 or even my 3.0 books with Pathfinder. So yeah, Pathfinder is a continuation of 3.5 and only a different system in name alone. So with the exception of the name, Pathfinder is closer to being the D&D we've all been playing over the past decade than 4e. Just in the same way that many of the retro-clones are closer to being OD&D or 1e/2e than any of the editions that have been published in the past decade. Basically they are all D&D, in some fashion, with different labels. Kind of like D&D and AD&D.
Also for everyone that likes to talk trash about other editions, and I'm talking to OSR, 3.x and 4e players alike, please don't think that stating things like "it sucks" or insulting staff for company "x" are valid arguments. First of all unless you personally have had negative interactions with said staff, don't trash talk them. Most of these guys were/are gamers just like us and are some really nice people. Secondly, I have seen no one on any blog or message board that has given actual, hard evidence as to why a particular edition is better. Every single post, mine included, are based solely on personal preference and opinion. Neither of which is more right than anyone else's because opinions, no matter how strong, are in no way, shape or form, facts.  If you can't back it up with hard indisputable facts, then just assume you are wrong. Unless you clearly state that it is your opinion, then you are neither wrong nor right. You just have an opinion, and just like assholes, we all have one.