Monday, June 13, 2011

My daughter's take on the editions of D&D and other RPGs

As I've mentioned a few times, I have been teaching my teenage daughter to play D&D. We started out with 4e/Essentials, dabbled in 3e/Pathfinder and are currently playing 2e AD&D.

Well, the other morning we were talking about some of my D&D books and I asked her which edition she liked better. She thought about it for a second and decided that she liked 2e the best. We haven't played Pathfinder enough for her to decide how well she likes it, so it is still an unknown at this point. She told me that 4e/Essentials was the "easiest to understand, but the hardest to play" and 2e was a little "confusing to learn, at first," (I think Thac0 is to blame here) but it was the easiest to play. She also said it was the most fun to play.

I asked her why and she said it was because there was so much to keep track of during play in 4e. Marking things and being bloodied and all of the powers and feats along with the skills, seems to feel overwhelming to her. She liked the fact that in 2e a fighter is just a fighter and doesn't have any "spells" (her words not mine) like they do in 4e.

Her explanation of this was that in 2e the character seemed like a real person and in 4e they seemed like superheroes. It was easier for her to " make-believe" she was the fighter in 2e. She was able to suspend disbelief and actually immerse herself in the character and events of an adventure.Where as in 4e she was always aware that it was "just pretend" and she felt as if she were just playing a game. One thing she did say in favor of 4e was that she liked the character generator (I still have the original, downloadable one on my Desktop PC) and she wished we had a good one like that for 2e.

Again Pathfinder is not really included at this point as she has almost no experience with the system. I'm probably going to wait until the Pathfinder Beginners Box comes out later this year before I seriously to get her into a Pathfinder game. I showed it to her and she seems to be really jazzed about playing it, but she wants to wait for the Box. Personally I think that the large core rule book has her a bit intimidated, which is understandable. Given her familiarity with the 4e Red Box, the Pathfinder Beginners Boxed Set seems the best way to introduce her to the game.

Besides 4e & 2e, she's been going through my other RPG books to see what she likes. So far she's intrigued by Rifts and Mutant Epoch, but she's not too sure she wants to play them. She thinks they are too complicated (too much math) and given that she's a new player, I'm inclined to agree. I may try running some simplified versions in the near future.

She has also shown some some interest in d20 Modern, but really hasn't given me a yes or no on that one yet. When I say d20 Modern I'm also including Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Etherscope, d20 Call of Cthulhu and all of the d20 Modern supplements (Future, Past, Cyberspace). I use all of those as d20 Modern sourcebooks and run it all as one game, so I could run anything from gothic horror and urban fantasy to post apocalyptic and pulp to space opera with  the same characters. While I wish the d20 Modern core had classes that were more similar to D&D than the generic ones that it uses, it is still one of my favorite systems. It is just too versatile.

I've been trying to get her into Hollow Earth Expedition because I love that system, but she seems kind of cold towards that one. I may try running a simple zombie game with the system and see how she likes that.

I'm also thinking about running All Flesh Must Be Eaten and Buffy. She likes zombies and she loves Buffy so those could be winners. As a matter of fact in 1st grade she had to write a paper about what career she wanted to pursue when she grew up and being a vampire slayer was what she wrote about. That's my girl. So Buffy may appeal to her and the system isn't hard.

I've shown her all of my retro-clones and she is adamant that see will not be playing them. She keeps saying that they seem to be "too old". I keep explaining that they are new games, that are just made to look and feel like old ones, but she's not interested. When we were having our D&D discussion I asked her about this and she stuck with the "too old" reason. She's of a mind that anything before 2e is just too outdated to play.

I tried pointing out that she is completely happy to play the original Nintendo and Sega Genesis, which were out before she was born, but that line of reasoning didn't take. She just responded that they were "different" and the same rules didn't apply to them. I even tried talking her into trying my recently re-aquired Expert rules or the Rules Cyclopedia, but both were a no go.

Hearing her and her cousin, whom I discussed this with over the weekend, both respond like this older editions and retroclones got me to thinking. It never really occurred to me how much presentation matters. Once you are a gamer, those books that emulate the books you remember from childhood, or that you have come to appreciate through experience, aren't likely to appeal to the younger generation. To them playing a retro-clone or older edition of D&D is the same as using a 1st edition ipod when all their friends have the current edition. Perhaps a better analogy would be to compare retroclones as a computer running windows 95 and 4e as a computer running Vista or Win7. I get a kick out of playing with an old computer so the older editions have some appeal to me, more so in curiosity/nostalgia than function, but the younger crowd doesn't have that frame of reference.

I remember my first Windows 95 computer, I remember learning D&D with the Expert rules. Revisiting those old games and having things that emulate that helps keep those days alive in some nostalgic way. For my daughter they just appear to be older and outdated versions that lack the fine-tuning and advances of the newer stuff.

How do I explain her liking 2e? I'm not really sure. Part of me things she remembers 2e because it was the edition we played when she was little. She's seen the books on my shelf her entire life and she has heard us talk about our old 2e games countless times. Even if she has just started playing it, she has a frame of reference and a familiarity with it. The same thing can be said for 3e/Pathfinder. Plus she knows how much I like it. Teens may often think their parents are idiots who don't understand them, but they still love us (most of the time) and want to like the things we like. Even if they don't always want to show it.

She may not take to 3e/Pathfinder system, but she sure knows about and likes Eberron, Forgotten Realm and Dragonlance. She's watched my groups enjoy many adventures in those worlds so they are familiar. Especially FR as we also played that in 2e.

4e is the newest kid on the block and even though she may like 2e better, she still likes 4e and would rather play it than a retroclone or older edition.


SpiralBound said...

An interesting perspective from your daughter and some equally interesting conclusions from yourself. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "The medium is the message.", or as someone else once said, "it's not what you say, but how you say it." :-)

I would be interested to see a young persons response to an rpg with rules that are the same as a retroclone, but which use a modernized presentation style with graphics, layout writing style and terminology that matches 4E, Pathfinder, or other present day media.

Geek Gazette said...

I agree. I bet if I tried to get her to play S&W, LL or Basic Fantasy and they looked as modern and high production as 4e or Pathfinder, she'd be ok with it.