Friday, November 19, 2010

Musings on Essentials and D&D in general

I was just sitting here reading through Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and listening to The Nut Gallery Review episode 52 (a very good movie and game podcast by occasional Geek Gazette contributor  Jason James) when I realized how much I missed Pathfinder.

I started playing Essentials when my daughter asked to learn D&D and at first I really liked it. Perhaps it was just the fact that Essentials was new and shiny or maybe it was because I was thrilled to see my daughter taking an interest in gaming, but now the game is losing its luster. For some reason Essentials just isn't as much fun for me to run. My daughter is having a good time, which is the most important part, but I keep getting bored. I just keep feeling as I'm boxed in, stifled.

Don't get me wrong I still like Essentials far better than I did original 4e, but the more we play the more I find that I just don't like the system as much as I do 3.x/Pathfinder. I tried running Essentials the same way I have been running games for over 20 years, graph paper and no minis, and with a few minor tweaks it works just fine. Although I have found that running one on one games with the 4e system is a bit more difficult. I never gave the claims that 4e was too team oriented much thought until I started running solo adventures. It isn't impossible, it just requires a bit more prep.

Thinking that perhaps I needed to change my DMing style and run the game in a manner closer to how it was designed, I broke out the battle maps and monster pogs that come with the DM kit. My daughter didn't care  for this much (she suddenly had a hankering to play Heroscape after our first time playing this way) and I didn't like it at all. It felt very much like playing a board game and neither of us liked having to take the time to work out the various minis related rules during combat. It really slowed down the game and drained any sense of cinematic adventure that we tend to emulate in my normal style of gaming.

Granted this was my first time really running  a game like this so I wasn't 100% comfortable with it, but it didn't take long for me to figure out that I'm not fond of that style. Perhaps my experience would be different if I were on the other side of the screen, but since I've been DMing pretty much every game I've played for the past 20+ years I can't say for sure. Things might also feel different if I were running a full party instead of one on one adventures, but I doubt it. I actually think it would have been an even worse experience. I've run more than a few systems in my time and have not gotten as bored as I did running the more tactical style 4e is designed for.

While I'm happy to know that I have Pathfinder, tons of 3.x books, all of my older edition books, some great OSR games and countless other system to fall back on, I'm actually kind of sad that I find myself not enjoying the current edition of D&D. I really want to like it, especially now that I've gotten my daughter to play. She'll play whatever I want, but I wanted her to love D&D as much as I did at her age. 

I've been playing D&D for over 20 years and until the release of 4e I've never thought negatively about an edition of the game. I've had problems with certain books or aspects of various editions, and definitely taken issue with WotC on a few occasions, but never have I had a problem with the system as a whole. It's kind of depressing.

While I was thinking about all of this the nutgallery gang were discussing M. Knight Shyamalan's and their thoughts about his movie(s). This got me to thinking about my issues with 4e.

As I said before I have had issues, though not as many, with every edition of D&D as well as nearly every game I have ever played. No game is perfect. So what would I want WotC to do to make me like D&D again? What could they do to bring back all of us that gravitated towards Pathfinder, the OSR games or any other system that has replaced D&D on countless gaming tables?

Honestly I don't know, but this did get thinking about how WotC seems to view those of us that just can't stay or even get on the 4e bandwagon as acceptable losses. This thinking is what helped Pathfinder tie D&D for the #1 RPG slot recently. It also seems to drive the critical view of WotC that I and many other gamers have expressed over the past few years.

Unless I've been misinformed WotC owns the TSR name. Why don't they use it for special products?There are many of us that enjoy older editions and the OSR games. So why doesn't WotC release special or limited edition revised versions of older editions? I'm not talking about 4e with artwork from an older edition slapped on the front, but an actual revised version of older editions.

I'd pay $50 for an all in one AD&D rule book in a heartbeat. Something like an AD&D Rules Cyclopedia with revised/updated rules, some monsters and maybe even some setting info would be great. They could even take a page from S&W and have both Thac0/Descending AC and BAB/Ascending AC for those of us that do not remember Thac0 fondly.

Since 3.x is still going strong as Pathfinder, why doesn't WotC do the same thing for 3.x? Why just give up those customers? Update, revise and streamline 3rd edition(fix the stuff that Pathfinder didn't), release it under AD&D with a nifty TSR label as an all in one, stand alone Rules Cyclopedia type book and I'm dropping another $50.

If none of that seems possible, I'm sure someone will be happy to point out why, then why don't they find out what makes people love the older editions (OD&D thru 3.x) and what people do like about 4e/Essentials. Then release a completely separate AD&D game combining as much of all the best parts of each edition as they can. Granted this won't make everyone happy, and the game may suck, I don't know, but as someone pointed out on one of the OSR blogs (sorry I can't remember who), the majority of OSR games are based off of 3.x anyway. It can be done.

Why has WotC let Paizo take such as large section of their customer base? I'm not complaining. As far as I'm concerned Paizo outclasses WotC on multiple levels and I've been a Paizo fan since they started publishing Dragon. I hope they not only continue to tie WotC for the #1 spot, but I won't complain if they completely crush WotC and end up owning the D&D brand. (I know it ain't happening, but I can dream) Still from a business POV it just seems counterproductive to be ok with driving off customers.

It would be a different matter if they were just losing a few customers, but when it is enough to allow a publisher that stuck with the older edition of your game to tie you in sales, that should speak loud and clear to the suits and bean counters. 4e is a fine, solid game for people who like that style, I'm not saying the game is bad. In fact I think 4e is mechanically superior than the older editions in several ways, but for me it just can't stand up to 3.x, Pathfinder or the ton of quality OSR games available in terms of fun.