Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Blood, New Versions, and New Campaigns - a Rant

  As you are warned in my slug line, this blog is occasionally rants.
  Time for one.
  DnD 5e is coming, as we all know, and while I do not agree with some of its foes that it is the Devil, I also reject its evangelists who tell me that if I don't support 5e I am a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad gamer.
  To the former I say - settle down, Francis.
  I am only extending my reply to the latter because I keep seeing on forums, feeds, and such that I must support 5e; that the hobby needs new blood; that without change we will grow stale and moribund; that only shiny and new can attract new players; that OSR and its proponents must evolve; etc.
  In brief - wrong.
  I don't have to support anything. Do I love gaming? Look at the about me section on this blog, to your right. Gaming is my hobby and has been for 37 years. The first activity I shared with my now-wife was gaming (old school Star Wars) and it is the hobby I share with my many children. I have been buying and making books for so long I need never spend another nickle on a gaming book and I would still have complete sets of
  [deep breath]
  Classic Traveller, 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, Hero 5th, Hero 6th, Rolemaster FRPG, Hackmaster 4th, Hackmaster Advanced (well, I am waiting on a shipment), Castles and Crusades, and more.
  I have partial sets (enough to play, easily) of many more RPGs.
  I also have only 2-3 modules to go to have a complete set of Starfleet Battles, my gateway drug.
  I also have a TON of board games (including a copy of Britannia given to me by Lew Pulsipher, thank you very much), and card games, and computer games, and my own stuff.
  I don't need anything to play.

  "The hobby needs new blood". Yes, it does. A new version isn't how that happens. Yes, my sons play and that is, kinda' a cheat. But I am also dragging new kids in all the time. I am having a bunch of late teen kids over to teach gaming to; they are eager.
  I am teaching them 1e, baby. I have a PDF ('An Intro to Dungeons and Dragons' that I wrote) and a PDF intro to my campaign that I send to people interested in playing. I will sit them down with pencil, paper, a lemonade, and a 1e PHB and in 15 minutes per kid have working characters they understand. With my sons helping we can get 4 newbies playing in 15 minutes, total.
  I've been teaching people to play RPGs a looooong time. I don't need a shiny new version that costs $150 for three books to do it for another 40 years. Bringing in new RPGers is about people, not systems.
  "Without a new version the hobby will get stale and moribund". First, speak for yourself. Second, in my experience the most stale the industry ever was happened right after the first d20 die off. You remember that, right? The OGL came out, hundreds of guys started cranking out d20 books, then a year or so later 99% of them crashed a burned? Well, after that WotC was cranking out splatbooks left, right, and center. There was a new book coming out All. The. Time.
  And it was stale, stale, stale. All those new ideas, new rules, new mechanics really stifled creativity, didn't they? And it wasn't just the paradox of choice or analysis paralysis, it really was a stifling of creativity in 'the field' by the release of rules from 'the office'. Why were people spending energy on arguing about stat block format? Because any minute a book could come out that destroys your innovation. So you had to either ride the wave (and be less creative) or isolate yourself from the new books coming out.
  Contrariwise, look at the OSR. The sheer volume of writing, much of it very good, being cranked out over systems that have been out of print for decades is, you must admit, amazing. How can anyone look at the explosion of creativity flowing out of 0e, 1e, and 2e and claim 'the hobby/industry' needs a new version to avoid stagnation and keep a straight face?

  "OSR players must evolve". First: must we? Like I just said, there is a lot of creativity flowing out of 1e and such right now - why would I need to evolve away from a system that is still so creative and productive 35 years later? My 1e campaign is 36 years old and I am still adding details and depth. If it gets moribund I will start a new one that is still 1e!
  Second; even if we must, does that demand we adopt a new edition? I mean, I have 50+ pages of house rules, don't I? Looks like I have evolved just fine without a new edition.

  Look, I don't fight edition wars. I run a 1e campaign and a 2e S&P campaign. I have an active Champions game. I will play 3e or run it. I don't like the 'feel' and flow of 4e, but that is just me. 5e? I don't care.
  And that may be the most damning thing I can say about any game.

Note: As I was about to publish this I found this very similar piece.