Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First of the 4e Grognards

A few months back, as I was gearing up for my first D&D game in years, I re-upped my D&D Insider subscription, which brought with it the inevitable blogging on the WotC community site. I'm not going to go into too much detail on that new campaign (yet) except to say that blogging about what was working (and what wasn't) with a split "couples' group" of veterans and newbies (in each couple but my wife & I, one of the folks was a seasoned gamer, the other had never played before) made for a lot of really solid material that was getting quite a bit of attention and comment and I started to believe that it must be really easy to get Wrecan to pick a blog for featured status (turns out that yes, it is; that's why my blog there was featured every month that I bothered to post). I wasn't worrying my pretty little head (hey, I'll admit that I'm a little biased) about the controversies and bullshitteries of the day, but just wrote about what I was experiencing, working on, working with, planning on, etc. and it just kept working out. Then, the unthinkable happened: the D&D 5e playtest was released and it was horrific.

To me.

And then, I made the mistake of blogging about what I didn't like about it.

Suddenly, the WotC Community was no longer a comfortable place to write anymore.

I've never considered myself an "old schooler" or a "grognard;" I've always looked at new editions as potentially valuable refinements on games I already liked. This is not just a D&D thing, either; WEG's 2e Star Wars rpg was far better than 1e in my opinion, for example. For me, though, D&D has always had a special "needs to more forward" status, a compulsion to continually move to the forefront of gaming to fit the trends that not only exist at the current moment in gaming, but to fit those that yet have to develop. In short, the publisher of D&D (whether TSR or WotC) needs to push the game further to keep it in sync not only with what gamers whant the game to be today, but also what they want it to be tomorrow. That's the result of a special position that D&D possesses in the world of rpgs: being the first one ever exist means  (again, to me) that it has a responsibility to stay an industry leader.

At this point, I'd like to say that I'm a huge fan of older editions of D&D (well, not late 2e) and am grateful that the OSR community and retroclones exist. I haven't had the opportunity to participate in much OSR goodness, but would love the opportunity to do so. I could blah blah blah platitudes about the OSR all night, but it wouldn't really get us anywhere. Seriously guys, I get it, and for more than just nostalgia reasons. So, back to the story.

Just a few pages into the D&DNext playtest package (for my pals in the future, that's D&DNext playtest package #1 from May of 2012), WotC had made it clear that their stated intent of making 5e work with all previous editions of D&D meant "all previous editions of D&D except the most recent one (4e)." To me, this meant that 5e was intent on being itself a retroclone. That the new edtion of the worlds most popular (and first) rpg would be a retroclone of itself (not of any particular edition but rather of most of them but not all and not in the entirety of any of those editions). I think my brain imploded when I realized how perverse that concept was; then and there I signed off from a future edition of D&D for the first time and realized that I, myself, had become a grognard.

I didn't write this post to discuss the merits (or detriments) of any one edition of D&D over any other. I'm saving that one for another post (sort of). I know that, as long as there have been new editions of older games, there have been those gamers who decided to bow out of whatever that new edition has brought. I'm sure many of you out there are old hat at being the grognards that you are as future editions you'll never play are published, go out of print and are eventually replaced by another new edition. For the first time in my life, I'm facing an edition I want nothing to do with. For the first time in my life, I've joined up with the grognards.