Thursday, September 1, 2016
Dungeons & Dragons 5e Just Ain't for me...
One interesting thing about my twitter feed...alot of folks are playing 5e. New players are flocking to it (for reasons I can't fathom, but I'm always glad when new folks start playing D&D), and old players are turning on to it and calling it good, even great. Sometimes they refer to it as 'the best yet'.
Several years ago I was running a PC with Windows XP. It had been running with that OS for a very long time, and it was stable as hell. It worked great, and Vista, riddled with issues and poor reviews, was certainly no reason to upgrade. When Windows 7 hit the shelves, the tune turned quickly and the new OS was revered as the next best thing. I'm a voracious skeptic, and had seen early-adopters eat their words and lose their dollars before, so I held off. Reviews focused in their scopes, but they like it and the reviews were solid, companies switched platforms and upgraded clients. It seemed like the new OS was solid and stable, but still, I held off. XP was still running on my desktop and there was no reason to switch. It was stable and reliable, and those are factors I can always use more of in my life. It took major software and hardware requirement changes for me to finally bite the bullet and upgrade.
Now, With Win8 and now Win10 in circulation, I'm still a Win7 guy. It's stable and reliable, things in high demand in my world still.
What does this have to do with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition? You see, I still play OSR Retro Clones meant to mimic the systems and play of Basic and AD&D1e. I had heard all about the great new things in 5e, how much attention it was attracting, and that old gamers and new were flocking to it in droves. I remember playing in a few 2e games. Hated em. Too much system. It was the same with every other subsequent system...too much. I didn't need it. "Crunchy". It's a word I dislike, and a word that really doesn't feel good when I say it. "Crunchy". It's not a bag of chips, it's a game.
With all things rpg, eventually there came a time where I gave in. A time where I needed to have a look at the books, crack em open and peer inside and see what all the fuss was about. I even broke down and joined a game so I could play through. It was eye opening. There's no denying that the new system has appeal, the chatter all around me proves it, and after spending some time in the 5e trenches, I certainly understand why.
They pulled alot of the 'crunch' out of the game, much of the combat mess that made 4e such a chore to play (yeah, I know some folks loved this tactical combat approach but I'm not one), and replaced it with a much smoother experience for both the player and the DM. Game-play is smoother all around, and new players to the entire genre of game can now much more easily understand what is happening technically, making the fun part of the game quicker and easier to access. The books look spectacular, and the entire package is well presented. As an experienced player I only had a few flubs before sliding into a comfortable place with my character and getting to the Role Playing, which is what I enjoy about the game.
Here's the thing. It's not for me. I mean, it's ok. I can play if asked to join a game, and I might enjoy doing so with the right group, but there are still too many things I dislike about 5e, and so it will never be my first choice. If all the OSR content went away, and the original and advanced versions of the game were swept into the annals of time, I think I would be done with the hobby. "But why," you ask, "isn't 5e good enough to get you that gaming 'fix' you crave, you need?"
There are issues I have that cannot be overcome. I dislike the skill system. I don't like healing surges or death saving throws. I'm not a fan of how clerics are presented. I think many of the classes and races are poorly built or don't even need to exist.
"Holy Shit!" you exclaim. "Is that all?"
Nope. Magic seems like a mess to me. It's all over the place and crossing boundaries that don't need to exist. Everyone talks about 'character builds', which is not a concept I'm buying into, instead preferring to create my character. There are too many options for 'builds' that could and should be handled IMHO by the DM and Player as part of a background, which, btw, there doesn't need to be a goddamned table for, or a kit for, or features for. The entire process of making a character in 5e is so... so organized, managed, and streamlined that it makes me wanna puke. Who needs all that shit? Where is the part where I imagine all that stuff and then write it all down.
Oh yeah...and a skill check for every action on a table listing skills? It's a total waste of time and space. Need an Arcana or History check? That's what INT is for. How about a Perception check. Wisdom. Can I break that door? Strength. Anyway, it's all bloat to me.
Whew...sorry. I got a bit worked up there. You weren't looking for a rant. Sorry you found one.
I think my biggest issue is that once again, the game is replacing Rulings with rules, or worse yet, rolls. That's my #1 complaint with 5e and the reason I'm not likely to adopt it.
Remain calm. I'm not suggesting that you are playing a bad game, or an unplayable one. It's fine. Really. It's just not for me. It's out to capture a new audience, and that group of new gamers doesn't have the trappings of the old world. These new folks are picking up a new game, a game new to them. They don't come to the table with preconceived notions or biases. Instead they come from a world that has been dominated by video games (which I enjoy as well), and cell phones, and computers. I predate most of that stuff, and it definitely impacts what I think about role-playing games, and how I want to play them.
I'm not trying to shit on your fun. Honestly. I want you to enjoy this new game. You see, for me, that's what it is. It's a new game. It's not the Dungeons & Dragons I played, and it's not played the same way. That's fine. I can handle the change, even if I'm not really willing to adopt it. Not gonna lie, it's a little annoying all these folks chattering about something I'm not a fan of, but I'll live.
I think it's great that there is renewed interest in the hobby, and the 5e push has only bolstered the OSR movement, so it's all good.
In the meantime, if you feel like understanding some of the differences between the 'old' way and this new way of playing, you might want to check out the Old School Primer which you can get on LULU for free. It's a quick read and worth your attention if you have any interest in gaming the 'old school' way.