14 January 2013

My Take on D&D and the Edition Wars

I, along with Cthulhu-only-knows how many other people, was introduced to the RPG hobby by way of Dungeons & Dragons. For me, it was 3rd Edition in 2002-2003. I played 3E pretty heavily through middle school and ran a good, low-level campaign in high school. A month after my senior year ended, 4E came out, and at first I was completely against the idea. For me, 3E was D&D, period. Spellcasters were insanely powerful at higher levels, system mastery was a good thing, and the fact that I had 15+ core books and supplements meant that I was looked at as the resident D&D expert. I didn't want to switch mostly for a pretty simple reason: I had sunk hundreds of dollars into 3E/3.5 D&D and I didn't want all those books to suddenly become unusable. 

I was against 4E for the first year after it came out. I didn't care for what I heard, which was mostly edition war bullshit like "D&D is just like World of Warcraft now!" and "fighter powers are just spells!" Nothing I heard appealed to me. I bought into all the bullshit about 4E without checking it out for myself. I didn't get D&D Insider, I didn't get the Player's Handbook, and I barely even looked at the official website. Yeah, I was kind of a dumbass at age 18, but then again, what 18-year-old isn't?

It wasn't just 4E, either. I bought a box full of D&D books from a yard sale for all of five bucks and ended up reselling most of it for a small profit without even looking through them for more than an hour for the whole box. As I recall, my words were, "I play 3rd Edition, not 2nd. This stuff is worthless to me." In hindsight, I'd really like to go back and change that attitude. That box had everything I'd have needed to play 2nd Edition AD&D, and instead of keeping it around, I chucked it without a second thought.

Anyway, I headed down to the used bookstore in town while I was on vacation while my family ran errands. While I was waiting, I figured I'd check out the store's D&D selection. Turns out, I owned all of the 3E/3.5 stuff they had, so there was no real point in me looking through their copies when I had my own at home. Seeing no other option other than perusing their wreck of a sci-fi paperback section, I grabbed the 4E Player's Handbook and started flipping through it. 

After twenty minutes of being completely engrossed by the book, I realized something: all the edition warring, all the "4E isn't real D&D!" that I'd been involved in was complete and utter bullshit. 4E's take on dragonborn took 3.5's dragonborn and changed all the things that I'd changed through houserules. Their rebirth and dedication to Bahamut? Gone. Their "must be good and noble" nature? Gone. The more I read, the more I realized that 4E might actually be a game I could play and enjoy. When my family showed up, I bought the book (brand new, luckily enough) and I walked out happy.

Since then, I've played probably a dozen games of 4E and loved every minute of it. I discovered a new love for playing fighters and other martial characters, something I almost never played in 3.5. Other than a brief foray into Pathfinder, I haven't gone back to 3.5 and probably won't for the foreseeable future. 4E is my D&D of choice now.

Having said all that, what I've been noticing more and more in the hobby is the edition wars. 4E vs. 3.5, new school vs. old school, Vancian vs. non-Vancian, etc. While I understand that D&D is extremely important to some people, myself included, I've come to realize that it's not worth all the bullshit fights between fans of different versions of the game. If you've found a version that works for you, more power to you. Play the shit out of it and get all the love out of the game that you can. For me, I'll play any edition once. I'm currently in a game of Dark Dungeons, an awesome retroclone of the Rules Cyclopedia version of D&D, that is possibly the best play-by-post game I've ever played. The best part? Even though it's completely different from any other version of D&D I've played, it still feels like D&D.

So what's the message out of this wall of text and paragraphs? Fuck the edition wars. Fuck the fighting, fuck the arguments, fuck all of it. Converse and discuss all you want, but always keep this message in the back of your mind: Play your version of D&D, and let everyone else play theirs. There is no one, pure, true D&D. There's a thousand variants, a million houserules, and that's cool. The most important thing is that you enjoy the game you play.

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