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#dndnext: Deal Breakers

I’ve been participating in a D&D Next discussion group on Facebook (this one to be precise). Someone there posted a comment indicating that they wanted a return to racial class limitations. My response was… energetic. It was the first time I really realized that there are things that Wizards could do with the core rules of the system that are total deal breakers to me. I mean, sure, I knew that they could (and probably will) do things I won’t like. This is different, though. There are a few things they could do that will make me shrug and say…

Until I saw the serious suggestion that racial restrictions on class selection make a return, I didn’t think there was anything they could do that would stop me from getting – at a minimum – the beginner’s set (in whatever form it may take) and trying it out. This, however, would. Which got me wondering – is there anything else that would be a deal-breaker for me? Anything else that would make me bring out my finest Eric Cartman impression? As it turns out, yes – yes there are. Some of these have already been addressed by the D&D Next dev team, so I don’t have to worry about them. Others… well, I’m not much of a worrier. I’m more of a let’s wait and see kinda guy. But if any of the stuff I’m about to go over creeps into the Core Rules, well then I won’t be joining any D&D Next games anytime soon.

Before I dive in, I want to reiterate something: I’m talking about the Core Rules – what appeared (in previous editions) in the Player’s Handbook, or in the Dungeons Master’s Guide. Even the Dungeon Master’s Guide is an okay place for some of this, provided that it’s presented as being completely optional, and not part of the core game rules. I’m not passing judgement on anyone who likes these rules either. To each his or her own, and more power to you. These, however, are the complete deal-breakers for me. These are the things that will drive me away from Next. YMMV, as always.

1: Racial Class Limitations

I might as well go into this one first, since I already mentioned it. I’ve heard it argued that allowing any race to take any class makes the classes feel “less special”. I disagree. Refusing to allow, say, Halflings to become Rangers just makes Rangers sound like a bunch of racist assholes. They probably burn crosses in the yards of any Halfling that has dared to try to do what Rangers do. What an uppity little bastard! Those halflings should know their place – they should know that all they’re good for is being thieves! Bilbo never got up to any Ranger shenanigans, after all! Now there was a “Good Halfling”.

Sorry – was that over the line? I can never tell.

One could argue that the “Ranger” lifestyle isn’t really part of Halfling culture. I disagree, but even if that was the case, so what? Even if – in your particular setting – no Halfling has ever, ever become a Ranger before, why would that stop one from becoming one now? Are Halflings incapable of dual-wielding? Nope. Are Halflings incapable of using a bow? Again, no (although they might be more comfortable with thrown weapons or slings, culturally speaking, depending on setting). Are they incapable of tracking, hunting, surviving in nature, or communing with the divine (I prefer my Rangers magic-free, but whatever)? All “no”. So why, again, can’t they be Rangers?

Now, you may want to point out something, but before you do, make sure it’s not setting specific. You could be going “Well, okay – Halfling Rangers are fine, but Dwarves shouldn’t be allowed to be Wizards/Elves shouldn’t be allowed to be Paladins/And so on”. Again, I ask you: why? Give me a reason that isn’t grounded in setting that makes this true? If you put it in the core rules – make it part of the base mechanics of the game, I mean – then that will be the default expectation. I know you can ignore any rule you want,  but if I walk into a convention for a pickup game, what do you suppose I can expect to encounter? The reasoning that if a GM won’t let you play your character in spite of the rules, find a new GM doesn’t hold water here – you’re the one asking the GM to break the rules.

Racial class limitations should be a house rule. I don’t think they have any place in the core rules, or even in official settings like Forgotten Realms or Eberron. If you want to say “In my setting, a Dwarf’s innate magic resistance means they can’t use magic” that’s fine with me (although I’ll point out that Drow have innate magic resistance and they seem to be able to use magic just fine). If you want to say “I liked it better back in the days of AD&D, so whatever setting I use, I’ll be using the racial class limmitations that appeared in those books” again, that’s fine.

As soon as you make it part of the core rules, however, you’re making it the default for everyone’s setting. I don’t want to have to justify an exception to the rules every time I walk into a new game just because I like Halfling Rangers. People who think Dwarven Mages are cool shouldn’t need to do it either, and you shouldn’t have to act like a petulant child just because a particular GM wants to play by the rules as written. “You won’t let me play an Elven Paladin because that’s what’s in the rulebook? That’s not fair! *STOMPING FOOT* How dare you follow the rules as written! Screw you guys, I’m going to find another group to play in – I hate groups that actually read the books!” That’s just… I mean, really? REALLY?

I will make a specific exception for Prestige Classes and similar, provided those PrCs are based specifically on the inherent abilities or nature of the race. A Dwarven Defender is conceptually based on the dwarf’s short-but-broad stature, for instance – something that other races just don’t have, and therefore can’t do.  It’s fairly easy to come up with a laundry list of similar ideas, and I’m fine with that. Since PrCs are, ostensibly, based on specific concepts, often tied to setting, I can even accept the culture-based ones. I wouldn’t want that in the core books, either, but I could live with it.

2: Racial Level Limitations

This is in much the same vein as my first rant, so I’m not going to harp on about it for very long. The only think I will definitely say is that these don’t make a damn bit of sense. My Elf started learning wizardry when he was 75. He is now 500 and has been adventuring the whole time in between. He hasn’t managed to get past level 11, though. Why? Because Elves can’t get past level 11 in that class.

3: Missing Dragons and other Monster Stupidity

It’s called Dungeons & Dragons. Here, let’s try that again with proper emphasis: Dungeons & DRAGONS.

When I got my copy of the 4e Monster Manual and found there were not metallic dragons in it, I was annoyed. That annoyance has grown in the intervening years into full-on nerd rage. I guess it’s a stupid thing to get worked up about, but seriously – what the hell? The Chromatic and Metallic dragons are both major players in D&D. I didn’t need five different stat blocks for each type of Chromatic dragon – I needed all the major dragons.

I also don’t need a half dozen different, poorly-flavored versions of Goblins. I need one version that I can use multiple ways. In other words, don’t pad for space in the Monster Manual. I shouldn’t need to buy a second Monster Manual just to get stats on absolutely iconic D&D creatures. Leave out the Flumph if you must, but if you try to make me buy a second Monster Manual just so I can have official stats for a Silver dragon, screw you. I won’t do it, thanks. I guess this might not stop me from playing – or even adopting and loving – D&D Next, but it will piss me off and stop me from buying more than just the core books. I’m a creative fellow. I’ll adapt stuff from older books, thanks.

Giving me an abbreviated Monster Manual because it just had to have seven pages of Goblins (from 135 to 141 in the 4e MM), however… And no – I don’t care that those pages also covered Bugbears and Hobgoblins. One full page each for Gobins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears, and suddenly you have 4 more pages free in the book. For Metallic Dragons. Just sayin’.

4: The GSL

Not again. Not ever. I’d prefer a completely closed system to this insulting document, thank you very much. I’ve expressed my opinion on the OGL many, many times. I love it, I think it’s fantastic, and I think virtually every game system could benefit from making it’s core rules available under OGL or a similar license. I think that giving fans the freedom to make and share their own programs, tools, and books is the best thing for the hobby in general. 3/3.5e both benefited from it.

But please: if it can’t be at least as open as the OGL, then don’t insult me with some watered-down crap license that actually lets me do almost nothing. Just close it up and be done with it.

___

That’s all I’m coming up with right now. I suppose the third and fourth ones aren’t even a deal-breakers – they’re just stuff that will make me wary and slow to adopt. If I come up with anything else, I guess you can expect a new #dndnext: Deal Breakers column from me.

Next time on student 20 Productions: Probably something about Essence 20. With a new Mind Map, probably. And a few more details on how it works. Maybe.

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#dndnext Cautious Optimism 6: In Summary

This post is (for me at least) coming on the heels of my last one. I’ve decided to increase my update schedule for reasons that I hope will become evident. I hope to be up to daily posts soon, so keep your eyes open and if you like what you see, tell your friends.

I’ve been titling these posts Cautious Optimism for a reason – that perfectly expresses my feelings on D&D Next. I choose to call it by the name Wizards of the Coast is using for a number of reasons, even though I feel like a doof every time I say it out loud. Wizards thinks they’re onto something, and I agree with them. What they’re saying about the design – and what little we’re hearing about the design – is promising. A simple core with additions for those who want more depth or complexity? Sounds nice. Sounds familiar, but it sounds nice. It’s a good familiar that we’re hearing about. This is D&D, after all. When it becomes unfamiliar, a lot of us fans balk and go somewhere else.

The fact that Wizards seems hopeful – rather than greedy – with this announcement means a lot to me. They call it D&D Next because they’re hoping major versions won’t be needed anymore. They’re hoping – perhaps unrealistically – that this will be the last real version we’ll ever need. It’s hard to see that and not hope right along with them, even if you’re not sure you can believe it (or them). It’s hopeful, and I like hopeful.

In that regard, I wanted to go over a few of my hopes for Next. Some of these things are abstract, some are concrete, and I want it to be clear from the start that none of these are deal-breakers for me.  I love this hobby, and I’m willing to give a lot of ground and still love the granddaddy game of them all. D&D has, through every edition, had its ups and downs (as I think this series has pointed out rather well). Wizards of the Coast has set themselves up for an ambitious path for Next, and I hope they succeed. I am cautiously optimistic that they will.

But on to my hopes for the new system.

Feature 1: Fast Character Creation

I want to be able to do character generation and start a game in the same night. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I want the core of the game to allow for that sort of thing so that if my game group can’t manage it, then it’s our fault. Our fault for screwing around (which is okay if everyone’s having fun), or our fault for including too many rules modules. From concept to finished character, I want less than an hour for newbies, and half an hour or less once we get to know the system. Ideally, I’d like to always start with core rules, and then add stuff in as we go on a situational basis, which brings me to:

Feature 2: On The Fly Extension

If my game group decides we suddenly want a highly tactical map battle, I want to be able to add that in, and then leave it behind for the next session. I want to be able to do this with most rule modules (or whatever name they’re finally called): I want to be able to plug them in and abandon them at will, mid-session if possible. I do that with extensions in my Chrome Web Browser, and I want to be able to do it in my D&D game. Even if I’m stuck with a module once it goes in, I can live with that – provided adding it in the first place is easy and intuitive. I want new modules to hook onto extant rules systems so that, when I stick them in in the middle of a campaign, they still feel natural. I would prefer, however, that varying levels of complexity be easy to integrate because…

Feature 3: Variable Character Rule Complexity

I have had otherwise great gamers be put off by having to learn a whole bunch of crap just to play their character – they wanted simple, obvious die rolls that were consistent and easy to remember. I have had other players relish diving into the crunch and complexity, fine-tuning each score, and agonize over every spell/power/feat choice, and love every damn minute of it. Personally, I’m somewhere in between these two extremes, and I think most players probably are.

Those two different kind of players don’t usually belong in the same game, though. The game will accomidate one and not the other, and I’m tired of that. I don’t want that anymore, and D&D Next is posturing as if its the game to pull it off. I hope it does. I hope that folks who loved the micromanagement of 3 and 4e will be able to sit down with folks who would be more comfortable with the much more streamlined 0e or one of the games out of the Old School Renaissance (a word neither I nor Chrome, Opera, or Firefox seem to be able to spell without looking it up). If one player can have a nice, simple one-page character sheet, and I can have three pages of stuff, and my real crunch-loving friends can have six – and we can all sit and play the same game at the same time – that will make me happy. Oh, so happy. Being able to add to the complexity of your own character as you go so that it moves with your learning curve and desire for crunch would be even better, and that brings me to…

Feature 4: Extensible Character Classes

I love core classes. I’d love about five of them in the core rules (Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, Cleric, RANGER… or, you know, Paladin or Monk – any one of those three RANGER), and then maybe five to eight more in later rulebooks. What I don’t want is an endless procession of prestige and paragon classes, epic destinies, and so on. I want to be able to flavor-up and put my character on a path using feats. I’d love it even more of that particular method of improvement were optional.

It would be really cool if those feats could be put together into a group, showing a particular path of improvement that reflected a specialization within the larger context of the class. Maybe a few small benefits just for using all that stuff, but mostly flavor and guidance for role playing within the context of that set of tools. Yeah – that’s a good way to put it: a collection of tools for guiding your character towards an archetype that exists within the class. It’s too bad there’s not a name for that sort of thing, maybe an older system tat could be dusted off and updated… Oh, wait! There is!

Feature 5: Kits not Prestige Classes

For all my ranting and raving about 2e and the things I hated about it (actually, as I recall, I couldn’t even be bothered to rant about 2e much specifically – I just rolled it all up into a general AD&D rant…), there is one thing I truly miss from 2e: KITS. Kits were an awesome idea. They provided small, specific bonuses, but didn’t really reward min-maxing. They were also packed to the brim with fluff rather than crunch, and could be taken (in fact were supposed to be taken) at level 1 – making them essentially the opposite of Prestige Classes. Kits are the way to go for “core” (although I prefer them to appear minimally, if at all, in the core rule books). By flavoring the core classes rather than tossing them in the bin, they remained special and unique, and that was better.

If you want to add in Prestige Classes or Paragon Paths or whatever the hell in extra stuff, that’s fantastic. Go for it. I won’t buy those books, but I think they should exist. Me, I want KITS, not PrCs. Eff PrCs. We don’t need class bloat. And that, sadly, brings me to y next point:

Feature 6: Fewer Classes, More Kits

This one makes me sad, because it’s admission time: Ranger shouldn’t be a class. If Kits are brought back, then Rangers are a Kit that should be applied to a Fighter or Druid class (Druid could be a Kit for Cleric, but to me the shamanistic nature-worshiper is too fundamentally different in nature from the organized religious miracle-weaver). Paladin could be a Kit applied to Fighter or Cleric. Barbarian could be applied to Fighter or Rogue – or any other class, for that matter; the idea of a barbarian Cleric or Wizard is very, very cool to me.

Sorcerer can be a Kit for Wizard – as can all manner of specialist mage. In fact, any number of alternate spellcasting methods could be Kits applied to existing spellcasting classes. We don’t need a whole new class for Hexblades and Warlocks – we need Kits and funny ways of managing out spell list. What if Warlock was a Wizard Kit that let you cast your spells known as often as you like – but only gave you one new spell per level, and capped your highest selectable spell level as 1/4 your actual level?  Wait… that sounds more like a Hexblade… Whatever, it doesn’t matter. The point is, if we have Kits – rich, well-written flavorful Kits – we don’t need an asston of character classes.

And if Wizards has trouble coming up with interesting, detailed new Kits, they can sign my ass up. Err… I mean, ask the fan community to come up with them, and put them into their magazine. You know, their online magazine. What? You say they have two? What the hell is the point of that?

Feature 7: One Magazine to Rule Them All – in more than one media

Alright, guys: when it was a print publication, it made sense to have two different magazines. As an online PDF, however, that’s just… dumb. If you’re going to do an online magazine, here’s my suggestion: call it Dungeons & Dragons Magazine. Put the articles out over the course of a month, available to subscribers. Then, at the end of each month, compile them together into a print magazine that people who are willing to pay a premium can get in their hot little hands.

We’re gamers, Wizards of the Coast. We like hard copies. If I spend too much time reading on my computer, my eyes get rather tired. I like the feel of the pages under my fingers. I like being able to flip between them during a game. PDFs don’t do that, although I will admit that, baring a proper print release, I personally would like an e-book version. Of course, it’s pretty easy and cheap to publish in e-book format, so my real question is this: Why in the 666 Layers of the Abyss aren’t you already using e-book format? I mean, it couldn’t be that hard to push the books to that format, could it? The books and the magazines. As I understand it, Amazon already has some sort of regular update mechanism. I’ve been lead to believe that you can subscribe to newspapers on your Nook (or whatever the hell the Amazon e-book reader is called; I can’t keep them straight, and it’s just not important enough to me to do a Google search).

Online is powerful, but it isn’t everything. Offline is important, too – and so is print, no matter how out of date it seems. We’re gamers. We like books. We’re also fans, and creative people, us gamers – and that brings me to my last point, and if anything was a game-breaker for me, it would be this one:

Feature 8: Bring Back the OGL

This is the big one. The one feature to rule them all. See, with the OGL, if we don’t like something or think we can write it better for some small niche of the market, then we can – and we can sell it. The shoreline sorcerers may be looking at this and thinking “but that way lies Pathfinder” – and they’d be wrong. Pathfinder is what it has become because the OGL was abandoned, a new system was created without fan feedback, and the straight-jacket joke that was the GSL was enforced. That’s why Pathfinder is what it is. It’s not because the Wizards allowed us freedom – it’s because they took it away. People don’t like that. Creative people – like gamers – especially don’t like that. It makes us angry – and you wouldn’t liKE US WHEN WE’RE ANG… HULK SMASH STUPID GSL!!!!!

Ahem.

More importantly, though, is that you guys at Wizards haven’t always delivered on your promises. When the OGL was around, that wasn’t a big deal: fans just did it themselves, and you were off the hook. No harm, no foul. The GSL came around, though, and suddenly you’re shutting down fan sites and projects… without offering anything like what they were providing. I’m still waiting for the graphical character model creator and neat-o 3D online tabletop it was supposed to plug into. You don’t get us to buy your product by excluding fans. You get us to buy it by making it awesome.

As a side note – let me buy it. I’ll subscribe for a magazine. I’m not subscribing for a character creator and an online tabletop. I’ll buy those things, though. I’ll even pay for update packages occasionally. But if you want me to buy your character generator, it needs to be better than this one or this one, and your online tabletop had damn well be better than this completely free one. Remember that 3D tabletop you guys promised us? The one that hooked up to a character creator that made cool 3D tokens for the 3D tabletop? Yeah – I’d pay for that. I’d even pay to use your servers as long as I had the option of not using your servers and establishing my own. People do pay for convenience and service, you know. QuickTrip has based their entire existence on that.

So, to Wrap up:

Most gamers hop systems and editions. Sure, we do it at different times and for different reasons. We use White Wolf when we’re feeling angsty or dark or melancholic. We use GURPS when we want a blend of freedom and realism. We use RoleMaster when we’ve fallen in love with tables (I’m assuming. Neat system, but too damn many tables for me, thanks). And we use different editions of D&D for a whole list of reasons, but two of them are ease of use and familiarity. D&D is comfortable for us because it’s where most gamers started. We like new and neat and different, but if you make it too different, we’ll balk.

Some of us – me included – even have a great deal of appreciation for the “new different” 4e. As I said in my last posting, I think it’s a fantastic fantasy miniature combat game.  If you just ran screaming from 4e, go to a used bookstore and pick up a Player’s Handbook and a Monster Manual (and nothing else), and try it out in that context. Just try it as a battle sim. It’s unrealistic as all holy hell, but it’s fun, and that’s what games are supposed to be. I think we roleplayers can forget that bit sometimes. We get caught up in how things should work, or in forging complex stories, or in making deep and fleshed-out characters and forget that when we play D&D, we’re playing a game – and games should be fun. In a specific context, 4e is fun. It’s great in that context, and if you’re into that sort of thing.

TL;DR

Go back and peruse the bold face. Develop an attention span. If you don’t have one, I’m not sure how you play role playing games in the first place. Yes, I’m a jerk.

Coming Up on student 20 Productions

Next time, I’ll be talking about my own development work, the Essence 20 game I’m working on, and I’ll even have a relevant image for you. Interestingly enough, it relates to some of what I’ve been saying about D&D Next. That will be up soon – maybe even tomorrow. I may also drop hints about what I’m building up to. Who the heck knows with me? I’m unpredictable like that.

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#dndnext Cautious Optimism Part 5 (I think): Incarnum and 4e

So, last time on student 20 Productions, I mentioned Incarnum and threatened an all-blue-text post to make some sort of childish point. Well, I’ve since decided to roll a few more things into this post, so… it won’t all be blue and childish. Well, not blue, anyway.

WARNING: this post is almost completely a rant.

Incarnum and Other Really Cool 3e Stuffs

I’ve been going in more-or-less chronological order for this whole series, and I’d like to keep it that way. I was going to start up this post talking about the ins and outs of 4e, but that wouldn’t be accurate chronologically. Moreover, there were a few things that 3/3.5e did towards the end of its run that are completely on topic for talking about 4e, so I might as well start there.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon - Such a neat book. Too bad.

In 2005, James Wyatt, Frank Brunner, and Stephen Schubert got together and wrote a book for 3.5e called Magic of Incarnum. Oh, wait – just a sec… almost forgot something… The book was about a new kind of magic for the Dungeons & Dragons game. This new magic was – according to the back of the book sitting next to me on this couch – “Drawn from the ambient life energy that fills the multiverse.” That’s… That’s just cool.

Basically, Incarnum allowed you to forge magic items from life-essence, which you then bound to “chakras” in Soul Melds. The idea was fantastically cool, even if the execution was… well, only okay. Incarnum is blue, you see… so all of the stuff in the book is pretty much blue, too. From Cerulean Sandles to Bluesteel… stuff, all the Incarnum effects were some shade of blue or another, making it easily the most monochromatic supplement in the history of D&D. I get the flavor idea and all, but… what if I want my character’s Soulmelds to be pink? There wasn’t really much point in the color selection. I realize that I’m being petty, and any GM worth his/her stuff would allow your character to make any color soulmeld he/she/it wanted as long as it was consistent… but, like my formatting for this post, it was kind of a silly thing to do.

Now, the really cool part about Incarnum, in my opinion, was the fluff. I could easily make-shift a better overall system (well… less complicated, anyway. I dunno about better, really)… but some of the fluff was pure genius. It included an implied explanation for why non-incarnum characters could only wear, for instance, one magical amulet. Now, that’s always been a pretty obvious nod to play balance, but the idea that the magical item was connected to the character’s soul in a real metaphysical way was awesome.

The system itself was overly complicated. There were, in the back of the book, sample “Essentia Trackers”, which you would need to play any Incarnum wielding character with more than four or five levels of Incarnum class. This is… not good. If you need an extra special bunch of sheets just to keep track of your powers (I’ll have more to say about this when I talk about 4e), you have a problem. I don’t mean spell lists with page references and summaries – I mean extra tools that you have to use just to keep track of your special new powers in addition to what are effectively spell lists.

Now, I loves Incarnum. The power source is neat, fairly original, and conceptually cool. This did not stop the execution from being, at best, poor. I’d love to see it in an ear

Cover of

Cover via Amazon - 'nother cool 3e book. Very neat.

ly- release addon book for D&D Next. I’s personally drop the color theme and have it work in a manner closer to actual magic items. I mean, the 3e magic item system is pretty cool. How cool would it be if you straight converted that into a set of class abilities? Heck, even if the D&D Next designers don’t create such a book, I will. If D&D Next has a license that resembles the OGL, you might even see it someday. Here, probably. If I’m lucky (or good), on Amazon.com, too.

Other cool supplements came out towards the end of 3.5e that are worth mentioning. The Tome of Magic added new concepts and ideas for spellcasting that bore little resemblance to what we today think of as D&D magic. The Tome of Battle is of special note, because it seems like a testing ground for the idea of giving fighter-type characters “powers” that function in a similar manner to magic… which was more or less the whole point of 4e.

(I’m going to give short space to 3/3.5 Psionics here: it was an overly-complicated, point-based alternate magic system. An essentially identical system for spellcasting even appeared in Unearthed Arcana. It was basically a whole new spell list for weird-looking, crystal-waving hippie spellcasters. Large portions of it were copied more or less directly from Wizard/Sorcerer/Cleric spells. It’s not… I mean, it’s fine I guess, but there’s nothing special there. It seems like even the designers didn’t think it was that spec

Unearthed Arcana

Image via Wikipedia - the book that proved that 3/3.5e Psionics was really just an alternate magic system. One of the best 3/3.5e books ever, by the way.

ial: the default system for handling the interaction of magic and psioncis is to treat them as being identicle. An anti-magic field shuts down psionic power. Ugh. Why bother? Just make a Sorcerer and say he/she is psionic instead of magical. Basically the same result. You can still even have all the extra classes, although I think they’re not really needed).

The point is that Some of the most creative ideas came out towards the end of the run for the edition, and that would have been really cool if it weren’t for what came next.

D&D 4e

I AM WELL AWARE THAT STAR WARS: SAGA EDITION WAS A TESTING GROUND FOR MANY 4E CONCEPTS. I DON’T CARE.

Alright, let me get this out of the way: I like D&D 4e. I don’t love it, but I like it. I think the tactical combat system is really fantastic. I think that the books are well organized, and it makes for a great board game. You can have some serious fun with it. Some of the classes and powers were really cool, and the 4e version of Psionics is really, really cool and flavorful. As a tactical miniature battle game, it’s really, really hard to beat. As an RPG… well, it just sort of falls flat, doesn’t it?

(Side note: 4e Rangers are frankly awesome. Seriously. A little too awesome, really. I mean, were there any other at-will powers quire as good as Twin Strike? Nope. Not really. You get that one at first level, and it’s still your go-to power at level 30 or whatever. Or at least, it was for me. Plus – they were awesome. ‘Cause, you know, Ranger.)

All that having been said… Ugh. Where do I start? There was a sameness to all the classes that many people complain about, and I agree. I don’t think you should look to classes to make your character stand out… but it doesn’t hurt if they help, and these really didn’t. The Warlord (Martial Leader) and the Cleric (Divine Leader) were essentially the same class, and this problem – role being more significant than class – was consistent throughout the whole system. I know – there are a lot of differences, say all the 4e fans. Well… yeah, sorta, but they all work basically the same way, and the feel about the same when you’re playing them. That’s one of the things that made the Psionic classes so damn cool – they worked at least a bit differently.

People talk about combats running too long, but I never really had that problem. I have also heard a lot of people talk about similarities between 4e and a certain MMORPG I could mention. I didn’t see hat either – but probably only because I’m incapable of seeing any similarity between MMOs and tabletop RPGs. I can’t compare them at all – I just don’t see it.

The biggest problem with 4e, however, was a buisness thing. It was so painfully, obviously setup to be some kind of cash cow. Now, I get that in other industries – summer movie blockbusters, for instance –  that makes sense. It makes no sense to do it that way for RPGs. We’re not a huge market, Hasbro. You can’t treat us like one. We don’t like it. We find it insulting.

Coming out with a new edition that was so completely different from everything that came before it was a pretty questionable decision in and of itself, especially what with all the cool and innovative ideas that were coming out of 3e by then. Then there was ending Paizo’s publishing rights on Dragon/Dungeon magazines. Dividing up Chromatic and Metallic dragons among two Monster Manuals. Ending the OGL and releasing he insulting GSL in its place. Aggressively going after folks who, as fans, were creating things to help fellow players manage their games. That last part there? Yeah, that was a deal-breaker for me, Wizards of the Coast. Don’t punish fans for being fans. You sell your character creation software by making it really good in this industry – not by persecuting people who make free tools for their fellow fans. (see how I drew on the life force of the universe for that bit? What can I say – I’m good.)

It all smacked pretty heavily of a money-grab.  Wizards of the Coast transformed from a company that supported its fans to a company that was milking them for all they had. I realize that Magic the Gathering has given them plenty of experience at that, but this is Tabletop Role Playing. We’re a community. We’re kinda grassroots. Being a dick about homebrewed power-tracking programs is just being a dick, guys. I can’t afford to buy your Power Cards, and even if I could, I don’t wanna, I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to write my own program to do it, and then give it away to my friends and anyone else who thinks its useful. You want to sell something that does that, you make it better than what I’m making. It wouldn’t be hard. I can’t code for shit.

Dungeons & Dragons / Magic The Gathering

Dungeons & Dragons / Magic The Gathering (Photo credit: Laughing Squid) - 4e seemed - to me at least - to try to combine the two. Not frakkin' cool, dude.

Even before that, though, I shouldn’t need a small deck of cards to keep track of what my character can do. That’s… stupid, guys. D&D has never worked that way before, and if you think you can convince us that designing it to work that way now was anything other than an attempt to milk us for extra cash, I’m sorry – you’re wrong. If I want to manage a deck of cards, I’ll play Magic. I love Magic; D&D isn’t the same thing.

You don’t get money from us that way, Wizards. You get money from us by keeping your promises, letting us play how we want with your stuff, by bolstering and listening to your fan communities, and by consistently publishing high quality product. I’ll lay down $40 for a good book with lots of neat material. I won’t lay down $40 for a book that’s 3/4 power lists. I just won’t, and you know what? Lots of other folks felt the same way.

I also don’t want 15 versions of the same damn monster, either. Give me  couple examples, and the tools I need to make my own. We’re tabletop gamers, guys – we have imaginations by definition. If we didn’t, we couldn’t even play the game. On the same note, don’t try to make me buy two books to get the iconic dragons that have been in the game from the get-go. I can’t think of anything else that seemed greedier in 4e. It’s called Dungeons & DRAGONS, oh magic-users of the shoreline. The Chromatic and Metallic dragons have been core for quite a while. Don’t try to make them something not-core now.

As another bitch-and-moan, I would like to add that the multiclassing system was nothing short of a moronic waste of time. It was awkward, hamstrung, and stupid. I’m just saying… to multi-class, you take a feat that lets you pick some powers and gain a class ability that won’t work with any of the class abilities you have for your main class? That’s multiclassing? Really? (you know where this is going, right?) Really? REALLY?

I like some things about 4e, to be sure (RANGERS!). The combat system is kinda awesome. It makes a lot of sense, and runs pretty smoothly as long as folks don’t have too many powers. It made for a fun boardgame. Skirmishes were neat. (RANGERS!!). The ability to use a choice of different ability scores for your defenses made it so that you didn’t have to dump points into DEX just to have a decent AC so you could survive. There are good ideas here.

(RANGERS!)

But it was done all without consulting a single fan. Followed by persecution of fans. Wizards took away freedoms that had been given to fans, and acted like a bunch of money-grubbing jakcholes. Of course Pathfinder did so well – Paizo did none of that, and they used a system that people already loved. The fact that I can make an Incarnum Character using the 2005 book and play it in Pathfinder is cool enough – I get to keep and use the books I already bought.

Wizards handed its 3e fans to Paizo on a platter. Is it any wonder that so many switched over? Why wouldn’t they?

__ 

Wow. This has been the longest and most popular series I’ve ever done on my blog. It makes me sad that it’s almost over, but even after Cautious Optimism’s initial run comes to an end, it will continue to make appearances throughout the D&D Next Beta Testing events, and probably beyond that. Most of my posts have to do with this hobby I love so well anyway, so stay tuned, yeah?

Come to think of it, I haven’t really done much in the way of series. I certainly haven’t stuck this well to an expected update schedule. Maybe this is some kind of leaf-turning-over-thingie and I’ve crossed a bridge. Maybe I should try for two posts a week.

Or is that crazy talk?

 

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#dndnext Cautious Optimism part 4: Edition the Third and the d20 System

In the year 2000, not only did we leanr that many Science Fiction writers were wrong about what the world would be like at the turn of the millennium, we also got a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Well, sort of. I mean, it’s really the third edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, but with no current actual Dungeons & Dragons and no plans to make one, Wizards of the Coast decided that it might be better to drop the word “Advanced” from the title. They were probably right, but there really is no way you can call this anything other than a new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – especially if you pay any attention to the edition numbers.

In creating 3rd Edition, Wizards took the property they got when they bought TSR, and the new Big Names in D&D – Monte Cook, Johnathan Tweet, and Skip Williams – contributed together to the three Core Books – the Dungeons Master’s Guide, the Player’s Handbook, and the Monster Manual. Each of them then took one book and wrote it. Each book has a single author credit, but in reality all three were written by all three designers. I think they did a  fantastic job. More than a couple people disagree with me and that’s fine. This, however, is my boat, and I’ll sail it wherever I want.

It seems almost like the three designers sat down together and said “How many Sacred Cows can we slaughter and still have it be D&D?” Racial level limits and class limitations went out the window. The weird dual-classing rules vanished, replaced by a much more streamlined multi-classing system (that I still have issues with, but that’s another matter). Ability Score requirements went out the window, as did experience penalties for low scores. All classes used the same experience table, and recieved certain benefits of leveling at the same time. The proficiency system was replaced by a fairly concise Skill System. Feats were ntroduced, allowing fro significantly more character customization. THAC0 was replaced with Base Attack Bonus, and Armor Class went up when it got better, rather than down (which – I don’t care how much you like THAC0 – is more intuitive). A single task resolution system was applied across the board – 1d20 + Modifiers versus a static Difficulty Class (DC) number. This system applied pretty much everywhere – saving throws, attacks in combat, ability checks, everything. I could go on for a while like this, but Wikipedia has done a passable job of summing up the changes, so I will just quote them:

Differences from (sic.) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition

  • The game system converted to the d20 System, which standardized task resolution to a roll of a 20-sided die (“d20”), adding or subtracting relevant modifiers, and then comparing the result to a “Difficulty Class” (DC) in order to determine the outcome.
  • THAC0 is replaced by a bonus to attack rolls. Armor Class (AC) operates as the Difficulty Class for attack rolls, and therefore increases (rather than decreases, as in 2nd edition) as defensive capabilities increase.
  • Ability scores follow a single table and give standardized bonuses. Ability scores are no longer capped at 25.
  • Saving throws are reduced from five categories (based on forms of attack) to three (based on type of defense): fortitude (constitution-based), reflex (dexterity-based), and will (wisdom-based), and also go up instead of down.
  • “Non-weapon proficiencies” are replaced by skills, and become a fundamental part of the game rather than an optional one, with class abilities such as thieving skills being translated directly into skills. All characters are given a pool of points to spend on a wide range of specific skills to further define a character.
  • Special abilities known as feats allow greater customization of characters. Fighters are no longer differentiated simply by weapons, roleplay and equipment selection, but rather by the number of feats they possess relative to other characters.
  • Magic item creation is simplified, requiring a prerequisite feat, spells, and monetary and experience costs, replacing the obscure rules of earlier editions.
  • Barbarians, monks, and half-orcs return to the Player’s Handbook as basic character types.
  • Class groups are removed. “Mage” is renamed to “wizard”, with “specialist wizards” being simply wizards that specialize in one school of magic, and “thief” is renamed to “rogue.” The bard class is no longer considered a type of rogue.
  • “Priests of a specific mythos”, also known as specialist priest classes, are eliminated (except druid), though some make their return in the form of prestige classes or through other options such as feats.
  • The sorcerer class is added to the game as an arcane caster that uses magic naturally, instead of through study.
  • Multi-classing and dual-classing as per previous editions is removed. In the new multi-classing system, multi-classing functioned similar to dual-classing had previously, except that a character could gain a level of any character class upon gaining a level instead of only gaining levels in the second class. Multi-classing is made available to all races, although easier for humans and half-elves, and characters with multiple classes of differing levels are penalized.
  • Prestige classes are added, representing special training or membership in an organization outside the generic scope of core classes. Entry into prestige classes requires characters to meet certain prerequisites. Assassins make their return here, as well as blackguards (fallen paladins) and several others.
  • Any combination of race and class is now permitted, with the exception of some prestige classes. (In 2nd edition, characters of some fantasy races/species are not allowed to belong to some character classes.)
  • Priest spell spheres are removed from the game; each spellcasting class now has its own specific spell list (although wizard and sorcerer share a list). Instead, clerics gain domains that allow them to use bonus spells and abilities based on their deity’s area of influence, as well as the ability to swap out prepared spells for curative spells.
  • Initiative is changed to a cyclic system where the order of resolving actions is determined once per encounter and then repeated, and actions are resolved on the players turn. In previous editions the order is redetermined each round and many actions do not resolve on the player’s turn but at the end of the round.
  • Diagonal movement and range are simplified. Each square of diagonal distance is equivalent to 1.5 squares of orthogonal distance, rounded down.
  • The system for multiple attacks is changed so that, when making multiple attacks in the same round, later attacks are generally less accurate than earlier attacks.

–Wikipedia Article: Editions of Dungeons & Dragons

That, of course, doesn’t really cover it. There’s a lot more, but most of it is more abstract or subjective. Things like a feeling of cohesiveness of rules, significantly improved book organization, less dependence on tables and an increased dependence on basic math skills during play, and a variety of other such things.

It took me a long time to actually start playing around with 3e D&D. I had lost all faith in D&D during 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, and had moved over to GURPS and the occasional foray into White Wolf’s stuff and even Palladium (which I still say has a fantastically fun  map-free combat system, especially as presented in their Ninjas and Superspies books). I didn’t trust the new D&D. I assumed it would still be boring sword-and-sorcery fantasy, with too many tables, weird rules, incoherent design choices, and poorly written books. You’ll have to forgive me – I was young and stupid.

While I was briefly living in Georgia, however, I was invited to join a D&D game, and a friend lent me the Player’s Handbook. I was hooked almost instantly. The book is well-written, the system is coherent, and the map-based combat is actually very usable – much moreso than I had anticipated. There were, perhaps, a few too many rules, but character creation was streamlined and easy. I made three characters in an hour, and I loved every minute of it. I love character creation systems, and this was (and is) one of the best I’ve ever used. Loads of customization even in just the main book – and you could just see all the customization choices you would get to make as you advanced. But none of it was very complicated, and you pretty much always knew exactly how you would use everything on your character sheet.

Before you think, however, this is an “ALL HAIL 3E” kind of post, I have a lot of problems with 3e as well – I just liked it better than 1st or 2nd.

I mean, there were still serious issues:

  • Grappling was awkward and borderline unusable. Even when you did use it, you always had that Why Am I Bothering tickle in the back of your mind. I built a character based on grappling and still got that feeling every time it came up.
  • Some of the other mechanics were… odd. For instance, unless you followed some particular guidelines, you would get XP penalties when multiclassing. Was this a failed attempt at verisimilitude, or was it a even more clunky attempt at game balance?
  • Ability Scores – the actual 3 to 18 human-range numbers – were largely irrelevant. It was really all about the modifiers now, making the actual numbers seem strangely out of place on the character sheet. They only seemed to be used to give padding to ability score damage, and to make “0” a natural stopping place for an ability to be completely crippled. Not enough, guys. Not enough.
  • Many Thief/Rogue class abilities had been integrated into the skill system, making them feel a lot less special. For instance, a Rogue wasn’t really any better at picking locks than a fighter with the same skill level and ability modifier, and that’s just sad.I mean, sure, they had Trapfinding, but that felt like a tacked-on and arbitrary thing, especially in the context of the rest of the Skill System.
  • Attacks of Opportunity had such an easy bypass through the use of the Acrobatics skill that you would frequently see huge behemoth full-plated fighters and bookish gnome wizards who could easily perform handstands. By level 5 or so – or as late as level 10 if it was cross-class for you – if you were bothered by Attacks of Opportunity, you were doing something wrong.
  • Wizards and Sorcerers were essentially the same class with a different method of spellcasting (one vancian, one that was essentially identicle to the spell casting system from the original Final Fantasy NES game). Sure, Wizards got a spellbook and a bunch of extra metamagic feats, and sorcerers had their metamagic so crippled that it was almost useless (and some things, like Quickened Spell, really were useless) – but those differences suck. I still feel the same way about this, all these years later: it’s the same damn class, folks. Make them choose between Vancian and Spontaneous when they start, or find a way to combine the two (something “m currently working on for my Essence 20 project), and then make one class. Also, it’s pretty obvious that Wizards are significantly more powerful, but harder to build or play, especially at earlier levels. Sorcerers are simple, but their main advantage (lots of spells per day) becomes irrelevant after level 5 or so.
  • Monks looked awesome on paper, but in practice were less than impressive. And then there’s the alignment restrictions; seriously, man – I’ve watched Kung Fu movies. Jackie Chan – the ultimate Kung Fu Good Guy in most movies – was seldom lawful. He’s downright chaotic in Armor Of the Gods/Operation Condor. What the hell were you thinking? Must be lawful my ass… Iron Monkey. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Shaolin Soccer. Hell, even IP Man – the main character might be Lawful Good, but most of the supporting cast and almost all of the villains are “monks” and not especially Lawful.
  • Druids ruled all, and pretty obviously so, but their flavor text was such that you didn’t want to play one unless you, you know, wanted to play one. Which is okay, I guess, but… did they really have to be that frakking awesome? And for the love of mike – when not taking a Feat cripples you, it;s not a Feat – it’s a misplaced Class Ability. I am talking about Wild Spell, of course.
  • Alignment restrictions were clearly applied as either Sacred Cows (Paladin, Druid, Rogue) or the worst balancing mechanic in the history of gaming (Barbarian, Monk, and most of the new base classes presented in later books).
  • Prestige Classes stole the limelight from core classes after the 5th level or so, and often felt like either bad multi-classes (Mystic Theurge), or something that could have been better handled with specialized Feats (Arcane Archer, Shadowdancer). Only occasionally did a Prestige Class come along that was really cool, unique, interesting, and worthy of the word “Prestige” (Archemage, off the top of my head. By the time 4e came out, there were actually quite a few good ones – but they were completely outnumbered by bad ones, and even the good ones felt like they were just there to make you not want to be a lowly FIghter, Wizard, Rogue, Ranger, or Whatever Base Class You Were).
  • ECL and Level Adjustments made playing many, many non-human spellcasters a… sub-optimal choice. I guess I don’t really care until you get to races like Drow and Fey-Ri and the multitiude of other level-adjusted races that come from heavy spellcasting cultures – including “Monster Races” like Rakshasha who get to count every hit-die as a Sorcerer (or Cleric) casting level with spells and all, meaning that they’re supposed to be completely badass spellcasters.  Then it just gets very dumb very fast. (as a side note about the Drow – would it have been so frakkin’ hard to make their spell-like abilities into Racial Feats? Would it? And then lower their Ability Score Modifiers and viola – no Level Adjustment. If you haven’t already, and you still play 3/3.5, you might want to houserule that. I mean, if you don’t hate and want to discourage Drow in you game.)

Again, I could go on. I have to do this first, though:

Rangers. This is a class that’s based on Aragorn from Lord of the Rings (seriously – that’s the actual source of inspiration according to the original designers of the game. He’s actually called a Ranger in the books and the film.)

Really? I mean, the class is awful. So… Really? REALLY?

You can make a better ranger by taking appropriate Feats and being a straight-class Fighter. You could do that in the original 3e PHB without further supplemental books. The only thing you missed out on was tracking, and that’s just not enough.

Ranger is my favorite class. I love Rangers. From Aragorn to Belkar, they’re my faves in Fantasy Fiction. One of my favorite characters I’ve ever played – Trynn Fairweather – was a Halfling Ranger.

Dude. Dude. DUDE. Dude. Please, Wizards of he Coast: by all that is sacred, try at least as hard as you did with 4e. The 4e Ranger is amazing. I mean, it’s too bad so many other things about 4e were kinda… not good. But that’s a topic for another post. My only point is Rangers are fucking awesome, and you need to do right by them.  I don’t care if you have to make them a Fighter Prestige Class or some other dumb thing to do it – make them awesome.

Ahem. End rant. I love Rangers. Okay, now end rant.

Anyway, I already spoke at length about my love of the OGL (about two Blog Posts ago). I won’t go into  it again here, other than to link to the relevant blog entry.

A little while later, in 2002, Wizards released d20 Modern (designed by Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, and Charles Ryan). Now, it retained some of my issues with 3e (the Grapple Rules, and needlessly complicated Ability Score/Modifier paradigms and such), but… I fucking love this game. I wish D&D was re-built around the design principles of d20 Modern. My only issue is that, using Rules as Written, there’s no way to start the game as a spellcaster. Fix that (and you could with a couple of additional – even optional – Talent Trees), add in a few of the Iconic Classes (ESPECIALLY RANGERS BECAUSE THEY’RE AWESOME) instead of the Abillity Score Based Classes (with Talent Trees and all) – and you’ve got me. You’ve got a rules system that I will use until the day I die. In fact, I’m doing basically that for my Essence 20 project. In fact, I’mcurrently planning on keeping the Ability Score classes because they are reasonable character archetypes (not great, but reasonable), even in a fantasy setting. Which Essence Is. Sorta.

So I’m asking – right here right now, of the whole of the D&D community: Is wanting D&D Next to be essentially universal with a basic setting of generic fantasy asking too much? Can we bring not just multiple editions of fans, but multiple  genre of fan together to the same table? I think we can. I think Talent Trees could help.

Anyway, I was going to say a lot more – I was going to talk about 3.5e, and psionics, and rant for a while longer on the virtues of d20 Modern, but… I guess that’ll all have to wait for other blog posts. This one is too long as it it.

It’s just as well. I could easily fill an entire post just with d20 Modern, or Psionics. Maybe I’ll do that next. Alternately, maybe I’ll tackle one of my favorite add-ons to D&D3/3.5 and discuss how to improve it and bring it over to D&D Next as soon as possible.

Yeah, I’ll probably do that next. Incarnum and D&D Next. That sounds pretty snappy.

I’ll have to re-theme the Blog in blue, though. Or cerulean. Or cobalt… Maybe I’ll just write the whole thing in a Blue Font. That might work. That won’t get annoying or anything… oh, wait – it will. Maybe that’s the point i want to make…

TL;DR

I liked 3e and the d20 system, but it had issues. Rangers are awesome, but they weren’t awesome in 3e. I love d20 Modern. If you want to know more, develop an attention span. And, yes – I am a jerk.

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#dndnext Cautious Optimism: Part 3, the dawn of Open Gaming

I’m well aware that people have been designing games and encouraging others to use their systems for quite some time, but with the advent of 3rd Edition D&D, WIzards of the Coast did something special and spectacular: they created the Open Game License (OGL). Setting aside all other considerations about 3e D&D (OMG IT ALL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!!!/OMG THE CLASS AND POWER BLOAT!!!), this addition officially made 3e the most important D&D edition in the history of table top Role Playing Games.

The OGL is a legal document that is attached to most D&D 3/3.5 (and to Pathfinder, and to a variety of other games including Spycraft, d20 Modern, Mutants & Masterminds, and the superlative True20) releases that makes it so that anybody can create and distribute games based on the original material. It does this while including a clause that protects individual product identity, allowing you to easily create modified game systems using the rules, but retain control of things that are specific to your particular game setting (for instance, I could create an Essence d20 game that allowed people to use any of the mechanics I created, but stop them from using, say, Silverleaf, the capitol city of the Sherian Republic of Free Clans). It’s a masterfully written document that brought unprecedented freedom to other publishers. when developing compatible or derivative content: they no longer needed to “get permission” because that was included in the OGL.

Thanks to the OGL, we now have (and this is a very abbreviated list):

  • True 20, an elegant and streamlined universal game system published by Green Ronin
  • PCGen, Open Source character generator software that can be adapted to just about any d20 game system
  • Mutants & Masterminds, a in-depth (if a bit mathematically complicated) Super Heroes role playing game also from Green Ronin
  • Spycraft, an espionage role playing game filled with Bond-eque action from Crafty Games (who also make the equally superlative Fantasy Craft game)
  • Literally hundreds of independently published rules supplements to D&D 3/3.5
  • Pathfinder, a fantastic evolution of the 3.5 D&D rules system brought to us by Paizo that apparently outsells 4e D&D by a fair margin
And the list goes on. I’m not even including non-d20 games that have been released under the license (like RuneQuest). I’m sure I’ve left a lot of other things out as well. Space considerations, don’t you know.
In any case, by adding the OGL to the Most Popular Role Playing Game In The World, Wizards opened up gaming in general. The idea that a system could be used, adapted, modified, and republished by anyone was the greatest revolution in gaming history since the creation of the hobby. Pure, unadulterated brilliance is what it was.

I’ve seen it argued that, by creating the OGL, Wizards also laid the groundwork for D&D’s biggest direct competitor (which would be Pathfinder, which some gamers have affectionately – or derisively – called “D&D 3.75”). This claim is horse shit. It isn’t the OGL that caused Pathfinder to overtake D&D, or even to exist in the first place. A variety of business decisions at Wizards did that – but I’m only going o talk about one: the GSL.

When Wizards – with no fan input whatsoever – decided to move on to a fourth edition of their iconic game system, they dropped the OGL in favor of the GSL – the Game System License. Now, if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find more games released under the OGL than you can shake a stick at, many of them dating back to the time of 3e (not 3.5) D&D. Do similar research for the GSL and you’ll find… well, just about nothing. Now, why is this?

The GSL is much more restrictive than the OGL. Where the OGL said “here – take the mechanics of this game and do what you will with them!”, the GSL said “These are our mechanics. You can make stuff directly related to it, but you can’t make derivatives, and God Help You if you try to make computer software related to it”. Wizards then aggressively enforced the GSL.

See, they saw all the money companies like Green Ronin, Crafty Games, and Paizo were making from their derivative stuff (in the case of Paizo, that included two officially licensed D&D magazines), and said “Hey! WE WANT THAT MONEY!“. I’m all for companies – especially creative ones like game publishers – making money from their work, but Wizards failed to take several things into account.

The first thing they missed was that all of this derivative work led back to them. Instead of dancing in the spotlight as the progenitor of a new generation of gaming, all they could see was the money they thought they were missing out on. They saw character generators and thought we could make and sell those, ignoring the fact that most of the chargen software out there were labors of love created by fans with little or no thought of profit.  They saw the derivative systems and thought we can do that, too, never acknowledging that there was no practical way for them to actually do it. Wizards never could have made Mutants & Masterminds when they had to focus their dev team on D&D. This is easily proven when you take into account how completely awesome a 4e based Super Hero game could be. It almost seems like the system was made for it: they call the various special things characters can do Powers, for goodness sake!

The other thing they missed was that they never could have gotten that money anyway. Wizards does RPGs one way – the D&D/d20 Modern way. Crafty Games does things another way.  I know I covered it a bit in the previous paragraph, but the only reason games like Spycraft exist is because folks saw something special in the d20 system and adapted it. They missed out that several of the character generation software projects were free – either Free as in Beer or Free as in Libre. They missed out on the fact that a whole hell of a lot of the stuff people were putting out were things that WIzards has never expressed an ability or desire to put out. And yet all of them – every last one – still led back to D&D and/or d20 Modern. PCGen, Redblade, Spycraft, Mutants & Masterminds, True 20, Conan the Barbarian (from Mongoose Publishing), Pathfinder, the Everquest RPG (White Wolf Studios), Traveller20 (QuickLink Interactive), and even the (frankly amazing) World of Warcraft Role Playing Game are all – intentionally or not – homages to the d20/3e/3.5e Dungeons &  Dragons game. Did Wizards really think they’d be able to make this frakkin’ many adaptations of the 4e system, or that in order to make 4e adaptations, people would submit to the GSL? Not bloody likely.

It wasn’t the release of 4e that created Pathfinder. It was the GSL. Although I find myself preferring the d20 system more and more over 4e,  4e could have been much cooler if only Wizards had loosened its grip.

So. What can D&D Next take from this? Simple: Bring back the OGL. Don’t make a whole new license when you already have a perfectly good one. This is especially true for the modular approach Wizards is taking. Let people make and sell their own modules. Allow them to put some sort of branding on things that are compatible directly with the core rules, and let people who want to make original works derived from (but not compatible with) the new D&D do their thing. Encourage the whole of the gaming community to use your system.

In this way, D&D Next could do a lot more than bring players of multiple editions of D&D to the same table. It could create a single system that many, if not most, in the gaming hobby could stand behind, use, and love regardless of what sort of game they wanted to play. Instead of just bringing D&D players together, it could bring the whole Role Playing Community together.

C’mon guys. You almost did it once. This time, do it, stand behind it, and encourage it to grow. Be even less restrictive.

The whole of the hobby will thank you for it.

TL;DR

Get a frakking attention span. I’m not doing this stupid crap anymore. If you can’t be bothered to read 1,000 words or so about a subject, then you don’t really care about it anyway.

Next:

For my next post, I’ll be talking about 3/3.5e and the d20 Modern system. Probably. Unless I can think of something else I’d rather talk about.

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