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I know I can get a bit mouthy with my opinions on the state of gaming.  To say that is actually an understatement.  I get downright angry and acidic with what I say.  I love to point fingers at the game companies, especially if they are owned by larger companies, like, say, a toy company.  Gee, who could that be?

Back to the point; the addition of Fortune cards, and the upcoming Despair cards, as well as the Essentials line of products to the Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game has spun me off into a special dimension of anger of late.  It really ranks on me when something is added to a game that is completely superfluous and unneeded for game play.  When I am at a table, I have actually refused the Fortune cards for my own use.  It made a lot of other people at the table give me an odd look until they saw me do my job perfectly fine without them.

The other night I was talking to a very good friend of mine, Nate, about D&D in general, and he was really expressing his displeasure at some of the conventions of the game like half-breed races, some game settings, the proliferation of fey races, all that kind of stuff.  We were arguing back and forth, good naturedly, and I realized something: D&D has ALWAYS been full of B.S. add-on gimmicks, extending back at least until second edition.

I am gonna go all grognard on some of you here, and those of you that earned your wings under the auspices of a truly Gygaxian DM are welcome to feel the aching twinge of nostalgia along with me as I write this.

In first edition AD&D, they marketed packets of Dungeon Geomorphs; premade modular maps to use as simulated underground territories.  Under second edition, it only got worse.  Priest and Wizard spell cards, multivolume spell and magical item Encyclopedias, collectible cards with NPCs, magic items, spells, and the like printed on them; and let’s not even talk about the Complete series of faux-leather bound books.  Anyone remember those?  Introducing eight new subraces of elf, forty-seven species of halfling, and one whole book of humanoid races like goblin, kobold, and pixie?  How about the class “kits” offered by the Complete Handbook classes series?

Anyone but me remember the player’s kits they marketed?  Big plastic cases to hold your character sheets, dice, notepads, pencils, miniatures, Player’s Handbook, pager, cellphone, pet monkey, torch, and Swiss army can opener?  Oh, hey, how about those nifty, handy-dandy Monstrous Compendium three-ring-binder inserts that detail monster after monster after monster that just kept adding to an almost innumerable tally of baddies to throw against your players?  And the Annuals they kept pumping out for four years, adding on to regular products?

What about the Player’s and DM’s Option series of books that offered eighteen million different optional ways to change up your game?  The book that split all the ability scores from six to twelve?  What about the first spell point systems for AD&D?  I mean, in all honesty, there was as much unnecessary B.S. in the game then as there ever has been.

Now mind you, I have never  even touched on third edition, as it was about as much maligned as fourth is, and with good reason.  The amount of crap they kept adding on and adding on, creating instances of power creep that made it almost unpalatable to play the game.

What we have to remember is that these are not artists; they are tradesmen.  They are in this for the buck, and we love to point a finger and cry foul on them time and again.  Don’t; they are only doing what they should.  If you don’t like something, don’t use it.  But at the same time, don’t act like this is something new that has happened.  This has been happening time and again for generations of gamers.  And D&D isn’t the only one; let’s take a fricking look at Palladium Fantasy or Rifts, or GURPS, or any of the various Star Wars incarnations.  It just keeps happening.  This means that it is not just an isolated instance of a game edition we wish to demonize, just because it is ultimately owned by a toy company.

Do you know who is really to blame for all this?

We are.  We, the players.

We keep going to the well, time and again for more and more, and we get downright pissy when we don’t get what we think we want.  I realized that night that I always had what I liked about games since I was too damn poor to buy the new splatbook, module, or gimmick out there: imagination.  If I couldn’t buy it, I just made it up.  We all think we have to own this stuff to “Keep Up With the Joneses.”  Well, I call bullshit on that.  And that includes myself at times.  I am just as guilty as anyone else.  Want to put a stop to it?  Stop buying  the crap.  That simple.

What do you think?

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One Comment

  1. Yeah, but there are people who want stuff to spur new ideas (and those who can’t come up with it on their own). The new generation of player wants it all laid out there for them to pick and choose (for the most part). I think that’s where some other systems have found opportunity to come in – allowing for a more freeform game experience (or at least simpler to grab onto and leaving more room for improvisation on all parts).

    Honestly, I’ve found myself seeing so many D&D games focus on combat – but that’s in part because that’s where the focus of the books lies. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit guilty of it at times myself (though it’s something I’m trying to work away from).

    They try to put some flavor to the powers in 4e, but that goes largely ignored from what I’ve seen.

    We’ll have to get together sometime to discuss – systems and styles and such 😉


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