What I Do and Do Not Like About D&D

Raven Crowking posts here about why it is important to be honest when talking about 5E: the latest rendition of Dungeons and Dragons.  He rightly points out that letting people know what you don’t like about something is as important a letting them know what you do like.  I agree with him, but I have a few caveats.  Being negative for the sake of appearing to be cutting edge, cool, or savvy is a sign of being a jerk.  The opposite pole of being a “Yes Man” and only saying positive things can be equally damaging.  If one only talks about the good things, one can skip right over parts of thing that make it miserable; this is the style of Sleazy Hucksters and Sycophants.  Giving an honest critique of a thing can and should lead to its improvement.  I hope my post proves to be an honest critique.  Thus, with this preface, I begin my “What I like and what I do not like post.”

If we take the Way Back Machine back to the Days of First Edition, we are likely to discover that most of the complaints I had about the system back then are forgotten.  It was new.  It was fun.  It stretched our imaginations and gave us hours and hours of fun.  Having said that, I must admit that I grew dissatisfied with some things in 1E.  I didn’t like alignment (and still don’t).  I found a great article on a relativistic alignment system in Dragon 101 by Paul Suttie: “For King and Country: An alignment system based on cause and effect.”  I’ve been using that idea for alignment ever sense.  I, also, felt that the minute combat round was just too abstract and was very happy when they changed it.

Second Edition, originally, offended me on aesthetic and grognard grounds.  I liked having Seven Levels of clerical spells and Nine Levels of magic user spells in 1E; it corresponded nicely to the mythology and symbolism that I had developed for Realmorein.  So, the change to Nine Levels for both spell casting classes really put me off for a while.  In time I got over that and had a great time running 2E.  TSR gave me tons of settings to use: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Al Qadim to name a few.  There were loads of classes and variants to try.  My only real complaint is that that not all of the systems designed for all of the variants were well thought out.  Sometimes, what was written about how things worked just didn’t make sense.  I know a lot of folks didn’t like THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0 (zero)); they found trying to figure out what number they needed to hit a foe perplexing…I just used the combat tables on my 1E DM screens and never really worried about it.

Third Edition!  The year 2000 AD was to be a watershed year, when I was growing up.  It would be the year that we got flying cars and had a colony on the moon and were prepping for interplanetary, if not interstellar flight.  We got Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition; which was almost as good.  I was looking forward to 3E.  I had started a campaign away from Rilmorn, so that when 3E came out, we could start fresh from the ground up without any holdovers or complications (that didn’t work out, but that is another story).  I failed at 3E from the word, “Go.”

I didn’t like the idea that magic item creation was now an “assembly line-style” option for spellcasters.  I was poor at designing challenging combats for my players.  I just didn’t get how to equip my NPCs, so that my PCs could get their stuff and be appropriately equipped for their level.  I didn’t like the advancement scale; in 1E and 2E PCs remained at mid-levels for a long time and there was a lot of good play in those levels.  The tactical nature of the game bored me; I am not a tactics guy.  Finally, I grew to despise the idea of the Adventure Path (AP).  I believe in plot arcs and character and story development, but APs with the built in assumption that the PCs would begin as nobodies, follow a particular plot, and end as…Whatevers in a completely changed setting (How many APs end with the death of a god or demon prince?), wore me down.  At this moment, I can’t think of anything that I liked about 3E. (2014.07.10)

4E was a fun game, but it was not D&D, as I wanted to play it.  All of the classes were balanced.  Advancement seemed reasonable, not too fast and not too slow.  There was a lot of good fluff to use in developing backgrounds, plot hooks, and storylines.  There were bad things, IMO, about 4E, too.  It was a tactics games.  Magic item placement became a true joke…Don’t like the magic items provided by the GM, melt them down and make your own!  The whole game was designed to fit an AP style of play (Character Class > Paragon Path > Epic Destiny).  Finally and most damning is the fact that by the end all the classes had the same powers; they just had different skins on them.

DnD Next, Fifth Edition, 5E, call it what you want, so far, I like it.  Magic items are once again magic.  Power curve and advancement seem reasonable (may be wrong, but I’ve got to run a lot more games and find out).  Classes are distinct.  The only complaint I have, at the moment, is Hit Point recovery seems too easy, but I’m already using an optional rule from the play test and that seems to fix that problem.  I like the basic rules.  I like the play test materials.  I’m looking forward to using this edition for a while.

Whatever edition or system you prefer, I hope you play it as often as you wish and enjoy it.  Until next time, Game On!

5 thoughts on “What I Do and Do Not Like About D&D

  1. I still feel if you have to rely on your PC’s alignment to figure out what he/she would do, you don’t know your character very well.

    I like your thoughts on criticism and being negative. When I put down my thoughts and critique something I make it a point to try and offer an alternative, fix, or change. If I can’t it’s usually best to say nothing at all. Or at least admit I don’t know of a better way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Gaming the System | World Engineer

  3. Yeah, I’m an old 1E-er, hung around for about a year of 2E and then dropped the system. While I bought a handful of things for 3E that looked interesting I never actually ran it or played it, the same with 4E. I just ran with a variety of other systems, did a home-brew for about 10 years, and then started a new 1E campaign up for awhile and am now in the process of tooling things up for switching over to 5E.

    It does feel like D&D in all the important ways (I also agree about HP, but I’m not sure if I’m going to care or have to tweak it). I do really like that the modular nature seems to make home-brewing easier but the various archtypes, etc. still fit into existing system easier so that it doesn’t end up feeling quite so “bolted together” or baroque. Perhaps it is 35 years of gaming and DMing, but while I can’t translate everything exactly, it all seems to translate pretty darn well (with the sole exception of psionics, and I am relatively certain we’ll see rules for that eventually).

    I think the one thing I don’t like about 5E, but am reserving final judgment on until the DMG comes out, is the whole system for magical item attunement. I really have no problem with “unlimited” magical items, this seems like a goofy game mechanic to solve a DM skill problem. Of everything other than healing this seems to be the one thing I am most likely to change.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve only played D&D with Rilmorn, but I have used a number other game systems to augment my game world, so I understand your issues. if you’re interested, I talk how my game has shifted through various other games in these posts: https://gameengineer.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/but-thats-not-dnd/ and https://gameengineer.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/try-try-again-2/.

      I originally, designed my Seven Races of Marn on the idea that each race connected to an element excelled in one power and failed in another. Elves(wood) were great magic users, but never psions. Dwarves (metal) were powerful fighters, but never magic users. Diavla (fire) were amazing thieves, but never clerics. Kularin (air) were originally clerics, but I moved them to psions and they were never fighters. Idré (water) were supposed to be super psions, but I decided that the element of water better fit the cleric class and so they got cleric and could not be thieves. I don’t remember why I did this, but has been a part of Reelmorren ever since 1E. What I may need to do is figure out if this still plays true in 5E.

      Did you ever see the play test rules for magic items? It may give you a better idea of how Attunement might work.

      Thanks for commenting.


  4. Pingback: Magic Items Should be Magical | World Engineer

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