Edition Wars (or OH, NO! Here We Go Again)

I’ve seen various people post about the announcement of 5E – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition release dates.  Some are jaded and feel that it has all been done before.  Others are offering a depressed, but optimistic, hope that it will be good.  Various forums have people shouting for their favorite edition or bemoaning the idea that Wizards of the Coast are trying to get more money out of them.  I was going to keep quiet about the whole deal and do my best to ignore it.  I can’t.

Having played D&D starting with the Holmesian Blue Book version of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and played through each and every version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to date, including the playtest version DnD Next, I have an opinion on this subject.  I’m tired of the fighting.  That’s my opinion.

Edition Wars did not begin with 3E.  They began with Basic and Advanced.  There was enough demand for Basic Dungeons and Dragons that TSR built an entire product line around the Known World (what would become known as Mystara).  This happened right alongside Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  People would meet up in game stores, at conventions, and, later, on online bulletin board systems to deride and attack the other side for selling out or being poor gamers.  This is not new.

The wars did not end with one’s preferred version of D&D.  People would fight over Role Playing vs. Roll Playing.  (Sound familiar?)  Munchkins were vilified by True Role Players.  Monty Haul Games were ridiculed as low brow, beer and pretzel games by those who believed themselves more sophisticated.  Gary Gygax even took umbrage against those who didn’t play Real Dungeons and Dragons (I talk about that article in this post).  It is all the same story: “Do it my way or hit the highway.”

It gets even uglier, when one considers other games by other companies.  “How could you play Runequest; it’s a D&D rip off?”  “Call of Cthulhu is just superior to any other RPG because it uses percentile dice and has a literary foundation.”  “How can you play Rolemaster?  It’s all tables.”  Go ahead pick a game and I’d feel comfortable betting that I can find a website that has proponents that feel that all other games are stupid.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Grognards have always existed.  They were even present at the release of 2E.  A long time ago, I was given a small, typewritten, piece of paper that humorously and ironically described the transition from 1E to 2E.  It talked about the shift from Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms.  It joked about the sudden change of paladins to cavaliers.  There were other sly observations about how the “new” D&D universe worked, but it ended with the very unkind idea that only stupid people would want Gary Gygax back in charge of D&D and that good, smart people would kill anyone who tried.  When it dawned on me that that type of thinking was fanaticism and the same ignorance espoused by those who didn’t want to change from their beloved edition to whatever new was coming out, I got rid of it.  I do not want to be one of those that promotes hate, even in what is meant to be a joke.  There will always be those who fear or hate change.  It is sad, but true.

To those who bemoan the fact that WotC is trying to make more money, I’ve only this to say, “Of course, they are; Wizards of the Coast is a business and if they don’t make money, they have to quit being a business!”  This is no different than Pazio selling Pathfinder or Monte Cook selling Numenera.  It is their job to make stuff for gamers to buy.  If you don’t want to support the people whose jobs it is to design, write, and publish games, game modules, and gaming supplements, then don’t buy the stuff they put out and quit trying to make those people that do buy their products feel bad for buying what they want to buy.

I doubt it happen, but I do wish the gaming community at large would grow up.  A new edition does not diminish your personal games in any way.  People playing with different styles of game play are not better or lesser than you and you do not need to “convert them to the true path of gaming.”  Maybe the newest edition on the block isn’t all that new in its concepts or game play.  Maybe it is a ploy to get people to buy more stuff.  Maybe it is better than anything that has gone before it.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  If you don’t want it, don’t get it.  If you don’t like it, don’t do it.  Unless gaming is a virus and one needs to be inoculated to prevent the spread of disease, let it go and enjoy what you have.

DMing with Charisma posted a response to this post and I really like it.

I found A Brief History of the Edition Wars by Admiral Ironbombs on his site Logic is my Virgin Sacrifice to Reality.  Please check it out.

 

Until we meet again, Game On!

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“Don’t Borrow, Steal”

I’ve read every module, Dragon and Dungeon magazine and looked at every map that he owns and I expect to see everything I’ve read in his game someday.  I just don’t expect to recognize it.

Mike Magee

Circa 1987

Good gamemasters borrow.  Great gamemasters steal.

Unknown

The first quote is from a good friend of mine and a former and future player in the World of Rilmorn.  Mike expressed an unwritten rule of my world design.  Take pieces that you like from other works and put them into your own game.  By the time, Mike and I started gaming together, I had 5+ years GMing under my belt.  During those years, I had had players suddenly decide that their characters were far more interested in the “Lands Unknown” sections of my map than any planned adventure.  Well, when that happened I saw three choices: 1) Force my players to adhere to my story plan, 2) Pout, pack up, and go home, or 3) Improvise.  Having been “railroaded to  plots” or guilt-tripped into following other GMs’ adventures, the first  option was out.  Going home wasted the whole plan of having fun with my friends, so #2 was out.  Thus, I improvised.

Some times, improv comes easy.  Other times, the process stalls.  During those stalled processes, I would get my players to talk amongst themselves and I would grab a book, module, or magazine and start flipping pages.  As quick as I found something that caught my eye, I’d regain my players attention and off we’d go.  I’d keep as good notes as possible during the game, then later I’d add what I had used to Rilmorn.

Over time, I began to see things that were cool that others did and wanted those things in Rylmorin.  I’d already been borrowing other’s ideas, when I had to improvise.  Why couldn’t I just add what ever I liked to my game?

WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF and INTERNALLY CONSISTENT WORLD.  One of the major problems that all gamemasters have to face is the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief.”  For the period of game, people who live in a non-magical world must accept that their characters are in a world where magic happens and that they are part of that world.  To help players suspend their disbelief, GMs need to keep their worlds internally consistent.  If one designs a world with a particular theme or trait and, suddenly, drops something into that world that violates that theme or trait, then the players are going to be jarred out of their disbelief.  This led me to the second quote.

Borrowing something implies that you intend to return it and in relatively the same condition as it was before it was borrowed.  When it comes to Rilmorn,  I can’t just borrow things for my world.  A borrowed object stands out.  It is still sharp around the edges. When you steal something for a game, you plan on keeping it and you do what you need to do to make it a good fit.

When I began my BIG 4E game, I stole the Secpter Tower of Spellgard.  I changed the spelling and the location of the ruins to place them in Rilmorn.  I put a portal from Sigil to Spellguard, so my PCs could have a way to the ruins and for me to be able to add future adventure hooks.  I changed the halfling wererats to dwarven wererats, since there are so few halflings on Rilmorn.  I linked Spellgaurd to Castle Timeless (an extradimensional realm involving time and time travel).  Saharel became a temporally displaced chronasarian.  The undead below Sceptre Tower (changed spelling again) became “time-riven dead,” beings that were some how bond to the disaster known as the “Fall of the Castle.”  The Monks of the Precipice became guardians of a cave under their monastery that opened into a “Gulf of Time.”  Kuryon became a blue dragonborn from Sigil, who went back in time to found the Fortress State of Arkohsia (already introduced in a previous 4E game).  The main villain of the story was renamed Thalen and linked to Galen, a big villain from the end of one of my other campaigns.  Sister Chera became a disguised deva.  Etc.  I tied the adventure to my world.

If you like something and want it in your world, take it.  You need a powerful, busybody wizard to direct the PCs actions.  Take Elminster.  Rename him: Elfmiester.  Shave his beard and dress him in red robes.  Make him Master Librarian in the port city of Palanthus who likes to send adventurers out on his ship Firefly to explore dungeons hidden on nearby islands.  Take what you need and blend it into your world and it will work.  Game On!