10 January 2012

On RPG's, Loyalty and Commitment

Yesterday we heard news of an official announcement from Wizards of the Coast that they're working on a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As an avid role-player and GM I thought I ought to write a thought or two on the topic.

In my past writings I've been somewhat critical of D&D 4th Edition. Now, this criticism hasn't really been directed towards the system as such. (I've never played it, nor read its rules extensively, so I can really say very little about it. I'm sure it has many interesting features.) Rather, from all that I'd read about it, it seemed to be getting pretty far from what I, personally, thought of as D&D. If I play D&D, I have certain expectations for it. To be honest, the appeal of D&D for me is largely about nostalgia, rather than cutting edge development.

So, when last year I decided the time was finally right to start a new D&D style campaign, I chose Pathfinder, which appealed to me more as a system. Also, its publisher, Paizo, as a company felt much more respective towards its fan community. So I'm now the proud owner of the Pathfinder rules, along with several additional source books. And I like them a lot.

So here's the thing. It doesn't really matter to me whether a new edition of D&D will be an improvement or not. The likelihood of me getting such a thing any time in the foreseeable is extremely small. And it's because of simple math. I've just invested in a system in the same genre, which I actually like a lot. I have limited money. I have limited shelf space. I have limited time to actually play games. When it comes to getting my D&D kicks, I'm pretty much committed to Pathfinder. And I do believe I may even be developing a certain degree of loyalty towards it, and Paizo, in a way I doubt I could ever have for Wizards of the Coast.

It is important to point out here that D&D is just a RPG, not the RPG, not by a long shot. I play a large variety of games. And frankly, most of those games wouldn't work in the D&D paradigm. D&D is a system for... well, D&D style stories. It is not a particularly flexible system. It is a particularly clichéd system. And yes, I do like it, but I wouldn't ever want to play only D&D, whatever edition.

RPG's have never been about buying stuff for me. Some of the most fun games I've played have used systems that can be downloaded for free. Or systems with just one small rulebook bought for a bargain price. Or a simple system we've devised ourselves. Or no system at all, relying solely on the narrative. Bottom line, the system should always cater to the needs of the narrative the GM wishes to tell, not the other way round.

But I'm starting to veer off the point, I think. Which, I guess, boils down to 'there are only so many big RPG systems one can have in one's life'. (But lots of little ones.)

I used the abbreviation 'D&D' 12 times in this post. Oops, make that 13.

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