The old trope is that when you start going in for psychoanalysis, they start by asking you about your parents. I guess if you’re going to start talking about traditional games, you should probably start with Dungeons and Dragons.
Not that Dungeons and Dragons is not necessarily the first traditional game we all play; far from it. I was playing Jr. Monopoly and Battleship long before I picked up my first D20. But it kind of marks the threshold, at least for a lot of people. The point where games stop being the thing you do when your bored out of your skull on a rainy day and starts being the thing you love.
Which is weird, because most people don’t really even ‘like’ DnD, at least judging by the general tone on the internet. I certainly don’t. But it’s the grandfather, the first-comer, the old-timer we all pay our homage to in the end. And in a lot of ways, the things we love and the things we hate about it define who we are as gamers.
I first got into Dungeons and Dragons around Third Edition. Second and First were before my time, and while I can see their influence in a lot of the stuff we play today, it’s more of an academic, historical knowledge. So I’m going to talk about what came after, and I apologize for my ignorance going backwards.
Third Edition and 3.5 had a myriad of flaws, the biggest one in my mind was it’s pacing. Players started out in the garbage, and there weren’t any firm hand-rails to climb up, out of it. It was an impossibly meta-game heavy time; with lots of finicky little rules to remember and a whole heap of un-intuitive nonsense. I stuck with it though, because really, it was the only game in town.
When I started to GM more, I started to appreciate DnD little by little. Make no mistake, DnD is written with the Dungeon Master firmly in mind. It provides very tight, deliniated rules for building encounters and heaps of advice for running games; especially in 4th edition. DnD 4th edition does not screw around, and if your looking for the kind of experience it will deliver and are willing to put in the time to learn it, it will seldom steer you wrong.
Still, 3rd and 4th edition did a good trick in raising GM to Godhood. When you hear people talk about how they want to GM because it’s “too hard”, it’s usually because that’s the impression 3rd and to a lesser extent 4th edition tried actively to cultivate. Here, Fugaros talks about how the hobby has become insular and inward-gazing, all of us believing we are “elite cadre of dual-classed warrior-kings.” In my mind, Third Edition made that happen.
So here we are, the broken children of Gygax. Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. Stick around and let’s talk about some games.