Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Overreaction Wednesday

For the latest in the Next Design Wars, I think these two articles pretty much sum it up:

Against the Nostalgia Fetish in Fantasy Roleplaying

1,000-Word Rebuttal: Against the Fetish of Progressive Design

The funny thing is that when I saw the titles of each I expected to feel more aligned with the second article. After reading them I was much more sympathetic with the first. I'm not sure what that says about me or how I feel about these games we play, but it's an interesting feeling. 

I do tend to consider myself more old-school than new-school, but I have seen exactly what the first  article describes: lots of the comments on Next have been pushing for changes based on how D&D used to do it. Using that as one consideration is fine IMO but it shouldn't be the only consideration, and I'm not sure it needs to be the primary consideration. Anyway, the primary focus of the article was specifically D&D Next.

In contrast the second article seems to be about old school gaming and nostalgia in general, which is really not anything that was addressed in the first, so it's not much of a rebuttal, specifically, to that first article. I completely agree that "newer" doesn't automatically mean "better" and that people should play what they want.

My personal take on Next is this: They don't need to republish Prior Edition X or some combination of Prior Editions X-Y-Z. They're already selling those again, in PDF form and in reprinted hard copy form. A new edition needs to have some "new" in it or there's no point to it. So show us something interesting. 

To WOTC, specifically: This is your job! You're supposed to be the trained professionals, the experts, with more resources than anyone else making RPG's. I've been hearing for years about how much better something is when "professional game designers" handle it as opposed to part-timers and hobbyists - mostly by people who happen to be or aspire to be - professional game designers! So show us how this is supposed to be done! Don't farm it out to the internet and then tell us "well this is what people want". I don't need a designer for that! That's acting as a project manager, not designing a game! No one has asked for a return to the completely closed "Hey ya'll here it is" approach leading up to 4th Edition but I suspect there's something between it and the "warring internet tribes" approach we're seeing now.

I'm less convinced now that crowd-sourcing was a good idea at the early stage in which it entered this project, because the game mechanics have gone all over the place since it started.  Having a solid base and the letting the crowd refine it, an "Open Beta" approach, still has value I think. This one feels like it started with no real set design and that everything was on the table. The lack of direction and consistency makes me wonder if we have a game of game design musical chairs going on now and whatever mechanics we have when it's time to publish are what we will be playing as part of D&D 5. I hope I'm wrong.


WQRobb said...

At lunch today I was just talking about how put off I was by the D&D Next crowd-sourcing, and how they had really set themselves up for failure. If I decided, before writing something, to ask 100 people what I should write about, all I'm doing is taking 99 people and telling them that I didn't go with their idea.

I also find the editing process for D&D Next too reactionary--major things are added and then removed with each change, and that's no way to try to build a campaign (which I suppose I shouldn't be doing with a game in Alpha Testing).

Blacksteel said...

That's actually something I didn't mention - the changes have been radical enough that it would be really difficult to run a sustained campaign using "next". Given that, and considering it's difficult enough to get a group together to play regularly anyway, why would I waste that time with unstable rules like those?

Sure, if i had a chance to do a one-off i might consider it, but even that seems like a waste of time to some degree as new rules take up a lot of time in a session - why not play a game we already know?

I think a group would have to make a decision to commit to some kind of campaign interlude where you're running what are basically one-shots with somewhat different sets of rules every few months if you wanted to make this an active, ongoing thing. As a DM I'm not sure that sounds like much fun, especially with some fairly casual players who aren't going to be online checking the latest updates every time. The changes are just going to annoy them.