I’m going to let you in on a very poorly kept secret. I am a huge nerd. Most of my friends are nerds. Some of them are even dorks. There’s nothing wrong with it. It just means that my hobbies revolve less around physical competition and a lot more around space ships and wizards.
I was a latecomer to 2nd Edition AD&D. When it comes to roleplaying games she was my first. She was both brainy and beautiful, complex and colorful, but with classic tastes. Our wonderful relationship was short lived, and doomed from the start. She was stuck in her own time, and with each passing day it became more and more of a long distance relationship.
Just as I was getting used to everything, understanding all the complexities and details of the lovely 2nd Edition, Wizards of the Coast slapped me upside the head with 3rd Edition. Easy, slutty 3rd Edition. The one that would be used by everyone. I hated it. It seemed like the entire world was rapidly embracing this fantastic piece of garbage.
I know everyone who plays roleplaying games goes through this. A new edition comes out and it’s weird and uncomfortable for you, while all the little newbies praise how incredible it is. I felt like my situation was worse than it is for most, because of how rapidly my friends switched, never to look back at the infinitely superior predecessor. I was swimming against the current, and all my jerk friends were coming straight at me and making waves with their rafts.
I didn’t understand. The definition of the word “feat” from dictionary.com is as follows: “a noteworthy or extraordinary act or achievement.” What the hell was it saying when I rolled my character and I was supposed to choose my feats? Were they some incredible things my character had done prior to the start of the story? Apart from just being awesome and hilarious, my character had to have done stuff already? That sounded stupid.
Stupid, until I found out that the guys at WotC had decided that a “feat” was a magic spell-like innate ability my character could pull off, regardless of whether or not they were in fact a member of a magic using character class. Stupid no more! I felt that it was Incredibly Stupid. Feats, in truth, were only the beginning of a laundry list of things I disliked about this edition.
The years went by and I waved the white flag. I gave in to 3rd Edition, solely because I knew I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to partake in a game with lots of dice and dwarves with other friendless idiots. (That’s a term of endearment, really.) I silently hated it. Actually, I was never silent about it.
I enjoyed the D&D Miniatures game. It was a fun distraction. It kept me interested in the Dungeons and Dragons brand. I amassed a pretty large collection and genuinely had some fantastic times hanging out at Battleground Games and Hobbies each week. I’m mentioning this for two reasons. One, I wanted to give Battleground a shout-out. Two, D&D Minis plays it’s own role in what I feel is a case of aggression that WotC laid against me, trying as hard as they could to make me completely uninterested in being a customer of theirs.
The dreaded 4th Edition reared it’s ugly head. The things I heard sounded bad. I wanted to embrace it, I really did. I hoped that maybe they had seen the errors of their way. I dreamed of a mathematically more logical version of 2nd Edition. Was I going to be introduced to the lovely younger sister of my first love? No. No. Tens of millions of hundreds of thousands times no.
“Every member of the party has a job.” What? My characters rarely functioned in a helpful way. My characters never trusted nor could be trusted by anyone else’s character. I’m the guy who played a halfling vampire hunter with tourettes syndrome, and knew nothing about vampires. Also it had been made clear to me from the very beginning that at no point was a vampire going to show up in that particular campaign setting.
Now, I’m not saying that Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, and James Wyatt didn’t work hard– ON LEVELING UP THEIR GODSDAMNED WORLD OF WARCRAFT CHARACTERS. When you are designing a game you are creating a work of literature. 4th Edition was not literature. It was at best a piece of Warcraft fanfiction. Even the artwork reeked of that terrible game. 4th Edition even tried to fit in a monthly subscription fee. There was the vaporware that was D&D Insider; a set of tools that never actually became available, but still had a price.
I tried it. I played it. It sucked. I still had my D&D Minis to fall back on for my small weekly dose of pretending I could still enjoy this garbage. But that wasn’t to be for long. For what felt like no reason at all, WotC destroyed it. They took it away, after first raping and then humiliating it. The Miniatures Game was killed off with about as much dignity and thoroughness as John Rhys-Davies was killed off on Sliders– lobotomized, shot, and left lying in the path of a planet-destroying pulsar. (Belated spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t seen Sliders yet.)
Approximately a year ago I began work on my own roleplaying game. I created about forty pages of charts, tested it, and even came up with a name. My life took some serious turns not long after that and I shelved the project.
Recently I heard that Wizards is constructing a 5th Edition, this time using INPUT FROM THE PLAYERS! People seemed excited. I couldn’t understand why. This is a lie at best. The end result can not be good. For every talented and insightful would-be game designer with a brilliant idea there will be a hundred fat guys over the age of twelve who still watch professional wrestling adding their “unique” and “original” contributions.
Wizards of the Coast, I don’t want to help. I don’t want to contribute. I just want you to stop. Stop going so freaking George Lucas on this game I once loved. I’m going to dust off my charts. I’m going to start a new draft of MY game: the game I (and all the other cool people) will actually want to play.