D&D Next: Original Red Box vs. 4e Red Box - Why It Matters

With the announcement of DnD Next I have watched with some degree of amusement the amount of vitriol that has been expelled regarding 4e itself, or even the announcement that says "Hey, we want you involved, let's rebuild this thing".

The one question I ask myself is always the same. Do the folks who get online and spend huge allotments of their personal time writing about "what's wrong with.." posts, spend the same amount of time in being creative as either DM's or players?

That said, the online world has changed the way people communicate. When writing online it is much easier to lose your brain to mouth filters than if you were in front of that same person attempting to debate your specific point. However, the good of the internet is evident in that the group as a whole, DM's, Players, Designers, and Publishers, have an equal chance of being heard. That is good. In fact, that is great! 

So, as I write this article, I write it with the intention of not producing a flame war, edition war, or anything other kind of war, but rather, a discussion of the basics or the obvious even. There is one thing I think that has happened with the online D&D community and that is, older players like me, ones who have been around since the games inception in the 70's, often don't waste time posting messages, thoughts or feelings with so much "passion' than younger players do. But, from time to time one of us old farts starts a discussion based on real "facts" vs. vitriol. Here's mine:
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Original Red Box vs. 4e Red Box - Why does it matter to DnD Next? 
 
Let's be frank. Yes, I currently play with 4e rules. But I'm not a rules lawyer type of DM. I come from the era where you HAD to use your imagination in order to make the game what it once was. A fantasy filled story world that you and your friends participated in. As an example, here is an excerpt of the forward written by Frank Mentzer in February of 1983.


This is a game that is fun. It helps you imagine.

“As you whirl around, your sword ready, the huge, red, fire-breathing dragon swoops toward you with a ROAR!”

See? Your imagination woke up already. Now imagine: This game may be more fun than any other game you have ever played!

That was a hell of a good way to introduce someone immediately to what D&D WAS back then. FUN! Sure, there was back then, and always will continue to be, folks who have a passion for the previous rule set, character class, mechanics, etc. BUT, back then, just about anyone who played D&D and had a real passion for it, would slip into whatever version, of whoever's game, was being played. Things were simple enough back then that you just didn't have to worry so much about "rules", or "mechanics".

The hard truth is that so many DM's house ruled so many things, or made up their own worlds, that many times the true rule set was just a minor mimickery of the published material. And, published material wasn't as easy to come by as it is now. People just didn't have the same amount of disposable income as there seems to be in this era.

Keeping that in mind, I now give you the opening excerpt to the Player's Book from the 4e Red Box.

This book--along with the other content of this box--is your introduction to the Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy Role Playing Game.

The Dunegons and Dragons game is the original pen and paper roleplaying game, the inspiration for generations of other gamers of other gamers both on the tabletop and on computers and game consoles. If you've ever played Neverwinter Nights, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, or games like those, you already have some idea of what the Dungeons and Dragons game is about. With this book, you're about to experience the game in its latest and greatest incarnations.

Do you see the difference? Where's the fun? Comparing D&D to a hoard of video games, is I guess ok if you are just trying to relay the basics of the "mechanics", but that is defenitely not what D&D is "about".

 As you continue on through that book, it is often times drab and boring. And for someone new to tabletop pen and paper, or even new to D&D, it does nothing to really explain what D&D truly is, or, as an example, what the basis is for the race of Dwarves.

In the 4e version of Red Box, there simply isn't any explanation at all regarding some of the most basic of races or classes. In the original Red Box, you could find base information on a what a Dwarf should be. What's it characteristics are, what the basis of the class was.

THAT, is what the real difference is between D&D back then, vs. what has been portrayed in later years. A fundamental failure to easily explain to new players what the REAL D&D game is, and what it is really about. 

Where's the push towards imagination and fun? from version 3 forward?
Why have we become so rules centric to the point it invokes major arguments?

Gary Gygax wrote this in the original foreward of Men and Magic:


These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, thosewho don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is gropingthrough black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard's Conan saga, who donot enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the GrayMouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to findDUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste. But those whose imaginations knowno bounds will find that these rules are the answer to their prayers. With this lastbit of advice we invite you to read on and enjoy a "world" where the fantastic isfact and magic really works!

Obviously in 1973, things were looked upon a little differently, but again, the premise was, we were USED TO having to use our imaginations. The game doesn't really work well for anyone, if you can't use a little of your own imagination to make the story special.

A little further in the opening paragraph of the Introduction, it was written:

These rules are as complete as possible within the limitations imposed by the space of three booklets. That is, they cover the major aspects of fantasy campaigns but still remain flexible. As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign. They provide the framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity — your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors, and the fact that you have purchased these rules tends to indicate that there is no lack of imagination.

Think about that for a moment.Notice that the word "guidelines" was underlined? THIS is what has been forgotten in D&D from version 3 forward.


So, if I think about D&D Next, and what my contribution might be with regards to playtesting and content construction, I hope that someone at Wizards will actually see this article, then sit down for a moment and ask themselves if they are indeed producing a product that is FUN, and encourages people to use their IMAGINATION, while remembering that is a FANTASY setting and that hard rules are merely GUIDELINES for the world you create as both a DM and a Player.

Best,

--JD 


I approve this message
Ever watched some of the D&D designers run a game? (Perkins doesn't count; he actually appears to know better) If so, you'll know that the problem isn't really that the game has lost this, but more that the game designers have lost it (or never had it).

Fun. Adventure. Infinite space with which we can create, explore, and play. You're right; D&D has lost these things.

I'm an oddball, I guess; to me, that's always been in the hands of the GM where it belongs. RPGs are not art: they are the tools with which a group of players creates art. Thus, I have no problem with the books being mechanically sound but a bit dry--I'm perfectly capable of being imaginitive without the book's help. I appreciate the framework of setting and style that the book provides, and a conflict resolution engine upon which I can base my narrative,  but I find any RPG's attempts to be "imaginitive" on my behalf boring and trite.

But then again, I know that's NOT the opinion that most people have. When I was a child, adults (and later other children) told me that I shouldn't talk to myself. It always confused me, until I realized that they didn't understand what I was doing. I wasn't just talking to myself, I was creating stories, play-acting characters and conversations, worlds and monsters, for an audience of one. When I discovered RPGs, it seemed so simply natural to me. I'm a storyteller. I always have been.

But most people aren't. I might not need help, but they do. And unfortunately that seems to include the people at WotC.  

*m4ki sighs, gazing out the window for a moment*

I'm not really sure where I'm going with that line of thought.

You have a lot of insight into the state of things around here, JD. I hope someone in Renton catches sight of this.
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
Ever watched some of the D&D designers run a game? (Perkins doesn't count; he actually appears to know better) If so, you'll know that the problem isn't really that the game has lost this, but more that the game designers have lost it (or never had it).

Fun. Adventure. Infinite space with which we can create, explore, and play. You're right; D&D has lost these things.

I'm an oddball, I guess; to me, that's always been in the hands of the GM where it belongs. RPGs are not art: they are the tools with which a group of players creates art. Thus, I have no problem with the books being mechanically sound but a bit dry--I'm perfectly capable of being imaginitive without the book's help. I appreciate the framework of setting and style that the book provides, and a conflict resolution engine upon which I can base my narrative,  but I find any RPG's attempts to be "imaginitive" on my behalf boring and trite.

But then again, I know that's NOT the opinion that most people have. When I was a child, adults (and later other children) told me that I shouldn't talk to myself. It always confused me, until I realized that they didn't understand what I was doing. I wasn't just talking to myself, I was creating stories, play-acting characters and conversations, worlds and monsters, for an audience of one. When I discovered RPGs, it seemed so simply natural to me. I'm a storyteller. I always have been.

But most people aren't. I might not need help, but they do. And unfortunately that seems to include the people at WotC.  

*m4ki sighs, gazing out the window for a moment*

I'm not really sure where I'm going with that line of thought.

You have a lot of insight into the state of things around here, JD. I hope someone in Renton catches sight of this.



I haven't watch them play, but I've read that Mearls, despite all the flack we give him, is a pretty fun DM.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

That depends on how you define "fun" I suppose. 
-m4ki; one down, one to go

"Retro is not new. Retro-fit is not new." --Seeker95, on why I won't be playing DDN

|| DDN Metrics (0-10) | enthusiasm: 1 | confidence in design: -3 | desire to play: 0 | Sticking with 4e?: Yep. | Better Options: IKRPG Mk II ||
The Five Things D&D Next Absolutely Must Not Do:
1. Imbalanced gameplay. Any and all characters must be able to contribute equally both in combat and out of combat at all levels of play. If the Fighters are linear and the Wizards quadratic, I walk. 2. Hardcore simulationist approach. D&D is a game about heroic fantasy. I'm weak and useless enough in real life; I play RPGs for a change of pace. If the only reason a rule exists is because "that's how it's supposed to be", I walk. I don't want a game that "simulates" real life, I want a game that simulates heroic fantasy. 3. Worshipping at false idols (AKA Sacred Cows). If the only reason a rule exists is "it's always been that way", I walk. Now to be clear, I have no problem with some things not changing; my issue is with retaining bad idea simply for the sake of nostalgia. 4. DM vs. players. If the game encourages "gotcha!" moments or treats the DM and players as enemies, adversaries, or problems to be overcome, I walk. 5. Rules for the sake of rules. The only thing I want rules for is the things I can't do sitting around a table with my friends. If the rules try to step on my ability to roleplay the character I want to roleplay, I walk. Furthermore, the rules serve to facilitate gameplay, not to simulate the world. NOTE: Items in red have been violated.
Chris Perkins' DM Survival Tips:
1. When in doubt, wing it. 2. Keep the story moving. Go with the flow. 3. Sometimes things make the best characters. 4. Always give players lots of things to do. 5. Wherever possible, say ‘yes.’ 6. Cheating is largely unnecessary. 7. Don't be afraid to give the characters a fun new toy. 8. Don't get in the way of a good players exchange. 9. Avoid talking too much. 10. Save some details for later. 11. Be transparent. 12. Don't show all your cards. Words to live by.
Quotes From People Smarter Than Me:
"Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging..." -Foxface on Essentials "Servicing a diverse fan base with an RPG ruleset - far from being the mandate for 'open design space' and a cavalier attitude towards balance - requires creating a system that /works/, with minimal fuss, for a wide variety of play styles, not just from one group to the next, but at the same table." -Tony_Vargas on design "Mearls' and Cook's stated intent to produce an edition that fans of all previous editions (and Pathfinder) will like more than their current favourite edition is laudable. But it is also, IMO, completely unrealistic. It's like people who pray for world peace: I might share their overall aims, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to succeed. When they talk in vague terms about what they'd like to do in this new edition, I mostly find myself thinking 'hey, that sounds cool, assuming they can pull it off', but almost every time they've said something specific about actual mechanics, I've found myself wincing and shaking my head in disbelief and/or disgust, either straight away or after thinking about the obvious implications for half a minute." -Duskweaver on D&D Next
I got so snared on writing that that I forgot to mention a couple of my main points.

Yes, some of things I said are defenitely in the hands of the DM. That is and always has been true. BUT, the designers have lost that emphasis, as evidenced by my post. They have lost the ability to truly make people excited about D&D. TSR did this best back in the early 80's. They had a myriad of folks who were excited and ecstatic to write for TSR, and about the world of D&D. They provoked you to imagine the possibilities while you giving you some guidelines so that you can indeed imagine those possibilities.

The DM's of tomorrow, are the players of today. How many younger players today could honestly go any direction in a session without worrying about the storyline? I always write down 2-3 scenarios in which I attempt to predict my players behavior based on their play style. I'm usually right about 75% of the time. The 25% I'm wrong... well if you had my players sitting here in front of you, they would tell you that they never knew I didn't have a particular path planned as we played. That is why the emphasis on omagination and guidelines is a message that WoTC needs to learn to embrace and develop as they think about D&D Next.

When writing this, I really was gearing it towards the business side of D&D. Point being that in order to engage, and I mean REALLY engage newer players, they HAVE to make it understandable to those much younger than me, to give them a reason to spend their money on the D&D system, vs. the instant gratification of WoW as an example. Your average 18 year old has no idea of what a Dwarf is, much less how they should act. The current Red Box does nothing to help them learn this.

In order for WoTC to make this a 50 million dollar business, they have to have the ability to reach the younger crowd, who have grwon up with internet, instant gratification, and mindless hours on an Xbox. If you can't get them to read and act in school, how will you reach them in a tabletop RPG setting?

These are the things that TSR was good at in the "golden" days. They captured the minds and imagination of kids, and those kids are now like me... ;)

--JD

 
That depends on how you define "fun" I suppose. 



Have YOU played in his game?  It sounds like you're getting this impression simply from disliking L&L.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

I think this problem is the most obvious in adventures. Compare adventures for 2E and prior with those for 3E and later. Especially compare Against the giants and Palace of the Silver Princess with Keep on the Shadowfell and Pyramid of Shadows. You will see the huge difference.

Or just compare 4E tactical adventures with those full of fluff for Pathfinder.
Of course there's a difference, but that won't stop anyone...

(From the 5e box cover)

"In celebration of the 40th year of this storied story-telling franchise, we've brought back the ruby-red color of the original game box. More than just an anniversary color, this is an acknowledgement that this edition brings D&D back to its roots, and gets at the core of why anyone who rolls a d20 loved D&D in the first place."

As with the 4e red box, this will be an over-the-top appeal to 1e retro gamers and everyone who fell in love with D&D with that edition.

It's all marketing now.


 
Ever watched some of the D&D designers run a game? (Perkins doesn't count; he actually appears to know better) If so, you'll know that the problem isn't really that the game has lost this, but more that the game designers have lost it (or never had it).


I know a lot of people that have and who would disagree with you. There may be a few bad accounts out there, but I would not let that color the reality of the many excellent designers the game has. The more I get to know a few designers/developers/producers/editors, the more I see them being at the top of the game in all respects. I've been fortunate enough to play with several, and they were all great experiences.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).


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Original Red Box vs. 4e Red Box - Why does it matter to DnD Next? 
 
Let's be frank. Yes, I currently play with 4e rules. But I'm not a rules lawyer type of DM. I come from the era where you HAD to use your imagination in order to make the game what it once was. A fantasy filled story world that you and your friends participated in. As an example, here is an excerpt of the forward written by Frank Mentzer in February of 1983.


This is a game that is fun. It helps you imagine.

“As you whirl around, your sword ready, the huge, red, fire-breathing dragon swoops toward you with a ROAR!”

See? Your imagination woke up already. Now imagine: This game may be more fun than any other game you have ever played!

That was a hell of a good way to introduce someone immediately to what D&D WAS back then. FUN! Sure, there was back then, and always will continue to be, folks who have a passion for the previous rule set, character class, mechanics, etc. BUT, back then, just about anyone who played D&D and had a real passion for it, would slip into whatever version, of whoever's game, was being played. Things were simple enough back then that you just didn't have to worry so much about "rules", or "mechanics".

The hard truth is that so many DM's house ruled so many things, or made up their own worlds, that many times the true rule set was just a minor mimickery of the published material. And, published material wasn't as easy to come by as it is now. People just didn't have the same amount of disposable income as there seems to be in this era.

Keeping that in mind, I now give you the opening excerpt to the Player's Book from the 4e Red Box.

This book--along with the other content of this box--is your introduction to the Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy Role Playing Game.

The Dunegons and Dragons game is the original pen and paper roleplaying game, the inspiration for generations of other gamers of other gamers both on the tabletop and on computers and game consoles. If you've ever played Neverwinter Nights, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, or games like those, you already have some idea of what the Dungeons and Dragons game is about. With this book, you're about to experience the game in its latest and greatest incarnations.

Do you see the difference? Where's the fun? Comparing D&D to a hoard of video games, is I guess ok if you are just trying to relay the basics of the "mechanics", but that is defenitely not what D&D is "about".



Brilliant. This sums up the biggest issue I have with 4e. And it's pretty much the germination point for other things I think are wrong with 4e and the way it was handled.
I don't think it is 4e itself, or necessarily, even the designers. Design is usually the vision of the leadership, or manipulated by it. The language used in the end, that really falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing team or producer. 

No, I don't have any insider knowledge of how WoTC runs their products from conception to finish. My statements may be entirely false, but, after having a solid run in corporate land for awhile, it is what I would imagine has taken place.

That said, whoever there is managing, producing, creating and writing material, or even conceptualizing for that fact, has to have enthusiasm! They undeniably need to fully love and understand their product, especially from the 10,000 foot view of today's market and economy. Not to mention, as I have said, the player base in general has changed. 

Want to know what my first "computer" game looked like? Go read the players guide to the original red box. That was D&D style game on the Apple II somewhere around 1980. No, I don't remember the name of it or who actually made it, I just remember playing it. It had very simplistic if-and-else-choose statements and directions. Spent hours playing it. Of course, it took hours for it to spin through those 5 inch floppy drives anyway...lol. Can't imagine any kid of modern society being able to withstand the turtle pace of playing it and waiting for the drives to read the next moves.

I have rambled and digressed enough. I believe that WoTC is trying to do the right thing. I just hope they REALLY remember what was so special about D&D 30 years ago because it sure wasn't the rule set or mechanics. It was pure imagination and possibilities.

--JD
 
I bought the 4e Red Book solely because of the good memories I had of the original one.

It was terrible, though. Instead of a "choose your own adventure" solo game, it had a "choose your own character" roundabout way of doing character generation.

And it was incredibly dumbed down.

Do you:
A) Want to play a mystical character? (Go to "Wizard")
B) Want to play a tough swordy guy? (Go to "Fighter")
C) Play a sneaky swordy guy? (Go to "Rogue")
D) Play a spiritual dude? (Go to "cleric")

Ugh. Was worthless.
I wouldn't say it was worthless, but your description is dead on. When you sit down with the Original Red Box players manual and the 4e version, it's almost hard to believe the discussion is about the same game.

--JD 




I bought the 4e Red Book solely because of the good memories I had of the original one.

It was terrible, though. Instead of a "choose your own adventure" solo game, it had a "choose your own character" roundabout way of doing character generation.

And it was incredibly dumbed down.

Do you:
A) Want to play a mystical character? (Go to "Wizard")
B) Want to play a tough swordy guy? (Go to "Fighter")
C) Play a sneaky swordy guy? (Go to "Rogue")
D) Play a spiritual dude? (Go to "cleric")

Ugh. Was worthless.



Imagination... Now there's a concept...

Just last night as we all sat around the table, our DM described the room in detail that we had just entered. We walked through a bit, looked through the bookshelf, and then asked about an item in the room that the DM had mentioned- specifically where it was again.

He looked at the finely crafted map that had come with the adventure and after a few seconds, pointed to a blank spot on the map and said "it would be right about here. Just use your imagination (which with him and I being the only two in out group that is over 35 and have played earlier versions of D&D, this is kind of an inside joke between the both of us).

Our group consists of 3 kids under the age of 13, one late teen, one early twenties, and then us. No one in our group has any D&D experience of over 9 months except for the DM and me. When the word imagination is used, they all look like they may hurt themselves trying.

I myself enjoy using maps and miniatures (as they aid me in a tactical sense), but I remember when it was all imagination and the only visual aid was a sketched out map that the DM might use to help keep him on track pushing us through the dungeon.

I have to say that I agree with the OP. Bring back the imagination. I admit, I have no ideas to contribute in the way of how to do that, but that's what developers get paid for. 
Well, at least they aren't changing the dice... I may have just jinxed myself
That was an excellent post. I volunteer a great deal at my local FLGS running Encounters, Lair Assault, answering questions about D&D, helping create first characters, etc. It's always the younger folks who have a hard time with concepts (like imagination) that are native to us older players.

One thing I would suggest to Wizards is to use that word to their advantage. Remember the old days? Learn how to survive without an Xbox, or WoW. Play a game that is in your mind! I don't think the younger generation can get past the instant gratification of cheat codes and looking up on the internet how to beat the game...
 

Capitalism at it's finest, doing what it does best, has inadvertantly helped dumb down our next generation.

--JD 


Imagination... Now there's a concept...

Just last night as we all sat around the table, our DM described the room in detail that we had just entered. We walked through a bit, looked through the bookshelf, and then asked about an item in the room that the DM had mentioned- specifically where it was again.

He looked at the finely crafted map that had come with the adventure and after a few seconds, pointed to a blank spot on the map and said "it would be right about here. Just use your imagination (which with him and I being the only two in out group that is over 35 and have played earlier versions of D&D, this is kind of an inside joke between the both of us).

Our group consists of 3 kids under the age of 13, one late teen, one early twenties, and then us. No one in our group has any D&D experience of over 9 months except for the DM and me. When the word imagination is used, they all look like they may hurt themselves trying.

I myself enjoy using maps and miniatures (as they aid me in a tactical sense), but I remember when it was all imagination and the only visual aid was a sketched out map that the DM might use to help keep him on track pushing us through the dungeon.

I have to say that I agree with the OP. Bring back the imagination. I admit, I have no ideas to contribute in the way of how to do that, but that's what developers get paid for. 



I think that games like WoW and video games in general (keep in mind I love to play them as much as the next person) is where the imagination concept is falling apart. The kids that game in my group fill in their time between their turns by either using some app on their ipod or, and I do give her credit for this vs some electrical application, reading a book.

They do enjoy making attacks and dealing damage, but other than that they are disconnected (or even bored) between their turns. A lot of the younger generation (I can feel the liver spots bursting onto my hands as I type that) just depend to much on having everything flash on a screen and reacting to it. No need to imagine- just turn off your brain and react. Can't entirely blame them- that's partof why I love video games to.

It would just be great to get the brain stimulated again through D&D. 
Well, at least they aren't changing the dice... I may have just jinxed myself
I think you may have struck things to the core.  If Wizards wants to reach out to the old grognards like they seem to say, the feel is how they need to do it.  I'm also on the list of people who bought the 4e Red Box hoping for something...  I wasn't personally dissapointed, because my expectations of anything related to 4e were at that point incredably low, but at the same time it failed to "wow" the way I think it had hoped to.

And, I would argue, bringing back the old FEEL (more than the old mechanics) might help D&D with the younger crowd as well: the more D&D tries to sell itself like a videogame, the more members of the "video games" generation are going to say "Why am I not just playing my favorite video game?".  If D&D differentiates itself from those, makes itself (as it should be) an experience that is inherantly different from that found in digital media, then it has a niche.

Some may have argued that the imagination has atrophied in the younger generation, that being a passive consumer of media rather than a participant is the wave of the future.  I think that the imagination has simply been hidden.  It takes a little time and skill to bring it out, but I feel young people who give a D&D of the imagination a try, because (not in spite of the fact) it is something different.

The problem for the marketers is, of course, it takes a little while and a good atmosphere for someone to engage -- they aren't going to see results in five minutes, and probably not fifteen.

So, I would argue, the next D&D has to come with a Red Box -- that is to say, there needs to be an introductory release tesigned to pull people into the game.  This red box needs to contain a few basic rules pamphlets, of course -- somewhere the bare bones versions of the core rules that may be consulted and used to play the game and a lighter printing of the PHB and DMG.  A few sets of dice and a golf pencil or three would also be nice touches -- everything you NEED to play the game, right out of the box

It should also include a good selection of pregenerated characters, at different levels of completion: I'm seeing a mixture of ones that do or don';t have role-playing details.  For the first-timers, having the bare bones of a personality suggested encourages role playing as "acting", while for those unsatisfied with the selection (or who simply want to go their own way with a character): more power to them -- a there are pregenerated's that are statistically complete, but lack all the role-playing details like Race, Gender, Age, Alignment, and Name.  This is so a new group that decides to start playing D&D on a lark can start right away.  A few (4-10) blank character sheets should probably be included too.

This also means that an introductory module should be included.  This needs to be written very well and very carefully, because much like B2, the Keep on the Borderlands, it will be the first experience that many players have with Dungeons and Dragons or, in fact Role Playing at all.  It needs to have those wonderful blocks of description for the DM to read and above all it needs to throw the players into the atmosphere of the game as quickly as possible.  Getting them fighting is probably important, but above all else it needs to get them thinking.  I would almost recommend remaking Keep on the Borderlands itself, which had a nice little town before heading off into the monster infested wilderness and dungeons.  It's likley best to move to the "meat" swiftly, but give them a chance to start imagining before asking them to do battle.  D&D cannot afford to be experienced first and foremost as a hack and slash outlet -- kids today have Diablo for that.

All of the materials in the box need to be written with vigor, interest, and excitement -- if you write to inform (like the quoted passages of the 4e Red Box do), you lose interest.  If you write with passion, you share that passion with your readers.  This would be the product that Wizards has a great interest into putting all their creative muscle into -- I know they have it, I know they can do it.  And when they end the narrative text of a module... If a group has gotten that far, chances are they're hooked: the send-off needs to let them know where to go from here.  Of course, other release products will probably be mentioned, but the call to arms is one to keep going -- the start of a story, the first chapter has been provided for you.  Where can you go from here?  Anywhere you can imagine!

"Enjoy your screams, Sarpadia - they will soon be muffled beneath snow and ice."

 

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THE COALITION WAR GAME -Phyrexian Chief Praetor
Round 1: (4-1-2, 1 kill)
Round 2: (16-8-2, 4 kills)
Round 3: (18-9-2, 1 kill)
Round 4: (22-10-0, 2 kills)
Round 5: (56-16-3, 9 kills)
Round 6: (8-7-1)

Last Edited by Ralph on blank, 1920