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:
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.