The Ecology of the Grognard
My name is Rich and I’m a 41 year old gamer that’s played D&D since around eight years old.
When I was ten and started attending a gaming group at Chapman College in the city of Orange I met another 10 yr old kid named George who walked with a bit of a limp.
George would become my inseparable best friend, closer to me than a brother and George and I would spend almost every weekend for the next 20 years sitting across gaming tables from each other, most commonly playing Dungeons and Dragons.
In the year 2000 George’s childhood cancer (which had given him the original limp) returned and he eventually succumbed to it. Most of our old gaming group had dissolved with the kids and teens George and I spent most of our growing up with becoming adults and spreading out across the country chasing career dreams and families. I too began to travel.
It took a long while but eventually I got over George’s death and started gaming with a few new groups in the new towns I was visiting. It was different and it wasn’t easy dealing with all those memories and comparing how every group I played in seemed inferior to the core group I had grown up with. Playing D&D again, as it was our favorite game, was especially hard but I knew George wouldn’t want me to give up on something both of us truly loved just because of a little initial awkwardness.
I, like other fiends had moved around the country, when I eventually returned to California. All the places I had once lived and was once familiar with had changed.
The local gaming store where George and I had bought all our books, and tacked notices up about house games was now a dog grooming spa. Most of the public gaming groups had also fallen off the map. Games Workshop stores seemed to have popped up everywhere but the stores solely dedicated to our role playing hobby and maybe comic books seemed to have all but disappeared.
But that was alright, D&D may have traveled on to a 3.5 game that was being sold in big box book stores and many things were different, but some things I knew just would never change. I’d always know what a cure light wounds spell did, what an appropriate encounter and treasure reward would be. In your 40’s watching the whole world change around you can be very distressing but D&D was something you could always count on… or so I thought.
Now living in a smaller town 3.0 even 3.5 games were not easy to find, but when the 4th edition was to come out and talk of finally receiving a Virtual Table Top where soon maybe my original core group could gather if not around a dining room table but around our home computers had everyone excited. I decided to give it a whirl and joined up with a 4e group.
Though the other attendees and DM were very experienced like myself, it just wasn’t D&D. Almost everything had changed. After about two years the VTT was no where to be found, the wives of my former friends could rest assured there would be no return to weekend D&D gaming.
I had a 12th level Paladin, with a stack of divine powers and a filled back pack of magic items that a 25th level 3.0 character in my previous experience would ever come close to amassing. Nothing worked the same, and using innovation or out of the box thinking just wasn’t something the game supported as it was really a computer MMO pretending to be a table top RPG. If you had a problem and needed a solution, you argued about the rules and eventually rolled a die and that was about it.
Disgusted and feeling completely let down by my once trusted old hobby I swore I’d never play D&D again. That was until about two weeks ago when I heard 5th Edition was on its way, and it was intended to bring the older gamers like myself back to the dungeons to fight the dragons.
While on the forums somebody called me a “Grognard” and I had no idea what it meant. I looked it up and here’s what I found…
grognard (plural grognards)
- An old soldier.
- (games, slang) Someone who enjoys playing board wargames, particularly the counter-heavy strategy board wargames from the 1970s and 1980s.
- (games, slang) Someone who enjoys playing previous editions of roleplaying games when new editions of the game are available.[ quotations ▼]
- “James is such a grognard, he only plays the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons.”
grognard m. (plural grognards)
- an old veteran soldier; specifically of the grenadiers of the Imperial Guard (Grenadiers à Pied de la Garde Impériale); an old complaining soldier
The Old Guard
The Old Guard was formed of veteran soldiers who had served Napoleon since his earliest campaigns.
It is believed that Napoleon hand-selected members of his Old Guard based on physical traits, most notably above-average height. Their imposing stature was likely impressive to foes and allies alike. Serving in the army for several years as well as a citation for bravery were also taken into consideration when selecting troops into the Old Guard.
There were four regiments of Old Guard infantry: the 1st Grenadiers, 2nd Grenadiers, 1st Chasseurs, and 2nd Chasseurs and belonged the Imperial Guard under Emperor Napoleon. Members of The Guard benefitted from a number of different privileges. The wages of individual soldiers in The Guard was considerably higher than any other military unit in Napoleon's Imperial Guard. Another privilege reserved only for the members of the Old Guard was the freedom to express their discontent freely: the Old Guard Grenadiers were known as les Grognards ("the Grumblers") because they openly complained about the petty troubles of military life. Some of the officers even did so in the presence of the Emperor knowing that the Old Guard's reputation commanded enough respect with Napoleon to allow itself such openess. Such behaviour was unique to the Old Guard and would have been severely punished were it engaged in by a member of any other unit.
So there it was... I was a snarling, grunting, growling, grumbling old solder engaged in a complaining activity that if I were not an old hand at D&D would not be tolerated. A guy who refused to play the new version of the game as I believed the old versions were much better. Yeah, I guess that seemed pretty on the money about who and what I am and how I feel about Dungeons and Dragons.
As I read these posts about how many of the 4e gamers hope most of what they enjoy about their edition of the game is kept in 5e, I couldn’t feel more opposed. It is my deepest hope that D&D goes back to being what made it great in the first place, and returns to the mechanics that allowed a 2.0 character to be easily converted into a 3.5 character, so that this lost and nearly forgotten about 3.0 D&D player has a chance to be converted into wallet diving a 5.0 enthusiast.