A question for both fans and game designers alike to ponder. What does Dungeons and Dragons mean to you?
I have a long history with the game through many editions so it's a little hard to articulate my answer in a concise way. I guess saying it's the most fun hobby I've had for almost 36 years kinda covers it. But it's alot more. At least it was....
Thinking about modern D&D versions like 4E and the Essentials line, I can't help thinking that D&D isn't quite what it used to. It's changed, and I don't mean just the rules or fanbase have changed overtime. They have. No, what I'm talking about is a sense I get that the spirit of the game is diferent. The game doesn't feel the same if that makes any sense.
Some of this feeling is doubtless because I am myself much older than when I got into the hobby but I don't think that explains it all. Talking to younger fans I have heard similar comments, that D&D feels limited, lacking and the like.
Some questions I thought of while considering this issue. Does the 4E focus on tactical combat add to or detract from the game experience? Is the distinction between "fluff" and "crunch" in stark, absolute for or against terms helpful in discussions of RPGs and their design? In a role-playing game, how do rules and role-playing, narrative and story-telling intersect? How does the presentation of the game, it's rules and its creative concepts, etc. in the game books shape players and DMs conceptions of how they play and run the game? Can you design a game that caters to both established fans and might attract new ones? If you alienate the loyal fans, who will play and game and spread love of it to others? How can D&D best support it's game settings? What can WOTC put in products to inspire DMS and Players to create interesting characters, exciting adventures and creative game worlds? Is D&D just a brand name to be exploited for profit.?
Think about it and comment if you like. I promise to read every response and think about what everyone says. Sounds cheesy I know but this stuff needs to be thought about. WOTC polarized the fanbase with 4E. Essentials, its extent and goals, was not well explained to the fans. I don't know where D&D is headed and I'm not getting a clear idea that the people in charge really do either.
edit: I don't mean to imply I think I am the ultimate arbitrator of what d&d "is". I can only really speak for myself and my own ideosyncratic preferences. The ultimate truth of it is that the best version of D&D is whichever one you have fun playing. If you love 4E I'm not here to say you are wrong or anything. For me, it seems like I have to fight the current game to play D&D the way I like to play it. I guess that's all I'm really saying. That and I don't like the consumptive consumerism of corporate WOTC.