Yesterday I posted a new Wizards Watch blog entitled Wizards Watch: Save or Die Spells, Clerics-in-a-Tincan & One-Hour D&D… Really?. It got some favorable comments, some critical ones, and spurred one blogger to write a blog in critique of my own, which I take as somewhat flattering, in a back-handed sort of way.
To clarify a bit, what bothered me about the idea of acheiving a "One-Hour Game" was that it seems to be only acheived at the expense of the gaming styles of so many of the D&D community. Sure we all want a fast game, with lots of action, but the only real way to cram multiple combats into an hour is to sacrifice complexity. FYI, guys, we've already played those D&D games, and they are called Basic D&D, Advanced D&D, and Second Edition D&D. Those editions had fast combats because half the character classes had two options every round - move and swing a weapon - and many monsters had about the same number of options - swing a weapon or bite or claw or perform a claw/claw/bite routine. Rounds run really fast when things are that over-simplified, but you do so by sacrificing both character and monster options and complexity.
There is also very little time to actually, you know, role-play if you're packing a whole adventure into an hour. Silly of me to want Role-playing in my fantasy role-playing game, I know, but heck, it's on the box so I kinda want to include it in my gaming session.
OGL/d20, Pathfinder, and D&D 4E combats take longer because the characters and monsters are more complex, have greater depth, more options, and frankly, are more fun to both DM and fight against (depending on which side of the screen you sit on). Those of us who have gravitated over the years to more complex game engines have learned to accept that adventure elements take a little more time to complete, but we enjoy the higher level of immersion and detail that comes from complex monsters and characters.
So if "one-hour games" become the expectation, it tells me that Next is probably overly simplified, and not what I am looking for in a game engine. So I'll stick with D&D 4E, and tweak it and houserule it to make it better, and continue to enjoy a complex and immersive game of D&D that my players have come to expect from me.