Monday, August 13, 2012

Why D&D?

Dungeons & Dragons has never been my game of choice.  This goes all the way back to receiving my very first RPG, the D&D Basic Box with the Moldvay cover.  I liked the game a lot, but what I'd really been wanting was that boxed set of Traveller with the Free Trader Beowulf mayday signal written on the front.

It wasn't even my favorite fantasy RPG for long.  I was an early convert to both RuneQuest and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay as fantasy alternatives.  I even preferred the Rolemaster derived Middle-Earth Roleplay.  Yet, today I have somehow managed to accumulate nine different core rules sets for D&D and its direct descendants.

This got me to thinking as to why that's the case.  The original reason is that D&D is what people play.  Whatever other games may be going on in a given gaming scene, there's inevitably at least one game of D&D being run.  Today that game might go by the name of "Pathfinder," but it's still D&D at heart.

Going back to college, which was my first period of regular gaming, every other game we played was D&D.  We played some Shadowrun, TORG, DC Heroes, and Star Wars D6 among others, but we always came back to AD&D because it was the one game you could always get a majority of our group to go along with.

Of course, that doesn't explain why I still have so much D&D in my collection today.  Now that I play with groups that have far more interest in other games I could easily do without D&D.  I could claim that it was all leftover from my college days, but that would be a lie.  I actually got rid of most of that stuff during my great gaming "drought" in the years after college.

The main reason I have for having D&D today is that for all its flaws, it works.  The classic six stats with level based advancement, hit points, and Vancian magic is something that most gamers seem to instinctively grasp.  When stripped to these essential elements the game plays fast and fun in ways that many other systems ultimately fail to do.

I find this less true of more recent iterations of D&D (3.5, Pathfinder and 4th), where I find the emphasis is more on character "builds" than building characters, but that was a discovery I made only slowly and that eventually brought me around to the games of the Old School Renaissance (OSR), my favorite example of which is Swords & Wizardry.

I'm even planning on running a game of Stars Without Number soon, a sci-fi game that uses the OSR rules as a base.

So, while D&D might not be the best simulation, or have the most evocative setting, or the best set of rules to encourage roleplay, it's still a good game.  Something that only took me a couple of decades to fully acknowledge.

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