Friday, January 29, 2010

My Love/Hate relationship with D&D.

My first taste of gaming was when my step-cousin got Heroquest for Christmas. He had no interest in it, but I did so I traded him a copy of Bases Loaded for the NES for it. It was the best trade I ever made (and I loved Bases Loaded, BTW). I devoured the rules and the system, played through all the dungeons, made my own, and so on. I was hooked on fantasy gaming, which lead me straight to Dungeons and Dragons' doorstep.

When I was getting into all of this, there was still a bit of the leftover hysteria in the media and various other afraid of their own shadow wingnuts that D&D was a satanic game that would drive people insane. My dad forbid me to play the game because of this hysteria. My dad isn't one of the stupid religious, hell, he's not even very religious at all. He just figured that if there were stories of D&D driving kids nuts all over the damn place, then why even take a chance? As kids are prone to do, especially me at that age, telling me that I can't do something only made me want it more. I snuck around and borrowed a copy of the Basic D&D rules from a friend's dad. Then I borrowed his copy of the 1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook and cobbled together some rules between the two.

When my dad found out that my brother and I were playing D&D, at first he wasn't happy about it, but that quickly passed when he saw that we were still playing baseball, generally being ourselves, and going to Sunday School with grandma without the church bursting into flames. He didn't understand the attraction, but what the hell it really was just a harmless game.

As the years wore on I got into the 2nd Edition of D&D and it became my game of choice. However, I started to wonder at some of the silly things behind the system. All fighters were the same. Most rogues were identical. Why the hell couldn't a dwarf be a wizard and why bother with level limits? The rules started to feel stifling to me. Plus, my houserules folder was damn near as long as the PHB. Then I went to college and discovered other games that felt a lot less constraining and I left D&D in the dust. Vowing never to return. I had had enough.

I played several games in the time between my last days with 2E and the release of 3E, which would bring me back into the fold. Most were sci fi and post apocalyptic games like Rifts (what a horrible system attached to so much awesome setting material, it's a damn shame really), WEG's Star Wars, Gamma World (although I got my start with GW about the same time I got into D&D), Alternity (which was my favorite game for a few years), and so on. However, I still longed for a fantasy system that was fun.

It appeared that my prayers were answered with the release of D&D 3rd Edition. No level limits, no restrictions on what races can be what class, a simple, unified mechanic!!! I was in love. I jumped in headfirst. Not only was 3E a lot of what I wanted out of 2E, the Open Gaming License and the System Resource Document brought about a wave of new material (most of it just freaking awful, but there were still a lot of good nuggets) that I could plug into my games. It really felt like gaming Nirvana. Then around the time that 3.5 was released that feeling of longing for something else came back. High level play, hell mid-level play, can start to be a drag. The system made sense, it just wasn't fun anymore. I was restless. I felt like I spent more time worrying about not forgetting something or writing up new NPC's that I did actually playing the damn game.

Once again I moved on. I played mostly D20 games like Mutants and Masterminds, Star Wars, Revised Star Wars, D20 Modern, Star Wars Saga Edition, and so on. D20 Modern kept me occupied for a couple years, but it suffered from some of the same combat drag that D&D did, but I discovered Savage Worlds and fell in love with it. Star Wars Saga drew me in and hasn't let me go yet, but I still wanted a good fantasy system. That didn't take forever and a day to play.

When D&D 4th Edition came out. I gave it a look. It was totally incompatible with the mountain of 3/3.5 material I had amassed since 2000, but sometimes a fresh start is good for the soul. The mechanics were interesting, but I'm just not satisfied. It doesn't feel right to me. It's a good game, and I'm up for playing it whenever, but I don't want to run it. It doesn't inspire me at all.

So here I am, looking at my unused D&D books in disgust. It's the big dog on the block and likely always will be, which means that what most people will want to play. I want to like it, I really do, but I just can't bring myself to giving a damn about it anymore. There was a time when I'd wait with baited breath for the next D&D release. I'd have my pre-order in months in advance. Now, releases go and go and I don't even notice it unless someone else is talking about it.

However, I do have to thank D&D for something. While Heroquest introduced me to the hobby, D&D kept me a part of it. I've had a lot of fun over the years playing RPG's. I've made some good friends and have memories that I'll cherish forever. I may never play D&D again, but thanks to D&D I'll be playing something. With the great new material coming out for older editions and games coming out that try to capture that old-school feel in easy to run systems, I may yet find that system that truly feels like home when it comes to fantasy gaming. Dungeonslayers is starting to look like a real contender, but that's a post for another time.

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