Why D&D? – part 2

The last post was about the pros of why D&D. Now its time for the cons.

– The 3.5 rules system is massive. The same goes (obviously) for the Pathfinder RPG rules. The basic game mechanics are simple enough, but there are sub-sets of different rules mechanics for pretty much everything, the two most comprehensive sub-sets being the combat system, and the magic system. I could rant on the topic ’till the cows come home, but really, this topic is so old, the fungus on its decaying carcass has evolved into sentience. Suffice to say, I can’t even remember a game session during which we didn’t have to look up at least half a dozen rules in the core rulebook.

– There really isn’t anything in the above mentioned rules even resembling any kind of functional social mechanic. Well, yes, there is the skill system, which really doesn’t do anything except create the illusion of accomplishing something using dice. The mechanic also breaks down really fast if subjected to any kind of gaming sensibilities, that is, a knowledgeable, rules-savvy gamer will be able to create a social powerhouse able to make Thulsa Doom cry, pack his bags, and go home. And he’d do this with a few simple die-rolls. Granted, you could argue that a role-playing game doesn’t really need mechanics for social interaction, since you could “just role-play” the social interaction. To an extend, I agree. The problem with the above described skill system however is, that instead of requiring role-play to get things done, the player can just roll the dice and be over with it.

– The game seems to bring out the worst in certain players. Now, I don’t really blame this wholly on the game itself. It think it is more a case of the game having been played in a certain way by a large, rather vocal majority of players, for a very long time. This gaming style is, when encountered by non-gamers or someone into, say, White Wolf games, what makes them make a face when they say (condescendingly, maybe with a hint of pity) “Oh, you’re into Dungeons & Dragons… ” Now, I’m most definitely not saying the majority of D&D-players are geeks, losers and munchkins, who smell of cat urine. But there is a fair percentage of those among us. And for some unfathomable reason even some normally sensible role-players turn into rules-mongering, power-gaming dicks the moment they start playing D&D. Is the majority gaming culture I described above so strong and conformist, that it takes a player with an already ingrained sense of how role-playing should be done to avoid being swept away by it? I can’t wrap my head around this one. I just don’t get it.

There it is, plenty of pros, plenty of cons. I’m not sure what kind of conclusions I should draw from all of this, so I’ll just have to call it a day and let it simmer for a while.

Addendum (a disclaimer): Most of these cons have to do with the 3.5 (and Pathfinder RPG) version of the rules I’m currently playing. I really haven’t got enough experience with other versions of the game to comment on those with any accuracy.

One response to “Why D&D? – part 2

  1. “And for some unfathomable reason even some normally sensible role-players turn into rules-mongering, power-gaming dicks the moment they start playing D&D.”

    I have seen this occur too many times not to believe that it’s something integral to the game itself. After playing various versions of the game from ’79-’08, I finally started shopping around for a different game. As I had never really explored the rpg marketplace before, I had the eye-popping experience of seeing just how many different systems had flooded the market since I last raised periscope. It took a while (and some heavy modifications), but I was able to craft a game that made me happy. When I was advertising for players, I went to great lengths explaining the campaign, setting, and exactly the type of gaming that I wanted to do. It worked, and my gaming has never been more enjoyable.

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