Friday, August 19, 2022

One D&D To Rule Them All

It is exactly 12:21am, PST as I start this post.


I've been busy folks, not dead...just in case folks are wondering. Lots of family (i.e. kid, i.e. soccer) stuff.  Things are fine around my parts, a few tertiary deaths and Covid outbreaks aside. Not in my household...for whatever reason, I've been blessed so far. Thank goodness.

ANYway. Let me tell you about my day.

Teaching newbies AD&D. Had six kids around the table today: Diego, Sofia, Maceo, Winston, Jacob, and Julia. Ages of children: 11, 11, 11, 10, 9, 8. Diego, my son, is the oldest; Sofia, my daughter, is the youngest. I was the DM (duh). Because half the players were new, we all went through the character creation process together, making first level characters. Ended up with two clerics, a paladin, a ranger, a magic-user, and an elven assassin (because elves are straight villains y'all). 

Truthfully, this was Winston's SECOND foray into D&D at the Becker Household, but his original character was killed by an adolescent owlbear some 40 minutes into play so, yeah, he's still a rookie.

DMing kids can, challenging at times, but it's fun, too. When you skim the intro for them in about six sentences (because children have even shorter attention spans than adults), and they spontaneously break into fist-pumping chants of "TREASURE! TREASURE! TREASURE!" you know that you're playing the game right. I ran them through B1: In Search of the Unknown, pretty much straight out of the box I bought it in...literally, it even had the monsters and treasures already penned in by the previous owner, and I didn't bother changing them.

[please let me say for the record that Mike Carr deserves to be drawn-and-quartered for using Roman numerals as a keying mechanism...unless he plans on paying for my laser-eye surgery anyway]

They loved it. All of it. They were cooperative with each other, shared gold, tried to work as a team, tried to do stupid shit, got themselves in trouble, somehow managed to find their way out of it okay, and everyone stayed alive. Not much treasure in B1, but the encounters are VERY forgiving.

We played from 1pm till 5pm. There were healthy snacks: fruit and veg and crackers and water and juice. About midway through the kids took a 40 minute break to have a pillow fight upstairs while I cracked a beer on the sly, lush that I am. Then they came back for more.

Kids don't want fucking video games. They want to play and use their imagination. They want to be rambunctious / times. They want to be empowered to use their times. They want the support of supportive adults in safe spaces.

I don't know...D&D, even "advanced" D&D, isn't really rocket science. At least, I don't see it as such. It's just poorly understood, poorly explained, and...often...poorly played.

SO...I saw Tim's post about the launch of One D&D this evening, though I didn't have a chance to watch the actual video till after folks had went to bed (fam was up till 11ish, watching disk two of the extend Fellowship of the Ring...go figure).  

Oh. My. 

You know, when Xbox moved to Xbox 360 and then to Xbox One there was a purpose and reason behind their branding (you can read about the etymology here, if you care). D&D moving from version 5E ("D&D Next") to One D&D is...just more stupid shit. There is a LOT of stupid shit here. Lots. 

So much stupid. 

And that's (*sigh*) fine. People spend their money on all sorts of stupid things these days. Beer, for example...I spend entirely too much money on it, as I tend to buy the expensive stuff (though I try to get it on sale) and drink it far, far too quickly (it's been a hot summer). So people want to fall for the shtick one more time and pony up the cash for the NEW IMPROVED version of D&D...whatever. Do what you want. I just bought Trent Smith's Heroic Legendarium a month or two ago (in printed hardcover!) and the only thing I'm using it for is the corrected ACs and psionic points for MM entries (so I don't have to do the work myself). We all have "stupid" that we throw our money at.

But it's GALLING to listen to the, "experienced professional game designers" this video talking about the what and why of this One D&D thing. Selling it. Selling the shit out of it. Because, make no mistake, this is all about selling folks a product in order to put money in the company coffers. Here are the pertinent bits:

[2:05] "We're revising the major core rule books that every player uses: the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Monster Manual."

[2:32] "That's what 2024 holds is this promise of getting new versions of the books that are the game you know but reflect where the game is presently."

[2:42] "One D&D has three pillars and one is the, uh, rule set which is built on the base of Fifth edition, but updated."

The 'second pillar' is "D&D Beyond," of which I know little, but appears to be an additional revenue stream for the company based on doing work for players that is inconvenient, perhaps because of shoddy rule construction. Okay.

The final pillar appears to be the creation of a "digital playspace" that is "still in the early days of development"...because we want to be able to have a video game-like experience because we simply cannot pull ourselves away from our screens? Or something? What? 

I don't know who this, professional game (he shows up at 4:28) but here's what he has to say:
"We chose the Unreal Engine for several reasons. Reason number one: make it look dope. That's the first thing. Number two is: take care of the lazy DM. 'Cause we're all lazy DMs (*laughs*)."
I guess I'M the idiot here, because all this sounds like stupid, stupid shit. When figuring out where characters were in the imaginary gamespace of today's game, I took three, spare 3x5 cards, cut them in half, and had everyone write their character name on a square. Then I told them to arrange the cards on the table how they were walking. The guy with a light source got a die placed on his card so I could not only keep track of illumination, but turn the die as the fuel got used up (works better for torches...with a D6...than lanterns, but they ended up throwing the lantern at the first monster encounter when ambushed by a pack of giant rats). Would it have worked better to have virtual minis in an "immersive digital environment?" Would it have helped to players' imagination to have digital images fed into their brain from a finite repository of images? Probably not.

All this is part of the general plan to make money documented extensively by others...involves REselling core books to the same customer base every 6-10 years. That's all this is. It has nothing to do with creating more "inclusivity" by helping women and/or people of color see "heroic characters" that resemble themselves...the art directors have been including illustrations of non-white, non-male adventurers since at least the days of 2nd edition (I have the books and can cite page numbers if you like). The video implying that THIS new edition will rectify some sort of inequity/discrepancy is clearly a bogus is the rope-a-dope, shit-wrangling of 5E being "the most stable rule platform yet" that they are simply ADDING TO, for YOUR BENEFIT.

Sure, suckers. So why revise the core books and sell them to us again? Why not just publish an addendum of sorts. Oh, already DID ("Tasha's Hideous Hardcover" or whatever it's called). Now, you're just going to cut-and-paste that into the core books and have everyone buy the same thing again. I know this hustle...Siembieda's been running a stripped down version of the same scam for YEARS.

At least Palladium always provides SOME new content.

Mm-mm-mm. Capitalism sucks and, unfortunately, is the world we live in. Astounding ignorance in the masses ALSO sucks and, unfortunately, is the world we live in. I'm sure "One D&D" will sell fine (at least at first), dredging the wallets of the same marks that always get caught (plus a couple extra)...and, you know, that's probably fine., "professional game designers"...need to eat, too, right? Support those fine folks at WotC that are #LivingTheDream!

But it IS sad, AND galling, that this is even a thing. I was up in Edmonds on Wednesday at Around the Table Games, pawing through the "used" RPG section with my kids, looking for old AD&D stuff; Diego picked up a copy of the 1986 Book of Lairs to throw some mayhem in his own campaign. While we were there, a woman with her two young daughters (younger than D, older than Sofia) came in and purchased a copy of D&D Essentials...clearly for the girls who (like my kids) were also fawning all over the dice racks.

I couldn't help but feel (a little) bad for them. I mean, I already know how that story goes.

D&D is a great game. Personally, I feel you get the maximum benefit from the advanced (first edition) version, but a lot of people feel it looks too ancent/clunky to learn. Here are the number of children under age 13 that I've successfully taught the game (I'll include myself):

Me, Jocelyn, Jason, Scott, Matt, Rob, Adam, Brandon, Spencer, Zach, Diego, Kieran, Maceo, Caro, Eileen, Nicholas, Sonya, Max, Sofia, Winston, Jacob, Julia

[all right, all right...there's a little fibbing there. Spencer and Zack were ONLY taught B/X, and Sonya and Max were taught OD&D, i.e. AD&D Lite. However, the others all stand]

'Course, if you wanted to count the kids who've been taught by the kids I've taught, the coaching tree's got a few more names on it, including Crystal, Manny, Stina, Ryan, Evan, Evie, and Milana. Pretty respectable, considering the MAJORITY of these kids were taught after the game was out of print.

All right, that's enough. It's after 2am, and I've had my say. I'll post again when I can.

Peace, folks.


  1. Watched the announcement video this morning before I went to work. Not overly impressed. It wasn't hard to read "buy this shit you already have again in a shiny new package" between the lines.

    Not interested. I have my own version of the game.

  2. Can't say I disagree. So many times the promo video talking heads proclaimed what they were "giving" us and I couldn't help thinking: "You're not giving it to us, you're selling it to us."

    But horses for courses, it's not my cup of tea but there might be some adjacent bits and bobs I can nab for my own game.

    I do believe that "more" D&D in general is good for all of us, because it broadens the player base. They may not play our versions initially, but some will eventually discover there isn't just "one" true way to RPG.

    1. @ Tim:

      I *think* that I (probably) once felt like you...i.e. that "more D&D" is good for everyone. And maybe I still do.

      But as the state of the game deviates farther and farther away from NOT ONLY its base assumptions / concept but ALSO from the things that actually made the game EXCELLENT instead trading on popularity, cannibalizing itself for profits...

      Man, I don't know.

  3. I'm a professional game designer. I am happy you think I should eat too.

    Like I said in my response on my blog. The only "real" D&D is what is at your table at the time. So for me that is D&D 5, Pathfinder 2, and B/X. There is no "actual D&D" apart from other editions of D&D, they are all actual D&D.
    To claim this minimalizes the experiences of people that did not have the happenstance to have been born in the 60s or 70s to play what was the then-current D&D or did not have someone to teach them the old material.

    1. @ Tim:

      You seem to be missing the point of my post, in order to take issue with the language I'm using to express my thought.

      I'll address your gripe.

      Yes, it IS (probably) pointlessly inflammatory of me to tout 1E as "real D&D," implying (if not explicitly saying) my disdain for latter day editions...editions of D&D that others learned on and that may STILL BE PLAYED AND ENJOYED by real humans...thereby minimizing NOT ONLY their experiences but spitting on their passions, their childhoods, whatever.

      I apologize for offending.

      *I* prefer original AD&D. Many, many current D&D players do not. Of those people, my GUESS is that the vast majority have never taken the time to learn to play it, nor played it for any extended period of time...and, thus, have no idea what they're missing.

      Fact is, the more time goes on, the more old geezers who played 1E in the 70s and 80s tend to DIE OFF. Or get dementia. Or some damn thing. So there will be FEWER 1E aficionados...and a smaller knowledge base to draw from...going forward.

      Am I trying to promote one version of the game so that I will have people with whom to play? No. I have no problem finding players and "training them up." MY campaign table is full (I lack TIME more than players).

      Am I trying to promote one version of the game so that I can sell product? No. I have no 1E-based products I'm selling.

      Am I proselytizing one version of D&D for my own ego boost (because it gives me more credibility or relevance or "hits" for my social media account or something)? Nope. If I cared about that...well, I don't.

      I have strong opinions. I suppose I could (should?) just keep them to myself? Or, at least, refrain from making declarative statements of right and wrong and judgment? Yeah? Is that the proper etiquette when blogging to nerds about a nerdy topic like Dungeons & Dragons? Don't make the nerds feel bad because they already feel bad for being nerds? Something like that?

      Fuck. That.

      I promise you this, Tim: if "One D&D" or 7E or 8E or WHATEVER D&D gets released in the future turns out to be an incredible, awesome game that blows my mind and changes my opinion, I will be the first to drop the 1E propaganda and promote the benefits and wonders of the new version. That is: I will continue to happily express my thoughts and opinions AND (as well) will confess and admit that the Old King is dead and needs to be buried. I will not hold on with a tightened fist just for the benefit of being a consistent curmudgeon.

      Heck. I've let go of B/X, haven't I?

  4. I've been playing D&D games for decades. My current gaming group decided to try 5e from 2e (modified of course) and it seems to go over well enough. I won't be buying any further material because I have enough to carry on for decades more.
    There was a video I came across, explaining the different versions of D&D. Its worth a watch:

    1. @ Timothy:

      I'll check it out.

      [why do all my readers seem to be named Tim?]

    2. My name isn't Tim...but my brother is a Tim. Close enough, right?

    3. The spirit of “Tim” flows in your veins.

  5. You may not call me Tim.

    Brannan has been drinking the kool-aid for several years now, as evidenced by the daily content of his blog. It's not surprising to find him rushing here to make sure you're not spreading negative vibes like AD&D being a threat to popular company marketing.

    1. Dammit, man. You made me laugh out loud again.
      : )

      I promise YOU, Alexis, that I will not call you “Tim.”

    2. If "drinking the Kool-Aid" means I am having fun with my family and friends with ALL editions of D&D then all I have to say is "Oh Yeah!"

    3. Yes, Timothy, that's exactly what it means. The phrase certainly doesn't have any negative connotations, and definitely isn't associated with a place called Georgetown.

  6. Not quite sure how to react to having my book characterized as a stupid thing to have spent money on, but I suppose I'll take it as a compliment. Hopefully eventually you'll feel tempted to use more from it in your games...

    1. Ha! "Stupid" *is* terribly pejorative, but I meant it to refer to my purchase of the book, rather than the book itself. It is a very NICE book, but one that I probably didn't really need to own (when it comes to RPG purchases, my book shelves are littered with huge messy heaps of volumes that serve little-no practical purpose in aid of running my games).

      Apologies for the offense, Trent.

  7. Whether its bloat books or new editions, we've seen D&D announce (or pre-announce) releases that are clearly money-grabs, so this isn't anything new. However, I will say (having tried out 5e via zoom theater of the mind gameplay), DnDBeyond is a very good webtool. After my first session, I exclaimed "I wish there was a site like this for 1e AD&D!". Amazing tool for remote online group play. Awesome if you have a phone or ipad and can't find your paper character sheet. Quick click and get your full spell description. I'm not surprised Hasbro/Wizards bought them.

    Also, I've tried various virtual tabletop sites through covid. Roll20 is not for me. I kinda liked the freeware site, especially for its drawing tools. If wizards is developing an online gaming portal that can be dumbed down to grid, drawing tool and mini icons... great... but no, they're going for a full high-graphics animated virtual space. I suspect they'll struggle, a la Tesla autopilot.

    So, who's up for developing a 1e DnDBeyond website?

    1. @ Sit Rob:

      I showed the video to my son, and asked him for his opinion. After viewing it, he put it mildly...confused.

      "I don't get it...they want you to play on-line? Or have a tablet at the table? Why?"

      My kids rather hate doing anything "on-line" or virtual these days...the COVID pandemic / remote learning thing completely took the wind out of the sails for any kind of excitement over being on a screen.

      They'll still screw around on a video games (when they're bored) but they don't want to play D&D that all. And they'd prefer playing D&D (with me or with their friends) to playing a video game.

      The whole "virtual tabletop" thing is a non-starter for them.

  8. 3 things, if I may:

    1, AD&D is available as POD. It's not perfect, but unless you can snipe a used copy (I can't, being in europe), it's close enough.

    2, the most important thing about D&D 5 for me would've been that it was in print in my language, but they fucked up that deal, so I'll spend my money elsewhere.

    3, The language they use is hilarious: "a system that is stable, that is well loved...The next iteration of the core rules..." Praising it for it's stability to hype up the fact that you're changing it. :D Also "We're revising the major core rule books that every player uses: the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Monster Manual." Yeah, a significant portion does not use the latter two, even if we include DMs in the "players" language here.

    1. Yeah. The jackass who seems to be promoting a lazy approach to DMing has a very punchable face. The editing for the video doesn't help him.

      Your #2 comment is very telling. Wouldn't the company be better served by (instead of re-selling to the same customer base) spending money on competent translators to GROW the customer base by expanding throughout the world? You know, working to make the game MORE accessible...even in places (or for people) who don't have access to the kind of technical platforms that their digital model is marketed to?

      It's just stupid, stupid shit.

  9. Just watched their 'world reveal' video on YouTube. The heavy push for digital stuff reminds me of them doing the exact same thing during the run-up and launch of 4th Edition. Which we all know worked out so well. Though I suppose this time they'll actually accomplish at least some of what they are promising. The rest is just a mix of what they did launching 5th edition and stuff I came up with two decades ago.

    Encouraging that the first page or two of comments for the video were people basically saying this is a terrible thing. Gives me some hope for humanity's gaming prospects.

    1. And by 2026 we'll see flying cars, right?

  10. When an uninitiated has the RPG worm and searches for D&D, knowing nothing of the edition trifles, will always google into the latest edition. Thats why if we want to potentiate OSR we should never use the words Dungeons and Dragons, and talk about Swords and Wizardry instead.

    1. Why should I change the name of the game I play. The company is the one that sucks.

    2. If we stop talking about D&D, noone would find out about the OSR! I'm pretty sure the search term "Dungeons & Dragons" is head and shoulders above anything, including generalities like "role playing game" or "fantasy adventure game"

    3. Agreed, we should speak as though our version of the game is the real D&D... because it is. Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 is still a free PDF on DriveThruRPG!

  11. I've got exactly zero (or is that a One?) love for what I've seen of D&Done, especially the "RPG as service" model. Software as service already ruined AAA videogames - and it'll only get worse if the smaller publishers decide to hop on board.

    Can't fight the future I guess - and I love one thing about this new D&D ... it seems like it will mark itself clearly as a tactical combat and big OC building game designed with streaming in mind. Champions and Marvel never had to fight with D&D, so this seems like a good move. If it's clear about what it does hopefully people who want something else will find other games.

    Half the nonsense with the 5E bad eggs (and the bad eggs in the classic game crowd when it comes to 5E I suppose) seems to be the idea that there can only be one D&D - like The Highlander or something. Hopefully older style play and systems will get less pushback once new D&D isn't presented as everything for everyone.

    I'm being optimistic, but then what does it matter to me really? I've got a lot of dungeons full of space elves to finish writing and playing.

  12. Hmm. I thought part of calling it "One D&D" is that they DO want this edition to be the one game for everybody.

    In other words, they're gearing up to crack off yet another schism.

    But just in case I'm being misread here: I'm not pessimistic (nor optimistic)...I'm simply disgusted. And...a little sad? (at the state of "current" D&D). But, mainly, disgusted.

    1. My interpretation of the "One" prefix is that they want to offer a unified tabletop/digital experience. They should have learned by now that "one size fits all" doesn't really work...

    2. Mmm...yeah, no. You can interpret it any way you like, I suppose, but that's definitely NOT what they say in their promo video. They want one unified D&D.

    3. And unquestionably you've hit the nail on the head, JB, with the title of your post. The company is desperate to lend credence to their idea by mainstreaming the Lord of the Rings into the marketing scheme. It's painfully obvious. They need the cred.

  13. Capitalism's great! It's the reason the old editions are still thriving - because in a free market when there's demand for a thing people will make the thing. No one's making you buy 5.5e, lol - so don't! I certainly plan not to. I'll give my money to people making good, interesting content for the game I want to play. (because Capitalism)

    1. Unrestrained, successful capitalism transformed universities between the 1990s and 2000s, so that MONEY gained from the user, the student, became more important than education. Universities have proven tremendously profitable, there are more university diplomas being given than ever before ... and the only drawback has been tremendous debt for two full generations and a complete lack of being hirable. So ... yeah, capitalism. Great. Whatever.

    2. To be clear, my "right on" comment shouldn't have been taken as a "pro capitalism" stance. It was directed at Matt stating:

      "No one's making you buy 5.5e, lol - so don't! I certainly plan not to."