Mmm. SO...I've been even busier than usual. Yes, the school year has started for my kids. Yes, we are in the thick of the soccer season (four teams, one of which I'm coaching). Yes, we're also trying to have a last few family outings with friends and such as the summer winds to a close.
But in addition, I'm sill dealing with the barrage of death issues from the last few months. My brother and I have been working daily to clean out my mom's house. It's a fair-sized house with 45 years of accumulated "stuff:" both treasure and trash (we took 2300# of junk to the dump over the course of last week, and that was just the garage). This week my family will be on the road from Wednesday (tomorrow) till Sunday, going to Montana for my grandmother's funeral and graveside service. Just a lot to do.
*sigh* Oh, yeah. And my dog's not doing great.
So, what could cause me to sit down and post to Ye Old Gaming blog, when I have so many other things occupying my mind? Like how to get my homeless, alcoholic brother to fix his shit and get to Montana for the funeral of our clan matriarch? Like filing an appeal for my mother's termination of medical insurance March 31st when she died April 22nd? What could get me so riled up that I must blog?
Well, actually, I did have some interesting (to me, anyway) observations about spatial distance and maps in D&D that I kind of wanted to jot down before I forgot about them. But even those have gone out the window...for the nonce.
No...over on a particular D&D discord I frequent, someone posted an excerpt from the latest WotC adventure offering for 5E: a reboot of Lost Mine of Phandelver with a few modifications and several added levels of content. The excerpt is with regard to (I presume) some of the additional material which has a magical curse-life effect transforming the PCs into monsters, should the bad guys succeed at their nefarious plans. The text then adds the following instructional (boxed) sidebar:
PLAYER CONSENT IS REQUIREDBefore you use the character transformation rules presented in this section, check with each player to determine if they are open to their character experiencing physically transformative effects. A player will not miss game benefits if they choose not to use these rules for their character.
What. The. Hell. Are you F'ing kidding me?
Now, before I get worked up into a lather, allow me to add the disclaimer that this blurb came from an internet source, and so perhaps (hopefully) it is completely manufactured. Maybe I've been hoodwinked here, in other words, by a person who just likes to stir up hornets' nests. It was not posted for my sole benefit, but the folks on that particular discord tend to be a caustic and reactionary bunch that like poking bears. So maybe I'm a dupe. The book isn't even available for order as of yet...although it is possible to get "early access" to the digital version.
BUT...assuming this IS accurate:
Just what the F are we playing here?
Consent?! "Consent" for the DM to inflict a curse on the player characters? "Consent" for the DM to apply a fail state in the case of failure? To an imaginary character? A fucking piece of paper?! Are you shitting me?!
Do you need to obtain "consent" in 5E to KILL a player character?! To poison it? To apply level drain? To give the monsters a surprise round?! "That's not fair!" NO...FUCK YOU.
We are still playing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, right? Right?! There's still a Dungeon Master, right? You players understand what you're signing up for when you sit down to play the game, right? Have you not played games before?
No, you do not get to "give consent." Not at my table. That's not how D&D works. The Dungeon Master is the Dungeon Master; the Dungeon Master does not need to ask for consent before applying a deserved failure state to your character. Your character is not you. I am not forcing YOU, player, to transform into ANYthing. I am not shooting YOU full of arrows or dropping YOU in a spiked pit or a vat of acid. It is not YOU getting your limb chewed off by a displacer beast.
Grow the fuck up. Or don't play the game.
I understand that there is a lot of f'd up crap floating around the internet these days, with regard to EVERYthing, not just D&D. I read this article the other day that had issue with the "fantasy racism" of the original Phandelver, stating:
Lost Mines, unfortunately, falls into a trap that D&D has only just begun to deal with, which is the deep-seated issues of fantasy racism present in the genre. Tribes of evil, scheming savages surviving by raiding and banditry like the Cragmaw goblins and the Many-Arrows orc tribe as presented echo malicious stereotypes of all kinds throughout history.
Which is incredibly stupid on so many levels...but it's just an internet opinion. Everyone's got opinions...the blog post you're reading right now is another. And I don't have a problem with people having opinions, or stating their perspective, regardless of how wrong-headed or obtuse or...whatever...it might be. Opinions can (usually) be safely disregarded unless they're coming from someone with whom we have a practical relationship (for example: a player at my gaming table).
And that's not Dungeons & Dragons. That is...something else.
There are lots of RPGs on the market that aren't D&D. LOTS. Many provide players with a greater degree of authority and control over the narrative structure that makes up (the bulk of) game play from what one finds in the game of D&D. They make for a different play experience, fun in its own way for those who choose to play those games.
D&D doesn't work like this...not even 5E. I've read the 5E DMG; no where in the book does it tell the DM to obtain the consent of the players before applying some sort of effect or "status" to their characters. The DM is still in charge of running the game, not the players. Traditionally, the standard way for players to express their disapproval of the way a game is run is to WALK AWAY. For the most part, it's a pretty efficient method of ensuring you don't get stuck with a DM you dislike; I've walked away from several DMs over the years.
[EDIT: for the record, the word "consent" appears exactly zero times in the 5E DMG]
So, anyway... This is really bad. Unlike some of my fellow geezers, it doesn't bother me that people want to debate the morality of killing orcs or that officially elves are, well, even weirder then they were. Heck, it doesn't even annoy me that people prefer different editions of D&D than myself...that's fine, you play yours, I'll play mine, and we'll both houserule the thing as it befits our table.
But this kind of precedent is bad. Undermining the authority of the DM is bad. Prioritizing a CHARACTER over play or system or rules is bad. It is setting foot on a path that leads eventually to dissolution of the rules...to dissolution of the game as a game.
This was not well-thought out by the designers.
And while I'm sure a lot of my readers will say, Oh JB, you're so silly! Who cares? What impact will it even have? Consider that this is found (if my source is correct) in the new reboot of Phandelver. Not a sequel to Phandelver, but a rewrite of the original...the original adventure included with the D&D Starter Set. That is: the box set being used to teach NEW people how to play D&D.
This new attitude...this new PARADIGM of how D&D is to be played...is what will inform the next generation of D&D players. And the generation that follows. And the generation that follows. And the company has done an incredible job of NOT "walking back" the various design mistakes they've made over the years, simply streamlining them and modifying them in a fashion that retains the "flavor" of all that's gone before while making it work with whatever new cobbled system is being presented to the public. So consider that if they (WotC) take this tack, then this is the way we can expect the game to develop, going forward.
Required consent? Really? To transform your character into a monster? What about to transform your character into a corpse? Or a pile of hot ash?
What was my job again? Dungeon Master? Or dancing monkey?
No. When you sit at my table, YOU are GIVING CONSENT to abide by MY authority as the Dungeon Master. Period. You don't want to give consent to me? Fine...take a hike. I have other people who want to play.
No...I will not go quietly into the night. I can imagine the Powers That Be happening across my blog post on some random web surfing and saying "Bah. Who cares what this imbecile has to say? We don't want his old way of thinking anyway...he'll either come around or he'll die out like all those other geezers are dying...Gygax, Arneson, etc." Yep, they're right...I will die, eventually. The last eight months has shown me just how quickly the life-spark can go out in people's eyes. I am very well acquainted with mortality these days.
But I'm 49 (50 next month). Living right, I can probably get another 35ish years out of this old body...years that will still find me playing the same brand of D&D that I love. You think I'm going to roll over and play 5E or 6E or "One D&D" or any of that nonsense? No. I've got back-ups of my core books, new prints that should be good through the end of my life...hell, I'm still using books that were printed in the 1970s and they've held up just fine. These new ones should hold up for my kids even after I'm gone.
Does WotC think their brand of D&D is going to outlive me? Heck, by my reckoning 5E hasn't even outshined AD&D's original run of 12 years. We'll compare where they are 20 years from now...hopefully, I'll be passing on my passion to my grandchildren. Regardless, I will continue to play in the way the game was originally intended to be played.
"Consent is Required?" Not at my table, pal. Kiss off.
[apologies for the cursing in this post...got a little worked up there]