On a Historical Perspective
What is with these old games?
Why are the retroclones so damn popular? So popular that the most played version of Dungeons & Dragons isn't called Dungeons & Dragons. So popular that the design aesthetic is influencing the modern version of the game. What is the deal? What is the plain secret answer?
I do not play role-playing games as a form of wish fulfillment.
Hm. Maybe I could be more clear. I do not play role-playing games as a form of wish fulfillment.
I was flipping through some old Dragon magazines the other day from the early 3.0 era. The entire magazine was given over to classes, feats and various other things that one could pick to design, enhance, or build one's character. None of those things have anything to do with the play of the game. It isn't your special feat that wins the encounter -- encounters in most modern games are designed to be beaten. When you are faced with a choice about what your character does, it isn't the meta-magic feat [maximize spell] that determines their course of action, nor their trained arcane skill. Picking those isn't playing the game. Once you've done the important part, making the choice, the dice rolling and combat is all just resolution.
You see, the reason I play role-playing games is for the role-assumption, the exploration, the adventure. Do I pull the lever? Can I think of the right questions to ask? What will I find here? Can I come up with a good plan? The character I select is just the broadest tool, in the sense that it affects my stance and how I approach the game. Picking the character isn't playing the game.
Gary and Dave were around my age when they wrote this game. The audience for their game however was not. They were a bit younger. One can plainly follow the development of the changes in the game in the years that followed as their audience grew. And now that we have reached their age, we play the game the way they did.
Funny thing, that.
So next time you see someone shaking their head at 'those angry grognards', or someone who just doesn't understand why someone would want to play that game without all those feats and bells and whistles, just send them here. Those bells and whistles, feats and encounter powers and other detritus of empowerment fantasies aren't Fantasy Adventure. They are just little marks put down on a sheet.
When you wonder why people are distasteful of crunch heavy character build systems, know it's not because there's something intrinsically wrong with empowerment fantasies. It is just that there are people that prefer masturbatory activities to be private.