I Hate D&D

I've got to be honest. I do. I HATE it.

I've been so disappointed with the game since the late 80's I have to talk myself in to even playing it.  Even if there is going be an excellent GM running it.  So, if I've sat at your table and played D&D or AD&D with you, I think you're an awesome GM.

At one time, I could quote you long passages of the Dungeon Master's Guide. I knew it backwards and forward. I knew AC, Hit Dice, and Treasure Type of hundreds of monsters. I loved the game. I studied that book. Hell, I even had a special "bathroom copy" I read on the toilet.

It was like.. those of us that played had some kind of arcane knowledge. It was so amazing and wondrous. I remember my first set of dice. They looked like gems lying there in my hand. I learned better English just from trying to decipher Gygaxian prose. Well, weirder English anyway.

One night, the game betrayed me though. It utterly destroyed one of my most dramatic in game moments.
I almost wept. This was in the days of Thac0 and non-weapon proficiency.  I realize, now,  that the campaign kill was totally my fault. Instead of letting the clunky, time wasting, boring combat system kill my scene,
I should have just winged it. I didn't know how. AD&D was all I knew.

"Rain poured down on the Tower roof, the clouds almost low enough to touch.  Flashes of lightning lit the midnight sky with almost a strobe effect. The Countess turned, her foul ritual interrupted, and readied her mace. Baron Kormar charged across the rain-slick stones of the watchtower, his hand and a half sword raised to strike the evil Cleric down...." 

And then... "roll d20."
"What you got?"
"Okay that will hit... Damage?"
"ummm.... <rolls> I got a 6."
"umm.. okay  <makes 6 little tick marks> She's still got 47 hit-points left."


It was "Combat, The Whittling". They fought back and forth, paltry damage after paltry damage...for two and a half hours. All drama came to a screeching halt. After the first hour, I almost ruled that she got struck by lightning JUST SO IT COULD BE OVER!

But no, I didn't. I didn't want to rob my good friend of his chance to take her out. She had poisoned his people, burned his villages, blighted his crops, starving his province. She had addicted his army to magical drugs. She had spread vile lies at court about him, and turned his vassals against him. She had murdered his bride to be. I wanted him to strike the final blow. I remember the other players telling him, "Push her over the edge!...Jeez.. do Something! Just END THIS!"

"No!" He said, "I want to look her in the eyes when she dies!"

We played it by the book.

I tried to provide a narrative to the combat. I really did. For about the first 45 minutes. I described the sparks of the steel on steel, and the slippery footing, and the fear of the lightning. More even, the crashing blows, the low cuts, the dirty tricks... Hell,  I've read all of  R. E. Howard. I like swordplay. I studied Kinjitsu. After a while though,  I was just... tired. That was the culmination of a 2 year game. After that, no one wanted to play anymore that night. The next week, people had "stuff that came up" to do.

A week after that, I get a phone call, its Kormar's player. He's asking me
"Hey, is there another game we could play?"
"Like something with a deadlier, maybe more dramatic combat system?"
"No one wants to play AD&D now. Its like we were robbed."

So I started reading systems like normal people read novels. Trying to find something that would work.
I finally settled on a re-worked and re-fluffed Harnmaster. A lot of work. I wasn't ready to write my own system then. Honestly, I was but I didn't think I was.

We played that system for 13 years. Then, my "Break from Gaming" happened.

During my break, with all my traveling and living the life of a modern day cattle drive Cowboy, I fell in love with the Wild West.

Now days, if you show me a system that is class based, with hit-points, I just say no. No thank you.

Really, thank God for D&D. If it hadn't existed, none of the other games would have either. I wouldn't know about the amazing hobby that is Role-playing Games. All those that still love the game, more power to you. I'm just not interested in walking that path again. Ever.

Well okay, my Dad did buy me 2nd Edition Boot Hill to get me away from "all that weird sorcery sh!t" so I might have still been a gamer. I dunno. That's another post.


paladin said...

Ah, that was a good read!

Hm, honestly, I haven't roleplayed D&D since about 1990, I remember. I only played the simple (but esoterically enriched - 36 'mundane' levels + 36 GOD-levels) Mentzer/BECMI-system sporadically with some friends. We set the campaign on a small island called Tol Morwen, the only remains of the sunken and broken lands of the First Age of Middleearth. Tolkien-crackheads we were. And we used and abused D&D and Middleearth at the same time. We only managed to game for a few years, then I was the only victim of the roleplaying-addiction which tortured Germany in the 1980ies. My friends turned to more 'serious' stuff of life, leaving me behind with a life-long and deep affection for some ... romantic fantasy and classic horror. Some moss-covered, wet dungeon stones and the flicker of a yellow oil-lamp, some scratching of a beast's claw behind a splintered wooden door - and I am at it, watching closely. Since then I have tried to keep an eye on different systems and styles of gaming. Lately I've licked the pages of D&D 4th Ed. and Pathfinder, but I admit, that this is not the freedom of creativity and design I want. So Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System (with huge possibilities for gritty-historical gaming) or the West End Games' D6-line is more along my hope for flexible and rule-lite tools to CONSTRUCT game worlds (that's my core interest).

Have you heard of the most advanced incarnation of the d20-ruleset, Brent? -> "Fantasy Craft" is a highly-praised tool way beyond the stiffness of D&D in all its versions. It's the most creative and adaptable, world-simulating, story-focused (!) D&D you could play today. Without HP and fastened, action/power-paced combat, tons of tactical feats and armor reducing damage. Yes, they've slaughtered some holy D&D-cows in that system. So, if you get back to D&D some day, check this game out ... .



Baker said...

Agreed with paladin; this was a very good read.

I've been a generalized fan of role-playing games from the minute my father bought the brand new (at the time) D&D Moldvay box set. To this day I still feel that set was the best D&D ever had to offer.

But then we bought the Boot Hill second edition box. Suddenly D&D started looking really silly. After all, what could have been cooler than robbing trains and then getting run down by posses as a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch?

I'll never fault someone for digging D&D or any of its lineage. But elves and knights and gelatinous cubes never really struck my fancy. Had I been introduced to D&D and then left it at that, I would have thought it cool, then dropped it and moved on.

Boot Hill, however, truly opened up the RPG genre to me. I loved that game so much I went out and snagged other rpgs such as Gangbusters, FASA Star Trek, and DC Heroes.

paladin said...

Well, @Baker, I know the 'coolness' factor of pure Historical Roleplay - if you like History. Some people don't. It's too dry, too 'disenchanted' in its 'realism' for them - and could be quite depressing, if played diligently. Lynching black men in the South 1890 - or murdering native tribes would be quite realistic in Boot Hill, but not very 'cool', I guess.

D&D has always been a mix of Fantasy cliches of diverse novel influences (Vance, Tolkien, Leiber, Howard, Lovecraft seem to be the most important ...) to me - so we crossed the most awkward things from its monster and magic lists, while gaming in Tolkien's world. It was possible, the rules were flexible and simple enough. Today I think, making the most ridiculous things (like gelatinous cubes) work in your game world in a semi-plausible way, is part of the (trashy) fun. Well, I cannot imagine something more trashy than Superhero-roleplay, btw. In comparison to 'DC Heroes', D&D is a lecture in Medieval History, despite being most crude and rudimentary and plain wrong in that regard. ;)

J.B. said...

Excellent post I missed somehow, Rev. Very well written and it does nail what is wrong with D&D, though I still enjoy it. The lower levels are funnest to play because they are less cumbersome--a few die rolls as opposed to endless dicing for high level combats. Appreciate every game we played, will always remember Gharan, Swordmaster of the Harmonious Way, challenging the Orc chieftain to single combat to avoid being slaughtered by the orc hoard in the caves--orcs will be orcs and had no intention of keeping the deal but the party found a diversion and got away with the orc chieftain left bleeding out on the desert sands. Was fun!

J.B. said...

Of course that was not D&D....

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