Friday, September 23, 2011

Putting the Cook Back in the Kitchen

In case you haven't heard, Monte Cook is returning to the Wizards of the Coast R&D Team. This has thrown fuel on the fire of speculation around an impending 5th Edition of the D&D game and gamers all over forum boards have begun further splitting themselves into pro- and anti-Monte camps inside the larger pro- and anti-4E camps.

One of my dirty little secrets? I can't stand most gamers.

(Chances are, if I've gamed with you more than once, you're probably not one of those. Also, please be prepared to place you tongue firmly in you cheek for most of this.)

Rather, I can't stand the inherent schismatic nature of gamers. I can't stand Edition Warriors. The horrible truth about the "Edition Wars" is that it wasn't caused by WotC publishing 4E, or the cavalier way they announced it, or Paizo tuning up the engine of the 3.5 system, or any of that. It was caused by the overly extremist nature of most gamers.

And it's not solely a D&D thing. Working in a game store, I hear lots of rips of every edition of D&D. I hear gamers extolling the virtue of Old World of Darkness, and how much the New World of Darkness sucks. I hear the exact opposite.

I'm probably a bit of an oddity. If you look through my gaming bookshelves, you'll find stuff from every edition of D&D, from both iterations and multiple editions of World of Darkness, and more. I've never found an RPG where I couldn't find something about it that I liked. In fact, maybe that's why I can't understand most gamers - I'm spending my time looking for things to like, rather than spending it looking for things that weren't as good as the version that I play.

All RPGs, all games in general, will eventually collapse under the weight of their own rules. The more rules you add on, the faster it will happen. It's happened with every edition of D&D, it's happened with the World of Darkness, it's happened with nearly every game. Add to that the fact that in order to turn a profit, a company has to produce new product to sell, and you've got a perfect storm environment. In order to keep making a game, you have to make new product, and every new product you make pushes you one step closer to the day when you will have to reset and put out a new edition of the game. It's the circle of geek.

Of course, sometimes, you're going to have to make some radical adjustments to the rules. If WotC had published 3.75 instead of 4E, you'd still have people griping about having to replace their books and having to do conversions on older products, and why aren't you producing free pdf documents that update all of these old products that I've purchased from you? Which another thing I can't stand about most gamers - their sense of entitlement. The thought that they are the most important customer, and that they are the ones who the company should be catering to. A certain myopic sense of self-importance. But guess what? I work in a game store, I've been to GenCon and Origins and tons of other conventions. There are a thousand more with that same attitude, and not a single one of you would agree on the "right way" to play the game.

So, that brings me back to Monte, and the speculation of 5th Edition.

Of course there's going to be a 5th Edition (also, NEWSFLASH, there's eventually going to be a 2nd Edition of Pathfinder). That's a given, and if you think it's not, you need to get out of your mom's basement more often than to buy the latest supplement for the best and only real version of D&D EVAR! It's not a question of "if," it's a question of "when," and "by whom?"

If we look at the idea of games collapsing under their own rules, 4E is at that point. While I do quite enjoy a number of things about 4E, one of its major shortcomings was the sheer glut of rules material that was produced in a short period of time. Between all of the material crammed into the early issues of the online version of Dragon, and the insane production schedule (both of which resulted in so many "Updates" to the rules that you practically needed a personal assistant to keep up on them) 4E had nearly as much rules bloat in its first year and half as 3.5 had in its entire run.

And then there was the Essentials fiasco. Don't get me wrong, I liked a lot of stuff in Essentials as well, but it seems that its main purpose was to confuse the consumer. What is this? A new edition? Is this better than my old stuff? It's supposed to be compatible, but why have a bunch of the rules changed? Why do I need to remake the character I made with the Red Box? It was a unmitigated marketing disaster for a pretty solid project.

So, 5th Edition IS coming (or, possibly, as Stephen Radney-McFarland at NeoGrognard postulates, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) and I think that it will most likely be produced by WotC. And it's probably one of the things that Monte will be working on. Possibly it was one of the main reasons he was hired back.

As I mentioned before, this decision has even further splintered and polarized people. A quick read through the 4E forums on WotC's site revealed accusations of Monte being a egotistic hack who lives only to soak up adulation from fanboys and who couldn't design his way out of a paper-bag using his decade-old ideas (of course these accusations were made by people who didn't co-design one of the best-selling RPGs ever, so whatever). It has also been pointed out that he might be Batman.

It's this very thing - this overly-sensitive reaction that someone is out to "ruin" THEIR personal game - that irks me. It's the basis of the "Edition Wars," and it's the reason I can't stand most gamers.

I'm happy that Monte is back designing at Wizards. I'm looking forward to see what he does there, whether it be 5th Edition or not. And if it is 5th Edition, I'll probably play that too.

So, my message to most gamers out there? Stop being little bitches, grow up, grow a pair, and realize that it's just a fucking rules system, not a part of your core of being.

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