D&D Next | Endorsements = Empty Buzzwords?

A fairly typical thing happened over at AICN's Tabletop column:

Is it just me or do terms like "modern design sensibility" and "insanely smooth" convey nothing? 

It's interesting to see that the misguided quest to balance the character classes is apparently less of a priority this time around. 

I guess I just don't understand what's wrong with the older editions -- or the numerous clones -- that puts off so many "modern" gamers. To put it another way: What makes anything WotC has done with the brand superior to previous versions of the game? Most of the responses to these questions seem to come in the form of empty phrases that purport to mean something but are never adequately explained, as though the same ad copy is being repeated over and over.


  1. I began playing in 1979. I've played every edition since. To me, "modern design sensibility" means things like armor class being the number you need to hit without having to cross-reference charts or memorize THACO. "Insanely smooth" means to me a game that runs with a minimum of page-flipping and numbers-crunching (and the latter didn't start with 3e; try calculating Weapon Speed Factors and armor penalties on the fly in 1e - because I did, and it could bog down a game). I'm 47, first played D&D almost 35 years ago, and while I wouldn't say the older editions put me off, I simply would rather have a game where the kinks had been smoothed out rather than glorified. Even back in the '80s, when I ran 1e for a good decade or more, there were a lot of aggravating quirks to the game that 3e helped fix, in my opinion. Now, that said, d20 combat pains my soul with how much of a slog it can be. So seeing Next attempting to marry the smoothed-out stuff I did and didn't mention above (AC for the former, and saving throws for the latter) with the kind of stripped-down combat of 1e that was possible (which, for all its flaws, I could run quick enough that major battles didn't consume whole sessions), makes me excited for the new edition. I don't feel any nostalgia for the game mechanics of D&D (and I still have all my books from back then, from Holmes Edition to AD&D to the Rules Cyclopedia to the boxed sets); I feel nostalgic for the adventures I ran and played in. I could flip the question around - what makes the older editions holy writ that cannot be improved upon? What makes the combat charts in the 1e DMG, or even THACO, so integral to the enjoyment of the game? I've never heard a good answer to any of those questions, either.

    And as for balancing classes, while some attempts at it haven't been to my liking (I liked running 4e, but the powers and spells ended up feeling like the same thing), I'd rather some pass at it be made, because I distinctly recall high level campaigns in 1e feeling like "the wizard and his little friends."

    I wouldn't say that what WotC has done with D&D is superior; it seems to me to be more like the differences in Golden Age and Silver Age comics and their modern incarnations. Yeah, Golden and Silver Age comics are fun to read occasionally, but a lot about narrative structure has been learned and the art is so good now that modern comics appeal to me more overall.

    Anyway, I'm sorry if this seems argumentative. It's not intended to be so. I mean it to be a friendly response to your post, from someone who isn't just a Johnny-come-lately to D&D, and who likes the modern flavors of it as well as the older. I mean, I LOVE the original HackMaster, and dig a lot of the clones, especially DCC (and I know some will say that's not a clone...), and I would still willingly play or run 1e (though my own homebrewed version in the latter case).

    Merry Christmas!

    1. This was a great response! I agree with you on many points here.

      I don't have any special loyalty to particular game mechanics. Many of the clones and pseudo-clones out there address the bulkiness of 80s-era D&D by adopting simpler methods. I think that's great.

      My beefs lie in other areas. Newer versions of D&D fail in two very specific areas:

      (1) Over-complexity. Character sheets keep getting bigger and bigger. Thus characters take more time to create. Thus character death necessarily becomes more and more of a rarity -- the start-up cost is just too high. Thus we get "balanced encounters" and othersuch nonsense.

      (2) Power-creep. This is not a "modern" problem at all, but the new D&Ds exacerbate the issue by pandering to the munchkins. The economy of power in the game thus becomes warped. Who cares what I get at 5th level when I'm already a gigantic badass right out the gate? I accept that this issue may be a matter of personal taste.

      Cheers & Happy Xmas to you as well.

    2. Whats so hard about thac0?

      D20 + AC ≥ Thaco

    3. Even though the AD&D 2E description of the system was dreadful it had one perk. In AD&D 2E RAW your roll is your roll and your target number has to be figured up, in 3e your target is your target, but about that roll....

  2. THAC0 = To Hit Armor Class 0
    I never understood why people were so confused by this.
    That being said, ascending AC systems are easier to use.