Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking the Cycle (New classes, new races, new abilities, new spells, etc.)

We've seen quite a few big announcements in the last week or so concerning the Old School Renaissance. Kobold Quarterly is going underTSR is coming back, sort of, but the details are kind of sketchy. Joseph Bloch has kickstarted his project "Adventures Dark & Deep" which supposedly answers "what if Gygax stayed with TSR to develop AD&D 2e?" Many of these products have one thing in common: new classes, new races, new abilites, etc...etc...etc... for your D&D game (in whatever edition). That, and they all harken back to the Golden Age. I've seen this over and over again with hundreds, if not thousands, of product since I began gaming. The OGL, of course, opened the door for anybody to produce new products. And what did they do: put out books on new classes, new races, new spells, new abilities, etc...etc...etc...

I wish there was a way to break this cycle.

Because I have all the "new" stuff I need. But this cycle is endemic with all editions of D&D, and all RPGs in general. The core books get published and then what? Where do you go from there? Obviously, players want more options so you give that to them. One of my gripes about 4e is that it came out so soon after 3.5e was published. I felt that I hadn't scratched the tip of all of the options in that system--and that was just with the core books.

Compounding this, is that these new products, including what Wizards of the Coast seems to be doing with 5e are all looking back to the Golden Age for inspiration. Yes, the Golden Age was a great time. Sorry I missed out on it. But I think D&D and the hobby as a whole needs to move on, otherwise new blood won't join. (No, I don't really count your sons and daughters, even though I think its a great idea to introduce them to RPGs).

4e broke away from many of these Golden Age traditions. Unfortunately, it was too unfamiliar to many players. Furthermore, 4e ran through the supplement cycle faster than previous editions. Suddenly, D&D Essentials came around. And now 5e is on the horizon.

I don't know if there is a way to break the cycle. Occasionally, a product like Ultimate Toolbox will come along. But even Ultimate Toolbox was inspired by the random tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. 

Maybe all of this is like Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, where we're all telling the same story over and over again. But, because the players must provide their own heroes in the game, the each rule system must give plenty of options so that each hero gets his or her own unique face.


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