Sunday, October 27, 2013

When did gaming get so complicated?

I'm probably looking through the lens of nostalgia here, but I remember when I was younger, it was so much easier to game and have a good time. You showed up and played. That's it.

Somewhere along the way, unless I've had a dedicated group, it seems sometimes that the stars have to align for everybody to show up for a given session. You throw in conflicting personalities, strong opinions on the editions of rules, and endless other distractions, its really amazing any tabletop gaming gets done at all.

I remember how D&D 3e made it seem like you needed all of those accessories (miniatures, battle mats, etc) to play the game. Suddenly, if you didn't have the right miniature, you had to find it and paint it. That slowed down prep time. Yeah, I know that doesn't apply to everybody, but to me the game became more about what was on the tabletop rather than what was going on the player's minds. I'm not sure how it happened, for years my players and I were simply happy using the figures from boardgames like HeroQuest or DragonStrike. WotC's brilliant marketing I guess.

Yesterday I went to my FLGS, Treefort Games, and saw a Pathfinder game in progress. The GM had connected his laptop with a computer monitor so he could run the game. I can't blame him, from what I've seen of Pathfinder, you need a computer to keep track of all of the rules. At it looked like they were running a pretty high-powered campaign. I don't think any of the characters has scores less than 12, with the highest being 20. They were all around 6th level, but had +15 bonuses to their die rolls.

I occasionally use a laptop, but mainly to play music. It sits off to the side while I run.

I've been in games where all of the players have their laptops out at the tabletop. I find it very distracting.

Perhaps I'm just getting older. But I remember the days when all you truly needed to play was a couple rulebooks, some pens, and some paper, a handful of friends, and you were good to go.

Anything else was just decoration.


  1. Yeah. Back in the day we used minis (because minis are cool) but no mat or rulers. Just showed marching order, or "my guy is over here", or "you're fighting this guy and you two are fighting that guy". "This and that guy" were often just dice or whatnot. I had a guy who, before he bought the MM, thought ogres were white cubes because I had used dice to represent them.

    Sometimes didn't even do that. PHB, character sheets, dice and a pencil-we were good to go.

  2. Back in the day we just used a basic sketch on a blank sheet of paper. But we would have loved battlemats, minis, etc. A lot of my players use smartphones or tablets because it's easier than bringing books, dice, paper, pens, etc. One tablet and it's all there.

  3. Well, if you consider the original rules, D&D was always hella complicated. You would have to look at one book to see how many inches a monsterling would move across the table and then consult another book to figure out what the hell Gary meant by "Fighting Value: 3 Men + 1".

    I think that the hailed simplicity of the early days comes largely from the groups of gamers who weren't bothering to play Gary's game in anything but name because Gary, despite his innovations and child-like sense of wonderment was absolute shit when it came to technical writing. Compare the instructions for games by someone like SPI with those of TSR. One wrote comprehensive rules for fairly complex war games in a very concise, easy to use format, while the other wrote bloated stream-of-concious ramblings with (poorly aligned) relational tables interspersed.

    1. In other words, D&D started out like a table-heavy version of "Small Wars", not really straightforward rules for playing a game but rather a collection of essays concerning the experiences of play, development and evolution of a game that they were already playing with the rules haphazardly codified within the text in a rather incidental fashion.


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