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Why D&D over other RPGs?

It’s true that our version of D&D is modified beyond recognition. Which is fine since it’s an open source game.

It’s true that I’m a fan of D&D as a brand, as a shorthand, as a community, whereas I don’t touch “gamer” stuff with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

It’s not true that this is out of ignorance with other systems. “Just play Fiasco” we went from Fiasco to D&D after trying both. And, we’ve mashed in stuff from Fiasco into “our” D&D.

I had read around 200 core books until finally giving the much maligned D&D a shot. I had believed the anti-hope of haters on Usenet and TBP. “AC doesn’t make sense”, “Levels don’t make sense”, “It’s so unrealistic” etc. And I felt so dumb for looking at it last because it was exactly what I had been longing for all this time.

Location-based, exploratory, open-ended gameplay. I love it.

Far from the hand-wavy, ouijaboardy, rail-roady story-telly games of the late 80s. Enhanced by the tight, emergent, carefully designed story games of the 00s.

Just perfect.

The world’s greatest roleplaying game.♥

Now, is 5e really the best or is there some weirdorama OSR game or Rule Cyclopedia reprint or OSR/indie hybrid that’s the best? IDK. But if so, they, in some sense of the word, also “are” D&D. I buy them and read them and jam stuff from them into our game. I sometimes recommend some of them to groups that want a less of a heavy lifestyle super crunch maximalist experience and want more of a lighter, self-contained, smaller thing.

Sure, do find a different game if you do have radically different expectations. Those other games are like tight apps that do their one thing and do it well.

D&D is a big ball of mud, it’s an Emacs, it’s a Unix, it’s a system of systems of systems. Grab a dungeon here, some monsters there, some spells here, some oracle charts here. It all mashes up to this huge wonderful never-ending world to explore.

Yes, ed is a treasure but Emacs is a different kind of treasure.

There are more games, supplements, all kinds of non-Hasbro roleplaying being made now. More than any other point in history. It sucks that one brand is so big and I don’t wanna be all hail corporate and I do think Hasbro and WotC are problematic AF and the statement “a rising tide lifts all boats” has a fucked up history but in this particular instance a lot of boats have actually been lifted.

Something like Good Society or Fiasco or The Skeletons or Microscope (if you play the Chronicle rules from the “Explorer” expansion, fixes the game IMO) is an awesome experience but it can’t really replace D&D. And vice versa.

I know this post by Ben Robbins has been contentious over the years but I still agree with the core points in it.

And I love adventure games. I love both but the appeal is very different and I love adventure games so much.

And once you’re playing adventure games, the line between D&D and “not-D&D” gets blurred AF. Is Pathfinder D&D? Is Old School Essentials D&D? Is Traveller D&D?

In some sense no, of course, they’re not literally “Dungeons & Dragons® Hasbro inc”. But is that brand name integrity something we as fans really should embrace? I kinda enjoy how it’s becoming this loosey-goosey all-encompassing thing.

Now, it’s not that I don’t get it. I’ve, too, in the past said, in the response to all the fudgey judgeys out there who wanna finger-on-the-scale their way to telling their own scripted story and invalidate all player actions, that maybe a medium crunchy 300 page PHB game isn’t the best match for what they are trying to do. Something lighter would suit them. But there are groups out there for whom a crunchy location-based exploration game is a good fit.

Look, overall, it’s less that I wanna defend Hasbro and more that I really have sympathy for D&D fans.♥