While JB on his blog wallows about trying to nail down the Building of a Better D&D (I don't think he's got it, myself), I'd like to address an ignored comment from this post here, from scadgrad:
"Not only does the resultant fallacy completely ignore the role of the DM (as JB points out), but more importantly it IGNORES the crunch/tweaking outside of actual game time that occupies much of the modern day player's experience as they "customize" their perfect build."
The emphasis is my own. And this needs emphasis. This one phrase says more about the commercialism of the last 40 years than does ten million words written about editions and skills and attacks of opportunity. If we are going to stick a post in the ground and identify WHERE D&D WENT WRONG, the post should be firmly hammered into the middle of scadgrad's observation.
On a typical week I run about five to seven hours of D&D, depending on how focused my groups are - this includes the online campaign, and does not include time spent during a running chatting about things that are not D&D, bathroom breaks and time half the crew spends outside having a smoke. Seven hours of PURE D&D running a week, that's about as good as it gets.
On an a-typical week, over Christmas, through the time in summer I usually take off as the parties scatter on vacation, I get in NO running time whatsoever. But D&D does not stop, oh no! D&D, for me, never stops.
That's because I work on D&D between 20 and 60 hours a week, every week, summer and winter, diligently, consistently, and with great relish. I can testify that my party players work on their characters during these off times as well - not nearly as much as I do, but upon rewrites, construction designs, artwork and so on they probably each put in between 2 and 10 hours a month.
But as scadgrad says ... does anyone in the industry give a shit?
No, they don't. They don't because they adopted a business model that made sense to them: "People should be able to sit down, anytime, anywhere, and without any pre-planning whatsoever, be able to run a game on the spot. We will make that possible!"
Prepackaging. Prefabrication. Conformity. A great landscape of uniform, bland preformed cookie-cutter adventures, with all the latitude that corporate consciences and imaginations can provide: to the extent that the market itself has become dogmatic in their thinking, ruled by factions laid down by editions and public relations hype.
We have products. We have everything we need to sit down as READ off pages to our players, defining their fun for the evening, defining our slotted, factory purposed roles in the great corporate game plan. Anyone can be a DM! Anyone can play! Play anywhere! Play anytime! Play! Play! Play!
But most of all, Buy, Buy, Buy.
Where are the tools that lets the amateur make his own world? "Fuck boy, we don't sell tools, we sell GAMES. Buy this one and be a vampire! Buy this one and be a superhero! Buy this one and be a Lovecraftian God! Don't waste time making your own world. We have thousands of worlds on our shelves. Rush on down and pick up the one that FITS YOU PERSONALLY!
Oh, I know there are many who do buy, and who swear by these products, and who dance around pitching their glories to other people. But I can't help thinking at the core of my being, every time I read or hear about anyone buying anything prepackaged for "their" world (if it can be called that): what a poor, deluded cripple; what a shame they still haven't learned how to do it themselves.
Not fair, I know. So not fair. So self-righteous. So pretentious. Who am I to say a person shouldn't buy an "imaginitive, marvelous product?"
I'll tell you: I'm a DM who does it himself.
See, I just haven't seen this imaginitive product yet. That's really the crux of it. I hear tell over and over about these wonderful products that the manufacturers create ... and then I go down to my local game store, this massive two story building that's been selling roleplaying games for literally 35 years, where there ARE thousands of games on the shelves, where the books can be opened and read and looked over at will, where the staff doesn't harrass you if you hang around for hours and hours (seriously!) ... and in all the hours I have spent there, over all the years that I've spent there, I still have yet to find one product that isn't in truth a piece of glorified shit.
Honest. I open up these books and start reading down their lists of skills or their outlines for what this fantasy world tries to be about, and all I see is cheap, crass, crummy, hackneyed, cliche regurgitated garbage written in high school English. All the art I see is high-school binder art. I know I'm supposed to see so much more than this, but I guess its just that I'm comparing these written words to the words written by all the world's writers, and not those who write in roleplaying games. I guess its because I'm comparing the art to the art produced by all the world's artists, and not just the artists of roleplaying games. I guess I just can't compress my measuring tools into this small a space. I guess its that I don't find myself limited by what OTHER people think D&D ought to be.
Because you see, my experience as a DM isn't based on how players reacted to the Tomb of Horrors when I ran it. Or how they reacted to Third Edition when we switched. Or what my players think about Paizo or White Wolf or S/W. My experience as a DM is based upon how my players reacted to MY world. MINE. Do you understand? When something went wrong, I didn't put my booties on and rush down to the store to buy something better! I sat at my computer at my table and I fixed it. Me. I did the fucking work. And I learned how to do the fucking work, because I didn't farm it out. I didn't lean on a crutch. I didn't spend my time looking for a tit to suck. I worked. I designed, and then I redesigned, and then I redesigned again. I did it and did it and did it MYSELF, all by myself, and now I've gotten so fucking good at it that everything the manufacturers print looks like incomprehensible shit to me.
See, all these cripples buying all this shit? I don't think they know a damn thing. I don't think they've ever HAD to know a damn thing. They've been on the tit too long. And I think that all of us who have for the last forty years been doing it ourselves KNOW this. And I think that yes, it does make us feel superior.
But only because we are.