Can I appreciate D&D? Is that seriously the question? Can I appreciate this game that is so compulsive I am running three different campaigns; I am mapping the world; I am writing a blog that has now topped 900 posts, with an average of +1,000 words per post. I've been playing this game for 33 years, despite the time, despite the public distaste, despite the distaste of my father and mother, despite friends and acquaintences who don't understand it, despite the time it has taken from my writing and despite the probable years of financial success it has cost me by preferring to play this game rather than the corporate one. What in gawd does the reader want as proof - my blood?
I play hundreds of features of the game as written. I play the character classes, the bonuses and penalties for the stats, the combat to hit and the combat saving throw system, the magic items in almost every case, the monsters, surprise, backstabbing, assassination, magic resistance, spells, proficiencies, races and undead as written. What I have changed, I have done so by keeping the substance of the original game alive, shaping the rules rather than abolishing them out of hand. I may run a different combat system, but the weapons still strike the same way. I may have trade tables, but the equipment functions in the game as it always has. I tweak, I modify, I recast ... but I do not throw out.
Does the gentle reader want me to say that I am glad Gygax and Arneson ventured to write books that described this original and remarkable game? Yes, I'm glad. Yes, I am grateful. Yes, it was a wonderful thing they did. It literally changed my life. It literally gave me a life I have enjoyed and been proud of all these years. These two men waved a flag in front of this bull that has driven it against the fence repeatedly for thousands of afternoons writing, rewriting, drawing, redrawing, conjecturing and designing and throwing out. This game is me. I am this game. YES, I appreciate D&D. I would have done very different things, for very different reasons, if D&D had not been there to distract me.
I cannot understand why this is not obvious. I lambast and abuse and attack the makers of the game for their lack of foresight, for their amateurishness, for the fact that they are incidental to the progress of gaming design and history - but I do not disparage their contribution. I am me, because they tried. I cannot give them higher praise than that.
Do not confuse my refusal to deify them with dissatisfaction at their efforts. I am glad for their efforts. But they are not GODS. They are not the LAST WORD. They do not get to be placed on a pedestal. If they had spent five years on the project before releasing it, producing the Principia Mathematica of D&D, I may now feel differently. It is plain they wrote from the hip, quickly, with an eye to getting it out as fast as they could ... and for that, YES, they get my appreciation.
They don't quite get my respect.