Having a conversation with a regular last night, who spent most of the time trying to convince me of something and very nearly succeeding. It's only that it's so absurd to me that I find my old cynicism gripping me like grim death, and I have to throw it out into the void in order to corroborate the claim. If this fellow wishes to declare himself, he may, but I won't give names.
The proposal runs thusly: that there is a strong contingent in the community of people who play D&D, especially those who play 4e and who are closely associated with WOTC, who believe that the most important ideal of the game is 'balance,' the idea that every player, regardless of class or any other distinction, must be equal and the same where it comes to combat ... and moreover, or more to the point, WOTC's moves regarding the game in the last decade has been a strong effort to service this contingent of people.
This all warps in some manner to a gaming mindset that says that if I am playing at the table with A, B and C, then not only must I be as effective as A, B, and C in combat, but I must be exactly as effective, and the more exactly as effective I am, in every combat we have, the "better" the game system, because it doesn't play favorites. Added to this is the concept that if I, as DM, offer the party a large gem, but only one, then I am being unfair to all the members of the party who did not receive that gem. In short, by virtue of this balanced ideal, I am a "bad DM."
Now, I can believe someone as stupid as Mearls buys into this crap. There's quite a few bloggers out there that I can believe might buy into this crap. But I've never met anyone who felt this way, not personally, and I certainly haven't had any conversations before where anyone tried to pitch this at me as an "ideal game system." The whole concept is laughable.
But then I am told, if a party is encouraged to play together and pit themselves as a group against monsters, without feeling the need to compete and win against each other, then that's a lot of kumbayah bullshit that many 'hardcore and serious players' don't buy into. I can't imagine what sort of nitwitted, panty-bunched stick-in-their-ass bastards these sorts of hardcore players are, but I know for certain you'd never find them at one of my tables.
If D&D has descended down to the level where it is so boring now that the individual players have stopped taking enjoyment from the pursuit of monsters, treasure and glory, and can only see it in terms of "who has the most experience this week," then no fucking wonder that many of you reading this blog cringe at any reference to that game, and not S&W or some other acronym that hasn't been soiled, rubbed over with turpentine, shat on, pressed into a small cube and shoved up a monkey's butt. It's a real shame. D&D used to be such a pleasant game. I supposed I shall have to start calling my game Brains & Brigands.
(note how the letters of the word 'brain' all exist in 'brigands')
WOTC's involvement in all this, apparently from a money stand point, goes like this:
1) The Owners of the Franchise involve themselves in market research in the late 1980s, and learn from crawling convention cretins that what they really want in the game is more "balance" ... vaguely conceived as the sort of thing noted above. More to the point, they are looking for a game where they can "invent their own characters."
2) TOOTF game tests a lot of crap and comes up with the build system that is 2.0. But it's crap, so they sit down and make a better build system, 3.0. Which is still crap, even though they try to balance it further with 3.5.
3) Each system that's advanced fails because the players, who are still saying they want a balanced system, make thorough efforts to break every system that's balanced.
4) However, TOOTF realizes that by fucking around with the balance endlessly in book after book, guide after guide, 'patch' after 'patch,' they are making money.
5) So ultimately the TOOTF are not building systems to produce better games, but systems which are in fact harder to break, encouraging a generation of stupid people to forget what the game was originally about, and concentrate instead on finding the best way to break whatever is the latest bullshit balanced system. This is the real reason for 5e, because the players of 4e have grown bored with breaking a system that's too clumsy or impractical to 'break.'
And amidst all this, the OSR springs up. True dat?