Tuesday, April 10, 2018

You Won't Believe this Shit

Okay, I'm going to say it.  This sort of crap could kill D&D.

It just takes one generation of too many young children being led down the garden path of this completely bogus version of role-playing, to snap the chain between teaching DMs and learning Players.  The very fact that the video maker simultaneously realizes that there will be push-back against what he's saying ("I'm just reading off the current rule-set ...) while failing to express serious misgivings about what he's saying is telling evidence that there is a growing army of cheerful, gormless drones who have already lost touch with the core principles of the game.

Consider this:

"Starting off, they do not use variant rules; the only exceptions are the variant race options and the variant point buy in the Player's Handbook.  You are not allowed to start with a 1st level character that has fly ... so no aarakocras.  When making the character and levelling up, the rule is, PHB plus 1, which means you're allowed the Player's Handbook plus one other supplemental book.  One extra book.  Also, you're not allowed to roll for anything that mechanically affects your character or character creation, or when you're levelling, so you don't roll for stats, don't roll for health and you don't roll for wealth.  You can roll for fluff like personality traits ..."

Looking at this, we're not describing a broken game. We're describing the spectacularly broken social construct that surrounds the game, that consists of the community that plays the game.  The rules above, all the rules, are specifically designed to cripple, restrain or emasculate the asshole munchkin who uses splatbooks, die rolls and circumstantial character enhancements in order to fuck with the campaign, fuck with the other players, and fuck with the DM.

And why do those splatbooks and character enhancements exist?  Because the company needed money, because no logical thought was put into the universe being built, because for two decades the company responsible for fucking up magic cards, the game, with new cards that would destroy whole packs of old cards, thought this would be a good idea with Dungeons and Dragons, too.

Characters that fly?  That sounds cool.  Fifty supplemental books that enable all sorts of shit for people who were willing to buy those books, dig through all the badly written paragraphs and engineer what was said diligently, excitedly, expensively and without mercy?  That sounds really cool.  Variant rules?  Hey, what the hell.  It will be great!

And now here we are.  Hamstringing players so that they have to play mediocre replicants rather than humans, who are encouraged to roll for "fluff" but must obey the marching orders of Mein Kampf, with thousands of participants all over the world playing a whole year at ONE adventure, that everyone else is also playing, with DMs reading out of the same book, like some badly written episode of fourth season Lost that takes 200 hours to see.

This is potentially the death of this game.  Not because this shit won't be played ~ it will be played. It is being played, and it is very popular.  No, the death is going to come because one day you're going to hold out dice to a player in your world and the question will come back,
"What are those?"


Ozymandias said...

You see it as well in WordPress blogs, where players and DMs (mostly DMs, because we have a drive to create) contemplate why the game works and doesn't, why some are motivated and others aren't, what rules are good and bad ~ but very rarely do they step back and question fundamental principles. They've accepted the party line and are invapinca of seeing a world where that line is made of shit instead of gold.

Discord said...

*Puts on Devil's Advocate hat*

1. How is making D&D more accessible to more new players going to kill the game? Adventurer's League is designed to be the public face of D&D, that someone stopping in a hobby shop/gaming store could see, and say "Hey, that seems kind of interesting. Maybe I should stop in next Wednesday to check out their weekly game." How is growing the D&D community bad?

2. How is lots of players playing the same module bad? It gives them shared experiences that they can reference and bond over when meeting new players. Yes, the specific content itself might be shit (and, speaking from experience, some of it is), but there needs to be some jumping off point for new players and new DMs.

*Devil's Advocate hat off*

I can't disagree with you that, yes, Adventurer's League sucks in a lot of ways, and it would be great if we could introduce new players to the game at a higher intellectual level. But, this hobby of ours has a public reputation of being arcane and difficult to understand. There's also still the lingering effects of the "Satanic Panic" of the 80s to overcome as well.

We need training wheels to add new people to the game, so it doesn't die completely. The best metaphor that I can think of is that your blog is Doctorate-level D&D, and this kind of stuff is kindergarten, or pre-school.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Dear Mr. Advocate,
Devil's Office, 666 Hades St., Hell

1. The problem begins with your mischaracterization of what's happening, that is, that the Adventurer's League concept is "making D&D more accessible" when in fact it is making some game which has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with actual D&D available to people who don't know any better. The term, "D&D" has clearly been co-opted here, to describe some bullshit activity, that behaves in a manner entirely inconsistent with any sort of D&D I've ever played, in order to coerce participation by noobs. This isn't growing the "D&D Community." This is growing some undead, sick, perverted shadow of role-playing, in the guise of a game that works according to different principles than those described in the video (and the Adventurer's League rules).

It has been argued by people for a century or more that "checkers" is a sort of training wheels for "chess." Calling it that doesn't make it that. Adventurer's League is training for NOT ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES of your actions ... it trains players to whine and piss themselves when things don't go their way, in the exact manner that a whole generation raised by helicopter moms call home when their 3rd Year Sociology Professor gives them a "B" grade. This isn't training people to play D&D. This is training people NOT to play D&D.

2. Sir. You may be underestimating what I mean where I say "one adventure." As it was explained to me, Adventurer's League insists that all participants, in all venues, play the same component part of the adventure, on the same night, as everyone else at every other table of the same level, everywhere that the League is running. As those who have played in the League have explained to me, if our goal this Wednesday night is to climb this cliff, to this door, to enter and kill this monster, then speak to this entity, who gives this clue, which we then have to solve before we can move onto the next room, and that is what we are meant to succeed at TONIGHT, then that is what my party is doing, and that is what parties are doing, the same Wednesday, in Peoria, in Miami, in Toronto, in Phoenix, in Omaha, in Waterbury, in Tacoma and so on, and on, and on, for a year, until the adventure ends and is replaced by the NEXT official adventure by the same League, who get their marching orders from the WOTC.

Now, let's see, what could possibly be wrong with that?

A considerable amount of this game comes from learning what others have done with their worlds, their adventures, their imaginations, their players, in their way ... my podcast is highlighting that now. If we replace all this with this insane wall of GREY, how is that a jumping point off to anywhere? How the fuck do people this dependent jump?

Fuzzy Skinner said...

Wow. I thought selling tons of unnecessary "official" rules to new players at exorbitant prices was already fulfilling the "soulless corporate mechanics" quota, but selling them tons of "official" rules and then not allowing them to be used in "official" events?

That's almost as evil as those mobile games that eventually charge people not to play them. Corporate D&D may not die, but I can see the players thereof being comparable to the Eloi from The Time Machine in another forty years. (Not sure who the Morlocks would be in this analogy, though...)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Me. I'm an effing morlock.

Ozymandias said...

"not allowing them to be used in official events"...

Dude. How did I not catch that? That's pure genius and pure evil at the same time...

Tardigrade said...

“We need training wheels to add new people to the game, so it doesn't die completely. ”

Who cares if the game dies? That is to say, if WOTC goes out of business, I think that’s a step in the right direction. Third edition was not a net improvement. Fourth edition was a globdamn catastrophe. Fifth is an abortion. I do not see how WOTC’s continued existence is advantageous to the “life” of d&d.

If WOTC bites the dust, and I hope they do, I will continue to play my game with my rules nevertheless. So the game won’t be dead. When I eventually die, what will I care if anyone continues to play? No one writes in Egyptian hieroglyphics anymore either. Let’s not get hysterical about the game surviving.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I agree with much of that, Tardigrade, but the nihilism is, well, unnecessary. On the whole, I consider D&D and role-playing in general to be of benefit to the human experience; I'm quite sanguine on the future of humanity, not being willing to buy into the whole dystopian schtick ... and as such, as a human, I feel it is meaningful to do my very tiny part of the betterment of humankind thing by pointing out that bullshit is bullshit, while treasured, valuable things deserve to be maintained and supported ...

... even though yes, I'm going to die.

What I write in this minute could be the last thing I ever write. I am not so self-involved that I feel a total lack of interest in the lives of others who will continue living once I am dead. I care about them. I hope they do well, even when my body is mouldering in the grave. I care very deeply that others will continue to play ~ that even the unborn will someday get to enjoy this game as much as I do.

It's not that I'm altruistic. It's just that I'm awfully grateful to all the intellectuals of the Greek and Roman culture, the monks who froze in stone monasteries, the scientists who tested their theories, the explorers who sacrificed their lives and so on, for all these millenia, so that I could enjoy the Earth as it is right now. I owe something to those people. AND SO DO YOU. Even if you don't feel you want to pay it forward.

But yes, as far as the WOTC goes, I hope they all fucking die.

Odie5533 said...

"As it was explained to me, Adventurer's League insists that all participants, in all venues, play the same component part of the adventure, on the same night, as everyone else at every other table of the same level, everywhere that the League is running."

This is complete nonsense and not at all how AL works. How can you write a blog post complaining about the system when you don't understand how it operates?

You can play any of the hardcover adventures WOTC publishes as part of AL. What happens night to night in those is anyone's guess as many of them are sandboxes.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I was TOLD this. By an Adventurer's League group, here in Calgary. Now, I don't know how the fuck it works in your part of the world, but this is how it works with the group that I have met.

Since I've never met you, I don't know what the fuck you know, who the fuck you are, or if you know jack shit about anything.

That is how I can write a post explaining the system.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Here's a link to my experience: http://tao-dnd.blogspot.ca/2016/03/alarmed.html

Ozymandias said...

I will go on the record echoing Alexis' experience. I've visited local game stores during League events and the general atmosphere is one of desperation. There are laughs, but they are the forced laughs of hostages repeating the same tired jokes to keep their captors happy (much like Zazu from The Lion King).

I saw this trend begin with 3rd Edition and I suspect the seeds were planted back in the Living Campaign era. It's the result of tightening regulation and rules in support of players who screamed the loudest. The rest of us ~ too busy playing the game to give two shits about what the publisher was doing with "sanctioned" games ~ kept playing our games and provided no feedback or sounding board against that noise.

Makes me wonder how much of the current environment could have been prevented if we had spoken up sooner...