Monday, July 30, 2007

D&D Social Interaction II: A Response

I don't think 2nd Edition or 3rd Edition are really "D&D." They are games that try to emulate D&D, but both have so many "patches" to cover the wholes in regular D&D, that effectively, it's not the same game anymore.

3.0 would have been an earth-shattering product in 1990 when 2nd edition released. Now it's a tiring game that is losing steam because the momentum that got us into 3.0 is slowly fading... and it isn't enough to keep us there.

Too many bad ideas in too many 3rd party products have splintered the idea of what d&d potential is, that no one publisher is really making the dark, assyria-inspired, fallen kingdoms, d&d of the 1970s.

A game, even without a world, must have flavor. 3.0 didn't have flavor, but the ADs in charge of the game are slowly adding one to all the 3.5 products that come out.

The flavor is transparent. They call it "punk" in their style guides and as the artists to add more warhammer-inspired imagery to the game.

But this has little to do with 1/2 the mechanics of the game, which are mired in minutia. The rules for attack of opportunity and grappling have to be the stupidiest things i've ever seen in a professional product.

These need to be fixed. Badly.

My concepts for fixing the social system actually make the game more D&D than ever. 1st edition has almost ZERO rules for interaction, bluffing, diplomacy, and so on. Certainly gathering information was a seat of the pants exercise by DMs with little to no understanding of game balance.

Even to this day, charisma is a useless stat, maybe even more so than the original game which gave my followers a bonus to morale saves. Now it modifiers six skills that i would never put on any character sheet in 3.5.

D&D must remain slightly generic in order to maximize sales. Thousands of fans already have their home-brew worlds. They don't need Eberron (and really... who does?), or Grayhawk or Earthdawn or these other products.

But it must also inspire flavor. There must be a theme. And that theme should enhance game-design whenever possible.

If we remove specialized classes from the game (bard, barbarian, druid, monk, paladin) and pull back the point of the remaining classes, we see that Cha and Wis have no place in the game. We see that none of these classes cares about "Bluffing" guards or rolling a die to see what they overhear in a tavern.

The players of these characters might, but the design of these characters (to date) has not. Clerics have a WIS bonus to spells, in order to distinguish WIS from INT. Otherwise, they are the same stat. And clerics are a whole 'nother discussion for another time.

While my ideas cannot help all D&D players, I believe they can help most. They streamline play without changing the game into something else. Yes, I realize that a character sheet with CHA on it doesn't feel like D&D, but four different skills to interact with people doesn't feel like D&D either.

Look for more ideas from me in coming months, especially as 4th Edition gets closer.