Saturday, January 17, 2015

Only Good Things For You

"I want my money back.  And I want angels to give it to me.  And pixies to count it out, and a gnome or a hobbit or an elf to sleep at the foot of my bed and have - I just want them all over my backyard.  But no matter what happens with any of that, I do want my money back."-Jeff Goldblum, "Run Ronnie Run"

As I continue my exploration of the rules to D&D 5, I have come to the conclusion that the game is an enabler...of touchy feely new age sissy bullshit.
WOTC's attitude toward the player and the game in 5e can best be summed up by the phrase, "I want good things for you".  It's a nice sentiment, but what does it have to do with gaming?

Perhaps I'd better explain.  In years past, previous editions of the game have attempted to create a world of adventure by allowing players to generate a surrogate for themselves, a player character, and enter into a world of adventure where they might one day, if they are lucky with the dice and smart with their tactics, slay a mighty dragon, conquer a kingdom, or set themselves up as a master of the universe.  To create this feeling of adventure the game was designed to provide a reasonable amount of peril with an all too likely chance of failure determined by a throw of the dice and the whims of the referee we call the DM.  Tales of defeating a red dragon had a sort of geek street cred because it was understood by all geeks playing the game that such was no mean feat.  The dice were against the player and the advantage was to the dragon.  One bad saving throw could mean a total loss of hit points and death.
Players had to be savvy.  They knew that there were negatives and penalties to all manner of things.  Wizards had to deal with the reality of limited magical power as they searched dungeons and lichs' towers for scrolls and books to expand their magical knowledge.  These things didn't just come to a person, they had to be sought out.  The players accepted that they were not heroes, at least not at first, but that one day they could be-if they were lucky with the dice and smart with their tactics.

Then, as you probably have guessed, shit changed.
I can't say for sure when it actually started, as it seems that the game was always in flux, with new rules and options always in the offing waiting for the next issue of dragon or the next supplement, but I can say that somewhere in the 3rd edition the attitude became about bonus stacking.  It was no longer good enough to be a wizard.  You had to be a wizard so supremely focused on being a wizard that every PC wizard was a Supra-Genius!  4th edition gave in to the full MMO experience and what was good enough for your father (one spell per day at 1st level, searching for magical knowledge) was considered so antiquated as to be not worth discussing.  Now everybody should be able to shit a magic light dart from their genitals every round.  After all, why else be a wizard...they whined.

And now we have the results of that; the fallout if you prefer.  5e has specialization, as have editions before it, but it's not about trading general spell power for focused power in a branch of magic.  It is about getting some neat bonuses to go with your at-will cantrips.  Because you absolutely need more power.  Death, formerly something that loomed threateningly at 0 Hit Points is now 3 failed Death Saves away after you lose your hit points, but that's okay because your buddy can always put a Band Aid brand plastic adhesive bandage on it and the Reaper just fucks off to a bar or something.  You are not needed today, Grim One.  The new reality is that the penalty is simply not getting a bonus.  But worry not, there are plenty of bonuses to be had.  You have penalties, I won't lie.  You might have a stat with a negative to it.  You might have to face DISADVANTAGE because you are in a bad situation, such as you are trying to shoot a person with a longbow that is standing 2 feet from you.  The person is standing two feet away.  You have the longbow.  The longbow is not standing two feet away.
I think you understand what I mean.

There are negatives, is my point, but they are not common.  Indeed it is far more common for the player to simply not have a bonus.  The issue is that there are just so many bonuses.  There are so many good things in the game that can happen to your player.  WOTC is like Santa Claus, your fairy godmother, and socialism all rolled into one big money grubbing package.  WOTC is like a drug dealer, really.
"Hey, you wanna try this?  It will make you feel gooooood."
It will make you feel good.  The feeling of can't fail is a good feeling.  The last thing they want to do is create a challenging set of rules because then the spoon-fed modern gamer would cry and go back to whatever pretty app on their smart phones has managed to hold their 7 minute attention span.  They will keep you feeling good until you've bought all their products or run out of money, and then there won't be anything left to make you feel good and they won't give a damn because there is always another kiddie out there who they can hook into their mamby pamby feel-good machine.

Save versus gullibility, and I'm afraid you will be at a disadvantage.


  1. It seems the younger gamers have no concept of the tinge of excitement that comes with the risk of failure. I've never played an MMO, but from everything I've heard, they're ridiculous and do take at least some of the blame for the mentality you describe.

    1. It's not just the younger gamers, mate. It is about the mindset of the gamer himself. Even older gamers can suffer this problem, especially if they have been playing newer games to "keep the dream alive" instead of "keeping the faith" you might say. They have never known the joy of turning the classic House of Strahd module into a Three Stooges style comedy routine rather than risk getting completely destroyed by an enemy they obviously were not powerful enough to face.

    2. I forget. Which characters did we play in that module? I recall Scott finally quit bothering with modules, because we'd blow 'em all to hell with our crazy antics.

    3. I don't even recall. Except I think I was a Jedi. I apologize for that. So, so much.

    4. I think one of us played a Psionicist in Ravenloft, but I forget which. I had totally forgotten the Jedi. Alzheimer's is gonna kick my ass, if I ever make it to old age.