Thursday, January 12, 2012

Obligatory D&D 5E Post or, I Just Dropped in to See What Condition my Edition was In (Yeah, Yeah, Oooooooohhhh Yeah!)

By now the news has spread far and wide. In case you haven't heard, Wizards of the Coast has announced plans for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. For some reason, I was reminded of this Kenny Rogers and the First Edition song

Speaking of First Editions (see what I did there?), my gaming days started in 1979 with fifth printing of the Holmes Basic Set (Blue box, Adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown, and cardboard chits for dice), and soon moved on to AD&D, which we played for many, many years.

My friend Jeff introduced me to the game. We had all been avid gamers, playing Risk, something called Stockmarket, and Diplomacy.We heard the news stories about James Dallas Egbert III, who had supposedly had gone missing in the steam tunnels of Michigan State University while playing a game called Dungeons and Dragons. The exactly timeline is rather sketchy, but suffice it to say that by the time I was 16, I was hooked on D&D. Bad.

I have to back up here and say that my first "rpg" type gaming experience was the computer text game Collosal Cave Adventure. I had a friend, Clark, who's dad worked for AT&T. They had the computer game on a mainframe in Georgia I believe, and we would rack up long distance telephone bills playing via the computer's modem (which consisted of jamming the telephone into the cradle on the back of the computer). I first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail on public television at Clark's House when I was about 13. It changed my life forever.

AD&D served me well for as long as I cared to play. I was never excited about new editions coming out, as it meant having to purchase new core books, which I was never really interested in. I had designed my own game world, and was happy purchasing published modules for inspiration, but tweaking them to fit into my own vision of what a fantasy game world should be.

I did pick up Arms Law from Iron Crown Enterprises, and incorporated it into my game for a while until creating my own simplified system inspired by it. Years later I wound up working for I.C.E. (about 4 years after Monty Cook left), but it was brutal days there in fateful '97. However, it was one of the best periods in my career.

I picked up the complete Rolemaster System while there, and somewhere along the lines I bought the Judges Guild set. There was some flirting with D&D 2e, and then 3.0. However, my first reaction to 3.0 and the "feats" was "wow... this sort of makes characters a few levels higher to start out with. Why not just do that?" I've purchased some products for Call of Cthulu and Pendragon, as well as assorted third party stuff. I also recall the Role Aids products with fondness.

I have admittedly never even cracked a 4.0 book until this past December when I was at my FLGS picking up a copy of Labyrinth Lord and the AEC. The quick perusal didn't do much for me.

So here we come... to the dawn of a new edition of one of my favorite games. I wish WoTC well and much success. I'm curious about what 5E will become. My personal goal is to have a simplified set of rules, downloadable for free in pdf format (which I have found with Labyrinth Lord and the AEC) which I can point to and say "Want to join my game? Here's the rules." If WoTC can pull that off, I may give it a go. If not, there's plenty of options out there.

I do have to say that I am disappointed at WoTC's decision to contract the artwork for 5E to China. There are countless talented domestic artists who would love to work on the project. I think a unified "artist's hand" is less important than the art direction itself. When I was at I.C.E., we commissioned hundreds of pieces of art for the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game from many different artists, yet the game had a unified feel. I'm hoping for something a bit less "action figurey" (read, Todd McFarlaneish), and more classic (read, Pre-Raphaelite type stuff). Click on the Shatterworld link at the top of this page to see what I'm talking about.

I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed in
I watched myself crawling out now, as I came crawling in
I got up so tight I couldn't unwind
I saw so much, I broke my mind
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in

Yeah. Yeah. Ooooohhhhhhh Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

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