Picking a D&D

Re-approaching tabletop RPGs after some time away, I feel like I have missed a lot. The “new wave” of RPGs as exemplified by the current dominance of talk FATE and systems like The One Ring. Games with strong simulation aspects have always been my forté, anyway, as evidenced by extended periods involved in things like Rolemaster and Ars Magica. In a sense, my games have very often stuck fairly close to the D&D paradigm as it relates to campaign approach — but not in story or adventure design, where I have typically tended toward a much greater reliance on roleplaying and politics than is probably typical in D&D games.

These days, for a number of reasons that I may eventually get into (I’ve a long post brewing that will touch on some of these subjects in greater detail,) I have decided to focus, more or less, on D&D. The broader roleplaying hobby is an outgrowth of D&D anyway, and even games which vary wildly from it are almost always designed as responses to D&D, whether the authors intended them that way or not. Exceptions exist but they’re rarer than those who are deeply immersed in hobby crosstalk think.

So, D&D then. But which D&D? There are now a huge number of flavors available, segregated into three primary sub-communities with some overlap between them. There’s the Old School Renaissance bunch, which gravitates toward pre-AD&D2 systems or clones thereof, the 3.x community that includes fans of Pathfinder and the 4th edition people with their newfangled system that seems, on its face, to depart very radically from previous iterations of the game.

Many versions, all of which have things I like and things I dislike, is a terrible place to be. It’s the same thing I suffered with Traveller until Mongoose came in and made the choice easy. WotC may do the same with D&D Next, but that’s ages away and uncertain as well — I’m getting mixed signals out of the talk from the demos held at DDXP a week or two ago.

Of what I have available at the moment, the three selections I’m inclined towards are Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder and D&D 4th edition. Which is rather a wide variety, really. Since what I am currently envisioning is a lengthy one-shot rather than a full-blown campaign, I’m inclined to select 4th edition and see how it actually shakes out with me running the table. It may be that I will find it very confining, and it may not. I did manage to play in a D&D Encounters session some time back and liked it, but that’s been my only actual tabletop D&D4 experience.

Of the other two choices, the leanness of C&C appeals to me, but it may be a bit too lean. Pathfinder, on the other hand, may be too bulky, but it does offer top-notch support in the form of rules expansions, a dynamite selection of adventures and a ready-to-go campaign world. But I think I’d rather devise my own setting and adventures, at that, and I’ll be chronicling that here as I go.

2 responses to “Picking a D&D

  1. Even though I grew up during the 80s, I was one of those kids who had parents who thought D&D was devil worship and wasn’t allowed anywhere near it. It wasn’t until 8 years ago or so, after I was married, that I was able to delve into it. I started with 3rd edition, then went to Castles and Crusades, then back to Pathfinder and finally ended up where I am now – with 1st Edition. During that period of time I came to hate the D20 system.

    About 2 years ago, I started playing 1st edition and have never looked back. I decided that the reason why I hated D20 was that it was far too dependent on dice rolling and table look-up. Instead of focusing on the real meat and lore of dungeon design, I had been spending my time on Difficulty Class balance. 1E lets me get back to focusing on what is most important, and actually allows my players to use their heads much more often, rather than their character sheet.

    The other reason why I love 1E is for the flavor Gygax put into it. Take a spin through the 1E DMG and you’ll know what I mean. The 1E universe was full of regular folks put into fantastical and VERY dangerous situations. Dungeon delving took extensive planning, resource management, and skill to succeed. You won’t find larger-than-life superheroes in 1E swinging around swords bigger than trees ala Final Fantasy, that you’ll find in 3rd-4th edition.

    My favorite 1E site is djeryv.com. Lots of great articles with tips and ideas for your game, and don’t forget to check out the random dungeon/settlement generators – they’re the best I’ve ever come across. If you want to get into 1E, pick up OSRIC – it takes the PHB, the MM, and some of the DMG and puts it all together in a far more organized layout. But don’t forget to pick up the original 1E DMG – one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, RPG book ever. Reading that book forever changed the way I play RPGs.