Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
The Needles: I Want My D&D

Andy Chalk | 15 Jul 2008 21:00
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It sure as hell doesn't sound like much fun to me. I tried to roll with this nonsense when the original Neverwinter Nights was released; I played as a Half-Elf Arcane Archer, and while it seemed to go well enough I suspect I simply had a higher tolerance for lower standards thanks to the game's overall mediocrity. When the sequel arrived, I decided I'd get more enjoyment out of it if I played a "better" class, rather than just whatever seemed cool at first glance, so I put some serious effort into various race and class combinations, trying one exotic build after another in a search for the perfect fantasy hero.

I realized things had spun completely out of control right around the time I started giving serious thought to trying a Half-Orc Arcane Scholar of Candlekeep. All the rules and statistics and other such bullshit I'd so happily left behind all those years ago were suddenly being shoveled back onto my lap by the very medium that had liberated me from the depths of RPG incompetence. Simplicity and imagination were out, apparently; prestige classes, epic characters and numbers, numbers, numbers were in. How is this fun?

Simple: It's not. It's spoon-fed crapola for people who can't wrap their heads around the idea that not everything needs to be straitjacketed with rules. "It's a game of the imagination," so the man famously said, but the imagination part seems to be falling by the wayside as the game dictates more and more of what I can, and cannot, be. All the best roleplaying games, from the cops and robbers of childhood to the Big Bad Wolf in the bedroom, work best when there are just enough rules to make things functional and plenty of room for the imagination to run wild. Take away those creative wild spaces and what you've got left is Parcheesi with bad voice acting. And that ain't my D&D.

My D&D includes big, beefy fighters, tweedy magic users, annoyingly self-righteous clerics and, greasy bastards though they may be, the occasional thief when it's time for someone to suck down a trapped chest. These are the archetypes that built a great gaming empire; these are the characters that brought a magical universe to life for thousands of gamers. This may be one of the most horribly nerdy declarations of principle ever made, but Third Edition be damned; my Dungeons & Dragons is Advanced!

And while I know I can't change what D&D has become, I can most definitely change what I do with it. So I tossed all this multi-class sissy stuff out the window and I built me a Fighter. Massively muscled, single-classed and perhaps not the brightest soul you'll ever meet, I like to solve my problems by hitting people. Or hitting things. Now and then I'll mix it up by hitting people with things. Sometimes I'll do it in the service of a higher cause, occasionally I'll even swing my sword in the name of a particular deity - and sometimes maybe because I just don't like the way you're looking at me. But whether I'm the Red Blade of Tempus or the half-drunk jerk at the end of the bar, it's my character and I'll do it my way, thanks - because building a character isn't half as much fun as being one.

Andy Chalk still has a soft spot in his heart for the longsword Namarra, even though he has no idea what's actually special about it.

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