Friday, June 28, 2013


So, I recently read a blog post from a fellow RPG blogger who I would say knows what he is talking about when it comes to the hobby.  In this post he gave his thoughts and feelings on D&D Next, after his first taste of being "at the table" with it.  I'm not going to rehash or go over what he said and felt, because that's on his blog.

However, I will point out one thing he repeated a few times:  That DDN "is not a role-playing game."  And that it's just a "board game."  This is something that I have been hearing from old-school gamers since 3rd Edition came out.

The idea seems to center around the fact that the majority of rules in the later editions of D&D cover combat, and how best to play it out using miniatures on a map.  Usually a battle-map, marked with either hexes or a grid.  And somehow this setup takes the game away from being an RPG, and makes it more of a strategy game.  Ok, fair enough.

See him there?  With the sword and the winged helmet?
My problem with this is that this notion is painted as a bad thing.  Despite the fact that D&D started life as a miniatures war game.  And that, in every edition, miniatures have featured prominantly.  Even in my old Moldvay edited Basic Book, there is a drawing of paper, a pencil, dice, and...a miniature.

But the bigger issue I have always had is with the idea that, because there are a large number of rules devoted to how to use minis and maps to play out combat, that it somehow lessens the "roleplay" aspect of the game.  Which, I simply do not understand.  Maybe my definition of what "roleplay" is needs to be examined.

In my opinion, roleplay is when you, as the player, pretend to be your character during the game.  You react to the situation as your character would, you often speak words and phrases your character would speak, and you might even modify your voice when speaking "in character" much like an actor does.  To me, this is the heart of roleplaying, and there are no rules written for how it is done, or even if it is necessary to do.  It's also what sets D&D (or any RPG) apart from, say Stratego or Chutes & Ladders.

When you sit down to play an RPG, you bring two things:  Rules and Imagination (ok, you also bring dice, paper and pencils, or just an iPad, like my wife).  The rules are for the things that are tangible; combat, skill use, casting spells, etc.  Things that have an element of randomness, or can possibly fail based of a multitude of external factors.  Rules can be lite, allowing you to interpret them on the fly.  Or they can be crunchy, covering as many possible actions as they can.  Or, they can be somewhere in the middle.

But, one thing the Rules cannot cover is what your character does.  They can influence your decisions, and they facillitate how you do things.  But what you do is your decision alone.  And no rules are necessary for that.  That's where the Imagination comes in.  You use your imagination to "roleplay" the game.  So, this notion that because the rules are heavily weighted on minis somehow reduces the roleplay aspects is a bunch of crock.

It's like saying that, because I drive a high performance automobile, I must drive fast and recklessly at all times.  That blown V8 with headers and dual carbs facillitates me driving fast, but it's up to me whether I press harder on that acccelerator.

All of this is fairly academic, though.  The bottom line is, if you don't like minis, and don't like a lot of combat in your RPGs, by all means don't use those rules.  A good DM can run a completely non-combat campaign with any rulebook and setting.  And while I personally would leave after two sessions, others may enjoy that.  And you know what?  That's fine. 

Although if you are in a campaign like this, I would call to question why you even use ANY rules set.  But, that's a whole other discussion.

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