4e: Is it D&D? Does it matter?

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After the game on Wednesday, Jeff said something to the effect of, “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just not playing D&D” when playing 4e. He reiterated this on his blog.

My response was that I think that the difference between 4e and 3.5 is smaller than the difference between 3.5 and any pre-3.0 edition. The thing is, 3.0 took a pretty significant step away from previous editions, and 4e – I think – continues away from them in a similar direction. So, yeah. If your standard of ‘what is D&D’ is deeply tied to pre-3.0 versions, 4e probably won’t feel much like D&D to you. If, however, you started playing with 3.x, you probably won’t understand what the fuss is about.

I began playing D&D in, probably, 1981 or so (it is hazy, but I remember being nine years old whenthe box said Ages 10 and up and thinking that I had won a prize or something), but I’ve never been wedded to a particular edition. I freely (and probably incoherently) mixed Basic and Expert rules with AD&D… and sometimes Gamma World. I also played other RPGs pretty early on – and not just those that were AD&D clones. The WEG James Bond 007 game was a favorite, as was the early Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP) game. As such, I just never became particularly wedded to any idea of The One True Game.

So, when Jeff made his comment, I asked him if it mattered whether or not 4e felt like D&D to him. I know this is heresy in some circles, but – really – if you have fun playing a game, does it matter how it is branded?



4 Responses

  1. If you have fun playing a game, it doesn't really matter what it is called. But branding matters if you go into a store, see there is a new edition of a branded game and buy it with the expectation that it is going to generally similar to what the brand has always been.

    D&D 4E really isn't much like what the D&D brand was under TSR nor even what it was under WOTC for the last decade. Buying it based on "brand" without understanding up front that it is a completely new game with little beyond theme and buzz words in common with the prior versions would be like buying a can of Coke only to find that your Coke tasted more like Pepsi. That didn't work too well when Coke tried it. Sure, some people loved the "new" Coke, but as many were annoyed that their favorite soft drink suddenly disappeared from cans and bottles still branded "Coke."

  2. I guess that’s fair. I’ve never really been terribly brand-focused to begin with, so I have trouble wrapping my mind around some of this. The Coke analogy isn’t bad, but I always thought most people’s complaint wasn’t so much “this shouldn’t be called Coke” as “I want to drink the old stuff, but I can’t get it anymore.”

  3. Branding matters in this way: From what I've read I, and from flipping through the books, I don't think D&D 4 is for me. Yet, I'm sure I'd have fun playing in someone else's game. The thing is that I'd have MORE fun if it was called Crypts and Crustateans, or anything else other than D&D. Because the name causes one to make comparisons back to prior editions that you liked even better- hence making this game feel more inferior.

    Lets say you dated a Julie, and she was awesome. You go seperate ways, and along comes a new girl. Also named Julie. The common name will have you constantly making comparisons and if new Julie's shortcomings compared to old Julie will be readily apparent. But if the new girl's name is Suzie- well then you'd be able to appreciate her on her own merits.

    Or something like that.

    It's like Indy IV. I enjoyed it a lot. I think I would have enjoyed it even more if it wasn't an Indy movie.

  4. Without sounding like the petulant child that rears up in me about this subject, I have to say it's not about branding. His key word is that it is about feel. There has always been something intangible about D&D through the ages, something that smacked back to the origins. If you are fond of those origins, and its pretty obvious Jeff is, then you might feel that with each iteration the game has moved further and further away from that not exactly describable feeling of playing the game you loved. I haven't really played the game yet only having read and prepared for a solo session but i sympathize with him. I am not sure The Game (as I have called it for a couple of decades) will ever be the game I played as a kid, as a teen and as a young adult. The argument about whether this will affect my fun is moot because there is already a reason why I haven't learned any new RPGs in the last decade.

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