Sunday, August 21, 2011

In Which The Warlock Contemplates Something Odd...

A few days ago, while trolling around, I came across a pretty standard thread in their d20/D&D forums.  Quite simply, the thread posted the question "What's the best setting for D&D?"

Immediately, I started running down my favorites in my mind, about to post my opinions.  I contemplating picking Planescape, then Ravenloft, then Dark Sun.

But as I deliberated between my options, weighing what I liked and didn't like about each, something strange occurred to me--something that I never really considered throughout all of my years of gaming.

You see, friends...I don't think I actually like Dungeons and Dragons.

I can hear you gasping from here.  Please, take a deep breath.  You're probably asking, "But, Warlock, you've been playing D&D for years!  You constantly regale us with epic exploits, thoughts on your new campaigns, and the like!  How can you possibly not like D&D?"

It was about as shocking to me, as well.  I've been playing some variation of D&D for over 15 years now, in any number of campaigns and one-shots.  But (bear with me here!), I don't think I was actually enjoying D&D.

Not your "typical"
D&D adventurer...
My favorite thing about Planescape isn't the D&D elements to it.  Rather, it was the pseudo-Victorian age philosophy, used to justify the archaic D&D alignment system.  I love the idea of "good" nihilists in The Doomguard, and the "survival of the fittests" ethos of The Fated.  I loved the idea that the "standard fantasy" archetypes were utterly flipped on their head. 

My favorite thing about Ravenloft isn't the fact that it's D&D.  Rather, it was the vulnerability of the heroes, as they made their way in a world ruled by Hammer movie monsters.  I loved the investigative nature of things, the rarity and superstition surrounding magic, and the swashbuckling-action-meets-creeping-horror feel.  Again, the "standard fantasy" was thrown overboard.

All of the things that I enjoyed about D&D....were the very things that made them not D&D. These settings were set apart because of their individuality, and TSR/WotC even made significant efforts to keep them separated. Dungeon Masters were encouraged to keep the settings and rules separate, due to their massive differences, while they simultaneously put out game material like Spelljammer, which meant to link them all...

I cut my teeth on Dragonlance, back when I was in high school, but by the time I hit college, I'd all but dropped the series.  There were no ethical questions to be explored, no tension-filled investigations to be had, and no inversions to keep me interested.  Elves, dwarves and humans were good, kender were irritating, and dragon-men were bad.  Everything was so...cut and dried.

Great game...but not for me.
To be honest, I have absolutely no interest in Cubicle 7's The One Ring rpg, despite a beautiful-looking book, and a creative game mechanic.  I just have no interest in doing the typical fantasy setting any longer.  And D&D?  Well, that's what it tries desperately to emulate...and I just don't care for it any more.

While I'd love to revisit Ravenloft sometime, I can tell you right now, I don't think I'd ever use any form of D&D mechanic to run it.  Rather, I'd probably use All For One--Regime Diabolique, by Triple Ace Games.  If I wanted to play some Dark Sun, I'd probably just use Savage Worlds.  For Planescape?  Well...I haven't quite figured that one out yet...

But still, there's a bit of an empty void in me right now, realizing that in all actuality, I may never have enjoyed the fundamental game that started the hobby that I love, cherish, and hope to work (more) in.  It's a strange feeling....


  1. You, sir, need to play Dogs in the Vineyard and any number of other indie/storygame RPG's.

    If you don't know what I'm talking about, shoot me an email and we'll talk more.

  2. Chris--

    I'm familiar with DitV, but I find some partial frustration in my own gamist attitudes. I *want* to like "story"-games, but I always find myself wanting some governing mechanics. While I like rules-light to rules-medium games--partially why I've become such a fan of Savage Worlds; it fills that rules-medium arch very nicely--I sometimes find that story-games don't have enough substance for my taste.

    That said, I have my exceptions. John Wick is my lord and savior of the moment.

    That said, if you have an example to pitch me, I'm all ears--my e-mail is in my profile!

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I came to a very similar conclusion a while ago. And it isn't just D&D. I think I've lost any taste for epic fantasy. I don't want to pick the Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones series up. I have skipped 4e altogether.

    The weird thing is, I keep wanting to do alternate fantasy settings. Fantasy swashbuckling, fantasy alien invasion, post-apoc fantasy, etc. I still love swords, magic, and damsels in distress. I just need to shake it up a bit.

  4. I'm right with you, Marshall. It seems like every time that I want to do fantasy, I want it blended with something else. Generic, run-of-the-mill fantasy just doesn't cut it for me anymore.

    But, with me on a Deadlands/Hell on Earth kick, and my writing focused on Iron Age Superheroes, I have plenty on my plate without worrying about plate mail...

    Thanks for the comment!