D&D Next and the Edition Wars: Donít Become Your Own Worst Enemy
by , 04-25-2012 at 04:04 PM (7104 Views)
For the past several years, many of us in the 4th edition camp have been complaining about the edition warriors that railed against the announcement of 4th edition. These people complained about 4th edition before they had even seen it, thus demonstrating that they'll always complain unless they get exactly what they want, and often what they want has nothing to do with game mechanics. Now, we find ourselves potentially in the same position, having many legitimate complaints against D&D Next.
I'm one of the ones complaining. I hate almost everything I've seen of D&D Next so far, and even more troubling is how discouraged I am by almost everything I've heard the designers say, showing that their direction is a clear 180 degrees from the direction I'd like to see. I'm entitled to that opinion and should express it to the developers in order to maximize the chances that D&D Next will be a game I'll play. However, I've seen some alarming hypocrisy among my fellow 4e enthusiasts. This blog post is intended to serve as a warning not to become our own worst enemy. Approach it with an open mind, as it's sometimes hard to examine one's own behavior objectively.
What Is an Edition Warrior?
I've been told that edition warriors have been around since the conversion from OD&D to AD&D. I started with AD&D (what I believe is called the "blue box"), and I left the game in 1981 well before 2nd edition was released. Ergo, the 3.5e to 4e conversion was the only opportunity I had to experience the atrocities of an edition war, and the only one that affected me personally. Though your definitions might vary, I define an edition warrior as someone who isn't satisfied being able to play the edition they prefer, but arrogantly and selfishly insists that the rest of us are forced to play that edition as well. This in turn means that the relevant game designer has no 'right' to produce a game that doesn't suit the edition warrior's subjective needs. Such a person squarely falls within the definition of, "asshole," and clearly deserves the stigma associated with the pejorative, "edition warrior."
Notice, however, whom that doesn't include: Someone that prefers the older edition and merely continues playing it without bothering anyone about it. Those people might downright hate a particular edition, and if asked will tell you that, but that's a matter of preference, not poor manners or selfish behavior. Games are about having fun, period; nothing more, nothing less. Always adhere to the motto, "Play what you like; don't play what you don't like." People who honestly prefer another edition should be left to their own devices, and it shouldn't matter to others one bit that they're playing something else. There are plenty of gamers out there, so you should always be able to find a group playing the game (and edition) that suits you. Isn't that, after all, what we've been telling edition warriors for all these years?
Are We Becoming Edition Warriors?
Looking at D&D Next with a critical eye, pointing out its flaws, and suggesting its direction is not per se edition warring. I don't want anyone to come away from this thinking Iím telling you not to criticize the product as is. (I know you'd do so even if I told you not to do so; I just donít want you to think Iím an idiot.) I simply remind you to be constructive. Your purpose should never be to tear down the process, but rather lift it. I've seen many statements recently that are highly critical, but in a "I give up on this crap" way, and that doesn't bode well for the future of the hobby.
For obvious reasons, I'm not going to single out any particular person's statements. I'm also making these statements myself, and I don't consider myself to be destructive. This is a matter of line-drawing, and I simply ask that you mindful of your own behavior. (You might not even intend to be destructive, but because of the nature of online media, come across that way.) If D&D Next even delivers on 10% of its promise of modularity (i.e., allowing differing gaming mechanics at the same gaming table), this will strengthen the community more than anything since the community was created. That should be your goal, and you wonít reach it by viewing "differing" opinions as "objectively inferior."
The Worst Case Scenario
In the worst case scenario, D&D Next turns out to be a disaster for us (i.e., 4e players), reinstating all the mistakes that 4th edition corrected, all to appease squeaky wheels that won't buy the new product anyway because it'll be a clone of an old edition they already own. Even if that worst case scenario plays out, then each of us needs to follow the advice that we gave 3e players when 4th edition arrived: Just keep playing the edition you like, and leave everyone else alone. Just like 3e, the 4e library is rich enough to support our gaming for the rest of our lives. We don't need any more crunch, and fluff can be used regardless of the edition for which it was written. Taking the opposite approach creates fractures in the community, which helps nobody, and represents hypocrisy on the part of all of us that criticized that approach during the current edition wars. Remember, this is the worst case scenario, but there's no reason this has to be the likely scenario.
If push comes to shove, just roll with it.
EDIT: As I was posting the link to this entry on Twitter, I saw an announcement that Monte Cook has left the D&D Next project. There's a thread on ENWorld here. I'm no friend of Monte Cook's approach, but again this isn't about my singular, anecdotal opinion. Monte Cook represents the interests of a lot of gamers, and I hope he's replaced with someone that can see to the needs of those gamers.
Robert E. Bodine, Esq. practices real estate and intellectual property law in Virginia. He is one of the founding members of the Gamersí Syndicate, a Washington, DC-based gaming club, and part owner of synDCon, a table-top gaming convention. He authors the article series on Loremaster.org, Protection from Chaos, dealing with intellectual property law matters as they relate to the gaming industry. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertEBodine for legal matters, @GSLLC for gaming matters, and if youíre a sports fan, @MMADork.