There's a variety of different demographics that want to be critical about the upcoming edition of D&D. There's the guys who have always hated all versions of D&D and always will because they have some kind of pathological psychosis about that very name. There's the guys (mostly Pathfinder-fanboys now) who got burned by the change to 4e and have something not against D&D as such, but Wizards of the Coast in particular. There's 4e fans (both of them!) who are pissed off that the game they liked was rejected by just about everyone. There is of course the Storygaming Swine who revel in any chance to weaken regular roleplaying. But the one that is of particular concern to me is the Old-School Fundamentalists.
Not all old-school gamers are fundamentalists. Many of them (like me, for example!) are hopeful and enthusiastic with 5e and believe that it represents a return to more old-school values. A significant amount are relatively apathetic: they have the version of D&D they want to play and really have no use for anything else (but I hope to convince this group that at the very least its good that the main public face of the D&D game will again be something they could theoretically stand to play sometimes!). But then there's what I sometimes call the OSR-Taliban; the guys who collect Gary Gygax's used hankies and make shrines out of them; the ones who think that anything published after 1989, or 1983, or 1981, or 1979, or 1974 (or sometimes even 1973!) is "a betrayal of everything great about roleplaying". These are not the open exciting OSR I love, creating amazing new old-school RPGs like "Stars Without Number", "Red Tide", "Dungeon Crawl Classics", "Lamentations of the Flame Princess", "Hulks and Horrors" and many many others: games that take Old-School concepts and do exciting new things with them. That's the crowd I wrote Arrows of Indra for, and who loved it in return.
No, the OSR-Taliban are the guys who only want their exact early version of D&D (be it "oD&D", "AD&D 1e", or "B/X D&D"; pretty much any other edition after that is 'haram', and of course the fans of earlier editions often try to out-extremist the competition, saying that even AD&D 1e was against the 'true spirit' of Gygax's original vision), or who only want precise exact (in other words, worthless and useless) clones of the same. Just to have the same exact thing over and over again, ad naueseum, without any innovation. These are the type of guys who go on long rants about how variable weapon damage is a horrific deviation from the original purity of just rolling 1d6 for everything.
And one thing that Old-school gamers (including the fundamentalists) have always argued for is the fact that the point of D&D (and all RPGs) is to play out your character in a virtual world; its not about 'crafting elaborate pretentious story', but it is also not about making super-complex rules. Nor is it about character optimization; Old-School gamers have ALWAYS defended the criticism presented by some later-edition fans that "old D&D is dumb because there's no feats, skills, etc. so all the fighters are going to be the same" with the point that the difference between characters is not and SHOULD NOT be about what mechanical choices you get to make with the little numbers on the character sheet, that your character should not be unique because of his "Speshul Powerzz", but what should differentiate one character from another is HOW YOU ROLEPLAY them.
So I'm pretty shocked when I see that 5e-antagonism has shifted some OSR-fans, including many (like the fellow RPGsite moderator I'm about to quote) who I think are normally very reasonable sorts of people and not what I'd usually define as "OSR-Taliban", right into the far fundamentalist extreme end of mujahadeen hill-fighters. Witness the guy I'm gonna quote, and keep in mind he's a veteran of 200 flamewars with drooling-character-optimizers bitching to him about how old-D&D hasn't got rules to cover everything and you can't really have the choice of character you want in older editions; and yet here is what he's reduced to when he's talking about the fact that the upcoming D&D Starter Set (which the 5e-negativity brigade is desperate to be able to keep describing as 'crippleware') will not have character-creation rules in the box itself, and instead you will be able to download the complete BASIC character creation rules and more, at no extra cost:
"Which happens to completely miss the fucking point of a role playing
game and turns it from a game of your imagination into a consumerist
item with limited replay value. From an open model into a closed one.
And in case you're a bit thick too, the main point here is not the
limited replay value in and of itself; it's the actual missing of the
entire fucking point of role playing games in empowering their users in
the first place. So ... fail. Again."
My response to this:
Ok, never mind the fact that if you live anywhere but Burkina Faso or
the Disputed Zone where internet doesn't exist, you can in fact create
characters with this game, and thus have EVERYTHING you need to run any
number of campaigns you want to run forever (with 2 MORE levels than the
almost relic-like D&D Basic set of old had). Never mind that.
Let's take a look at your statement: are you seriously saying "creating a
character is the entire fucking point of role playing games"?
So you mean the Denners were totally right? Its been about charop the whole time?
But by that logic shouldn't the "point" then be about having 20000 feats
and point-buy options and advancement-trees so that you can map out
precisely how your guy will look at level 20 before you've rolled his
Because if not that, I don't get what you're saying here. The precise
argument that many use against how "limited" Old-School D&D
character creation is, is what you are now using against the Starter
set. They claim that old-school D&D sucks because you can "only
ever make one fighter". There's no way to individualize the character,
because we all know that individualizing the character is about what
mechanical options you get to pick from or generate, right? Is that
really what you're saying?
Because I think if I have 5 pregen characters, I hand them out to total
newbs at random, and I tell them "Ok, this is a Dwarf Fighter, that's a
human cleric, etc. But now you have to decide how they act and what they
like and what they think and how they make decisions and how they feel
about things.." then THAT, dude, is the ENTIRE FUCKING POINT of
The set-up Wizards has chosen will let a group of kids do exactly that,
from the moment they open the box. AND it will also let those kids then
go on to create characters, and theoretically keep playing this game
forever, with everything they need just in the box, without having to
ever buy another product again if they don't want to.
That, to me, is the TOTAL FUCKING OPPOSITE OF CRIPPLEWARE. Its
something we should be praising WoTC to the fucking rafters for. It
means they actually got the point this time, and it also must have been a
pretty bold and scary move for them, from their point of view: they're
betting on actually giving people a game that gives them everything they
need for $19.95 (and yes, typing out a URL, which people are suddenly
pretending is an immense hurdle because.. what.. we all know 12
year-olds today have no idea how to use the internet and hate to be
online??). Instead of going with the (failed) technique of giving them
half-a-game and then demanding they pony up money for the full
experience, they're going to give them a full game and then trust that
game will be awesome enough the kids will want to pay more for other
stuff. That's really what they always should have been doing, but we
should still be impressed because its been so very long since they had
really tried doing it this way. If they only manage to actually
promote the starter set in the right ways and to the young-teen
demographic, it might even bring a whole new generation into the hobby.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck