Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Washing my hands of WotC

Yesterday, I sold all of my D&D 5th edition books to the local Half-Price Books.  I bought each of the core books as soon as they came out, but I never managed to read all the way through a single one of them.  (Crap, I couldn't even stay awake through the Starter Set.)  I don't know whether it was purely a matter of disinterest or more due to lack of time, but I suspect it doesn't really matter.  All I know for sure is that I was never going to get around to it.  I just don't have an incentive to learn a new edition.  There is nothing that 5th edition D&D can offer me that OD&D doesn't already—which is roughly the same thing as saying that there is nothing WotC can now offer me that I haven't already gotten from TSR.

If this makes me seem a little "late to the party" with respect to the whole "Old School Renaissance" thing (what with its having bloomed to full flower and then all but burned out by now), so be it.  I would never go back to playing 3rd edition, and there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I'll ever pick up 4th, but there was always a slim chance that I could have switched to 5th.  If it had been a better game, I would have switched.  But it's not a better game.  It's a good game, it's a decent iteration of d20 D&D, but it's not in any objective or subjective sense better than OD&D.

So that's it.  Having already long since purged my bookshelves of all 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition gaming materials (and never having owned any 4th), this preemptive exorcism of 5th edition gaming stuff renders my home both AD&D and WotC free.  All that remains (for the moment, anyway) are OD&D (including Basic, Expert, etc., etc., etc.) materials published by TSR and various OSR-compatible offerings.  In fact, right now, I don't own any other RPGs at all  (unless you count Retro Phaze)—only classic D&D.

But it's a weird feeling, for two reasons.  First, this week, WotC is going to close down its D&D forums permanently.  That makes this whole mess seem like the end of a misbegotten era that began way back when I was just starting high school, back in 1998.  That was when I got deep into AD&D 2nd edition, then equally deep into 3rd edition after converting in 2000; and when posting on the forums was a big part of my life.  Granted, I haven't been active on the WotC forums since the Gleemax debacle, so the loss of those forums now has no impact whatsoever on my life today.  (And I'm given to understand that the WotC forums have been a 4venger-haunted shithole ever since the post-Gleemax reboot, so it's no great loss to the world either.)  But still, it feels like a bookend to nostalgia.

Second, I remain deeply ambivalent about D&D generally.  I appreciate how great it is for running sandboxes and dungeon-crawls: it does the Elder Scrolls meets Diablo thing better than any other game out there.  But it doesn't do much beyond that, and sometimes I want to do something, well, beyond that.

I'm pretty well resigned to the fact that I'm just going to have to finish designing my own game (the Decimus Engine system) if I want to have and play my ideal RPG.  But in the meanwhile, while I'm still in school and don't have time to work on it seriously, I have to search for other offerings.  Already tried and rejected: Savage Worlds, FUDGE, FATE, Barbarians of Lemuria, RuneQuest/BRP, and WFRP.  Still on deck: WEG d6 and Victoriana.

I'm going to have to save the details for a later post, but in looking for a new go-to game to tide me over until I finish mine, it basically comes down to a battle between the d6 System and Cubicle 7's Victoriana 3rd edition.  I love d6: it pretty much does everything right.  Except its magic system.  And the fact that there are no steampunk rules for it.  Meanwhile, Victoriana has everything I want—steampunk, magic, elves and dwarves and hobbits—but it does everything wrong.  Dice pool mechanics, fate points, narrative mechanics, point-buy character creation.  More on that next time.


  1. I found and looked over a fantasy steampunk RPG called Tephra. I can loan you the PDF on flash drive and you can see if it's for you. (I bought it on sale on DriveThru over the summer) It's not my cup of tea in terms of GMing, but you might like seemed to have a pretty detailed crafting system for PCs inventing their own steampunk gadgetry. Let me know if you want to holla at it.

    I noticed that you don't have GURPS on the tried/rejected list. I ran GURPS in high school and college and would probably never GM it again, but your mileage may vary.

    1. Oh, also, have you tried Mini-Six from Antipaladin Games? It's a lite version of d6. Not sure if you'll like the magic system any better but it seems to be pretty easy to customize. It's also free on PDF and relatively cheap in print form.

    2. Ooh, where to start here?

      I used to have GURPS Steampunk. I used it as a generic setting reference during my D&D 3.0 days. That means I've read a GURPS book, which in turn means that I know I never want to bother with the actual rules of GURPS.

      I also have the Tephra pdf. It wasn't on my list up there because I've never run/played it. I remember liking the core mechanic and the crafting system and appreciating the inclusion of fantasy races. Then I thought, "This is great! What's the magic system like? —Oh, there isn't one? Never mind then." It's a steampunk fantasy game where you can't actually play a mage. Out the door it goes.

      And as for WEG d6, yes, Mini Six is my favorite version of the d6 rules (although the Legend rules from the d6 Herc/Xena RPG are a close second, and the two are easily combined). I just don't care for magic systems generally where there's a "casting roll" to see if your spell works, and d6 balances its magic by making more powerful spells have a higher TN to cast. So if I were to seriously take up d6, I would have to both re-write the magic system and add my own steampunking rules (assuming the rules from Westward aren't to my liking, which I doubt they would be, they seem a little too Deadlands-y). That would be a lot of work.

      So at this point, most of my hopes are pinned on Victoriana 3e (which arrives in the mail this Saturday) being generally hackable, trimmable, easily pared down into something playable. I'm also given to understand that its core mechanic, the Heresy Engine, is just as bad as Shadowrun in the "buckets o' dice" department, and that ain't gonna fly. If fixing V3e is easier than cooking up two whole subsystems for d6, that's what I'll wind up doing.

    3. In point of fact, using Victoriana as a framework, but tearing out the Heresy Engine and bolting Mini Six into the chassis in its place, might wind up being my most viable option.

      Only problem is, APG is taking forever getting around to releasing a print copy of Mini Six.

    4. Have you looked over this? Not sure if it's official or fan made, but it has some alternate systems for d6 magic.

  2. I've been getting rid of a lot of books and games that I haven't used in a while, and don't see myself using ever again. (Tome of Magic for AD&D 2e was one of those I sold; I'll never use it enough to need a physical copy.) I certainly don't see myself buying any 5e stuff unless I become a player in a regular session; even then, the Basic Rules that I printed out for free are more than sufficient.

    That said, I do like 5e much, MUCH more than 3.5e. There's enough flexibility to allow the kind of rule modification I find myself doing for 2e, but at the same time certain things (like freaking Magic Missile) seem overpowered in this edition. I feel like WotC kind of shot themselves in the foot by making the Basic Rules free; on the one hand, it's nice to be able to look over the core rules before deciding to buy (or not buy) the nice hardback books... but on the other hand, I realize that I don't really *need* to buy the books, now that I have the Basic Rules.

    By the way, you might want to take a look at Prince Valiant: The Storytelling Game. It's fairly rules-light, albeit almost magic-free and saddled with a dice (er, coin) pool mechanic.

    1. Yeah, that's the thing: if, by some miracle, I ever do get the chance to actually play in a 5th edition game, I can either use the basic rules or just look at someone else's PHB (in case I want to play a non-basic class, the only two of which might ever interest me are the bard and the monk).