Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Completionism: Or how 5e's release schedule saved my life

I'm something of an obsessive-compulsive when it comes to D&D-- I want the game to feel complete, like nothing is missing or unaccounted for, like it's all thought through.

Sometimes this works for me. Sometimes it compels me to pull at threads and I get a fun, insightful article that gives me (and hopefully you) a greater appreciation for the game, or an interesting new way of handling things. Other times it just causes a lot of trouble and stress for me as suddenly it occurs to me that I overlooked something, and now its absence gnaws at me and leaves me dissatisfied.

This, as a matter of fact, is why I haven't really followed the OSR too closely since my big hiatus. I spent long nights cribbing from every blog post, retroclone, zine, and supplement out there-- and occasionally from the WOTC editions that formed the bulk of my background-- until I lost sight of the simplicity and fun of the game and developed a veritable Frankenstein's monster of house rules, custom classes, and edge cases, every bit as bulky and inaccessible as late-period 3.5 or tax law.

Enter 5th edition. A new D&D, compatible enough to be familiar, or even to reuse old material when necessary, but different enough from TSR!D&D to not allow for direct porting, containing very nearly everything I expect D&D to include in its toolkit, it gave me an opportunity to cast off all the cruft I let myself accumulate-- the cruft I would have had to make a significant effort to stop myself accumulating. It was a breath of fresh air.

There was, during the fall, an expectation that this Elemental Evil/Princes of the Apocalypse campaign they're now preparing to launch would include a supplement, an "Adventurer's Handbook." Whether this was the actual plan and they changed their minds or the whole thing was just misguided speculation isn't for me to know, but either way there's no Adventuer's Handbook planned, either for Elemental Evil or for any future offerings, and there never will be. For the foreseeable future, 5e is just those three books.

Of course there will in all likelihood be new options for Elemental Evil, in all likelihood released through the web (and the monthly Unearthed Arcana column as well, of course.) But the ethos of 5e has so far been very-core focused, so I expect they will not be too many or too sweeping and I also expect they will be treated in a more optional fashion than supplemental rules have been in the past. As such I do not feel the same pressure to keep up with them as I did when I played 3.x and 4e. And furthermore since I feel like I don't have anything vital to my conception of D&D missing, only things I might like, I don't feel the same pressure to incorporate additional options that fell outside of the traditional OSR purview that I felt from about 2011 onwards.

For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I'm having to extensively kitbash or run the Red Queen's race to get the game I need. Instead, I have everything I need and am being presented with an occasional spate of extras if the mood should strike me.

Now if only I can start feeling ready to accept a little vagueness when I'm worldbuilding...

2 comments:

ProfessorOats said...

I'm the exact same way. Back when I was a big 3tard, I used to collect all sorts of rules — new and old — and wanted to use them all. What really helped was prepping for a Kalamar campaign that never got off the ground. Given how much non-core material I wanted to use, and the fact that some interested parties had never played D&D before, I decided to make my own Player's Handbook as an easy reference. Figured I'd use my 3.0 one as a guide as far as how much to include, though players could ask at any time about options not listed therein (for instance, any feats included are acceptable, but not the only possible feats). This forced me to put more careful thought into how everything fit together.

I ended up dropping lots of things I liked because they didn't play nicely with each other and I had to make some tough choices (like, I had a bunch of alternatives for how metamagic feats work, but could really only pick one). This is also how I learned just how bad 3.5 was, after just assuming for years that it must be an improved version because I never compared them that carefully before. I only kept a couple elements from that revision (some changes to Rangers and weapon proficiencies due to race were about it, I think).

Funnily enough, it was mostly shaping up to be core 3.0 with more setting-specific changes than anything else, but I abandoned the project as I got deeper into the OSR and wanted to make my own game getting back to D&D's roots. Now I'm tossing out lots of material that no longer seems useful, like most skills (balance and jump are still cool, though), and even some stuff that's been in the game since the beginning. Secret doors check? Who needs it?

Scott Anderson said...

That's awesome.