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Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Few Things

I have been meaning to write something but I have a few competing ideas for posts vying for attention, so none of them have gotten the attention they deserve, but I want to get the ideas out there anyway.

Firstly, I have recently been talking to Lance W. about D&D and it has clarified a few thoughts on old school D&D for me. I don't see Lance that often, we don't live real near each other and haven't gamed together in some years. We kind of drifted apart after I finished playing 3e. He doesn't really know anything about this whole OSR thing, doesn't blog or read blogs; he only just made a Facebook account because his daughter wanted him to.

Honestly, if his daughter and my daughter hadn't become friends I might not be talking with him at all these days. He still keeps in contact with some D&D players I have deliberately removed from my life and I really don't want to associate with them again. I am kind of worried that re-associating with Lance will drag them back in his wake and Lance himself can be a "problem child" as a gamer. He often does not play well with others and does not appreciate styles of play other than his own (and is often quite vocal about it).

However, Lance is one of my oldest gaming buddies. He was a major part of nearly every gaming group I have been in since I started gaming. He created the second Dempster group on his own. For years he was one of my closest friends, we have drifted apart over the years but we still have decades of shared experiences.

Enough background on Lance, the reason he got me thinking was because when I was chatting with him he and I started talking about D&D, which is nearly inevitable for us, and I was a little shocked when he did not explicitly reject 3rd edition. He was unaware of 4th edition in it's entirety, but he was fond of 3rd edition and that actually shocked me. Lance, as I believe I have mentioned before, was one of the first people I ever met that had rejected current edition D&D for earlier editions and he did it in the 2nd edition days, jumping back from 2nd edition to B/X (and ultimately to Cyclopedia, which was contemporary to 2nd edition, but much more rules-light than late 2nd edition). He said that he thought that with 3e they were attempting to return D&D to an earlier style of play. While I reject that argument I can almost see where he gets it, particularly if you are going from late 2nd edition to core 3e.

For my part, I explained how I thought that the degree of character customization in 3e was, while fun to play, not really in the spirit of earlier editions and as a DM I found it to be a giant pain in the ass. I also did not like the fact that from 3e onward miniatures become a necessity rather than an option and that it turned D&D from a role playing game into a tactical combat game. None of my favorite D&D memories come from playing 3e, maybe I was just jaded as a role playing gamer by then, but I don't think so because I have some really good memories of D&D from playing HackMaster and earlier editions of D&D after the 3e era. Maybe this is because some of the people I played 3e with were jerks, but I can't even believe that because I had a really good time playing 3e with other groups, just not in groups with Lance. 3e was a triumph for the rules lawyers, a defeat for the DM and creativity.

As a DM I always felt straight-jacketed by the 3e rules and their exactness about everything. I was also continuously irritated at the extra workload placed on the DM. My most successful times DMing 3e were when I DMed for people that didn't know the rules backwards and forwards and really didn't care to learn the minutia of 3e rules. If you throw one rules maven* into the mix though, the entire campaign goes south, fast.

Next topic, Dungeons and Dragon as a name for the game I play, and presumably you too since you are reading this blog. I will continue to keep calling it D&D whether I am playing it out of my old blue basic book or my 1st edition AD&D books or the 2nd edition ones or even, god forbid, my 3e books. Or if I pick up OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord or Swords and Wizardry, it's all D&D to me. I understand the need of the retro-clones to distance themselves name-wise form D&D for legal purposes and I understand the desire of some people in the OSR movement to not want to be associated with later editions of the game that have removed themselves from the roots of D&D, it just seems to me that it's kind of pointless to try and rename the game I have been playing for over 30 years. I always called AD&D D&D, despite the array of differences. So did all my gaming buddies. We only specified Basic or Advanced when we were talking about the specifics. Plus it's not like they can come and take my old books away just because I didn't "upgrade" to the newest edition and they still say (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons on the cover.

Last topic, and I understand this is dangerous territory for a gaming blog, but I feel quite strongly about this, I think it is important that I mention the Republican party's war on the American worker. I come from a family of Democrats. Since the old days, before the Democratic party got smeared with the "pansy" liberal label, back when Democrats were the bad-asses that fought for working men and the middle class and defeated the Nazis after providing Americans with the new deal, old school Democrats, they were my family. My grandfather lied about his age so he could serve during world war 2, he was too old to enlist at 36 when the war started. My father served, volunteering at 18 years old, during the Vietnam era; so the anti-American brush doesn't work here. We Democrats are as patriotic as anyone other Americans, don't be fooled by the rhetoric.

My family is also union. My grandfather and my father were both Longshoremen. Unions and the American labor movement created the middle class in America. They also created the weekend and time off for holidays. They created OSHA and safe working environments. Child labor laws. The union busting measures that the Republicans have introduced in a number of state legislatures shouldn't surprise anyone, their party has been trying to return the US to a pre-depression era environment for decades. Deregulation began in earnest during the Reagan administration, as did union busting. Republicans are all about unrestrained capitalism, sadly, between union busting and corporate and financial deregulation, they are going to reduce the average American to the status of serf. We need to stand up for the rights of Americans now, before it's too late.

I understand the frustration felt by people towards those that have the "good" union jobs, it's jealousy towards those that have "lucked" into a better position than they have, a position that includes a modicum of job security and a benefit package that was essentially standard 40 years ago, but is unheard of today. The problem here isn't that some people have better jobs than others, it's that the corporate leaders chose to eliminate those jobs for the majority of Americans, closing union plants and opening them elsewhere, often overseas where there is an abundance of cheap labor and few labor laws or safety regulations.

The protests in Wisconsin have the spotlight right now, but there are similar protests in other states and there are attacks on workers pretty much all around the country. Teachers are the targets in a lot of these states. I think it's an odd twist that for decades we have been told that teachers are underpaid, and that our country's educational system is suffering because all the best people are abandoning teaching for better paying jobs in the private sector; but now we are told that they are overpaid and that they are bleeding us dry through their greed.

I am always amazed when I meet lower income or even middle class Republicans. To me this is like a black man supporting the KKK. I think it's obvious that the Republican party will always pursue the interests of corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the working classes. I wish that fiscal conservatives and Christians would realize that they are being used for their votes.

*Enthusiast, Nazi and lawyer were all competing options for the term I wanted to use here, but I am trying to be less inflammatory about a game system that I simply don't care for.