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Old vs. New School: The War for Control of Your Character

Written by Nicholas - Published on August 25, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

Dungeons & Dragons has changed a lot of the years. There’s a thousand small differences between each edition of the game: stat generation methods, class balance, hit point totals, power by level, etc. With that said, the biggest distinction is one of philosophy. This split is not the hotly debated one between 3.5 and 4e, but one between new school (defined here as 3e and later) and old school (pre-3e) D&D. The philosophical chasm that divides the two camps is the issue of control. Specifically, who controls the development and fate of your character. Old school D&D rests much of the control over the PCs to the DM. New school has it resting almost entirely with the person playing the character.

The Accessories

The clothes make the man. This is doubly true when they are magical. The magic items a character uses can have a huge a impact on his fighting style, mechanical development and even his personality. I would argue that in old school D&D that was even more true. Compare any random magic object from the 2nd edition Encyclopedia Magica to an item from the 3.5 DMG. I did just that, opening both books and reading the first magic item my eyes fell on. The Ring of Improved Jumping can be a fun magic item, but it has nothing on the old school Timeglass of the Wizard. That hourglass can slow, speed up and stop time. It can even reverse aging on the user, at the cost of levels! Any character who gains that hourglass will likely travel a much different story arc than one who had missed it. The same cannot likely be said for the Ring of Jumping. Cursed items add another dimension to this, often forcing a character down a new path. They are all but gone in the latest edition. The only things that simulate the effects are characters using evil artifacts.

Regardless of the relative power of artifacts, the important thing is the person who gives them out. In every edition of D&D, it is the Dungeon Master who has the task of handing out treasure including all magic items. This is true, but misleading. In old school D&D, the DM did it either by random chart, his or her own judgement or giving in to the pleading of players. In new school D&D, magic item creation is much more viable for players, it is generally easier to buy the items you want and in 4e players are even encouraged to submit wishlists for their DM to follow. The DM is still able to deny or overrule these methods, but he’s gone from making decisions on his own to approving the decisions of others.

Race, Class,  and Stats

In the new school days, race and class combinations are limitless. If you wanted to be a Gnome Barbarian, have at it! It was not always so. What races could be which classes was tightly restricted, any deviations required begging the DM. Additionally, certain classes were highly restricted by the stats you had rolled. Good luck being a paladin! The DM had major control of the power level and classes available by what stat generation method he allowed. There’s a huge difference between rolling 3d6 in order and rolling 4d6 and assigning them. One of them produces a character, the other produces a character resembling what you want. The DM has that choice. These days stats require special permission to be rolled.

Old school D&D also carried different assumptions about books. Anything outside the main rules was considered optional and unavailable until the DM approved it. These days it is the opposite, all books are core and available unless overrulled by the DM.

Death Traps and Wish You Were Dead Traps

Nothing has a character impact on a character’s development that if he’s alive or dead. Killing a character has gotten progressively more difficult as D&D goes on. Characters have more hit points, especially at low levels. They also have more healing and defensive options available to them. Going from unconcious to dead is harder now than ever. Instant death traps and save or die effects are stripped out of the newest edition but were less common even in 3.x. If characters do die, it is easier to bring them back so long as they are willing to return. The big question has become “does the player want to keep playing that character?” rather than “will the DM allow us the means to bring him back?”.

The DM’s ability to inflict permant wounds on the character has also diminished. Monsters and traps that permantly drain stats or levels were diminished and then gone entirely. The longest lasting effect you can apply in 4e is a disease, which generally lasts only a few days and can be cleared up easily with a ritual. As long a character doesn’t die in a battle, they will come out the other side clean. Potentially character changing setbacks and changes are gone from the DM’s toolbox.

Where We Are

This is not meant to be a condemnation of either method, just an observation. I’ve met many players who would loathe a DM controlling the fate of their character. Some have a vision in mind of how they want the character to go from humble origins to being a great hero. Others just don’t want their abilities left up to someone else’s whims. I’ve also met players who don’t want to be in full control. They would rather have their character develop organically and be surprised at the results. Luckily, many of those sorts of people have continued to making games. People who would rather have control rest in the Game Master or have many modern options. Although old D&D is still a fine choice, don’t be afraid to branch out. You may find a game that maintains the old school flavor you love, but is an even better fit for you.

Personally I fall into both camps. Sometimes I have a vision for a character and would hate for it to be tampered with. I play those characters in 4e. I never like elements that restrict character creation (random stat gen, race or class restrictions), but I still want to be surprised at my character’s development. For those situations, I play Burning Wheel.

How do you feel about the difference between old and new school? Do favor one over the other?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



54 Responses to “Old vs. New School: The War for Control of Your Character”
  1. I like how 4th Edition has evolved. If you want a very structured and balanced game, 4th Edition is there for you. If you want the old school feel, the old versions of the game are still there. So you really get the best of both worlds by both being available.

    My current group make-up favors the structured and balanced game. But if I had a different group of friends playing, I might be more inclined to go for the old school approach.

    Fantasy Flight Games is coming up with some great innovations. I think these innovations will really turns heads and stir up controversy in the same way 4th Edition has.

  2. sparhawk says:

    I think that 3.5 is the perfect middle ground, i being a dm can kill a charater or give them permenant drain if they do somethink really stupid like ignoring a plain sign. And i think that so much class/race variation is good but there is still a reward for following a races natural class choise.

  3. It isn’t quite polarised in the way that you say as randomness is a huge part of old school play; meaning the DM often doesn’t know what the outcome will be. For example, exactly what is in the treasure hoard, what enemies are encountered and how many there are and so forth. In old school play, the DM more overrules the rules when he feels they are inappropriate during play and otherwise tends to go with the dice rolls. This puts chance more at the heart of old school play than any conception of control on the DM’s part. Thats not to say he doesn’t get final say, he does, but he’s as happy to see what turns up during play as the players are. Unpredictability makes the game fun for everyone.

  4. Kardiac says:

    There’s nothing like an article that clearly favors the ‘new, player-controlled model’ followed by a disclaimer that the author falls into “both camps.” Sounds credible to me. Personally, I fall into the “old school” camp, yet my players seem quite satisfied with the amount of control they have over their characters.

    Of course, I listen to my players concepts and goals and help them achive those since the game is about collaborative story creation and having fun. But apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. I’ll have to tell my players on Friday that since we’re playing 2nd Edition, I’m supposed to have dominion over their characters and development, so suggestions and free will are no longer allowed.

    Thanks for the advice!

  5. satyre says:

    The options within a game are merely that – options.

    I think the negotiation between player & DM has become a lot more explicit in later editions but even in the headydays of 1E, you’d get players waltzing up with a copy of Dragon, White Dwarf or Imagine and showing you something cool and saying ‘Can I?’ so this is not a new phenomena. It”s always been there but I suspect the current trend is due to there being more players than DMs.

    As for potential tricks slipping from the toolbox, we always have more tools. Crocking a PC long term isn’t a sign of ability IMHO. If I wanted that I’d play Runequest.

    DMs have the ability to make a game more challenging merely by making access to items and rituals a bit more difficult. This works irrespective of edition but needs some advanced prep. It does avoid the whole MMO-style magic shop conceit (which I’ve always felt was hokey) and it keeps the need for NPCs within the game. Both of which are good reasons to do so.

    Wait, I feel a blog post coming on…

  6. Nicholas says:

    @Kardiac: There’s nothing like when someone insults your work and then compliments it. Sounds trollish to me. There are many elements I like about the old school. Characters can develop in ways that I never expected or never would have thought of. My actual preference is usually to have full control over character creation and then much less over character advancement.

  7. Siskoid says:

    Whether you play D&D or not (and I haven’t in a long time), the old/new school shift can be used to chart the gamer experience. I would consider myself new school in approach, even when working under AD&D 2nd ed., though my humble 9th grade beginnings in the mid-80s were of course old school.

    As with anything, extremes are the danger (i.e. may cause NPE, or Negative Play Experience). Too old school, and characters turn into disposable stat blocks akin to video game characters with no saved point. Too new school and players will miss the feeling of playing a game, turning sessions into campfire tales with no suspense.

    So I like to balance it. I want players to have the sense of telling their own story, but to also allow me to throw a wrench in the works. By following dramatic narrative rules (as per a television show, comic book series or novel), it’s not that hard to achieve. Elements that are part of the character’s concept(including its life) are handled with care, and only come under fire in important moments. No one dies during a random encounter, Excalibur isn’t lost without a heroic chance to recover it, etc. Unimportant events, chapters or encounters are used to make the player bond with the character, revel in how cool, badass or fun it is to play it, so that when the “series finale” arrives, he or she genuinely cares what happens and how the dice come crashing down.

    That’s my handle on it, anyway.

  8. Siskoid says:

    @Satyre: Oh yeah, that happened to me a lot. My fault fault for showing players my gaming magazines in the first place. (It’s the story of how the gaming group got its first Ninja.)

    @Nicholas: Well put. Chargen in players’ hands, adventure in destiny’s. How new school the game becomes depends on how much the GM likes to control that destiny.

  9. mmaranda says:

    I’m not sure everyone reads old school and new school the same. To me old school has a great deal of randomness there is no predefined story for the game. The adventurers may start with a small simple quest defined by the DM but from there on out every choice should be made by the PCs.

    If they decide the fey invasion of WestMubledumb is something they should be involved in then they get involved if not they let it happen. If the decide the hints dropped about ancient gold across the sea is their destiny then that is what they do.

    Everything as as open to player choice as the DM is creative/inventive/and willing enough to incorporate.

    To go along with the lack of predefinition to the game things should be random. From loot taken out of a hoard to what encounters the PCs have while traveling. The concept that every fight the party has will be of an equal and appropriate level should also be removed. Sometimes things will be hard and you will need to flee other times things will be easy. Sizing up the opportunities and what you are facing is part of surviving in the wild.

  10. NeoWolf says:

    I don’t really disagree with anything here for the most part, as a lot of the observations are spot on. Though a lot of the talk also seems to focus on the two biggest dichotomies. AD&D 2nd Edtion and 4e. Especially in regards to character building. 3.x relaxed a lot of the restrictions of the previous editions by quite a bit, and 4e made that a tradition of sorts. I remember seeing that I could make an elven paladin and going, “Finally!”. Then along comes 4e and one of my players is an unaligned scythe wielding paladin in service of the Raven Queen. In fact that only thing that makes 4e less of a progessive move comparatively is how limited multiclassing is in comparison to 3.x.

    Though when it comes magic items, it feels a lot more like suggested styles in the core books rather than anything having to do with the system. Nothing prevents the DM of an older edition from taking player wishlists for items, nor a 4e DM from being random or simply cruel. You do acknowledge this, though I think it really is a non-issue considering it’s just play style and every edition encourages taking this and altering it to suit your group’s play style liberally.

    Death, honestly it’s a matter of taste again, though in general I prefer how things have evolved. While it’s pretty exciting for players to start out so fragile and really work their way up in power, after all you really feel like your characters have grown up after that. It just plain sucks to have your character die. I mostly GM but I definitely feel my player’s pain. So I think the kinder death rules are ultimately for the best. I’m still quite capable of killing my players in a tough and fair battle, but the odds of doing so on accident are quite reduced.

  11. AlphaDean says:

    Well over all I can tell you that after playing D&D for more than 30 yearsnow, my opinion probably still mean nothing. The truth of the mater for me though has always been the ability to tell the story. Rules have never been anything more than a frame work and I will change them accordingly. As far as the old vs new, it’s never been that for me either.

    I take the best parts of the game, no matter the version and those things find it’s way into my campaign. So I guess right now you could say I run a the 3.75 version of D&D. Also understand that when I say the best parts of the game, Imean what I feel is best. I actually have about 250 pages or so on computer right now, that serves as my DM’s guide and about 300 pages for a players handbook. As far as monsters and settings are concerned well everything from every edition is fair game and at some point or anothe comes into play.

  12. AlphaDean says:

    And one more thing. I do very much enjoy playing 4E when it comes to some fast furious hack and slash play.

  13. DandDGuy says:

    The differences are vast between 2nd Ed D&D and 4th ED D&D over the years Dungeons and Dragons has evolved into a whole new breed of a Role Playing Game. 2nd and 3rd editions of the Game are still out their in the used section of your local game store. However, it is up to us to decide which one we like better. weather you want the DM to have control over the Fate of your character or the player to have that kind of power.

  14. Hungry says:

    You’ve really brought out the strong itch that usually hides in the back of my psyche to play some 1st edition D&D. You briefly mentioned cursed items, and I can’t tell you how much I miss those! I loved the days when players had to carefully sift through magic items to figure out what they did before donning them. If they ended up with the cursed item that was not properly vetted, all sorts of hilarity and fun role playing ensued.

    Time to get back to the basics…

  15. Chgowiz says:

    >> Old school D&D rests much of the control over the PCs to the DM.

    I disagree, very much so.

    Old school D&D, the way I play it and the way the people I admire play it, is that the players are in ultimate control of their fate, their choices and their outcomes. The DM is the referee – resorting to Yes/roll dice when needed. The DM doesn’t set a metaplot, the DM doesn’t dictate the story, the DM is impartial to whether the players make the “Save or Die” throw or not – the players themselves dictate that.

    That’s why I get confused by the perception of the 12 year old DM-monster (which can exist for any edition) in old-school games – we all have stories of them, but in reality, most of the games I played (and play today) are with competent DMs. Most old-school DM’ers that I know tend to run sandbox campaigns and tend to let the players go as they will, simply because a campaign is about player decisions, not a DM-story.

    The rulebooks give preference to the DM as the final arbiter as it relates more to his/her role as referee than any sort of “DMs are more in control than players” – at least the way I read it.

    My players have complete control over whether they live or die by the choices they can make. In my campaign, I’ve made decisions on the races and classes available, but what setting doesn’t do that? That’s not old-school vs. new-school, that’s campaign related. The treasures and magic is more random, but it’s not by DM fiat or some sort of “muahaha, I’m taking over your characters” – it’s the development and discovery of a campaign that we’re all writing together. I toss out the bad, but I’ll definitely let the dice tell the story.

  16. James says:

    So here I am to weigh in on my little soapbox about the one thing that came up that made me perk my ears up. Specifically, that in 4th edition it’s hard to die. That’s the truth. At least in the short term. Perhaps I’m more tactically concerned with the monsters, but boy howdy, I give my players a run for the money most times. I’ve straight killed a PC once (a dragon got a hold of them, all claw-claw bite and managed to chomp a low level clothie in twain, straight past her negative bloodied) and had another PC drop from concentrated monster fire and a couple of bad dice rolls on the PC behalf (our bard, in the slave pits of the Horned hold in Thunderspire, wicked overpowered barbed devils…) and have had unconscious PCs all over the place. I nearly got one at the end of Shadowfell keep with the portal. The fighter went down in front of the portal and the thing tried to drag her in. DAMN near got her too. Mmm, then there was the time with the ooze in the cistern room. That was a product of a bad rules call, and a misread part of stacking ongoing damage. The other 3, though, were fair kills, or near kills.

    But more importantly, there’s nothing heroic about having your PC fail a save vs.. turning to stone and then being pushed over. Hilarious, but not heroic.

    Maybe sometimes folks just need to re-examine what they’re doing. I get together with friends, to be the guy behind the screen. I’m playing too, and despite their groans of having something horrible try to eat them (Oh man, I nearly forgot the cube. THAT was awesome…) I am on their side. I want to see them succeeds. I want to see them level up. Having one die and stay dead is a fun killer. NOT TO SAY that it shouldn’t happen. It was about the most tense few rounds in the world as people tried to rush in to grab the fighter and stop her from being dragged into god knows where, while the thing in the portal happily took opportunity attacks against the circus of PCs running in it’s reach. So in my experience, final character death should either be A. Incredibly dramatic and story appropriate, B. a player decision, which turns out to be dramatic most times (I’m looking at you, Hell on Earth Unity module…) or just not there. It’s counter productive to your reason for playing a game. Random character death makes people not want to play Don’t be a dick. You’re in a shared storytelling experience as a DM. You’re telling a story, and they’re telling you how their characters want to interact with it.

    Of course, I’m digressing from the original point of the article. Sorry! :D

  17. The more I read the comments the more I realise that this post is based on an innacuracy; what’s being discussed isn’t old school or new school but two extremes of DM style – nothing more, nothing less.

  18. rainswept says:

    @James: “…final character death should either be A. Incredibly dramatic and story appropriate, B. a player decision, which turns out to be dramatic most times (I’m looking at you, Hell on Earth Unity module…) or just not there.”

    How is knowing that your character can experience no more than setbacks any sort of fun at all? The chance of failure is the spice of success… the greater the chance of failure the sweeter the victory. When you tell the session story to a friend and that friend *knows* that the DM and the rules are your co-dependent guardian angels, how can your friend care about the ending? I myself find nothing less satisfying than a game that alternates between being a cakewalk and a ‘button-mashing’ exercise in testing my patience.

  19. mmaranda says:

    @Chgowiz I agree with your view of old school & @The Recursion King I think you hit the nail on the head the post author didn’t state what he means by Old School and that could be most of our disagreement.

    Ultimately bad bossy DMs aren’t what anyone wants. Random capricious DMs might be ok.

  20. rainswept says:

    This blog post speaks to the issue of real versus illusory achievement. Even though it is about World of Warcraft, it really applies to any sort of game. It also bears directly on the Nicholas’ contention that in the ‘New School’ Players have more control over their PCs…

    I think it flat out refutes it.

  21. James says:

    @rainswept Well, no. But I see what you mean. Mind you, it’s not so much of a Har-dee-harhar revolving door if you’re making sure that when you have someone die, that you have the cash hanging around to bring them back. AND, the place where you need to get them to bring them back isn’t too far away. Mind you, if you’ve got someone with that corpse preservation ritual, or maybe you’re lucky enough to have someone with the ritual, and the components on hand. That’s if you have anything left to rez, too. I’m a big fan of things stealing bodies, either to eat them or turn them into undead slaves.

    Oh. And that ritual is long, and easy to interrupt in a dungeon. In fact, other than I would have to figure out what to do with the player, having their body stolen after the preservation ritual is on it would be a fantastic little time based challenge.

  22. Yax says:


    I believe it’s easier to scare without killing if you go by the rules in dnd4e. But who takes a ruleset and really follows it? Not me.

    In any case, I do not miss any edition. When/if 5e comes out, I’ll probably get the books because I love gamer swag. Gamer swag is always in.

  23. Tiorn says:

    The Recursion King has it right… its a matter of DMing style. Railroad vs sandbox.

  24. AlphaDean says:

    See Yax,

    You just had to go tell an old guy secret. I’ll always buy the new edition at least the core books because it’s all about the goodies

  25. Yax says:

    @AlphaDean: Yep it’s all about the bling – I didn’t think it was a secret though!

  26. kaeosdad says:

    @All: I think the point is that the evolution of the tactical rules involved in combat gives the players more control in later editions as they are less subject to dungeon master’s arbitrary judgment of the rules. Older editions which nicholas has defined for the purpose of this article as being old school had less rules which meant more rulings were done on the dungeon masters part to keep things rolling. Often times, with inexperienced DMs especially, these rulings were inconsistent and took away control from the player’s character, though I think Nicholas should have kept the definition of old school to exclude maybe 1st but definitely 2nd edition which could be argued as being new school when talking about player control.

    The standardization of rules over the years gives the players the power to make sound tactical decisions without handing over their character’s fate to the dungeon masters potentially inconsistent rulings. This gives the player more control.

  27. @kaeosdad : Only if you look at it as a Player vs DM power struggle, which is mighty simplistic. At least include the rules themselves , which both the players and DM both work within and struggle against, in creating the shared narrative experience of play.

    With this ingredient in the mix, it becomes clear that players are losing control in newer editions to tighter rule sets, which the DM loses power to, as well.

    The rules themselves rise in power as you go through the editions, at the expense of everyone else. Remember Gygax himself stated clearly they were only guidelines initially, then later went on to reverse this decision when making an official canon (the first advanced edition of d&d).

  28. kaeosdad says:

    @ recursion king: Right… except I was talking about control over the player character’s ability to live according to their actions rather than some inconsistent ruling or hard luck random roll.

    The solution is mighty simplistic and the problem is that you are making it much more complicated than it needs to be by arguing on a tangent. It is unclear to me, what ingredient are you talking about? the rules? the shared narrative experience? You make absolutely no sense. The rise in power at everyone else’s expense? Canon?

    How about you stop with vague history lessons and come up with an actual solidly convincing argument?

    Shared story telling is encouraged and even supported better in the latest edition of dungeons & dragon. You say that the tighter rules sets inhibits this and I say that’s a bunch of rubbish and you are making statements without any real substance to back it up.

    Shared storytelling is built on trust and cooperation, but how can you trust your dm if they are constantly changing the rules, making inconsistent rulings or just handing out random crap without any reason. There are many old school dms who find that medium but the bottom line is that those are the greats and they got that good by playing tons of shitty games, or being supernaturally talented. A tighter rules set helps a DM by providing a baseline with which to use their arbitrary judgment and as a means for the players to begin trusting their DMs judgment. To say that a tighter rules set inhibits shared storytelling and player control then leave it at that without explanation is just plain damn stupid.

  29. Your putting forth a straw man argument:

    “To say that a tighter rules set inhibits shared storytelling and player control then leave it at that without explanation is just plain damn stupid.”

    Probably why I did not say that.

    The very act of making a rule is to create a limit. Thats what rules are. Limits.

    This isn’t the same as saying that rules inhibit story telling as the story is not created through a rules system in the first place.

  30. kaeosdad says:

    Hm, an idea occurred to me about rules sets and control, specifically about meaningful choices. One great advantage that I believe lightly defined rules sets has over the latest edition is that it encourages in a meta gamey sort of way meaningful choices. A quick example is that of class and race. In original edition there was no such thing as a dwarf wizard, now a dwarf can be any damn thing they please which is cool but most gamers tend to play the optimal race/class combination. There is no meaningful choice beyond the optimal unless you want to play a certain unusual character concept. I actually preferred the restricted race/classes of the older editions, there was more of a meaningful choice when you chose your race/class rather than should I play a class with a STR or WIS primary ability score.

    Not sure if that made any sense to anyone but me. Well, time to go bed before I start rambling too much.

  31. AlphaDean says:

    @kaeosdad: I would tend to disagree when it comes to saying that restriction warrented more meaningful choices. I mean with the opened ended nature of things especially in 3rd edition and beyond it allowed people to make the characters that they had always dreamed of. See in the realm I come from players care less about min/maxing and more about story and character developement. I think that may be the real difference between oldschool and new school. Most youngsters I run into want the biggest baddest ass kicker on the block. Where in my group I have a guy who run a thief (yeah I said thief)who is a sniveling coward, he only gets into combat if absolutely necessary and even then it’s a quick strike and he’s on the move.

  32. Tiorn says:

    This is still just a matter of DM style over anything else. It has little to do with the editions. kaeosdad brought up a good point… and then apparently lost it in the shuffle: player character flexibility strongly existed in 2nd Edition! There were the Complete ____ Handbooks, loaded with plenty of class kits and ‘optional’ rules. The problem with the ‘Complete’ series was that a playing group with low finances might not have been able to buy them, so those books were nothing more than ‘optional rules’ that may never be included.

    But understanding the reasoning behind that, it still has to be applied to 4e as well. Some playing groups are not going to be able to spend money on additional books. They will just buy the 3 core books and will never buy another book or subscribe to DDI. Anything outside of those 3 books (except homebrew content) will be ignored… and honestly, that’s how it should be and always has been, in many cases. Additional rule books are a luxury… and for budget minded playing groups, basic NEEDS should always outweigh luxury WANTS. The concept of ‘have to buy’ the additional books, as if they are mandatory rules, is great for Hasbro/WotC… but it doesn’t work for Johnny Tightwad and his budget conscious crew.

    Flexibility for the players is entirely up to the DM. No matter what system or edition is being played, such flexibility is always going to be in the control of a GM that will do as much as he/she can get by with to control the rules being played by or making them as flexible as possible. And I must stress ‘can get by with’… because going overboard in either direction will leave the GM looking for new players or running a game that probably isn’t all that interesting.

  33. DandDGuy says:

    “Boycotting 4th Ed” check this out I have my problems with it but, I am starting to turn on to 4th ED if I could afford the books.

    Take a look at this site


  34. Nojo says:

    I think the source inspiration for D&D has changed from books to video games.

    In a book, you love being surprised.

    In a video game, you look up every encounter and rule before you encounter it, so as to maximize your chances for success and minimize your risk.

    Of course, min/maxing in RPGs started out with pencil and paper, then migrated to computer games, and has come back to change the game design.

    And this kind of player control over the experience can be fun. However, nothing numbs my mind faster than a whole campaign of Dungeon Delve. I still want mystery, plot, character arc, great NPCs. All that is out of my control as a player.

    Like Nicholas, I want variety. The great tactics of D&D and the cold unknown of Dark Heresy. I haven’t tried Burning Wheel yet, but just bought Mouse Guard (and liked it) as a way to ease into the system.

  35. DandDGuy says:

    That is exactly what I am talking about. I am going to keep my mouth shut about 4th ED but, everyone hear and on other blogs like this one are just buying into WOTC and Hasbro are after your money! Then they want to charge us to join there web site in order to have access to 4th ed PDF books when they were on site like drive threw the books were easy to get a hold of and download. Now you have to pay even to have access to it and to top it off they are treating us like criminals and they should be stopped!

    Please read this ARTICLE


    DO the Research and find out the truth about maketing campaign and there manipulative tactics they are using!

  36. kaeosdad says:

    @DnDguy: Why don’t you go protest something worthwhile like war overseas hippie.

    I’ve posted and read some stupid comments in my time but yours is so stupid I feel like sending you a prize.

    Way to fight the power man.

  37. James says:

    Lol. You called him a hippie. Well played

    Well against my better judgement I went and read the link. ( how can you properly criticize something if you don’t know what it says afterall. )

    And I have to say to them, well, good for you! Boycott fourth edition. They make the games because they make money from the games. If you got enough people not to buy them then you’d drive those corporate cats right out of business.

    The rub here however is that noone is making anyone buy the books and you’re actually part of what can be called the vocal minority, you nutjobs. And the buying market likes the books, and buys the books. Maybe it’s been simplifed. I’ve gotten new people into it that never would have considered it before because of difficult to learn rules. I say simplicity has it’s place.

    When it comes down to it, I play the game to have a good time with my friends. If you’re having a good time then you’re doing it right. Whatever system you’re running. If you’re not having a good time, identify the problem, house rule it if you can, or change systems. Try to fix it. If you do, write a blog post or put it on the forums somewhere and say ” we were having issues with this, so this is what we did. ” so someone else can see that and maybe adopt it or try it out for their group. Contribute positively or gtfo.

    Pls excuse spelling and typos. Typed on my phone. :)

  38. When you people start flinging names around like ‘hippy’ and ‘nutjob’ you make those you argue against sound more rational than you are. Something to bear in mind, if you want anyone to listen to your arguments, base them on merit and not insults… or you’ll never persuade anybody that your own point of view is nothing more than thinly masked hate for those who do not agree with you.

  39. DandDGuy says:

    Thank You, The Recursion King, The only reason that I am doing it is to wake people up and to get a rise out of them. “So far it has worked like a dream.” You’re right when certain individuals resort to name calling, it’s childish and they are not educated enough to hold a simple argument with out taking it to a lower level.

  40. NeoWolf says:

    That is exactly what I am talking about. I am going to keep my mouth shut about 4th ED but, everyone hear and on other blogs like this one are just buying into WOTC and Hasbro are after your money! Then they want to charge us to join there web site in order to have access to 4th ed PDF books when they were on site like drive threw the books were easy to get a hold of and download. Now you have to pay even to have access to it and to top it off they are treating us like criminals and they should be stopped!

    @DandDGuy Of COURSE WotC and Hasbro are after our money. You’ll be hard pressed to show me a company that isn’t one way or another. This isn’t new at all. Just look at how much TSR flooded the market with stuff in the 90s. I do think there are some potentially quite valid complaints about their business practices, but wanting money isn’t one of them.

    The PDF thing, has me a little sore I’ll admit. Granted I think in general digital distribution isn’t being used effectively by the industry. A $5-$10 discount from the price I can get it for online doesn’t seem like a good deal to me personally.

    Now WotC is NOT charging for PDFs in the DDI subscription, though the compendium does feel like it at times. It also comes with a lot more content than the books. There’s a lot of expanded lore and general information on the settings, Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and a host of tools to make use of.

    Though I do have to wonder what you mean by treating us like criminals. Are you referring to the fact that they put two and two that when you offer PDFs online, people can and will pirate them immediately?

  41. DandDGuy says:

    Finlay some one is paying attention, NeoWolf thank you it has been hard to get people to see what is going on. You are right about the PDF copying and the WOTC and Hasbro after our money companies have been doing that for years and they will continue to do so. My question is why did they pull the PDF’s in the first place? When if they had did that correctly their is potentially a fortune waiting to be made in PDF format gaming books.

  42. NeoWolf says:

    They probably pulled them because they realized it was helping to facilitate zero day piracy. The Player’s Handbook 2 being available the day they released it for PDF on countless torrent websites probably pissed them off. Being pissed off over such a thing, is also pretty reasonable. Though I do think their reaction was over the top. I do think that they needed to re-access how they should be doing things. Officially they might bring back books, they haven’t said digital copies are gone forever. Though really they probably do see it as being in direct conflict with their own online service. I imagine if we see it come back, it’ll be intimately tied to DDI. I’m still on the fence over this. I like about a third of what DDI entails a LOT. But that makes the price seem a bit steep since I’m only really using some of it.

  43. Am I correct in thinking that the DDI is a subscription based model?

    If so, it may be a shift in the business model from selling products, to licensing them, similar to how services such as the relaunched Napster work, where when you cancel your subscription your music stops working. I think Adobe is trying to work a similar level of DRM (digital rights management) into their Acrobat software and PDF file format.

  44. NeoWolf says:

    Pretty much. It’s a good way to get revenue, and if enough of the content they provided was useful to me I’d be less apprehensive.

  45. kaeosdad says:

    @DnDguy and @RecursionKing:

    I’ll put it in straight english for you two. Doing something just to get “a rise out of people” doesn’t merit anyone responding to and treating you like an adult. DandDguy, you are being a childish conspiratorial baby. I mean, trying to “wake people up” to the supposed evil machinations of wotc? You are not waking anybody up but just as you put it attempting to get a rise out of people. You are being a little kid so grow up. Wotc is a business, businesses need to make money, get over it.

    No one is forcing you to buy their products, hell beyond the core books and a couple supplements that I thought was worth picking up I don’t buy anything else. Minis? I use freaking clay! For the price of a single booster you have enough clay to make minis and counters to game with for a long time. No one, I repeat no one is forcing anyone to buy anything. No more pdfs? Cry me a damned river, most gamers out there just pirated and traded them anyways, if you were one of the few who did purchase a pdf I’d say there was a 50/50 chance you’d be lying if I asked you whether or not you made a copy for a friend, at least once.

    I mean holy crap man, even DnD insider allows up to 5 people to use a single account! That’s right, they encourage multiple people to share a single account!!! Those greedy asshole bastards! You should go send a complaint to them and get people involved to shut down corporate fat cats. Seriously man, I can’t argue with you. It’s a joke! I could see if maybe they made credit cards that you just had to get, or came to your house to repossess your collection cause you missed a monthly payment of your ddi membership, or sold bits and pieces of the games rules digitally on their website(new feats! only .99 cents each!), or trafficked humans, or took government money meant to hire new workers and the people but instead gave it to the higher ups who immediately ran off to some third world country to live like kings…

  46. DandDGuy says:

    by the way I am collage educated and I’m 40+ years old and your condescending attitude is uncalled for. For your Info your missing the point of what we were talking about and we need to let this go now because it is getting out of hand.

  47. Tiorn says:

    @DandDGuy… with all due respect, you’re the one missing the point of what we have been talking about. The original post and the overall debate in these comments has been about the player’s flexibility in controlling how their characters are created and developed over time. That has very little to NOTHING to do with your WOTC money-grabbing conspiracy.

    You think that 4e is nothing but a money-grab. Fine! You’ve made your point. Now, what does that HONESTLY have to do with the REAL topic? Nothing.

    Here’s an idea: Why don’t you try to actually debate the topic on hand for what it really is and leave the conspiracy theories behind where it belongs? Or are you NOT finished going around to every other blog to bitch and moan yet? I know you’ve already hit Chatty DM’s blog with your 4e smears already, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see even more there when I click through after submitting this post here.

  48. DandDGuy says:

    OK, You have made your point, I will not mention it any longer and I will Stick to what the article is talking about.

  49. The topic is better left closed, but I will comment on a couple of observations. Those that argue against DandD guy argue both sides of the argument; that WOTC are grabbing money because they are a business and no they aren’t its a conspiracy. Also, I notice how kaeosdad lumps me in his opposition camp because I did not immediately agree with him. I can see WOTC being interested in a subscription based model (i.e. continually charging for the same products ala the new napster) as it guarantees continuous income. Time will tell if this is indeed the path they go down. There is relevance here as WOTC is ‘new school’.

  50. Tiorn says:

    @The Recursion King: I don’t disagree with you (or DandDGuy either, for that matter). When it comes right down to it, the three of us are in agreement that the idea that 4e is better than 3.x/2e/1e because its more flexible for the players… is a bunch of BS. That’s what the post was about though – flexibility for players in 4e, but not previously – not about the money-grab. You two can tie in the money angle all you want at just about any point. Its just off topic.

  51. I see your point, but at no point have I said it is a money grab. I just speculated that WOTC business model may change to subscription based (from project based) in the future… if the DDI became the primary way they were making money that is.

    If you do want my actual opinion, I think that 4E is too World of Warcraft like for my tastes (I currently play Labyrinth Lord with my group) but their forthcoming release of the Dark Sun campaign setting might well change my mind.. it seems well suited for the style of play that flows from the 4E rules, imho.

  52. *Project based should have been product based. Not sure what I was thinking when I typed that!

  53. AlphaDean says:

    Ok guys (Recursion King, DnD Guy, Torin)Iwas really gonna leave this alon because the argument had sorted digressed but I actually found it interesting. The money grab was one of the biggest turn off s for me about the new edition. Well before they annouced no PDF’s. Hell it was an issue I had with the 3.0/3.5 model also. I mean a new official product every month, that got a little costly, (I too am a old timer as far as this concerned)when I 1st started playing it was all about having all the books. I mean I go back to the days when it was a little white box. Then came the actual books and and we had to have them all.

    Now really what I’m getting at though is the idea of how what DnD Guy posted and has brought up equates into the old vs. new. Look at it, we old guys were used to the game being (relatively) affordable. I mean if we had a job we could afford to buy those books that came out once every six months to a year… and basically those books just added a little flavor to the world we built. At the end of the day we were in control and really had little need for official cannon to readily resolve conflicts.

    now with the inception of the digital age and the hunt for major money by coporate america, we have seen one of our major loves touched (and corrupted) by the stink of industry. It’s the new school of thought. Let’s milk the public till we can’t milk em anymore.

    In many respects I have argued that the new school thought has nothing to do with flexabilty and more to do with varying offical options. Many of the guys in the industry today were from era. See when we wanted a new option we created it. Now the same guys that were extremely creative in the old days are the guys making money off of us in the new age. Us old guys who still feel the need, urge and desire to play this game are the ones who go out and buy the core books and do what we will. We are also the guys who are gonna be most vocal about the money grabbing corporate leeches that want to own our souls and wallet.

    Like I said in my earlier post I have a file on my comp that is a almagam of over 30 years of gaming for me. It’s my tome of gaming and serves me well. So they get they same amount of money from me as always. I buy the core rules and a supplement here and there. See I’m old school. We adapt and over come, while the new school like to be spoon fed and led by the nose. Ok guys I’m joking, but I am old school.

  54. Tiorn says:

    @AlphaDean… I follow what you’re saying. It was a big part of what I was initially saying on my first comment. Its about affordability. Some groups just can’t afford to continue spending money to stay up to date with the official product line. With 1e/2/3.xe, that really wasn’t a problem. I would say its really not a problem with 4e either, to be perfectly honest. To make up for financial shortcomings, groups will resort to their own creativity. And that WORKS. And back to the original post, the idea that so many additional purchased 4e books will force the DM to give up ‘control’ and flexibility to the players… is just absurd. If control and flexibility was really a problem before, then all of the additional books in 3.x, 2e, and even 1e proved that books alone could never be a solution. It takes the DM to make that decision and that same DM might very well decide to restrict 4e out the wazoo as well. Most of my playing days were in the 2e era, using a mix of 2e and 1e rules. Player control and flexibility was never an issue. NEVER. And I would strongly suspect that anyone who thought it really was an issue was playing in games ran by an overly strict DM. The ‘just say yes’ philosophy that is encouraged on several blogs doesn’t have a chance of gaining traction with some DMs. A new set of books won’t change that.

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