D&D is seriously terrible.
It’s systems are archaic literally the oldest they get. It uses like 4 different resolution mechanics and it isn’t really clear how any of them work except for how to hit something with a sword and even then it’s shaky. It’s purely focused on combat being derivative of a war-game in of itself. Hit Points make no sense especially as when they scale any of the weight of the other weapons start to have no meaning as a fighter can be stabbed 12 times before dying. Armour as a static value compared to damage reduction makes no sense either. The classes are restrictive, you die either too easily or not easily enough. Dungeons make no sense anyway, who is building these underground behemoths made out of grid paper. None of the skill systems are defined at all and large chunks of the game are left entirely to GM fiat
Runequest was better at doing what D&D or specifically AD&D was trying to do by being a more realistic fantasy ‘simulationist’ ( GNS TERMS ARE FINE IF YOU DON’T TREAT THEM AS A GOSPEL) game with armour. It solves every problem every heart breaker solves and did it better than they do 50 years ago.
New takes like Forbidden Lands are far better at actually codifying how parts of the game like the skills, travel, resource management, party actions and so forth work in practice whilst allowing everyone at the table to tell a story together with far more clarity due to the various narrative mechanics embedded within the system.
PBTA games are better at giving you the feeling you’re playing by smoothly linking together character actions and choices to create an interlocking link of and yet I can’t play PBTA for more than a handful of sessions before I’m sucking at the sweet milky teat of D&D.
Why do I keep coming back to D&D?
It can’t be because it’s popular because I GM and have a lot of nerdy RPG friends so can just play whatever the heck I want.
It can’t be nostalgia. I started with 4E which I’d hazard to say was anything like D&D beyond the name, my memories of it are unironically closer to playing tabletop WoW than any other version of D&D and I don’t say that to shitpost. I played it for 3 years.
Pathfinder was better as it vaguely resembled D&D but was also a hot bloated mess.
I can respect encyclopedic rules systems like Pathfinder, Harn, Rolemaster, Runequest as they are incredibly in depth and seem to create their own physics ‘ecosystem’ within themselves. Stray onto a Pathfinder forum and you’ll see that the people are discussing an alien world with little semblance to our own but one that consistently makes sense within that framework and the games are designed around that ecosystem. So if they want for example to include an NPC who is particularly good at tripping people up for some reason they have to handcraft that NPC out of the salt of the earth of the rules and throw them into the rules physics and see them made flesh and probably die because tripping kinda sucks.
I settled on OSR in the end and have stuck with it beyond a few minor tweaks and retro-clone hopping as they’re all basically the same.
I don’t really wanna learn an entire physics system and I sure as fuck know my players wont be learning that anytime soon, most of them are still rolling a d12 to attack.
Gygaxian naturalism that’s where it’s at. Obviously the shit monster is in the bottom of the dungeon, how else are they going to get rid of their shit?
Why are there so many women and babies in Keep on the Borderlands Gary? What were you trying to say? Why are there no babies in the actual Keep but so many babies in the cave. Do humans not have babies in Mystara. Is that why they’re all so gruff?
It’s the kitchen fridge though. That’s what I realised.
Nobody plays a storygame (YES IM USING GNS AGAIN I KNOW DONT AT ME) like Fiasco and afterwards says ‘Boy what if instead of heading down to the goblin encampment, convincing them to side with us against the Hobgoblins with that troll we befriended on that other dungeon level and attacking the undead fortress we snuck into the undead fortress and convinced the hierophant that we were a group of cultists and then used those poison mushrooms we found but put them into the hierophants soup and stole the RED ORB when he was asleep? ‘
Because it’s a fucking story game none of that shit matters as it’s all arbitrary improv. You just say a bunch of shit happened and it just does which is sorta what you do in D&D but not really because there’s just enough of a system in place to make your actions meaningful but not so much that they get gagged like they do in more complex rules systems which only really provide an illusion of choice as objective just play a wizard you scrub.
So I think I worked out what I was trying to say.
[…] D&D is terrible why do I like it? @ Hex Junkie – I really sympathise with this post. There are so many really amazing games out there that are just so much better than D&D and present more modern, engaging and interesting rules. Yet we do keep going back to D&D. I like the author’s reasoning. For me, it comes down to what people in the local area want to play, although I’m pleased to report that we’ve seen a little bit of movement on that front. […]
Play is certainly a huge factor and the main reason D&D is the most popular game is because it’s the most popular game which is a bit of a tautology but holds true.
Although it’s interesting to note that 4E, which changed the rules of D&D significantly, split the D&D community to the point that Pathfinder became I think the most widespread TTRPG at the time until 5E wrestled back the crown. This suggests that there is something about D&D intrinsically that keeps people coming back beyond the name/brand recognition.
“Better,” “engaging” and “interesting” are subjective. And I don’t see that the term “modern” applies to a game. You can have a modern internal combustion engine, but you cant’ have modern poker. “Recently published” might be closer to what you’re trying to say. Or perhaps, “currently in vogue.” Among a select subset of consumers.
Some games attempt to be simulationist. Some don’t. That doesn’t make them good or bad. Nor does how well a person subjectively judges the simulation mimics “real life.” Some games have unified rules, some have separate engines for different parts of the game. That’s not relevant to whether the game is enjoyable. People play games to have fun, and fun is subjective.
I enjoy many different games, published in different decades. Not everyone enjoys the same games. But if there are people who enjoy a game, it is “successful.”
Everything is a Rorschach blot.