I make no qualms when I say that I hate Dungeons and Dragons. Hate is a strong word, but it’s a word I don’t mind using when it comes to the current state of this legendary game. I played Dungeons and Dragons for years and during those years I loved every moment of it. Things change. So here’s my perspective on why I hate it so much.
Roll-playing, not Roleplaying
Dungeons and Dragons is a tactical combat game. It focuses too much on combat. When the game went into the 3rd edition, the biggest change was the explicit detail to combat for skills, spells, and gear. Monsters were also modified to include how far they could reach out to an opponent. The game was redesigned that in order to play it properly, you had to use a battlemap with figures so everyone could understand exactly where they were.
Though the game has the capability to be a good roleplaying game, it is completely overshadowed by the rules mechanics. Everyone playing Dungeons and Dragons becomes so focused on the rules, they seem to forget about the reason it is an RPG: Roleplaying, not rollplaying.
Dungeons and Dragons may have changed their rules over the years, but the concept never changed. You create a hero, you go on quests, and hopefully return intact. No matter what setting Dungeons and Dragons presents, it still remains the same game. Create hero, go on quest, come back intact. Oh, and kill monsters and loot treasure because that is the making of great roleplaying. Yes, that is sarcasm.
Realistically though, most roleplaying games will become stagnant at one point or another because after a while, you can only do the same thing so many times before it gets dull. This is why games shake things up with new editions, new settings, or new concepts on their game. White Wolf took an entire game world (The World of Darkness) and separated it into multiple games. Though the basic core rules were the same, the settings and character concepts were unique.
Instead, Dungeons and Dragons presented us with plenty of different skins to try on such as Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, and even Dark Sun. But, in the end, it was all still the same.
This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves about Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards in the fantasy world are usually viewed as powerful and respected characters. If they were villains, wizards were intimidating and frightening. In Dungeons and Dragons, they’re one of the weakest classes around.
First, wizards are given the lowest number of hit points in the game. Why? Who knows. I think the logic is they sacrifice their health to learn the mysteries of magic. Yes, I am so glad my 1st level wizard spent years of studying to learn that one 1st level spell a day that will undoubtedly save the entire party when they need it most! Or maybe not.
Second, wizards constantly had to rest to replenish their spells. Someone explain how wizards are supposed to be adventuring when they had to constantly rest to learn spells? 4th Edition apparently solved this problem with a shorter rest period, but broke wizards entirely (I’ll get to why that is in a moment).
Third, the wizards were the worst combatants on the field. If you had a wizard in your party, someone was usually dedicated to protecting the wizard so they could get off their spells. If the wizard had a low initiative, they could be easily slaughtered before they got off any spells. If they got hit in combat, there was a chance they could actually lose the spell they were casting. Nothing better than a wizard who can’t get off a spell in combat, right?
Finally, it took a wizard a few levels to be somewhat decent at what they’re supposed to do. If you compared a 1st level wizard and a 1st level fighter, the fighter was definitely better overall. Though the fighter lacked skills, he could at least fight, had a decent armor class, and feats to back up him up. If you brought both classes up to 9th level, the wizard could do some amazing things with spells and had some feats as well. The fighter had a ton of feats, a ton of hit points, and could pretty much hit the broad side of anything thrown his way. Advantage: Fighter.
Breaking the Stereotype…NOT
The one thing Dungeons and Dragons did wrong since 3rd edition was stereotype classes. Every fighter was a fighter. Every priest was a priest. In 2nd edition, there were books published that showed how you could make a standard class significantly different. The series was called “The Complete Book of (insert class)”. They were groundbreaking for Dungeons and Dragons and when 3rd edition came along, all of that work to make things different was thrown out the window.
When 4th edition came around, I thought maybe they would mix it up a little more, which they did, while breaking a character class in the process. Wizards in 1st through 3rd editions were somewhat unique because they were the only ones that could cast arcane spells (until the Sorcerer came along in 3rd edition). If a player wanted the ability to cast spells, they had to multi-class their character and take levels in wizard. Now, in 4th edition, all classes have powers which act similar to spells. Granted, wizard spells are still unique and different, but why would anyone want to play a wizard in 4th edition when you can play a fighter with spell like abilities?
With each additional edition of a game, rules usually improve. The rules set from 1st to 2nd edition were significantly better. But the jump from 2nd to 3rd wasn’t necessarily worse, as it was overly complex. There were a number of changes that were necessary in 3rd edition: no more THAC0, changing the saving throws, better defined actions that can be taken in combat, etc… But, spells became a complete mess. Spells became so detailed regarding their area of affect, what they affect, how they can be casted, that it caused more confusion for players than anything else. Spell descriptions were sometimes so vague they were the topic of forum discussions across the internet. Things were so bad, Wizards of the Coast rolled out edition 3.5 to correct most of these issues.
Overall, I simply don’t like it. Every time a friend of mine suggests we play a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, I can give them 5 other games that are better. In fact, here are five fantasy games I would recommend: Fantasy Craft, Midnight, Pathfinder, A Game of Thrones, and Savage Worlds. And that was just off the top of my head.
You need to make the decision for yourself, but for me, Dungeons and Dragons is not even allowed on my bookshelf.