About D&D and Changes

Dungeons and Dragons is currently playtesting its next edition, which means lots of nerdy changes and updates coming. I’m mostly ambivalent except I still read what others say about it online and so I had some thoughts about the process the game seems to be undergoing this time around.

In particular, the Druid class, which has always had some weird abilities to turn into animals of various stats, is receiving some streamlining updates that take away a lot of the weirdness and try to make playing the class more simple. As I wrote recently on a client’s Slack:

It seems like the push in design for D&D now is to grind down all the odd bits and make it “balanced,” but I’ve long thought part of its appeal is the weird bits, the things that grognards and nerds can obsess over and master.

I remember reading this essay, or maybe just a reference to it, a few years back about how the things we end up romanticizing about dead media formats are the things we hated most about them – the flaws in cassette tapes become the defining elements about them that we remember.  And for me, the defining bits of old D&D are things like this that will be smoothed over, plastered and whitewashed.  They’ll be like old advertising slogans on the sides of ancient buildings. If you squint, you’ll almost be able to make out their shape.

But it won’t be the shape of a mouse until level 11.

As it turns out, the “essay” I was remembering was Brian Eno. “Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature.”

I guess the weird, ugly bits of D&D will forever be its signature for me.

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