Gabe from Penny Arcade posted about his preview experience with the new D&D Essentials. It’s an excellent read – at least I think so because it jibes with most of my feelings about the new line. Three quotes stood out for me:
“Essentials attempts to solve two problems that I don’t actually have, so it’s hard for me to really comment on it. It does a great job of doing something I’m not interested in doing.”
“The idea of only being able to do basic attacks from a couple different stances just doesn’t cut it for most of the players I know.”
“The end result just happens to be something I’m not interested in.”
I find the concepts behind the Essentials line vaguely unnerving, mostly because I can’t quite grasp where Wizards is going with this. Part of the intent seems to be recapturing players who enjoyed earlier editions, but didn’t make the jump. I think this is a complete waste of time. Their argument isn’t that the game plays differently or that it somehow fails to meet their needs, it’s that there’s a four in the title. 4e could hand out blowjobs and $100 bills and they’d still complain that it wasn’t “real D&D.”
Even if I’m wrong about the grognards and Essentials managed to get them to give 4e another try, I don’t think they’d be good ambassadors for the game, as they’re trying to recapture something from a bygone era. Gaming has evolved with the gamers. 4e reflects this. In another part of his post, Gabe makes the following comment:
“My players all come from video games and almost all of them have played World of Warcraft for years. My wife felt very comfortable stepping into 4e because it felt like building a character in WOW. Even if she is a warrior, she expects to see a ton of different powers down there in her action bar. The idea of only being able to do basic attacks from a couple different stances just doesn’t cut it for most of the players I know.”
He’s absolutely right in this. If D&D is to survive, even thrive, it has to tap into the now.