25 August 2007
Role-playing games, editions, & fun
An aspect of a pen & paper role-playing game that is not fun for one person can be fun for another. e.g. One player laments the fact that there is a "sweet spot" of levels for D&D characters which is the most fun. Another player enjoys the fact that the nature & feel of the game changes as the characters progress in levels. So, people find games that have more bits they find fun than bits they find unfun. (Or that make it easy to ignore the bits they find unfun.) If a new edition of a game attempts too much to make the game more fun, they run the risk of merely narrowing its appeal. Every change which makes the game more fun for a designer can make the game less fun for potentially huge number of fans. The more things they try to make more fun, the more they potentially limit the audience for the new edition to a subset of older edition fans who are most like the designers. Consider for a moment the c. 1980 D&D Basic Set & its companion Expert Set. For the most part, they did not attempt to make the game more fun, merely more accessible. It seems reasonable to me to call it a new edition of the old game. D&D third edition, however, significantly changed how nearly every aspect of the game worked in an attempt to make it more fun. It seems very wrong to me to call it a new edition of D&D rather than a new game. While it shares many superficial similarities with the older editions, it really is so different in so many ways it is hard to consider it the same game. If the third edition designers succeeded, it was in often being able to ask "What is more fun for lots of D&D players?", not just "What is more fun for us?" Which is all just thinking out loud. While these thoughts are inspired by the forthcoming fourth edition of D&D, this isn't really meant to be commentary on it. At least not yet. Though I do wonder if the fourth edition designers are not sometimes being too myopic in their attempts to make D&D more fun.