Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird


Is this D&D now? I think, it kind of is, at least for most people.  I'm not sure why I'm hung up on this, but, I am.  It's such a head scratcher.

Last week I went to a 5e game at a live table, all with strangers met on Discord.  I knew the vibe would be silly cartoon and I was ready to embrace the experience.

THE GOOD: I really liked the people at the table,  They were around my age, which was kind of nice, and everyone was a cool hang.  Would be happy to game with any of them again.  

THE BAD: I'm not sure we really played 5e, or even D&D.  Let me explain.  The GM, in an effort to be entertaining (wait, shouldn't this be listed under 'Good'?) had prepared a lot of... stuff.  There was a board game on the table with a plastic volcano. Push a button and tribal drums played.  There were cards, from the game ready to be used as well.  My cards were: crowbar, fishing pole and snorkel gear (!!!???!!!). In our 3 hour session, we spent an hour getting our characters together and saying hello to each other, another hour watching the GM performing various NPC voices and setting the scene (Strixhaven), and an hour playing.  The playing was a single combat situation which my character more or less needed to sit out because they couldn't do anything (an archer vs a swarm of bats). Round one of combat took 25 minutes. So... did I play?  Felt like a no.

THE WEIRD: Where do I begin? The full 3 hours were bonkers strange from start to finish, mostly due to the contrast between a table full of normal adults and a story/game happening that was unabashedly in the cartoons-for-6-year-olds camp.  It was a hair's breath away from fetishistic, in my view. I wanted to pinch myself multiple times.  I almost laughed out loud several times, but not at jokes. Maybe weirdest of all was the apres-game mutual congratulations on a great session and a desire to schedule the next.  I was kind of thunderstruck during and after, but also a little giddy from the 3 hour vacation from normal. (Is this the appeal? I kind of get that. Would never do it again, but I kind of get that.)

(The Sad): I'm going to have to break up with this group in a way that doesn't feel personal.  It isn't.  I really liked those folks, but you couldn't pay me enough to do it again.  Have any of you had to break up with a group? I've done it a couple of times in the past year and I don't think I'm very good at it.


  1. Oh wow -- what an experience! FWIW, the players at my table prefer 5e, so that's what we run. However our sessions feel far closer (imo) to what you'd expect in a traditional game than what you experienced here. Meaning, they often feel like B/X, but with more character options and power (and perhaps less mechanical structure for things like exploration, etc). I'm unsure how pervasive the style you experienced is, but yeah -- that would not be my cup of tea either.

  2. And this, my friends, is why I stick to my OSR roots, play with people I know, and typically run White Box or OSE. Period.

  3. I posted the above image on Insta and got some light blowback - some people said 'you do you/live and let live' and, well, yes, they're right of course. Why should I mind? I don't really mind - like, I don't want them to stop or anything - I'm more just ... flabbergasted that this is a thing ... a big thing. Anyway, thanks for the comments - I have found a local group much, much more in line with my own tastes. I like the idea of 5e rules and BX vibe very much and hopefully one day will be able to try that out. :)

  4. I'd be happy to run a 5e one-shot for you some time, if you're ok playing online. I've been DMing about 3 years. I try to keep a "classical" D&D feel and usually run modules/adventures that were published for OSR systems.

    I find the current play culture around 5e pretty frustrating, and I hope that the fad of "bad community theater with dice" ends soon. But I guess some people are into that, so maybe I shouldn't judge.

    At any rate, my players like the options that 5e gives them, and I find it to be a pretty robust and flexible system.

    Love the podcast by the way. Nothing else out there like it.

  5. Hey Jordan - thanks for that kind offer. I'll happily take you up on it, but it'll probably have to be in the summer. I'm stretched thin with work and multiple games at the moment, but things will settle in July and August if you think you'll still be interested.

    1. Sounds good. I'll reach out in a few months.

    2. Hi Jon. Are you still interested in a 5e one-shot? Let me know - you can reach me at: jordanrudd at gmail.

  6. Different strokes for different folks. Many get caught up in trying to prove or argue for which experience is better. I'm more apt to just simply say that the experience of low level BECMI play in a gritty harsh world is not marketed at most people who would enjoy role playing a student exploring their personal quirks and adventuring in Strixhaven. Nothing wrong with that but to bucket them both as D&D and say they're the same just isn't fair. Malevolent Creation and Enya are music.

    As somebody who is listening through for a 3rd time, and draws on your tone (and Tales of Mystara) for inspiration in my pen and paper games I really encourage you to make time to attend an OSR focused con like North Texas RPG Con. It's not really an age or gender self selection, but these types of experiences self select for more of the experience your art represents. Again, not saying 5e Strixhaven with a Dragonborn Warlock Monk with 49 Hit Points and parallels to the player's real world characteristics isn't valid but you won't find that there.

    Shit. I'd sponsor your vendor table.

  7. Hey, Ned. Boy, would I love to attend *any* convention - especially an OSR one. Toronto gets Comicon... but I've never been to one of these things. They don't seem to come up this far North and I have no one to go with (maybe now I do, since I found a live table at long last). You know, when I posted the pic on Insta, I got blowback from people who say, quite gently, that I should not yuck anyone else's yum. True. Very true. I shouldn't. I try not to (it slips out a bit sometimes). Mostly I'm just gobsmacked at how popular it is. If someone told me that 85% of downloaded music by people aged 20-40 was The Wiggles, I'd be just as perplexed. Anyway, thanks for the message of support! (I'm a big Tales of Mystara fan, myself).

  8. The current issue with 5e is that it's a 'big tent' game, so it's a single system that has to support ALL styles of play. It's also a successful big tent game so that people who want to play other genres / create different experiences don't realise that they'd be better off experimenting with things outside of D&D 5e.

    You can certainly find the type of game you play at other D&D 5e tables but most 5e DMs and players don't know how to advertise or explain what genre of game they're playing and what type of experience you can expect (because they use 5e to run everything)

  9. This is an interesting view, Will. The game is so popular and works well enough that it can be anything. Horror game? 5e. Gonzo comedy? 5e. I'm not done trying this system: I've already started with a new group and I'm giving it another go. So far I like it but am not converted. I am staying open minded though and I *hope* to be won over eventually.