There’s a famous quote from Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax that reads: “The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules.”
Well, this was never much of a secret back in the early days of the hobby. When my friends and I started playing in the late 70s, we didn’t have a lot of money. We bought what we could afford: the core books, a few modules, a Dragon magazine now and then, but certainly not everything that TSR produced. I mean, good luck finding it anyway.
There was a Used Bookstore that carried D&D stuff about 20 minutes away, but they didn’t carry everything, just the essentials. The bookstores in the mall weren’t much better. We had to make due with what we had, which meant we made a lot of it up as we went along, and we had a blast doing so.
I don’t know, maybe I’m getting old, but gamers today seem to want everything spelled out for them. Across social media, from reddit to twitter to facebook and beyond, I read post after post of hobbyists bellyaching about this product not being converted to this edition, or the lack of modules for one game and the glut of material for another, and on and on, this incessant whining about every little thing.
Whatever happened to creativity? What happened to improvisation? What happened to immersive roleplaying and having a good time? What happened to seat-of-your-pants, winging it for the freaking joy of it? The camaraderie?
You can have your Adventurer Leagues and Encounters and Expeditions and Societies and Factions and what have you…
Give me a handful of dice and something to write on and we’ll have ourselves a bloody game. Hell, to be honest, we don’t even need the dice.
Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder, Dungeon World, Shadowrun, 13th Age, etc ad nauseum) should be about one freaking thing and one thing only — telling an epic, rip-snorting, gods be damned story with your friends.
You don’t need 236 splatbooks to do that. You need the basics. That’s all. Anything else beyond that is just ancillary garnishment.
Slinging mud at Dungeons & Dragons because they’ve only released a Starter Set, three Core Books, a DM Screen, and a couple of hardcover Plot Books in two years is ridiculous, especially when the same people chastise the company for the free download supplements available via their website.
I’m no Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro apologist. They’ve made mistakes, but taking the time to slow launch 5th Edition is not one of them.
One move I do question is yesterday’s announcement that Wizards of the Coast will be deleting their forums in late October.
Dungeons & Dragons by its very definition is a social game. For the company that produces it to not maintain an official watering hole seems like a bad idea to me. Granted, there are plenty of forums out there that cater to rpgs, like enworld and giants in the playground, but if it were me, I’d want someplace for players to gather a little closer to home.
But that’s a bit off topic and I’m starting to ramble.
I will end with this simple thought, let your imagination be your rulebook and the source of your next rpg adventure. It’s pretty much how I’ve rolled for more than 30 years. It has never steered me wrong in all that time.
Feed your head, free your mind, and spin a bloody yarn… and let the dice fall where they may.