Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: D&D (Addendum)

It occurs to me that my review of D&D rambled without touching on the rules (D&D doesn't really have a core "setting," as it were).

The D&D rules are solid, but...odd.  Throughout all editions, they appear to be arranged like an onion: here are some core rules, and if you want more complexity, here are some more.  A lot of the detail-oriented rules are forgotten or ignored by many playing groups (in 3e, for example, you can roll to see where deviated missiles land).  Of course, some of the core rules are complex enough that they are forgotten or ignored by gaming groups, too; noisms recently did a post on Piledriving D&D (that is, forgetting a game rule so thoroughly that your made-up version becomes standard for your play group), as well as some follow-up posts here and here.

In oD&D, 3e, and 4e (as mentioned, I have yet to delve into AD&D), the rules require the rolling of a d20 against a target number.  In 3e and 4e, you add a modifier to this roll.  That's it.  All the DM has to do is figure out the target number and what modifier you add (whether you are attacking, arm wrestling, using a skill, etc.).

However, this simple mechanic gives way to fiddly bits that add complexity (though this is true in most game systems).  D&D isn't necessarily hard, there's just a lot to remember when you're just starting.  It's definitely the sort of game in which one might want a DM's screen or a handmade cheat sheet, particularly at the beginning.

D&D is crunchier than a lot of systems currently available, but is the perfect system for the gonzo, tactical, exploration exercise for which it was designed.

One final note: I can agree with D&D 4e detractors about the fact that this edition is crunchier than most.  It pretty much requires all players to keep a copy of the rules, particularly the rules for their attacks, handy at all times.  It also tends to abbreviate exploration such that, as written, sandbox play is more difficult.  Naturally, all these things can be tweaked, but 4e does have some distinct differences from previous editions (read a play log, though, and they probably sound pretty similar).

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