So, as you can tell, I am pretty much over D&D. When I started this blog in 2013, the OSR was well established and had gone from a reaction to the 3E glut and shocking 4E paradigm shift to a creative force in its own right. I was delighted to have access to retroclones like Swords & Wizardry, as well as all the crazy free blog materials and quality indie published materials (ASE, Death Frost Doom, and Barrowmaze come to mind). Bloggers were generally open minded and friendly. Roleplaying seemed to be entering a new golden age.
That said, I quickly moved away from ye olde game, hosted the first non-D&D blog challenge in 2014, and found my interest much higher for BRP / Chaosium games, especially the old Stormbringer game. In the early OSR days, blogs for Traveller, 007, and Villains and Vigilantes among others, were easily found, and just as accepted.
But gradually D&D overtook the blogosphere, and the OSR became a D&D echo chamber. Then WotC hired OSR names to recreate 5E along old D&D lines and co-opt the very movement that had opposed their corporate product development.
Along with this came incidents of sexism and homophobia that tarnished the open nature of the OSR. At the same time, the corporate marketing push to brand D&D as 'The Most Popular Roleplaying Game in the World' became insufferable and inescapable, and I joined a Facebook page called I'm Begging You To Play Another RPG, where I was both able to indulge my anti-corporate gaming snark with likeminded folk, while finding out about killer indie games like Lasers & Feelings, Bluebeard's Wife, and Thirsty Sword Lesbians. Add to that the success of scandinavian-produced games like Mork Borg and Aliens, and it seems like another golden age.
But D&D Inc. seems to be in a dark age. Although I feel no pity for the corporate overlords, I do feel lots for the old gamers who see 'their game' being warped beyond recognition, as well as the new players who have (literally) bought into the newest edition's focus on builds and character concepts linked to race + item + joke or pun, and are being asked to pony up for lower quality materials or a whole new edition.
This year seems to be a crisis for WotC D&D considering its recent missteps. I have recently become active on Twitter, and based on some interactions I have had there, here are my thoughts on the D&D dark ages and the way ahead.
1. The Failure of Spelljammer
Once again, these old games are available in PDF form and easily run with a retroclone. Failing to produce a quality product for the current edition is a serious shot to the corporate foot.
2. The D&D One Announcement
On the heels of the Spelljammer debacle came the announcement of D&D One, a supposed new edition that would be backward compatible with ALL previous editions.
Once again, this is pure corporate horseshit, and people aren't buying it. I tweeted my thoughts on the matter, and got a massive response:
Hasbro needs to realize that their job isn't to develop D&D - they lack the love, the creative freedom, and the incentive to do that. instead, all they have to do is make D&D available in print, POD, or PDF, let 3rd person parties develop materials, and shut up. They do need to implement some form of quality control or repeat the 3E glut's excesses, but otherwise, shut up, steward materials, and let the money roll in.
3. The Race Problem
Now comes the WotC announcement that they won't refer to 'race' anymore, but use 'species' instead, which is stirring up some gamers. This again is corporate strategy - there is no such thing as bad press, as Barnum once said.
Not using the term race is pure pinkwashing - corporate wokeness for profit. Branding WotC as 'sparkle trolls' misunderstands the corporate scamjob they are trying to foist on gamers - they care as little about this as most OSR gamers.
However, living in a world as racist as this one (I'm native and now foreigner in Japan, so I know that of which I speak), I don't think saving the word race is a hill worth dying on. As I suggested on Twitter, why not use 'folk' instead? 'Species' is such a modern, scientific word, and totally takes away from the suspension of disbelief needed for fantasy roleplaying.
4. How to save D&D?
So, if you love D&D of whatever edition, you must be asking yourself this question. Here is my suggestion:
D&D is not roleplaying. You like getting a party together and dungeon crawling? There are TONS of other games that give just as good experiences, and are better suited to individual tastes. Google 'alternatives to D&D' and you get
(I'd play Dungeon World or Heart / Spire myself. I played a game of Ironsworn a few years back and it literally mopped the floor with most D&D games I had played before).
As for Hasnro-WotC D&D next, I think Feist says it better than I ever could: