I'm 43 years old and I've been a traditional RPGer for over 30 of those years. This, combined with the fact I have a blog and a Facebook account, gives me the credentials to spout off like a foaming loony about this hobby we all love so much. So, here I go.
The earliest versions of the D&D rules were so flimsy and incomplete. That's right. Because they were breaking new ground and publishing out of a garage before PCs, desktop publishing, and the internet. Later, the rules were so arbitrary and clumsily balanced against the false reality they strove to emulate. Yep. Because the creators were writing a GAME...with RULES...that needed to WORK. Then, the company got greedy and started cranking out countless splatbooks that we gamers snatched up off the shelves as fast as they hit. How dare they give us what we thought we wanted! How dare they try to profit from their work! While we're bitching about all the terrible rules and greedy corporations, should we dwell a little upon the countless hours of memorable adventure to be had from a flimsy 30-page booklet and three slender hardbound volumes? White Plume Mountain is sixteen pages long. SIXTEEN!
Then came the D20 System that changed the hobby forevermore. Creating rifts and sucking away personal fortunes like the never-ending Magic: TG expansion sets. The complaints about expensive new splatbooks increased exponentially while we threw away our money on countless expansions and supplements for every game that hit the market. Hell, you can hardly find even a traditional board or card game that doesn't include expansions and boosters nowadays. How many friggin' Catans are there now, anyway? Oh noes! The lamentation! The ruination!
You know what ruined D&D for me? The goddamn players.
I embraced D20 because it included just about all of my house rules in the official matrix of my favorite game system. We were all apparently thinking the same things and WotC decided to put it all between some covers and make a buck from it. That's the good old American Way, right there. Good for them. The hobby had never been so vibrant. And expensive. Hasbro saw a good thing and bought that shit right up. Smart move. WizBro was born. Gamers handed over their wallets in droves. Gamers like me bailed out and never looked back. Grumpy old gamers. Many of us jumped on the Pathfinder bandwagon. I think I fell off the back of that wagon recently for lack of room to sit. We'll see.
Where was I? Oh yeah - the goddamn players.
The lazy, flaky, shifty, dopey (and a few other dwarves) players. Players with about as much imagination and social grace as a genital wart. Players that just want to sit and be entertained as if they were watching a film or fiddling with a video game. Except - I don't cost anything. Also, I'm much more invested in their amusement. Players that can't commit to a one-or-two-Saturday-afternoon-a-month gaming schedule, but can devote hundreds of hours a month toward consuming television and CRPG offerings like potato chips. Players that aren't nearly as invested in the success of the game they share with the group as the person devoting hours and hours to the organization and presentation of that game. Players that can sit and tweak their player character to finely-weighted perfection for hours but can't be bothered to learn the basics of their professed alignment. Players who can run a human, an elf, a gnome, or a half-orc...without anyone being able to tell the difference between any of them. Players who demand tons of options, as well as tons of the newest and shiniest options as they hit release, but can't be troubled to keep track of their spell points or item charges. Players that can't make a decision without rolling a die. Players that can't roleplay their way across a tavern common room. Players that name their characters after those from a book, game, TV series, or film. Players that can't tell left from right unless they're sitting in front of a gridded mat covered with terrain and miniatures. Players that make every game session feel like a job interview. As they sit and stare...and drink their soda...and stare some more.
Maybe it's me. The hapless DM. It is possible I'm not engaging the players as I should - even after all these years of being a captive DM for so many groups. I wonder if they'd tell me so. Apparently not. I never claimed to be the best DM around. It's possible I invest too much in the game. When I'm not writing fiction, I'm writing stuff for my campaign. I used to think I offered too much detail - then I saw some of the published campaign settings and got over myself. The players I had in high school and college were pretty great, for the most part. They were engaged. They were invested. They were involved. Not like the semi-ambulatory toadstools I seem to attract nowadays.
Sometimes, I think it was the times. Others, I consider the possibility that the edition of the rules could be to blame. Maybe I'm just old...set in my ways...cantankerous...less patient. Or, maybe it really is the goddamn players. I think I'm leaning toward that conclusion for now. Whatever the case, I am currently very disenchanted with gaming overall and am not sure when the spark may re-ignite...if ever.
Fucking sucks, really. It used to be so great.