Why does dislike for an edition get so heated?

I’m not much of an Edition Warrior. I only started playing D&D in earnest in early 2010, and I spend most of my time playing 4th Edition. I’ve had the chance to play AD&D First Edition as well as some other games like GURPS, Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu, and I’ve enjoyed them all. I look forward to trying out Pathfinder and more games in the future. I’m firmly in the “Can’t we all just get along?” camp.

Mxyzplk over at Geek Related put up a link to a post he wrote in 2009 that I found fantastic and enlightening. Basically, he explains that people who like older editions of D&D have a legitimate reason to express their concern about the direction of D&D 4th Edition even if they don’t play the game. The reason is that new players and new published material will tend to gravitate toward the currently supported edition of D&D, and thus it will become hard for people who like a different style of game (less emphasis on minis and battlemats and tactical positioning in combat) to find groups and new material in the future if the current edition is too different from what they enjoy. It was a very well-written, well-reasoned post.

However, just today the same author put up a post in which he described the newly announced Lair Assault program (which, to be clear, was first announced in January without the official name) as “4e Wallows In Its Own Filth” and causing him to “throw up in [his] mouth a little”. That’s a lot of hate.

Similarly, Greyhawk Grognard describes Lair Assault as confirmation that “4e is aimed at min-maxing twinks” and derides 4e as being an adaptation of mindless MMORPGs; it’s not really a role-playing game.

Here’s my take

Lair Assault doesn’t look like much fun to me. I feel dirty when I min-max a character. I enjoy story and role-playing, and Lair Assault promises to have as little of those as possible. It requires Fortune Cards, which I don’t personally enjoy.

However, that doesn’t mean that D&D 4th Edition is all about Lair Assault. The D&D Encounters program that I’m currently DMing does a good job of introducing story and opportunities for role playing – a better job than I would expect from an organized play event. My home games are tons of fun and involve maybe half of the session time (maybe less) spent in combat, which works for me. The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond boxed set is a rich adventure setting with tons of ideas to help inspire DMs to create interesting stories. I expect more of the same with the Feywild boxed set that’s coming out later this year. Those have nothing to do with min-maxing and ceaseless combat and tactics.

The passion

I’m completely comfortable with criticisms of 4th Edition. I personally am not thrilled with the Lair Assault announcement, either, and I think that if Wizards of the Coast pours its D&D resources into programs like that, I probably won’t enjoy the game as it evolves over the next couple of years compared to where it is today. I think it’s reasonable for me and others to speak up and let WotC know that we’re not big fans of that type of program.

Where I get uncomfortable is when I see hate. The posts from Greyhawk Grognard and Geek Related about Lair Assault come across as very hate-filled toward 4e. Maybe that’s intentional on the part of the authors; maybe not. But the tone really matters a lot, at least to someone like me. When I see such hate directed at 4e in general, and I’m a person who enjoys the game, I feel that the hate is directed at me by extension, even though I’m sure that’s not the authors’ intent.

I fully support the Old School Renaissance, Pathfinder and independent RPGs, even though I spend most of my gaming time with D&D4e. I respect that fans of older editions of D&D are concerned about the direction of the game because a bad direction could mean that it will be really hard for them to find new players and new materials for their preferred style of game in the future. I think they SHOULD make their voices heard on these topics, even if I don’t feel the same way they do.

I don’t support hate. Reasonable people can disagree about things in a civil way without using such strongly negative, passionate language. I loved Mxyzplk’s 2009 post. It was strongly anti-4e, but I didn’t feel hated or that there was unreasonable negative emotion in the post. If more posts (on blogs and on message boards) that take aim at something unappealing about an edition were written in that way, I think we’d have much less fretting over edition wars. I think that would also lead to a stronger gaming community.

Recruiting new players – like me!

Think about it this way: If you’re a fan of an older edition or Pathfinder, wouldn’t you WANT someone like me to read your thoughts and think, “Wow, this is good stuff. This is someone I’d want to game with. I should check out that game because the people who play it seem to be awesome.” That’s a completely reasonable possibility! I’m still in the discovery stage of role-playing games, and I could very well settle on games other than 4e in the end.

But when someone like me sees such hate from supporters of other games, well, it makes me nervous about joining those communities. Do I really want to game with people who are filled with such passionately negative emotions about a different version of the game that they play? Honestly, I don’t want that.

Keep in mind that hate can turn people off, people whom you might really want to join your community. Is it really necessary?

7 thoughts on “Why does dislike for an edition get so heated?

    • Thanks for the link – I agree with your post 100%.

      As for why WotC is running Lair Assault, I’m guessing that they figure it can drive profits in a couple of ways. First, it is probably intended to create demand for powerful Fortune Cards, which could create a secondary market for those cards (a la Magic: The Gathering), which could create more demand for packs of the cards.

      Second, teaching someone who’s already familiar with computer RPGs about combat rules and character optimization is probably easier than teaching them about role-playing and creative exploration. Thus, Lair Assault is probably expected to be a more natural attraction for players who already enjoy computer RPGs (and that’s probably a big market that WotC would like to tap).

      Lots of “probablies” there, but I’m only speculating about WotC’s thought process here.

  1. As to why the discussion gets heated, it’s the internet. What would face-to-face be more-or-less good-natured wrangling like arguments in a bar about the designated hitter rule ends up as a screeching jeremiad.

    My take on Lair Assault is the Hasbro bought WotC for Magic, and is going to be constantly pushing everything that’s less profitable than that to be more like it…which means sanctioned tournaments and collectibles to give you and advantage in the tournament. Even if it doesn’t work out and they kill it off (D&D Miniatures), they’ll just come at it from another direction. If they ever become convinced that it’ll never be more than an RPG, which is to say a basic set of rules that you can buy once and play forever after with your friends, look for them to kill it or sell it off.

    • I hear you on the “it’s the internet” hypothesis, but I’m unsatisfied with it. Just because it’s the internet doesn’t require that disagreements becomes screeching jeremiads (bonus points for using the word “jeremiad” by the way). Intelligent people can choose to behave with some restraint, even on the internet.

      As for the business angle, well, yes, Hasbro/WotC wants to make money from all of their products, including D&D. It’s not a great leap to say, “Hey, Magic makes tons of money. How could we sell D&D in a way that will bring in similar money?” Thus, collectible cards.

      I personally don’t expect it to work very well, but who knows? Maybe tons of new players will flock to Lair Assault and start chasing rare Fortune Cards and make a ton of money for WotC.That would be a part of the game that I’m not interested in, but it wouldn’t really bother me all that much.

      As for Hasbro killing/selling D&D if they decide it’s just an RPG, well, remember that they’re trying to get recurring revenue via DDI. Perhaps that will fail in the end, but they’re at least making money off me that way right now, and they’ll probably keep making money off me that way for a long time. It’s not a bad business model if they can do it right.

      • It doesn’t require it, but it makes it much more likely. As Shamus Young (of Twenty Sided) recently pointed out, you get the same damn thing on every internet venue, even if the topic is just lawn mowers. It’s just really easy to get carried away when you’re not embedded in the social context we evolved in. You can choose to behave with some restraint, and as you pointed out Geek Related has in the past, but I think it takes a lot more effort than we’re used to.

  2. Instead of critizicing 4e they should make emphasis in the advantages of the edition they like.

    Instead of hating, they should make clear what they like and what they don’t. They should look for creative ways to bend the 4e Rules to their liking.

    Hating is easy, create is hard.

    • Actually no.

      The criticizing got people away from 4e and towards pathfinder.

      It brought more people to pathfinder.

      You cannot compare creating to hating. Both are different processes.

      I hate 4e. Yet I am creative in building the experiences I want with other systems. One does not vaguely correlate with the other.

      Feel good slogans are great, but they need to make sense.

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