D&D General Expectations of Play by Edition (and How You Actually Did It)

Retreater

Legend
My wife and I were having a conversation last night about what I see as shifting expectations of play as 5e progresses. The conversation mostly sprang from the changes in Monsters of the Multiverse, based on what I can tell from the previews. More or less it ended with her laughing and telling me I'm a jaded grognard.
This got me thinking about what the corporate written (or intended) expectations of play have been throughout D&D's history and how it might've been different based on how we actually played the game. So I'll write my own experiences here and welcome you to do the same.
1. OD&D
Perceived expectations: Dungeons and adventure sites are presented before expendable characters, who seek treasure for greed and power.
My play: I didn't play this edition at the time and only recently in the form of retroclones. I can say that I ran it as a rules-lite version of 3.x or 5e era D&D, with story, roleplaying, and dungeon exploration, using all the pillars of play.
2. D&D (B/X, BECMI, etc.) [Note: I've had the same experience with this edition as OD&D - just differentiating it because it's another edition.]
Perceived expectations: Dungeons and adventure sites are presented before expendable characters, who seek treasure for greed and power.
My play: I didn't play this edition at the time and only recently in the form of retroclones. I can say that I ran it as a rules-lite version of 3.x or 5e era D&D, with story, roleplaying, and dungeon exploration, using all the pillars of play.
3. AD&D 1e
Perceived expectations: "Get good, bro" style tournament modules, adversarial DMing. More character options than previous editions to allow greater customization for more dangerous adventures.
My play: I didn't play this edition at the time and haven't ever played it (even as a retroclone). I have read the books and modules. I have played several adventures for more recent editions based on the design philosophy of 1e, and they seem to match my perceived expectations.
4. AD&D 2e
Perceived expectations: The characters are part of a large, epic story, narrated by the DM. Otherwise the rules are similar to 1e, just a lot of the "teeth" have been taking from the adventures and monsters. The era of massive campaign settings also implies large, story-driven campaigns.
My play: My first edition I played when it was released. I followed the perceived expectations, only in my own campaign world. Very narrative-focused, kept a running tally of character HP behind my screen so I could fudge dice rolls to never kill characters.
5. D&D 3.x
Perceived expectations: "Back to the dungeon." Take the flavor and adversarial design of AD&D 1e, codify the rules into a unified mechanic and give loads of customization options to players to "get even more good, bro."
My play: I totally followed the perceived expectations. Became a Killer DM, ran my adventures like tournaments.
6. D&D 4e
Perceived expectations: Keep the dungeon theme from 3.x, but put all power based in class abilities that can be easily balanced. Instead of an adversarial DM, you're there to run challenging/exciting encounters that the characters can win. The rules are even more unified to the point where nothing will come as a surprise. Welcome new players into the hobby, including MMORPG players.
My play: Since most of my play was at organized events, I definitely followed the expectations.
7. D&D 5e
Perceived expectations: Take the theme from 2e, with the characters being part of a large, epic story - only instead of sprawling campaign guides, WotC produces campaign adventures (which reinforces the epic story concept even more strongly). Take the rules codification from 3.x but be welcoming to new players like 4e by simplifying everything you can. Don't give many character build options or splats, because that's confusing.
My play: Most of my developmental time as a DM was during the 3.x era. As a result, I try to run 5e more tactically (on a grid) and firm with the rules - but I think my problem is that I need to run it more like 2e.

 

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My expectations for OD&D and B/X match yours. I also probably play them the same way. I use all three pillars of play with dungeon and wilderness exploration, combat, and social interaction.

My current B/X group is dungeon crawling now, but are at the cusp of name level and have some domain stuff going on. There has been plenty of role-playing and social interaction as they are maneuvering politically against some of the power bases in the region. Their characters have relationships with important NPCs in the world and are a growing power.

That being said, I still maintain the expendable aspect of those expectations. Their characters are well developed and have a lot of hooks in the world but they are by no means 'protected by plot'. If a character dies then that's it... I'm running the game with them being just as threatened about potential death at 7th-8th level as they were at 1st.
 

payn

Legend
I simply cant get behind some of these perceived expectations descriptions. What I have perceived is that folks have certain playstyles they gravitate to, and how they engage in an edition depends on that perspective. Playstyle preference matters more than the supposed conceits of the edition. Where the burn happens is when the design intent of an edition makes certain playstyles difficult or impossible at the table.

The good news is that designers seem to be more mindful of this. They either go out of their way to describe the expected playstyle, or they make a system that is easy to bend (5E) for mass acceptance. I also think much of the past consternation has been relieved by the internet. Available pool of content and players ability to match playstyle is easier than ever. Also, if a past edition has a firm grasp on your heart, its easier to find folks such as yourself to play with.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Not sure I have ever given much thought to expected playstyles attached to editions except in an abstract reflective way, not in a "what I am currently playing" way.

Expected playstyles aside, I have played/run every edition of D&D with basically the same approach modified by age/maturity/experience.
 



Retreater

Legend
So most of you are saying that the following have little to do with how you play: most of the corporate promotions, the advice given in the rulebooks, the printed adventure modules and campaign supplements, the articles written on websites and print periodicals, etc.?
And you're saying that your style of playing the game has remained unchanged across the lifespan of the hobby, without regards to which edition you were playing? That the rules system has little to no bearing on if you focus on combats, exploration, social situations? That the deadliness (or not) of the system has no impact on the scope or length of your campaigns?
 

payn

Legend
No, those things certainly play a part of folks formation of their playstyle. If it was framed in a "what was your experience?" i'd be more likely to participate with the intended spirit. Though, the well is totally poisoned in the OP via perceived expectations which attest to my comments about playstyle. Take another look, they totally colored your entire D&D experience in a single posting.
 

Retreater

Legend
No, those things certainly play a part of folks formation of their playstyle. If it was framed in a "what was your experience?" i'd be more likely to participate with the intended spirit. Though, the well is totally poisoned in the OP via perceived expectations which attest to my comments about playstyle. Take another look, they totally colored your entire D&D experience in a single posting.
Not sure that I understand. Maybe I'm just being dense today with some brain fog or something? Or I'm not getting across what I'm trying to say? I'm not trying to have a venomous attack on anyone here.
Just saying that it has felt like to me the spirit of D&D has changed with every edition, that with every edition they've focused on different styles of play and types of characters/stories. Sometimes those intentions were very clearly written, and sometimes it's what I've noticed in the marketing/supplemental material/etc. Sometimes those intentions lined up with how I played the game, and sometimes not.
I don't think this is a particularly negative post, but maybe it is?
 

dave2008

Legend
I simply cant get behind some of these perceived expectations descriptions. What I have perceived is that folks have certain playstyles they gravitate to, and how they engage in an edition depends on that perspective. Playstyle preference matters more than the supposed conceits of the edition. Where the burn happens is when the design intent of an edition makes certain playstyles difficult or impossible at the table.

The good news is that designers seem to be more mindful of this. They either go out of their way to describe the expected playstyle, or they make a system that is easy to bend (5E) for mass acceptance. I also think much of the past consternation has been relieved by the internet. Available pool of content and players ability to match playstyle is easier than ever. Also, if a past edition has a firm grasp on your heart, its easier to find folks such as yourself to play with.
Yep, that is my experience. My group plays 5e, like they played 4e, like they played 1e. Group inertia is more important the edition intent.
 
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dave2008

Legend
So most of you are saying that the following have little to do with how you play: most of the corporate promotions, the advice given in the rulebooks, the printed adventure modules and campaign supplements, the articles written on websites and print periodicals, etc.?
And you're saying that your style of playing the game has remained unchanged across the lifespan of the hobby, without regards to which edition you were playing? That the rules system has little to no bearing on if you focus on combats, exploration, social situations? That the deadliness (or not) of the system has no impact on the scope or length of your campaigns?
I can't speak for most. But that is basically correct. Edition has some effect, but our groups play style is much more important. As an example: my group started making armor with DR back in 1e and liked it. We have adapted and update those house-rules with each edition since. My point being we make the edition fit our playstyle regardless of what it may or may not be trying to do.

FYI, our playstyle is mostly low magic, deadly, but mostly carefree fun (not overly tactical, strategic, or serious).
 

payn

Legend
Not sure that I understand. Maybe I'm just being dense today with some brain fog or something? Or I'm not getting across what I'm trying to say? I'm not trying to have a venomous attack on anyone here.
Just saying that it has felt like to me the spirit of D&D has changed with every edition, that with every edition they've focused on different styles of play and types of characters/stories. Sometimes those intentions were very clearly written, and sometimes it's what I've noticed in the marketing/supplemental material/etc. Sometimes those intentions lined up with how I played the game, and sometimes not.
I don't think this is a particularly negative post, but maybe it is?
You take some digs at perceived expectations like "git gud bro". Thats a value statement, albeit, your opinion. It sets a tone where everybody in thread is welcome to take a deuce on things they didn't like or receive well. Also, im a little confused because I dont recall anything about 3E, in particular, that told people to be killer GMs. Or that in 2E a GM shouldn't kill any PCs. Without pointing to material, I dont get these references. Im a little surprised there are not arguments happening already about this. Good job EN World!

Yep, that is my experience. My group plays 5e, like they player 4e, like they played 1e. Group inertia is more important the edition intent
I also bet dave2008's group has a favorite playstyle. Its likely flexible, but has its breaking points. They are sure to have a favored edition(s) that suit well out of box or with minimal house ruling. I dont want to speak for them, but its a good example of group being the driving force, over corporate influence. The materials are sure to have impacts, likely greatest on first timers, but groups tend to decide things more, IME.
 

Retreater

Legend
You take some digs at perceived expectations like "git gud bro". Thats a value statement, albeit, your opinion. It sets a tone where everybody in thread is welcome to take a deuce on things they didn't like or receive well.
Oh, I understand now. It's not that there were perceived expectations, it's was what my perceived expectations were and how I phrased them. Thank you for clarifying.
So my perceived expectations of play are certainly only my perceptions. Maybe no one else had the same ones, and I'm not going to tell anyone they're wrong by saying they have another perception of what the edition was like and what style of play it seems to promote. I wasn't at anyone else's game.
I'd say that the tournament modules (such as Tomb of Horrors) definitely have a "git gud bro" tone to them. I don't think I'm reading anything into the text that Gygax didn't intend.

Also, im a little confused because I dont recall anything about 3E, in particular, that told people to be killer GMs.
For me, the climate in online forums and in published works at that time was an ever-expanding library of player-facing options, which necessitated in an arms race between GM and players. To challenge players with access to the latest splats, with characters tooled by the online think-tank into impervious superheroes, GMs had to create encounters (and share them) to "stop" their players. So I had ones like an underwater Evards black tentacles trap to grapple characters, trying to drown them, while shadows flew in and sapped their Strength, compounding the danger from the grapple.
You had extraordinarily deadly encounters in published adventures, calling to mind the Roper and Black Dragon in Forge of Fury (which any GM could wipe out a party with that encounter). And there would be blocks of text describing tactics for the GM to obliterate the party.
So my takeaway was definitely learning how to be a Killer GM. Maybe it wasn't what everyone else learned, but that was the lesson it taught me.
Or that in 2E a GM shouldn't kill any PCs. Without pointing to material, I dont get these references.
If I had my library handy, I could cite the adventure modules that do this. I do remember the Shadowdale adventure specifically had Elminster appear and accidentally cast heal on the adventurers (while trying to train his puppy) so they wouldn't be injured. I remember others (not by name, but I could find them) that tells the DM to "stop the attack before killing any characters" and things of that nature.
 

You take some digs at perceived expectations like "git gud bro". Thats a value statement, albeit, your opinion. It sets a tone where everybody in thread is welcome to take a deuce on things they didn't like or receive well. Also, im a little confused because I dont recall anything about 3E, in particular, that told people to be killer GMs. Or that in 2E a GM shouldn't kill any PCs. Without pointing to material, I dont get these references. Im a little surprised there are not arguments happening already about this. Good job EN World!
I think OP is inadvertently throwing in some value statements in an attempt at a little cheeky humor. I suspect what they were actually trying to do was convey how previous editions have been marketed by cultural myth and zeitgeist (and note that their own experience was either the same, different, or nonexistant-but-here's-what-we-did-with-them-after-the-fact). Certainly certain aspects of discussing oD&D and BX/BECMI (including in some previous 'how did early gaming really play out?'-style threads here ) have suggested that characters in that era were often relatively interchangeable (e.g. the ubiquitous story of 'M. Elf->Melf'), and that there was often mere lip service as to why the traps&treasure-filled dungeons existed or why the characters were attempting them. It's certainly worth discussing, although I think OP could work on the initial post some more to make it read better.

Here is my take on all of them -- we didn't. Whatever the games supposedly were or weren't, we either didn't get them or didn't care about them. Was 2e 'about' large, epic stories narrated by the DM? We didn't notice. Whatever expectations or incentivizations* a given ruleset supposedly created, we noped out of them without any conscious decision to do so. 2e was much like BX for us -- you started off adventuring in dungeons because the wandering monster charts in the wilderness were killer for 1st level PCs (and because Dungeon is right there in the game name), and somewhere around name level we got interested in keeps and castles and ruleship for a hot minute (with wilderness adventure at some point in the middle), before hoping off that project (possibly leaving a retainer in charge of the barony or whatever, possibly just abandoning it) to do inter-planar adventures until people got bored or the gaming group collapsed under changing schedules. Epic stories happened or did not based on whether the DM was competent enough a storyteller to do such a thing, not what edition we played. Character personality was likewise based on player investment, not rules incentivization (although DMs who make resurrections plausible is necessary for investment in individual characters in many of them).
*The whole oD&D as heist-movie thing, in particular, seems to be something we didn't catch at all. Yes, in retrospect that is what the harsh combat and GP=XP setup reward, but man was that not obvious at age 8.
 

My wife and I were having a conversation last night about what I see as shifting expectations of play as 5e progresses. The conversation mostly sprang from the changes in Monsters of the Multiverse, based on what I can tell from the previews. More or less it ended with her laughing and telling me I'm a jaded grognard.
This got me thinking about what the corporate written (or intended) expectations of play have been throughout D&D's history and how it might've been different based on how we actually played the game. So I'll write my own experiences here and welcome you to do the same.
1. OD&D
Perceived expectations: Dungeons and adventure sites are presented before expendable characters, who seek treasure for greed and power.
My play: I didn't play this edition at the time and only recently in the form of retroclones. I can say that I ran it as a rules-lite version of 3.x or 5e era D&D, with story, roleplaying, and dungeon exploration, using all the pillars of play.

I only played OD&D long after I'd played B/X, 1e, 2e, and several other games. It was basically a novelty to play. And it was such a short campaign that half the time I don't even consider that I really played it.

2. D&D (B/X, BECMI, etc.) [Note: I've had the same experience with this edition as OD&D - just differentiating it because it's another edition.]
Perceived expectations: Dungeons and adventure sites are presented before expendable characters, who seek treasure for greed and power.

I played this mainly in grade school. So, yes, it was 100% all about kicking in the door, killing everything, and taking all their stuff before the DM would kill us. I played with the older brother of a friend of mine, and often my friend and I were just rolling dice when they told us to. My most prominent memory of B/X play was being on a ship we owned in the middle of a sea, and being attacked by a green dragon. We deployed our 20 or 30 hireling archers and killed it in a few rounds, with heavy casualties. We were upset because we knew there was a treasure hoard out there that we couldn't loot because we had to kill the dragon away from their lair.

I do not remember any characters that I played, but I know that I played at least one Dwarf, I was often stuck being the Cleric, and I always wanted to play an Elf but never got a chance.

3. AD&D 1e
Perceived expectations: "Get good, bro" style tournament modules, adversarial DMing. More character options than previous editions to allow greater customization for more dangerous adventures.
My play: I didn't play this edition at the time and haven't ever played it (even as a retroclone). I have read the books and modules. I have played several adventures for more recent editions based on the design philosophy of 1e, and they seem to match my perceived expectations.
4. AD&D 2e
Perceived expectations: The characters are part of a large, epic story, narrated by the DM. Otherwise the rules are similar to 1e, just a lot of the "teeth" have been taking from the adventures and monsters. The era of massive campaign settings also implies large, story-driven campaigns.
My play: My first edition I played when it was released. I followed the perceived expectations, only in my own campaign world. Very narrative-focused, kept a running tally of character HP behind my screen so I could fudge dice rolls to never kill characters.

I didn't experience any difference in play between 1e and 2e, really. Sure, the settings moved towards more narrative play, but it was still pulp fantasy adventure. It became more mix-maxy as we started to get the racial guides, but we did also start to have real roleplaying focused games even if they were still pulp adventure.

My all-time second favorite character was a 2e human paladin (later ported to 3e) name Tim. Yes, just Tim. I like my human characters to have human names. Tim is known for having survived being the target of a disintegrate spell no less than 30 times. His patron was St Cuthbert, listed as "god of common sense" in the Greyhawk books and -- let me tell you -- being a paladin of common sense is really fun.

5. D&D 3.x
Perceived expectations: "Back to the dungeon." Take the flavor and adversarial design of AD&D 1e, codify the rules into a unified mechanic and give loads of customization options to players to "get even more good, bro."
My play: I totally followed the perceived expectations. Became a Killer DM, ran my adventures like tournaments.

Super min-max powergaming, eventually giving way to more normal characters after coming back to 3e from 4e. The plots in the adventures were heroic, but the player rewards made the game even more loot focused due to item creation rules. All gold was poured into magic items. Character building was a lot of fun, but I never really want to go back to it. It's like finding an old shirt and realizing that the holes that didn't bother you before really are so bad that you can't wear it anymore.

This was the first edition I really DMed, and I learned that I hated DMing 3e. The less said about that the better.

My all-time third and fourth favorite characters were:
A warforged whirling frenzy barbarian named Gadget that was originally created to be mining equipment. He carried an adamantine greatsword forged at the same time as his adamantine body, and whose entire torso would spin madly like a top during a "rage".

A human fire/travel cloistered cleric known only as "Zed", with a phoenix as a patron deity. He had as many reserve and domain feats as I could manage, allowing him to throw firebolts, "teleport" short distances by burning to ash and being "reborn" in another spot, summon fire elementals, and several movement abilities. He was real bad in melee, but nobody ever stayed in melee combat long! This PC was an attempt to push how far the reserve feats could take you, and while they were really good, they did not feel that game-breaking. Well, the teleport did. That was silly.

6. D&D 4e
Perceived expectations: Keep the dungeon theme from 3.x, but put all power based in class abilities that can be easily balanced. Instead of an adversarial DM, you're there to run challenging/exciting encounters that the characters can win. The rules are even more unified to the point where nothing will come as a surprise. Welcome new players into the hobby, including MMORPG players.

4e was based on heroic and epic fantasy, not MMORPGness. You were supposed to start out at level 1 as superheroes, and you pretty much do.

4e was the first time the games truly felt heroic to me, but the complexity of combat and the size of our table at the time meant that one combat would too often take the entire night. I think our table matured a lot from this edition, but ultimately it wasn't fun for us to play very long.

My all-time favorite character was in this edition, a dwarf fighter. He had a name, but it was long and hard to remember, so everyone just called him The Dwarf and that's all I remember now. High defense, high damage, and surprisingly mobile due to some good utility power selections. We decided to roll for stats during session 0 (this was the first 4e campaign) and I rolled stupidly well. In case you were curious, you should absolutely not under any circumstances roll for stats in 4e! This was before the 4e MM damage errata, and the DM could not challenge my character. He was a blast to play, however. It didn't seem to matter what happened, my character always seemed to have exactly the correct ability on cooldown.

Unfortunately, 4e also includes what I'd easily call the worst D&D experiences I've had that were caused by the game itself. (That is to say, those excluding drama coming from the other players.) Just some sessions that were just a total slog to play through, with the game eventually feeling like a 6 hour business meeting.

I'd love to steal the more tactical gameplay from 4e and the whole DM's side of 4e, and stick more of it in 5e, but it really had some significant issues.

7. D&D 5e
Perceived expectations: Take the theme from 2e, with the characters being part of a large, epic story - only instead of sprawling campaign guides, WotC produces campaign adventures (which reinforces the epic story concept even more strongly). Take the rules codification from 3.x but be welcoming to new players like 4e by simplifying everything you can. Don't give many character build options or splats, because that's confusing.

This is the first edition that I don't think has any critical, game-breaking design issues. It certainly has problems that negatively affect play, even negatively affect play at most tables. But it didn't have pre-3e non-design, or 3e's extreme LFQW and prestige class farming and magic item creation abuse, or 4e's overbuilt combat, too many levels, and loss of D&D identity.

Here the game tries to saddle both heroic epic fantasy and pulp fantasy, but it kind does each only so well. It also has a problem with monsters just being sacks of HP. Still, the game is extremely playable and replayable.

My all-time favorite characters from 5e (not numbered because they're not in the top 5):
A tiefling lore bard named Wormwood, who managed to talk the Erlking out of taking his soul for the wild hunt.
A duergar champion fighter named Uther, who began play neutral and later became good due to becoming a werebear
A goblin totem barbarian/fighter named Bronk, who confused many enemies by wearing no armor but shrugging off many hits
A dwarf forge cleric named Thurgarr, who found great use in the commodity items table in the PHB after the DM agreed you can craft them
 

Retreater

Legend
4e was based on heroic and epic fantasy, not MMORPGness. You were supposed to start out at level 1 as superheroes, and you pretty much do.
I understand that. My intent was that Wizards was trying to appeal to MMORPG players in some aspects, not that they were trying to make an MMORPG (which is a common complaint). I think elements like the magic item shops, ease of making (and destroying magic items), clearly defined party roles, are ways to appeal to a video game generation.
Granted this isn't the first time D&D has tried to pull in video game fans. I think 3.x's feat trees, min/maxing skill proficiencies, etc., definitely tried to lure in video gamers.
I'd say that OD&D, B/X, 1e and 2e AD&D basically had no specific appeal to video game players, as they weren't really a defined group during the creation of those rulesets. Concerning 5e, I don't see any ways they are trying to reach video game players in particular.
 

I never played OD&D, but I've played every other edition. I've read a huge amount of adventures for every edition, and I've found that since late 1E and most of BECMI the game has evolved beyond "kick in the door and take the loot." Some adventures don't both too much beyond combat and loot, but most at least have a framing story that allows the DM to detail out a plot.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Yes, there are absolutely expectations picked up by players of the game from looking/ hearing about it, expectations implied by the games creators, and what would actually happen in play, and there could certainly be divergence across all of these.

So, lets pick on 4e to start. First it was clearly meant to be balanced across classes and levels. But its structure made imbalances immediately transparent. For example melee clerics as per the PHB clearly lagged other melee characters, even though they were supposed to be major beneficiaries of the games changes.

Its was also supposed to be a lighter, streamlined experience, especially compared to 3e.But it was really good at creating one huge extended fight after another. From level 1. This does not really feel like a lighter/streamlined experience in play. From early on a common house rule was that monster damage was doubled and that they had half hp. If such a radical change is introduced, there is some gap between expectations and reality for the game.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I understand that. My intent was that Wizards was trying to appeal to MMORPG players in some aspects, not that they were trying to make an MMORPG (which is a common complaint). I think elements like the magic item shops, ease of making (and destroying magic items), clearly defined party roles, are ways to appeal to a video game generation.
Granted this isn't the first time D&D has tried to pull in video game fans. I think 3.x's feat trees, min/maxing skill proficiencies, etc., definitely tried to lure in video gamers.
...
Absolutely true on both counts. And each was supposed to be played on computers. For 3e, this ended when Hasbro licensed out certain video game rights. With 4e it ended when the original VTT kept crashing.

4e did attract MMORGers--it had to, since it seemed like every potential young person who might be interested was playing WOW at that time. They could be hard to integrate in practice, I know not everybody likes the streamers, but they do seem to do a better job of setting expectations.

In any case, we know that 4es new player acquisition was weak. Thats why its stopped.
 

I understand that. My intent was that Wizards was trying to appeal to MMORPG players in some aspects, not that they were trying to make an MMORPG (which is a common complaint). I think elements like the magic item shops, ease of making (and destroying magic items), clearly defined party roles, are ways to appeal to a video game generation.
Granted this isn't the first time D&D has tried to pull in video game fans. I think 3.x's feat trees, min/maxing skill proficiencies, etc., definitely tried to lure in video gamers.

I don't think either of these things is true.

Do I think the contemporary game design zeitgeist had a hand in how D&D 3e and 4e turned out? Absolutely. Everything inherits what's popular at the time. But I think it's a significant leap to go from acknowledging that to arguing that it was intentional or that it was strategically motivated to appeal to a presumed adjacent market.

For 3e, one of the complaints they wanted to address was that most AD&D nonweapon proficiencies didn't really do anything, and also that weapon proficiencies were relatively boring as well because you'd always take the same ones over and over (longsword, longbow, shortsword, dagger). Also, they wanted more ways to customize PCs. But you don't want PCs taking the most powerful abilities at level 1. Gatekeeping abilities by level is already in the game (spell levels), so gatekeeping feats by level works, too. Except another research finding was that players don't like arbitrary requirements like level limits. So, you make feats unlockable after you've done something else like take another feat as a prerequisite. You don't have to even think about video games to arrive at the idea of feat trees.

The real problem is that the game people always point to for 3e D&D's video game influence is Diablo II -- the first game I remember with an ability tree -- and that just doesn't time out correctly. Diablo II released June 29, 2000, and the 3.0 PHB released less than two months later on August 10, 2000. There's simply no way for Diablo II to have had any sort of influence on the design or development of 3e D&D. The PHB would already have gone to the print by the time Diablo II shipped and anyone on the 3e design team sat down to play it. I also remember people complaining that 3e was "too much like Baldur's Gate," which really doesn't make any sense because Baldur's Gate uses AD&D rules.

It's much more likely that the player base that didn't like it just grabbed for any complaint they could, and "It's too much like Diablo" sounds like a legitimate complaint even if it doesn't have any teeth behind it. I remember complaints about 3e that 1st level PCs were too powerful, and both dealt too much damage and had too much hp (which ignores that NPCs had the same changes). Or that cantrips gave out too much magic, which also turned out to not be relevant. Or that mutli-classing didn't make sense or wasn't fair because you could be a Wizard and cast spells in armor (i.e., arcane spell failure was too low). Virtually all these complaints were from people who never played it and didn't want other people to, either. Then there were complaints that the game was too much like Magic: The Gathering because it actually had, you know, an overall design to the system.

For 4e, I really feel the same way. Like, 4e's design started out as a revised version of the D&D miniatures game. The Miniatures Handbook came out in 2003. When you play that game independent of D&D, everything uses cards. There are cards for units and sometimes for items and abilities. Of course the second version of their miniatures game should do the same. The whole game was built around only lasting as long as one combat. And then in 2005 they decided they needed D&D 4e. And their beta v2 miniatures combat game was a ton of fun, with deep combat, and it wouldn't be too much to turn it into a TTRPG. To turn it back into a TTRPG. And replace the RPG whose combat system was holding it back. It was everything that the WotC message boards were saying the players wanted. This time, sure, the developers would have played WoW. But they'd also have had access to EverQuest and MUDs, which is where virtually all of WoW's mechanics came from.

I'd say that OD&D, B/X, 1e and 2e AD&D basically had no specific appeal to video game players, as they weren't really a defined group during the creation of those rulesets. Concerning 5e, I don't see any ways they are trying to reach video game players in particular.

Are you kidding? I remember people complaining that 2e was "dumbed down" or "too video-gamey" and they blamed the gold box games. I distinctly remember people saying THAC0 was too much like the computer games and that it belonged there.

TTRPG players have always been disparaging of video games because they're not quite as flexible as TTRPGs. Whenever they don't like a new edition, they always blame whatever is popular that they don't like that they think is influencing the game. For the past 40 years, that's been video games!

You wait. They'll do it with 6e, too! "Argh it's too much like Elder Scrolls 6! This is just like Final Fantasy 7 Remake Part 4! Oh, it's just Diablo 5!"
 

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