D&D General Formative Experiences, Introductory Editions, and Current Trends and Controversies


I want to talk a little bit about how our early experiences with D&D (and RPGs in general) including the edition or game we started with as well as major formative experiences in roleplaying games impact the way we view current trends in the game and gaming more broadly, including the various controversies.

NOTE: What I don't want to do is actually DEBATE those controversies in this thread. We will have to mention them of course, but we don't need to argue about them here. There are man, many other threads for that and I would like to keep this one focused on how gaming experiences color our viewpoints about certain topics. A part of that is taking care to remember that other people have different experiences than ourselves, and have formed different perspectives. Let's not minimize or otherwise deride other peoples' experiences or perspectives, please.

So, as a child I grew up on fantasy fiction. I was a strong reader early on and got in trouble by teachers for bringing books "too advanced" for me to school. When I was 10 (I had two older brothers, 11 and 13) my dad brought home the Metzner Red Box. Us boys went through the solo adventure together and then my Dad DMed the introductory dungeon for us (this was the first and only time my dad DMed until he was in his 70s and rediscovered tabletop RPGs). In that adventure, my cleric Clarion was killed by the carrion crawler hiding under the rotting gate at the very beginning of the dungeon. After that session, my oldest brother became defacto DM for us and a couple neighborhood friends (one of whom had to lie about what we were doing sicne he came from a strict religious family). We were able to pick up the Expert set in Waldenbooks but that was it. The only module we played was Isle of Dread and it would be years before we were able to find Dragon Magazines or the Companion and Masters sets. We invented everything. In addition, we moved and so my oldest brother and I played together, just us, a lot. Since I was a budding fiction writer, i eventually took over as DM and fell instantly in love. We moved again and I found friends in high school I played AD&D with, then 2nd Edition. When I went off to the Army after High School I made some friends and ran a 2nd Edition Campaign that lasted 20 years through different editions and evin into a new game (Mutants and Masterminds, as my campaign would had advanced to the modern day and became a supers setting). All through that time I played a lot of different games, began doing to some freelance writing and design, and vastly expanded my personal gaming community (with all the moments of drama that can imply -- not everyone is meant to play with one another, even if they are friends!).

How do these experiences color my view of things? Well, for one, I don't think PC death is a big deal and do not understand why people get so upset about the potential for characters dying without their express consent. For me, potential death (even if it is sudden and silly) is part of the game. Because I am also a writer, I don't think of play as story. Story is something else entirely. If I wanted to know how the game was going to turn out, I would writer instead. I play to see what happens. I also don't think much of "lore" or care for published adventures much. I like settings, but only insofar as I think they are interesting to explore. The only D&D setting i ever really got deeply into was Dragonlance, mainly because my most successful high school 2E campaign was DL, and the aformentioned 20 year world was homebrew but had a few elements heavily influenced by DL. I always think of D&D as a toolkit for making my own worlds and things and I don't like when the books bake too much lore or too many assumptions into the material presented. I also think books are too long and there is no reason you could not provide a complete and playable D&D in under 200 pages (and probably significantly less). Weirdly, with many non D&D games I generally prefer the opposite. Most of my favorite games from the 90s -- Earthdawn, Deadlands, etc... -- completely married setting and system. I just don't like it for D&D.

Also, i still think gnomes are useless and shouldn't be a PC race.

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I think you'd need a survey and a fairly elaborate and well-conceived set of questions to derive a huge amount from thinking about this.

Age: 43

Year started: 1989

First RPG: AD&D 2E

How many different RPGs played in first decade? Dozens - possibly over 100.

How did you rate D&D compared to other RPGs in that period? Poorly. We mostly played it because it was extremely well-supported and everyone knew it, but only a minority of our RPG-time from 1989-1999 was AD&D.

First DM: My older female cousin, who was extremely good DM and taught me a DMing approach which is common now but was 10-15 years ahead of the curve at the time.

First players: My brother and friends from school.

I wasn't able to read books until I was 7, for unclear reasons (learning disability? being a twit? who knows) but then by the time I was 10 I was reading at a university level (suggesting I was just being a twit lol). I read a ton of fantasy from like 9 to 17, at which point it started to turn me off. By then I'd got through a huge amount of "the greats" of previous eras, particularly including Moorcock, Le Guin, and Tolkien, as well as countless terrible D&D novels. It was probably a good time to stop, because that was the beginning of a new era of fantasy (1995) and it took a while for it to build up. I got back into fantasy in 2000 thanks to Perdido Street Station.

Views-wise, er I dunno what we're supposed to be listing but:

PC death:

Usually boring and annoying. Especially in 2E. Virtually every death I saw in 2E was extremely undramatic, usually a middling enemy in a fight which was not plot-important, would somehow down/kill a PC. Or a TPK would be a slow death-spiral resulting from serious mistakes by say, 2 players in a 5 player party. It didn't typically feel very justified or interesting, especially as the ones who caused it were often the last to go, or even escaped (I guess making it not technically a TPK but you get my meaning).

I'd love to have seen more dramatic PC deaths but I just haven't. And indeed there are surprisingly few stories of interesting PC deaths that don't involve a player intentionally deciding that a PC died. In fact I'd expand that - usually when a PC dies, like 7 times out of 10, the PC isn't dying because their player made either a mistake, or a choice which was going to lead to that, they're dying because another player did something dumb, or neglected to do something which had been agreed, or just because the dice really rolled pretty wildly (the first ever TPK I did involved 4 goblins vs a 6-person party and I rolled 4 nat-20s for their first four attacks...).

After a few too many TPKs to just totally random dice rolls, I started fudging if it was going to happen, so we didn't have to keep rolling up new parties and giving up on or restarting or drastically modifying adventures. I think TPKs probably work a bit better with a sandbox approach. 4E and 5E are balance and predictable enough that I was able to be done with fudging, thankfully.

Current controversies?

1) Weird old racist stuff - Yeah it's weird and racist. Some of it seemed pretty weird and racist even in the 1990s. There's no reason we shouldn't talk about it or pretend it isn't weird and racist or try and make up reasons they it's "good, actually" lol.

We particularly shouldn't have to do stuff because it makes some aging grog feel uncomfortable if we criticise the book he was into when he was 10 in 1979. Like bro, I liked Tintin when I was that age. Doesn't mean I can go around trying to make people say nice things about Tintin or pretend it wasn't super-racist.

2) 5E's recent changes - Apart from the bizarre and I think mostly laziness-related decision to remove height/weight ranges and age expectations from races, and the slight cowardice of backtracking to "races" from "lineages" (which actually has more applicability anyway than races!), I think they all make sense.

3) Are modern TT RPGs better or worse than older ones?

They're very clearly better, because they're intentionally designed, and their design reflects what works, rather than just eccentric notions of some dude in the Midwest somewhere.

What else?


Age: 42
Year started: '91? Hard to say for sure I started, stopped, started for several years in the 90's and aughts.
First RPG: 2E
How many in first decade: 2-3
First DM: School mate

PC Death:
It happens. The frequency and expectations depends entirely on system.
OSR: its fun and part of skill play.
Modern D&D: It happens, but player agency to protect their PC is abundant.
Other systems: Depends on expectations. Sometimes the genre is a meatgrinder, other times, there are better fail states than death to explore.

Individual characters vs party:
D&D works best as a team game. I prefer to have a group goal in mind for a campaign and sessions make headwinds towards that goal. That said, OSR style gaming is less narrative oriented and thus copacetic group play is less necessary. Non-D&D games often have less team requirements to play, so they do individual characters with divergent goals and views much better.

Current Controversies
Weird racist stuff
A product of their times. I expect modern publishers to at least make an effort to produce inclusive and non-offensive products.

Inherently evil races
A prefer a more nuanced setting, where cultures can encompass a wide variety of philosophies. I do like things such as undead and planar beings to take the inherently evil space.

Love the 9 point system. I know its general, but im a-ok with that. Our sessions are often filled with deep discussions on motivations and morality. I also like cosmos driven wars and mechanical impacts (to a certain degree). Totally get that is not what many folks want from their RPG. Modern takes continue to make removing alignment trivial. So don't see why its a controversy anymore.

I'm a hopeless extrovert. I talk to think. I learn from people and doing, more than I do from books. So, learning from both newcomers and old timers has had a large impact on my playstyle. Since I enjoy discussion as much as the game itself, I like exploring systems and playstyles instead of sticking to one. Forum discussions have helped me understand the game, and what I like, more than any game master guide or designer commentary.

I lacked suitable players and GMs for the first half of my gaming experience. It was a never ending series of start ups and shutdowns. Always D&D too. It wouldn't be until the last 15 years that I really got into long lasting campaigns and a variety of systems. I do my best to pass it along with new comers, help folks with questions, and debate gaming philosophies with other game heads.

I dont believe in one true ways and always try and tailor my messages to be constructive/informative. I wasn't always like this, but I try my best to lead by example. I still have my moments now and then.



No rule is inviolate
Age: 43
Year Started: 1988
First RPG: original Red Box from Waldenbooks in the mall

Formative Moment(s):

High school, offered to run a game and 10 people showed up to my small house and small card table. Knew I was going to be a DM.

When I could admit, without feeling ashamed, that I played D&D to people I recently met in public.

Views on PC Death:

Happened all the time in AD&D. Death can make for just a good story as victory. However, over time I liked deaths to make a good story, and if one were simply a string of bad die rolls, that's not fun. So, I'd run adventures to rescue souls, find reincarnations, items to resurrect, or simply work with the player to make the death more dramatic (or a "I lived but permanently scarred and retiring as an NPC") and meaningful.

Current "controversies":

Orcs and Drow are evil, or are they? I expect publishers to do something about it to reflect sensible approaches for a wide variety of consumers. At my table, escapism dictates simplicity and they're evil NPCs because I'm not having to take that approach.

Racist/sexist stuff. I have had a wide variety of people at my table over the years, so I aim to make my world reflect the real world in that way. If an old adventure doesn't have an openly gay couple running a tavern, mine might. And no chainmail bikinis. Ouch. And no, I'm not revisiting controversy #1 because I don't need to. It works this way for my table.

Alignment. I use it because I think at my table (again, MY table) it helps roleplay and is more meaningful on a cosmic scale with Order/Chaos and the whole universe.

5E could be better if.... I'll put what I do out there, but I think people really have a hard time forgetting that what works for your table may not work for mine. And vice versa. Too many times on these forums people respond to a home-brew rule with negative "you shouldn't do that" talk instead of something constructive. We're all out here to have fun, so keep it civil and I won't try to tell you 5E could be better if you just did what I do... Unless you want me to.


D&D 5E is a great fit, except for high level play. Still haven't solved how to make that less of a slog. AD&D days got parties to 20th level 2x. Since then, never.


I've been gaming for, well...awhile. Not exactly at the VERY beginning, but closer than most. Started with OD&D. Didn't even have the books at the time or really access to them, just trusted the guys running the game. I've seen all the versions and played all the various "editions."

Personal view - It's a different game today than it was originally. ONLY the name is the same. They killed D&D back when WotC created it's "New and Improved" version in 3e. They tried to tried to TRULY kill it dead by killing the old game and replacing it with something else using the same name. It is similar to what Disney did to the original fairy tale of the Ugly Duckling. Lilo and Stitch is a great movie, but to say it's the Ugly Duckling is basically pretending the original doesn't exist as the stories are so different that it's really not the same thing. Sure, it's BASED off the story of the Ugly Duckling, but Lilo and Stitch is NOT the Ugly Duckling.

That said, just like Lilo and Stitch is a great movie, D&D under WotC has been pretty great as well.

Controversies -

Racial controversies going on - I personally don't care all that much WHAT they decide to do with their races, monsters, etc. in the overall broad picture. I have some opinions, but to be honest, they really don't matter all that much. I'll play as I want and go as I want. As long as they don't make it so that there is no longer a rule zero and you HAVE to play a specific way (for instance, this new multiverse idea, if they demanded that the only way to properly play is to have a multiverse campaign...that's starting to be on the edge of being to specific...though it's ONLY the start, not that deep yet) then I think I'm going to be good with whatever changes they make.

Inherently evil races - See above

Alignment - Honestly, in modern D&D we don't use it all that much in general. I'd prefer it to stay, but if we lose it...with the CURRENT and modern game...I don't think it's any big deal. Earlier versions it would have been much bigger, but with 5e...meh.

My biggest gripe about 5e has always been about how limited they made Bounded accuracy and how they applied the proficiency bonus, but I've talked about that enough.

Most of my biggest views are unpopular anyways in regards to what I'd like changed or different so...that's not happening.

For example, rather than exanding the number of races playable, restrict them down again. Make it so that you can only play a Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. Maybe a Gnome and Half-Orc.

Other races can be playable via other books, but no Dragonborn, no Tieflings, etc. in the core. That's not happening.

And you know, that's fine. People have different ways of playing and I'm good with it.

PS: Of interest, did you know, that you could play ANYTHING in OD&D (at least that's how we interpreted it). You want to be a Dragon...you can be a dragon. You want to be a Kobold...you can be a Kobold. You want to be a Helicoptor...well...You COULD be a helicopter but that's really going to be dependent on how lenient your DM is. The only instruction was that you had to be able to have some form of advancement for the PC.

In that way, OD&D was really kind of the wild west in what you could make up and create and play. At least, how we played it.

That all sort of changed with a more structural emphasis on playing it specifically in a certain way when AD&D started rolling around, and much more strongly once the 80s seemed to start if I recall correctly (which, I may be just remembering wrong too).

Just one of those interesting things I recall from early on. If they incorporated some of those ideas from the early days now...NOW THAT could cause some controversy I imagine.

Without going into all the details, I'm 64 and have been gaming since 1975 and OD&D. I bailed out of it after about 3-4 years for other games, didn't go back until the 3e era, then mostly bailed out of D&D again. D&D isn't, on the whole, structured the way I want an RPG to be (I don't find either classes or levels a good way to manage characters).

Regarding various controversies, I think there's legitimate reason to confront most all of them, but I also think some of the objections are set in bases that are bottomless pits once you start following them down. That doesn't mean they aren't worth pursuing, it just means that at some point in the process you're liable to lose me, and not, I think, because I'm an old fart or a grognard (though I'm both).

On the whole, I think games have iterated toward better design over time, though not without loss of some things I think had some value along the way.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I want to talk a little bit about how our early experiences with D&D (and RPGs in general) including the edition or game we started with as well as major formative experiences in roleplaying games impact the way we view current trends in the game and gaming more broadly, including the various controversies.

Sorry, but my current attitudes are not strongly linked to my initial experiences, but to a variety of other experiences I have had over the intervening decades.

And, I would note that the fact that one can build a plausible narrative linking early experiences to current attitudes does not actually demonstrate causation.

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
Age: 37
Year started: 1998 (I played a couple of times before that, but '98 was my freshman year of high school and also when I seriously started gaming)
First RPG: The Classic D&D Game (the mid-90s trade-sized reissue of the black box)

Formative experiences: Played Classic D&D and AD&D 2E in high-school, with peers and teachers alike (though the way teachers ran games had little impact on how we played amongst ourselves, and we had considerably more time to play amongst ourselves). My friends and I took turns DMing campaigns, with the tacit understanding that one campaign = one complete multi-arc (typically save-the-world) "plot", and like a JRPG, once that plot was done with, the world it took place in was also to be discarded and never revisited again. Each player in the group brought their favorite flavor of fantasy to their own campaigns. For me it was Oz and Narnia (and after 2001, Arcanum); for my friend who owned the D&D set it was Final Fantasy and Quest for Glory; for our third compatriot it was Tolkien; and our fourth was a Shining Force fan. Our play-style eventually became a mélange of these influences and the 90s trad play-culture (which could best be summed up by the grating admonition: "Role-play, don't roll-play"). Group member no. 2 (the FF/QfG stan who owned the D&D box) was our most frequent DM at first, and he was adamant about ignoring as many game-rules as possible, as often as possible: he basically wanted D&D to be freeform improv, as well as an opportunity for him to make up stories on the fly (which was, of course, precisely why they always felt like railroads). His attitude was that DMing was "his art," and because of that, to this day, I recoil from too much improv, too much on-the-fly GMing, or any pretension that RPGs are an art-form.

My preference, meanwhile, was to actually read and apply the rules. (But I still bought into that 90s "It'S aLl AbOuT tHe StOrY" hogwash, so my own DMing style back then was still as trad as trad could be.) As soon as we could afford 2E books, we switched to 2E. (Any 1E books that we found were incorporated into our 2E games without question. We never played 2E without monks and assassins.) When 3E came out, we immediately rejoiced at how much it "fixed" clunky, restrictive old D&D. In college, I carried on playing 3E and then 3.5 until around 2006, when I got sick of the edition's burdensome complexity. I switched back to Classic D&D and was immediately happier with those rules. (It also helped that the OSR started happening shortly thereafter, providing content for my edition of choice.) I got really into the OSR, including doing a bit of publishing; but it was a long, halting, stop-and-go journey for me to shake off the trad play-style and figure out old-school. I didn't run a megadungeon until 2011. I didn't run a sandbox hex-crawl or start awarding XP for treasure until 2012. (In 2013–2014 I actually quit D&D for a time, believing that I had exhausted the possibilities of dungeon-delving campaigns, and because I grew to dislike the power curve. The OSR game Beyond the Wall flattened that curve and brought me back into the fold, but I tried many, many other RPGs during this window, and none of them ever "scratched the itch" like D&D.) I didn't let PCs die at 0 hp until just before the pandemic started, and I had never run level drain by the book, or enforced training to level up, or tried to run a proper "troupe play / West Marches" type campaign until this year.

But it's a fact that every time I've discarded a remnant of trad play in favor of the old-school, my campaigns have been better for it, and I've been happier with my DMing.


Yes, old D&D has some obnoxiously problematic material in it. It is for the best to change those things and move forward. (But don't forget that they were there either: put a disclaimer on old books and keep 'em in print.) Do I think that orcs and drow should be inherently evil? Definitely not, if they're mortal humanoids with intelligence and moral agency. But that doesn't preclude settings where they're not natural creatures — if orcs are demonic flesh-constructs, or drow are amoral fae spirits, do whatever you like with them. (In my own campaigns, I like the notion of grounded, humanoid orcs and goblins, but I also want to fill the demonic flesh-construct niche with critters inspired by the likes of skaven, broo, and trollocs.)

Are new RPGs better than old RPGs? Clearly not. Game design is fashion trends, not technology. It doesn't appear to me to evolve cumulatively the way that a growing body of knowledge does. Game designers aren't auteurs, and modern game design is full of nasty pitfalls. Game rules that look "streamlined" or "elegant" on paper are no guarantee of a superior experience at the table. (I've come by that realization the honest way, boy-howdy.) Conversely, "clunky" rules and lookup tables can in fact be the best tool for the job. Certainly, restrictions have their place when it comes to fostering creativity. And if you ask me, "system matters" can only take you so far: yes, it matters somewhat, but it's nowhere near as determinative as received wisdom would have it. (If you, in your capacity as GM, ignore a rule in the moment for whatever reason, you're not suddenly not playing that game anymore.) And this weird modern obsession with laser-focusing a game on one custom-tailored experience — that only narrows what games can do. TTRPGs shouldn't be Unix apps; DOTADIW isn't a virtue in and of itself, any more than preferring a variety of systems over a universal system is virtuous. (And D&D is plenty bendable enough if you want D&D to be your universal system, thank you very much!)
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Great Old One

Age: 57, going on 58...

Year Started: 1978

First RPG: Holmes Basic

How many different RPGs played in first decade? I'm not sure. A lot, since I was in a club and we liked to experiment, but the first years, there were not that many on the market, and certainly not available in France for the most part. But in the early years certainly Runequest (still a favorite), Traveller, Bushido, Chivalry and Sorcery, Gamma World, Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Palladium, Paranoia, etc. .Plus a number of french RPGs, some of which were really great like Reve de Dragon or Légendes Celtiques. A bit of Das Schwarze Auge as well from Germany.

How did you rate D&D compared to other RPGs in that period? Honestly, it was the best to play with the most people. I absolutely loved Runequest (and still do), but it was harder to find people because of the complex system and the immersion in the world. Also loved Bushido because of the samurai vibe, but even harder to find players. D&D was simply great and simple enough to allow anyone to play almost immediately, a quality that I appreciate in 5e as well.

First DM: Me, then a friend from school.

First players: Friends from school, we are still friends and I see them regularly, but we stopped playing together a while ago. Some of their children play, however, I did a few introductory adventures and I play with them now and again.

Reading: Could not find a lot of fantasy reading in France, and my parents thought it was a bit early to read things like Lovecraft. Still I read as much as my father's collection of Sci-Fi as early as I could, along with lots of things like Sherlock Holmes, etc. But the real revelation was the Lord of the Rings, which I was reading when going to the US, where the family, after discussing with me about that and about an article about very early D&D in a french science magazine, offered me my first D&D box. Unfortunately, my english was not good enough to run a game for the boy of the family and his french, so I came back to France. However, that trip also showed me that there was a wide fantasy section of books, so I found my way to the english bookshops in Paris, Brentano and W.H. Smith, where I could start reading all the fantasy I could find. A lot did not leave a lasting impression, except for Moorcock, Feist, and Brust who were extremely close to the way we ended up playing D&D in spirit, but also huge classics like Earthsea, Poul Anderson. There were also some french translations, of Howard, Vance, Zelazny, Leiber, Farmer, etc.

PC Death: Lots of them at the start, but during the 80s, our roleplaying got much stronger, and we shifted a lot to story-mode, which implied that death became at the very least meaningful. So lots of resurrections at first, and since we were playing at mid to really high level, it was OK. For playing at high level, Vlad Taltos was really an inspiration, about the way death and resurrection are handled (as well as teleportation, artefacts, etc.). Since then, not much has changed, I was in engineering school from 1984, met a crowd of incredible players, a few of which I'm still playing with today, so our style has not much changed.

Except during 3e, when I started a mega-shared-campaign with 5 other DMs (and a few more after that), in which I wanted adventurers to be real survivors, and players to learn to have fear, and run again. It was a real success, tons of senseless deaths at first in horrible dungeons, but it worked really well. After the first 2-3 years, we had the right mood, a combination of story and carefulness that suited us, and the adventurers where higher level, so raising was introduced in the campaign, although limited (due to resources and other special campaign factors) to higher levels, characters with already a story. We ended up after more than 10 years of campaign and some of the heroes ascending (quite a few more death of high level characters this time, but meaningful sacrificing themselves to allow others to ascend).

Current controversies: Summary = Really Annoying because for me it's mostly about people wanting to push their real world views (and localised one at that, there are areas in the world with many more critical problems including real survival but these are not pushed) into the game, ignoring the fact that these are purely fantasy settings for a game, as if people were not able to distinguish fantasy from reality or historical reality of the past from the present day. And forcing WotC to make changes into the game without real rhyme or reason in terms of balance, resulting in a diluted game where interesting dramatic situations are considered "offensive". So absolutely yes to inclusivity being described strongly in modules and settings, but absolutely no to reducing the scope of the game or diluting options, if I want a fantasy race like minotaurs to be stronger, or races like gully dwarves to be not as smart, what is the problem exactly ? Are all fantasy races/species to have the same stats for "equality" reasons ?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for inclusivity, but I much prefer living it by playing with people of all colors, religions, genders, etc. all around the world, real people - who, by the way, never had anything bad to say about situations presented in the game - than restricting what I can do in a game which is pure fantasy because of people imagining that it could hurt others. If I restrict things in the game (e.g. violence, or more than romantical relationships), it's for the comfort of the people around the table, and it's a table agreement.

Apart from that, yes, some old D&D products are the result of their time, and people should be mature enough to understand it and see that D&D has accompanied the changes in society since these were produced.

Are modern TT RPGs better or worse than older ones? That is a very difficult question to answer. Do you consider 5e a modern TTRPG ? In a sense, it is, and at the same time, it calls back to early editions. It is certainly better than very old ones like Chivalry and Sorcery or Rolemaster, way too complex and imbricated, sometimes making no more sense despite trying to be extremely simulationist. And it is the best edition of D&D, simple and streamlined, and still supporting tons of different styles of play, allowing people to jump in and play casually, as well as supporting high level play fairly well. I think the people who don't like it are more on the gamist area, clearly wanting a more technical and crunchy game, and that's fine, Level Up is there for them.

As for other RPGs, well I must confess that it's been a really long while since I tried one. I don't have the luxury to play as much as I would like, and honestly I don't think I've seen a new concept that would draw me in that much. I'll see when I'm retired. :)

Age: 36
First DM: Either the computer or me, see below
First edition: 2e or 3e, see below
Started playing in: Either 2000 or early 1990s, see below
Current controversies: absolute quixotic nonsense. (Or possibly the opposite of Don Quixote but with the same effect; if they can't conceive of even the possibility of an intelligence that isn't essentially human or of a conflict that isn't a metaphor for a real world conflict then perhaps they shouldn't be playing a fantasy roleplaying game)
Alignment: Like it, am ok with not using it provided that this doesn't require a setting overhaul (ie. don't drop it in Planescape), am NOT ok with the half-assed version from 4e

If you count tabletop only, I started playing D&D in the year 2000. If you count the Gold Box games I started in the early 1990s

Personal view - It's a different game today than it was originally. ONLY the name is the same. They killed D&D back when WotC created it's "New and Improved" version in 3e.

3e did change the vast majority of the game mechanics, but it did retain the game's most distinctive mechanic, it's bizarre magic system
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I'm 37, started D&D with 3rd edition in 2000, began playing with B/X in 2013, and 5th edition in 2020.

And I don't even know what the current controversies about D&D are supposed to be. Something, something inclusion. Yes, some of my friends I've played D&D with are not white, and half of them are women. I don't put stereotypical carricatures of other cultures into my campaigns, and I don't see a point in having enemy creatures in my games that are "just like human, except inherently evil".
What exactly are the controversies? I see people talk a lot about the topic of controversies, while not actually saying what controversies they refer to.

Age: 28 (Born January of 1994)
First DM: Forever GM since I got us started.
First Edition: 4e
Started Playing: 2010
Current Controversies: There is a legitimate need to make the hobby more welcoming, address inequalities in the industry, and rework things to be less racist and such. Not every controversy is created equal however, so I feel like some deserve scrutiny. Pervasive Fascism is endemic to our culture and I believe it manifests itself when any of us wield power, while power itself distributes differently along social lines, the cultural narratives that structure how we abuse power are part of everyone's experience. The end result of this is that we need to fight for change, but watch ourselves carefully for abuses of the power we're wielding, it shouldn't be a matter of identity as authority, because authority is ripe for abuse. Similarly, I suspect our current standards for cultural appropriation, they seem to be primarily rooted in problematic nationalist and colonialist, and racially essential notions of how culture work and what occurs at their boundaries.
Alignment: Meh, take it or leave it, at this point it feels like it mostly creates arguments and such-- my own Pathfinder setting uses a variant where only Outsiders (and God-powered classes) have it.

Age: 43
First DM: Me, actually. I was 11 years old, got the books, and ran a game for some other kids in summer camp.
First Edition: BECMI D&D (red box)
Started Playing: 1990. Played off and on Mage: the Ascension and Call of Cthulhu through the end of high school in 1997 (as well as the goldbox and eye of beholder series), then didn't play until 2020 and the pandemic, when I started playing 5e remotely with friends of a friend.
Current Controversies: PC death--whatever your group wants to do. It's a game. You want to have a funnel and kill most of your PCs, have a good time. You want to avoid PC death so you can run a 'theater of the mind' tiefling--aasimar romance, have a good time. Connection to personal experiences: I played Mage: the Ascension and enjoyed that, and I had the same character throughout the whole thing. I played Call of Cthulhu, enjoyed that, and we all know what happens to characters there. ;)
Orcs and drow are evil: I don't have a strong opinion either way. Inventing both evil and non-evil cultures for humans, orcs, drow, and everything else seems like a nice way to keep everyone happy. It doesn't entirely make sense every orc is evil--I just figured humans are fighting the orcs all the time so they say that about them. Just learn Orcish and you can hear all the propaganda about 'small-teeth' who invade their underground cities, kill baby orcs in their cradles, and interbreed with (yuck) elves. They used to call condoms 'French letters'. You know what the French used to call them? 'Capot anglaise'--English hat. Connection to personal experiences: Dunno. I've read a lot of the books and it's interesting to watch them change the art, writing, etc. over the years. I'm not terribly surprised they would adjust that stuff.
Political stuff: Wizards is a for-profit entity and has an increasingly left-leaning customer base. You would expect any company that wants to survive to cater to their customer base. The fact that I don't like it doesn't mean much, because I'm not the target audience anymore. The game used to be aimed at me, now it's not, so I lose, but there are more people who felt excluded who now don't, and you want their money, so what do I expect? You run your game, I'll run mine. Moral relativism works here because in a D&D game, there's no 'real' world to fight over. Everyone decides what they want their universe to look like. Connection to my personal experiences: I've swung back and forth a few times and generally find everyone lies about something. that and, having been out for so long, I just can't see having flamewars, let alone threatening people (really? people do that? apparently they do) over a game any group of people can play how they want. We have enough misery fighting over the real world, we don't need to add to it with the fantasy one. (I've also had negative personal experiences with the left, though my general ideology is closer to theirs.)
Alignment: You can get rid of it if you want. I would probably keep it around if you're running older stuff, ditch it for the newer stuff that doesn't use it. Connection to personal experiences: There was at least one case back in my preadolescent gaming years when one guy did something nasty to a new player in-game and I docked him a level ('your alignment is now Chaotic, you lose one level'). Didn't seem to faze him much.
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Space Jam Confirmed
Age: 45
Year started: 1986
First RPG: Mentzer BECMI
How many in first decade: Probably about half a dozen. My group definitely dabbled with Runequest, Top Secret, and Shadowrun, but the only one I remember us spending any significant amount of time with other than D&D was the Marvel Superheroes TTRPG (which was dreadfully designed). My initial playing period was fall 1986 through summer 1994, so less than a decade actually. Then pretty much didn't play until 2017.

My 1986-94 and 2017-present gaming periods are obviously quite different. As a kid, I really didn't know anyone outside my immediate circle of friends who played (we taught ourselves) so had no frame of reference for what anybody else was doing. Now obviously you can audit thousands of tables online and easily play with many, many different people.

As a teenager, I realized that being open about the fact that I played D&D was not going to advantage me socially, so I didn't talk about it much. As an adult, I was re-introduced to it by younger actors at my theater, and no longer feel self-conscious about it. I started DMing professionally in 2020, eventually also working as an agent to help other DMs get players since I have more requests for games than I can take on myself. I am currently running 3 campaigns and playing in another, involving a total of 21 different people. A majority of my current players are women, which is a HUGE difference from the 86-94 period during which I don't think I ever had even one female player or DM.

First DM: My friend Adam (age 10). Although in truth I was hooked from just playing the solo adventure in the Mentzer book (somebody owned it and we all it passed around over the course of a week or so to play the solo adventure and learn the game).
First players: My 10-year-old friends

PC Death:
Happens, but rare. I think that's pretty consistently been the case from 1E on. For me, some risk of death adds spice. But too much death would make it too hard to invest in characters. I don't begrudge or police how anybody handles this at their own table.

Really haven't used it since 1988.

Current Controversies
I find it almost impossible to discuss this without wading into real-world politics, because I feel that the issues in D&D directly reflect broader issues in society. And I know it is against the terms of this board to actually discuss those issues. D&D is art and all art is political. I will just say that I support the changes and updates to D&D in its current incarnation and think that what has been done thus far was quite necessary and warranted. My experience has been that if you are someone who is upset by things like the move away from intelligent races who have a biological imperative to be evil, you are pretty likely to be somebody with whom I have real-world political disagreements.

I'll chime in on the "chain mail bikini" issue, because I actually actually happened to observe a discussion about this between three of my female players. One of the women was discussing how she liked newer minis, because the older female minis her boyfriend owned were in chainmail bikinis which she hated. The other two women immediately said, "Wait, we can have chainmail bikinis?" and demanded to know where their characters could find some to wear. So it's not necessarily an issue of "chainmail bikinis = bad". It's just that chainmail bikinis can't be the ONLY way women are portrayed.

Similarly, I had an experience where a white player, in a table where slightly more than half the players are non-white, became concerned that it might be wrong for her to play a tiefling because she was essentially briefly putting on the hat of an oppressed minority race as part of a fun game, whereas other players at the table were actually living that reality away from the table. The non-white players thanked her for her concern and agreed it was a valid one, but assured her than in this particular case, at this particular table, it was not an issue because they trusted her as a player and me as a DM. But everyone agreed it was a pretty valid question to ask and not something that you'd necessarily want to just assume is okay.
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Li Shenron

I want to talk a little bit about how our early experiences with D&D (and RPGs in general) including the edition or game we started with as well as major formative experiences in roleplaying games impact the way we view current trends in the game and gaming more broadly, including the various controversies.

My first ever experience playing D&D was with the "Black Box". I don't know if the DM was using some house rules at character creation, but there were minimum ability scores to play each class, either strictly required or imposing XP penalties if you didn't reach those minimums. We had to roll 3d6 in order, but the DM allowed some adjustments. I ended up with so poor numbers that even with the adjustments I only qualified to played the only class I wasn't interested at all in i.e. Dwarf, and with overall poor scores at everything. Apparently I was a decent enough player even as a beginner, because my wish for it to die quickly so that I could re-roll everything and maybe get to play an Elf never happened, and I was stuck with the crippled Dwarf until the end of the campaign.

That experience definitely planted the seeds of my eternal disdain at any player who whines that their character is not competent enough at something to be playable.

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