D&D General What *is* D&D? (mild movie spoilers)

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
If you have multiple countries that are super-high magic, and you can't even reliably look at the sky for fear of seeing high magic, I think you're stretching the definition of "everywhere," at last as far as Mystara and Krynn. (Krynn has at least one flying castle and ubiquitous dragons, whenever you don't have gods lobbing meteorites at cities.)

D&D was certainly low magic for a brief, fondly remembered period, but I would say that period ended in the early to mid 1980s. The outrage of "this isn't my D&D" is extremely late.
To be fair, I've had this outrage for quite a while. 😉

All the Dragonlance examples you gave are for specific time periods or in specific areas. And the existence of one flying ship does not a high magic suffused setting make.

Different people have different experiences. I'm not saying people didn't play in high magic dominant settings. I'm saying they didn't all play there, and the game didn't make that assumption in the rulebooks. I'm objecting to the argument, "what you're talking about never existed, so you're wrong".
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yeah, the movie's version of the Forgotten Realms is much, much higher magic than I'm comfortable with in my Ptolus campaign. I feel the same way about 99% of the actual play campaigns l watch or listen to.

But I also concede that higher magic levels are extremely common. I recall very few people objecting to The Adventure Zone having fantasy race cars and a fantasy train, for instance, or a giant floating telepathic jellyfish as a prominent recurring NPC, all of which were way over the line for me.
I'm not saying high magic settings are objectionable, or that they're not extremely common in modern games. Like I said, I enjoyed the heck out of that movie. I'm objecting to the idea that D&D has always been that way.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Leaning HARD on magic items feels very D&D.

You delve into Dungeons to get treasure and you get magic items to get more treasure. Then you get more magic items and slay or avoid the dragon to get more treasure.

Whether you are a whole bunch of nonmagical humans or a group half comprised of spellcaster or the party is touched by magic in ever member, it they don't die horribly early magic items is often in the mix as a base assumption.
Again, it's a spectrum. A given non-4e campaign has as many or as few magic items as the DM wants to allow and the players will accept (in 4e the DM doesn't really have a choice).
 

dave2008

Legend
Different people have different experiences. I'm not saying people didn't play in high magic dominant settings. I'm saying they didn't all play there, and the game didn't make that assumption in the rulebooks. I'm objecting to the argument, "what you're talking about never existed, so you're wrong".
As I noted before, i think 5e works really well set to low magic. Other than classes I don't feel there is an assumption of magic.
 

OldOwlbear

Explorer
The movie certainly portrays a version of D&D, but not one I find enjoyable. I vastly prefer sitting closer to Appendix N than the movie does or most recent game books. It’s just not fun for me and not my taste. I’m happy there is an effort to create games to fill that gap with DCC, Hyperborea, and most recently Shadowdark, but I think it makes sense that some D&D fans are disappointed in the direction of the IP. It exists because of people’s passion for it and it would be strange for people not to have feelings about it when it goes in a direction they don’t want. I hope people continue to voice their desire for an old school style of D&D so that things continue to be made in that style, if not by WotC then by 3PPs.

What’s really awkward for WotC is that they sold one version of D&D, but the next big project is Dragonlance. It makes sense too - it’s an epic in the style of LotR with tons of material to use. But it’s a drastically different story and world from Honor Among Thieves. Realistically I think Hasbro is going for it all - they want to pull in fans that like a variety of D&Ds and they’ll support what sells most.

Sorry I’m biased so I’m rooting for Dragonlance. But to honestly answer the question, I don’t know what D&D is. WotC seems to want it to be the hobby, and a brand, and to serve multiple tastes if the plans for Dragonlance are any indication. But how do you do that? How do you explain to a broader audience that this next D&D movie/show is also D&D but very different? I guess the MCU did that well, but all the stories at least had a consistent setting.

The loss of Appendix N over the decades is somewhat of a loss for the game I think. Appendix N is a snapshot of fantasy/science fantasy from a very 20th century perspective that is now unique and quite different from fantasy today. I think what made D&D succeed was having this guiding framework of what an adventure means so that they could construct a concise set of game rules to emulate that fiction. Without a guiding framework, can the rules hold up on their own as they develop and are updated? Or do they start trying to appeal to too many types of adventure stories; becoming a jack of all trades but master of none so to speak?
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
As I noted before, i think 5e works really well set to low magic. Other than classes I don't feel there is an assumption of magic.
I don't either, really. But I'm starting to wonder if WotC does, if the public face of the game is as high magic as what we just got. No judgement though, just an observation.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Again, high magic stuff has been part of D&D forever, but it wasn't  everywhere you look. I and others made this point more than once above. Giving me more examples of high magic stuff isn't refuting my point.
You're correct. I really think people are looking at early D&D days (and I think this really started to change at the end of the 1E days, perhaps about the time that Unearthed Arcana came out, which was 1985) through a strange lens.

Just because a setting had things like powerful wizards in it, that meant nothing compared to what the game was like. Conan has powerful sorcerers and even elder gods in it, so I suppose that means it's not sword and sorcery either.

A low level OE, Basic or 1E game was an almost entirely martial character dominated thing, punctuated by a few spells or healing (which you needed to avoid constant downtime). It was a game of exploration and avoiding combat as much as possible. Kicking in doors resulted in quick character death as one or two bad rolls by the DM meant your character was dead.

It was also filled with gonzo elements and bizarre other worldly stuff at different times (Tharizdun: I'm recalling you). Those things were hidden behind the surface and often result in character death. The cultists in the Caves of Chaos were pretty weird stuff and would also fit right in with Conan.

If you look at the modules of the time, so the B series, the A series, Hommlet, you'll see that there was magic, but it was seldom if ever out in the open. I remember T1 had the ultimate revelation of the evil cult at the moat house, and you met Lareth who was very powerful. Again, that moat house could have been in Conan. Conan versus giant frogs? Awesome! Other adventures were the Lost City, the A series (the Slave Lords) and eventually the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and the Temple of Elemental Evil. That was what we played when not doing homebrew stuff.

A lot of those adventures had some gonzo elements (the later temple stuff was just weird) but at it's heart we were playing in a grounded, low powered world until higher level. The Temple of Elemental Evil had some crazy over the top stuff, but that was the capstone for the entire campaign after years of battling orcs and goblins and other similar creatures.

Yes there were strange adventures (Castle Amber: looking at you) but the notion that these were a ton of high powered games just wasn't the case, until we got to higher levels, which took years and years! Oh for the return of summer break and playing an entire module series!

The funny part is that if you had showed me 5th edition back in 1982, I would have loved it because the style of play we have today is something I enjoy much more in most ways. But to say that games of that era weren't fundamentally different from what D&D would become at the end of 1E and onward is just incorrect. The fact that the Circle of Eight existed didn't affect us because we never heard of them in our adventures. We were more interested in the coin for training and getting some healing potions to stay alive.

Now I'm sure not saying mine was the only way the game was played by and means, there were plenty of Monty Hall campaigns back then, ("I killed Thor with a Push spell" was that era's Pun Pun) but that wasn't how the game's creators showed you how to run it.

And with reference to the current D&D movie: I much prefer what we have here to what would likely come out of a movie with 'classic' tropes. I think a traditional D&D movie would be more survival horror, which would be interesting but probably not sell the game very well in 2023.
 

I think the main reason OSR and its predecessors feel like low-magic settings is because the art style we associate with them is generally always depicting low-magic settings.

DCC is the best case study in that effect. The gameworld it presents is not in any way, shape, or form low-magic. But it sure does feel like it is when you look at the art and don't see the usual trappings we see with high magic art.

High magic should look more like this:

1599px-Ralph_Damiani_-_Across_Middle-earth_-_The_White_City.png


But a lot of OSR style artwork tends to look like this:

J.R.R._Tolkien_-_Minas_Tirith.jpg


Its also something I think can follow from the rules themselves. Having to track mundane things like food, water, etc can lend themselves to a low magic feel even in spite of what magic actually looks like.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
You're correct. I really think people are looking at early D&D days (and I think this really started to change at the end of the 1E days, perhaps about the time that Unearthed Arcana came out, which was 1985) through a strange lens.

Just because a setting had things like powerful wizards in it, that meant nothing compared to what the game was like. Conan has powerful sorcerers and even elder gods in it, so I suppose that means it's not sword and sorcery either.

A low level OE, Basic or 1E game was an almost entirely martial character dominated thing, punctuated by a few spells or healing (which you needed to avoid constant downtime). It was a game of exploration and avoiding combat as much as possible. Kicking in doors resulted in quick character death as one or two bad rolls by the DM meant your character was dead.

It was also filled with gonzo elements and bizarre other worldly stuff at different times (Tharizdun: I'm recalling you). Those things were hidden behind the surface and often result in character death. The cultists in the Caves of Chaos were pretty weird stuff and would also fit right in with Conan.

If you look at the modules of the time, so the B series, the A series, Hommlet, you'll see that there was magic, but it was seldom if ever out in the open. I remember T1 had the ultimate revelation of the evil cult at the moat house, and you met Lareth who was very powerful. Again, that moat house could have been in Conan. Conan versus giant frogs? Awesome! Other adventures were the Lost City, the A series (the Slave Lords) and eventually the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and the Temple of Elemental Evil. That was what we played when not doing homebrew stuff.

A lot of those adventures had some gonzo elements (the later temple stuff was just weird) but at it's heart we were playing in a grounded, low powered world until higher level. The Temple of Elemental Evil had some crazy over the top stuff, but that was the capstone for the entire campaign after years of battling orcs and goblins and other similar creatures.

Yes there were strange adventures (Castle Amber: looking at you) but the notion that these were a ton of high powered games just wasn't the case, until we got to higher levels, which took years and years! Oh for the return of summer break and playing an entire module series!

The funny part is that if you had showed me 5th edition back in 1982, I would have loved it because the style of play we have today is something I enjoy much more in most ways. But to say that games of that era weren't fundamentally different from what D&D would become at the end of 1E and onward is just incorrect. The fact that the Circle of Eight existed didn't affect us because we never heard of them in our adventures. We were more interested in the coin for training and getting some healing potions to stay alive.

Now I'm sure not saying mine was the only way the game was played by and means, there were plenty of Monty Hall campaigns back then, ("I killed Thor with a Push spell" was that era's Pun Pun) but that wasn't how the game's creators showed you how to run it.

And with reference to the current D&D movie: I much prefer what we have here to what would likely come out of a movie with 'classic' tropes. I think a traditional D&D movie would be more survival horror, which would be interesting but probably not sell the game very well in 2023.
I would watch the heck out of a D&D survival horror movie. Better yet, a series!
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't either, really. But I'm starting to wonder if WotC does, if the public face of the game is as high magic as what we just got. No judgement though, just an observation.
To be honest, though not how I play, the movie hit about the right amount of magic for me as a D&D movie. I have Witcher, GoT, etc. for media representation more like how I play. If I want to see D&D, I want something different. Now what I didn't want is a big fat read dragin :mad: ;)
 

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