What is the essence of D&D

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
In a 2010 interview at Hill Cantons I was asked a question and answered it with this:

HC: How do we have a more honest and provocative discussion about the older editions of D&D (and our gaming history)?

RJK: A very broad question with many avenues left open for answer, so I’ll choose one. Finding what is common in all of the editions would be a starting point. Let’s see: editions, worlds, products. These are all passing ideas. The immutable survives these as the intrinsic core of the game. And the immutable part of this game in all its forms is the ability to create on all levels. By honestly seeking its core principle that remains unchanged even as the landscape it functions therein changes time and time again, this is where we find its truth, its essence, if you will. The rest of it is just dressing it out as each one of us prefers.
 
the immutable part of this game in all its forms is the ability to create on all levels.
Earlier in the same interview:

You are of the opinion that D&D went astray from its initial goals. What went wrong?

RJK: The original game as envisioned saw the province of personalized creation on all levels as the only dominant purpose of the game as first play-tested, written, and promoted in commercial form...
...This 2nd retconned marketing model continued to this very day and as a template for every major version of the game and, by comparison, has been emulated by many other companies then and now, including those fan-driven publishers currently publishing under the OGL. Take a close look. The majority of companies release their RPG rules and then what? Adventures. Scads of them.
So, were you saying that the essence of D&D is something D&D, itself, lost fairly early on - and by extension the myriad imitators that followed, never picked back up?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Tony Vargas

D&D played as a war game does not really mean a focus on playing out the details of a skirmish. It's not a war game in sense that Warhammer is, but more in the sense of refereed historical war games that focus on the larger war instead of individual skirmishes. Things like reconnaissance, fog of war, logistics, hirelings, and more strategic planning like recruiting those hobgoblins who you scored a good reaction role on to take out those gnolls over there for you are key elements of play.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Earlier in the same interview:



So, were you saying that the essence of D&D is something D&D, itself, lost fairly early on - and by extension the myriad imitators that followed, never picked back up?
Without derailing this thread into adjacent areas: Yes. Its essence, within the abstract, is still there as in the original form but it is not promoted due to the creating being switched out from individual to company, thus from Game/World as Creator to Game/World as Consumer (of others creations). I explain this fully, and the impacts resulting from this shift, in Dave Arneson's True Genius and have touched upon it in interviews, as noted.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Without derailing this thread into adjacent areas: Yes. Its essence, within the abstract, is still there as in the original form but it is not promoted due to the creating being switched out from individual to company, thus from Game/World as Creator to Game/World as Consumer (of others creations).
Hmmm been creating my own game world for a very long time and when players design a character in modern D&D I encourage them to start with a concept and we make adjustments to the game world incorporating homelands and sometimes their characters concept as a fresh "race" or "class" then we use the mechanics of the game to reflect that (I find 4e with its adaptable character design and reflavoring very useful for that).... but then I am not much into pre-made game world although I find certain of them like Darksun/Eberron rather inspiring. And have had characters travel to something like Darksun.

And honestly I have seen others much younger who use D&D as mostly baseline for creativity too. I do think it's alive and well.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My experience with most versions of D&D* is that the amount of time spent in combat varies widely by group. I just had a game the other day where most of the day was just social and exploration based.

I remember in OD&D just doing dungeon crawls where a lot of time was spent figuring out how to kill things the most efficiently.

It seems to be more influence by style and preferences of the group than the version of the game. Except for the version that shall not be named, of course.

*I'll just leave it at most versions because if I get any more specific the whole thing will get derailed again about whether or not a certain unnamed version was "real" D&D
Nah, you coulda just not brought it up at all, if you actually didn’t want to make the discussion about 4e.

Because what you’re implying about 4e is simply not true. 🤷‍♂️
 

Monayuris

Explorer
I always have to look up which basic set is which. At 13 I played the Holmes, I guess - blue cover, mentioned AD&D a few times - Basic Set with my friends for a while, we did not 'get it,' and they lost interest faster than I did. So I dived into AD&D (read cover to cover, repeatedly), and, with considerable effort to overcome innate shyness, started playing it at the local hobby shop, primarily with adults, because that's who was playing, then it was home games and conventions, and I was, for lack of a better term, mentored in how to be a DM by a remarkable young lady only 4 years my senior, who, at the time, with the technicality of minor/adult between us, seemed a huge difference.

I never left the hobby, I drifted from D&D in the mid 90s, to return with 3.0, but AD&D remained my favorite ed - and burned into my little brain where a good high school education should have been.

Even similar experiences can be quite different.
Thanks for sharing. It is always interesting hearing how other people got into the hobby.

I briefly left the hobby due to work ( a job that literally consumbed all of my free time) but got back into it shortly after.

My most important moments in D&D:

1. Getting the Red Box as a birthday present from my mom.
2. Playing for the first time in 5th grade and meeting my best friend as a result.
3. Getting back into the game with 3E with college friends and playing weekly.
4. Running my first real campaign (4+ years long) with 4E (after a long hiatus from the game).
5. Rediscovering the classics (via the OSR games) and coming into my own as a DM.

So, yeah, this game has been a significant part of my life. Crazy... I'm not sure very many can say that about Monopoly or Grand Theft Auto, :).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Nah, you coulda just not brought it up at all, if you actually didn’t want to make the discussion about 4e.

Because what you’re implying about 4e is simply not true. 🤷‍♂️
My opinion, shared by many people, is not true?

Huh. Last time I checked you don't get to tell me what my opinion is. This is not and cannot be an objective judgement and I've never claimed otherwise.

P.S. doesn't that chip on your shoulder get a bit heavy if even the slightest bit of snark and disagreement set you off?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
My opinion is that "the world is flat" - there are whole websites devoted to it, so it simply must be true.
The question of "do I like that edition" is subjective. One objective truth about 4E is that when released it made pretty radical changes to the basic structure of the game when released. Every class had a set of at will, encounter and daily abilities. Those powers were very specific on what they did, a similar structure previously used primarily by spells.

Whether that made the game better, worse, or felt like the other iterations of D&D is subjective.

But I do not care. I have my opinion, I gave 4E more than a fair shot but ultimately decided it was not a game for me. Had 5E not come out I would not be playing that version.

It's time to get over it because I'm not going to hide my opinion of 4E because you might get upset. We have different opinions. You liked the edition, after playing for a few years I did not. It's hardly the end of the world, you're allowed to like things I don't.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
And absolutely not what you said or implied... where as "mind control" is closer to the claim
I don't have any clue what you're saying any more. The representation of how all classes worked was consolidated into one pattern. That's not "mind control". There is no anti-4E illuminati.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I don't have any clue what you're saying any more.
Quoting/Paraphrasing yourself ->"It ( the amount of time spent in combat varies widely by group ) seems to be more influence by style and preferences of the group than the version of the game. Except for the version that shall not be named, of course. "
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The representation of how all classes worked was consolidated into one pattern.
Which also wasnt the subject referenced either, shrug.

Nope it wasnt your like or dislike in reference and nope it wasnt class resource structures.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My opinion, shared by many people, is not true?

Huh. Last time I checked you don't get to tell me what my opinion is. This is not and cannot be an objective judgement and I've never claimed otherwise.

P.S. doesn't that chip on your shoulder get a bit heavy if even the slightest bit of snark and disagreement set you off?
Lol “set you off”? Don’t be melodramatic.

Anyway, you suggested that 4e doesn’t change/play differently based on preference. That is objectively false. You know it’s false because you know that others played and continue to play 4e very differently from your own experience with it.

So, you unnecessarily brought it up, just to snark for no reason? That’s definitely a good way to behave. 👍
 

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