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D&D General When did you leave D&D? Why? For what game? And what brought you back?

Helena Real

bit.ly/ato-qs (she/her)
The first time I left D&D (2nd Ed), I left for Vampire The Masquerade. For a couple of years I exclusively ran or played in WoD 1.0 games.

Then I felt the itch to play something fantasy-related (I always oscillate between epic fantasy and goth stuff). I discovered D&D 3.0 (and then 3.5) and fell in love. Ran a couple of campaigns, played in a couple of others... And got burned out. At the start of the Pathfinder 1 boom/D&D 4th Ed I left... For no other game. I just quit the hobby altogether for personal reasons. Sold most of my RPG books and moved on.

I kept away from RPGs for a couple of years, but they were never too far from my heart. And then, I discovered Fate. I returned to the hobby, now mostly running one-shots at conventions. Then the itch to run something epic returned.

I ran a 1-year Werewolf The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary campaign. It went well... But I got burned out fast on the system. Too much crunch, and little mechanics supporting the things I cared about.

Then a friend said that he wanted to play some classic fantasy. I ran a couple of sessions of Labyrinth Lord, and I was about to change to Dungeon World, when I discovered Critical Role. And I fell in love, hard, with the group and the adventures... And the game they were playing: D&D 5th.

I bought everything 5E until Tasha... And then the burn out returned. I realized that the magic people like Critical Role, Matt Colville, Brennan Lee Mulligan, Deborah Ann Woll, and The Unexpectables create at their (virtual) tables is not thanks to D&D's rules, but in spite of them. And that my players and I would never reach such dramatic heights without the proper mechanical support.

Ever since then I've been slowly but surely distancing myself from D&D. For the past 3 years I've been lucky enough to run A LOT of PbtA games of many different genres for many different people—and I even wrote my own! I'm fully convinced that I need narrative-oriented RPG systems to thrive and have the most fun.

I wrapped up my last couple of 5E campaigns I was running earlier this year. I have said goodbye to 5E for the time being, at least as a GM. Maybe one I'll return, but I don't think it'll happen. Games like the MCDM RPG or even Daggerheart are much closer to what I want when fantasy is concerned.

And, if the rest of the players at the table indulge me, I'll always be happy running or playing Against the Odds.

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Registered User
3.5 moving to 4e happened at the same time as my kids were born and we had moved to a new area where I didn’t know people. I already felt like 3.5 had come too close after 3.0 and they were double dipping into my wallet but I bought them anyways. My gaming started tailing off as a result of being at home more. Then 4e came out, and I looked through the PHB one day in a Borders book store and just didn’t see anything that spoke to me about the game anymore. Then my kids got older, and I had more free time, 5e had already been out awhile and everyone was talking about it. I started watching some actual plays and got the itch again and that’s what brought me back into it.

I left not long after 3.5 came out (I didn’t buy 3.5, was still using 3E books). I wasn’t really enjoying 3E as much as 2E and was struggling to find people to play with since moving from the country town I’d grown up in a few years earlier. I also decided to focus on my art and started having exhibitions. Why put all that work in to entertain 4 or 5 people, when I could put on a show for 20 or 30 (potentially even more)?

It wasn’t even like I was swearing off the game, or quitting. I just focused on other things, for about a decade.

5E brought me back, I’d started having ideas for creating a homebrew world and went online looking to get back into RPG’s and came across the playtests for 5E. By that time it wasn’t too far from the core books being announced, and I also had friends that had played earlier editions in high school that were interested in getting back in, as well as friends that were keen to check out TTRPG’s for the first time.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I stopped playing D&D, and all TTRPGs, soon after I went to college in 1989. Didn't get back into it until I 5e came out and I fell in love again with the hobby. Other than one shots, I exclusively ran 5e until January this year, when I started a Warhammer Fantasy 4e campaign, which I am really enjoying. But D&D and I are just on a break--I swear! Once my Warhammer campaign wraps up in a year or two, I'll check out the new books and she what VTT support it has and will consider returning to D&D.


I'd lost interest in actively playing D&D by the 3.5 era, having switched over to Mutants & Masterminds as my preferred system. But I was still paying attention to D&D and new releases until 4e. I was already skeptical when I read the 4e Monster Manual, and when I bounced off it hard, me and D&D parted ways. I kept running M&M, and also picked up Pathfinder a few years later.

It was 5e that brought me back in a big way, led to the largest and most successful RPG campaign I'd ever run. Then Covid hit, and the campaign paused then died. And more recent 5e books have largely left me cold. To me, it feels a lot like the 3.5 era all over again; if I bounce off the 2025 Monster Manual, history is likely to repeat.


I left because I was a BECMI player and DM, and I got tired of high mortality, completely rolled and arbitrary ability scores, alignment languages, and rigid class roles. I envied AD&D for having playable gnomes and some cool subsystems like weapon specialization and kits, but overall I thought it was a dismal mess with even more punishing rules for ability scores. I ended up trying other games before I had been playing two years. I got spoiled on Talislanta, as well as several supers RPGs including Marvel Super-Heroes, DC Heroes, TMNT and Other Strangeness, and Hero/Champions. I experimented with MERP and Rolemaster and Elfquest and Swordbearer and, above all else... GURPS. I fell in love with GURPS hard, to the point of hacking my own superhero stuff for it while it still lacked such a thing.

I pretty much just stayed away from D&D after that. In college, I joined a couple of AD&D campaigns, as well as a nostalgic BECMI D&D campaign, because those were groups that were available, and I had some fun. But it didn't reignite my interest and just reinforced my sense that D&D was hopelessly limited.

I got back into D&D because I ended up reading someone's personal web page in the early 2000s, and I saw Conan written up as a progressively more experienced multiclass character. I was enchanted with his "fast movement" and the use of feats to customize the character, and the ease of multiclassing. I started playing 3e and jumped in with both feet. I thought 3.5 was kind of a questionable development, but the good more than outweighed the bad, and the inconvenient, and converted over. During the 4e, I once again the left the D&D fold, and eventually became a Pathfinder convert, before coming back for 5e once it was clear it wasn't going to be as completely weird and annoying as some of the early playtest material suggested. I just, you know, liked the whole monster slaying and treasure angle, and to some extent, "building" characters. It's the same stuff I like in computer games, but with a more human element, and the chance to create real stories through the adventures. I'm also an Open Gaming fanatic, and I stayed with the OGL all the way up until the OGL Kerfuffle.

Ironically, while GURPS now offers a Dungeon Fantasy variant that scratches some of the same itches, I just don't care for it. The world-building is very (intentionally) thin. I'm still very much a MERP and Talislanta kind of player, although I've moved away from Middle-earth, specifically, because of media saturation, and Talislanta to an extent because of my disenchantment with the last couple of editions.

So I'm just going to write my own thingie.


Staff member
I have gotten into a LOT of different RPGs, and D&D got supplanted as my favorite system by Champions/HERO. But I never really left D&D

…until 5Ed.

4Ed bugged me a lot as a DM, but I did enjoy playing it from the other side of the screen. Bought everything I know of that had player resources.

5Ed just left me cold, though.

Thing is, I still don’t think of myself as saying I’m done with D&D. I still design characters in 3.5Ed- my favorite edition- and even the occasional 4Ed PC. If a friend asked me to play in a D&D campaign today, I probably would say yes. Even if it were a 5Ed game.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter because I’m not currently part of an active gaming group.🤷🏾‍♂️

When: 1977
For: Traveller
Why: D&D isn't a SF game and I wanted to play some SF.
When did I come back? I never came back to D&D being my main game.

I've played short, and even long, campaigns of D&D since, and I do pay attention to the system. I occasionally used to pick up sourcebooks if I thought they might be interesting for something I was working on for another game's setting. I don't really think current D&D does anything I want to spend money on and it looks like the forthcoming edition will be the same.

For me there has never been a time where I've said I'm completely done with D&D. I played BECMI briefly with my cousins when I was a kid and we just kind of moved on to other things as they caught our interest. For a while, it was the Palladium TMNT game because we were into TMNT. In the early 90s, it became the TSR FASERIP Marvel game because we were into comics. Around 1993, I got back into D&D with 2e and some high school friends playing games set in Dragonlance. We also played other games (Shadowrun 2e and TSR Marvel), but eventually stopped playing TTRPGs after high school as people drifted apart for college and such. In my early 20s, I joined the Army and worked in the Signal Corps. If you're not familiar, it's where the Army keeps most of its nerds so I was briefly able to play D&D 3e but walked away because of a really awful DM (short story is having PCs threatened with rape was funny to him). Fast forward 6 years and 2 moves, I tried to get into PF1e but my work schedule never aligned with any games I could join so I was back out of the hobby.

In 2016 I was out of the Army and moved back home to Minnesota where a few of my old high school friends were playing in a 5e Curse of Strahd campaign so I joined their game. It was fun, but they only played once every 4-6 weeks and so I started looking for a way to play more frequently. I ended up DMing for a different group of friends weekly, which was great but over time I started getting dissatisfied with 5e from a DM's perspective. I started looking into other games around the time of the OGL situation and PF2e seemed to check a lot of blocks for what I was looking for. We ended up switching and have been having fun playing that for just over a year now. We also started playing Call of Cthulhu one shots every couple months which has been a lot of fun.

There's an infamous (at least to me) quote from a column by Gary in Dragon that I searched up because I referred to it on my blog. Let me reproduce it: "Frankly, to attract those readers and often at the urging of persons who were playing prototypical forms of D&D games I used certain names and attributes in a superficial manner, merely to get their attention! I knew full well that the façade would be dispelled by the actualities of play. I relied on the power of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game to overcome the objections which would naturally occur when diehard Tolkien enthusiasts discovered the dissimilarity. This proved to be the case far more often than not. Tolkien fans entered the D&D game fold, and became a part of its eager audience, despite the fact that only a minute trace of the Professor's work can be found in the games. As anyone familiar with both D&D games and Tolkien works can affirm, there is no resemblance between the two, and it is well nigh impossible to recreate any Tolkien-based fantasy while remaining within the boundaries of the game system."

That's the main reason that I left. I didn't get over the bait and switch, even though he claims most people did. Not that I necessarily wanted to reproduce Tolkien specifically, but certainly I wanted D&D to resemble fantasy as I knew it, and it didn't. D&D really only ever resembled itself.
That’s not true, D&D in the 70’s and early
80s actually did resemble a lot of popular fantasy literature of the time, particularly the sword and sorcery genre. Appendix N in the back of the first DMG lists all of the literary influences on the game,some of the more well known ones being Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories and Fritz Liebers’s Lankhmar stuff. And early D&D and Greyhawk is full of the flavor of appendix N, and Gary wanted fans to know that. Many of the authors listed were actually writing fantasy that was purposefully counter to Tolkiens horrid fantasy, and that’s what Gary liked about it.

So, no, D&D doesn’t resemble LotR, but it does a massive disservice to the rich literary traditions that were an influence on the creation of the game by saying it only resembles itself. Yea, it ended up up becoming its own “D&D” genere in time, but the games beginnings are steeped in mid 20th century pulp fantasy and science fiction.

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