When does D&D stop becoming D&D?

RigaMortus2

First Post
This is more of a theoretical discussion, but at what point of re-designing a game system AND setting, does it become completely a new system/setting?

I ask this because I heard a lot of reports from D&DXP state that, while they changed this and added that, the game still feels like D&D.

I don't know, it just seems like they added too much to the game. Take Healing Surges for example. While it is a great game mechanic, it doesn't really seem like "D&D" to me.

Elfs, dwarves, gnolls, kobolds... These things aren't really D&D specific either, so you can't fall back on races/classes that exist in other popular fantasy.

The Warlord isn't D&D. At least, it wasn't. I guess now you could say it is...

The Tiefling, ok, that's D&D. The dragonborn? While it is pretty new (born out of 3E), it is a D&D-creation, so I'll give ya that one too.

I don't know. I am just worried that I'll be playing a great game system (4E) but it somehow won't feel like D&D anymore, even given that those who have playtested and like it state that it does.

Look at Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. I mean, that might as well be D&D. If they had named it Advanced D&D instead, would it have mattered? It works basically the same, but there are enough changes, new mechanics, and new races/classes to make it distinct from D&D. Is this basically what they did for 4E?
 

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FickleGM

Explorer
To me, the following is all that is necessary for the game to feel like D&D:

1. Classes and Levels
2. Polyhedral dice
3. Hit points
4. Fantasy genre

Actually, I think that's it for it to feel like D&D to me.
 

Crothian

First Post
Having played OD&D I can say that each new edition does feel different. What makes a game D&D to me is the people and the mind set we play the game with. D&D is less about the setting and the rules as it is the style of game. And I've have little problem getting that style with each edition so far and even with other gaming systems.

I've gotten rid of levels and classes and hit points and it was still D&D. D&D to me is just Fantasy gaming. I never liked to over define it.
 

Jackelope King

First Post
What really is the essence of D&D?

Star Trek aliens approach to races- Elves are humans with pointy ears. Halflings are short humans. Dwarves are stout and tough humans. Orcs are brutish strong humans. It’s not a cantina filled with bizarre morphologies or strangeness. That’s for later supplements (which includes even the races I really like, the warforged, the changeling, and critters from the XPH). Your party can and will include creatures of colorful races, but they’re basically just humans with funny ears. The rules will give you a basis, and you go from there. Your elves are different than mine. My dwarves are abstinent, serene Tibetan monks. Your halflings are dinosaur-riding nomads. Awesome! All we need to be able to do when someone mentions a "dwarf" or "halfling" is get a picture in our heads anyway. Everything else can be explained at the table or in the campaign setting.

Heroic Pseudo-Medieval Fantasy- D&D started as a descent into the weird and wonderful with old-school dungeons. That’s fine and dandy. Keep true to the idea that it takes place in a weird and wonderful world and we’re all good.

Classes & Levels- I don’t much care for them, but they’re D&D. D&D is about the common point of everyone knowing what you mean when you say you’re playing a 10th level rogue.

Random Factors via Dice- Conflict resolution may have become more structured with the d20 System (a good thing, in my mind), but the random element of resolving a challenge will come from polyhedral dice.

A Dungeon Master At the Table- For all the talk about 3.Xe “emasculating” the DM, it’s still the case that D&D is run by a Dungeon Master. Remove this figure and then we’ll consider whether or not it’s still D&D.

Monsters to Kill and Loot to Steal- You find monsters/monsters find you. You fight them. When they die, you take their stuff. "Looting the corpse" and "searching the bodies" are absolutely a part of D&D, even if I don’t particularly find them "heroic".
 

Mephistopheles

First Post
I've spent a fair bit of time musing on "What makes D&D what it is?" since the announcement of 4E as various information has been released including some major rule and setting changes. I've found it a difficult thing to pin down. I think it'll just be a matter of playing a few sessions and judging the feel of it.

From where I sit the problem is that with so much known to be changing it doesn't retain the momentum of earlier editions for me. So when I consider whether to play 4E I'll be considering whether to play the new RPG from Wizards rather than playing it because it's the next edition of D&D.
 

Toryx

First Post
That's a good question and I think that everyone will have a different answer. I know for me, it's largely setting more than mechanics that makes a game D&D. It's got to be fantasy specific, and not science fiction or historical. In my mind, Spelljammer was never truly D&D. But even specifying fantasy isn't enough...they're making a D20 version of A Song of Ice and Fire (I believe) but that won't be D&D for me either.

I don't think D&D equals realism, nor do I think it's linked intrinsically with vancian magic. Mechanically, I tend to think of ACs and HPs as D&D, but I'd probably still think a game that has a Defense Score as D&D as long as the fantasy elements I require are still there. Iron Heroes is more my preferred type of game system than Arcana Evolved, but neither of them are D&D for me.

I'm not sure a game that didn't have six attribute scores that denote Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma would be D&D for me. I prefer wilderness and urban settings for roleplay but there still has to be a dungeon somewhere yet somehow I can play a whole long term campaign without encountering a dragon and it's still D&D.

4e is still D&D to me, even if it seems more like the bastard child than a full blood descendant.

The only immediately sure way I can think of to make it not D&D would be to add Pokemon to it. Now that would definitely not be D&D.
 

Lord Zardoz

Explorer
D&D will be D&D as long as the following things are more or less true.

- You roll 20 sided dice to attack
- It is a class based system with Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha as the core stats
- The iconic balanced party has a Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Thief
- A Sword +1 is considered an adequate description of a magic item
- The game system is played with pencils and paper and arbitrated by a DM
- Classic fantasy tropes are evocative of the setting (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs)
- Nearly every rulebook published after the initial 3 rule books (PHB, DMG, MM) is considered to be broken or unbalanced

Beyond that, you would be surprised at what could be changed and still have you recognizing the game as D&D. 4th edition will be a much bigger change than before, but I think it will basically work out.

END COMMUNICATION
 

BluSponge

Explorer
Well, technically, Dungeons and Dragons is a brand. And so long as that brand exists, any game published with that on the cover will have the weight of the brand behind it, regardless of whether it plays like Monopoly or GURPS. I suspect TSR sold enough copies of the updated "Dungeons and Dragons" (the one that came in the huge board game boxes) to have satisfied the profit margin of many smaller companies for years. In this respect, the question you should ask yourself is, "does WotC have what it takes to manage the brand." (IMNSHO: Yes, they do.)

This can't be entirely removed from your more subjective question. Certainly 4e can play very different from DnD and still "feel" like DnD because of the way the brand is managed. The trade dressings are all there. Dungeons? Check! Classes and hit points? Check! Dragons? Check! That these things do not function at all like they did in 1st, 2nd, even 3rd edition is not necessarily important. A lot of people have a great deal of attachment that only goes as deep as the name itself. That's not to say that the bulk of DnD players are sheep, only that they find value in the brand itself: when they see "Dungeons and Dragons" on the cover, they can expect a certain style and quality of play. As long as the designers understand this and don't stray too far from those expectations, they can do almost anything they want. You could republish Earthdawn under the DnD brand and a lot of folks will accept it at face value -- until it doesn't deliver their expectation of play. For the record, Alignment and Fire and Forget magic do not affect play nearly as much as other factors (such as the general understanding of what a 1st level fighter is and the class's role in the game).

That's the technical marketing department answer to the question.

On a more personal note, ask yourself when you read about the game: if this was not DnD 4th edition, would I play it? Would I make the necessary investment to run the game? Would my friends/players agree to make the investment and play it? If the answer to those questions is yes, than no worries. If the answer is no, well that could be the best lesson on the power of branding and marketing one can get. :)

Tom
who for the record thinks 4th sounds like an interesting RPG, but only vaguely resemble the D&D he grew up with or wants to play.
 

Delta

First Post
RigaMortus2 said:
This is more of a theoretical discussion, but at what point of re-designing a game system AND setting, does it become completely a new system/setting?

For me, it's when they (a) tossed out Vancian spell casting, and (b) upped 1st-level hit points past a single die's worth. Among other things.
 

epochrpg

Explorer
At first I was bent out of shape about the new thing too, because I was comparing it to D&D... but I realized that was the wrong basis of comparison. I now can accept a lot of the changes because I no longer think of it as D&D 4th Edition. Instead, compare it to D&D Minies-- and it essentially is like AD&DM 1st Edition.

It has a lot more in common w/ a minis game or computer "tactics" game than an actual rpg. After battles you automatically get all better-- no need for fooling around with medical stuff. Any social interaction can be handed by a few dice rolls or a/b/c choices. You move in squares instead of feet-- and you can blast enemies w/ magic all day long just in the same way as an archer can shoot arrows all day long. You have special "limit breaks" or daily abilities that can be used agaimst the boss monsters, as well as all sorts of other special attacks that you gain every level or so... And playing it makes use of a line of minis & terrain w/ special effects, etc.

As an RPG, I think it leaves much to be desired-- but as a tactical minis game I think it will be great-- especially since you can pretend that your playing piece is actually talking and emote for him, etc instead of just moving them around w/ no interaction at all... So it is going back to its roots as a tactical wargame-- and that is just fine for the old schoolers I think. Right?
 

Zaruthustran

The tingling means it’s working!
BluSponge said:
Well, technically, Dungeons and Dragons is a brand. And so long as that brand exists, any game published with that on the cover will have the weight of the brand behind it, regardless of whether it plays like Monopoly or GURPS. In this respect, the question you should ask yourself is, "does WotC have what it takes to manage the brand." (IMNSHO: Yes, they do.)

Quoted for truth. The rest of it was really good too.

To the OP: Monte's Arcana Evolved is not D&D. However, if he published that while still working at WotC, it would have been D&D. The content doesn't matter; the name on the cover matters.

Each edition of D&D is in fact a new game. Only the themes and core brand elements (classes, stats, HPs, etc.) carry over. 4E continues this pattern. It's a new game. It's not OD&D, 2nd Ed, or 3E. But it's definitely D&D. You can tell by looking at the cover. :)
 

Derro

First Post
epochrpg said:
As an RPG, I think it leaves much to be desired-- but as a tactical minis game I think it will be great-- especially since you can pretend that your playing piece is actually talking and emote for him, etc instead of just moving them around w/ no interaction at all... So it is going back to its roots as a tactical wargame-- and that is just fine for the old schoolers I think. Right?
(Emphasis mine)

That's almost precisely the assessment my gaming group gave when we started getting some of the information after the release announcement. I'm surprised it's not a more common perception. So the question here is 4e new or divergent evolution of the original product?
 

Wolfspider

First Post
Zaruthustran said:
The content doesn't matter; the name on the cover matters.

Bollocks.

Of course, you waffle a bit later in your post from this stance, saying that there are, in fact, core elements and themes that make D&D D&D, but the sentence I quoted here is nonsense.

If Wotc bought the Hero System and slapped "Dungeons & Dragons" on it, the resulting book would NOT be Dungeons and Dragons, despite having that name on the cover.
 
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Sphyre

First Post
To the individual: D&D ceases to be D&D when the the edition no longer embodies that which the individual feels D&D is to that person. This means that any one person may see any edition as D&D or not, but not all will be in agreement.

To the whole: D&D ceases to be D&D when a majority (as in at least 51%, possibly more) of people who play the game agree that the new rules of an edition cease to embody what they feel D&D is. Since there it's based on the sum of individuals, it would take a large variance to be accepted by a whole group, that it is no longer D&D.

Legally: The game being released ceases to be D&D when what is released lacks the D&D license.
 

mhensley

First Post
epochrpg said:
It has a lot more in common w/ a minis game or computer "tactics" game than an actual rpg. After battles you automatically get all better-- no need for fooling around with medical stuff. Any social interaction can be handed by a few dice rolls or a/b/c choices. You move in squares instead of feet-- and you can blast enemies w/ magic all day long just in the same way as an archer can shoot arrows all day long. You have special "limit breaks" or daily abilities that can be used agaimst the boss monsters, as well as all sorts of other special attacks that you gain every level or so... And playing it makes use of a line of minis & terrain w/ special effects, etc.

I could say exactly the same things about the 3.5 game I'm running right now. The amount of magic available to high level parties make all of these things so. 4e just builds it into the characters instead.
 

Wolfspider

First Post
mhensley said:
I could say exactly the same things about the 3.5 game I'm running right now. The amount of magic available to high level parties make all of these things so. 4e just builds it into the characters instead.

What's 3rd edition got to do with it?
 

Xethreau

Josh Gentry - Author, Minister in Training
What is D&D to me is mostly fluff. There are some mechanical things (classes, dice, d20,

What makes core D&D for me:
Midevil (sp?) fantasy RP
Modern Fantasy Races (like high elves, wood elves, dark elves, dwarves, haflings, etc.)
The existence of magic, gods, and the supernatural
Dragons, Beholders, Terrasques, Liches, Mindflayers and other baddies
Owlbears, trolls, kobolds, goblinoids, harpys, hellhounds, golems, and undead
Fey, unicorns, flying horses, grand dwarven halls, serene elven forests
Portable holes, Flaming Longswords, Dwarven Waraxes, Longbows, and Elven Thinblades
Artifacts, Weapons of Legacy, Sovereign Glue, and the Deck of Many Things
Mithral, Adamant, and Dragonhide armor
Turn Undead, Magic Missile, Sneak Attack, Cleave, Smite
Wizard towers, Underdark, trapped dungeons, dark forests, helpless villages, reigning empires, and mysterious realms
Awakened Plants and Animals, gazing into a crystal ball, Fortunes of Ravenloft, and lucky halflings

What is traditionally D&D, but I could live without:
Planescape, Greyhawk
Clerics in armor
Riding dogs
Remorhaz, Achaierai, Lammasu, and Ropers
4 different kinds of Sphynx
"Gorgons"
Nixies and Grigs
Nagas

What is not D&D to me:
Lazer guns
Guns
Spaceships (not to be confused with Elemental Vessels)
Klingons, Wookies, and the Force (not to be confused with Psionics)
Bunny girls (Not to be confused with Catfolk)
Godmode-ing
Mary Sue
Limit Breaks (Not to be confused with Daily powers and Action Points)
The Heart of the Cards
Jewl-Riders and Dragonflies
 

Rpgraccoon

First Post
D&D is Table Top role-playing game. Acting and imagination is fundamental. Miniatures and visual aids are not necessary to jump in and play as the DM is an avid story teller and he can easily set the seen.

Traditional Icons of D&D:

Fantasy Setting

Alignment: Law, Chaos, Good, Evil

Schools of Magic: Conjuration, Evocation, Divination, Necromancy, Illusion, Transmutation, Enchantment, Abjuration

Races/Monsters: Elves, Half-Elves, Tieflings, Gnolls, Devils, Beholders, Gold/Black Dragons etc..

Classes: Fighter, Mage-Magic-User, Thief

The Planes TSR www.pathguy.com

Polyhedron Die d20

Classic Fantasy Settings from TSR

Non-Traditional D&D: Futuristic, Present Day, & Post Apocalyptic settings. However, they can be done and quite well. Example: Dark Sun

However all those can be done extremely while using the traditional D&D model.
 


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