“I Don’t Need a New Game”

One sentiment I’ve seen on various OSR blogs and fora this week is that which forms the title of this post. “Why bother with 5E, when I’ve got all my 1st Edition books, or my BECMI boxes, or my Rules Compendium, or my LBB’s, or Labyrinth Lord, or whatever?” I’ve got to say that’s a feeling I simply cannot share. One might just as easily say*…

“Why bother with Diaspora, when I’ve got Traveler?”
“Why bother with Traveler, when I’ve got Ringworld?”
“Why bother with Gamma World, when I’ve got Metamorphosis Alpha?”
“Why bother with Marvel Super Heroes, when I’ve got Champions?”
“Why bother with Champions, when I’ve got Villains and Vigilantes?”
“Why bother with Twilight 2000, when I’ve got The Morrow Project?”
“Why bother with Aces and Eights, when I’ve got Boot Hill?”
“Why bother with Tunnels and Trolls, when I’ve got Chivalry and Sorcery?”
“Why bother with Savage Worlds, when I’ve got GURPS?”
“Why bother with Werewolf: The Apocalypse, when I’ve got Vampire: The Masquerade?”
“Why bother with Unicorn Games’ Star Trek the RPG, when I’ve got FASA’s Star Trek the RPG?”
“Why bother with FASA’s Star Trek the RPG, when I’ve got Heritage Games’ Star Trek RPG?”
etc. etc. etc. …

Or, perhaps the most relevant to many readers…

“Why bother with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, when I’ve got my white box?”

(I should point out that this is not a solicitation of lengthy discussions of any of those off-the-cuff examples, or any others that anyone might come up with. Seriously. Don’t be pedantic.)

Seriously, though, the reason to be interested in 5E isn’t because it will be “better” than 0E, 1E, 2E, 3.x, or 4E. I’m fully in agreement with those who chant “newer is not the same as better”, and I myself repeat it like a mantra in some discussions. But honestly, in this particular instance, it’s not the point. Even if I fall in love with 5E, I won’t stop playing Adventures Dark and Deep, and it won’t stop me from playing Call of Cthulhu, or Vampire: The Masquerade, or Gamma World, or Diaspora, or Star Trek…

The choice of RPG is not a zero-sum game! Just because I play 5E (or whatever), does NOT mean I am not going to play something else as well!

Newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. But it does mean different. And I’m always on the lookout for something new and different, because it might be something I enjoy playing in addition to, or maybe, yes, instead of, something else.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of 1E. I wouldn’t be pursuing my Adventures Dark and Deep project if I weren’t. But that does not preclude me from playing and enjoying other RPGs as well. Even fantasy RPGs. So I make no apologies for being excited at the prospect of 5E, even if 4E was such a disappointment (to me, as a gamer).

Newer doesn’t necessarily mean better, but neither does older. They’re just different. And different might… just might… mean better. Or better for a while. I’m willing to settle for that.

* With two exceptions, all of these are games I have played at one time or another, btw… And those two exceptions, I do own and would like to play.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

13 thoughts on ““I Don’t Need a New Game”

  1. In the Frankenstein game I am cobbling together, I took S&W White Box and bolted on pieces of LotFP ("adventuring" skills/encumbrance), Adventures Dark & Deep (your skill system for alchemy/poison/other crafting), and even D&D 3e (prestige classes with a nod to the semi-classes they introduced in the BECMI Companion set).

    The point is, most games do something cool. I'm curious what 5e will bring to the table.

  2. Good post. The comparisons are staggering.
    Higgi mentioned frankengames and I think that's exactly what 5e will be. A buffet of options that will leave everyone making their own frankengame. If that's so, it's not really a ruleset is it? D&D hit a wall I guess. Can't go completely forward or backward anymore. Just laterally.

  3. I'll echo what Tenkar said!

    I'd add that a new edition is also an opportunity for potential new players, regardless of edition.

    Something that a rather DM-centric blogosphere tends to forget…

    @mortellan: That sounds more like AD&D to me, and that is only a good thing!

  4. Looking back on what I played in 2011, I saw myself on one side of the referee's screen or another for Labyrinth Lord, B/X, OD&D, a 3.5/1E mash-up, D&D Gamma World, 4E, Call of Cthulhu, Dungeon Crawl Classics, GORE, Star Wars d6, Vampire the Masquerade, The Secret Fire, Adventurer, Conqueror, King, and probably one or two others I'm forgetting.

    My roots may be old school, but my goal is having fun. If you put out a game that entertain me, I'm willing to give it a whirl. If you do a really good job, I'll even run it.

    Although I am envious of folks who've been running the same campaign for decades, variety is the spice of life and I think playing the same thing–and only the same thing–would lead to me not having fun and thus defeat the entire purpose of this pastime.

  5. As someone who publicly declared "I don't need a new game", I thought I'd throw a couple of additional points into the discussion 🙂

    You express a fair sentiment Joe, and I'm sure a large number of people — especially in this creative corner of the internet — share it. However I do also think there are a lot of people who really do see a new edition as a replacement for previous editions, not as a completely different game which could be played in parallel. A lot of people only want to play currently supported games, which gives them no option really but to "upgrade" when a new version comes out. (I personally don't think that way at all, but I know such players exist.)

    I think this idea of "inevitable upgrade" (which, like any software company, WotC naturally encourages) is what gives the whole affair an unsavoury taste. This is where the cynicism about "oh great, yet another version of D&D" stems from. I've actually been surprised though how many OSR bloggers don't share this cynicism about WotC… but variety is the spice of life, as they say 🙂

    Another aspect is, of course, the difference between DMs / gaming groups who are interested in running (and buying / reading / learning!) lots of different games vs those who mostly stick with one favourite. I put myself in the latter camp, for the moment at least, and thus have no practical interest in a new form of D&D any more than I'm interested in any of the other recent editions of the game, or in new versions of any of the other games you mentioned. Actually, if I were to get the urge to play something new it'd more likely be something totally different, rather than a rehashing of the game I've played for decades.

  6. i agree with the post pretty much. the games should be looked at individually unique and "flat" (meaning they stand on some sort of equal footing – even if the newly named object doesnt really resemble its antecedent).

    yet it should also be kept in mind that game mechanics and systems arent what really hinges everything together as a "Game". the game system shouldnt be the infrastructure of an RPG. the infrastructure should be if you can get a certain STYLE of game – with the mechanics supplementing it. theres a lot of things "classic" D&D/AD&D that is very difficult to replicate in newer games because mechanics tries to dominate the shared experience of imaginative scaffolding building with each other and the DM. skill mechanics, skill challenges, combat tactics, powers, battle grids, etc… all begin to restrain, instead of open, the imagination. and some people may just enjoy that style of game over the "classic" ethos of more amorphous "mind's eye" type games. thats fine.

    the overemphasis on systems, crunch, numbers and tiny gimmicks to "make the game upgraded" has become so convoluted and bombastic that it tries to overmine the actual "game" itself. can we act our stories the same general way with Basic, AD&D, 2E? hell yes. anyone who says otherwise is just being a childish loyalist. even 3E/Pathfinder holds a bit that feel from my experiences… 4E felt more difficult to do this (for manifold reasons stated elsewhere by tons of people)…

    a system that makes it generally easy to develop stories together is is the infrastructural importance. rules just become limits. older editions knew this.

    so, with that, the grognards are correct in saying that they dont need a new edition because telling stories (even if it is also crowded with rules lawyers) under those supplemental mechanics works fine. if 5E recaptures that quality – GREAT. lets hope it does.

    think like an artist, not an accountant, and most systems work fine to tell WHATEVER story

  7. This is not a substantive comment, but I just wanted to remark that I was scrolling through RPGBloggers.com (as I have often done) and clicked through to your blog (as I have often done) and noticed something which I had not noticed before – the red "A" of the Out Campaign in the sidebar.

    So, just leaving a note to say: Rock on, fellow godless gamer.

  8. I'm not sure I agree with you on this, Joe. Sure, there is a small "luddite"-like faction in the DnD / RPG community. That's true of *any* community. However, in this case, I think folks are wary of being played for suckers. Upgrades for the sake of $$ are different than upgrades for the sake of filling a customer need. DnD has a looooong history of playing is fans for suckers.

  9. Sorry, but 5th Edition is simply for those of you who never run out of money to spend for "new" Rules Books.

    I share the opposite sentiment — I have enough rule books.

    So we'll agree to disagree on this one. 😉

  10. Agreed.

    Let me slightly rephrase the question, though: When should I play 5e instead of a specific older edition?

    That’s the question in my mind right now. (Make it even more general and it is the question I have about any new system I encounter.) It’s less about being sold on it and more about what the differentiators are. Indeed, until Wizards address that question in some fashion, I’d have a hard time giving them any advice on 5e beyond, “Make it just like my favorite edition.”

  11. Well said sir.

    Version wars don't help any of us. Let people play what they want. If someone loves a certain version of whatever game. I think somehow somewhere people lost their way en mass, I think everyone has lost it at certain times. I know I have the version wars have taken a toll on sanity at times and just eclipsed so much of the more interesting, relevant, important discourse and discussion. I guess it is just the nature of the internet.

    I hope just tabletop gaming continues to live on, I could care less what version of a pen and paper RPG, or board game, or miniature war game they prefer. So long as they like tabletop games they are OK in my book 🙂

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