It’s kind of funny. With the advent of the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s been appearing more and more in things I read like Penny Arcade, PvP, and Something*Positive (though, to be honest, tabletop RPGs have come and gone in S*P throughout the comic’s history). It makes me sad, in a way, as I never really got into D&D, even though I always wanted to. I’d been wondering why I never did, and it finally occurred to me recently why that was.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not against tabletop RPGs as a whole. During the 1990’s, I used to play the various World of Darkness games (especially Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse) with two different groups, and I loved playing them. However, while I got into those and enjoyed playing them, I still couldn’t get into Dungeons & Dragons. I have no idea why, as “sword and sorcery” fantasy tales are something I enjoy watching and reading. I thought it might have been just the whole “hack and slash” nature of D&D as opposed to WoD, but talking to my friend George recently helped me put it into perspective.
The thing that had never come into my mind before then was that D&D ISN’T inherently all “hack, slash, get the gold” like I had imagined. Reading tales of the D&D games played by the Penny Arcade guys, Scott Kurtz (of PvP), and Wil Wheaton hammered that point home. What, then, made it that way when I played? It then dawned on me while talking to George.
Another friend of mine who was in the RPG group with George was Chris, who I’ve known since first grade. The other RPG group I was in (headed up by Malinda and Jeff, aka my ex and her now-husband) didn’t play D&D, but instead played only WoD at the time. Chris was the center of the D&D group. However, Chris has never taken much to actual roleplaying. He gets the most enjoyment out of hack and slash. A perfect example is one of the times Chris and George played together in EverQuest II; George would want to read the NPC’s dialogue and find out why he was killing these particular monsters they were hunting, while Chris would impatiently drag him on to the next one, saying, “Come on, come on! Let’s get the next one!”
In fact, if it wasn’t for the nature of WoD itself, I’m sure Chris would have been the same way in those sessions. In WoD, for the most part, going in and hacking/slashing will get you nothing except very dead very quickly, especially considering some of the monsters out there. Chris had to do character roleplaying as a result, but he mostly only ever played one type of character. Still, it would explain why Chris preferred Werewolf out of the five WoD games, as it was easily the most violent and combat-intensive of them. We ended up playing it far more than Vampire, and almost never played the other three games.
Since those days, I’ve only done one RPG session with Chris et al, and that was a D&D fourth edition campaign run by Chris’s former roommate Preston’s wife. Even then, the hack and slash mentality was there; Chris complained that there wasn’t enough combat, while I was the one who worked out the riddle behind the entire story and came up with the plan to fix things. It was fun, but the combat wasn’t something I was thrilled with and even was any good at.
So, where does that leave me now? Well, the answer is… in the cold, I guess. I don’t have any real RPG groups to play with, even though I would like to try D&D with a non-hack and slash focus. I play these games to act out a different role. If I wanted pure hack and slash gameplay, I’d play either Diablo II or Gauntlet. Heck, I have a couple of board games like Talisman and Dungeonquest that would fit that category. It’s not just D&D, either; I’d even like to try something like Paranoia, Shadowrun, or even Dark Heresy. I’d been thinking of going into World of WarCraft or Warhammer Online, but then I like the versatility that comes with a tabletop game. (There’s also the MMO burnout to think about, but that’s a whole different subject right there.)
In the end, it’s just a bit of geek culture and entertainment that I wish I had had a better opportunity to get into. It’s not too late, I know, but for now, I’m just going to wait and see what comes up. Here’s hoping I actually do get to enjoy D&D on its own merits sometime soon.