So yesterday, Sunday, January 26, 2014, was the unofficial 40th Anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. And I thought I would celebrate my favorite game by digging up the few things I hate most about it. That’s right, there are a few things/types of players that I dislike regarding my beloved game and I’m about to do some ranting! I can praise D&D 365 days a year, but I only get one 40th Anniversary to bitch! But just before I get going, I want to point out that these gripes have been years in the making and I am not referring to any singular person, adventure, or DM. In effect: all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. So, with all of that said, the gloves come off!
To start, I want to look at three types of players that really grind my gears. The first is “the know-it-all”. These are the players who not only know all of the rules forwards and backwards (not necessarily a bad thing) but delight in flaunting it and lording it over the other players and even the DM. These folks love to interrupt storytelling, roleplaying, and even combat with an interjection of rule quotation or “suggestions” on what the PC/DM might be doing incorrectly. Quite frankly, that type of person needs to spend a few minutes in an actual combat situation having the tar beat out of them. As I have said on many occasions and will continue to preach in the future, the rules are secondary to the story. If, as a DM, I want to ignore a rule to make a better scene/adventure/enemy, then I shall do so. I don’t need a referee or a Jiminy Cricket telling me that I’m ignoring or bending a rule. Instead, they should be asking themselves why they feel regurgitating these rules is required? They might be surprised to find out that it has very little to do with playing the game and everything to do with making themselves feel more important. Sometimes the truth hurts.
Another player that irks me is “the chaos machine”. These players are two sided coins because, for the most part, they are fun, inventive, and very imaginative. But, on the other side, they love to derail adventures and go off on tangents to make DMs cringe. These are the folk that will kill NPCs for fun, leave their fellow PCs high and dry in their time of need, and have a general “what’s in it for me” kind of attitude. I know that sometimes acting that way is a character choice but even the most contrary character has to find a reason to meaningfully contribute to the group from time to time. Otherwise, they wouldn't be with the group in the first place and just having the character leave the party is a lazy choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love tangents and sometimes a little chaos is okay. However, if you feel the need to arrest the spotlight for yourself and your whims on a session by session basis, then perhaps you need a refresher course on what a cooperative game like D&D is all about. Get over yourself!
The last type of player that I would like to speak about is more of a challenge than a distraction. They are the total opposite of “the chaos machine” and who I like to call “the quiet ones”. This player dislikes rocking the boat, is always willing to go along with whatever the group decides, and very rarely has a strong option about anything. While these folk don’t cause any kind of headache for the DM or other players, they do seem to be missing out on some of the fun. I understand that sometimes a character wants to take a backseat and let the others lead the way and I have no problem with that; but when I see the same thing week after week, changes have to be made. However, the DM and the other players must tread carefully in this area. Pushing too hard will have a negative effect, while pushing to lightly will achieve nothing. Instead, dig in for the long haul and slowly put those quiet players in the lead positions from time to time. From my personal experience, if you are patient enough, it will eventually pay off. Sometimes you’ll even create a monster!
Now allow me to switch tracks and talk about some actual game mechanics that make me want to burn my books with gasoline and move to Mars. The first of these is the Opportunity Attack (oh, how I loathe thee). At some point a deviously minded person said, “combat needs to be more complicated” and another wacko (a technical term in my book) said, “let’s add several more ways to make extra attacks in certain situations”. Well this DM, after reading about them and trying them out for a very short period of time said, “Hell No”! I stopped using them in 4th Edition and I have never used them in D&D Next. This has caused some grumbling among players who have powers or abilities that are tied to these bloody things and all I can say is: suck it up. I will not suffer a bad rule to live.
Another issue I have pertains more to 4th Edition than to Next and that was the uselessness of magical items. Was it just me, or did 4th seem to have a boatload of items that were as useless as a Kobold with no arms? I remember looking at entire pages of items that looked like they came off of the cheap rack at Walmart. +1 for your nature lore check? +1 to any history checks pertaining to your race? +1 to your saving throws on a full moon in the month of January when the lone wolf howls? (Okay, that last one I made up but I’d bet they would have considered it!) Thankfully, D&D Next has gone back to many of the traditional magical items that I know and love from 2nd Edition. When it comes to magical items, I’ll take quality over quantity any day.
A final issue that I have with the mechanics of the game involves leveling up and the experience charts. Sometimes I feel that too much emphasis and effort is placed on combat and not enough on roleplaying. Each and every creature in the Monster Manual comes with a specific XP value. And yet, when you do the research on XP for roleplaying, you’d think you were getting a palm reading from Madam Whatshername. I know that trying to assign an XP number to every possible roleplaying situation would be like giving every word in the dictionary a scrabble score but a more focused effort needs to be attempted. And that leads me to next week’s topic: my proposal for a more practical roleplaying XP system. Stay tuned!
Is there something about D&D that makes you want to go postal? Leave a comment below!