Strong-Arm Tactics: Why You Don’t Need to Play D&D Next

There is a lot of buzz about Dungeons and Dragons Next. At the same time it is both a source of intangible hope and possibility and very concrete and malleable piece of gaming design. The players and game masters have been invited to weigh in on its construction, to offer feedback and input, to help shape the next generation of Fantasy gaming materials. Were we to look back we would see how such reinventing can play out.

3rd Edition was an invigorating shot in the arm of the genre, streamlining a clunky 2 nd Ed which had you going down to find up and up down. 3rd Edition gave way to 3.5, further tightening and honing the system. 4th Edition not so much. It seemed to lean too much away from the table and more towards the screen. The response was Pathfinder, a retelling of 3.5 to bring it to the height of the current market, and the mainstay at my table.

5th Edition holds the potential to embrace the positive of past system and eliminate the negative. It can be a bastion of innovation, introducing all manner of compelling and interesting content. It can bring in a host of new gamers and a new sense of public respectability to the hobby. It can be the end all of tabletop gaming systems. Yet, ultimately, it is completely unnecessary.

Pen and paper roleplaying games have, at their most basic level, needed little more than those two things. Add in some people and some imagination and any game, regardless of setting or edition or book, can come alive and thrill it’s participants for hours and hours and session after session. We are not bound by the latest patch or newest expansion, as with the online computer scene. Simply because it is new does not make it necessary or important for us to continue our fun. Any edition will do.

I hope DnD Next proves to be a success, but whether it is, or isn’t, my group and I would never notice. Our dice roll on.

About the Author

Sir Andrew of the Strong Arm, not known by this name to anyone, combines his passion for adventure, theatricality and education to offer an out of the box view on just about everything.  He was once quoted as saying ‘I don’t even know what the box is’ as he wandered away with a confused look on his face.

Andrew lives in Colorado Springs where he divides his time between educating the next generation and devolving the current one.  He best enjoys Fantasy settings when around the table and is currently running Pathfinder.  Outside of gaming he also dabbles in voice acting, music and video production.  Much of his “work” can be found on his YouTube channel, layered amidst his ramblings on gaming topics and videos of his tabletop group LARPing Monty Python.

For more from Andrew, check out the Dawnforged Entertainment channel on YouTube!

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16 comments to Strong-Arm Tactics: Why You Don’t Need to Play D&D Next

  • Stefanos Patelis

    Frankly we are reaching a point where such inappropriate voices of opinion are becoming tiresome.
    I do not mean to offend the author but I do mean to vocally disagree with them.

    No. You are wrong sir.

    A) You cannot express every gamer’s opinion in such a small treatise. We are happy that you enjoy Pathfinder but you are not the sole group on earth. I can assure you that there are groups out there not happy with any edition of D&D. I can assure you there are people out there who do wish for evolution and change in gaming practices just like with every other aspect of the human psyche.
    B) This fallback argument of the game needing nothing more than imagination is absolutely true and absolutely pointless. YES! Roleplaying games do not need much more than creativity and a group of people – all the rest are optional (books, rules, paper, pencils, tables, dice – ok maybe junk food is mandatory) But please spare us the sermon. There could easily be some reasons people need not follow D&D Next but this specific argument is not one od them. You argument tells people they never really needed TSR or Wizards or White Wolf or Chaosium or any of them in the first place. Hopefully you understand the futility and pointlessness of the case?

    I could continue with the author’s clear and biased support of pathfinder and 3rd edition which explains their negative output but I will not. Seriously Mr Andrew please go back and re-read your short essay above. WHAT exactly are you trying to tell us?

    If this was a harried piece of posting that wasn’t meeting its deadline I can understand but otherwise – can we please concentrate on offering constructive criticism when we try to go so negative on or demean any company’s effort?

    • Fitz

      @Stefanos Patelis – Though I appreciate the frustration, I believe Andrew’s point of view is still a valid one. Many of us have lived through multiple rounds of D&D editions in the last 10-30 years and at some point I think enough is enough. I don’t think Andrew is arguing for a cessation of progress, just that no action is required on the part of every gamer every time a new edition arises from the old.

      • Stefanos Patelis

        Hopefully I do not come off too frustrated – Andrew’s work should not be judged by one post or one negative comment 🙂

        But I am totally and absolutely tired and frustrated by this attitude. (I do understand freedom of speech and I am not trying to raise a flamewar by the way)

        What these people who support this motto fail to understand is that overstating the obvious has no effect. Especially in such a bland way as the above article which does at least try to cover this opinions within others or to add this opinion in lien with others and make a comparison on anything _constructive_

        Making an article to simple say “You do not need rules and editions to play D&D” is as pointless as saying “You do not need a mobile phone to contact people.” or “You do not need a touchscreen on your mobile phone since you can do it with keys”

        A) People need to factor in the need of evolution. Not every tabletop is chess. And will need to evolve and perfect itself. Storytelling might have been around from the ancient times of mankind but D&D is not just Storytelling. In fact some people may argue D&D originated from Wargames and miniature gaming…And I can assure you they
        need rules there…
        B) By saying this you completely dishonor the work of countless and countless people in the roleplaying industry. You are essentially either calling them frauds who try to trick us into selling things we don’t need or idiots who have been duped into working in a needless industry. Maybe they should all quit as their products are not needed.
        C) The whole argument is becoming as superfluous and unnecessary as Edition wars themselves.

        So although Andrew is taking the brunt of my ire – I am not directly assaulting them – I am complaining to all out there who do this.

        PS. In fact in terms of preferred editions I am with Andrew’s team 😉

        • Fitz

          @Stefanos Patelis – Thanks for confirming that your comment wasn’t really an attack (it was far too polite and clearly written for most troll-ish attacks these days anyway!), but I suspected it was mostly frustration. That said, personal choice and expressing that choice don’t invalidate anybody’s work. I know Andrew has tons of respect for people in the RPG industry as do I, but that doesn’t mean that we must follow blindly. Evolution is great, but some may choose not to change. That’s their choice to make.

  • justaguy

    While I get your general point I can’t help but feel you could use that point for… any edition really. Of course 5e isn’t needed by the gamer, anymore than 4e, Pathfinder, 3.5e, 3e hell even 2e… Every edition was supposed to be an improvement on the last, whether or not any individual thinks it was. *shrug*

    • Fitz

      @justaguy – Very true. And I met someone recently who still plays basically D&D 1st edition in his campaigns. Does that invalidate what he and his group do at the gaming table? Heck no.

      I’m just not a fan of evolution for evolution’s sake. If you’re happy with an edition, stay there. Don’t complain about support (not really an issue with Pathfinder, which has a thriving community of writers and designers producing comment).

  • Your whole idea here assumes that people only play one RPG. Which is basically not true in my experience. Our gaming group in the last few years has played: 4e, 2e, Rules Compendium, TMNT, and we’re starting a Warhammer game tonight.

    Additionally, I’ve learned valuable things from every RPG and edition that I’ve ever played. Your attitude here is wrongheaded, and doesn’t help to grow the hobby or reflect the actual experiences of many groups.

    Maybe you should rethink.

  • A brief response:

    Not that Next is wrong or bad or coming up with new things is wrong or bad, but rather, if you the gamer are content and happy with your system you needn’t feel left behind or obsolete for not jumping on the newest thing.

    This video and article were as much a message to myself as to anyone else. I felt the urge: ‘New content, must go get it, must be first in line, must make tons of videos because it will be popular.’ And I had to stop myself and offer this reminder: ‘You’re really enjoying Pathfinder. You have no reason to switch to the next newest thing. There will always be something new coming out and you’d go insane and broke trying to keep up. So be content where you are.’

    If you need a change then dive into Next. If you like new content and systems then have at it. But please don’t feel like you have to.

    • Fitz

      @Andrew – Well said. Thanks.

    • On this:

      ‘You’re really enjoying Pathfinder. You have no reason to switch to the next newest thing. There will always be something new coming out and you’d go insane and broke trying to keep up. So be content where you are.’

      I agree. I have heard many people state how good 5e is and that you can mold it to whatever version you were comfortable with. but, if I’m already playing that version….

      So, good luck WoTC. I hope you many good returns on this edition. But I’m sleeping with Pathfinder now. 😀

    • Stefanos Patelis

      Andrew my main beef with this line of thought is that Pathfinder or 3.5 D&D or most others things would not have been around for us to enjoy if we didn’t give evolution a chance.

      We can still play make believe with our lego toys till we are put in our graves if we follow your train of thought and never enjoy any other game.

      DnD Next offers a free chance for people to playtest and see the game during its inception. No matter how successful or truthful this endeavor is it has never been done before by WoTC (nor TSR if I remember correctly) and I have to applaud it AND advertise it.

      So I will not go telling people they “do not need DnD Next”. I will be telling people they “need to check out DnD Next since it is free and decide if it fits their style”.

      Case in point : Advantages and Disadvantages is something that I have not seen in many Roleplaying genres/systems before and I find it very interesting to the point I might incorporate in my 3.5 AND 2nd edition campaigns….How can I say that I did not NEED DnD Next?

      • Advantages and Disadvantages? That a new thing in Next? Is it like Traits? Talents? Perks and Flaws? Little tweaks which add a bit of flavor and variety to the character?

        • Stefanos Patelis

          Hopefully I am not thread jacking here 🙂

          But yeah it is one of the things they brought in from the get go – even though the rest of the playtesting material feels quite rough, this little core rule about rolling two dice and keeping the best or worst is an interesting quick and easy take into an alternative/enhancement to penalties or bonuses or differing DCs for a check.

          Admittedly it is quite easily a house rule that anyone could have thought and there is bound to be some example in previous roleplaying rules that somebody will point out – but it is one of the things that immediately shined through the playtesting.

      • forged

        Advantages and Disadvantages have been around for a while — just in other RPG systems. I have a fairly strong opinion on them that has nothing to do with this thread.

        Andrew’s article addresses the issue from a player/GM’s perspective. What makes a new edition compelling enough to invest my precious money into it? I have a ton of other demands for my money and it isn’t a slight to the rpg industry that they might not be on the top of the list whenever a new edition of a game comes out? As was previously mentioned, it gets pricey for a person to go all in for every version of a system that comes out.

        Some people will chose to check out the new edition and switch to it. However, he does seem correct that you shouldn’t feel compelled to switch just because it is out there. (I’m sure WotC and other companies that have released new editions of their systems would be happy if it is otherwise.)

        Stefanos is taking exception to this. I’ve re-read the comments multiple times and I keep trying to figure out one thing.


        Since we are talking about D&D Next in particular … what makes it more compelling than previous editions? I didn’t find 4e particularly more compelling than 3.5 and Pathfinder … so why should D&D Next be more compelling than 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4e?

        (This question also applies to Hero, Gurps, World of Darkness, etc.)

        I want to make this perfectly clear. I’m not judging WotC on their decision to focus all their efforts on D&D Next and effectively end-of-life 4th edition. That is their right as the owner of the content and it is a business decision. However, that doesn’t mean I need to buy it. Based on how I’m reading Andrew’s post and comments, he isn’t even remotely attacking WotC for deciding to come out with a new edition. So why are you frustrated with Andrew’s post that says just because there is a new edition out there he isn’t necessarily
        going to embrace it?

        • Stefanos Patelis

          I will try to be more elaborative for “forged”‘s comment above – I think it is safe to sum up your post in the following statements/questions.

          a) What makes a new edition compelling enough to invest precious money into it?
          b) Why is Stefanos (me) taking exception to Andrew pointing out this.
          c) Why should D&D Next be more compelling than 4th and 3.5.
          d) Why am I frustrated with someone’s post who says just because there is an edition out there they are not going to embrace it.

          First of all let me clear it out because although you say you have read my comments you seem to feel like I have some sort of hidden agenda or I am confusing in my language. I do not have a hidden agenda and I am clear in what I am frustrated about and what I advocate:
          a) I am NOT saying anywhere that D&DNext is better than any other D&D edition OR any other game
          b) I am explaining that I feel Andrew’s post is slightly moot or overstating the obvious – something that has been out there from day one of published roleplaying rules. I am also explaining that I am not specifically targeting Andrew on this – in fact I like the guy’s prose but I feel he misstepped in this blog post – and he just happened to be the “lucky” one whose blog post I chose to vent my frustration towards those I (if I may) will call “naysayers”. At the moment he fits the profiel too though so he gets my rant 🙂
          c) I do not know. But neither should you nor Andrew not anyone. So I cannot see how anyone can come out and telling me I do not need a game when said game is in playtesting still and none knows how it will pan out.
          d) First of all Andrew’s post is not why he is not embracing it – I would offer critiscism or that or maybe even ignore it. Andrew’s post is why I should not embrace it. Or in my view the post’s title is such but not the content. If Andrew’s post was on anything else but DnD Next I would probably just dismissed it and ignored and probably consider it very low grade. It would be just one more post that overstates the obvious and provides nothing further that may merit my attention; a post that does not even constructively provide this negative feeling ignoring facts like those I explained before (e.g. evolution of our genre). It would have simply been a sub par post that I would ignore.

          But here is where it is getting interesting. Andrew chose to say something immensely obvious for an edition of a game he himself also says that he gave up on(4th) and stayed in a previous one and slowly moving into a competitive company; and all this for an edition which is not even out there yet. An edition of D&D which is currently going under playtesting – it is supposedly taking in the fan bases advice and molding the next iterations of the rules and it is still Under Construction. AND IT IS FREE!

          So now it is my turn to twist the statements into questions :

          So why would anyone who is remotely interested in roleplaying, remotely interested in D&D and competent enough to put posts on the net and in youtube advocate NOT giving a try to such an endeavor (the likes of whom we have not seen a lot – maybe a beta or free copy or preview but not a proper playtesting) by any other major player in the RPG industry (I might be mistaken here of course and I will be happily corrected)?

          Why so much negative criticism towards Wizards of the Coast and DnD Next so early?

          Will it be successful – I have absolutely no idea – this is why I have downloaded the playtesting material and am giving it a try. Then I will go online and voice my opinion.

          Is it mandatory to do so? HELL NO! Everyone is free to do and say as they will

          (and I am free to offer constructive criticism to that though)

          PS. before I get burned on anything stupid like edition wars I have said before that I agree with Andrew on preferring 3.5 as the best edition up to now. I have also said that I still game with 2nd edition too. I am also adding that I love other genres and companies with Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun being mu favorite alternatives. And I don’t like 4th edition. So hopefully that might help you understand where I am coming from.

          • forged

            Thanks for the clarification post. It may have been that I read the other posts too quickly, but I certainly understand where you are coming from with this latest post. 🙂

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