The Demise of Dungeons & Dragons
Change can be a good thing. Without change, several of history's momentous events would never have come about. We would be currently living a life so much dissimilar to what we know it would hardly be recognizable. Change is not always good, though. Some things are better left the way they were. I'm not sure what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they started this grand venture, but I'm hoping they missed the mark and are just too embarassed to admit it.
Change can be a good thing. Without change, several of history's momentous events would never have come about. We would be currently living a life so much dissimilar to what we know it would hardly be recognizable. Change is not always good, though. Some things are better left the way they were.
Wizards of the Coast have been a rising force in the gaming world since the advent of Magic: The Gathering. They have taken great leaps of faith in a card game that was sure to fail, it was so different from the norm. But, in the face of adversity, Magic flourished. Now WotC is turning it's visionary viewpoint on a tried and true favorite of gamers around the world, AD&D.
Dungeons & Dragons has went through a few changes already, from first edition to second edition, from basic to advanced. I have played D&D for 16 years now and was never so happy as to see 2nd edition grace the shelves of bookstores and game shops. It was new, refreshing and an answer to many problems and questions that arose out of 1st edition. Don't get me wrong, 1st edition was a blast to play and was a revolutionary step in roleplaying. 2nd edition, however, raised the standard even higher, adding new elements to the rules, changing some monsters and adding new ones. Some creatures were removed from the game, a few to placate angry parents who thought there was a satanic undertone to the game and a few to balance out the worlds created by the designers and gamers alike. Over all it is the best game, I feel, to ever come out of man's imagination and creativity. Now we have AD&D, 3rd edition.
I'm not sure what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they started this grand venture, but I'm hoping they missed the mark and are just too embarassed to admit it. From the few bits and pieces about the 3rd edition I've seen, many changes have taken place, so much so that the original core set of rules almost seems non-existant. THAC0 has been removed entirely, relying on a challenge rating of the creature being fought by party members as well as a rating assigned to the party themselves. Action or battle also consists of feats, instead of proficiencies. Saving throws have been reduced to 3 categories and initiative has been reverted to highest number goes first.
Initiative has always preceded any other action in a round of AD&D combat mode. Your necromancer wants to cast that spell he's been drooling over? Roll initiative. Your paladin took personal affront to the orc spitting on his holy symbol? Roll initiative. It's been the basis of combat and action since the game began. I have nothing against the change back to higher goes first. However, the roll is now made with a d20 instead of the d10 previously used. This may not be that big a deal, and certainly wouldn't make the game any less enjoyable, were it not for the fact that there are now all kinds of variables to add or subtract from the initiative roll. No longer do you have to take into account weapon speed or the casting time of spells, but now you have the feats and other special bonuses, etc. to make your roll higher or lower, depending on what it calls for. I'm sure the thought all this would make combat rounds much easier, but I fail to see their line of thinking. Adding in that many variables to take into account for such a simple part of the round as initiative does not seem, to me, to be beneficial and would take much more time rather than make the play more fast paced. Another change to initiative is the fact that you keep the same roll throughout the combat session. If you go third on the first round, you go third for each subsequent round. Unless you choose to focus your action, wherein you lose your action for that round but are allowed to automatically go first next round. Why not just keep the tried and true method of deciding who goes first each round?
Armor Class and THAC0
Since the change between 1st edition and secone edition, THAC0 has been an integral part of combat. It was a simple equation to figure out how hard it was for you to hit whatever you decided to attack. The monster's AC is 0, you're a 2nd lvl warrior, so you need a base roll of 19 to hit the offending foe. Simple, right? Apparently Wizards of the Coast didn't think so. They wanted to simplify the rules for D&D even more and do away with THAC0, replacing it with a greater number of variables to add or subtract from your ability to damage a certain adversary. Challenge ratings, difficulty ratings, etc.. There are now so many different pluses and minuses that I wonder if the rulebooks will resemble algebra textbooks from high school. You can hit if your (blahblah) is added to the initial roll of (ugh), then subtracting your (squeak) from the base number of (honk)... OK, I'm generalizing and probably making it sound more complicated than it really is. But in my mind it's more difficult to do all this than to just keep it the way it was. Which brings me to Armor Class. They've changed that, too. Now, the higher your AC, the better. An AC of 20 is incredibly good for the defender and disheateningly bad for the attacker. What was wrong with the way it was? Nothing that I, nor the group I've had the fortune of DM'ing and playing with for years, could see.
I don't claim to know everything about the 3rd edition of our favorite roleplaying game (and the cause of many late, sleepness nights of pizza and bloodshed). I don't claim to be an expert on 2nd edition. What I am is a concerned gamer. Concerned with the path Wizards of the Coast has chosen for my favorite roleplaying game of all time. What's next? Will Tiamat become the very model of a modern major general? Will Elminster become a necromancer? Will umberhulks become the choice pet for kings and queens the land over? How many licks does it take to get to the center of... OK, you get my point.