Thursday, December 4, 2008

Scrappy-Doo and the Hickman Revolution

It's pretty much a given, among people of a certain age, to treat the appearance of Scooby-Doo's overly exuberant young nephew in 1979 as the beginning of the end for that venerable Hanna-Barbera cartoon. For many, Scrappy represents a betrayal of the original vision of the show, which, while light hearted, was rarely outright comedic. Scrappy's arrival changed that and forever earned the ire of Scooby-Doo's legions of devoted fans.

What many such fans don't realize is that Scrappy-Doo saved Scooby-Doo, a series that was on the verge of cancellation by ABC in 1979. Scrappy's creator, famed cartoon wordsmith Mark Evanier -- one the brains behind the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon a few years later -- has related the tale of the little Great Dane's birth in a series of four articles. Reading them is very enlightening on many levels, not least of which being the context it provides for how and why Scrappy-Doo came to be and the impact his arrival had on the Scooby-Doo franchise. Far from being as unpopular as he might seem in retrospect, Scrappy-Doo was in fact immensely popular and played a major role in keeping Scooby-Doo alive and on the air throughout the 1980s. It's not an exaggeration to say that, without Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Doo would have gone the way of many other cartoons and been mostly unknown to a generation of children.

Tracy Hickman made his TSR debut in 1982 with module I3, Pharaoh, the first part of the "Desert of Desolation" trilogy and the first of many popular and influential D&D modules he'd pen, often with his wife, Laura. All of Hickman's work shares a common emphasis on providing a coherent story as a backdrop for the adventure. While many of his early modules, including Ravenloft, reveal an old school heritage with their trick and trap-filled "dungeons," what made those modules a popular success was the way they went beyond the thin backgrounds of earlier adventures -- "Some giants are attacking civilized lands. Go and find out why or you'll get the axe." -- by spinning epic tales of love lost and won, baleful curses, ancient prophecies, and, most importantly, memorable NPCs with hopes, dreams, and fears of their own.

Back in 1982, what Hickman was doing was nothing short of revolutionary, at least in the context of TSR's official support for D&D. The gaming public responded very positively and enthusiastically, particularly to Ravenloft and the Dragonlance modules, both of which seem to have been the "gateway" for a significant portion of the "third generation" of gamers who entered the hobby in the mid-80s. Despite the financial distress TSR suffered -- $1.5 million debt in 1984 -- D&D's fortunes were buoyant, due in no small part to the change Hickman's modules effected on the way gamers viewed D&D and what they expected from it. Dragonlance was the greatest -- and most profitable -- fruit of the "Hickman Revolution" and its success set a pattern for D&D that dominated the next 10+ years, right up until Wizards of the Coast acquired the company in 1997.

Given the financial mismanagement of TSR under the Blumes and D&D's loss of its faddishness in the mid-80s, I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that the Hickman Revolution played a key role in keeping TSR, D&D, and by extension the hobby vibrant and vigorous well into the 1990s, when "storytelling games" came into their own. A lot of us older gamers look at this stuff and think about it the same way many Scooby-Doo fans look at Scrappy-Doo: isn't this the worst thing that could have happened to our beloved? I know, for myself, that I often feel that D&D would have been better off in the long run if had not embraced "story" as central to its self-identity.

But would I still care about D&D -- or even roleplaying -- today if my preferred alternate history had come to pass? Did the Hickman Revolution safeguard the future of D&D by transforming it into something other than its origins? That's an impossible question to answer. I offer it up because I think it's all too easy to see each and every deviation from pristine Gygaxianism as another cobblestone on the road to hell. So they are in a certain context, but it's also true that these deviations are what enable D&D to continue to have relevance to gamers decades after the original game -- and the culture that spawned it -- have passed from the scene.

This is the only sense in which I accept the term "evolution" as being a valid one to describe the development of RPGs and I obviously don't think all such evolution is positive, except in the sense that it can sometimes better enable a game to survive changes in popular tastes. In such cases, though, what you wind up with is not a "better" game so much as a different one entirely. I'm inclined to think that the lasting effect of the Hickman Revolution has been to permanently splinter D&D into several distinct "species," some of which bear more genetic resemblance to one another than do others.

Let me reiterate that I don't think Tracy Hickman is the Devil nor do I think he set out to change the face of Dungeons & Dragons forever. That his work met with such popular acclaim -- and still does, in many quarters, even after 25 years -- is pretty good evidence that he gave gamers something they very much wanted. "Story" wasn't imposed on D&D so much as happily embraced by many younger gamers who felt the Gygaxian template for the game was too narrow and not at all like the books, comics, and movies that inspired them. I don't think there's any question that the Gygaxian template itself would have changed over time -- it already was changing in 1982 -- but would it have changed enough to keep D&D at once vital and in keeping with its origins? Or was the Hickman Revolution the only path to continued success? There's no clear answer to this beyond the obvious one that the Hickman Revolution, like Scrappy-Doo, succeeded and succeeded brilliantly. We still live in the world it helped to usher into existence.

40 comments:

  1. Maybe I'm weird, but I'd have preferred that the D&D game had be "cancelled" rather than endlessly bastardized.

    I care about the D&D game's quality, integrity, and faithfulness to its roots. What I don't care about is having a game called "Dungeons & Dragons" in-print all the time no matter what.

    Better no D&D than bad D&D. Death before dishonor and all that.

    I'm long on record as being disgusted by treating entertainment as "francises" that need to continue as long as possible for the sake of money and inertia alone.

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  2. When I opened the blog and saw Scrappy, I for sure thought you were going to be talking about a dungeon level in castle Greyhawk.

    I am a 1st edition DM till the day I die. I never spent much time at cons or in the game community over the decades, and I would usually find players who were the same. Now after many years off I have a new group, mostly made up of experienced gamers - and these guys want story story story. Back in the day, you just had the dungeons and the base of operations (town, city, inn), and the players role play actions would ultimatley create the story (as long as the DM is on top of it to take advantage and move things along). My game world has 100+ years of character continuity, and characters made most of the history during that time. I'm quietly in the process of teaching these 3rd edition dudes in my new campaign that they must be responsible for most of the story. I'm just there to create an outline. Let's make this story happen together.

    Having only gotten back into gaming in the last few months, I wasn't even aware of terms like "Grognard." A guy in a forum called me that, and it sounded pretty insulting. But I embrace it now. And I'll say the same thing here that I did to make that guy call me out: I looked at the 4th edition and said in a hushed, sad tone "This ain't D&D."

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  3. "This is the only sense in which I accept the term "evolution" as being a valid one to describe the development of RPGs and I obviously don't think all such evolution is positive, except in the sense that it can sometimes better enable a game to survive changes in popular tastes. In such cases, though, what you wind up with is not a "better" game so much as a different one entirely."

    I think you've touched on something essential here. In the strict sense, evolution doesn't mean "better", just more adept at surviving in a particular environment. All species die out and are replaced by their evolved progeny or another group entirely. The current Old School movement, enabled greatly by internet communication, is able to provide a niche for the old ways to survive and prosper. I think all editions of D&D since the original have brought something interesting to the table and I try to incorporate as many of the things that I like into my gaming as I can. That DIY spirit is one of the best things about the old school style of play and is the reason I love to read blogs like this even though I don't play OD&D/AD&D these days.

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  4. What a very unflattering comparison!

    I think in this, arguably, indian summer of pen & paper RPGs it is tempting to look back on the past as a series of "moments of transition", but I think the trends are much broader than that. If not Hickman, then somebody else would eventually have done much the same thing.

    For all the evidence from WotC that TSR was out of touch with its audience, D20/3e does not look an awful lot different from the "optionalised" AD&D of the late nineties. Though there were bad decisions and failed projects, TSR always seemed like a company responding to its audience and competitors (desperately, sometimes).

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  5. "Maybe I'm weird, but I'd have preferred that the D&D game had be "cancelled" rather than endlessly bastardized."

    Weird is the mildest term i could use. I won't use any others cuz this is a nice place, but I for one am darn glad that D&D has been "bastardized" ie:done what is necessary to be a commercially viable product that employs lots of folks who otherwise would hafta get real jobs, as well as forming the backbone of a hobby that keeps game stores open and new kids opening up new games every X-mas, even if its not the same game I opened up on X-mas morning in 1980.

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  6. I'm inclined to think that the lasting effect of the Hickman Revolution has been to permanently splinter D&D into several distinct "species," some of which bear more genetic resemblance to one another than do others.

    OK, this is weird, but I just wrote a post making the exact same argument--to the point where, I think, there is no longer a "true" D&D. Great minds think alike, I guess.

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  7. I wasn't expecting to see Scrappy Doo this morning. Always a surprise at Grognardia. :) I forgot about that little bastard.

    Personally, what happened to D&D doesn't bother me. I just chose to stop buying. Still, I do think it's sad that nothing comparable took its place. Kids ought to have something on the bookshelves of their FRPG that doesn't treat them like kids.

    Old school revival aside, I find most contemporary RPG products a bit too easy to chew. At least as far as the big players are concerned. However, I don't think the addition of story was a problem. In fact, I like a good story. -I've always favored long campaigns and intricate plots behind my dungeon crawls.

    What makes me sad is that a kid no longer needs to reference a thesaurus to read RPG books. "Play a Dragonborn if...!" OMG. I'm sorry, but I find that very insulting.

    I think you took an odd tack with Scrappy Doo, James. I'd say you are right about Scrappy. However, Scrappy didn't bring story to Scooby Doo. Scrappy just plain dumbed things down. We hate that little dog because he insulted our intelligence. -There's the analogy I agree with.

    I know I am being a bit dismissive here and generalizing too much. However, I really hated that Scrappy Doo. Oh, and 4E is fine. Scrappy is fine too.

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  8. I cannot call the currently popular trend of "adventure paths" a game. As I've said at length on my own blog, modern D&D has become "gaming entertainment." It is no longer a game when the DM is strongly tempted to avoid TPK in order to see a story to completion. And story-conducted railroading doesn't happen in old school sandbox campaigns.

    James, as usual, you've hit the mark and made an astute observation about the history of RPGs.

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  9. "Da-da-da-da-daaaaaaaaaa!

    Puppy power!!!"



    Ok, someone had to say it...

    MK, I think the introduction of Scrappy was a catchy gimmick...and the point James is making is that STORY (as a new module feature) was D&D's catchy gimmick, which saved the enterprise.

    In the end, I agree with MK here:

    Personally, what happened to D&D doesn't bother me. I just chose to stop buying.

    3E was fun for awhile, but the rules bloat bored me. I've glanced at 4E, but...bleh. Both have some good ideas to yoink, but not something I'd spend any more $$$ on.

    But, in the end, I'm not the target market WotC is going for. They already got my money from 3E [but not for 3.5E!]. They now are trying to keep their intellectual property viable by offering products new customers will buy. The PSP/Wii crowd's influence on 4E is a testimony to that.

    The At-Will/Encounter/Daily powers are the new Scrappy-Doo.

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  10. What's a FRPG? Sorry, I meant FLGS. :)

    I see what you are saying about the "catchy gimmick", The_Myth. However, I think the analogy with Scrappy works on a deeper level as well.

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  11. "Personally, what happened to D&D doesn't bother me. I just chose to stop buying."

    I wish I could say the same, but I just plain love the game. I love it enough to prefer to see it die with its dignity and integrity if it can't manage to live with such.

    And sorry, Blotz, but I don't see it that way.

    First of all, if the people currently making lousy bastardized D&D on the corporate level "hafta get real jobs", I say *good*. Why should I worry about them when the real soul of the published game is currently in the hands the non-profit driven "old-school" and "retro-clone" movements?

    And if kids need an entryway into the game, than for God's sake let it be the older generation and not WotC's pinhead marketing gurus. Invite your own kids into your campaign. Consider a great condition Moldvay Basic set as a Christmas present for your friends' kids. Whatever. Letting the suits at post-Gygax TSR and WotC decide how younger gamers were going to "get into" the hobby has caused nothing but trouble so far. Might as well learn from the past. I say take back that role.

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  12. You had me at "Dungeons & Dragons cartoon."

    /DVD set is teh awesomeness
    /Even comes with playable adventure module and the show's characters as PCs

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  13. "Even comes with playable adventure module and the show's characters as PCs"

    Just don't expect that module to play out like an episode of the show. As I remember, the kids were pretty badass due to having all the powers of their classes (not just ones from their items) and about 2-3 times more total levels between them than Venger.

    Venger gonna get owned hard. :)

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  14. I hated that D&D cartoon back in the day, but saw some recently and actually liked it. The only things I didn't really like was the little barbarian kid (a couple years older and he would have been easier to take), his unicorn, and the fact that they couldn't use the term "thief." They should have made that into a live action film, rather than that abortion of a film from a few years ago.

    Did Mark create Scooby's retarded cousin (Dumby Doo? Retardoo?)as well as Scrappy? If so, only his work on Groo absolves him of those sins...

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  15. Before the Hickmans' work, I think the assumption was that each DM would have provided his or her campaign with fleshed-out history, NPCs, ongoing events and so on -- and would find it a hindrance rather than a help to have too much particular detail imposed in scenario premises.

    As demonstrated by the success in particular of the ever-expanding Forgotten Realms line, that was not the case for a significant market.

    I can take that in stride more easily than the triumph of "railroading" techniques. Vecna Lives was for me the final atrocity, heralding the hour of the day of the year of the age of the coming of Complete C**p.

    Different strokes, natch. The Desert of Desolation series was once a novel "change of pace." What's rotten is that one style has come to monopolize the field.

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  16. I for one am happy for the transition that Hickman and others led. It "kept D&D afloat" because it was "what paying customers wanted." I personally despise the pointless old dungeon-crawls - Tomb of Horrors and the rest of the S series were the worst time I had gaming, next to a game of Gamma World led by Jim Ward itself. Ah, random death tables. I just don't find that fun.

    Now, there have been excesses in "too much story" and railroading over time, but that's saying story is bad because there's bad stories. But just killing wandering monsters isn't fun for me for more than the first little while.

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  17. "It 'kept D&D afloat' because it was 'what paying customers wanted.'"

    Businesses that provide that tend to stick around....

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  18. my problem with new d&d is not story but character. for a long time, my d&d games could be described as a party of adolescent boys lost in a labyrinth on a quest for a personality. and it was when we ran out of new powers, abilities, and magic items and got bored with the imaginary power trip that we discovered the fun of actually developing our characters. and this automatically made for better stories (usually compeltely our own). under the new rules, the plan seems to be never let players run out of new "options" (i.e. products). I put the blame not on hickman but on MMORGS and other computererized imitations of D&D which compensate for the lack of a human GM to create interesting NPCs and (player)character-driven stories with an ability to efficiently and visually run large battles. New d&d, therefore seems likely to be a clunky imitation of the cold and alienating computerized imitation of old d&d.

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  19. @MK - I'd be very interested to hear if you, or others, would be willing to play an RPG or use a supplement (or, heck, read a novel) that used archaic terms not found in modern (read: post-1900) English.

    Is language purely for communication? Or is it, perhaps, an art form? Does such an art have a place in game rules? And does the latest generation of gamers speak a different language from that of the oldest generation?

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  20. mxyzplk: It's not that "story" is bad, but that we're talking about a game -- not a novel. The players' purpose is not to be a passive audience but actively to create the story. The game mechanics of D&D are designed not for an "authorial" narrative approach but to let role-playing take place in a context of uncertain outcomes. Player choice combines with chance to produce an often surprising series of events. When one tells of them afterward ... there's the story. It's your story,not the module designer's!

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  21. @Ben- For sure, -as long as it was done tastefully. I'm not a fan of art for the sake of art. However, I feel prose is just as important as artwork, even in game rules.

    I read such works all the time.

    In Blessington's eyes, the new paradise should be as free as the former from evil.
    But if the new eve, for an apple should grieve, what mortal would not play the devil?

    Byron, my friend!

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  22. Interesting that you should pot this now, about Hickman, when Jeff Grubb mentions in passing that Hickman almost got laid off just before Dragonlance premiered. What, indeed, would that alternate universe look like then, and today?

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  23. mxyzplk, I tend to agree with Dwayanu. If the DM wants to tell a story, then he or she should probably try their hand at writing novels.

    Down through the years there have been so many game masters that I've experienced who wanted to railroad the game with their own stories. I noticed that many of these GMs also aspired to be authors. I don't think the role of author and GM is interchangeable.

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  24. I'm long on record as being disgusted by treating entertainment as "francises" that need to continue as long as possible for the sake of money and inertia alone.

    I feel much the same and, of late anyway, I've been rather self-consciously trying to avoid supporting such things in preference to newer, original creative endeavors.

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  25. That DIY spirit is one of the best things about the old school style of play and is the reason I love to read blogs like this even though I don't play OD&D/AD&D these days.

    I agree. It's the part of the hobby I miss most and that I feel has been largely cast aside it's developed. Gaming nowadays is a much more pre-packaged form of entertainment and, while I recognize the appeal of that for many people, it's not at all what I want out of the hobby.

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  26. If not Hickman, then somebody else would eventually have done much the same thing.

    Very likely. I don't think Hickman was the only person who could have done what he did, but he was the person at TSR whose ideas galvanized the company to shift the way it designed modules. That others could have done the same thing -- and probably would have, eventually -- shouldn't take away from his importance.

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  27. MK, I think the introduction of Scrappy was a catchy gimmick...and the point James is making is that STORY (as a new module feature) was D&D's catchy gimmick, which saved the enterprise.

    Correct.

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  28. Did Mark create Scooby's retarded cousin (Dumby Doo? Retardoo?)as well as Scrappy? If so, only his work on Groo absolves him of those sins...

    Scooby-Dum predates Mark Evanier's involvement Scooby-Doo as far as I can determine, so he's likely not responsible for him.

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  29. What's rotten is that one style has come to monopolize the field.

    Indeed. I don't think the classic dungeoncrawl alone would have been enough to sustain D&D. Something else, some new approach was needed. The problem is that we're now 25+ years into an era dominated by "story" without anything else and it's now, as a device, even more rotten than dungeoncrawling was in the early 80s.

    The other issue too is that there's a vast difference between an organically evolving story and a prefabricated one, the latter being what has become the default in gaming.

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  30. What, indeed, would that alternate universe look like then, and today?

    An intriguing question. At that point, Pandora's Box had already been opened. Even if Hickman himself had been laid off, his ideas were already out there and becoming accepted. I'm not sure his departure would have changed the course of history significantly.

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  31. Very nice article!

    Personally, I have both reactions.

    If you have to warp something to save it, maybe you just shouldn’t save it.

    (Although, while “save or die” is a fine game mechanic, I think it’s often a false dichotomy for products.)

    On the other hand, if something I like gets changed so that I don’t like it, why should I let that bother me? The people who made those decisions have every right to make their own decisions. If lots of people enjoy the change, why should I begrudge them that?

    (Does it make me a bad person that I genuinely enjoy Metallica’s black album more than their older stuff? ^_^)

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  32. On the other hand, if something I like gets changed so that I don’t like it, why should I let that bother me? The people who made those decisions have every right to make their own decisions. If lots of people enjoy the change, why should I begrudge them that?

    I'd never begrudge anyone their preferences, even if I personally felt they were Philistines for liking something or other. What I do begrudge, though, is the way that game companies have been ruthlessly reducing venerable games into mere "brands" and calling it "evolution." I'm more than prepared to live and let live if I felt it was a two-way street, but, in recent years, I have felt increasingly that companies like WotC care little (and know less) about the history and traditions of this hobby or the people who cherish them.

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  33. Counter-argument: T1-T4 originated in '79, had a superabundance of backstory, and were linked far more tightly than the Giants/Dark Elves series.

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  34. T1–4 has its roots in 1979, but it was a product of 1985, the TSR of 1985, and its editor.

    Does anyone really doubt that if T2 (with no T3 or T4 follow-up) had been published in 1980 that it would have been a very different product?

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  35. The original T2 would almost certainly have been very different than the "super module" we got in 1985. It would have likely been just a big dungeon without even the thin plot of T1-4. I've often dreamed of what it would have been like and regret that we never got to see it.

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  36. Jay said...
    >You had me at "Dungeons & Dragons cartoon."
    >DVD set is teh awesomeness

    One of these days I'll have to get the U.S. set; I bought the Region 2 set about seven years ago, before they announced they were releasing it here.

    >Even comes with playable adventure module and the show's characters as PCs

    Will said...
    >Just don't expect that module to play out like an episode of the show. As I remember, the kids were pretty badass due to having all the powers of their classes (not just ones from their items) and about 2-3 times more total levels between them than Venger.

    >Venger gonna get owned hard. :)

    I always got the feeling that would have happened in the cartoon, if 1980's cartoon censorship rules hadn't dictated that the good guys couldn't actually hurt the bad guys. There was that one episode where they decided they'd had enough of them, and cut a deal with Tiamat to drag him to the Dragons' Graveyard where their weapons could actually kill him. Of course, at the last moment they didn't go through with it, but they actually had him pinned and helpless, and Hank was all ready to coup de grace him with an energy arrow.

    I've also read the script for the never-filmed final episode, in which Venger is redeemed, and the heroes are given the option to go home, but ultimately choose to stay and defend the Realm against the Elder Evil that corrupted Venger in the first place.

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  37. > The problem is that we're now 25+ years into an era dominated by "story" without anything else and it's now, as a device, even more rotten than dungeoncrawling was in the early 80s.

    Well, there's still stuff out there like the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics -- someone must have been buying them, because they published more than fifty of them for 3E, and are still around and publishing them for 4E (:-P). There's also Rappan Athuk (total meatgrinder of a megadungeon -- think the "Tomb of Horrors" cubed) and The World's Largest Dungeon (TM).

    Heck, a lot of what I see these days is not campaigns but campaign settings, with lots of story seeds but no over-arching story like the original Dragonlance modules. Over time they get bloated, but if you pick up one that's relatively fresh, like Golarion (the setting for Pathfinder), or one from a smaller publisher that can't afford to bloat it, like Ptolus, there's plenty of room for putting your own imprint on it.

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  38. I've only been playing D&D since about 1990, so I'm far less experienced then some others that are on this site, but I'd like to stick my neck out for the new systems (3.5 and 4 ed).

    If I want to play a dungeon crawl, I'll go play WoW, or one of the numerous video games I have. Table top RPGs can no longer compete with these well designed, visually stunning, and generally fun areas of fantasy-themed entertainment without giving people something unique.

    The two things, in my mind, that make these table top RPGs unique is customizability, and flexibility. With table top games, you never feel like you are stuck in a box. The story can be whatever you want it to be. In addition, all of those little add-ons let you customize the flavor and the feel of the game in ways that really do add to the game, without having to switch to an entirely new way of thinking (i.e. system).

    I had more fun with 3e/3.5 than I ever did with 2nd ed, and everyone of my PCs thought the same. I'll never have a desire to play 2nd ed again. I don't think that I will ultimately enjoy 4e more than 3.0/3.5, but it still has a number of things going for it that I really do like.

    Young gamers are simply a different breed than older gamers. The internet has changed the way that we think. 4th ed. is designed with these changes in mind. It is simple to learn, easy to master, but still gives enough flexibility to feel like its not a video game. It takes what young gamers are already familiar with, and twists it just enough so that it captivates them.

    In some respects, I agree that 4th ed. is too simplified, and it doesn't contain some of those very interesting nuances that make for a truly unique experience. At the same time, 3.5 was too cumbersome, and even some of my very intelligent friends had difficulty learning the basic rules.

    I am glad that D&D went the way that it did. If it had stayed in the dungeon crawl 'classics' realm, I would have never even picked it up. D&D has given me and my friends countless hours of enjoyment, and I continue to look forward to future incarnations of the system.

    There will never be a 'perfect system.' Only systems that are better evolved to the current market. Besides, variety is the spice of life, and I look forward to learning new system and new interpretations of table top gaming.

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  39. So, Reuben, is your defense of 3e over earlier editions that it supports more than just dungeon crawls? If so, you should know that many of us find that the older editions work fine for more than dungeon crawls.

    If your defense of 3e is simply that you had more fun with it than 2e, then nobody can argue with that. I’ve had more fun with classic D&D than with 3e.

    (Also, there were two flavors of 2e. Well, a continuum really. “Core only” 2e without the optional rules is pretty “old school”. With the optional rules and the supplements, it becomes more of a proto-3e. So, I find comparisons against 2e generally need qualification.)

    I will say that there was a time when I didn’t think I’d ever play any of the older editions again. (Before 3e came along, I didn’t think I’d ever play any D&D again.) Now, though, the old Basic and Expert sets are one of my favorite games—if not my most favored. For whatever it’s worth.

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  40. Coming to this comment a couple years late, but I've thought about this topic before (and even posted about it back on the Necromancer Games boards years ago).

    Hickman & Weis's Dragonlance novels are what you're talking about. Hickman's *modules* are actually very old school (as you hint in passing), with a few interesting twists. One truly distinctive design achievement of his (which has seldom been used since) is his fondness for "story randomizers", such as the tarot cards in Ravenloft.

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