A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

Rule 0': don't be an asshole

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 08, 2012

Tagged: op-ed 4e 5e dndnext osr

When someone makes fun of me for playing D&D I now know that makes then a bit of an asshole. Different people have fun in different ways. A lot of people find different things fun. Most people I interact with nowadays don’t care one way or the other that I play D&D: this is because I’m an adult who now interacts primarily with other adults. Most adults are mature about these sorts of things. The only people I encounter nowadays who mock this outlet for fun are in fact other gamers.

I’ve played every other edition of D&D: original D&D as a kid, 2nd edition as a high school student, and now 4th edition as an adult. Did you know that if you are playing 4th edition you are doing it wrong? I didn’t either till I took to the internet–always a mistake.

For my friends and I 4th edition was the success Wizards of the Coast was probably hoping for: it got a few of old school gamers playing Dungeons and Dragons again. I don’t think any of us had really paid much attention to the game in well over a decade. It’s certainly quite different than the previous editions I’ve played, but having missed 3rd edition I thought many of the rule changes were mana from heaven. (No more negative AC! Even when I was 12 that seemed like a stupid idea.)1

After playing 4th edition for a while I was pretty delighted to discover the community that surrounds old school D&D. There are lots of great articles, books, and modules being put out by an engaged group of people. I’d argue the most interesting stuff happening with hobby right now is a result of the old-school renaissance and all the indie and DIY publishing that surrounds it.

With the noise from Wizards of the Coast around D&D Next I now get to witness the arguments and complaints I wasn’t privy to when 4th edition was first released. It takes real energy to get angry over a game you don’t play, and aren’t interested in playing in the future. People can get defensive about their hobbies. For some I suspect enjoying the game they are playing takes a back seat to justifying to others why it’s the one to play. Those sorts of arguments can be interesting, but it takes a level of effort and maturity that doesn’t seem to come across in much of what I read about 4th edition and D&D next on some of my favourite OSR blogs.

In many ways hardcore D&D fans remind me of hardcore indie music fans. Reading responses to D&D Next reminds me of reading reviews in Pitchfork. Both groups fandom is so transcendent it can only be expressed by hating all music, in the case of hardcore indie music fans, and all tabletop gaming, in the case of your hardcore D&D fan.

There is enough room in this hobby to accommodate everyone and the wide variety of things that draw them to the game. Rule 0 in role playing games is that the DM is always right. I would suggest a Rule 0’: don’t be an asshole.

  1. I don’t think 4th edition is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but those thoughts will have to wait for another post.

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