The first time I played Dungeons & Dragons it was 1985. That was 23 years ago and I was 10. It was a pivotal moment in my development. If my life was a film, this bit would not be in montage – sandwiched between other things at 10 for half a second. It would instead be depicted in slow motion: The first time I saw the red box with the red dragon about to kill the human warrior on the cover; the first time I rolled a twenty sided dice; my first character (the same human fighter from the cover of the game); my first encounter with the fiendish rustmonster. Those were the glory days of roleplaying.
One grows up, games change and in my case I “grew” out of D&D and went for sci-fi (Shadowrun, Cyberpunk) and horror (Chill, Kult,Unknown Armies, Vampire…) amongst other roleplaying-games. I did manage to play every version of D&D along the way, but it didn’t grow up with me and I always thought it was too brightly “coloured”; its themes were too “obvious” with little depth.
Then came version 3 and a friend that wanted to try it out and I got hooked all over again. The game wasn’t simple; it had new rules, new art and new books. Then 3.5 came and added more rules and greater complexity and a ton more books. Being a Dungeon Master was a herculean task each week that easily took up to 10 hrs preparation time before the next 5 hour session. We ran the campaign for two years until we brought it to a climatic finale due to players immigrating to other countries but the experience was awesome. I was sad we weren’t playing once a week anymore, but I was also glad for the break. It was a lot of work and the rules often got in the way of the better story.
And so Wizards of the Coast are releasing the 4th Edition this May. My first thought was that it would be more of the same, but I’m happy to say that I think my first impression was wrong. I’ve read all their published design & development and playtest reports. I bought one of their prerelease books (Worlds and Monsters) and thought it was brilliant. I’ve watched their seminar talks at YouTube. And all I want now is it to be May so I can play.
I really don’t know how they rope me in each time, but they definitely understand the needs of their players – because they seem to be talking directly to mine.