With great, nerdy glee, I clicked the "Place Order" button on Amazon. Within the next 48 hours, I will receive my latest RPG tools...the D&D Monster Vault, and the Dungeon Tiles Master Set. The former is over 200 die-cut cardboard tokens representing the monsters of the D&D world, plus a book with their stats, a double-sided map, and an adventure. The latter is a series of 10 double-sided die-cut cardboard tiles representing various configurations of dungeons. The 10 tiles can interlock with each other and form a nearly limitless variety of dungeons for my players to crawl around in. Combined with the Monster Vault and a few pre-generated characters, I can (in theory, anyway) run D&D on literally a moment's notice.
I am a massive RPG sellout. The indie crowd, who print their minis at home (or, better yet, play games that don't require them) would turn their nose up at the money and effort I've expended to amass my D&D collection. Just this morning, while cruising the new gatherings at Meetup.com, one poster has titled his RPG event "Anything but 4E," referencing the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In the RPG community, there is a vast "Old School Renaissance" that has sprung up seemingly around the idea of shunning D&D (or it's current edition, anyway, as a large part of this movement plays earlier editions of the game). I'm sure any OSR officiado would reject that notion, but it does seem odd to me that such a "movement" would happen during this iteration of the World's Oldest Roleplaying Game, kinda like how the Tea Party Movement just happened to spring up under the country's first black president.
Now, don't get me wrong; it's not like D&D is hurting because of it. It's still one of the best-selling RPGs out there. It's still the only tabletop RPG you can buy at most bookstores. I've heard rumors that D&D is even available at Wal-Mart now. So it's not like the game has been hurting because of the backlash. But no other game faces the kind of direct animosity it does. Heavy wears the crown, I suppose.
Why so much resentment? Though any of the game's detractors will come up with dozens of legitimate-sounding grievances, I personally think it comes down to one thing: money. See, the 4th edition of D&D is the most "boardgame" like version of the RPG since it first came out in the 70s. Most of the special abilities in the game are measured not in real-life units like yards or meters, but 1-inch squares. Furthermore, virtually every class in the game is built around battlefield balance; the fighter, for example, has abilities to "mark" monsters so they get an attack penalty when trying to hit anything other than the fighter who marked it. The rogue has a number of abilities to allow him to dance around the battlefield not getting hit. The wizard has powers that allow him to control the battlefield from afar, and so on. All of this means the game is built around tactical combat. All of that means you need tokens, battlemaps, and power cards to keep track of your various abilties. All of that costs money.
Now enter D&D's previous editions. All you needed were in the core rulebooks. Back when we were kids playing D&D, we didn't need fancy minis or colorful battlemaps; everything happened up here! *pointing to brain* You could pull that stuff out of it you wanted to, but the important thing was that you were having fun! Because somehow, buying all this stuff isn't fun. It's just a waste of money, right?
I sympathize with the OSR movement, really I do. Plus, I'll be the first to admit that some truly amazing RPGs have come from it. Dungeon World, one of the most prolific RPGs today, takes it's cue from old-school roleplaying. Dungeon Crawl Classics, a game so rooted in old-school gaming that it borders on parody, is a fantastic "reboot" of the genre. But the hatred over good ol' D&D is, as most hatred tends to be, unwarranted. The game is fun. Even if you get a cheap ten-dollar dry erase board and just mark everyone's place with pennies, D&D 4th edition is a fun game. No, I would not recommend it if you want to do a role-play intensive "story-based" game, but for what it does do, it does do well.
And, if you've got a few dollars to spare, the game will put that money to use! The options available to "pimp your game" are astounding. These dungeon tiles and monster tokens I just bought are only the tip of the D&D iceburg.