Bringing back the Old Guard - Good or Bad?
Please read this article all the way through.
As WotC continues to pump out outrageously expensive hardcover campaigns to run, it has been widely noted that much of the newest material has been taken from AD&D and 1e and modernized for today’s game. Stephen and I have had numerous conversations on how the renaissance D&D is experiencing is driven, in part, by this strategy. By playing on the nostalgia of the older campaigns, WotC is tapping into the market of people like me - Those who played in the AD&D era, stopped, and now are coming back to game.
I wrote an article last month about why I left and came back, and I’ll say, the above strategy worked on me. The first campaign I played when I came back was The Curse of Strahd. Somewhere in my piles of old D&D stuff that I never thought I would use again, is the I9 module Ravenloft (I apparently have 3 copies of the old G1-2-3 module Against the Giants. Why I needed three I have no idea). While I was probably one of the few people that thought it was a good, not great, module - it did bring me back to when I played in my youth. Strahd was the ultimate BBEG then, and he was the first bad guy to really stand out. Everyone who played knew who he was. So when I was able to play in a campaign that I knew something about, I was able to feel an immediate connection with the game. It made it easier for me to feel comfortable, and in turn, be drawn back in.
So everyone is happy then, right? WotC increases it customer base. D&D gains more players, leading to more games, leading to more people having fun. More products sell, more people make money. What could be wrong? On the surface, nothing. I’m excited to be back and having a great time, and I know many others of my generation that feel the same way. But I’m going to put something out there that will probably piss off some people.
We “old timers” were the problem in the first place.
Now I know I’m lumping a whole group of people together and that isn’t fair. In fact I would say the majority, in fact a large majority, (90%+) are great people that should be welcomed back to the community with open arms. But there are many people, men in particular, that were the original source of the hatred and anger that almost destroyed the D&D and the roleplaying community as a whole. Many of the people that are currently shitheads in the game are the direct result of being brought up by such assholes, whether in their home or through the culture in role playing games that they have been exposed to.
D&D wasn’t just played by us nerdy teenage boys back in the 70’s and 80’s. It was also played grown men, many of whom had a “nerd elitism” complex. Ever watch the Simpsons? Remember comic book store guy? D&D was filled with guys like that. There were no after school D&D groups, very few Dads that would take the time to learn to play and then play with their children, and ZERO public support for the game. D&D was kept to the underground, and a nerd hierarchy was firmly in place. You didn’t really notice it when you were young and playing with your friends, but those older, middle aged guys who played the game had no real want for the game to come out into the light. They liked being the kings of their own little fiefdoms, and want to keep the games tucked into hobby stores and cramped basements. They ridiculed other people, made fun of those that didn’t know the rules are well as they did, and only thought “hardcore players” should play the game, not the weekend crowd. So while you look at today’s game as open to all, realize that in the past was a closed community of men unwilling to give up their little slice of power. (Sounds familiar I know.)
As many of you have noticed by now, I have been using the pronoun “he” exclusively in this article. It’s because no matter what you may think or say, men were the problem in the past. There is no way men can blame the massive fall from grace D&D took in its earlier years on women because extremely few women played the game! And why would they? The verbal harassment that took place back then takes place today, and it’s just as bad, if not worse. We know about it on more of a community level because:
Social media allows jackasses a larger platform to spread their bullshit.
People aren’t afraid to speak up.
The new generation of players aren’t as willing to put up with this behavior.
We see the harassment clearly now, or at least some of it. Most of it is men leading the way as the harassers. Some of the old guard that remained are being exposed for the creeps they are. Members of the younger generation, who have learned this behavior, in part, from those before them, are being accused of the same and worse offenses.
And yes, I believe the accusers.
Now, I know how this all sounds. Why come back to the game if its so bad? Well, it’s a great game. It’s a much more open community that embraces everyone for who they are. I see after school groups with good male and female role models teaching their students how to play the game and how to apply it to their lives. There’s GenCon (not without its drama last year). There’s Critical Role. There is a whole community of small developers working on creative and innovative ideas. I want to be a part of that. I want my 13 year old daughter to play, have fun, and not be harassed. I want my 10 year old son to play, have fun and respect everyone he plays with. I’m not going to let a bunch of old nerds ruin the game for me.
Behaviors are learned. We can help the younger generation to learn to play, respect others and have fun. Then, just maybe, there won’t be any room left for those who seek to ruin the game.
Art Credit: Old Guard by toddm