That obviously stayed with me for a long, long time, and I was kind of stuck in that unjustifiably negative viewpoint no matter how much I wanted to play the game; I was getting excited about settings such as Birthright and Spelljammer, but then refusing to follow up on those feelings because it was AD&D 2nd Edition, and AD&D 2nd Edition sucked. Honestly, what an idiot.
I found this letter I wrote and posted to DRAGON magazine way back in the late 1990s, before 3rd Edition was announced. Even back then I still had a bee in my bonnet about AD&D 2nd Edition after a whole decade. I had obviously given up on the game late 1980s after playing in a particularly bad campaign, which no doubt unjustly soured my view of AD&D 2nd Edition, but I obviously couldn't get past my myopic 'this game is bad!' viewpoint.
I'm going to assume the letter was never published - I stopped reading DRAGON magazine around the same time I wrote the letter.
My only conclusions about this letter is that firstly I obviously knew naff all about WotC's take over of TSR, and secondly I was an opinionated little git with a massive corn cob up my butt about nothing.
I have noticed a trend recently for players to continually discuss the necessities of certain rules and rule applications during a game. From what I can tell from the sort of enquiries you get in your regular SAGE ADVICE feature, there are a lot of players and referees who need clarification on how certain aspects of the rules system works. I am sure that this goes for other games, and not just the AD&D genre.
This worries me. I get the impression that more people are worried about the adjudication and interpretation of the system instead of the actual game itself. This leads me to conclude that there are many gamers out there who haven’t bought their games to role-play, but to take part in an elaborate wargame.
I think this stems from the old days of dungeon-bashing, when a wicked referee would design a cruel dungeon to pit his friends against, and not care about how the players would react in a role-play situation. I would like to think that the game has come a long way since then, but it appears not. Although I understand that many new gamers will treat the game in such a way, and this column helps them along the road to becoming a better role-player, it does not encourage any of the players to optionalise or find a way around the ruling to make everyone happy. I get the impression that the whole game is on ‘hold’ whilst the enquirer waits for an answer to the question.
In fact, the whole of DRAGON magazine is fundamentally the same. It appears to be a monthly book of charts and tables to add on to an already overbearing and outdated role-playing game. There are new characters and creatures, but they lack depth and just appear to be another monster with a long list of statistics and abilities. They have histories, sure, but these are just to make them appear more of an individual than the last monster or character.
You have to remember that yours is probably the only major international magazine on the shelves, with every other magazine either folding after several months or not even getting the kind of exposure you do. Personally, I think it’s time for you to change. I know that a lot of your readers will stand and cry ‘there is no need to change! Everything’s fine, and the magazine is just right for us! We will keep it that way!’ Remember, TSR are not their own company anymore now that WotC have taken them over, which, considering that TSR were supposed to be the biggest role-playing company around, does not bode well for the gaming industry as a whole. Now that other big companies have gone (such as Games Designers Workshop and West End Games), I think that Dragon magazine should reconsider it’s duty as ‘The World’s Most Popular Role-Playing Magazine’ and start to include other games for it’s major articles, and not just the AD&D game, which may be the original role-playing game but is now also the most stagnant.
AD&D was an inspirational game but now it’s time for a change. Keep the Statistics, such as Strength and Charisma, but lose the saving throws, which seem very contrived, and introduce a better skill system, maybe something based around the skill check roll or the percentile skill roll. This will broaden the abilities and scope of the game and make it a hell of a lot easier to understand. I don’t actually play the AD&D game anymore, I haven’t played it since the second edition came out, but I have continued to buy Dragon because I still like the nostalgic feeling I get when I read it. Now I am very disillusioned with the magazine, because all it does now is repeat itself.
I understand that this letter will probably not get printed; after all, it is not exactly a letter of praise, but my intention is not to offend or be unsupportive of your future. It is to make the readers think a little more about role-playing as a whole, and not just the AD&D game, and if they support the entire hobby as they support TSR, then the role-playing world will get the boost it needs to grow once more.
My final message is this - it’s time for a change, Dragon. Maybe you should shed your scales and start again.
Thanks for your time,
This post originally published Sept 2011