There’s an old Husker Du song in which Grant Hart screams, “What do I want? What’ll make me happy?”
Lately I’ve been pondering this in relation to D&D.; The game and I go back a long way. I started playing when I was 10 years old and this began a journey that led me into hobby gaming and ultimately to a life of game design, writing, and publishing. So while I can and do play many other games, I find that I like having at least a little D&D; in my life. The game has had its up and downs over the years, but it has a core that continues to appeal.
I’ve been trying to figure which of the many games called D&D; is the one I really want though. D&D; has a certain gestalt that it’s hard to pin down exactly. When I look over the various iterations of the game, there are things I don’t like about each one. Each version seems to fix some problems while creating new ones. I had hoped that 4E would learn some lessons from 3E. It has but the direction it seems to have taken isn’t the way I would have gone. While I will certainly give it a shot and GR may indeed publish some stuff for it, I don’t consider it likely that it’ll become my D&D; game of choice (though again, I reserve final judgment until I see the actual rules). Paizo is doing some interesting stuff with Pathfinder but it is going down an evolutionary route that again isn’t quite what I’m looking for. And GR’s own True20 wasn’t meant to be a D&D; replacement in the first place.
Grant Hart’s answer in that song is, “Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!” I’m trying not to be that cynical.
Now I have, off and on, been tinkering with a rule set that tries to capture what it is about D&D; that I like. I’m sure that’s a surprise to no one; it’s what designers do if you give them half a chance. The thing is that I don’t have time to go writing a new game while working two jobs unless I’m going to do something with it. And let’s be frank, does the world need my interpretation of D&D;? This is ground so well-plowed that it’s turned into mud. So I tinker a bit and then I put it away. It doesn’t make any sense to pursue it, and yet I find myself thinking about it on the bus and making notes when I get home. I suppose I either need to find a way for it make sense as a published product or just forget about it. At the moment I am, as the Replacements would say, “stuck in the middle.”