I Don’t Understand Traditionalism

21 Jul

I’m reminded of this fact once in a while.

Last year, someone blogged about a retroclone they were writing. (I don’t remember who.) And they meant a clone, with all the text copy-pasted exactly as it was from the D&D rulebook. Even the problematic, ambiguous or contradictory text would be unchanged in the interest of posterity. I didn’t understand why anyone would take the time to clone a game, and yet not make even simple clarifications or adjustments to fix glaring problems. And I still don’t. You’re already under the hood, so ya might as well tighten the loose nuts right?

Currently, there’s a debate raging on the WotC forum regarding ability scores. After your 4e character is made, your scores mostly just take up space on your character sheet; so some gamers want 5e to drop scores completely in favor of pure ability modifiers. Other gamers want scores to stay. Many of the pro-score advocates want 5e to attach more rules to the scores, so that they become important again. Even if I’d rather attach everything to ability modifiers and just drop the scores, I understand the “Let’s make scores important again!” argument.

What I don’t understand is the “It’s too big of a change!”, or the “It’s not enough of an improvement!”, or the “Scores are important because tradition is important because they’re iconic because they’re part of the D&D tradition and I can’t role play without scores because they’re the foundation of D&D and it just won’t be D&D without scores.”

I don’t understand this idea that tradition in and of itself is reason enough to not make improvements. To my way of thinking, if I’m going to buy a new game, I want it to be the best game its writers could have made. I don’t care if it’s ‘traditional’ D&D or not; if I want to play traditional D&D, I’ll play OD&D.

So I guess I just don’t know. If you have any insight into this phenomenon, please share.


Posted by on 21/07/2011 in Uncategorized


8 responses to “I Don’t Understand Traditionalism

  1. dragolite

    21/07/2011 at 9:56 pm

    First off, thanks for the post.Part of the reason many people want to keep things as they are is that Man is inherently afraid of change. No matter how much people might say, "No, I love change. I change all the time." This argument is because they are effecting the change themselves.I for one think ability scores should be kept, not because they "take up space," but because they have a very specific reason to be there. In earlier editions, they were used more than they are now. If 5E is coming, which seems to be the chatter around the blogs now, maybe they will make these changes and get rid of ability scores.In my opinion, the ability score never took up pace. It was there to give you an idea of what your character was made of. A higher score in INT, even though he might be a rouge or a cleric, meant he was intelligent. A high CHA in a fighter or mage meant they had a certain way, a certain bearing. (This might and might not have helped with Intimidating, something from 3E which I argue over to this day.)To get rid of the scores means to get rid of that little window into what your character looks like, the numbers give a base idea of this character.Sorry I went off and ranted.

  2. Padre

    21/07/2011 at 10:32 pm

    Tradition can work great in faith, but totally sucks in technology. I suspect games fall somewhere in between. Sometimes attachment to the "ideal", whatever that might be, is a real hindrance to examining the actual working of the thing. Sometimes clingers to tradition don't want to be bothered with change for no other reason than that. I agree with your concluding remarks about new games should have improvements, at least what the designers consider improvements, otherwise why bother buying them?

  3. Sully

    22/07/2011 at 12:21 am

    Damn conservatives! Always harping on about tradition! I'm all in favor of making the ability score = the modifier. One less chart to consult at the table. That's how the fantasy RPG I'm working on works!

  4. Tequila Sunrise

    22/07/2011 at 3:36 am

    @ Dragolite: Your comments are a bit confusing, but yes, but people do have a strange aversion to change that's not directly under their control.@ Padre: I definitely understand the "I can't be bothered to try something new" attitude. Especially with food; I know what I like, and I know what I'm likely to dislike.@ Sully: Do you blog about your rpg? Or are you still in the pre-planning stage, like I am? 😉

  5. dragolite

    22/07/2011 at 11:11 am

    @Tequila: I apologize. I have read that and it comes off as a bit of a rant. I'm sorry. I think what I was trying to get at was tradition has a place and I want to keep it in the game. Yet, if things do change then it is just something we all have to get use to.Hope that makes a touch more sense.Also, tradition is always important, yet if it gets in the way of a better game, I am willing to see this new change.

  6. Aaron E. Steele

    22/07/2011 at 8:23 pm

    Is WOTC really talking about 5E? If I was a 4E player, i'd be furious right now.

  7. dragolite

    22/07/2011 at 8:42 pm

    I have heard talk about it. WoTC has pulled alot of products and 4 Essentials is drying up. Plus, WoTC isn't trying to squash rumors that 5E is in the works. So…

  8. Tequila Sunrise

    22/07/2011 at 9:01 pm

    WotC has been shuffling their product schedule, which may or may not mean anything, so all this 5e talk is just speculation. Personally I take a Zen attitude toward the situation, and don't read too much into anything that WotC does.The scores/mods thread is long term speculation. "When 5e eventually arrives…"@ dragolite: I can understand that.


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