I popped over to the Brilliant Gameologist forum as I do from time to time, and stumbled across a discussion thread for D&D Next. I’m going to be upfront about how this is a terrible idea for me to even approach, but there it is. It ended amicably.

Here’s what I walked into, though: bitter complaints about player coddling in the rules system. While most of what I read, as quoted from the rules documentation, was generally pretty good advice for any game master, I had this separate realization, apart from the discussion about the nature of rules documentation.

There are a lot of ways to approach an explanation of the game rules.

One that doesn’t work for many players of Dungeons & Dragons (typically the old guard), is to hold their hand and tell them how to be a good player. It isn’t a new concept, and I know I already say that a lot, but it just dawned on me (again) that if you’re going to print a rules set, it needs to be about the rules.

This seems obvious, but there’s an important element the D&D Next documentation is missing (for the old guard), and that is that you can’t teach a person how to be a good roleplayer and teach them how to play the game at the same time. Playing the game, and being a good roleplayer are functionally different things.

Hence, the post title.

I will continue to refer to the “old guard” as a general term for people who play Dungeons & Dragons for the rules set. At this point, the old guard will be people who play because it gives them freedom to do whatever they want and doesn’t get in the way, and the thing they have in common is they’ve been playing for a while.

Game rules don’t make you a good roleplayer. Experience does.

That doesn’t sound fair to people who are good players out of the box, but I didn’t say what kind of experience, just experience in general. Some people come to the game knowing how to cooperate and create a strategy with a group of people, and are good problem-solvers and have an imagination.

What the old guard wants is the rules of the game, not a pat on the back. Not words of encouragement. This is stuff they either already know, or haven’t learned yet – but they aren’t interested in it either. It’s a rules document. They want the game rules.

Now, whether that kind of information belongs there, if it’s a good idea, whether they’re targeting the right audience or not, all of that is beside the question. It’s clear the audience the playtest rules are targeting is not the old guard, it’s people who don’t know the game, don’t know how to roleplay. I understand the objection.

Maybe a more “to the point” rules document is in order.

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