Yes, Dungeons and Dragons isn't a video game. But without it, I doubt the single-player RPG would have happened at all. And lets be honest, RPGs are like the really cool girl in high school that all the other genres want to dress like. The concept of leveling up has snuck into the God of War series, Devil May Cry, Assassin's Creed, and tons of others. And besides, this is my blog, and there's maybe three people who are going to read this. So I write what I want! Suck it, my girlfriend is Science!
I didn't get into D&D until relatively late in life, thanks to an extremely Catholic upbringing. There was a radio series I used to listen to obsessively called "Adventures in Odyssey" that had a two-part episode detailing the horrible dangers of Role-Playing Games. And that Jack Chick pamphlet everyone likes to make fun of? All the grown-ups in my little microcosm of life thought that made complete sense. To be fair, "Adventures in Odyssey" was pretty well written and I still remember some of the characters with great fondness. But the point is I was well into my twenties before I rolled my first d20; and the further point is I've met some of the best people I know through pencil and dice RPGs.
A new edition of D&D is happening soon, and the lovely people at WOTC have released a playtest version so that the gaming community might judge and comment on its growth. A beta test, as it were. At first there were only combat rules, and a single environment. A week and a half ago character creation rules were released so our DM could bring his own story points and adventure hooks to the table. And it enabled me to create Ashura Miri, the con-artist katana-wielding rogue who sometimes doesn't think before jumping out of a bush to cut that guy's head off. Because he had a friend, and when you're not getting sneak attack bonuses sometimes you whiff your attacks and he almost cuts you in half with his greatsword.
So far the system is pretty smooth. I never played 4th Edition because my friends all hated it, so 3.5 and Pathfinder is what I'm used to. But I've heard they've taken some things from 4E that were popular and integrated them. I think the backgrounds and specialties have roots in 4E, but if I'm wrong I'll deny it. However, I love that addition to character creation because it helped me get a firm grip on my character's personality. Combat is pretty similar to earlier editions, but streamlined because of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. Remember having to calculate what your barbarian's attack bonuses are while raging? Or what penalties you take while duel-weilding? Now you don't have to worry about it - if you're at advantage you roll 2d20 and take the higher result, and disadvantage is the opposite. Some people might think this is an over-simplification but I've always thought more squabbling about the numbers = less fun. The skills are now completely married to attributes, and so far there isn't a rank system. You're either trained or you aren't.
I'm wondering if WOTC is going to de-power the magic classes a bit before the official release; our wizard necromancer cast a spell yesterday that literally ate a berserker from the inside out. It was a first level spell. On the one hand, that could lead to some truly epic adventures, on the other it seems a tiny bit excessive for a level 1 character. Although I'm incredibly excited to find out what druids will be able to do. And bards. Maybe not great in combat, but role-playing a bard is one of the most fun things in the world.
As of now, I'm completely on board with the new edition. It has all the mechanics I loved from 3.5 with some great additions. Even though they've only released 4 races and classes there is some amazing variety to be had. As an example, two of us in the group are playing Rogues but I'm a Charlatan/Thief and he's a Thug/Bounty Hunter. We've got a Fighter who's an archer and one who's a sword-and-board expert. A wizard who's a healer and one who's a necromancer.
What I really love is the chance to learn this system from the ground up; I've always wanted to run a campaign but I feel like I'm constantly having to look up rules which wouldn't make it much fun for my players. And so far its looking like 5E might be backwards-compatible with my 3.5 books which means I can still use the Book of Vile Darkness to plan encounters!