Friday, September 28, 2012

The marriage of rules and setting

Reading some of the recent D&D Next articles, I'm struck with the endeavor to (re)define classic parts of the game without admitting they're creating a new setting. Take the recent article on Minotaurs, for example.

Minotaurism is now a curse (or at least dark pact?) relating to Baphomet. Or it could be, depending on who wins the concept battle. But what does this buy us for the game?

Without a setting, they're designing for nothing. A nice take on the Minotaur, possibly, but where does it fit in the grant scheme of things? Well, there's not a grand scheme for it to fit.

This is why I wish they'd just adopt Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms as their basic setting again. They tried to do 4e without a set pantheon or locations, but some of that is needed in the game. Sample religions are hard without gods, artwork doesn't work well without knowing what the holy symbols or shrines should look like. The Nentir Vale was developed and eventually fleshed out because D&D needs its basic setting. You can't have a Manual of the Planes without knowing what the planes are. Its even hard to design classes (look to the wizard, warlock, and sorcerer) without knowing something about how magic works.

This isn't to say that I don't appreciate the new take on things. You can't design (or redesign) a monster without giving it some backstory. The game can handle Classic D&D Minotaurs, Dragonlance Minotaurs, and these new variants. I wouldn't mind seeing the Monster Manual have entries for Minotaur, Classic alongside Minotaur, Cursed of Baphomet and Minotaur, Dragonlance. And maybe that's why I think there's room for these different beasts in the game. They just need to adopt a modular view of the setting material as well as the rules. 

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