My Problem With Dungeons & Dragons (Only?)


I was pinning pics on my Pinterest boards and came across this image above, from a D&D 4th Edition sourcebook. It looks awesome but it made me think of what my problem with D&D is.

I see that image on the cover of a book–I see similar images on many D&D book covers–and I think to myself, I wanna be that guy in the game. I wanna be the warrior wielding a flaming sword, attacking a displacer beast, as we both free-fall, in a no-holds-barred fight! Yeah!

The problem is, when we play, this doesn’t happen.

Between level issues, magic item limits and restrictions, monster challenge complexities, and rules upon rules upon rules, the awesome fight-as-we-fall scenario turns into a dice-rolling exercise that bears no resemblance except for the fact that there might be a displacer beast which I battle along with my party. The visual fiction sold by the game, and the system fiction yielded by it bear little to no relation one to the other. And that’s why I stopped playing D&D, because of the cognitive dissonance between inspiration imagery and game rules (and for me this happened with 4th edition, but I know others for whom it happened before, so it’s not solely an issue of which edition is out).

To be fair, this isn’t solely a D&D problem in the RPG world, I admit that, which is why I included the parenthetical in the title. But to me it is most obvious with D&D. I go back to what Daniel Solis said in an episode of Master Plan, “A cover is a promise.”

All that said, it is an awesome image, indeed. I just enjoy it better divorced from any association with D&D and more as general fantasy inspiration.

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