It has come to my realization that modern players of RPGs don’t actually like playing RPGs. Brace yourself for a surface of the sun level hot take, kiddos. This one is going to get dark.
If you like modern RPGs, you are a loser.
Wait! I admit that was incendiary, so let me walk that back a bit.
Modern RPGs – and D5D in particular – are built for losers desperate for a win. It is theoretically possible to enjoy D&D 5: The Enlosering without being a loser, but the game itself was written for those who have a loser mindset. Yeah, that’s better. It should placate the special snowflakes who can’t accept generalizations and sooth those too stupid to distinguish between the micro and the macro.
Let us turn to why this might be the case.
Take me, for example. I’m a very successful businessman and author. My back trail is littered with more successes than Antifa has felons. I’ve got a legion of fans, internet fame, and between my Rascal and my compression socks, my diabetes is mostly kept in check. My wife’s children love me, and every time I take my ethnically themeed adopted child to church the pastor glad hands me like you would not believe. I make enough money to pay for my wife’s kids and pay off my ex-wife’s student loan debt (Gender Studies degress don’t pay for themselves, you know – you need a husband for that.) Altogether, I’m doing A-OK.
Which means when I sit down to play D&D, I can sit and enjoy the experience. I can enjoy the exploration and the game itself. Laughing with friends, setting off traps, and even TPKs are all the reward I need. Give me an interesting hole in the ground filled with clever atmosphere, puzzles, and evil to slay, and I can spend 20 hours playing a first level cleric without a healing spell. I can die fifteen times without batting an eye.
Now look at D5D, which was expressly designed to cater to modern RPG gamers.
They spoon feed you little bits of cheese for barely pressing a lever. Take D5D. You level up after the first adventure. By design. Four hours of play nearly guarantees that you’ll attain second level and that oh-so-important extra HD. The second level flies by almost as quickly. By design. You get new power-ups, more HD, more buttons and lever to press. With every successive level you get more and more powers and more and more rules to interact with. They are doled out in a steady drip, drip, drip, to constantly provide the player with the stream of trophies that keep them coming back to the table.
The convention games that I play in, and when I get roped into Storyteller D&D at the store, the players are constantly looking ahead in the rule books. They chatter about what they will do when they level up. They talk about where their character is heading, power-wise. They talk about what they could do if they were only one or two levels higher. They specify specific magic items they want, building more and more effective rule combinations.
These a long time have I watched. All their table time they have looked away…to the future, to the next level. Never their minds on where they are. Hmm? What they are doing. Pshaw! Level-ups. Heh! CR. Ha! One who loves the game itself craves not these things.
What kinds of people are these?
Losers. Their lives must be filled with such vacuous emptiness that they don’t just enjoy trivial rewards, they seek to remake entire hobbies to suck out the challenge and replace the enjoyment of exploration with heaps of undeserved prizes. They see themselves as perennial victims, secret kings forever preyed upon by a world too stupid to recognize their obvious talent and worth, and so starved are they of the recognition their hind-brain tells them they deserve, they latch onto any hobby that can give them the endorphin rush of success and twist that hobby to ensure that it guarantees them the accolades and rewards they know deep in the depths of their black little hearts they deserve.
This is a simple question. If you enjoy RPGs, then you don’t need the steady doling out of power-ups. If you enjoy the exploration, then the exploration is the reward. If you enjoy the game, then the game is the reward. You can spend countless hours at the table and not fret for a moment about how you will earn enough XP to finally reach the character you really want to play. The character you really want to play is the one right there on the cheeto-stained sheet in front of you right now! Strength 6, 1d4 HD thief though he be, he is yours, and he is enough.
You play. You laugh. You live. That is enough.