Words mean things.
Shyeah, most of the world has been so steeped in modrenist thinking that they struggle to understand why we normal-sized brianed people insist on clear lines of communication. They are enormous midwits who read Lewis Carroll and completely sympathized with the egg man when he said, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
That’s deep stuff for people who aren’t as smart as they think they are. “Dat’s how words be workin’, dey like changez because we be usin’ dem different now.” They don’t understand that the Humpty-Dumperino was written to mock them, not to encourage them.
But what’s this got to do with D&D, I imagine you are thinking right now.
The people who use “D&D” to mean the 264 page abortions that bear the official and legal logo are using the word wrong. That’s not D&D, it is a D&D skinsuit wrapped around a lesser game.
Now we need to back up a step because we’re about to get to the hot, white, ropy money shot all over Little Miss Daddy Issue’s face, and you need a little more fluffing before the release and the inevitable tears of guilt.
That storytelling game that guys like Pundy play is a fine game. Go play it. Have fun. With my blessing. I don’t begrudge people for their weird hobbies. Apparently some people use sticks to knock balls into holes 200 yards away. Some people kill animals and eat them. Some people dress up as animals and call people that kill animals and eat them names because they don’t think people should kill animals and eat them. Some people write mean jokes about people who dress up as animals and call people that kill animals and eat them names because they don’t think people should kill animals and eat them because they don’t think people should dress up as animals and call people that kill animals and eat them names because they don’t think people should kill animals and eat them.
The point here is that nobody is mad at anyone for not playing D&D. Technically, we’re not even mad at people who play D&D wrong for playing D&D wrong so much as we’re helpfully pointing out that people who play D&D wrong aren’t actually playing D&D at all, and we are generously offering them help.
You see the difference here?
If you really like pretending to be an elf, you’re not playing D&D. You are playing a storygame. Or you are LARPing. Or you are crazy. But you are not playing D&D. People who play D&D don’t lose site of the fact that they are pushing a pawn around a tabletop. That pawn might have ‘elf’ as a label, but it’s still just a pawn. They might think “What would my pawn do here? What’s best for my pawn? How can my pawn avoid combat because he only has 2HP and an AC of 7?”
They understand that ‘theater of the mind’ is trash hoity-toity puttin’ on airs talk for midwits who cannot appreciate the beauty of Real D&D. It is tactical, but not in the way checkers or miniature wargames or 4th Edition is. It’s tactical in a pure sense. It’s tactical in that smart players know how to navigate the game space to make the dice work for them, or to ensure that when the tactical combat starts, they have placed themselves in a winning position even before the surprise check and reaction check get rolled.
And here we come back to the appellation of “Lesser” D&D. If it was a solid game in its own right, it wouldn’t have to trade on the success of the Big Damn Grandaddy of the them all. If it had the courage of its convictions, it wouldn’t need to hide behind Gygax’s apron strings.
If it was as good as D&D, it wouldn’t need to call itself D&D.
And that’s what all the fuss from the grognards is all about.
What you do at the table is up to you. All we ask is that when you use the word D&D, you don’t use it to mean whatever you want it to mean. It should mean what D&D has meant since the glorious dawn of this new age of tabletop gaming. And whatever that is…no edition since Gygax dropped the reins has been it, chief.