Thursday, September 17, 2009

compatibility is a two way street

Last month I wrote a little piece called "On System" that quite some good responses out of people, but also drew some criticism for my refusal to discuss any official WotC version of D&D. Some folks thought that was an attempt to slur those versions by way of omission, but I just wasn't sure whether or not I had anything useful to say about them. After all, I have more experiences with TSR D&Ds than I can remember, stretching back to the early eighties. In comparison a dozen 3.0 sessions, 20 months of 3.5 and two or three 4e games just doesn't seem like enough data to draw sound conclusions beyond "hey, I'm not digging this as much as that older crap".

However, after some thought I would like to respond directly to one criticism. Settembrini brought up the issue that he can easily use TSR D&D stuff in his 3.x game:
Really, everything you can do in A/D&D you can do in 3rd. It´s all there, and the real differences are one of module design culture and player expectations. Culture, and that´s what you DIDN´t want to get into the differentiation debate, no Also: I use stuff from all editions in my 3e games every week. So are you telling me that this actually doesn´t work? Or that I´m doing it wrong?

Please, your Electro-Skeleton was transfered DIRECTLY from the FO! incarnation, as were several modules/situations and artifacts.
I'm not sure everything I can do in AD&D is supported in 3e. Stronghold establishment and henchmen recruitment immediately spring to mind. I know there's a section devoted to weather in 3.x, but I don't recall rules for your ship getting lost in a storm or being shipwrecked. I could be wrong though, seeing as how I sold off all my WotC materials. But for most folks these are fiddly details in the vast sweep of D&D and not worth getting stuck on.

But the big thing in Set's comments that stuck with me is that he imports stuff from earlier editions into his 3e game. That's awesome. My question now is whether or not that works both ways. Any Gameblog readers ever try directly (i.e. no conversion) importing 3.x stuff into their game run on an older edition or a retroclone? I have not. Maybe it's time I finally tried running an adventure made specifically for 3.x under Labyrinth Lord just to see what happens.

My other concern is cross compatibility of characters. At this point someone could show up to my open-to-all Wednesday night game with a character sheet in hand and I would feel like I could accomodate a PC from many different versions of D&D. Unearthed Arcana cavalier or barbarian? No sweat. Some god-forsaken kit-based beast from 2nd edition AD&D? I'd do my best. A rune weaver from Arduin? Bring it on.

I don't feel the same level of confidence dealing with visitors from 3.x universes. I got nothing against those versions of D&D, but I went back to the old school scene for a reason, you know? Adjudicating a PC with three custom-selected classes and maybe a template or two, with a handful of feats that are designed around the flanking and attack of opportunity rules sounds like a one-way ticket to Pain In The Ass City. Am I talking crazy talk here?