RPG: Five Things We’re Glad Gaming Left Behind

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It is now officially 2017 and the future is here. Gaming has come a long way over the last 43 years. Here’s a look at some things we’re glad we don’t have to deal with anymore.

Walk into any game store today and you will bask in the vast wealth of gaming’s evolution. Want to have fantasy adventures? Take your pick–Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons are readily available, but if those aren’t to your liking, you can always turn to another system. Don’t feel like fantasy? There’s plenty of great sci-fi games. In fact, the people who make Pathfinder are releasing a sci-fi setting later this year. Still not satisfied? Try one of the great indie games you’ve never heard of.

Yes, gaming has come a long way–and to better appreciate what we have, let’s take a look back at some of the things we’re glad we don’t have to put up with anymore.

You Had To Color Your Own Dice

crayondice

This category could also be called incomplete sets, dice chits, or just in general poor supply. By the time they arrived at their fourth printing, if you picked up a set of Dungeons and Dragons, odds were good you might find yourself the proud owner of a bag of six uncolored dice and a black or white wax crayon that you had to use to fill in the numbers yourself.

It never worked very well. But it gets better, as the years went by, this became more and more prevalent–you can basically watch TSR running out of their supply of dice. In 1979, they experienced a shortage and included a sheet of cardboard “dice chits” that you had to cut out and draw at random.

dice-chits

Nowadays you just grab a box full of Chessex, or order them by the pound. You can get dice of any shape and size, with special logos–I myself have a bone-themed set of dice for necromancy and other villainous type things. Truly, we live in a glorious era.

Different Level-up Requirements

xpchart

I’ve just included two here. But, there was a time (AD&D) when every class leveled up at a different rate. So even if you managed to somehow always have every player show up for every session you’d still end up with a gap between character experience levels. Because nothing says let’s all have a ton of fun like falling a level or two behind the rest of the party and dying that much sooner.

Same with race/class level caps. I mean, sure, early editions of the game were meant to be humanocentric–but that also limited part of the fun. Today you can pick your choice of race/class combos and level them up at the same rate as everyone else. Which means you only have to worry about how all your stat bonuses line up.

THAC0

math-is-hard

Speaking of math, let’s take everyone’s favorite thing about D&D–figuring out which numbers to add up–make it so that the players have to do an extra step of math, and then give everyone a value to calculate from.

Although, this actually is still present (and not all that bad in the end, just tedious). It’s just that one extra step of the math is done for you, and the armor class is presented as the target number, rather than abstracted out to a 0. This has the added benefit of making all your numbers get larger as you level up–which as everyone knows is the whole point of gaining power anyway.

Lead Miniatures

dnd lead minis

Miniatures have come a long way as the game has developed. Granted, there’s a kind of nostalgic charm for “old school lead” miniatures. Maybe you like the weight, or wondering if you should go get a tetanus shot after scraping half your finger off trying to get the stupid gargoyle to fit together right.

For the rest of us, there are a ton of wonderfully light, detailed, and best of all cheap(ish) plastic miniatures out there. Whether it’s prepainted models (which are very clearly the wave of the future) or things like Reaper’s Bones–modern minis have more flexibility and character to them and they’re easier to move around.

Satan

chicktract

No one thinks our hobby is the devil anymore. For a while, they did. Whether it was the time that Dungeons and Dragons traumatized Tom Hanks…

poortom

Or the time that newspapers realized that Dungeons and Dragons was foul sorcery…

sorcery

There was a time when playing Dungeons and Dragons meant you were definitely in league with the devil and also probably a part of the illuminati. Much like any other media that’s been swept up in a moral panic, all the headlines just sort of made life miserable for people for a while, and didn’t help the people who the outraged populace were supposedly trying to protect.

Nowadays if you tell people you play Dungeons and Dragons they will high five you on account of how cool you are, because you hang out with people like Vin Diesel, Stephen Colbert, and Dame Judi Dench.

At any rate, the future of gaming looks pretty exciting.

Got another thing about gaming you’re glad has fallen by the wayside? Think that we got the list wrong and that THAC0 is actually great? Let us know in the comments!

  • euansmith

    Um, the Lead miniatures point seems a bit odd; especially as the Reaper Bones plastics only cover a small fraction of Reaper’s metal miniature range.

    • Vepr

      The old D&D minis from Grenadier were actually lead and not white metal. Figures would deform in interesting ways if dropped on a hard floor and did not bounce so much as thud.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        Lots of miniatures were made with lead back in the day. There was a huge scare in Australia about 40k models being made with lead and being used by “the children”.

      • Jay Arr

        Sometimes the floor would deform.

        And very good explanations were demanded. x.x

    • Commissar Molotov

      Loved the way my fingers would taste after handling lead miniatures. Mmmm, mmmm, good!

  • Vepr

    I know I am going to catch some boos and hisses over it but I still have a soft spot for THAC0. I also still have an old set of those old periwinkle blue dice. I have not used them since the 80s but I cant bring myself to get rid of them.

    • Yeah, I have a set of those old blue dice as well, heck, I think my copy of Star frontiers has a set too!

      • bobrunnicles

        Star Frontiers only came with two d10s iirc.

      • OMFG. Star Frontiers… why did you have to say that. Now I have to hunt for my Dralasite character sheet.

        • Did I mention I have a almost complete collection of the entire Star Frontiers line. It’s my “secret game stash” to show off to the uber geeks buddies. Now If only I could get my hands on a copy of “The War Machine”

    • bobrunnicles

      I was in a 2nd Ed campaign only a month or so ago and we still used THAC0 – it really isn’t that bad; either that or my entire group is composed of Einstein clones (based on how much people whine about using it compared to how hard it actually is to use…).

      • John Bower

        Same here, Dad and I used to play AD&D pretty well every night, we had no trouble converting our THACO rolls. It’s not really hard, once you know your THACO score the rest falls into place quite easily. Of course for everyone else there was the conversion chart.

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          The d20/3.0 system is more elegant.

          • bobrunnicles

            No argument here, I overall really like the d20 system. Just commenting that THAC0 wasn’t as hard to use as a lot of folks like to make out.

      • Will Frank

        ThAC0 wasn’t bad, once you’d been playing for some time. As much as I love 1st and 2nd Ed AD&D, I have to say the D20 system does streamline many things in a good way, that makes it easier on the entry level.

    • captkaruthors

      I liked THAC0 as well. I still have and use my old D&D dice..especially the percentile dice.

    • JN7

      THAC0 wasn’t really that hard to calculate, but it’s hard to deny the new method is more intuitive.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        They wanted to switch to the d20/3.0 system back when 2nd edition came out but the higher ups in TSR wanted to make sure everything from 1st edition was copatible with the new edition, so it required that the designers maintain Thac0.

    • Commissar Molotov

      Those old dice were soft as hell – mine got the edges worn off from rolling on a hard surface.

    • kobalt60

      No, no boos and hisses at all. THACO was never a problem, and that ‘extra’ step of math slowed things down not at all. Piss on the modern trend of simplified everything for the poor dull millennials

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Different leveling schemes is one way to address the inherent imbalance of classes whose power increases increases linearly to those whose power increases quadratically. it is a band-aid fix that doesn’t really address the underlying problem.

    • That’s assuming you think “linear warrior, quadratic wizard” is a bug.

      Lately Wizards has been trying to pass it off as a feature.

  • mysterex

    These are some of the reasons, except for the lead figures, that my group was playing Runequest in 1981.

    It was a percentage base game with no character classes and improvement was based on successful use of that particular skill in game.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      I don’t think classless or classed systems are inherently superior to one another. Just different was of modeling the way players interact with the world.

    • Commissar Molotov

      Loved it in Call of Cthulhu. Same system was used for the old Ringworld game.

    • dave long island

      My gaming group always loved the first edition of Stormbringer, using the same percentile system. That was a great game and a lot of fun.

  • I didn’t mind differing leveling targets for classes, it distinguished them more. D&D wasn’t a competitive game, so to me competing between my party members was inane.

  • SupPupPup

    Bring back Satan and moral panic.

    Our hobby could definitely do with a bit of sexing up.

  • Will Frank

    How you can tell the old school gamers in a group, “Who here can calculate a ThAC0?”

    I GMed so long, I didn’t even need the table anymore…

  • polyquaternium7

    Those where Fun times! though I started at 2nd edition, I remember I was so happy I got the 2nd edition Monster Manual, Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guidebook for Christmas. My parents were all like, “how is this a game? If you are happy we are happy” They still don’t really get it, but I still play D&D albeit D20 system, with the same friends. And I hope I will have many years more to share adventures with them.

  • ForgottenLore

    I really get tired of people ragging on Thac0 (which was introduced in 2nd edition AD&D) all the time. Yes, 3rd ed’s AC=Target Number method is much much better, but Thac0 was a HUGE improvement over the way 1st ed AD&D did it, with individual tables (that were NOT in the Player’s Handbook) for each class (and monsters) where you cross referenced your level with the AC you were trying to hit to see what die roll you needed to hit. When 2nd ed officially adopted Thac0, it simplified the process at least as much as 3rd ed’s AC=TN did.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      It was a band-aid compared to a real fix (switching to d20/3.0’s system).

  • Jennifer Burdoo

    For a mostly 40K site, you seem to have forgotten that gaming with toy soldiers is over a *century* old — and even Chainmail, the first fantasy wargame, came before DnD.

    The cool thing is that Little Wars and Charge! and everything Featherstone and Grant ever wrote are still playable. No constant rule changes, no new rulebooks to buy – but ever better miniatures!

    Except for Little Wars, which is impossible without spring-loaded cannon. Hmm, I wonder if you could play it with marbles…

    • Jay Arr

      Fair enough. It would have been better to say D&D has come a long way over the last 43 years.

      Also, Little Wars! Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. Maybe it’s time to go digging for some weapons and warriors cannon…

  • Joe

    I have the D. Wraith from the set above in my Skeleton Army from 1st edition WHFB. I am surprised to find out it’s D&D. I suppose I must have known that 26 years ago.

  • faolan_conall

    Actually, THAC0 was good, it gave kids (and hell, adults if we’re honest) a reason to have basic math skills.

    Of course, if you’re the average, lazy, brain dead person that games nowadays…

  • Jimmy Rajden

    Too bad GW is a prime example on a company capitalizing on their game system being unbalanced. One could almost claim they are doing it on purpose…

    • Posting about GW in a non-GW thread – check!
      Regurgitating hackneyed criticism of GW – check!
      Being passive-aggressive/condescending – check!

      Thank God, I thought all the h8ers had found someone else to bother after GW’s recent improvements. But they’re still here!

      Don’t ever leave us, you are what makes the internet GRATE!

  • Luca Lacchini

    Have to disagree with the different level-up requirements.
    While having a standardized progression for all classes is surely handy and I myself welcomed it enthusiastically, I’ve grown doubtful of its usefulness. It’s functional, and at the same time it doesn’t really work.
    Different progression tables are less “pleasant”, but in the long run make for a better game.

  • dave long island

    Jack Chick is dead now… So… We either need someone to raise him up so he can get back to work or we need a new bible thumper to rail on and on about RPGs.

  • Malevengion

    I miss the lead in the miniatures (although not for the taste unlike some gamers I can think of 🙂 ). I found that super glue actually worked really well in the pre-pewter days. I still have my crayon colored dice from my Basic D&D set too. The rest in the box with the hundreds of their Chessex descendants.

  • Maurice

    Pre painted miniatures the wave of the future????
    Sure, as long as you’re ok with miniatures that look like they were painted by a blind paraplegic.