Consider the following statement by Gary Gygax concerning how much detail and complexity should be accounted for by D and D’s combat mechanic:
“If, in fact, D&D were a game of simulation of hand-to-hand combat utilizing miniature figurines, such detail would be highly desirable. The game is one of
adventure, though, and combats of protected [protracted, sic] nature (several hours
minimum of six or more player characters are considered involved
against one or more opponents each) are undesirable, as the majority
of participants are most definitely not miniature battle game enthusiasts.” (The Dragon, April 1979)
This precisely captures a huge part of my disenchantment with the 3.5 rules. Combats simply take way too long and depend upon an unnecessary level of complexity. The result feels more like a “miniature battle game” as opposed to an RPG. I offer this quote, not because I feel that Gygax’s statements should be treated as some sort of holy writ that express the “truth” of what D and D is supposed to be, but rather as an insight into just how prescient he could be about the future of the game he created.
Admittedly, Gygax is mostly talking about and rejecting complicated combat systems that make extensive use of hit locations and such, not the elaborate array of feats used in 3.5. But the point is that, several times in this article, he stresses that D and D is not primarily about combat, but rather the development of an imaginary persona. Combat is only a means to this end. Later versions of the game, while often paying lip service to this idea, seem to have increasingly lost sight of it.
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