In response to "Imagine Your Perfect Arcade Game" from The Escapist Forums: The weakness of the old Red Box was the mechanics - the strength was how open it was to modification.
Some classes were all but un-playable unless you had open-ended role-playing. What's the point of a thief if you're being forced to grind through a combat-heavy dungeon? But open up the world to the possibility of strategic engagement, and suddenly the thief or combat-useless spells become a ticket to a completely different approach.
Sadly this put all too much pressure on the DM to handle all these possibilities, and that's the single point of failure of table-top D&D (and why computerized games are more successful): everyone wants to play and nobody wants to be the DM.
I started playing D&D (now known as Basic D&D or Original D&D back in '77 when I was 10 years old, in daily summer camp. The first time I played, I was enthralled. The second time, I asked to borrow the DM's book and read it around the pool (and read it for so long I sunburned my back!). Later that summer, for my birthday, I got the original Blue Box Edition.
Ah, for the days when "Elf" and "Dwarf" were classes as well as races, and clerics started receiving spells only at 2nd level! I can still tell you all about my first character, Zenobia, and how she got her two party mates killed at Keep on the Borderlands (they wanted to enter and sack it, my character was lawful, offered to take the last watch guardpost, and after they were in reverie, she ran to the Keep and warned them. When the elves woke, they decided my character had been killed and dragged off in the night. When they got to the keep and claimed to be "friend" when asked "Friend or Foe?", they got told "You lie!" and ballista bolted for their trouble.)
D&D brings back many wonderful memories for me, and I still have most of my early D&D stuff, from B2, Keep on the Borderlands, to B1, In Search of the Unknown. And who can forget the Tomb of Horrors, the module that led to hundreds of TPKs (Total Party Kills)?
In response to "Red Box Renaissance" from The Escapist Forums: My friends & I were avid 3 & 3.5 edition players who tried 4th edition for over a year before we gave up on it, and what killed us were the balance and the emphasis on melee combat. Everything was perfectly balanced, which sounds good on paper but is boring as hell in actual play.
Fighting a boss? You KNOW he has 600 hp (for example) and your attacks all do 30-60 points - there are no one-hit kills. None. Ever. So every fight is a grind. The idea - get rid of the endless parade of one-hit kills at high-level play - was good, but in practice it's really boring. Set the perfect ambush and instantly assassinate someone? Impossible.
Tied into that is the emphasis on melee combat. Ranges for bows, spells, everything is a joke. If you can shoot them they can reach you for melee within a round or two... and the handful of flying archer monsters are horrifyingly powerful. "Real" ranged combatants - archers who can pin you down across a battlefield, snipers, etc. - are nonexistent.
There's other stuff, but these two things are symptomatic of the general problem: LESS options than any previous version. You have a list of carefully balanced cards and... that's it. You can do other stuff, sure, but the effects are all relatively limited to keep it in balance with everything else. Disarm an opponent? Not unless you have the disarm special ability (which comes at fairly high level powers). Shatter a rapier? Never. Insta-kill with a headshot or lethal poison? Nope. Run through the same short list of powers again, and again, and again? There ya go!
So yeah, we play other stuff.
Thank you for the interview. It was a much appreciated read.
I just received the Red Box today, and, as a lapsed WotC D&D gamer who has been very critical of the current edition of the game, I have to say that my first impressions are positive. I am cautiously optimistic, and will start to read through the set tonight as if I had never read the 4e core books before. I'm willing to re-start from scratch and see where that leads me.
I hope Essentials represents a genuine adjustment of the way WotC's R&D department is looking at the game, and not just a temporary marketing move for the next few months.
On RPGnet, Mike Mearls was pointing out that "When you're dealing with beginning players, mechanics that clearly model what's happening in the game world are really, really helpful. They make it that much easier to understand how the game works and make informed decisions." (link provided at the end of my post)
To quote my answer to him on that thread, thing is, I don't think it's just beginners who are like this, but a sizeable subset of the player base as a whole, veterans, beginners and everyone in between. Some people, like myself, need mechanics to represent something in the game world, and are increasingly bothered with the rules of the game the more removed from the game world, or abstract, they become.
This makes them think more and more in terms of rules first, and game world second. This can even drive a wedge between these two aspects of the game for them. And there, you have it: people getting really upset with the game because "it doesn't let them role play with it". I'm guessing that's what they really mean when they write things like this (there's a thread on these boards titled with a variation of this), and that's really something that D&D R&D needs to understand and catter to for the game to become inclusive again for them.
I am cautiously optimistic.
Link to the RPGnet thread: