Spell Plague? How about, No!

As a long time 2e hold-out, and somebody who doesn’t really get out all that much, the only contact that I have with other players is at my table. I know that the game is popular, but I am stuck reading stuff online to get a grasp on how things are out in the rest of the world. This means that I only know what people choose to write about, so I am deeply curious of how other Dungeon Masters are working.

There has always been a void between myself and other players ever since Wizards of the Coast took over and said that we’re all going to be playing 3e now, and from the get-go I said no. I didn’t like the optional core rules that were put out by TSR, I found them unnecessary. We did jump into the use of Proficiencies as soon as they came out, we liked them and they seemed to make the game better, however the Player’s Options series was just too much. To me, the hardest part of the game is rolling up new characters, and all of that stuff about adding flaws in exchange for stuff just doesn’t jive well with how I play. We weren’t just a fan of the game, we were fans of the system; we played it and played it a lot! We knew the rules, and we knew how to find stuff fast. That offers great freedom that you can’t get from starting a new system just because somebody says so.

So, other tables moved on, and I never did. I actually am quite hostel to the new additions, I just don’t get them, and I rarely agree with the practices of big business. I did feel ripped off by feeling compelled to buy all of those books when I know that they could had packed all of that stuff in less volumes, and then came the day that it finally dawned on me . . . why use all of those books? Why not just stick to the 3 core books: The Players Handbook, The Dungeon Masters Guide, & The Monstrous Manual, and really get to know them. I mean REALLY get to know them, as in think about why each rule is there, and get a deep understanding of the system that I chose to call home.

This thought process came because of one book that initially I was excited about called, Domains of Dread. I was a Ravenloft guy, and I was already sick of running those kinds of games. I had started running Ravenloft because my fellow players had the thought of each of us specializing at a different setting, I chose Ravenloft and then, after the others taught me to be a proper Dungeon Master, they wanted me to do it full time so that they could play, which was fine with me, as I discovered that DMing was more rewarding to me then just playing. I had bought the box set, which is really restrictive but it was what it was! Then the Grand Conjunction happened, and since I was playing modules, it happened to my table and it sucked. It took out everything!

I personally felt like I got tricked. I enjoyed the original box set, and then the modules that I had been playing destroyed it. I decided to ignore it, but I was looking forward to a new source book to be released: The Grand Conjunction was described, but I didn’t know what the land looked like until this book came out . . . well, even then, instead of spending the money on a decent map, it put a two page spread of the land of Ravenloft and it was printed so dark that it was worthless. Then, to make matters even worse, Grim Harvest came out, and that was the killer for me. I quit playing after that. It was a death nail in my setting and I wasn’t smart enough to move on; well, maybe smart isn’t the right word. I wasn’t brave enough to move on.

Cataclysm: why did TSR think that they had to do it? Through their writing, they destroyed a really great world. I was fed up with them, so I went backwards. Greyhawk! That setting was untouched and pure . . . too bad none of my players ever got excited about the world. Now I’m on Forgotten Realms, which they love! It was actually our first world as a group, we cherished playing in it, but I was so stuck on running things core that I was scared of it. Now I wish that I had done this a long time ago.

After seeing my Core Ravenloft blow up and crumble around me, it dawned on me that TSR and Wizards of the Coast are a ship of fools that really don’t know what is best for my game. I do. I still want the world to be recognizable, but I want to keep true to the one thing that TSR did do right, and that is the box sets!

The Forgotten Realms Box Set is a wonderful product. It isn’t perfect for me and my group, but I have modified enough of those damned modules to know that nothing ever is. I am a much superior DM now than I used to be, and know how to read that stuff better. But, just like Ravenloft, after the Forgotten Realms came out, the people who are in charge started to meddle.

Time of Troubles

The gods were forced to walk the earth for a time, which happened before the box which I use as core came out, so it isn’t a big deal to me. I have also read the original Box Set for the Realms and I do see the Times of Troubles as a good thing which was masterly done. It gave designers time to really look at the pantheon and flesh it out unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before. This cataclysm didn’t mess up the world, but deeply improved it by adding lots of color to everything that it touched.

It killed a couple of gods, but it also gave you the tools that you could use to resurrect them if you chose to. If a character had been a cleric of a god that was a casualty, then it offered suggestions on how to handle it.

This Cataclysm is a success.

The Hoard

Again, I think that this cataclysm took place before my box was released. I think that it did more good then harm; it detailed a previously sketchy part of the map, and it wasn’t overly invasive to what most people were doing. One could still pick up and run a module that took place afterwards and even if they didn’t use this addition to the game, they could still run the mod. That makes it a success in my book. But then . . . then friends, 3e came out and Wizards of the Coast really started their meddling. This crap shouldn’t effect me and it doesn’t, but yet, it kind of does.

Spell Plague

I honestly don’t know what this is, and I don’t care. This was, from my reading and looking for maps and tales of other DM’s games, exactly like the Grand Conjunction that destroyed Ravenloft forever. This crap did affect me immediately, because how I got in the realms was that my wife purchased the 5e Starter Set which I converted to 2e because that was easier then trying to learn a new system that I honestly had no desire for.

What I didn’t know was that that adventure has been tainted by the Spell Plague, and I had already begun running the dungeon before I ordered the old box set, while not specifically detrimental to my world, it did make it harder to figure out what happened then is should have.

I consider The Spell Plague to be a failure in marketing because it does taint the world in a negative way. It causes dissention among tables everywhere: some who use it, and others who don’t. Part of me thinks that when you’re playing a setting written for the masses, you should keep it that way, else what is the point, while another side of me says, “Screw you, this is my world now and if there are any major changes to it, then it will be me that enacts them, not you.” Isn’t that fair?

What irritates me is when a player who has cut their teeth on a modern version of the game sits at the table, and already he has misconceptions about the world and how it works, and he has to learn a system new to him on top of that. It makes things harder then they really should be.


I am going to be nice, and say that they wanted to give players and DMs an epic storyline. I know that that wasn’t why they did what they did, but that is my answer and I’m sticking to it, so here is the rub; you can’t mass market epic storylines! Epic storylines are meant to push the lines of everything that they touch. A DM who chooses to run one, is pushing the boundaries of what this system can handle doing to its breaking point, along with the setting (which will break, which is why we are running it), and the player characters as well. That is the nature of the beast; but an epic story is meant to correct something, or change something so that it better reflects the attitude of both the Dungeon Master and the players running the scenario, not just, because. Just because is never a good reason to do anything that has long term effects.

I have actually looked at the Horde Box Set and thought about just changing it to orcs, but decided against it, because my true intentions are to take the forgotten realms setting, and publicly divorce it from  the Core timeline; and specifically why I am doing this is because of the Spell Plague. That is NOT the direction that I want to go. I think that we all bought an old setting Box Set because we do love the setting. Settings Boxes offered nothing but magic, potential, and growth. What will my forgotten realms look like in 20 years of real time play? That is an exciting question to me.

The Spell Plague bothers me more then just for what it implicates to me personally; it makes me question the state of the gaming community. There is an old-school renaissance taking place, which is a beautiful thing that sends a message to those who actually own these properties, but is it loud enough to actually send a message? What is it that we as a giant monster with a hive mentality want from this game? Is it to do nothing but run modules, or write our own campaigns? When brought up on message boards, the most common answer is to just do it yourself and ignore what you don’t like, but isn’t that fatalism? Me personally, I like to do both! But I have a very definite opinion on what a module should and shouldn’t do, and what it shouldn’t do is that it shouldn’t be more than just a blip on the radar. There should never be any long term repercussions from running a module. Ever! And I resent any module that does not stick to this view.


ZilWerks said...

I myself have enjoyed many of the updates to the game rules, but I have always had a jaundiced eye towards apocalyptic world modifications done on hapless game worlds.

I do have a recommendation for you, as you still love the 2e look and feel and its close ties to AD&D. Lamentations of the Flame Princess is pretty much has the old school AD&D feel without the clunk of the THAC0. Innovations such as the d20+Char+Skill I happen to like, but to each gaming group their own ways and rules.

RipperX said...

Clunky? I love THAC0, call me crazy but I do. Once you understand how that works, the game practically runs itself :)

I prefer to play as DM, but I tell you, I would definitely enjoy playing at JimLotFP's table. We've talked in the past and he's given me some excellent advice.

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