The last time my gaming group ran a regular Dungeons & Dragons game was in 2008. It was our Dark City campaign, set in our homegrown city of Obsidian Bay and using the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition rules.
Then 4th Edition came out. We ran a short play test campaign, and opinions were sharply divided. Rather than continue Dark City or start a 4E campaign, we decided to do something different. We jumped genres to science fiction and ran a Star Wars: Saga Edition campaign set in the Knights of the Old Republic era.
After that we played Pathfinder for a time as we ran through an abbreviated version of Paizo’s Second Darkness campaign. It was like D&D but even crunchier with more class options, but with essential optimizations where they were needed most (grappling, tripping, and other combat maneuvers). When that ended, we tried our hand at Numenera before moving to a Savage Worlds-powered Weird Pulp campaign.
All the while we largely ignored D&D 4th Edition. A few of our group played it at area conventions or ran campaigns of their own. I played just enough of the game to keep current, and I wrote a few reviews for Nuketown and other sites. We dabbled in (and actually quite enjoyed) Gamma World but for the most part D&D was dead to us. We moved on.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition brought us back.
I didn’t expect it to. There was a lot of animosity towards Wizards of the Coast’s handling of 4th Edition, and I jokingly called 5th Edition our last, best hope for peace. It turned out to be true.
With 5th Edition, Wizards of the Coast has created a faster, leaner version of the game that retains is fundamental D&D feel. My group has been together for 18 years; most of us played 1st edition at some point, and I think all of us played 2nd. We spent more than eight years playing some variant of 3rd. The latest iteration of the game evokes the best part of all of those editions.
Fourth Edition was radically different from all previous incarnations of the game. It shared some DNA, but as many have noted, the game felt much more like a MMORPG than the pen-and-paper game we’d been playing for so long. Not so 5th Edition; almost as soon as we had the Player’s Handbook in hand people were thinking about converting our old 3rd Edition characters (themselves converted from 2E) to the game.
After a few one-off playtest sessions, we now find ourselves running not one, but two 5th Edition campaigns. The first is Obsidian Frontier. It’s an Old School-style campaign set in the World of Greyhawk. We’ve returned to the Pomarj, our traditional stomping grounds, for a game set in the “wild west” of Obsidian Bay, shortly after the city was settled.
The second one, Heart of Darkness, is a playtest campaign. The idea is that we level up after every session. This will let us get a feel for the entire system from 1st to 12th level (and maybe a few more beyond).
At the same time, it’s led us back to our roots. We’ve been working our way through the GriffCrier Wiki to fill in long-over due entries about characters, locations, and monsters we last talked about a half-dozen years ago.
It feels like coming home. It feels good.