Why I Don’t Like Playing Dungeons And Dragons Any More (But Love Other RPGs)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I recently joined a Discord devoted to homebrew RPG mechanics, and I realize the more people talk about hacking D&D, the less interest I have in playing D&D ever again. And here’s why:

1) I Know All The Stereotypes.
Part of the appeal for new players is what makes me weary – I’ve seen the bearded dwarf, the archer elf, the whacky kender a billion times, and my thirst for novelty makes it hard to get excited about playing with the pixie faerie rogue who steals everything that’s nailed down again.

Which isn’t to say that you can’t play unique characters in D&D – folks certainly have! But the class-and-race structure of D&D draws people towards certain well-worn archetypes, and while it’s certainly possible to play a half-orc paladin struggling against his inner bloodlust, in practice most groups are gonna have another Drizzt Do’Urden clone shuffling up to the table just because unless everyone’s committed to wild novelty, the game encourages players to trod down those dusty roads.

There’s nothing wrong with it if you enjoy that! But for me, I’ve played so many sessions with the furious barbarian that those sessions feel like reruns.

2) D&D’s Broken After About 8th Level.
Because D&D has precisely one form of common damage, the hit point, at some point higher levels degenerate into “Save or die” scenarios where the amount of damage has to be threatening, but will absolutely kill the squishier characters. So the game becomes filled with literal GM dodges where they struggle to keep characters alive.

D&D has a serious sweet spot issue, where playing PCs of around 3rd-8th level are the most satisfying, and after that they either die or they run into D&D’s other issue…

3) D&D Is A Ramp To Godhood.
It’s not like other systems (and videogames!) don’t do this too, but D&D is so based on “You fight, you get stronger” that you encounter pushback if you give the hero a permanent injury or take away a magic item without giving them a better one.

I like games that have consequences to bad decisions, and they’re hard to engineer in D&D without player resistance – there’s great stories like Jaime Lannister losing his hand and having to find some other way to be relevant.

But in D&D, unless you’re constantly levelling you’re dying – and while, again, you can tell those stories if you’ve got a committed band of players who are genuinely protective of their NPCs, in most cases the mechanics and the player expectations make it feel like punishment.

And to repeat: Nothing wrong with a good ol’ slog towards 20th level. But I like to think about character level, and it’s hard to engineer serious setbacks when any mechanical setbacks are against the system’s grain.

4) Combat Is Character-Free.
We’re playing a Blades in the Dark campaign, and the fighting is always character-based because of the way the system (and our excellent DM Jim) keeps throwing specific drawbacks at us – one character fighting the impending insurrection of his troops, another character’s wasting away due to his usage of magic.

And in D&D, it always seems like character should matter… but then the swords come out, and the system encourages people to turn into these statistics-based machines of death. It’s very much about accounting, position, the right bonuses, the right spells – and there’s so much of that that it often overwhelms the heroism moments.

And for the third time, again, sure, a group can battle past that to concentrate on the emotions! But a friend of mine likened it to a car that pulled hard to one side; he could never take his hand off the wheel and enjoy the ride if he wanted to encourage the kids he was DMing for to do any sort of narrative gaming.

D&D’s not bad; I’m glad it has a place in the industry. But while any TTRPG can be a place for high emotion, depending on the players (hell, there’s probably a heartbreakingly epic saga told in TOON somewhere), D&D’s mechanics – and, more importantly, what most people expect when they start a D&D game – tend to create an environment I’m not all that into.

If you’re into it, swell! But I’ve got the Dungeon World-style bug, the Unknown Armies itch, that Delta Green dependency. And so I leave you to your enjoyment…

And if you’re not enjoying it, well, maybe think about jumping ship to those other games?


  1. N/A
    Feb 26, 2021

    I get it. It’s the the most annoying thing for me, the way people insist on using D&D as a one-size fits all system, and it’s just not. Yes you CAN use D&D to play any sort of game, but you can sit down with your friends around a Monopoly set and play a courtly intrigue campaign, that doesn’t make Monopoly a game of courtly intrigue. I’ve been without a game for too long now but what I’m looking for is Exalted, or Infinity, or Scion, or Broken Worlds, or Wrath of the Autarch…

  2. Doug S.
    Mar 1, 2021

    When you just want to kill some monsters and take their stuff, what game do you go for?

  3. Madam Chiaroscoro
    Jan 29, 2022

    Totally agree, I have long ago dumped 2nd ed for Storyteller system and Shadowrun. Then maybe 10 years ago tried 4th ed and that was terrible. I’m so bored of the archetypes and I could never play a tabletop rpg with levels again. Come to the Exalted side, we have cookies.

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