Why Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder suck

If you haven’t played Role-Playing games, and D&D/Pathfinder in particular, just skip this post. If you have, then you may appreciate my rant.

I have been playing RPGs since 1981 and designing RPGs since 1983. I have tested, played and researched in detail scores of RPGs, and I’ve found many good systems and many well crafted settings. Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder are among the worst RPG systems made. Here’s but a few of the terrible design “features”:

  1. Classes: Enforcing stereotypes is a desgn flaw of any system. It brings with it unnatural restrictions that are hard to explain… “No, you can’t pick up that sword, you’re a Magic User!”
  2. Hit Points increase with level: A medium level fighter can take ten times the damage of an average man in the street. And it takes 10 Cure Light Wounds to get him from fainted to full HP as opposed to one CLW for the average man. You can’t kill an experienced adventurer with an arrow, etc.
  3. Armor Class: In D&D/Pathfinder, waring armor makes it harder to hit you, but the damage done from a weapon is just the same. In reality, armor never makes it harder to hit anyone, it subtracts from damage done.
  4. D20: Using a 20-sided dice with smaller adjustments makes the spread too wide. You’re a dancer with a +7 modifier on the dice roll. One day you throw a 2 on the dice and your dancing is below average.. The next day you throw 19 and your performance is beyond what any everage person can do.
  5. Complexity: With silly basic design flaws like the above, trying to make the system somewhat realistic is a very complicated task. It makes for a complex system with lots of special rules. If the basic design was more realistic, the complete system would be much simpler. Simpler systems make it easer for new players to join in and for new Game Masters to get up and running. Having the GM sift through pages upon pages of complex rules mid-game while players start fiddling with their phones sorta kills the fun. Simpler, more realistic systems let the actual role-playing shine and the playing sessions run more smoothly with less awkward rules getting in the way. The rules should help the game play, not distract from it with surprising unrealism.

</end of RPG-rant-of-the-day>

5 thoughts on “Why Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder suck

  1. 1. If the system is based on a medieval or pre-medieval setting, then enforcing stereotypes makes sense. People were born into their jobs back then, and they stuck to their jobs no matter what. The baker’s son became the new baker when the baker died. The blacksmith’s son became the new blacksmith when he died etc. etc.

    Also *restrictions* are ofte fun, and even the most fun. Complete freedom is just boring, because there are no limits.

    D&D games does this in a terrible way though, like you pointed out: you can’t use this or that weapon because you are a Magic-User or a Thief or whatever.

    Yet again though, it makes sense: a Magic-User (and Cleric) is a class based on the ancient historical druids, who were not allowed to — for religious reasons — touch any sharp weapons or tools, because they could be used to cut down plants. The only exception to this was a golden sickle that they used to cut herbs. So.. it actually makes sense. For Magic-Users (and Clerics) that is. For Thieves… it makes *no* sense.

    2. Yeah, when you double your HP from level 1 to 2 it makes little sense, but if you have a system where the increase is miniscule from level to level, then it *can* be justified. An experienced fighter is better trained to deal with pain and physical stress… so…

    Further, players tend to enjoy character improvement, and it is simply little fun if you just remain a hopelessly weak human being…. which migth explain why RuneQuest never was a big hit…

    3. Ah, but you miss one point with AC: it is not there to determine how hard you are to *hit*, but how hard you are to *injure*, and yes: it is indeed harder to injure a person wearing armour. So, using that logic, it makes sense.

    However, any system where armour absorbs damage when you are hit is of course much more logical. And there really is no reason to abstract armour like they do in D&D.


    I can add, in relation to D&D type games, that there are a heap load of more issues with them. Like why do Magic-Users need to memorize spells every day? And if they are to cast the same spell twice, then why do they need to memorize the same spell twice? How is that even possible? And how can you cast it once, and then forget the spell, but since you have memorized it twice, you can still cast it again, even though you forgot the spell formula after you cast it the first time… ?!!??

    Further, why is Theif a class to begin with? Isn’t anyone who steals something a Thief!? What if the Fighter or Magic-User steals something? Isn’t he a Thief too then?

    Also, why is Wisdom a character attribute? Isn’t wisdom just intelligence + knowledge?

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

    There are no Magic-Users or Thieves in D&D anymore, by the way… they changed that for D&D 3.0 and onwards. And yeah: 3.0 came in year 2000. So, you are hopelessly out-dated. 😉

    We are now at D&D 5th edition, and… it is not much better than the previous editions. It has turned into a “hand-holding game”, where players can’t die, because the players of today are a bunch of snowflakes used to playing WoW.

    5th edition… a great opportunity for them to sell three more books to all the same players. Wait a few years, and we will have a 6th edition, and more books to buy…

    Welcome to Capitalism. 🙂

    1. PS. I forgot about what you said about the D20. Yes, you are 100% right. But.. you can use a D20 without having to do any “complex” math…. it’s real simple. If you use e. g. 3D6 instead, they would have to add up three different numbers… and that’s way too complex for most people today. 😉

  2. Hi Geir,
    Do you think it is better use in order to better organize and continualy improvimg everyday real life the RPG framework that is very similar to real life experience or the RPG framework that is different from everyday life experience?

    1. I’d go with similar as the real world is more familiar to the players. It makes it easier for the Game Master to create fun that way.

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