So my Twitter feeds and internets were abuzz and a-bothered today over a poll over at Legend & Lore. Seems Monte and the team were wondering what aspects of prior D&D editions would the community like to see carried forward into DnDNext. They listed a great many things for which past editions were (in)famous: THAC0, Vancian Magic, feats, armour/weapon-type damage modifications, and so on. All things that any long-time D&D gamer would be familiar with.
But what seems to have sent the community off its collective nut is the inclusion of gender-based ability score maximums on that list. For those of you not familiar with the early iterations of the game, back in the time of First Edition (or as we called it, Advanced D&D) the Player’s Handbook listed racial and gender maximums on the ability score charts. Certain races tended to be stronger, more dexterous or more intelligent, so ability score limits were put in place to establish this (3rd and 4th edition did a similar thing with racial bonuses/penalties to ability scores). But the racial scores are not the issue of course; no one is losing their shite over restricting the abilities of gnomes.
Let me say this, just to get it out of the way: I have never used gender-based restrictions on anything in my role-playing. Even back when I played Advanced D&D I ignored those parts of the ability charts as ridiculous. My reasoning was, why couldn’t you have an exceptionally strong halfling or gnome, or a nimble dwarf? Adventurers were already the exception to the racial norms, why should their abilities be any different? So nothing I am saying here is meant as a defence of gender-based limitations in role-playing games (though for perspective it should be noted the only ability score restricted because of gender in Advanced D&D was strength). I think we are well past that in the evolution of the hobby, and seeing a rule like that in a game published today would be like seeing a new MMO published for the Amiga (look it up).
But I also don’t think that the inclusion of the item on that list is the great freaking travesty that most of the interwebs does. At worst it is something that can just be ignored; at best, it can serve as a talking point about how far we have come since that time in our hobby (much as I’m doing now). Out of the approximately 46, 000 people that have responded to that poll as I write this, do you seriously think that anyone picked that item as the one thing they wanted carried forward into DnDNext? And I am excluding a margin of about 1% for standard internet dickishness, because I am sure there were a few that thought, “Hey, y’know what would be funny…?”
Like it or not, that type of rule was part of D&D’s past and I think WotC was right to include it in the poll. Not because its a rule worth considering, but because, when the poll results are released and that rule is shown to have zero supporters (+/- 1% margin for dickishness) that fact may finally put the topic to rest. And that would be a good thing, because I think there are bigger gender-equality fish to fry in the RPG industry (and in real life) than a single line item on a poll.
To recap: should seeing that item upset you? Certainly. What should you do about it? Vote to keep some other aspect of previous editions, like I did (I’d really like to see non-Vancian Magic carried forward, in case you were wondering). Save your attack for gender issues that just won’t die, like fantasy artists that insist females of any class/occupation are most comfortable dressed as mid-price prostitutes with a leather fetish. That line on that list? It’s dead on arrival, it just doesn’t know it yet.
I am always happy for lively discussion, so feel free to give your opinion in the comments. Keep it civil though…
**Update: It seems L&L put up a revised poll and apologized for including the gender-based ability modifiers in the first place. So there’s that.