Is Neverwinter still D&D?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2013, 3:31 am
On MMO Fallout a fan of Neverwinter is cited claiming that Neverwinter is true to the source material of D&D because "The core of tabletop is in two things: dungeon-crawling and storytelling.". I would say that is a particularly bad definition of what Dungeons & Dragons, or pen & paper roleplaying in general.

First of all, dungeon-crawling is not an essential part of Dungeons & Dragons. Neither are dragons, if you insist on using the name of the game as definition. You can play large D&D campaigns without the group ever setting a foot into a dungeon. There are city adventures, murder mysteries, overland adventures, rule-a-kingdom type adventures, and the list goes on and on.

Second, "storytelling" is a necessary but not sufficient condition. A book can tell a story (and have a dungeon), and that wouldn't magically transform it into a D&D roleplaying game. What D&D is about is *interactive* storytelling. That is no player has 100% control of the story, the story is being generated interactively between the players while playing.

And finally whether another game is true to the D&D source material or not very much depends on whether you can play both D&D and the other game with the same set of skills. To play pen & paper D&D you need imagination and tactical skills. Your character is half imaginary, half made up of stats, numbers, and powers. And to play D&D you need to have a sense of both "what would my character, as I described him, do in this situation?" and "what can my character, with the powers he has, do in this situation?".

As an action computer RPG, Neverwinter uses a very different type of skills, which are a lot less tactical and more related to reaction time and a quick analysis of what is happening around you, aka "don't stand in the fire". It does not require a lot of imagination, as the choices you have as a character are far too limited to actually play a role, as opposed to just playing a class. And even if there is the Foundry, with player-created content, the storytelling still isn't interactive. The creator of the adventure creates 100% of the story, and the player can just opt to either play through this story on rails, or not.

If Neverwinter is "D&D", then every single fantasy computer RPG of the last 20 years is too. And then the point just becomes moot. To me, for a computer game to become "D&D", it would have to have tactical gameplay, and interactive storytelling, between a Dungeon Master and players influencing the game at the same time. Besides some virtual tabletop applications, I can't really think of a game that does this.
Tobold's Blog



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