Let's get this out of the way first: I greatly enjoy Dungeons & Dragons, or rather, I did. I have nothing against any level of nerdiness that comes part-and-parcel with the game, so long as the creepy stalkers don't get any ideas about my friends.
Now, believe it or not, when I was younger I hated writing. I thought it took much more time than simply telling the stories. I preferred video games over board games, since there was less chance of a titanic fuckup if you chose your video games carefully than if you played a board game with others. This, obviously, led to a sort of an aversion toward D&D, not in a derisive way but just that I didn't think it would be fast and consistent enough. Considering that now I am one of the favorite DMs at any gaming store I play at, I'd say this has changed.
I got into D&D at the tail end of 3.5. While I enjoyed the game, I found some titanic flaws and imbalances. I enjoyed playing spellcasting classes yet I got incensed for my friends who preferred melee classes, since my characters' spell lists could render their characters irrelevant. I saw it as bad design that a player had to handicap his character in order to make the others' contributions meaningful.
When 4th Edition came out, I saw potential for the greatest incarnation of D&D ever. By streamlining the rules and putting all classes on a relatively even playing field, players were no longer limited by artificial restrictions on how to roleplay their characters and everyone could contribute. I always had a feeling that the writers of adventures never truly grasped how amazingly free this new system was, which is always a potential problem in the early days of any edition. However, only two years into the new edition's lifespan something horrible happened:
Wizards of the Coast pussied out
Edition wars have plagued D&D since its inception. Every update or rules change has had its share of nasal cries in protest. When your primary consumers wear bedsheets as capes and hide in their mothers' basements, fear of change is something you have to deal with. However, for the first time someone seemed to see the potential in an overhaul of 3.5, modifying it to better balance the gameplay. A little company called Paizo picked up the Open Gaming License once Wizards (henceforth abbreviated WotC) moved to their new edition, launched a massive open playtest for 3.5 loyalists, and released a game called Pathfinder. Now all the angry so-called fans who turned their backs on D&D for having the audacity to change had a new game to flock to, hiding in little corner rooms and making snide comments against 4E and insinuating that its players were all of subpar intellect. This is a phenomenon I designate as the "mass ragequit."
The problem was, WotC pissed their pants in fear of losing even one fan. After sales failed to meet their expectations when they, for the first time in ages, had real competition on the same level along with the competition's advantage of catering to those who wanted the previous edition to continue, WotC panicked. First they started pushing their books, which I have never known to be a real cash cow. Then they started inventing board games, short romps themed after some of their classic settings - instead of migrating those goddamn settings to 4E like fans had clamored for - in a move that damned them just as the Wii's reliance on dozens of family-friendly Carnival Games discs destroyed their reputation and fan base.
Finally, the execs threw their hands up. They said, "We gave you books, board games and even instructions on how to play your character the right way. Why don't you like us? What, you want actual meaningful content as opposed to just more power set supplements? But those were our best-selling things in the previous edition! Of course people didn't like the previous edition's supplements for their in-depth storytelling and the additions they made to the game world! Why the hell would years of setting development and a half-dozen different fully realized campaign settings make 3.5's supplements more palatable?"
So, because WotC wasn't giving the people what they wanted, they decided to go in the exact fucking opposite direction! They began dancing the can-can while hitting themselves with fish a la Monty Python and released D&D Essentials, which was essentially what angry fans had called 4E from the start: D&D dumbed down. Now, without the more exotic equipment to shore up characters' weaknesses, the developers outright told players what powers they would get and what weapons they had to use. In a system that was all about freedom of choice, this was a jarring change for the worse. As time went on WotC continued to slash-and-burn two years' worth of progress by essentially invalidating preexisting classes and styles, lying out of the left side of their mouth while their right hand was tearing apart their own system.
And then, less than four years after 4E came out, the entire thing collapsed under the sheer weight of its executives' stupidity. The game was an abomination, a Frankenstein's monster created by a lazy-eyed Pollock. And now WotC has sent out calls for suggestions - not even playtesting, just suggestions - for their new 5th Edition.
I have a suggestion, Wizards: sell the fucking franchise. No matter how many collectible cards you release, or board games you publish, or shitty books you sell to serve as testament that Stephenie Meyer isn't the only one who can buttfuck fantasy, an inundation of products will never, EVER make up for real content and heartfelt dedication. The last edition's debacle proved that there's a major shortage of that up in Seattle. Sell the franchise to someone who actually cares about making quality products and not just making money - which this goes to show can't always be accomplished by just throwing shit at the public.
As for me, I finally tried out Pathfinder. Turns out it's pretty good, better than 3.5 and infinitely better than that necrotic placenta 4E has become. I still don't like how other Pathfinder players still degrade the players of other editions, but at least now I can agree that anybody who still claims to enjoy WotC's monstrosity can't have all their marbles.