....I read a 4e thread on rpg.net and ended up in a pointless internet debate. I was doing so well at sticking my head in the sand, but it looks like I've fallen off the wagon. Now there's a mixed metaphor for you if ever there was one.
I just don't get it. I feel like the little boy in The Emperor's New Clothes. Are these people seeing the same thing that I'm seeing? How could it be that our perceptions are so different?
The argument in question is to do with the Rust Monster. I like Rust Monsters; they're one of the very few D&D creatures who can actually generate genuine fear and excitement in players - the others usually being level-draining undead. But there is no Rust Monster anymore: it was decided that destroying armour and weapons wasn't fun and should therefore be cut from the game. (Apparently genuine fear and excitement aren't enjoyable in the brave new world - crazy times.) It constitutes 'screwing players over', you see, because DMs can't be trusted to use Rust Monsters fairly or sensibly, and little Johnny the player will cry because the nasty Rust Monster took away his ickle Vorpal Sword, and he'll run off home and tell mumsy, and that won't be fun, and it will ruin D&D as we know it, or something. That's broadly the argument, as far as I can tell. I'm a little rough on the details - I'm not sure there actually are details. Mike Mearls was ranting about it a while back.
I think what it boils down to is good and bad experiences. I used to game, and have only ever gamed (outside of PBEMs), with genuine friends. Friends do mean and spiteful things to each other sometimes, because it's fun. They also laugh at each other when things go wrong - like if you roll a dice and get a 1, and it means the treasured magic item that you've earned over six months of play has just been destroyed. And you laugh along with them, because it's only a game, and you're enjoying yourself, and you're possibly a little drunk. In our games, 'screwing over the players' was the purpose of the DM - provided of course that he was always fair with it (anyone with any experience of the game can tell immediately, I feel, whether a DM is or isn't being fair). His role was to create the adversity that the players had to overcome - by power, guile, or luck. He had to walk a fine line between too much and too little adversity, but that was the challenge of good DMing.
So that's my perspective - Rust Monsters and other 'screw the players over' monsters add to the fun you can have with your friends. They make the game actually scary, and they have endless potential for point-and-snigger moments. Everyone's a winner.
The only way I can reconcile the anti-Rust Monster view with my very conception of reality, is by reasoning that the people who make it must have had bad experiences in their formative gaming years. Maybe they didn't have friends to game with and had to go to some unfriendly local gaming club, run by capricious bullies who would use every opportunity to make them feel small. Maybe they don't really understand the social rules by which the majority of the human race lives (God knows there are a lot of people like that in D&D-playing circles) and therefore misinterpret good-natured ribbing as genuine nastiness. Maybe they prefer "story games" ("Narrativist play" as I believe the kids are calling it) and think randomly dangerous Rust Monsters mess with the pre-arranged plot too much. Maybe they once had a character who they were really attached to killed by an unlucky dice roll, and they are of the kind of sensitive disposition that takes such things to heart. Maybe they are deeply insecure, and can't stand to lose. Maybe they've only ever played with truly wretched DMs. Maybe they're just wretched players. I have to come up with these summations, because the alternative is just too weird to contemplate: we are actually percieving different things - the Rust Monster and, more broadly, the D&D and the role playing that I see, is not the same, in some strange and fundamental way, to that which they do.
If you're reading this and thinking, "Hey, I think it's GREAT they got rid of Rust Monsters" then please don't interpret my ranting as a personal attack. Some of the 'Maybes' I cited above are perfectly good reasons for not liking such creatures. All I'm saying is: from my standpoint, I don't get it one teeny little bit.
Beautiful, ain't he?