In this week’s Legends and Lore article, Mike Mearls talks about and even lists out the Core of D&D, and it inspired an immediate thought in me, which I promptly posted as feedback in the comments section:
I’d much rather broaden the name of the list to “Essential D&D Elements,” to get a truer picture of the core or heart of D&D – it’s not just about the mechanics, as rightfully featured as they are. This way, critical roleplaying and storytelling elements of D&D throughout the editions are acknowledged and appreciated.
For example, add the following:
‘Roleplaying: Personalities in the world are inspiring, fantastic, memorable and believably portrayed by both DM and players.’
‘Storytelling: Sweeping, heroic, and epic fantasy stories and adventures are created, shared and told by both DM and players.’
When you recall a favorite time in your D&D games, what do you think of? I bet it’s not some rule or mechanic! No, it’s typically something that happened in the story or an adventure, or about something funny or surprising someone did or managed to pull off. You remember the crazy stories and awesome personalities.
That’s why in my list, it’s not D&D unless you include all those (certainly worthy and classic) mechanics AND storytelling and roleplaying. It’s just not. You need fantastic people, monsters, locations, adventures and stories. They need to be fantastically and memorably presented and portrayed. That is the heart of D&D. That is what gives D&D soul. Otherwise, you’re just playing some board game or dice game.
In the same way Choose Your Own Adventure books often featured you as a fantastic character or hero and took you on voyages into incredible new worlds and cultures, creating your own sweeping tales through your own decisions on the way, D&D does much the same on a group level.
Your involvement, collaboration and decisions, and all the countless possibilities, give D&D its soul. Together, we lift up its framework – the mechanics – and create something greater, something both art form and game. That, my friends, is the true core of D&D.