Today I started playing Hollow Knight, knowing absolutely nothing about the game other than having seen a few screenshots and being able to recognize the character. And not even two minutes later, before anything had actually happened, I was thinking about Scorn and Elden Ring and saying to myself “why is D&D fantasy so lame?!”
Of course, the three games I mentioned are videogames with a very strong audiovisual component that RPGs just don’t have, so they are not really a good comparison. But why is it still always the same Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms stuff we see being rehashed by all the adventures and retroclones? Even with D&D having abandoned the medieval aesthetic for dungeon punk, the world and the stories have actually become more flavorless by replacing the medieval cliches with a modern social model. When I see oldschool adventures getting praise, it’s typically for being competently done, not for being imaginative.
Of course, settings and campaigns with low weirdness have their place and great appeal. And half a century ago, the now classic dungeons would probably have been fresh, strange, and exciting to the players who had never seen anythibg quite like that in fiction at such a scope. And of course this is now me after having had my fill on that stuff for some 25 years.
But still, where has the spirit gone for being imaginative and creative with new ideas in D&D and other generic fantasy RPGs? Where is the sense of the fantastical? 30 years ago, even the people making D&D dared to go wild and strange with Dark Sun and Planescape. And plenty of people still love this stuff.
I think when we create adventures or settings for campaigns, we really can strive for more than Ye Olde England with adventuring guilds again. We should be fanning the flames of imagination, not worship the ashes.