ive been working on d&d for a long time. ive been in love with the ruleset since about 2003, and over time as a spectrum person its become my conceptual safe space. most spectrum folks have one— some information set we take great pleasure in perusing or experiencing. for my mother its astrology; my brother, motor vehicles; for me its 3rd edition d&d.

i returned to d&d about 16 months ago, with the release of fifth edition. dissatisfied with the focus on faerûn in core 5th ed, i began with the intent of building my own setting— as you do— but quickly found i didnt have the creative chops for it anymore. perhaps in my hypomanic, caffeine-fueled 20s i could have done it. i couldntve done a good job, but i could at least have done it. not anymore.

later that spring, i turned to the idea of porting eberron to 5th ed for my own use. i had no optimism that wizards was going to furnish a campaign setting supplement for eberron anytime soon, and from what id seen in the unearthed arcana column they were unlikely to treat it well even if they did. so i resolved to make my own port.

i began work on the port in spring 2015, but quickly found myself drawn back towards 3rd edition. i began making databases of 3rd edition game elements— first magic items, then spells, then monsters. i spent the summer at this, and enjoyed it tremendously. ostensibly, i was making these databases towards the goal of having indices of quality 3rd edition material to supply my 5th edition game with, since 5th is still fairly underpopulated.

but in truth i was making databases of 3rd edition game elements, and perusing and manipulating them, simply because i enjoy it. i always have. i think i made my first database in 2006, and the task of indexing all of 3rd edition has exerted a pull on me ever since. i dont know what ill do if i ever finish.

for a long time i struggled with this, tried to give myself a cover story that im really a dm, and this is all just "prep". but in truth this is simply my focus as a spectrum person. my mother im sure spends more time with astrology than is practical for any purpose, and my brother likewise with motor vehicle technology. we just do this stuff. its fun.

sadly i have a strong cognitive bias towards conformity and external ratification of my behavior. i felt this was only okay if i was doing it under a neurotypical aegis, in a mainstream-legitimate way.

i have attention deficit disorder, which makes dmming competently next to impossible. over the course of the last year my psychiatrist and i ran through all the medications for it. half of them dont work, and the other half fuck me up pretty badly, because i also have bipolar 1. so my ADD is unmedicatable. i could still self-medicate with caffeine— except no i cant, caffeine is bad news for bipolar sufferers too. gave myself my first mixed episode in august 2015 with a caffeine binge, and finally proved to myself its a substance i really cant use.

in the months since ive had to get used to a life with diminished focus. theres a lot of high-concentration tasks i just cant do anymore. even rpg data perusal is something i have to do with a lot of cognitive breaks. and im sure as hell never dmming another game in my life. at least not until they invent ADD meds that work on me, that i can take.

broken-hearted, i split with d&d in november 2015. without my cover story of doing "game prep", i didnt feel it was legitimate for me to spend my time up to my eyebrows in game rules elements the way i love to do. i also hate the hell out of 5th edition, and i finally admitted that to myself— no matter how much more playable it is, the aesthetic is terrible, and i hate it. i tried to fix that by importing game rules elements from 3rd ed, but theres some game rules elements i cant fix, notably classes.

in retrospect ima file that under «No Longer Engages in Activities that Formerly Brought Them Pleasure»; ie. a symptom of depression. last winter was a dark time for me. realizing id never dm again was part of it, but missing work for hernia surgery again also hit me hard, and seasonal affective component of bipolar pitched in too.

i ended up giving myself a second mixed episode in january, and now im off work for that. on the plus side, we've added a new med to my cocktail, which has pulled me out of my depression. among other things ive had the clarity to return to d&d and realize just how much i love it. not 5th, fuck 5th. i love 3rd.

third edition is by many accounts a bloated, unplayable mess. there were a lot of poor design decisions made, both in its inception and later in its parade of supplements. the supplements parade alone was a questionable course of action, leading to an rpg corpus numbering over 100 books. (in my 20s i owned most of them; they filled an entire bookcase designed for encyclopedias.) the whole system has a lot of inherent problems. its virtually unrunnable even for someone without ADD.

and i love it. i love 3rd ed d&d game rules elements. i love just spend my time perusing them, organizing them, forming systems of them, discovering hidden design quirks and trends, and discussing it with a moirail of mine. i havent tired of it in 14 years, and am unlikely to do so now.

if i were neurotypical, this would be tricky. a standard of neurotypical culture is that someone who spends lots of time doing the background work for a task theyre unable to engage in properly is pathetic (cf. "armchair quarterbacks"). i make no comment on whether thats a valid judgment or not, but its a cultural precept i labor under.

but i subscribe firmly to the philosophy of neurodiversity, which says neurodivergent folks should get to live their lives the way they want. we shouldnt be held to neurotypical standards, but instead be free to keep whatever lifestyle works for us, without shame, or any drive to conform.

spending all my time with the rules of a game im unable to play, for a neurotypical person, would be pathetic i guess. but im an aspie, and for us its perfectly normal. this is okay. i dont need to feel shame about it, to feel a pull towards a legitimizing activity i can never engage in, or embarassment that i never do get around to running a game, do i. running a game isnt the point, i think ive known that for a long time, and i no longer need to pretend like it is.

i regret abandoning 3rd ed this is my conceptual happy space, and it brings me a lot of comfort. i should never have left. i wont do it again.