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Dork Age / Tabletop Games

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  • The Old World of Darkness, despite its good parts, did have quite a few Dork Age moments.
    • Gypsies, a game book that tried to replicate the Victorian trope of the mysterious, magical gypsy... in the 20th century. Apparently, no one realized it was stupidly racist until it actually went to press. Most White Wolf fans just pretend it never existed.
    • The Vampire: The Masquerade Sourcebook known as Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand presented the True Black Hand, a secret society of vampires devoted to fighting "Soul-eaters", spirits that were infecting the rest of vampirekind. Fans scorned the entire concept as a complete 180 from the game's mood, dubbing the idea "Vampions" note . White Wolf eventually took advantage of a major event in the World of Darkness, the cataclysm surrounding the rising of the Ravnos Antediluvian, to wipe out the True Black Hand, and subsequently revealed that the group got everything wrong.
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    • To make the "Soul-Eaters" bit even worse, they were alien space parasites and in every way appeared to have been swiped whole cloth from Necroscope. The Tzimisce had always appeared to be a mashup of Necroscope's Wampyri and Dracula, but Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand's Soul Eaters made it pretty clear things with Vicissitude were the Wampyri with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. This was even more obvious because there was a Necroscope RPG by West End Games released a year before Dirty Secrets was published. Both the Necroscope RPG and WoD system used D10s for their dice, so while not using identical systems, it wasn't particularly difficult to port one system to the other.
    • When it comes to Dork Age moments in the oWoD nothing can beat Sam Haight. Originally written as a mistreated kinfolk note  who skinned five werewolves in order to become one himself and became corrupted by evil, White Wolf decided that it would be a good idea if he became a main villain for the rest of their game lines as well. As a result he became a horrifically overpowered vampire-werewolf-ghoul-mage who had powers from all the game lines at the time. After he was finally killed there was talk that he could come back as a super powered Wraith, at which point the writers said that he had his soul forged into an ashtray, and was promptly ignored save for a single line about a screaming ashtray in one of the last novels
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • 2nd edition is considered somewhat of a dork age. Rampant overpowered characters, vortex grenades taking out dozens of regular troopers, and some extremely poor model design combined to make it something rather ill-remembered.
    • Most veterans found the 3rd edition a big Dork Age, where they stripped the setting of almost all of its background with pamphlet-sized army books, and dialed up the grimdark in the little background that was left while simultaneously dialing down the clever things about it. On top of this, the rules were oversimplified to the point where in each army book they had to introduce more and more special rules to differentiate the statistics which were previously represented with a single number. Also, characters became even more cheesy in 3rd edition than 2nd edition.
      • On top of this, they introduced the Tau and the Necrons, who were unpopular among the fanbase due to their perceived lack of any real flaws. Luckily the Tau have been made to fit better in recent times and the Necrons are not so infallible anymore. Perhaps ironically, it was the introduction of the Tau and Necrons that heralded the beginning of the "3.5 edition", where GW started trying to fix the 3rd ed's problems.
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    • Fifth Edition has been considered a Dork Age for the Space Marines. Mostly due to the horribly bad writing, utterly ignoring the most basic parts of the canon and incredible favoritism towards the Ultramarines. Also repeatedly invoking the Worf Effect upon the Sisters of Battle, scaling down their force and repeatedly featuring stories of them being horribly butchered. All of this can be blamed upon a single author, Matt Ward, who was told to make a book filled with Ultramarines propaganda and took it way too far. Fans spent the next six years screaming for Games Workshop to fire him, and the 6th Edition codex, for the most part, has toned the Ultramarines back down.
    • 5th Edition Grey Knights had an even worse reputation than the Ultramarines. Matt Ward was once more tasked with writing a codex, and went so far overboard that the Grey Knights entered Creator's Pet levels of overpowered, with low level initiates capable of banishing greater daemons without breaking a sweat (and their leader Supreme Grand Master Kaldor Draigo, was allowed to traipse through the Realm of Chaos and kill whatever daemons he came across without any repercussions). In-game they had the strength to match, with easy access to ridiculously tough troops, vast psychic powers, and a piece of wargear that (due to poor wording) could render some of the most powerful weapons in the game (plasma weapons) completely useless. While later editions and new writers have toned down the Grey Knights' rules and fleshed out their characters more, the 5th Edition Codex left a permanent stain on their reputation that has yet to be redeemed.
    • The 2013 version of Codex: Tyranids is by many considered to be this. The writing is not particularly bad, but most of the lore is simply recycled from the former book with barely any new information, in the edition it was released in note  Tyranids were unable to ally up with any other faction leaving them at a huge disadvantage and the rules were also generally considered bland and uninteresting. Worse yet, many special characters and other things that made Tyranids a worthwhile faction (such as Spore Pods) were outright removed without any sensible replacements. Many a Face Palm was given.
      • The 5th Edition Codex was also much less liked than the 4th, which was considered the highest point for the Tyranids. Both the 5th and 6th Edition Codices were also by the same writer, Robin Cruddace, so fan theories have cropped up that he outright dislikes the Tyranids and is intentionally nerfing them.
    • Tom Kirby's tenure as Games Workshop CEO is viewed as this for the company as a whole - discontinuing Specialist Games, shutting down Black Industries, nuking Warhammer Fantasy Battle and replacing it with Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and excessive price-gouging that resulted in the company's stock prices falling off a cliff.
  • After FASA was shut down, ownership of BattleTech passed to WizKids. The result was an attempted a continuity reboot of sorts with "Mechwarrior Dark Age" under the WK "Clix" system. The net effect of this was to piss off a lot of long-time players, who dubbed the game "Dork Age".
    • Some fans considered the Shadowrun products and novels to have suffered a Dork Age when they kept being infiltrated by cross-promotion from Earthdawn: a phenomenon that ended after FASA licensed the latter to another company.
      • Many fans have had a similar reaction to the changes to the setting introduced by Catalyst Games, the newest owner of the Shadowrun license, who have insisted on trying to 'update' the game world by making it more like 2010, drifting away from its 80's cyberpunk roots.
    • With that being said, the reaction could be seen as They Changed It, Now It Sucks!; by releasing Dark Age, WK Games kept Battletech alive after FASA's demise and paved the way for the revival of the game under FanPro and later Catalyst Games labs. It was also frequently ignored that Mechwarrior Dark Age was actually a much more popular game that Battletech was, with a player base that was orders of magnitude larger than Battletech's.
      • Part of the problem had to do with a serious lack of communication. WizKids strongly promoted Mechwarrior: Dark Age while simultaneously not promoting standard Battletech early on, giving the impression that they were killing the original game in favor of Mechwarrior. Then, when the Dark Age game was actually released, fans found that none of the original factions were represented fighting in something called "The Republic of the Sphere" which was built singlehandedly by some new character after most of the original factions were nearly destroyed by the Word of Blake, a techno-religious organisation. This, naturally, turned out to be quite a turn off to many older fans, who didn't note that it was All There in the Manual in fiction readily available on WK's website, in the tie-in novels and the information in the game itself, and what was depicted was Republic propaganda. The original factions were still very much around and the Jihad hadn't actually been quite as bad as it was originally portrayed, though it was a pretty major event - it's just that many fans simply assumed the worst without bothering to check the facts. This was not helped by numerous game stores also saying that Battletech had been ended after FASA closed (a misconception that is still present in some areas 15 years later).
  • The less said about Mega Traveller and Traveller: The New Era, the better. Games Designer Workshop note  decided that somehow it was a fantastic idea to set fire to one of the best-realized sci-fi settings in all of gaming. Players stayed away in droves, and GDW paid the price when it went bankrupt several years later.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: After years of trying to bring the game in sync on both sides of the Pacific, and making it as unified as possible, UDE chairman Kevin Tewert suddenly decided he could make the game much better than the guys at Konami who made the game in the first place. This nearly destroyed everything he had helped build up in the process, increasing the schism of TCG vs. OCG to new heights. Then it turned out UDE was selling counterfeit cards to a secondary distributor for sale at local Toys R' Us, striking a legal battle with Konami that had Konami taking back western distribution rights.
    • If you want to talk about specific sets listed here, well...
    1. Before the ban list, Dark Crisis was not well received, due to the lack of "good" cards and the mehness of the Archfiend archetype.
    2. Cyberdark Impact is almost universally mocked for being full of useless cards, including the unfortunate putting-down of the LV monsters with Allure Queen and Dark Lucius.
    3. Tactical Evolution is similarly reviled due to its limited useful card pool and the lukewarm reception to the Gemini monsters as well as being the set that introduced the "TCG-Only" cards that helped start the UDE Dork Age above. That being said it is a very popular set amongst collectors and its secret rares still have a very solid value, making it pretty much THE set that is sold for $2 in most card shops.
    4. For the more "elitist" duelists, most of the GX sets are classified as this, for three reasons: First, the over-pimping and at the time impractical Elemental Heroes, all of which fell down the bottomless trap hole. Also, the over-reliance of Monarchs. The reason why the Monarchs were overused was that they were one of the few series of cards that were practical to play, even in the aforementioned decks. Many of the GX cards were either too pyrrhic to use or suffered from a case of over-specialization, sometimes both! Consequently, many players used the monarchs as a means of getting a powerful monster out, keeping field presence, disrupting the enemy, and applying pressure to the opponent without having to spend an arm and a leg in either costs or maintenance. Monarchs led to the biggest case of Complacent Gaming Syndrome that Yu-Gi-Oh had ever endured for quite some time.
    5. The Gold Edition sets weren't very well received, either, thanks to them being generic reprints of rather old cards with the "gold" rarities that the sets were named after only adding a little foil along the edges.
    • Currently, Yu-Gi-Oh is zig-zagging this trope. The game is now much more balanced than it was before... if you can keep up. Starting with Synchro monsters and booming with XYZ monsters, The speed-centered nature of the game along with some serious power creep has overshadowed much player interaction with the game. More than a few players have played against decks such as X-Sabers and Infernities, in which they may as well have watched a game of solitaire. Many feel that the game has gotten too fast, and that it's not worth making a deck that can't OTK an opponent. It's telling that the game's unbanishment of Raigeki has been met with a universal "meh".
  • Depending on whom you're talking to, any given edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Most players and RPG historians agree that 2nd Edition was a very bad time for D&D (regardless of the merits of the actual edition), despite this being the period when a lot of D&D's most popular and beloved product lines (among them the Forgotten Realms) were first created. The launch of 2nd Edition set off an edition war, and meanwhile TSR's marketing strategy led to the production of a lot of highly incompatible games and brands that fragmented the player base, and their splitting of the video game license led to several companies, all without any kind of supervision, pouring out shovelware for every part of the license. This, combined with an attempt to fight with Wizards of the Coast over the Collectible Card Game craze, let to TSR falling into a death spiral and being eaten by their rival.
    • Lorraine Williams' management of the company is also seen as a major Dork Age, to the point that just mentioning her name is a Berserk Button for many D&D fans. Stories abound about Williams supposedly having contempt for the gamers that made up TSR's customer base, banning design staff from playing games on company time (despite the fact that TSR was a gaming company, and playtesting games was essentially the industry's version of R&D and product testing) and investing a huge amount of resources into Buck Rogers games and media that no one wanted and that Williams received royalties from through her family inheriting the Buck Rogers licence. TSR also sued gamers who uploaded stories of their campaign sessions to the Internet by claiming trademark infringement, even when the gamers were effectively providing them with free advertising. The declining quality of TSR's products, mass producing products that no one wanted, and the company's bullying legal antics all soured gamers on TSR and led to the financial crash that allowed Wizards Of The Coast to buy out the D&D licence.
    • D&D 2nd Edition was also unfairly hampered by societal problems in the US and UK at the time. Mass hysteria centered on supposed Satanic influences led to a shameful period of censorship within the product line, including the infamous renaming of the "Devil" and "Demon" monster types. note 
    • Dungeon design entered one for a while, after Gary Gygax left the company. The designers largely took inspiration from the successful Ravenloft, a module that was more story-focused, rather than the old-school "here is a dungeon, go ransack it." Unfortunately, most of the adventures to do so were incredibly linear affairs where the party seemed to mostly just act out the events of a poorly-written novel or advancement of the status quo, particularly the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms ones. The Avatar trilogy in particular was notorious for being basically nothing but "kill the occasional random encounter and watch Elminster solve everything." TSR also considered modules to be an afterthought, and mostly farmed them out to other companies, resulting in weak and generic adventures. By the mid-late 90s, they'd managed to find something resembling a balance, with adventures like Dead Gods or Return to the Tomb of Horrors featuring decent stories and interesting open-ended design, but by then, TSR's days were numbered.
    • The 4th edition is widely disliked, though less because there was anything wrong with it per se (it's still considered a rather good tactic-focused RPG) than because it's so different from all other editions as to almost be D&D In Name Only. The designers sought to get rid of rule imbalances from previous editions such as Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, and ended up with a mechanically rigorous system of perfectly balanced classes... that had absolutely none of the flavour or distinctiveness of the ones the fans were used to. This also affected a lot of the game's flavor (notice how many entries involving 4e on this wiki involve the words "done away with" or "ended in"), which included things like gutting alignments or changing core parts of the lore that'd stood since the 80s. In short, it was so radically altered that most people didn't see it as the new edition so much as an entirely separate game, and so largely just kept playing their older ones, resulting in 4e being the first edition to lose its status as the bestselling RPG on the market.
    • Dork Ages not only afflicted the game system but also campaign settings, with Forgotten Realms suffering a couple.
      • The "Post-Spellplague-Era" seems to be held in this regard by many fans. Advancing the timeline by over a century, killing off many of the popular characters and deities, and all but annihilating most of the less popular regions of the world, it is a very different setting that does have its own merits, but significantly different from its 20 year history. Making this worse is that these changes took place during the already-controversial 4th edition rule set.
      • 5th edition Forgotten Realms is considered a dork age for another set of reasons. Although many of the unpopular changes of the 4th edition were rolled back, the setting's product output was severely curtailed. A proper campaign guide for the setting was never published, with only a few rulebooks produced each year. Also, whereas the setting was once known for having a robust line of novels, as of 5th edition the line has shrunk to only getting a handful of novels published every year, with most of the popular authors no longer being contacted for additional work.
  • Likewise, 5th Edition of Paranoia. The writers were less interested in the Black Comedy of the setting and more interested in taking blatant, unfunny potshots at other gamelines (the only supplement released was a Take That! at The World of Darkness). Once the slate was cleared, 5th Edition was officially declared an "Unproduct", and all discussion of it deemed treasonous.
  • The HERO System went through one of these with "Champions: The New Millenium" in the late 1990s. It abandoned the HERO system in favor of the Fuzion System, and and replaced the Bronze Age-ish setting Champions had had up until then with one mirroring the Darker and Edgier attitude of The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • Magic: The Gathering had two genuine Dork Ages, during the Urza's and Mirrodin blocks. In both cases, a handful of Game-Breaker cards led to a tournament scene in which all decks in the standard format using only cards from the past 2 blocks and most recent base set. This made for a low barrier to entry compared to more expensive formats. Powerful cards lead to extensive bannings which are only done when absolutely necessary. The issues were exacerbated by the powerful blocks being followed by underpowered blocks, meaning that the dominant cards stayed dominant for the full two years of their legality, rather being displaced in their second year. While the years since then have not been free of cries of "They Changed It, Now It Sucks!," those two were the most prominent banning cases nigh unsurpassed until now. Even though 2011 saw the banning of a few cards in Standard tournaments, the number of cards banned are relatively minor.
    • The Urza's Saga case was definitely the more severe of the two, having earned the nickname "Combo Winter" and resulting in the only case of a card being banned before it was even released. Mark Rosewater, current head of Wizards of the Coast R&D, notes that throughout his entire time at the company, the Urza's block was the one and only time that the entire R&D department was called up the CEO's office and yelled at.
    • On the opposite end of the scale is Homelands. The game was still Growing the Beard and didn't have a real plan for designing and releasing sets on a regular basis. Short on designers, they let some of the storyline people design a set. The result was a set that was very flavorful, but severly underpowered and lacking in new and interesting mechanics. Things were made worse by the fact that it came out during a year with only one other set of new cards (Ice Age), the previous year had seen two relatively lackluster sets released (The Dark and Fallen Empires), and it would be another nine months until another set was released.
    • Some fans might also name the Kamigawa block, which directly followed the original Mirrodin block. Based heavily on Japanese mythology, it basically removed all the basic monster archetypes and replaced them with very similar but differently named monsters, e.g. instead of goblins there were akki. Given that people quite like theme decks, this might be regarded as a bad idea. The set was also underpowered in comparison to the previous set, leading to a very stagnant Standard format still using mostly older decks, and the new, fairly insular mechanics didn't tie in well with older blocks. It's less disliked now, in non-Standard formats, but at the time it wasn't a well-regarded set at all.
    • The Innistrad set came hot on the heels of the Scars of Mirrodin and Zendikar blocks, which were widely popular due to the return to Mirrodin and the printing of several powerful cards. What really hammered it in was, halfway through the block, it was announced that the next one would be Return To Ravnica, another highly loved setting which featured powerful dual-colored cards. While the Innistrad block was by no means bad, it simply suffered due to being sandwiched between two heavily anticipated "return to" sets.
    • In 2015-2016, Magic changed how it handled sets. Instead of having one three-set block a year and a core set, it had two blocks a year with two sets each. There were good reasons for this change, most notably that the third set was hard to do with the necessary quality. However, it did lead to a bit of a crunch as Wizards had to rearrange how everything worked to compensate. This caused about a year of awkwardness. First, Dragons of Tarkir wasn't all that popular, coming as it did on the heels of the long-awaited "wedge set", Khans of Tarkir, and introduced a couple of spells note  that ended up breaking Standard over their knee. Magic Origins went over well, but Battle for Zendikar was where the wheels came off. It had several unpopular mechanics, with no less than three of its mechanics ending up among the bottom four mechanics Magic had done since it started doing market research for individual mechanics note  - and the fourth, megamorph, was in Dragons of Tarkir) and was generally unpopular. The follow-up blocks, Shadows over Innistrad and Kaladesh, were more popular, especially Kaladesh (an Indian-styled steampunk setting with creative mechanics), but Standard was a bit wobbly, with SOI-era Standard having a very repressive WGU midrange deck sweeping entire tournaments, and Kaladesh having a very efficient card with good card advantage note  and an infinite combo enabler note .
  • Most fans of R Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2020 prefer to vehemently deny the existence of Cyberpunk 203X (also known as v3), the game's third edition, for a number of reasons. The most prominent being the rejection of William Gibson-style cyberpunk themes in favor of Neal Stephenson-inspired Post-Cyberpunk elements, a reworked rules system that solved few of the issues of the old rules while creating several new problems of their own, and foregoing hand-drawn art in favor of badly Photoshopped images of action figures dressed in strange costumes and stuck in ridiculous action poses.
  • Ars Magica has third edition, which introduces the realm of Reason. It makes a certain logical sense, in that Ars Magica has always had vague ties to White Wolf and the old World of Darkness note , and Reason aligns nicely with the Technocracy where the Order and the Realm of Magic align with Mages. The problem is, magic in Mage and magic in Ars Magica are pretty different, with Hermetic magic being primarily a scholarly art, with skills and systems devoted to copying books of both arcane and mundane knowledge, and the quality of a covenant's library being a major contributor to its overall rank and reputation. Introducing Reason meant that, in areas with a high Reason aura like libraries, all magic in the area took penalties proportionate to the aura, and generally changed Hermetic mages from wizened scholars ever in pursuit of knowledge, to a bunch of insane, magical weirdos whose powers not only depended on ignorance, but were actively rejected by logic and intelligence. Other editions kept the aforementioned magical weirdos to Houses Criamon and Ex Miscellanea where they belong.
    • Reason also trumped the other Realms (Faerie, Divine, and Infernal), the idea being that the supernatural can only exist where people can believe in it, and Reason brought the metaphorical skepticism shotgun to the paranormal knife fight. The problem is that the setting is called Mythic Europe. Faeries, angels, mages, and demons are all equally and easily proven to be real. Setting the system up for Reason to negate supernatural power was a lot more like denial or outright delusion. In practice, this was a lot like having your angry landlord come to talk to you about your rent, and reacting by shutting your eyes, covering your ears, and chanting la la la la la, can't hear youuuu!, thereby making him disappear, even though you're still in your apartment and you still owe rent.
    • Another problem with the edition was the massive darkening of the setting. The Infernal was constantly plotting in every shadow, and there was a massive bash of the evils of the medieval setting and a tendency to paint every historical figure on the scene black. Since then, the trend in Ars Magica has been to keep the Infernal on the sidelines and leave most of its involvement to the discretion of individual Storyguides, and to avoid ranting on much of anything.
  • Gamma World's 2003 "Sixth Edition" is regarded as the Dork Age of Gamma World, mainly because they ditched most of the outrageous cheeziness of previous editions and tried to make it like a serious and sober RPG. It was not generally well received by fans, most of whom loved the cheezy fun of the setting.
  • Exalted: You get one of two answers depending on which side of the Broken Base you contact. Either most of second edition was the Dork Age, with terrible rules and poor writer communication, or the third edition is the Dork Age, with a different tone, the setting being heavily revised and new splats added. This has produced many knife fights.
  • The Hidden Emperor era of Legend of the Five Rings holds this distinction. It's storyline was overly complex and confusing even by Five Rings' impressive standards and saw numerous crucial characters severely marginalized or killed off abruptly and with little to no fanfare. This extended all the way up to entire factions, with the Phoenix Clan spending most of the arc incapacitated for being too good in the previous arc, the Scorpion Clan "exiled" from the Empire to help launch a failed spin-off game, and the Naga deciding to wash their hands of human affairs and go back to sleep for good. Then there was the bizarre reveal that the "ninja" of the setting were not even human, but rather the result of an Eldritch Abomination running an assimilation plot. This coincided with real-life marketing problems with the game itself, as during this timeframe the CCG switched to an unorthodox monthly release model which proved highly unpopular.
    • For that matter, the rise of the Spider Clan was also marked by a Broken Base like the game had never before seen. Introduced at the height of the game's popularity, the Spider Clan were intended to be a Token Evil Teammate group of demon-corrupted humans infiltrating the Empire. The problems began early, however, when their true nature was discovered out of the gates. Incomprehensibly given a second chance by the new Empress, the Spider Clan instead doubled down on their evil, even infamously feeding an entire family to goblins. The accusations of Creator's Pet arose when the Spider won a subsequent story arc, literally rewriting the foundations of the game's cosmology, and with the rest of the Empire forced to sit back and accept it. As the game went on, the Spider continued to indulge in their forbidden methods despite several clans' active opposition, culminating in an Aborted Arc where they literally dragged the entire Empire into Hell. Despite promises that the story would be impressive, fans objected in droves and the franchise was quickly sold to another company, resulting in a Continuity Reboot.


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