Once upon a time, I was very anti-D&D, occasionally vehemently so. One of my all-time forehead-slapping stupid moves was, when some poor guy delivering pizza asked if we were playing D&D, to get defensive and lecture him on how the game we were playing was so much better than D&D. (What was I hoping to achieve by this? To this day, I don't really know. Score geek points with the other people in the game, maybe. It's not like the pizza guy gave a flying leap about it. What can I say, I was young and dorky ... as opposed to my current state of 'mature' and dorky.)
These days, as readers of my LJ have undoubtedly noticed, D&D is pretty much what's going in my gaming life. What brought about this change?
Well, first, D&D got better, and not just a little better, but LIGHT YEARS better. The actual what-you-do-at-the-table part isn't all that different between the old versions and 3.x ... kill monsters and take their stuff, roll-to-hit, roll-to-save, etc. But the underlying mechanics are very different, as are the mechanics of character creation. Now a D&D character sheet isn't just a collection of arbitrary numbers found by cross-referencing Chart A with Die Roll B to get Result C that you look up in Book D. Once you know the core mechanic (i.e., roll d20, add modifier, beat difficulty), you can rule on just about anything on-the-fly. The modular nature of Skills and Feats makes it easy to customize characters -- one of my big beefs about previous editions. A Dex-based finesse fighter is very different from a Str-based melee hack'n'slasher, for instance, in the same way that a helicopter is different from a tank -- but they're both made with the same base character class. One commentator I know refers to "the creeping HERO-ization of D&D," and it's true. With the exception of Disads (which actually exist as an optional rule called "Flaws" in the Unearthed Arcana supplement, I gather), D&D 3.x has taken a lot of philosophical cues from the HERO System, which can only be a good thing.
Second, my group changed. jamesbarrett is a longtime D&D groupie. camstone joined the group as a RPG-neophyte, and D&D is very newbie-friendly compared to HERO. I am constantly short on time and so wanted to be able to run adventures right-off-the-shelf, which is by far D&D's strongest point. So really, all signs pointed to D&D.
Third, my gaming philosophy shifted, becoming less simulationist to more gameist, to use RPGnet parlance. Or to put it another way, I became less interested in "creating a living novel" and more interested in "roll the dice and play." Not that I don't still love the character interaction and plot parts -- far from it. But at the same time, I also enjoy counting squares to see if my guy can get across the room and attack the monster in this turn, or calculating the odds of whether I should concentrate on improving my chance of a hit versus the damage potential I might do, or using just the right spell to flummox the bad guy.
Gary Gygax is a famous proponent of the gamist philosophy, almost to the point of treating player characters as little more than chess pieces. PCs are expected to be cut down without remorse, with new 1st-level characters quickly rolled up to take their place ... personality is fun and interacting with NPCs is a cool addon, but it's secondary to getting into the dungeon and mixing it up with the monsters and traps.
I am not at this extreme myself, and I don't expect ever to be. But I view the idea with more sympathy now than recoiling in horror as I once did. Of course, I've always been this way to some extent -- I used to put a lot of effort into tweaking my HERO system characters just so, to have the best combination of skill levels and get the most bang out of my character-point buck. And I also always nursed a suspicion that I was the only one in the group who actually enjoyed that part of the game.
Alas, I've run out of time to finish this post ... I was going to talk some about the nature of one-shots vs. campaigns, also, prompted in part by a conversation I had with jamesbarrett earlier today, but I need to hit the road. So I guess that'll have to wait for some other time.