It used to be quite clear that the GM was in control and ran the game, they set the story and depending on their style you got as much or as little freedom as they wanted. It lead to some bad experiences with control freaks, but it was a system that was more or less stable.
These days it seems the game makers are trying to take more and more power away from the GM and giving it to the players. While I get that this isn't a bad thing if you have a good play group, with the shift, many of the newer players seem to no longer want to tell a story but just want to be heroic. I look over posts here often and it feels like people are wanting to play Final fantasy in pen and paper, rather than making an original and interesting game. It's always "My character has a magic sword, but he's only level 2, but clearly our group is fated and we're gonna win!", to me this just isn't cricket.
If you're level 2 then you're just some idiot wielding a shiny bit of metal, who will get his face eaten by something with real power. The moment you go and cut a path through a vampire's minions or start to pick up the trail, he's going to turn up and go "okay kids, which one of you dies first?". Traditionally this would be a great plot point, do your characters stand and face their death (or even 1 make a heroic stand for this purpose?) or do you run like hell, go underground and try to survive the next few sessions while you flee the area, with unknown spies all around? To me that is much more interesting than a bunch of Mary Sues (Dead family, revenge, etc.) acting like they are the only adventurers in the universe and so must never lose.
This brings me back to my original point. With the advent of the control shift ("roll a dice, never say no") this type of story becomes all but impossible to implement, because newer players don't seem to have the concept of being faced by something they can't kill. Even the intro packs for 4th edition D&D threw things into the mix, clearly to encourage you to stand and fight insane odds. One of the fights was against 2 statues, which had insanely large HP to the point of my play group getting bored of rolling the dice to kill them. Not at any point did any one go "Hey, these things are too strong, we should flee", it was just "Lets wail on them some more! We can't lose!".
To me, pen and paper roleplaying is dying. With geekdom moving towards the mainstream, we are picking up more people who want to play a different game. We're no longer telling a heroic tale of quest, but following a story line. Maybe some people prefer this type of game, but I find it sad.
- I am a wargamer, roleplayer and gamer. I am not saying FF isn't worth playing, I'm saying that as a medium we are losing our character because people with no exposure to create your own content all expect to be Cloud and his rag tag band of flying, magic throwing, giant sword wielding cross dressing lady boys.