Before I get myself in trouble, the title is click bait, and I fully believe the underdark has never stopped being great. That said I feel the game is not as interesting for me as has been in the past.
My problem with D&D is not the new versions and new rules, it’s the fact that the game is the same game. Despite all of the new rules and various evolution in mechanics. The problem is familiarity. Everyone I play with knows the monsters, the races, the magic items, pretty much all of the pieces of play have been examined weighed and measured, and is so at the beginning of each encounter. Each turn taken by a player is done so by calculating their best strategy against a known opponent. Really it goes even further because players also take into account the abilities of their other party members before taking turn.
I understand that this is what people would consider good play. On the other hand it’s boring. When you know encounters are balanced you are sure to succeed if you play well. It’s hard not to play well if all factors are known.
Oh there’s a Grey Ooze, 22hp, resistance to acid, fire, and cold, fighters stand back I’ll handle it with some magic missiles.
When I was younger it was.
Holy shit that thing just ruined my platemail somebody do something!
I’m going to propose a solution. Throw out all of the know material and replace it with something new. Start with monsters. Throw out the orcs and goblins and bugbears. Replace them with gronds, vargunds, and snarks. Forget the M&M demons, most of which are lame in my opinion anyway. Instead tell players they have encountered…
A 7′ to 8′ tall smooth skinned humanoid with bright electric blue skin with translucent gold bat wings. It’s head is featureless with four round silver eyes spaced equidistant around its head.
Now when your players encounter a creature just describe it and let them wonder how many hit points it might have or what it can do with that pointed stick it’s carrying.