Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


4th Edition D&D

Inspired by John Kovalic's post on the new D&D books and his request for us to share out thoughts, I posted the following as a comment on his blog. By the time I got to the end, I figured I might as well just make it into a post for my own blog as well. Here we go:

I haven't played yet so my opinions are just from reading and talking. I started out fairly worried because the way the rules seem in print they're exactly what I don't want to be dealing with in play. If I want to play a dwarf fighter with e big axe, I want to just wade in with my big axe. The new system seemed to put a lot of fiddly book keeping and decision making back on the table for every action...now it's not just a matter of swing and attack, it's do I want to use this power or that power, which of my companions should get the bonus buff, etc. I lamented that under 3rd edition there was a zillion ways to build your character "wrong" when you found that your ideas didn't match up to the optimal builds or that you screwed your character out of being able to advance into something because you didn't start with that in mind. They did seem to address that problem in the 4E design but my big concern has been wondering if I'd be facing the same thing on a round by round basis (Oooh, you shouldn't have used your X attack and buffed Joe, you should have used Y and activated your once per day power! Now we're screwed!).

That said, I've been reassured after talking to some folks who have been playing the game under NDA for a long time that it actually plays out better than it reads. I'm not passing judgment. :) I also recognize that even if my own personal concerns aren't addressed, that's not a criticism of the game, just of my own preferences. I know now (and have always known) I'm not necessarily the target market for D&D. I didn't start gaming with D&D the way virtually all of my peers did, and I was often involved in what I discovered were actually some avantgarde circles in my professional career. Just like it was a surprise for me how hard it was for some gamers to get into Ars Magica's ideas of shared characters and rotating storytelling duties, there are guys who look at me and puzzle why I would have concerns about keeping track of optimal builds or tactics.

It's taken many years and a lot of discussions with other people in the game industry to come around and be comfortable with the idea that I'm a different kind of gamer than so many of my gaming peers. I always knew that starting with Ars Magica as my first roleplaying game set me apart but I often traveled in circles where ArM was accepted if not beloved and definitely wasn't seen as some crazy thing. However my recent conversation with GAMA Executive Director Anthony Gallela at Book Expo reminded me again how different my gaming life has been from most gamers of my generation. My favorite games and game experiences don't revolve around GURPS, Champions, XD&D, or Traveller. My first game was Ars Magica. I moved from that to getting in on the ground floor of Vampire: the Masquerade. One of the most exciting and fulfilling campaigns I ever played in was an Amber Diceless Roleplaying game (and thus Amber was the game I wrote about in Hobby Games: the 100 Best. My other professional work has been for games like Over the Edge, Earthdawn, and Everway. Among the games I've played just for fun and enjoyed the most were Jorune, Castle Falkenstein, Feng Shui and (here's the shocker kids) Battlelords of the 23rd Century.

I feel a little like I've had an art house upbringing without realizing it and I kinda missed all the big summer blockbusters that the other kids grew up on. It's not really the same going back and trying to "get" those games out of context, though I can appreciate and enjoy many of them anyway. Looking at 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, I'm still not sure how it's going to fit with me but I'm willing to buy some popcorn, sit down with it, and find out.


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