A quick post based on today’s announcement from WotC

So, that post I promised got both delayed and derailed. Delayed because of major pain in my arm caused something going on in my shoulder. I needed a couple of days away from the computer to let the shoulder relax and unlock. After that was game night and i decided to take another day yesterday (Sunday, Jan. 8th, for the future people who might read this someday).

The derailment by today’s announcement by Wizards of the Coast of a new edition of D&D (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120109). This one has me in a pretty cranky state, and not wanting to finish the posts I’ve been working on for a while, until I can process the anger and frustration this announcement creates for me. Hopefully writing this post will help me do that.

Like a lot of old school gamers, I started with AD&D. When I started playing in 1979, the first AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide had just come out. We played that most every day after school for the rest of my high school career. However, in college, within about a year of graduation, I found other gaming groups, and while we had started diversifying in high school, I really diversified in college. But we all kept coming back to D&D.

Some of my readers are no doubt surprised that I write of those games with fondness, as I am a big supporter of 4e. My high school games don’t hold quite the specialness that the college games did, but high school was that time of discovery, when things were new, and college was where I met some very long standing friends and furthered that voyage of discovery. These days I do look back on the AD&D and 2nd Ed systems with fondness, even though I now find both systems clunky and broken.

I came to feel the same way about 3.0 and 3.5; they are clunky and broken. I had some great times in the handful of games we ran with the system, but I have no desire to go back. I’ve also spent an insane amount of money on two full and one “sub-edition” in the past 10 years, and WotC fumbled around with 3.x, trying to find a balance between playability for role-players and power-gamers. My opinion was that the roleplay side lost that battle in the end, even though I hear the argument from the other side of the Edition Wars. And as one of my Google+ers has posted: If they thought the Edition Wars were bad before…

However, this new design work Monte Cook is doing is supposed to create a unified system that brings all of the editions together. I just don’t see how they’ll manage this, considering how different 4e is from past editions. My limited understanding (as I haven’t been able to really dig into the previews yet) is that this will be a more modular system than in the past, but if they make the steps back I assume they’ll make (likely bringing back Vancian Magic, nerfing spellcaster Armor Class and weapon-user damage), then it won’t be a system I want to play.

I like the current balance of the 4e system, as do my players (other old schoolers). I like that every character can inflict reasonable damage for their level, that wizards and clerics aren’t useless after one spell at low levels, and that no one at higher levels is playing a character that is “fire and forget.”

At this point, I’ve signed up for the playtest that WotC has opened. I’ll give the system a look, but the NYT reviewer admitted to a bias against 4e and that he likes the new system that he was allowed to play late last year. That biases me to believe this won’t be a game I’m looking for. It means I’ll likely go back to indie games in the future, or write my own material for 4e, probably borrowing liberally from Star Wars Saga Edition and the 4e-based Gamma World, or I may find an “indie game” that will allow me to build what I want affordably (which is something I’m looking into anyway for Urban Fantasy gaming). I may also find myself pulling out my old DragonLance Saga System (a game I fell in love with at the end of the TSR run of D&D) and giving that a spin.

Sadly, as I commented earlier, I think WotC may be shooting themselves in the foot with this, or they may bring enough of the lost fan base back into the fold to heal the rifts 4e created. Of course, those of us who are fans of 4e may also be left out in the cold, as the 3.x fans felt with the last couple of edition shifts. And of course, it may divide the 3.5 and Pathfinder folk. I simply don’t see a lot of good coming out of this announcement.

I hope I’m wrong. But I doubt it.

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About docryder

I'm an experienced table top gamer with an open mind to new game systems. I'm looking to explore ideas I've got. Some are pretty meta, some are pretty mundane. Welcome to my world.

Posted on January 10, 2012, in D&D 4e, Metagaming, Personal History. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I signed up for the beta, but I’m not optimistic. The 4e team made a phenomenal game that’s balanced and fun. I don’t want to resurrect the dead “sacred cows” of past editions.

    From the little bit I’ve read on the testing page, there are a few well-thought-out posts about what worked in 4e and what didn’t. i might not agree, but they are coherent arguments. Then the majority was nerdrage about how you couldn’t RP in 4e and how you couldn’t make the character you wanted. Nonsense.

    If you want another great (and inexpensive) take on fantasy that’s got a great toolkit and light, fast play, check out Legends of Anglerre. It’s based on the FATE engine, which has become my favorite Indie game system.

    The Burning Wheel is another great game, but it can be daunting for beginners. I still haven’t wrapped my head around all the facets of Social combat.

  2. That’s my concern; that they’re return to balancing across a PC’s career instead of keeping everyone involved at every level. It was rarely fun to be the low level wizard in a campaign that collapsed–all the suffering and none of the reward. Or a rogue in a high level campaign; the wizard could trivially use spells to do everything automatically that required a chance of failure from you.

    • Or a Fighter at any level after about 8. The gestalt character rules in Unearthed Arcana were the only thing that saved high-level play for my group when I was playing 3e.

      If only everything had been balanced off the Cleric – the only class, IMO, that was fun from 1-20 (honorable mention to the 3.5e Druid).

      • I don’t clearly remember the Gestalt rules right now, but I’ll take your word for it.

        When we played 3.5 through to epic level play, we had problems, even at lower levels. In the first game, the fighters’ iterative attacks would take forever, while my wizard was pretty ineffective, because I chose a concept that ended up with me spending crazy numbers of feats on magic item creations. I was very much like a cleric, and I was very bored. In the next game, I played a fighter, and my tactic was to get up in the foes’ faces and hit them once to determine how much BAB I could sacrifice for power attack, and then hit it until it died. Lather, rinse, repeat. *Yawn!*

        With the 4e game I’ve been running, the players have been enjoying being able to always have something cool to do. If WotC can’t support that, the new game won’t be for me.

  3. The following was posted on my FaceBook by Aaron, and I’m copying-and-pasting here to preserve the thread in a place I can find it easily…

    Aaron: Good to see another SAGA fan. I didn’t care for the way the DL game handled spellcasters, but oh, man – Marvel SAGA is still my go-to for super-hero roleplaying and cinematic fantasy. I used to vigorously defend it on message boards against bad-mouthing Champions fans. SAGA does cinematic gameplay right – it focuses on the characters rather than the mechanics or stats.

    Me: Right now, for me having children in my game, I prefer 4e. I looked at bare bones FATE and liked it, but the file I got had horrible resolution examples, so I never did anything with it. I also don’t think the kids would get it yet. One of the Gnome Stew gnomes is a local and he runs Spirit of the Century. I’ve been wanting to get into a game to see how it plays, but I just haven’t been able to make the time.

    What little I’ve seen of Burning Wheel has me thinking “no” as well. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Especially the “I go/You go” session format, rather than turn format.

    I actually liked the spellcasters in SAGA, but it’s awfully complicated, and not really suited to quick play. Of course, I also liked Mage the Ascension. 🙂 I liked how just about any effect you could think of could be made, but I mildly dislike the limited number of “influences” a spellcaster could have available, but that was an flaw I could live with. I just couldn’t get into the superhero version. It felt… lacking to me.

    Also, I feel the same about 4e, and I’m afraid that the nerdrage over 4e is going to result in a lot of those sacred cows returning, something that I alluded to but didn’t really say in the article.

    Aaron: From the little bit I’ve read on the testing page, there are a few well-thought-out posts about what worked in 4e and what didn’t. i might not agree, but they are coherent arguments. Then the majority was nerdrage about how you couldn’t RP in 4e and how you couldn’t make the character you wanted. Nonsense.

    My complaint about SAGA casters was that even a powerful wizard felt like a 3rd level Magic-User from AD&D. You have a lot of effects available to you, but cast a few and you’re done. Increasing the power pool would fix it, but they may start to overshadow non-casters, which is my main complaint with older editions of D&D as a whole.

    Bare-bones FATE is great as a toolkit, but looking back I could never run a game with the core rules alone. I never touched Spirit of the Century, but as a fan of Mage, I think you’d dig the Dresden Files RPG.

    Legends of Anglerre is on par with 4e, difficulty-wise. I haven’t read about creating your own powers or stunts, but there is enough in the book to make just about any character you like.

    Aaron Morgan Legends is the first RPG to make me want to create an Actor as a PC. There is a stunt that allows you to apply a mood or emotion to a specific member of the audience, rather than to the scene on stage.

    The example they use is Hamlet’s “play within a play” as he tries to attack his uncle through guilt over the murder.

    I imagined making a revolutionary who riles crowds and turns them against nearby authorities.

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