Played 4e D&D

Critical discussion of the Fantasy Role Playing Industry.
Knight of the Realm
Joined: 26 Oct 2002, 07:12

01 Aug 2009, 20:28 #1

I finally played Fourth Edition Thursday night. I must say it wasn't a bad experience. It's not an old school game by any means. I wouldn't DM it
myself. But as a player I had fun. I'd play in a campaign. The game system works well. It had rules for everything I did. This is good and bad in my book.
I can see how a comprehensive set of rules might limit the DM in certain ways, but it also bring a sort of uniformity so as the players know what to expect
from one DM to another. Each character has a lot of options/special abilities to use during play. Some you can use all the time. Some once per encounter. Some
once per game day. (It kind of reminds me of a video game in that way.) These options are based on your race, class and level. To me, some of this stuff seemed
artificial. I mean there is no basis for a seemingly normal human to have special powers beyond the kin of normal people. So, adventurers are really a cut
above the rest of their respective races. This has always been the case in D&D, but now it is accented even more. I don't have a problem with this. I
just wanted to note it. I played a first-level dwarven fighter. I think I started out with 33 hit points. 4e character have more hit points than earlier
editions. I also found out that monsters have more hit point too. So the characters are tougher, but so are the bad guys.

We played out two enounters over the course of a four-hour session. The second encounter was against three kobolds with slings and three kobolds with shields
and swords. Normally a first-level PC will go throught kobolds pretty fast. In this edition it took and average of three blows to put down a single kobold. An
old school kobold would go down in one or two. I'd say that monsters are way more dangerous then before. In other words, they have more combat options just
like PCs do. The other thing I noted is my dwarf fighter was a better athelete than the dragonborn paladin in the party. We both tried to scale a ten-foot wall
(to a ledge). I made it on the second try. I had a D20 +9 to get a 10+ result. The dragonborn had a D20+1 for the same feat. I thought it was slightly odd that
a six-foot tall humaniod dragon couldn't get up to a ten-foot tall ledge better than a four foot eight inch dwarf, but hey, that might just be me. With all
the options availabvle to PCs and bad guys, it makes combat more complex and thus slower to play out. There are also a lot of special conditions in combat that
the DM must keep track of. I can see how this would be cumberson in large combats. We were in smallish combats and it seemed the DM had a job of keeping it all
straight. In fact, the DM mentioned the game ran smoother when there were experienced player to help the DM remember all the rules involved.

To sum it up. The game seems playable. More so for the player than the DM. The DM has more to keep track of then ever before. It's a fun game. Not old
school by any means. It does seems focused on combat over role-playing. I'd play it again in an instant. I would never EVER DM it. I'd stick with
something old school for my own personal DMing and campaign.
Last edited by Clangador on 01 Aug 2009, 20:32, edited 1 time in total.


"I'm a seeker too. But my dreams aren't like yours. I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than
man. Has to be."

~George Taylor


Knight of the Realm
Joined: 16 Jan 2008, 07:12

01 Aug 2009, 22:03 #2

Your experience somewhat mirrors mine, but only somewhat. I once summed up my experience by saying, "Yes, it's an okay game - if you like that sort of
thing." And unlike you (and you mustn't take this as a criticism of your assessment), I DO have problems with it.

The biggest thing that irked me about 4e was the complete lack of respect (for everything prior to 4e) displayed by the designers and virtually everyone else
at WotC who spoke about it. They all seemed to be of the opinion that everything that came before was poorly designed, nearly unplayable, and "not
fun." Anyone who so much as suggested that earlier editions of the game, earlier settings, or earlier designers had merit was laughed at - and yes, I
witnessed some of that personally. They also played too fast-and-loose when it came to restructuring a number of things that to me have always been core
elements of the game. The irritating thing about that is that as far as I could see none of the restructuring was necessary. For example, they restructured the
"great wheel" of the planes. Why bother? Name one time when the great wheel has created a problem during play - go on, I dare you. And why bother to
leave out gnomes and druids? (Yes, I know they've put both back in, but why bother to take them out in the first place?)

The second biggest thing was the utter lack of connection with reality as expressed in the game. The characters seemed more like super-heroes to me than
D&D characters. I once told a friend that if I ever play 4e again my character is going to wear a cape and a mask. I have no problem with PCs being "a
cut above" the norm, but 4e takes that idea into the realm of the ridiculous. I could write a book about the psychological causes and ramifications of
this, but I'll restrain myself for now. Suffice it to say that their method of defining characters steals much of the challenge and enjoyment of the game
from me. And to include "demigod" as just another option for PCs - that's just nuts, IMHO.

Another thing that irked me was the combat system. WotC screamed and hollered that "it's a simpler, quicker system to run". Rubbish! Granted,
it's not all that complicated on paper, but running it can be a real chore, especially at higher levels. The sheer number of options at those levels is
staggering. Add to that the fact that a given power or ability may require multiple rolls at different points during a single combat round, with those rolls
triggering different effects for different characters, and you've got a nigh-unmanageable morass on your hands. To me it appears that the whole purpose of
the system is to make sure that nobody gets hurt. The only reason anybody DOES get hurt is because eventually somebody has to run out of hit points. Again,
this strikes me as ridiculous.

In short, for me 4e is not D&D - it's a video game on paper. And if I want a video game I'll fire up my computer; I won't shell out hundreds of
dollars for new books.

My basic feeling on editions is that none of them is perfect. OD&D hooked me more than 30 years ago. It was good, but at the tender age of 9 it had holes
that I wasn't capable of filling. The old basic and expert sets (whichever version you like) had similar shortcomings for me. AD&D was better, but
after several years of play the sheer volume of material for it was becoming unmanageable and keeping it all straight in my head was a bit of a chore. At the
time I felt the game could benefit from a bit of reorganization and standardization just so it would be easier to keep track of, so I welcomed the news of 3e
when I heard it.

3e/3.5e is now my preferred edition. Yes, I know lots of Old Schoolers don't like it, but I do. Personally, I believe that 3.5e only needs a few tweaks to
become usable for virtually any D&D player, whether Old School or New School. And that's what disappointed me from the start with 4e - they only needed
to tweak a few things, but they opted instead to scrap 30+ years of gaming in favor of something untried and more than significantly different from what had
come before. I know they had their reasons for it (heck, I even profited significantly from the change), and in a business sense I more-or-less approve. But
they overstepped themselves in several other areas and the result is pure junk. They went too far in the wrong direction. I wish them well with their new
direction (because I refuse to be more bitter than I already am), but they're going to have to travel that road without me or my money.

Knight of the Realm
Joined: 26 Oct 2002, 07:12

02 Aug 2009, 17:56 #3

It is mystifying to me why they made such a radical chance from 3 to 4 Edition. Does WotC need to release a new edition every 7 or 8 years to make more money
off D&D? That wouldn't surprise me. My personal opinion ot WotC is very very low.


"I'm a seeker too. But my dreams aren't like yours. I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than
man. Has to be."

~George Taylor


Knight of the Realm
Joined: 16 Jan 2008, 07:12

02 Aug 2009, 19:09 #4

I suspect the underlying cause was that WotC wanted to transition roleplaying from the tabletop to the computer. Their earliest promises involved pretty much
everything one would need to play online, and there were hints of far more to come. Unfortunately (for them), they couldn't pull it off. Their software
never materialized, they couldn't meet any of their deadlines, and the whole thing more-or-less fell flat. To make things worse, they upset a lot of
customers by making too many changes too quickly and by doing a poor job of it. I know a lot of people who felt entirely deceived by WotC's promises,
especially when it was revealed (for example) that they hadn't even finished designing the game by the time the 4e PHB went to press. I personally know
playtesters and others involved whose efforts weren't even tabulated.

Beyond that, there is indeed a certain belief in the game industry that one must release new rules every several years in order to stay profitable. There is
something to be said for that theory, but in my professional opinion as a corporate marketing and PR consultant it's very flawed. Repackaging is often
enough. Further, RPGs can easily be expanded into other markets such as toys, board games, video games, etc., without the need for scrapping everything
that's come before in favor of a new edition. Consider what Hasbro (the experts in IP marketing) has done with G.I. Joe - they've had action figures,
clothing, video games, LEGO building sets, comic books, and who knows what else. After all these years G.I. Joe is still a recognizable brand and people are
still buying it. Why couldn't they have done something similar with D&D? I'm well aware that earlier attempts at this kind of marketing fell flat,
but I suggest that only happened because TSR didn't have the influence of Hasbro. I would submit that WotC's recent efforts have fallen flat because
they were thinking too small and too large at the same time: too small because they didn't consider all of the available ways to make the company
profitable, and too large because they didn't realize they were incapable of doing everything they promised as quickly as they said they could.

I also suspect (and I have less evidence for this one, I admit) that there was a strong interest in WotC and in Hasbro to get away from the "geek"
image that has always accompanied D&D. They wanted to take the game mainstream. In order to do so, they'd necessarily (or so THEY think) have to take
it away from their old customer base and give it to a new one. Call me a conspiracy freak, but I'm betting that a lot of the slights and thinly-veiled
insults directed at us old-schoolers and anyone who's been a long-term customer of WotC/TSR were intentional. On a related vein, I've detected a
considerable degree of snobbishness in WotC's staff when it comes to what makes a "good" game. I personally have been told that I don't know
what goes into making a good RPG because I'm not a "professional game designer" and couldn't possibly understand. In short, we simply
don't know what's good for us because we're only players (and DMs) - we haven't been "enlightened" by receiving an employment offer
from WotC. Years ago EGG was amazed when people sought out his opinion on what should happen in their own games - today's designers not only expect to be
sought out for advice, they insist on it.

All that said, I can't really say that I blame WotC for making the change. Taking the game online, had it worked, likely would have been immensely
profitable. I still expect them to move in that direction someday - probably relatively soon. As a sometime Hasbro stockholder and former owner of the LGS, I
even made a little money on their ill-fated move. But that doesn't change the fact that as a gamer I'm upset with them. They could've gone to an
online model without radically altering the game. The existence of several video games using former rules sets is proof of that. And they could've done it
without pissing off so many of their old, loyal customers. Aren't we the ones who put them on top of the industry? All in all, I think there have been a
lot of bad decisions made at WotC.

Knight of the Realm
Joined: 01 Feb 2008, 23:31

04 Aug 2009, 01:09 #5

Think what they could have done with the popularity of the Baldur's Gate PC game franchise? Of course, perhaps they thought there could not have possibly
been any crossover between the PC game market and table top RPGs. I think they could have developed a campaign on the scope of Dragonlance -- I imagine that
made them a lot of money. But then again, maybe there were licensing restrictios/issues. I don't know. I'm glad you took the plunge Clang and
I'm glad you liked it, but 4th ed still just pisses me off too much . . . .
"As though to breathe were life . . . ." -- Tennyson, "Ulysses"

Benoist Poire
Knight of the Realm
Joined: 20 Mar 2009, 03:50

08 Aug 2009, 06:06 #6

I'm actually giving 4e a shot in a play-by-posts game right now, and I think the rules are coherent with themselves. There's nothing wrong, in that particular sense, with the game. I did, however, cringe a few times when the DM applied these guidelines to the letter, from the DMG p.105:

Fun is one element you shouldn't vary. Every encounter in an adventure should be fun. As much as possible, fast-forward through parts of an adventure that aren't fun. An encounter with two guards at the city gate isn't fun. Tell the players they get through the gate without much trouble and move on to the fun. Niggling details of food supplies and encumbrance usually aren't fun, so don't sweat them, and let the players get to the adventure and on to the fun. Long treks through endless corridors in the ancient dwarven stronghold beneath the mountains aren't fun. Move the PCs quickly from encounter to encounter, and on to the fun.

Our DM consequently fast-forwarded the game through anything that wouldn't constitute a proper encounter in his book. Travel gets fast-forwarded. Some dialog just happens in a voice-off, off-screen kind of way, without a chance for the PCs to interact with whatever the NPC just said because the DM moved on to days later in a few seconds of monologue. I guess a part of it is the "luck of the draw", in terms of people involved: yes, a good DM could ignore these guidelines and run the game just like other, previous editions were managed. But you know it like I do: a good DM could make ANY role-playing game worth playing. The good DM isn't the problem. The problem is the neophyte, the DM who doesn't have a clue and needs the book to help him out. That's where the skewed design philosophy of 4e starts showing its ugly head, and it's hard for me to ignore it. Still, I have been a good boy so far. Despite my pseudo-rant here, I haven't said anything negative about the game, and just play it to see where this leads us.

We'll see.
Benoist P. - The Praemal Tales DM.

Knight of the Realm
Joined: 16 Jan 2008, 07:12

11 Aug 2009, 21:24 #7

Benoist> Precisely. I've tried very hard to be fair with 4e (though I admit I may not have been on occasion, much to my shame, out of anger) and I just
can't help but maintain my position: it's a fine game if you're into that kind of thing, but it's not the D&D I grew up with or the D&D
I want. And I certainly maintain that WotC's treatment of their customers - especially their long-term customers - has been deplorable.

Knight of the Realm
Joined: 16 Jan 2008, 07:12

12 Aug 2009, 21:53 #9

Heh. I've seen it. Enjoy.

Knight of the Realm
Joined: 01 Feb 2008, 23:31

13 Aug 2009, 02:26 #10

Sounds like you weren't impressed. What do you think the main problems were?
"As though to breathe were life . . . ." -- Tennyson, "Ulysses"