Monday, June 22, 2009

Free RPG Day - 4ed

I forgot my camera, suck.

This past Saturday I went to my FLGS to attend the third? annual Free RPG Day . Not that kind of free RPG though. The loot was a disappointing being mostly intro/fast play abbreviated rules for various systems. The best thing I snagged was an elven engraved d12 and d10 from Q-Workshop. After everyone had rummaged through the table of free stuff I picked up "Paranoia, Citizen's Guide to Surviving Alpha Complex", "Dragon Warriors" intro book, and "Castles & Crusades A Primer".

In the evening I played 4ed D&D for the first time. It was about how I expected. It was fun, a fun combat miniatures game. It wasn't what I'd consider an RPG. It could have been, with effort and player buy in, but wasn't. Looks like good system for one-shots, skirmishes, etc. Wouldn't like to run a campaign in it. From my comment on this Grognardia thread.
There was reading of boxed text and we got to look at interesting minis on not as interesting terrain. But no one used imagination. There was no room for it. Everything had been presented to us right down to every possible action our characters could take. And the "creativity" was of the analytical type. Problem solving and figuring out tactics. Which I enjoy and I repeat was fun.

It's like the difference between a movie were you are wowed by the visuals / audials and a book which prompts your imagination and visualize with your mind's eye.

4e gives you all that wow. Which you have to accept or work around if you have your own wow. (Some) D&D editions provide little wow and expect/demand the players come up with it themselves. For some gamers coming up with that wow is 90% of their fun in playing RPGs.
One thing I noticed is WotC's goal of "always having cool thing to do" totally failed. As evidenced by player comments around the table and my experience the at will powers have devolved into the "boring" baseline. Swinging a sword every round is the same as at will power despite having some special name and various traits. It is basically doing 1d10+4 per round and the players know it. The encounter and dailies are now the fun things and you get to do them once per encounter or day. Then it is back to the boring slog of tap, tap, tapping with your at-wills until opponents massive hit points are gone. It's kind of even worse as every class has the same basic "do some damage" at will. So, for most the combat (all of it except encounter/daily uses) a Dwarven Paladin is same as Elf Invoker is same as Warforged Fighter. We were only 2nd level I assume you get more encounter powers at higher levels, that might help lesson the slog. Maybe cut bad guys hit points in 1/2?

I enjoy tactical, problem solving, miniature/war games so I had fun. I totally see why many gamers, esp ones raised on early editions of D&D, would have had zero fun. I now view d20/3.x as the middle ground (doing everything halfway and/or badly) which makes it ripe for modding into what you want by evidence of the varied forms it has taken from stripped down microlite20, true20, to M&M, C&C(is this actually d20), PathFinder, etc. Like I mentioned you could and I'm sure people are having great fun using 4e as the basis of their role-playing game. But that's saying little, I could roleplay using Stratego, neither game was built for it. I also see why some people believe 4ed is close to OD&D and old school. It's very gamist and some people play and view OD&D also in a very gamist light. Others view OD&D a different way and believe you're smokin crack if you claim resemblance between D&D's latest and oldest.

Final 4e verdict: Great packaging, had fun, would play again in future.

Next post the unexpectedly awesomely rad Shard.


  1. That's about how our group has found the game to be as well, and we have been playing weekly for several months now. It's fun, but just not the full D&D experience.

  2. I am, clearly, smoking crack.

    I think whether 4e is old school, or (even a true RPG for that matter) is entirely down to the GM, the players and the mindset they bring to the table.


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