Monday, June 22, 2009

Latest Thoughts on 4E - we're about a year in...

My latest thoughts on 4th Edition of D&D are up at here:

What started as a comparison by one poster between World of Warcraft and 4th Edition has started to edge into flame war territory, but I'm resolute that by taking something pen-and-paper and trying to blatantly mimic something digital that we may have seen the high water mark of dungeons and dragons and we're receding rapidly from it...

A copy and paste of my post (without having to wade through other responses, etc.) is here:

I think by making the characters fit into niches in the party explicitly (leader, controller, etc.), it damages the ability for a player to roleplay their role. (Can't tell you how many times a new player at a table in the shop where I run games has said "I'd like to be X," and some other player holds forth about how we've already got too many controller types, etc., when it was just a kid wanting to play at being Gandalf or something...) Party balance (we can't all be clerics...) is one thing, but by over strategizing party structure, we're removing the chance that maybe that Wizard wouldn't be a controller type - maybe they'd be the tank with the fireballs, or an elderly sage who avoids combat and is studying runes during the fray, trying to find the way through the dungeon. Defining ones own character is what makes the game fun for many. Walking into a formula - one more formulaic than 3.5e's splat books or 2e's Kits - is going to hurt the play of the game as a roleplaying game. Those variant kits and splat books, mocked as they may have been by some in the hobby, actually opened more doors for variations on classes, rather than trying to shoe horn all players of a particular class into a singular, specific role.

Defined roles in a MMORPG are one thing, where for solving computer-driven scenarios you need X spellcasters, Y healers, and Z warriors to defeat an opponent, but I'm of an older school of pen-and-paper RPG players where in a good RPG, there's a large map (or better, a sandbox) with a series of encounters, wandering monsters, and lots of scenarios to roleplay, rather than a booklet of 5-7 hyper-defined single room maps with combat scenarios that require X spellcasters, Y healers and Z warriors to defeat the opponent.

Let alone the fact that, to take one example, a spellcaster now is even more so a walking magic missle, rather than perhaps an interesting figure schooled in arcane lore who creates spells, mixes potions with untold results, and an actual interesting background, rather than a series of powers that I can shuffle like playing cards and play to defeat an opponent.

This is just my take, watching how it's affected the games I run. Will I still continue to play 4E? Yes, because it's what others are playing, but I feel we're drifting away from traditional role playing the more we attempt to mimic what is succeeding in other markets (video games).

You know how you build a better bicycle? You don't imitate a car.

Other thoughts? How do you feel? Am I being shortsighted or hopelessly nostalgic? How have they gotten it right, more importantly?

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