Offending the Other Half

A friend suggested that I offend the other half of the Internet by posting about D&D 4.  So…why not?

At World Con, I learned something fascinating about D&D 4.

Up until now, I’d heard nothing but bad things about it. My D&D playing friends abhor it. But a guy who plays with kids told the following story:

He runs a game for kids at a local shop. He found that the modern kids have trouble following roleplaying games…unless he starts with D&D 4, which looks like their online games. Then, suddenly, they get it. Then he can lead them on to playing other games.

It’s like an entry drug.

I still don’t like the fact that WOFC is not supporting the earlier versions…but at least now I don’t think they are crazy headless maniacs.


16 thoughts on “Offending the Other Half

  1. Actually, no.

    Its rules are not especially like an Online Multi-Player game. That meme started before its release, when it was announced that they were going to include an online 3D virtual tabletop for scattered groups to play (not released yet, sadly).

    The “critics of anything new” brigade latched on to it, and if you ignore half of the Player’s Handbook and pretty much the entire Dungeon Master’s Guide except the one short chapter about how you can play the game as a straight-up combat game with no real DM required, then you can play it like it’s an MMO… but the thing is, you can do that with any edition of any roleplaying game.

    The criticism takes strength from the fact that 4E simplified the rules for everything that happens out of combat (“THEY TOOK THE ROLEPLAYING OUT OF THE ROLEPLAYING GAME!”), but that’s because the design goal was to make sure there were no rules to get in the way of roleplaying. Please check out this Dragon magazine editorial on that subject, or this blog post by myself… there’s a small category on there about the bizarre impressions that people who’ve either never played the game or didn’t take a serious look at the core rulebooks besides the combat section before trying to play it have come away with.

    The once-per-encounter/once-per-day mechanic on character abilities is sometimes cited as evidence of the MMO-ness, but… D&D has always had those things. 4E just codified them more concretely.

    I don’t deny that 4E is a gateway system… because D&D has always been a gateway system. I’ve been playing D&D since the 80s, when I was in the fifth grade. For me, it was a gateway to more complex systems like GURPS. But I’ve come to realize I had the most fun with my original copy of the Basic Set, which didn’t have rules governing anything but combat and simple exploration, leaving imagination and common sense to “arbitrate” in other cases.

    4E is like that, but with a more balanced and snappy combat system based around what each character can do instead of what they can’t. It’s the most fun I’ve had roleplaying, and I can’t stand MMOs.

  2. Amusingly, I’ve never played D&D. Partly because i was the only geek in my school (3/4 of a class of 60 didn’t even know who even Tolkien was). Partly also due to my strong Baptist background (my parents wouldn’t even let me watch the cartoon).

    Now I worry that I’m not creative enough, so I simply pass whenever my friends ask me to play.

  3. I’m glad to hear someone is enjoying it.

    It is a shame thought that WOTC are forcing stores to switch over…you would think that they would support both 4 and 3.5 and please all the fans.

  4. It’s fun!

    At least while I played it, back in the first and second edition. . . I remember when only humans and gnomes could be illusionists.

    The only thing I would recommend is to have someone, first off, walk you through all the dice. So you can recognize a d8, d20, etc. by shape.

  5. Forcing stores to switch over? They’re publishing 4E and not publishing 3E. It’s not like they’re taking all the existing 3E stock and burning it. The OGL and SRD for 3E means that other publishers can and will continue to put out material that’s compatible with 3E while WOTC focuses on their new product.

    For that matter, do you really think that if they doubled up their staff and kept continuing 3.5 as they were releasing 4, it would please all the fans? I guess that with your friends happy with 3.5, you’ve missed the fact that fans of 2nd Edition AD&D have been saying the same thing for nine years (“This new edition is just to catch the video game generation, why can’t they put that out but let us have ours?”) and that the fans of 1st Edition AD&D, Basic D&D, and Original D&D have each been saying similar things for slightly longer.

    There are still people playing Original D&D, and still people putting out new material compatible with it, but time and editions march on.

    If the company that drives the industry doesn’t keep following the money, the market will shrink and there will be less money for the little companies that put out new material, and everybody will suffer.

    WOTC hasn’t done anything to your friends. So many 3E boosters seem to think that the only way they can keep playing their favorite game is if they actively hate the new one (and spread lies and misconceptions to support that hate), and that is just sad.

  6. A good referee can make all the difference. If it doesn’t work out with the first one, don’t be afraid to try another one.
    A competent referee will make allowances for newcomers…not expect them to say too much until they are ready but make an effort to get them a turn to be involved…and keep the dice mechanics to a well-explained minimum.

  7. I’m sure the marketing strategy WOTC employs with distributors is to try to get them to emphasize the new product in order to maximize their exposure and make the most money. I’m not sure why this is a bad thing or why people think it’s some crazy new thing that’s unique to 4E.

    Anyway, whatever WOTC wishes, it’s only been recently that I’ve found any store… book store or independent hobby-oriented store… that I could go into and see more 4E products on the shelves than 3E ones.

    And the 4E ones seem to have regular circulation… the stock fluctuates from week to week. It’s the same 3E books sitting on the shelf every week waiting for someone to buy them. Well, obviously, because new ones aren’t being made.

    How much resources do you think WOTC should spend “supporting” a product like that? People already have the core books, and there are literally scores of official expansion books. To make it cost effective they’d have to be doing high volume print runs, and the demand clearly just isn’t there.

    Books go out of print, and publishers don’t keep issuing new print runs indefinitely.

    Your friends sound really strangely young to me, considering that I believe you’re older than I am. All the same things happened when 3E came out and 2nd Edition AD&D got the axe… there are still groups out there playing 2E, and bringing new people into the fold. Either they weren’t playing D&D when 2E came out, or they have short memories.

    And unlike 2E, the entire core rules of 3E are available online, for free, as part of the System Reference Document. Everything but some of their trademark monsters and unique named characters is included… all the rules you need to play the game, all the character classes, the generic core spells, the vast majority of the monsters… everything a new person needs to get into the game is online and free and people can keep coming out with new content that works with it.

    How many publishers do you know that keep hosting out of print material on their websites? How much more is it reasonable to expect WOTC to do?

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