Friday, October 10, 2008

4e?

I post here a copy of my thoughts on 4e which I posted to a DnD yahoo group.

Okay, so I’ve been DMing 4e for a while now. Large group (8 players, 9 w/dm). Lots of Dragonborn, couple Eldarin and an Elf, 1 Tiefling. 2 warlocks, 2 Rogues, 2 fighters, 1 ranger, 1 paladin. I’m DMing Keep on the Shadowfell.

Without kindling flames I thought I’d give my take on 4e “feel”, since I’ve been so vocal about D&D being D&D regardless of version.

4e seems like a different game. Fantasy, after a fashion, but not D&D, not to me. Now, granted 4e will obviously be considered D&D to the majority of the kids I’m DMing, because they’ve never played anything else. But to me it seems fundamentally different. I will also admit that what “feels” like D&D to me is based on 1st, 2nd and to a lesser extent 3.5 edition. What I mean by fundamentally different is elucidated below.

_It is high powered from the start_. I simply couldn’t believe the effect of powers on combat. Wow! I mean we are talking major magic walking around with any group of heroes. Now granted I suppose Heroes are taken to be rare—but to be able to do all that at 1st level?! I’m not saying it’s bad, just very different from what I’m used to. I will admit that the monsters have been powered up hp wise so they don’t exactly drop like flies.

_All the players seem like high level wizards_. From what I understand 4e creators wanted to “balance” all character classes by the addition of powers. To me it achieved this albeit offering a high level of power. However, all the characters seem like super powered wizards after a fashion. All characters have huge magical options at first level with a slight variance in skills, feats, hp, weapons etc. They all seemed a bit generic. A wizard with a mace, wizard with a sword, wizard with a bow—you get the drift.

_Powers_ Okay, so far it’s all about powers. That’s true this is THE big element of 4e in my opinion. And powers are where character customization comes in to a large degree. (Though high level characters likely end up with a lot of the same low level powers.) This just seems more like a supers game or a high powered magic game than a true fantasy game with all these powers thrown in.

_Unrealistic_ I’m sure this is a sort of hokey criteria for a fantasy game. What level of realism are we talking about anyway? But for me AD&D always seemed to me like you could walk through a portal into that fantasy world and it would differ very little from this world. I mean the setting is basically medieval and the fantasy is basically Tolkienian—classical fantasy. The laws we know and understand apply in this world with the exception of magic. If I were transported to an AD&D world I could at least compete with low level characters. Again I know this is hokey but I hope my point is getting across. 4e is massively different—bordering on alien even. It simply doesn’t seem familiar fantasy wise. Now that’s all good if it’s what you are looking for—something so “other” that it bears little resemblance to medieval fantasy. I mean how do these characters DO what these powers allow them to do? Is it magic even in the case of fighter and rogue types? Is this just to be taken to be a very high magic world where everyone is imbued with magical prowess? If I stepped into this world I’d be hard pressed to tend pigs.
More to the point is it realistic for characters to be so powerful at first level? Now this is probably just purely personal but it seems like characters should start relatively normal. Maybe stronger or quicker than average. Maybe know a spell or two. Know how to hold their own in sword fight—and then grow from there. The powers come later. Of course I haven’t played high level 4e games. If I do I might be in for a sanity check.

_mini based_ Now don’t get me wrong, I love little minis, but I’ve never been much of a mini gamer. I use them basically for complex combat. 4e is very minis based and the modules seem to be heavily geared towards that type of play especially where combat is involved. This hasn’t appealed to me.

_Is it an RPG Video Game_ Okay this is bound to stir some feathers, but allow me to explain. I have watched the WoW crowd for awhile. Never been into it, but then I’m not a real video game hound. I watch these characters in WoW and it seems a lot like what I see as 4e in my head. Maybe I’ve just been biased by the slanders that claim WoTC is just trying to appeal to the WoW crowd with 4e. Well, I think they’ve done it. But I’m just not into that. Now is it a video game—obviously not—it’s definitely an RPG. But to me in terms of an RPG it has the whiff of Rifts about it. So far out there as to have reached the border of D&D genre and moved into something else. I even have students saying it is like WoW in many ways. I haven’t asked them for specifics or anything—mainly because they like this aspect of it.

Others may feel differently. In fact I know they do—and maybe my age is showing through. But I’m seriously considering gating my party through to a 1e world to bring me back to sanity. Funny thing is the kids love it. I’m the only one chugging pepto-bismol at night from our over the top gaming sessions. But I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't do them some good to actually have to work for their power and to have to use less raw power and more intelligence and roleplaying.

You have to understand that I have always been an anti-montyhaul gamer. Over the top has never appealed to me. And we did some high level demigod playing when I was playing 1e. Somehow it all seemed hemmed in. This is causing me to have that after-Halloween-too-much-sweets hangover.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I’m still designing that gate though.

Okay, go ahead and thrash me I can take it : - )
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