Time to Bash 4e Again.

Since I've been doing a one shot 4e game to get the club started all teh reasons I dilike 4e have come back witha vengeance. I'm usually nicer about it now than I used to be. I have decided that 4e is a good game for thoase who like it. It plays well, and it's very tight.

I most decidedly _do NOT_ like it. So I went back over my old arguments and ran across this:

"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 4e. I’m the only one chugging pepto-bismol at night from our over the top gaming sessions.

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 reasonable. But 4e 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 : - )"

Well I did gate them through, but that's another story. And luckily I'm passing the 4e torch to another DM who loves 4e. Me. I'm DMing 1e AD&D starting tomorrow. Gods be praised!




Steven said…
You post this in the wrong place and you'll have people calling for your head, but not here and definitely not from me.

I couldn't agree more. I can't hardly stand 4e. I consider it blasphemous. It's like when certain unnamed protestant sects allowed openly gay, practicing individuals run a Christian congregation. WTF(reak)?!?! All I'm saying is if I was a cleric in that Church, I'd be pulling some Martin Luther-esque moves right about now. Anyway, D&D is quickly going to become a complex version of WoW and the like with their "video game style" play. Give me a break Hasbro! All I need is a table, some dice, pen, paper and a limited assortment of handbooks...preferably non-virtual. Oh, and maybe a potato chip or soda pop lid for my "mini" in complex martial events in confined space.

I've observed D&D quickly loosing their original fan base. Consider it from a business perspective: why are there so many "replacements" for what D&D used to be? You talk about them all the time here on this blog: S&S, Osric, etc. These replacements exist because there is a NEED! I don't know what business consultant they hired for the development of 4e, but they should fire him and hire me. D&D THINKS they're doing is trying to fill a new niche, being "progressive," but they're really going to end up competing with an opponent they will NEVER defeat (e.g. WoW). It's pretty sad, actually, as a business person to watch their inevitable demise. It's like watching a 1st level wizard picked a fight with an ancient red dragon. Of course it would have to be a 1e or 2e version of a 1st level wizard, because 4e 1st level wizards can be tweaked to be far too powerful. An appropriate analogy with 4e would be if a 1st level wizard picked a fight with the ancient red dragon at a family reunion.

My point is one of discontent, beyond that of general malaise. I hope there are enough of us out there that either grew up on an previous versions of D&D because we are old or because we were too poor to buy the most recent editions of D&D. Eventually though, we will all die or retire. We'll drink the last can of Dr. Pepper, eaten the last Dorito and rest from this war. Then, we'll be free to dream of midnight sessions in the dungeons of some nefarious beast hording treasures and secrets we could free to better the world around us. Until then, fight! On to victory!
Ragnorakk said…
Went and read your past entries - good stuff. It's a really weird feeling when you stumble across the old-school thing happening now, isn't it? Interesting too that it seems kinda a zeitgeist thing, sort of emergent behaviour...
Chris said…
Yeah, it's definitely an ongoing experience. You can call it a battle like Steve mentioned or you can call it the zeitgeist of the OSR as Ragnorakk did.

Whichever it is you are witnessing it live and in real time right here in my gaming life.

I've done a lot of thinking about what this movement is really about. What are we really trying to capture or maybe better said, recapture here?

It's hard to even know right now because the movement is so new, so present, so here and now. Gaining perspective requires distance.

For now I simply try and capture that view, that experience, that game that I just "know" is "it." It's got the magic and it carries us away.

Thanks for the comments guys--you urge me on -- to victory!

Steven said…
I guess it's just the paladin in me :)
Call it anything but D&D because it is NOT D&D this looks more like a mutant take off of World Of Warcraft add to this the pdf debacle and that is why I am playing the retro-clones. Long live the old school revival.
Chris said…
Thanks Inn,

I agree.

The more I play OS games, even pre-1e the more I realize it was the way these games were originally meant to be played.

There's freedom, unhindered fantasy and strong roleplaying involvement required form all.

Less is more in terms of hard and fast rules.

I'm also feeling the same way about sci fi and supers games as well.

Thanks again.

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