Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Games of X-Mas 11: "Eleven Dice a Rolling"

Keeping with the Dungeons & Dragons theme of the final stretch, today I'm going to do my best to cover what many see as the black sheep of the family.. D&D 4th Edition.  This game's left a huge portion of the gaming community divided either loving it as the new course of gaming or hating it as a bastardization of the medium.   Personally I think both side have a bit of merit, but as with most arguments of opinion things have snow balled more than a bit.

The Good:

  • A New Game for New Players
    • Something most of us more seasoned gamers tend to forget that not every new game out there is made for us.  Granted making it an "update" to a game we have all already invested heavily in wasn't the best idea, but I  will get to that part later.  4th Edition was created specifically to bring in players from the MMO market into table top gaming.  That means from the start is wasn't made with us in mind.  Now again not the smartest move to make an "update" that doesn't have your core audience in mind, but I also can't argue with results.  This game has brought in a lot of players to my tables that before it wouldn't have even come near table top gaming.  I have several players that love 4th Edition specifically because it handles like a video game and that's much easier to wrap their heads around.  The balance between classes that makes them all more or less feel the same is something many players hate, but it's also there for new players to only really need to understand one class before they can play around with all of them.  Describing exactly what a character can and can't do through powers down to even the most basic of attacks IS limited, but I have players that love this version specifically for that.  They like not needing to "invent" what they can do and like to just pick from a list that they know will work.  Again, none of these things are aspects I like about the game, but then again the game wasn't made for me and those it was made for seem to love it.
  • New GM Approved
    • Just as the game was built to bring in new players, 4th Edition was also built (and in my opinion for the first time in D&D) for new GMs.  This is the game that finally had me take a confident step towards running games over playing them.  I had made small attempts before it, but I was always feeling over whelmed with all the balancing mechanics and book keeping.  Table top gaming lives and breaths off of how many quality GMs there are out there and oddly enough to me D&D had always felt like the aspect of making new GMs was almost delegated to an apprentice model.  A play could not learn to run games without someone much more experience there to guide them.  The problem is that assumes both a high number of GMs willing to teach players how to make their own game and that those GMs have the time to both raise to diamond out of the rough WHILE running their own games.  For all of its flaws and over simplification 4th Edition game players the tools to make the step without help, especially the online tools.
The Bad:

  • One Way Street
    • 4th Edition is a combat game.  It really is that simple.  The designers gave it a video game feel and simplicity, but with that they also created a system that heavily focuses what most video games heavily focus and that's wander a "dungeon" and killing things.  I put dungeon in quotes as it really feels like their answer to variety in game play is changing where you kill things.  I'm sorry but wandering a forest encountering wolves, a cave encountering spiders, and a dungeon with zombies is all the same game just different levels.  There are technically "social mechanics" included, but they all boil down to select skill A, B or C and roll for a number.  Actual character development isn't even considered past leveling to get higher numbers.  There is a market for this kind of gaming, but when I want that I will play a video game as they handle all that math for me and give me the exact same level of control.  If I'm behind a table I expect to be able to get creative, to go above and beyond what some guy wrote code for back when the game was in development and while 4th Edition can do that it is only through a good GM that knows how to change the rules to allow it and not through the rules themselves.
  • Right Game Wrong Name
    • Given most of what you've read so far it would be safe to assume that I am in the boat of hating of 4th Edition and you would be wrong.  The thing is I hate that it is a D&D game, specifically an edition of the core D&D line.  The game is great at what it is made for, getting new players in seats and monster bashing dungeon crawls.  The problem is for many players that's not all D&D is and by forgetting that it alienated a lot of players.  IF Wizards of the Coast had released this as "D&D: Dungeon Madness" or something as an offshoot game I think it would have done just as well while not losing all the players it did to Pathfinder.  The game itself is good, but when you are making a new edition to an already established game, let alone the granddaddy of games, you need to go in knowing your existing fan base.
Final Thoughts:
I think I did a decent job giving those already through the article above.  I hate that this is what we were given as the updated answer to 3.5, but I also don't hate the game for what it is.  For a new GM this might be exactly what you need.  If you are looking to get your friend that loves WoW into D&D this might be exactly what you need.  If you have a bookshelf full of games already and a group that isn't in need of fresh blood then this probably is just a waste of money.


  1. A good game master can present any game to beginners (and if they were the first-in purchaser, they may have to). For players of computer-games I would emphasize that they can improvise and do many things with their character not specifically planned for in the rules, as long as it is a feasible action for that character in that setting. I emphasize that the game will be customized to player preferences as we go along (combat, role-playing, story arc, political intrigue, etc.). These are powerful differences from computer games.

    (Your article could use some editing, as some sentences don't scan properly such as, "That means from the start is [it] wasn't made with us in mind" and the use of it's instead of its.)

  2. First I apologize for any editorial errors in this one, had about 2 hours sleep thanks to a sick baby. As for the comment on presenting a game I fully agree the bigger point I was looking to make is that new gamers can enter this edition without the need of someone already versed in it as that is a huge limit in gaining new players to the hobby as a whole. Also for the improvisation I do that as well, but some people oddly enough have a rather hard time wrapping their head around the concept or become overwhelmed with the freedom