Monday, June 4, 2012

4th Edition

Once again, I'm going to talk about 4th Edition. Also once again, let me say that I do in fact like 4th Edition. Every time I open my mouth about it, I seem to hand it a backhanded compliment. The reason for this is that the 4th Edition framework does not fit the way I like to play DnD. With each class so tied to its powers, and each of those powers tied intrinsically to spells or specific weapons, it is hard to throw things like revolvers, grenades, and zeppelins in without having to come up with completely new classes, or change the flavor of existing ones to the point where you might as well be creating new ones. Having a Ranger use Boar Tusk Shot or Twin Brambles Shot or some other nonsense like that sounds good when the Ranger is using a bow, but it sounds goofy with rifles. Every time John used a power with his rifle in our Hekinoe campaign, I chuckled in my head, because the imagery was ridiculous. Nitpick nitpick nitpick, anyway.

4th Edition was announced...some time ago, I have no idea. I remember there being a 4dventure banner on the Wizards of the Coast site and realizing what this meant. I then sent a sarcastic and passive aggressive email to my players stating that the announcement today would in no way change the way we played DnD, which was 3.5. I did this because I am an ass and was close to ragequitting and knew not one damn person in the group was remotely aware of that banner on the Wizards site or what it meant, and the confusion of their responses to that email proved my thoughts true.

Look, I'm a cool guy. I like to laugh and drink and make jokes and bullshit with my friends. I have friends. They like me. But a frustrated DM is not human, we're black hearted things of hate. We are tired, our brains drained and dried like a bathroom sponge left too long in the back of a cabinet. We get stuck in our own little world of dice and frustrated dialogue and we just want to strike back at the players. We have one recourse. We could tpk our players, but that is no fun, you are the DM, you literally have all of the power. If you want to be a dick in game, you can tarrasque those level three fucktwits. Or threaten them with meteors and giant asteroid sized Bigby's Clenched Fists. It happens. Back to 4th Edition.

So 4th Edition was released in like 2008 and DnD Next was announced in 2012. If I remember correctly, the 4th Edition release schedule at that point was pretty barren, I think there was a month or two where no sourcebooks of any kind were released. Essentially it was winding down. Now, this isn't a bad thing. I don't need a shiny new thing every month, as long as the releases they do have are full of solid content and high quality. I've never been impressed with the sourcebooks that Wizards put out for 4th Edition, the last one I bought was the Dark Sun campaign setting, and I don't buy something unless I am impressed with it, and I don't buy something unless I can get a look at it first. 

Sell some fucking pdfs Wizards, seriously. We're in 2012, the digital format is ubiquitous. If you fear piracy, don't charge forty bucks for a pdf, charge ten like Paizo, I'll eat that shit up like candy. 

Looking at the release schedule on the Wizards product page, it looks like the last actual sourcebook released was The Dungeon Survival Handbook a month or so ago, the description mentions stuff like themes, so there are definitely game mechanics in there. The next two books are Menzoberranzan and Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms. Menzoberranzan looks like a fluff book, which is fine, except we've had like a half dozen books at this point about the Underdark and the Drow. We don't need another one for thirty-five bucks with 75% of its material being copy and pasted from previous editions. The Ed Greenwood thing is just him talking about Forgotten Realms, which he no longer has any control over or input in, maybe input. I dunno. I'm not an industry insider. It seems to me that Wizards is winding down 4th Edition in the same way that it wound down 3.5. A bunch of fluff books being released in lieu of actual innovative game materials. Fluff is fine, I like fluff, I am fascinated by anything I can read about the Elder Elemental Evils and Tharizdun. I found that stuff fascinating in the various 4th Edition sourcebooks. Then I did about ten seconds of research and found it is simply a copying and pasting of the plot from the original Temple of Elemental Evil. That's the problem with fluff, it is too often just stuff copy and pasted from a previous edition and altered enough to fit with current game mechanics and popularity. 

Which leads up to this point: 4th Edition had a four year run before the next set expansion...I mean edition, came out. Which is bullshit. Now I am going to gripe about 4th Edition, actually, I'm going to gripe about Wizards of the Coast.

Look, I've said before that the game must constantly be evolving and innovating to stay relevant. I get that new editions will happen as long as the game exists, they are mandatory for the game to exist. I do not in any way argue that we should all still be playing 2nd Edition or 3.5 Edition and have six hundred rulebooks full of new and innovative content. That is irrational, sometimes and edition gets too big to manage, too many rules and subsets of rules, too many weird unforeseen interactions occur that can't be handled by a pdf of errata.. But a four year cycle on a game that has an investment like DnD is just as irrational. These books are fucking expensive and very short, the core investment is at least ninety dollars, depending on retailer and taxes. While I know that no one will ever demand that I stop playing an edition of DnD to play the new one, and Chris Perkins isn't going to fly into my apartment on s unicorn and steal all my books and cackle like the freakish nerd his is as he flies away, I also know that once DnD Next comes out, Wizards won't support 4th Edition anymore. It won't be played at their public events, they won't spend any resources on it to further develop it, or release errata for it. This is unacceptable after such a short run. I've spend well over three hundred and fifty dollars on buying books for this edition of the game, other supporters have spent a lot more. 

AD&D existed from 1977 to 1989, twelve years. AD&D 2 existed from 1989 to 2000, eleven years. Technically, 3.0/3.5 existed from 2000 to 2008, eight years. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Wizards is pulling this crap. We let them get away with it with 3.0 when they admitted that they had made a shitty, broken ass game, and we're going fix it, but only if you bought the new editions of the PHB, DMG, and MM for full price. Technically the edition versions were compatible, if you squinted and fudged some numbers yourself. 

Honestly, I don't know what I'm griping about. I don't even play 4th Edition anymore, and every time Wizards comes out with a new edition, it is always pretty solid. I always find something I like in it once I get past my nerd rage or whatever. It'll come out, the Internets(s) will resound with the fury of a thousand nerds, and then I'll get a look at the product and order it on Amazon, because that is what I do. 

Seriously, do I have to wait till I've been playing the game for two decades before receiving my Grognard License, or can I qualify for an accelerated program?

Is this the part where I should mention that Original D&D, the Little Brown Books Gygax assembled in his basement, basically one hundred page pamphlets that were very light on rules and only had rules for playing till level ten, lasted for three years before AD&D came out alongside the release of the second edition of OD&D?


  1. What I'm getting out of this is that you may have wanted to play 4E, but were unable to.

    From a Hekinoe standpoint, I can see how some of the things you wanted to use didn't work out exactly to your specifications.

    But you know my opinion that 4E died before it's time, before it got vetted. Would have liked to have seen Essentials try to errata some of your specific concerns.

    Another Opinion is that WotC is now reacting to Paizo instead of sticking to their guns and developing a superior product. I like their attempt at openess with D&D next ... so here's to the future.

  2. It is more along the lines of, I liked the game, but it wasn't one I really truly wanted to play. Ultimately, my issues come down to versatility. In Pathfinder, if I want to, I can make a big bruiser of a Fighter, arm him with plate mail, a bastard sword in one hand, and a revolver in the other, and I can make it work through feats, class features, and the rules of the game.

    If I try to make that same character in 4th Edition, even substituting crossbow for revolver, it doesn't work. The Fighter's powers are tied 100% to melee weapons and the entire two-weapon fighting mechanic operates differently, and there is only one attack per round, period, outside of a few Ranger and Fighter powers. Every time I use that crossbow, I am making a suboptimal choice for my role and character, and thereby willingly reducing the effectiveness of my party. It may look cool, and it may fit his background, but it is a stupid choice to take in combat because Fighters have no ranged powers, and there is no two-fighting feat, game feature, or power (that I know of offhand) that will ever allow me to put a crossbow bolt in a guy's face and then try to decapitate him in the same round.

    Actually, that might not be as accurate as I thought. I vaguely recall a series of Ranger powers designed to throw stuff, then charge, then hit an enemy with a melee weapon. So perhaps this Fighter build isn't as impossible as I thought. Those were latter end of the game's run powers, so we had quit 4th Edition and switched to Pathfinder long before they showed up. Regardless, I feel the game isn't versatile enough for my tastes. A solid game that can offer a lot of fun, and I am definitely fond of some of its game mechanics, but it is not something I'd be super enthused to run or play.