Friday, February 04, 2011

Opinionated Old Man Post - 4th Edition Stuff

I'll admit, I've been stuck without subjects to write about over the last few weeks. While there's plenty of controversy & teeth gnashing to be had about gaming, I don't often find myself so worked up that I feel the need to respond.  I'd like to think some of that has to do with maturity (oh gods, surely not!), but I think it's mostly, that when it comes to some arguments, I simply don't "have a dog in the fight".

Still, on some of these issues, I'm asked to give an opinion. I'm a self-described 4th Edition blogger, and so folks occasionally want to know what I think. I hang out on Twitter a lot, but that media is woefully inadequate for addressing some of these recurring issues. Occasionally, I get to espouse my opinion on the DM Roundtable; but after awhile, our twelve listeners get to understand what I'm about, and so probably know what I'm going to say before I say it (oh, and go listen to the DM Roundtable, so you can make that last sentence a lie - thanks).

So, I think what I'm going to do is outline a few of the recent (and some long standing) controversies I've been witness to, regarding gaming. I'm going to give you my opinion on those, and then I'm going to move on. I really need to spend my time creating cool stuff for the game, and not focusing on what amounts to academic debate.  You're more than welcome to comment below, but if your opinion differs from mine, I'm probably not going to say much. You are entitled to an opinion just like myself. However, on the issues that follow, I know how I feel about them. It's not likely we're going to dissuade each other. While that might not make you happy, at least you'll know where I stand.

On the Assertion that 4th Edition D&D can't be "role-played".

Load of crap. Simple as that. My group played for three hours the other night, played no combat encounters, and only one skill challenge. It was three hours of great role-playing.  We were playing 4th Edition. I know that's one example, and I know the power of my words can't make this argument stop, but really. Stop it. If you still believe the assertion that you can't role-play properly using the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, we've got a problem with basic assumptions about role-playing games.

On the Assertion that D&D Essentials is another Edition of the game.

No, it's really not. Does it offer some streamlining in both how characters are designed, and how monsters are handled? Sure. However, it's not changing the game. My opinion? You can use both side by side. I'm using Essential rules but running standard 4e characters. It's just an add on to the game. It's optional.

On the Assertion that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) are a group of money-grubbing devils, hell-bent on being out of touch with their customers.

Not bloody likely. Look. WotC is a company. Companies exist to make money. Public companies (their parent company is Hasbro) exist to make money for their shareholders. Thus, decisions are going to be made that directly effect their bottom line. If you're having issues with this fact, don't buy from them. Make up your own games. Is it okay to make suggestions to them? Sure. Most companies in this kind of business are eager to hear what works for their customers. Let's show some respect though, okay? No one wants to be called a bag of dicks because the company they worked for decided not to make THAT ONE MIRACLE PRODUCT you were looking for, or because their plan for some initiative isn't following  YOUR RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR EXECUTION. If this sounds like you, get over yourself.

One other thing on this subject. I have found that the public face of WotC is accommodating and transparent in the extreme. Several of their employees regularly engage the public in both social media and at conventions, in order to make sure communication is open and forthcoming. I've met some of these folks and they are respectful and usually quite frank in their discussions. Again, show them some respect.

Another note on this subject. The following applies to just about every major company playing in this field, not just WotC. While you have a right to complain if you felt you were wronged in some real fashion (poor/dangerous product quality, bad customer service), be a responsible consumer.

On the Assertion that Skill Challenges in 4e are Broken.

I thought I used to think this. The other day I saw the light. I will say this, though. The execution of Skill Challenges takes practice, and requires some experience on the part of the player. Use Skill Challenges how you want. Start at obvious, and gradually work the mechanics into the narrative of your game. Lead by example, and the players will follow. Not everyone is an experienced role-player. It's okay to hold their hand until they get comfortable.

On the Assertion that Combat in 4e takes too long.

Maybe. How's that for a firm position. Actually, I think that 4e combat comes down to managing the table. You need to have a DM that can keep track of things well (I have to use electronic tools) and equally importantly, you have to have players that are familiar with the rules and prepared to use their powers. Hesitant and "over-thinking" players will kill your time management in 4e. Those kind of players will kill your time in any RPG. I use a sand timer. There are other methods. I don't believe in screwing around with the stats or mechanics, though, just to reduce combat time.

Also this. Combat has always taken time in RPGs where tactical movement and positioning are important. Remember that D&D started as an offshoot for a miniature war game. War game turns can sometimes take 30 minutes for ONE PLAYER. Let's not lose perspective. While I'm sure that some efficiencies can be found playing 4e (in regards to combat), it will probably take a big re-working of the rules to make it right (whatever "right" is supposed to be defined to be). For now, I'm honestly not sure how I'd feel about that, or what that would even look like. I'm happy with the system as is, and will look to table management to improve combat speed.

And So

Whew! Well, I'm glad I got those things off my chest. When these topics come up again, you'll find me silent on the matter. I have spoken my piece. If you ask me a question about these topics, I'll refer you to this post.   I am an old man, and I do not have time for issues that have been ongoing for over two years.  I'd rather be creating something cool for the game I love.

Get Off My Lawn.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.


  1. I concur. Game on friend

  2. Anonymous2:16 PM

    I just wanted to say that I agree that Essentials isn't a new edition of the game, but it's a direction I really don't like it going in. I feel particularly constrained, and I'm not a fan of the feel of the old character development, which Essentials does evoke. Especially given that there are class levels that do nothing more then just give you a static bonus without any choice or options. That just bugs me.

    Essentials is what I like to call 4E mk II. It's a less radical departure from the previous edition without changing the rules base of 4E, and in that way, it's fine, and I don't mind people playing and enjoying it. It's just not what I wanted out of 4E, that's all.

  3. Our Sunday night DnD group ( has always had a "relaxed" table. We take turns DMing, players kibbutz, game play kind of meanders ... it's our game, it's how we play. But in 4E, our combat encounters take forever.

    I know it's about table management, but after 25 years it's hard to break old habits. I like the sand timer idea though ...

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. I think Essentials harkens back to older editions, making basic attacks the focus rather than a slew of big powers. I love Essentials. I also recently came to the realisation that these edition wars are entirely pointless. People play different editions of the same game and they enjoy them. Can't we take all the editions as a whole and say 'we all love D&D'?