From Chainmail to D&D Next
Dungeon and Dragons 4th Edition
I’ve only played a few sessions. The 4th edition is returning to its tactical miniature games roots. But it felt to uniform and more like a video game. Many of the powers had the same mechanical effects with just color and description separating them.
Skill challenges are interesting, but it makes the game feel like a board game or computer game instead of a role playing game. Results are not based on creative solution or a players role playing skill, the skill challenge is the deciding factor for non combat resolution.
My biggest complaint was that combat took forever even at low levels. In 4 hours we had two fights and a skill challenge, that is mind boggling slow, after playing Sorcerer, Prime Time Adventures, or Risus. It’s even a lot slower then our B/X D&D game, which combats so far have been quick and often end with a failed moral roll.
I do really like the idea of the four defenses; AC, Forte, Ref, Will. They have to potential of streamlining some part of conflict, saves and make some feats more interesting.
I’m liking this system, but it is too balanced and uniform. The limited number of feats the players can have at a time make the tactical choice of when to use your powerful daily or encounter feats feel meaningful. Even though there are action points to push characters to continue without resting I find that our sessions are so short at 3-4 hours that we rarely complete more than 3 combats in a session. Make this a game not designed for adults with limited time to play. Long rests feel like a save point in a video game where you the players get healed, and all abilities reset.
My biggest complaint is that I have to pre-plan encounters, other wise I won’t know what feats and powers the antagonist will have, and without them they get completely overrun. I don’t like doing that kind of planning because that feels like railroading to me, Go here I have this planned, I want the players to have more autonomy and I want to improv more. So this is not the right game for me!
D&D4E is Dead, Long Live any other Edition!!!!
Good riddance, system influenced by evil MMORPGs. May I never have to GM 4E again. I’m not sure if it is because I desire to MC Dungeon World and the style of Game Mastering it promotes or that I enjoy Sorcerer and Sword, but everything about how to prep for 4E just makes me angry. It made me sad that Robin Laws is one of the authors of the 4E Dungeon Masters Guide 2, he tried to save Skill Challenges, but the game was broken beyond repair. My biggest surprise was that several of my players actually liked 4e, other than interesting powers, healing surges, and saves that worked like AC, I think it was bad direction to take the Iconic system. It might of worked for more people, if it was it own thing and not D&D, but with the required prep it would never be for me.
May all GMs, MCs, or DMs forever be preserved from ever running a 4E game. If the temptation to run a 4E game befalls you, may you join a tabletop wargaming group and enjoy true tactical war games.