4th Ed. D & D Wierdness

Been listening to a (n awesome) podcast for the past few mornings. It’s an ongoing series as part of the Wizards of the Coast D & D podcast that’s a live session of the guys from Penny Arcade playing 4th Edition D & D. Some of them, believe it or not, are even playing it for the first time! And they call themselves geeks!

Anyway, the whole thing is an (entertaining) promotional recording for the new ruleset, and I have to say (as a long-time v2, v3. v3.5 player) that there are a few odd things in the new rules. For example, all classes now get ‘Healing Surges’ which allow them to, well, heal themselves for a quarter of their hit points several times a day, even during combat. That pretty much takes the planning and challenge away there and then. Another thing that stuck in my mind was the wizard class – infinite magic missile casts at level 1? Ok, so the spell has been nerfed – it doesn’t do nearly the damage it did in 3.5, but infinite casts? 

I can see what WotC are trying to do, here, they’re attempting to aim D & D at the videogame crowd (which is kinda ironic, really, as D & D was originally the inspiration for a lot of videogames), but I think they’re taking it a bit far. The role-playing aspects of the game are largely lost – when will the Cleric get the dilemma of “Do I use my last heal on our fighter or my best friend?”. When does the mage think “I have one cast of magic missiles left – do I do it now to save a party member’s life, or do I keep it to myself for self defence?”

I daresay this is nothing more than the same old story – it’s change and therefore the crusty old nerds like me must make a noise, but I have to say I don’t think I’ll be playing it – it just isn’t the game I want to play. It’s warcraft without a computer – all combat, no roleplaying, no moral dilemmas.

Then there’s the whole ‘play it over the net’ virtual table top. Come on, guys, it’s NOT a computer game – it’s a social game about teamwork, problem solving, roleplaying and, yes, combat. It’s NOT WoW.

Of course, it’s all academic. There’s no *need* to ‘upgrade’ to 4th Ed. D & D being what it is, there are plenty of pre-written 3.5 adventures out there, and god knows how many worlds you can set your own adventures in. And if you run out of them, well, you just write your own.

It’s not all negative, though – if 4th Ed. brings in a new audience to D & D then that’s fab (<geek>even if it’s not proper D & D</geek>), and I’m sure they’ll have a great fun discovering this new/old universe. I do hope, though, that playing the (should I say ‘dumbed down’? Probably not) new version will lead them to try some of the older, more traditional versions.

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