Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition

Since getting Sunny into DnD, I’ve been spending a lot of time online looking for ideas in DnD forums. However, instead of ideas, what I’m mostly finding is a bunch of people bitching about how awful fourth edition is.

I don’t get it.

You see, I cut my teeth on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd edition, I think), and while I loved it from the start, it was really difficult to get into. It was extremely complicated and, at least to me, it felt like a system that had rules built on top of rules, built on top of rules that resulted in a really convoluted game. I felt like I was spending the vast majority of the game just rolling dice and doing math.

For me, 4E was exactly what DnD needed. It cut out all the overly complicated, convoluted rules and made a far simpler, cleaner game. I personally think it was written specifically to attract new people into the hobby, rather than to please veteran players… and why shouldn’t it?

This is the part I don’t get. Dungeons and Dragons, as a product, isn’t so much a game as a game system, a set of rules that allow you to create your own game. If you love 3.5 but think 4E is a pile of crap, it’s not like all those books you bought suddenly burst into flames. There’s nothing to stop you from completely ignoring 4E and continuing playing 3.5. If there’s just a few things you dislike about 4E, house-rule them out.

For example, I read a forum thread were people were almost literally going berserk over the ‘Raise Dead’ ritual. In previous editions, resurrecting a dead character was an amazingly expensive and difficult procedure. When a character died, it could literally bankrupt the whole party to being him back…and money wasn’t the only factor.

However, In 4E, you can buy a ritual for 500 gold pieces that can resurrect a character up to 30 days after they’ve been killed.

The forum denizens were saying it was far too easy and cheap to resurrect a dead character, even going so far as to say it completely ‘broke’ the world because the bad guys could resurrect whole armies and generally rendered death meaningless.

My answer?

If you don’t like it, keep playing 3.5, or house-rule the resurrect dead ritual in 4E to be much more expensive. That’s the beauty of DnD, it’s not like a videogame where everything is set in stone. You’re free to change anything you like, add whatever you want or remove things all together. Maybe the Resurrect Dead ritual costs 5000 gold pieces instead of 500. Maybe it requires rare components that the surviving members of the party have to go retrieve from some monster infested dungeon. Maybe only priests in a specific, far off temple can perform the ritual…or maybe resurrecting the dead is just plain impossible in the world you’ve created.

As I mentioned earlier, 4E is about attracting new players to the hobby, and for someone who’s never played before, the idea that when your character is dead, he’s completely gone is hard to wrap your head around. When you’ve spent hours and hours coming up with a really cool character with a rich, detailed back story, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth when a few sessions in the dice are against you and your character kicks the bucket.

Basically, the veteran players need to understand that Fourth Edition wasn’t written with them in mind. If you’ve played since high school and know the rules inside and out, 3.5 might suit you down to the ground…but if I’d tried to get Sunny into DnD using a previous edition, I doubt we’d have got past the first session.

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