While fan-favourite D&D site ENWorld has been dutifully the news on fourth edition, I’ve had a reader request for some more news on the topic. Here’s the distilled edition of the big D&D 4e news from the past few months.
Right now, the news is that all three core books will receive a June 2008 launch. I believe that Dragon magazine writers are out of luck right now, since this pretty much saps any demand for 3e-based articles. Those of us who can’t wait will find the first 4e adventure H1: Keep on the Shadowfell released in April with quickstart rules, and we’re also seeing a D&D Miniatures Game starter set in April too. If you can’t wait that long, the D&D Experience convention in February (formerly Winter Fantasy) will have the first public preview of the game.
How will the game change? One factor of interest is that the game rules are simplifying down into more unified mechanics. That’s not the say the game is being dumbed-down, but rather that rules work the same way in similar situations. All attacks now use the same “attacker rolls a d20 and adds his bonuses” mechanic, including spells, breath weapons and traps, and all of these can critical or fumble. Epic levels from 21st to 30 are included by default, and (finally) traps aren’t limited to CR10. We’re also seeing a broad range of thematic changes, which ultimately I think will make the game more interesting – if you disagree, remember that D&D is always “DM’s choice” when it comes to the flavour.
Now for an important question: How will it hit your pocket? D&D 4e seems to place a larger emphasis on complex, professionally-written dungeons instead of homebrew monster-after-monster dungeons. This is good news for freelancers (who will be pleased at the writing opportunities this opens up) and players (who see a more interesting play experience), but it places a little more financial strain on the DM. Encounters with numerous monsters instead of one are the norm – this is good for gameplay, I’m certain, but if you use miniatures it means buying more of them. Ultimately I can tell you that while minis and prewritten adventures improve a combat-based D&D game, it’s going to be tricky for us Dungeon Masters who get stuck with the bill.
For those of us who can’t wait and need something new to play for the next five or six months, Iron Heroes and Star Wars Saga Edition feature many of the rules improvements that we’re going to see in 4th edition. Iron Heroes is a Conan-esque low-magic, high-action combat game, while Star Wars should need no introduction. Alternatively, if you’re running an extended D&D campaign, now’s a good time to push your game toward a conclusion. Whichever you do, have fun.