JÃ¼rgen Hubert at ENWorld tells us why he prefers D&D 4E. This is especially interesting if you’re still sitting on the fence about switching over.
Let me add to that by giving you my top five:
Excellent advice for Dungeon Masters. Every edition’s Dungeon Master’s Guide is worth reading, and 4E’s is no exception. It discusses player motivation, campaign style and feel, and ways to both prepare and improvise. Do not run another game of any D&D edition until you have read this book.
Monsters are given archetypes. In retrospect, the 3E challenge rating system was too simple. It didn’t differentiate between monsters of varying defensive ability, even though this is something we’ve had in the class system since the beginning. It’s a lot easier in 4E to tell which monsters are physically weak ranged attackers (like wizards) and need protection from tougher monsters.
Combat is faster and more interesting. In 3E, fighters got slow and boring at high level, rolling four to eight attacks per round. Now we have a Star Wars Saga Edition style one attack per round, but the effects of attacks and combat feats or powers are more significant.
Balance issues have been resolved. Third ed left munchkins a lot of exploits, such as resting after every fight to regain spells and cherry-picking prestige classes. Fourth does away with those issues and helps to straighten out the balance.
It’s easier to make new monsters. There are only fifteen first-level monsters, but creating new ones is incredibly easy. I didn’t realise how much more work 3E monsters involved until I went back and statted one up. I’m considering drawing up weekly new monsters for this blog; readers, drop a comment here and let me know if you’re interested.
It’s rare that real-world politics makes a connection with fantasy roleplaying games, but earlier this month John McCain’s writer Michael Goldfarb mentioned the game derisively in his blog:
“It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.”
Naturally, this didn’t go down too well with the D&D crowd. Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast senior vice president Wayne Charness wrote a letter in reply:
“For fans, the game is essentially about heroism and therefore it is not surprising to us that thousands of military personnel play and enjoy the game. … Recently a soldier who saw your comments online said, â€œWizards of the Coast (the makers of D&D) has sent care packages to the troops on many occasions, providing free gaming supplies in support of our men and women serving the country overseas to help them decompress after hours. McCain’s people should really check their facts before they spout off. Does John McCain have no idea how many GIs play D&D?â€?”
Soon after posting his original comment, Goldfarb responded to criticisms with this snazzy quote:
“If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.”
Meanwhile, a set of 1st Edition AD&D stats for US presidential candiates has been circulating the internet. They originated from the blog of sci-fi novelist Charles Stross, in an article titled Politics as she is Played with 3d6. The stats are for an old edition, but it’s forgivable since we have Charlie to thank for the githyanki, githzerai and slaad.
This video really impressed me. It’s an iPhone app called Mach Dice, it pulls off the simple task of dice simulation with some serious style.
The author is selling it for a mere $1, making it cheaper than real dice. That’s assuming you own an iPhone already, although if you want to buy one for this app, it’s still cheaper than 750 dice. Recommended for iPhone-owning gamers.
For anyone interested in online D&D, I’ve just released a new version of Bones, the IRC dicebot. Bones makes it possible to play D&D via normal internet chat by simulating dice very effectively, using a straightforward and and a flexible command system. New features:
Now joins channel correctly on startup with more servers
I think I’ve worked it out. D&D4 is New Star Wars.
Sure, it lacks the feel of the 1970s classic, changes the implied setting, ignores decades of established pseudo-canon, changes the foundation of how people’s supernatural powers work and is full of cheesy lines… but the fantasy swords-and-magic action is much better, and wasn’t that the point all along?
Wizards of the Coast last week announced the launch of D&D Insider a little later than planned. Fewer features will be available, but the price will be lower than planned. Is it worth it?
The online game table won’t be ready for some time, so the main draw for most will be the online Dragon and Dungeon PDF magazines. By my count you’re looking at around 132,000 words per month combined, written by WotC’s in-house staff. The former magazines published by Paizo gave us about 100,000 words, were written by Paizo’s in-house as well as some excellent freelance writers, and had the tangible benefit of being in print.
The next feature is the D&D Compendium, a searchable database of races, classes, powers and items. Unfortunately, it’s not indexed for browsing, making it useless unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. It doesn’t cover rules either, making it far less useful as a DM’s table resource. It’s also lumbered with a few outdated notions of web design like popup windows and an eye-strainingly tiny 8pt font.
The other tools available at launch are a simple points-buy calculator and an encounter XP calculator. Wizards also hopes to finish their monster building tool by launch; these are all simple algorithms you can find in the core rulebooks, but if it’s too much work for you these tools may save you some time.
Now for the price: A month will cost you $8, but if you pay a year in advance that drops to $5. By comparison, Dragon and Dungeon in print were $8/issue, or $8/month to subscribe to both for a year. Wizards aren’t telling if they plan on upping the price once the character generator and online gametable tools.
Right now you can hop on over to D&D Insider and take a look at the service for a free trial period. Try it out and see what you think.