Thursday, April 15, 2010

Farewell To a 4end

Running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for the past few months made me realize something: I don't like Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

Actually, that's not exactly right. I had some fun with 4E and I won't say I never will again. But it doesn't do the kind of fantasy game that really appeals to me. As I've said before, 4E is a game of high-powered, ass-kicking heroes that carry so many magic items their teeth glow. That's fun - for a while, at least - but it quickly gets old for me. I like my fantasy games to be a bit grittier, and by "a bit", I mean a lot.

I spent nearly a year playing 4E, and most of that time was eaten up by running fights. I know there are people out there who swear 4E combat runs faster than any other edition, but that certainly wasn't the case for us. Fights took hours. They always felt fun at first, but I got bored with them in short order, whether I was running them or participating as a player. In fact, when I think about memorable fights I've played in the past couple of years, only one of them happened in 4E, and it was one where the DM was handwaving a lot of things. The fights that stick out in my memory happened in games like WFRP and Rolemaster (which suggests I really need to play more games that have detailed crit charts, but that's a subject for another time).

There are a lot of things to like about 4E. I like the way they evened the playing field between magic-using and fighting classes. I like the way they simplified skills. I like the concept of the Feywild. I like the idea of ritual magic (though in play, we practically never used them). There are a lot of changes that 4E made that I thought were good ones. But when the system is built entirely around combat, and I find combat boring, that's a problem.

(Plus, a lot of the artwork is terrible. It's actually a step back from the previous edition's artwork, which is just weird. I mean, look at the pic I posted up top. I know art's not everything, but dammit, it is important to me. I need visual aids to help me imagine the action, and when those aids look like half-assed comic art from the 90s, well... that's not good.)

Anyway, the point is this: I sold my "non-core" D&D 4E books not long after we stopped playing last year. Today I sold the rest of them.

But hey, the good news is that RuneQuest II is pretty damned good.


  1. Guess you should give Hackmaster by KenzerCo a try. Could be just what you like - as your posting shows me we may have a common mind about all things roleplaying.

  2. Paladin: Yep, that's from the Monster Manual. Admittedly it's one of the weakest illustrations in the book.

    Cyric: I actually did check out HackMaster - both the original version (which was a little too "jokey" and hewed a bit too closely to AD&D for my tastes) and HackMaster Basic. Basic seems interesting, but it felt a little slapped-together... like a preview of a game that is still in the works. I'm holding out for HackMaster Advanced or whatever they end up calling it.

  3. Welcome back!

    4E is great for what it is, and I love its ability to bring new gamers into the fold, but in essence there is no depth.

    I'm personally loving Pathfinder, it's my new system of choice (well after my own, mwa ha ha ha)

  4. It's very easy for WFRP 2E to make another system look bad.

    An example of what makes the system great? I have spent minutes agonizing whether or not to cast a spell. When I did, I botched it and ended up catching on fire.

  5. The big badguy at the end of the last session (a Skaven Grey Seer) managed to silence himself when trying to kill the PC Light Wizard with a big spell. Needless to say, he got himself killed shortly afterwards.

  6. Nothing wrong with 4e as a system but it didn't click for anyone in my gaming circle.

    I suspect this result is more common than Hasbro might like but thats perfectly OK as there are tons of games out there for every taste.

    As long as everyone is having fun, its being done right.

  7. Couldn't have said it better myself.