Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Not Missing It

Right back when I first started this blog, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't buy or play 4e D&D. The straw that broke the camel's back, as I put it then, was the fiddling with alignments. But there were a whole host of other reasons too depressing to go into.

A few months on since the game's release and I've kept to my promise. What's surprising, to me, is that it hasn't been at all difficult to keep. I find that I don't give the tiniest, ant-sized shit about the new edition, no longer even bother engage in discussions about its pros and cons, no longer read the threads about it on rpg.net, and generally don't think about it at all. Wizards of the Coast and I have parted ways (though we were never exactly on speaking terms anyway), and it looks like it's for good.

Today out of curiosity I clicked on one of the aforementioned rpg.net threads, for what must be the first time since June, and I was suddenly very glad that I don't have a clue what any of it means. You know how you sometimes overhear, I dunno, Koi carp enthusiasts or tobboganists or stamp collectors discussing their hobby? And the conversation is filled with all this arcane jargon that you don't understand, weird in-jokes that you don't get and don't sound as if they'd be funny even if you did, and obscure references to things that you've never heard of but the participants seem to know implicitly? And you can't imagine what on earth might possess somebody to be interested in that topic enough to develop that level of detailed knowledge about it, and nothing about it is at all attractive to you? And how you're actually happy you don't understand any of it, because if you did, it would mean that you were a strange fanboi of something very odd, and that would be too horrible and awful to contemplate? Well, that's how I feel when reading rpg.net threads about D&D 4e.

Not that there's anything wrong with Koi carp, you understand. Like D&D 4e, I suppose lots of people get a lot of enjoyment out of them. My uncle, for one. Just please, for the love of God, don't sit me down with five Koi carp or D&D 4e enthusiasts at a table at a wedding reception.


  1. I was skeptical, but I was willing to give 4e a chance. Unfortunately, everything I've seen makes it obvious that it's a wretched fit for me, and it'll be the first edition of D&D since I started playing that I will never own.

    I avoid rpg.net because it's filled with hysterical, deliberately obtuse dipshits who talk the way people who aren't very smart think smart people talk.

    Fuck that place right in the ear, seriously. I can only take so many references to 3.5 players as grognards, or 19-year olds holding forth on what "Gygaxian" means, or how the possibility of dying in something other than an epic manner compromises their character concept. If I want my head to hurt for no good reason, I'll huff oven cleaner.

  2. 1) I attended Gencon with lukewarm expectations of sitting in on a 4e game. By the end of the weekend (to my mild surprise) I had not yet made time to do it, and I'm glad of that. I demoed many better games during that time, and it sounds like I avoided the dregs of humanity in the process.

    2) I use RPG.net only for the game reviews and the meetup boards. Loved Scott's characterization. Heh.

  3. Scott and Patrick: Both those comments made me laugh rather a lot. The dregs of humanity. Rather sniff oven cleaner. Wow, we have such high regard for D&D 4e fans and the folks at rpg.net! ;)

    Actually there are some good people on rpg.net. You just have to scrape the barrel for them, but they are there.

  4. Sublime post.

    I never paid any attention to the 4th edition discussion before it was released, and I damn sure won't be starting now. Seems to be all jive anyway.

  5. arcona: For a while I let myself be dragged into the arguments. Then I realised that all debating with donkeys does is make you look like an ass.

  6. 4e is my the edition of D&D I've completely sat out (although I missed a large segment of 2e's time upon the stage). I maintain an interest in it from an "academic" perspective, but I don't have a lot of interest in playing it. I've skimmed the books (except the MM, which I read rather thoroughly), but I don't own copies and aren't likely to do so. That said, I'd still love to play in a 4e game to see if my hunches about it are correct. That's not likely and I'm not shedding any tears about it.

  7. Pretty much what James said. I have no real interest in 4e, even after looking over the rules, though I saw one or two clever things buried in a sea of unreadable dreck

  8. James: The thing is, I'm pretty sure it would be a lot of fun to play. It basically looks like a poor man's version of the old Warhammer Quest game, and I liked Warhammer Quest a lot. But there's nothing to recommend it over any other given fantasy rpg, and I refuse to buy it just because of the D&D brand.

    Rach: There were some things I liked about what I was hearing. Skill challenges sounded like a nifty idea.

  9. Skill challenges are my favorite part of they system -- so much so that if and when I go back to running 3rd, I'm taking 4th edition's skill system with me. And the ideas behind them are likely to inform any other game I happen to run.

    The system as a whole . . . as much fun as I've had with it, I'm not going to go around recommending it to people. The new system glow has kind of worn off, and now I'm not sure what to think of it.

  10. Odyssey: I think a lot of the initial enthusiasm was due to newness and shininess. Not on everybody's part, but on some people's.

  11. Well, that's RPGnet in a nutshell though.
    They loves them some new editions. Perfect and streamline the old till it glows? Nahh. That would mean you aren't helping the industry by having to rebuy every dang thing.

    But generally RPGnet is full of well meaning people. The problem is it makes it really hard to give them the proper slapping they deserve sometimes. Because if most of them had to go to say Something Awful (or Cthulhu save us all, any of the Chans..) they would explode in a cascade of tears and butthurt, with only their Firefly DVDs to protect them.

    My friends keep trying to get me to play 4th, but I aint down with that. I don't even like Heroquest very much (though it could be due to trying to add in a level system and letting a novice GM with anger management issues run it..) and it does the same thing 4th is.

    Except without massive Hit Point and Thac0 inflation. (Seriously? A Ranger can possibly do 65 points of damage at first level? Do first level characters start out in the freaking Bloodstone Pass or something now?)

  12. Except without massive Hit Point and Thac0 inflation.

    I don't really understand how that makes things more fun if the monsters are all inflated too. Surely it just makes fights last longer?

  13. I don't really understand how that makes things more fun if the monsters are all inflated too. Surely it just makes fights last longer?

    Smooths out the curve. You roll more dice to do the same percentage of damage, and more of the damage is in constant modifiers, so fight lengths are more regular and one hit kills less likely.

    That's a pretty off the cuff answer, and there may be some other factors involved, but most of the other changes to combat revolve around increased predictability of outcome, so I'm confident in it.

  14. I'm a youngun' that missed out on the first two editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Since finding your blog, though, I feel compelled to find copies of the 2nd Edition books and check them out to see what I missed.

    A friend in high school introduced me to DnD around 2005. Since then I ran several 3.5 Edition games, but eventually became burnout on what a chore it was to make NPCs. I've since switched to 4E, and my friends and it much more than we did 3.5, but I can definitely see why DnD veterans such as yourself loathe it.

    I don't want to talk about the merits of 4E, though. Instead, I'd love to hear why 2E is your favorite edition and what you feel 3E and 4E lack.

    Here's my e-mail if you'd rather reply that way:


    I'll check back on this comment thread every now and then to see if you reply here.