Sunday 28 November 2010

Kinda the Point . . . . .

Those who know me personally, know that I am one of the "old guard" - that I've been playing games of Dungeons & Dragons since I was 15 (I started in 1977) and have run games (and sometimes played) every edition of the "beautiful" game. When 4th came out, I reacted badly - much more so than when 3rd came out (though I now prefer 4e).

A good friend of mine was suprised at my recent blogs, wondering why I was SUDDENLY warming to WizBro!

HOWEVER I'm not really Warming to Wizards per-se, mainly because they've made some serious "errors" with their business model. OK, they have shareholders etc - but they have to remember the fan base for an RPG is a LOT different to the fan base of say a Card Game (and a lot more vocal).

I didn't (and still don't) like their original marketing approach to D&D. Whilst the system itself is playable, they didn't really explain (and therefore justify) their "approach" to the new edition.

There was lots of "babbling" about the "sweet spot" when it comes to playing D&D, but no real explanation (that I could find) as to the reasoning behind their sweeping changes.

All that was further compounded with their "dismissive" attitude to thier fan-base, resulted in the "knee jerk" reaction that I myself was guilty of.

HOWEVER, if you read through the rules (especially the "essentials" range - its very apparent what they intended).

Here are my own thoughts on the whole debacle -

Choice and Playability - Although the familiar character types are present. They didn't want everybody to be the same. So there are a LOT of choices, that in itself alienated the 1st/2nd Ed crowd. HOWEVER the choices in 4e are more "class driven" (though you can "cross class" Traits/Powers/Skills - its their way of multi-classing), this class-driven choice system with no real multi-classing in turn alienated the 3.X crowd. It is less complex to create a character than in 3.X D&D - and the 4e "Archetypes" are stronger.

They increased starting Hit Points, a lot of DM's/Players out there started games/campaigns at higher than first level. The increased HP at first level negates the need for this (although I prefer a Die Roll + Con Bonus at each level rather than a static amount myself, ad that is easily house ruled).

They also introduced "healing surges", an abstract concept that allows PC's to regain Hit Points "X" amounts of times a day - receiving healing magic also "burns off" a healing surge. This concept PI**ED OFF so many Fans its untrue, but I get the feeling these "fans" didn't understand the concept of Hit Points in the first place.
You don't suddenly get physically "tougher" as you rise in level, but rather Hit Points represent Training and Fighting Stamina - so Warriors get more and Wizards get less (see, logical). A "healing surge" would have been better described as a "second wind" pretty much representing an individuals ability to regain their composure, tapping into their hidden reserves.

In reality all it means is that you can throw more interesting challenges/monsters at a party.

The "fans" are missing that . . . . . .

Another "bone of contention" was the focus on Combat Powers -

Now even though in a LOT of D&D Stories - people ramble on about in stores and conventions are about killing a particular monster - combat in ANY edition of D&D can be drawn out and sometimes kinda boring.
By focusing on Combat and Damage, what they have done with the 4e Combat is make it more dynamic - allowing all party members to take part on some level during play. Of course, it still gets "bogged down" at higher levels - but thats generally a problem in all games with high-powered characters.

This, combined with some magics being turned into Rituals that can be cast as many times as you have components - really opens up game play

They Proved they Listen - Thanks to fan pressure, they have been releasing the "Essentials" range - a set of products that really show the system off, the Three that are THE MOST useful to players are - Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, and the Rules Compendium.

The Rules Compendium is a quick and handy rules reference and guide for the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game. A REALLY handy and comprehensive book, it is basically a quick rules reference. It contains the complete core rules for the 4th Edition. In addition to providing an overview of the game and how it’s played, this book presents the core rules in a format that is easily referenced during a game. It includes information on level advancement, combat, experience points, treasure, skills, equipment, etc.

The Heroes of the Fallen Lands, presents builds for the most iconic classes: the cleric, the fighter, the rogue, and the mage. Loads of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more that players can use to build the characters they want to play and experienced players can plunder for existing characters. In addition to the new builds, this book has expanded information and racial traits for some of the game’s most popular races, including dwarves, eladrin (sort of true Elves), elves, halflings, and humans.

Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, has builds for some of the game’s most popular classes: the druid, the paladin, the ranger, and the warlock. Again loads of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, etc. There is also expanded information and racial traits for dragonborn, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings.

As a Player, you need nothing more than these three - OBVIOUSLY the Players Handbooks contain more evocative classes, powers, and races. But the two "Heroes" books, have MORE than enough information for any player.

A lot of fans didn't like the more exotic races/classes from 4e, WizBro ACTUALLY listened. Games Workshop (for example) HAVE NEVER listened to the fans (they just keep flogging away with the now DREADFUL 40k ruleset, making it weaker and weaker with each edition) - EVER! Whereas WizBro have, and have taken a slight "back peddle" with the essentials, whilst keeping it all fully usuable with the initial 4e releases.

The range of DM essentials is amazing, a DM's Kit, Monster Vault (with new monsters and LOADS of Tokens), and even High Quality Card-Stock Dungeon Tiles! (Which are lovely btw).

Digital Rights Management Issues - The original approach to the 4e release - REALLY did alienate a lot of potential players; by changing the "Open Games License", and revoking PDF sales of ALL earlier editions - this really REALLY pissed people off (the withdrawn PDF sales is what pissed me off initially, it felt like they were trying to FORCE people to buy the new Edition - WizBro claimed it was to stop pirating of their products, but a lot of people came up with the same reasoning as I did) - hence my own personal rebellion, and not really giving 4e the chance and try-out it deserved.

The Character Builder for 4e, was a stand alone application - with Downloads/Updates available via a subscription. They have now changed it to an online Character Builder - people are now up in arms about this. BUT its interesting to note, the ones who are moaning don't seem to like or want to pay subscriptions - they obviously think their D&D Fix should be for free. By doing it as a browser only application, they can't get a hold of pirated software - so they have to buy a subscription. HOWEVER, there is a monthly subscription charge - for which you get Digital Issues of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines and access to Downloads and Updates. Considering Dragon Magazine used to sell in the UK for £3.99 last time it was available a couple of years ago, £6.38 a month isnt a lot to ask for the equvallent of two £4 magazines and use of all their online tools (it drops to £3.81 if you take a years subscription).

Like I said, the people who are moaning are the ones who seem to want something for nothing, and Wizards can do without them tbh.

Maintaining servers and developing software isn't cheap (as anyone involved in computers knows), and yet the "Fans" I mentioned earlier - seem to want it all for nothing. I say Bo***cks to them - they aren't really fans.

My Closing Thoughts - Its taken me a LONG time to come around, something I never really did with 3.X D&D (don't get me wrong I've run D&D 3.X and had fun with it, I've just never felt comfortable with the system as a whole) - and though I am still not 100% happy with WizBro (as a company they still have a lot to do to earn my respect), I am MUCH happier with the way they are treating D&D's History - and MUCH happier with the direction 4e is taking, and even somewhat happier with the pre-painted stuff (I STILL think it should be sold in sets rather than in "blind" packaging - but thats me) - but thats more to do with finding time to paint and the price of metal miniatures these days to be frank.

4e ISN'T D&D as the "old guard" remember it, and to be frank I wouldn't expect it to be. THACO was clumsy and outdated, the Saving Throw Tables were arbitrary, the "Vancian" Magic System is kinda outmoded and arkward (and actually makes little or no sense with Clerics, if their Spells are granted by their Deity - why do they actually need to memorize them), the Feats from 3.X were WAY too much for ANY DM to remember - but what they have done with 4e is taken the parts that worked, updating them where applicable - and changed/re-invented areas that needed attention.

I'm NOT saying 4e is perfect, such a game doesn't exist (even my beloved Castles and Crusades has its issues/problems) but its a game thats worth CONSIDERING looking at. I went back and looked at it again because I had the sense to "back peddle" and check things out again - plus I am mature enough to admit when I was wrong (as I WAS wrong in this case).
What this has taught me is that their shouldn't really be "edition wars" anymore - that the game OVERALL needs to be kept alive - no matter what the edition.
By bickering and fighting all we are doing is hurting Dungeons & Dragons on the whole, not promoting any edition of the game - but (more likely) putting people off taking up the hobby in the long run.

I am now in the position to run /play ANY edition of Dungeons and Dragons now, both from knowledge of the rules and love for D&D and Fantasy Role Playing in general -
And running/playing games is Kinda the Point . . . . .

Friday 26 November 2010

Snobbery & Pre-Painted Miniatures

I have quite a few WizBro D&D miniatures, you know - the pre-painted bits of rubber.

The reason why is simple really, when I travel to run games or am running games for Kids - NO WAY am I carting my Metal Miniatures around with me.

If they got stolen It would quite simple kill me (some are VERY rare indeed), plus you have to worry about damage (chipping, broken arms etc) - so the PP Minis fulfill a specific role as far as I am concerned.

Then there is the fact they have produced monsters you can't find elsewhere, I really REALLY don't like the "collectable" aspect tbh - thats the one thing that puts me off.

But, for the most part they are a LOT cheaper than their metal counterparts too.


WizBro Purple Worm - around £10 plus Shipping.

Reaper Purple Worm - around £20 plus Shipping.

Otherworld Purple Worm - around £30 plus Shipping.

I FINALLY aquired an Aboleth the other day, more than likely to the upset of my players LoL!

Then, there is the "snobbery" angle with PP minis, that they are "collectable" (something I mentioned earlier I'm not 100% a fan of), and for the most part the paint jobs are pants - OCCASIONALLY they are "OK".

I have (as part of painting commisions) re-painted some, and I have to say once stripped the detailing on the Vinyl is excellent and they paint up well.

The "miniature" snobs have to remember not everyone has the time or the skill to spend hours and days painting hordes of Miniatures, so these are a BOON in those circumstances.

So don't discard the idea of using PP WizBro stuff, its got its uses after all . . . . . . 

Saturday 20 November 2010

D&D Cat

I've been going through the 4th Edition D&D Books recently, as I'm going to be ACTUALLY PLAYING rather than being the DM soon - and found Frankie wanting to join in!

I wonder what sort of Character he would prefer . . . . . . 

Saturday 13 November 2010

Games, Rulesets, Genres, and Collections

Does every other DM out there stick to one system, one world, or one genre?

In my youth as a DM/GM I ran a LOT of different games (heavy on the D&D of course) -

Dungeons & Dragons - White Box Edition
Basic Dungeons & Dragons (Basic thru to Immortals Rules & Rules Cyclopedia)
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
Dungeons & Dragons - Third Edition
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5
Castles & Crusades (which counts as D&D for me at least)
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
Hackmaster (up to 4th, I don't really rate the new Hackmaster Basic)

Call of Cthulhu (I stopped running it around 5th Edition, though I do have the excellent D20 rules)
Chill (Pacesetter)
Dark Conspiracy (AWESOME Fluff, OK system)

Star Trek (Fasa)
Star Trek (LUG)
Star Trek (Decipher)

Traveller 2300
Twilight 2000

Mythus - Dangerous Journeys
Lejendary Adventures

Metascape - Guild Space

Mechwarrior - The Battletech RPG

Shadowrun (1st thru 3rd Edition, not keen of 4th Edition)

Marvel Super Heroes
DC Super Heroes
Silver Age Sentinels (my personal favourite Supers game)
Golden Heroes (a FANTASTIC Supers Game IMHO - despite its flaws)

Star Wars (West End Games - still one of the BEST RPG's ever written)
Star Wars D20 (NOT the Saga edition, I really don't rate it at all)

I own a lot of RPG's besides - but the above are the ones I have actually run games for. But these days, I don't know why the "song" of Fantasy RPG's is calling me more and more.

I don't know whether its my inherrant romantic nature, or my Love of all things fantastical (in part thanks to my Mum) - but its there.

My RPG Book Shelves looks like a D&D Library, but (not unusual for me - as I like to write my own) very few Scenarios. I find bought Scenarios very "constricting" - they aren't written with your players (or their characters and any relevant backstories) in mind.

I wonder if any other "Veteran" DM/GM's feel the same, are they narrowing their focus - or is it the other way around, are they spreading their wings?

The "Realm" of Dungeons and Dragons has always been "Home" to me, and I imagine it always will . . . .

Thursday 11 November 2010

DM's Respect , Balance, and Moving Forward

One of the things I have encountered over the years is lack of respect, on behalf of the DM/GM with regards to his players.

I've run games in co-operation with and under many GMs over the years and though they are rare there are those that are totally reprehensible in their attitudes to their players.

From the guy who made Scenario's/Dungeons so impossibly difficult you were always (and I mean ALWAYS) guaranteed at least a couple of dead party members (and often total wipeouts) - and this guys doesn't even DM anymore, no one with even allow him in their group as a player.

To the DM who treats his players quite literally as play-things for his own amusement, don't get me wrong this guy had some great (if sometimes derivative from Movies and Comics) ideas - but everything was for HIS amusement, and he was totally regardless of his players feelings or needs.

Now, I have only encountered a few such "rogue" GM's/DM's - but thinking about it has led me to wonder if such arrant GM/DM behaviour is the reason for the total OBSESSION with RPG balance?!!?

Apart from the "everyone is equal" (and totally unrealistic) approach, the core systems of 4th Edition DnD ISN'T that bad, I kinda resent the oversimplification of potions and suchlike - and don't like the fact that almost all (if not all) of the powers/abilities/feats are so combat orientated (I have a batch of the newer books coming soon, so I shall be able to clarify that more in my own mind) - there need to be more "passive" powers/abilities/feats I reckon, that could be used outside of combat.

4th Ed is shiney and very pretty, and could benefit and be really strengthened by the addition of  more flavoursome "non-combat" elements IMHO. It would certainly redeem the ruleset in my (and a lot of others) eyes.

Monday 8 November 2010

4e (not) DnD as a "Tool"

Though I really am still not a Fan, I've actually been using 4e (not) DnD as a "tool" to get people to play Castles & Crusades.

I've been Running "Encounter" Level sessions here and there, and in the (innevitable) post game discussions bringing up Castles and Crusades.

Some (obviously) stuck with 4e (not) DnD, but more than a few have now taken to
Castles & Crusades - either as well as their Fantasy RPG of Choice or as their New Main System.

Though I am not a HUGE supporter of 4e (not) DnD, it is a good entry level RPG - very shiney, light on the Roleplaying, and heavy on the Combat Action - but (as is the general concensus amongst D&D Die-Hards) its not long before a lot of Players & DM's (both old and new) want more; and either change their style of play completely (whilst keeping with the
4e (not) DnD ruleset - generally heavily house-ruled) or move to a more enjoyable System. Castles & Crusades & Pathfinder being the most popular "live" D&D-Like Rulesets out there at the moment.

In summing up, Treat 4e (not) DnD as what it is; a good tool to draw people into the hobby - and nothing more.

Tuesday 2 November 2010


Sorry I haven't been posting for a while, I've had a LOT of personal shit to deal with. 

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!