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Tag Archives: 4E

D&D Next Announcement – My Reaction

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are a gamer, or you at least know what I mean by that term.  If not, by gamer, I mean one who plays RPGs, or Role-Playing Games, specifically those of the tabletop, pencil-and-paper variety such as Dungeons & Dragons.

Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast announced that it has been “developing the next iteration of D&D.”  They are not calling it “5th Edition,” at least not yet.  For now, its codename seems to be D&D Next.  That’s probably a marketing and/or public relations decision, and a wise one at that.  I’ve been around for the last 4 (arguably 5) edition changes, and it’s never pretty.  In fact, the fracturing fan base is what Wizards seems to be addressing directly with this “iteration.”

D&D Starter Set - Wizards of the Coast

There have been scads of reports from various sources, but I take most of it as rumor at best.  Even so, there seems to be a consensus on a few things.  Here are some of them, along with my reactions to each.

  • Wizards of the Coast will have an open playtest of the rules during development.  This is huge.  While this is nothing new in the RPG industry, this is a huge turnaround from Wizards’ (and TSR’s prior to them) methods before.  This was a request (to be polite) from fans since at least the announcement of the 4th edition, and a source of complaints from its initial release, right on up through every new supplement.  I am encouraged by this news, because it shows they are listening.
  • D&D Next will be modular in design, so you can use whatever sets of rules you like, and ignore those you do not.  I’m not sure I buy into this idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of “use what you like, throw out what you don’t like.”  I’ve liked this concept since the Original Dungeons & Dragons game.  But that’s just the thing: this is an idea that’s always been an official part of the game.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps the difference will be more precisely defined sets of rules, how they interact with other rules, and how they change the game experience as a whole?  Still, it seems odd that they make such a big point of it now.
  • D&D Next will be compatible with prior editions, which will now be supported again.  I’m skeptical about this one.  There are fundamental differences between each of the editions that make it a challenge to use them together without some major modifications.  E.g., the difference in power level between a 1st edition magic-user and a 4th edition wizard are huge.  The same goes for a 2nd and 4th edition dragon.  Or the planar cosmologies of the different settings throughout the editions.  My concern here is that Wizards does not have the staff to support every edition of D&D.  I hope they are not biting off more than they can chew.
  • Wizards will continue to support 4th edition fully during the development process of D&D Next.  This is great.  I am glad that they intend to give support to their current product.  I believe them, and take them at their word.  However, I’m not sure the customers will want to continue to purchase something they perceive to have an expiration date.  Now, the argument will be that the current products will be compatible with D&D Next, so there’s no need to worry.  Still, I’m not convinced that customers will agree.

I hope this doesn’t come across as pessimistic, because that’s not my intent.  In fact, I am eager to see how this unfolds.  I have signed up for the playtest, and encourage you to do the same.  Dungeons & Dragons is the progenitor of this hobby of mine, and it will continue to set the standard.  And I am excited to help make that happen.

Part of making that happen is that Wizards has asked for wish lists for D&D Next.  On Twitter, they have established the #DNDNext hashtag for just such a purpose.  I plan to use it in the months ahead.  For now, though, look to a future post for my immediate wish-list ideas.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming

 

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Crown Of The Winter King

This is my entry for T.W. Wombat’s Winter Is Coming Festival.  Check out both his Winter Is Coming Festival page and his blog Wombat’s Gaming Den Of Iniquity.

Charyssil was a powerful tiefling warlock who lived during the height of the Empire of Bael Turath.  Unlike her brethren, who promised their very souls to devils in exchange for their power, Charyssil made a pact with a powerful archfey – The Winter King, who had dominion over the entire season in the Feywild, including all its snows, frozen fields, ice-covered forests, and other beautiful, serene landscapes.

Charyssil joined with a band of adventurers, and over time, her power grew.  Not coincidentally, she was drawn to locations and creatures of the cold northern lands, and the tall, frigid peaks.  She learned the secrets of elemental cold magic, and became a master crafter of enchanted items.

Seeking to earn a place in her patron’s court, Charyssil planned to create a tribute to the Winter King.  She was encouraged and assisted by her eladrin friend, the archmage Fervail.  He reasoned that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery; the Winter King, like all fey, would be more receptive if presented with a gift demonstrative of his power.  Charyssil agreed.  She forged a crown of ice from the heart of the Elemental Chaos, and imbued it with the power of the Winter King.

But the Winter King, like all fey, is a fickle being.  Rather than being flattered, the Winter King was offended that his essense was used to create a mockery and pale imitation of his own power.  Enraged, the Winter King slew Charyssil.  During the battle, Charyssil was betrayed by Fervail, who absconded with the Crown and fled back to Bael Turath.  In the centuries since, the Crown Of The Winter King has appeared and disappeared many times.  It is said that the Winter King hunts for it still, so that he may finally reclaim his shard of power.

Crown Of The Winter King Level 27
This translucent blue-crystal circlet feels cold to the touch.  When you don it, those around you get a chill, and your skin feels cold and clammy.
Item Slot: Head 1,625,000 gp
Property: Gain Resist 10 Cold
Property: Gain a +6 item bonus to Endurance checks to endure extreme cold weather
Property: Any enemy that hits you with a melee attack takes 1d10 cold damage
 
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Posted by on Thursday, 29 September 2011 in Gaming

 

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RPG Collection (Partial)

image

Submitted for your perusal, I give you my entry for Day 2 of Speak Out With Your Geek Out.

A big part of what defines my Geek is my love of RPGs.  You might expect this from a blog called Elf Steaks & Halfling Bacon.  But, to me at least, Geek is more than just collection – it is obsession.  It is not enough to have the most common books, you must have all.  It is not enough to have what you need, you must have what you might need.  No, scratch that – if you see an RPG book that you know you will never, ever play, but you like the artwork, or you heard a friend talk about it once, or maybe you like the designer or the dice mechanics, then you must have it.  And, come hell or high water, you must never, under any circumstances, rid yourself of any book, ever!!!

The picture you see is not my entire collection.  What you see is only the top half of those two bookcases.  And not all of my RPGs are in these two bookcases, either.  (N.B. I admit, there are some non-RPG books here.  Sue me.)  Now, I know that my collection is not the largest by any means.  But I do know that my non-geek friends don’t understand my need to buy, read and keep all of these books.  Other than obsession, I can’t really explain it.

So, to me, part of Geek is the need to collect, and never lose.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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My 4E Setting Wishlist

Greyhawk Box Set

It seems the setting from Wizards of the Coast for 2011 will be the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.  Other than the minor issue I have that it is actually part of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and not a setting in its own right, I look forward to its release and plan to purchase it.  Still, it has me thinking about other settings from the old TSR that I’d really love to see updated to 4E.

Greyhawk How could I start a list of settings without Greyhawk.  It’s the biggie – the setting to end all settings, at least for so many of us who got our start in the early 1980s.  Obviously, E. Gary Gygax’s role in both Dungeons and Dragons and  Greyhawk has a huge influence on so many folks’ feeling of nostalgia for this setting.  Add to that the fact that it was demoted from 3rd Edition’s “Default Campaign Setting” to historical footnote, and you have more than a few folks who really would like to see 4th Edition Greyhawk.  It’s a traditional, generic fantasy RPG setting, too, so updating shouldn’t be too terribly problematic.

Planescape

Planescape This setting set so many standards in atmosphere, concepts, RPG artwork.  Philosophies changed not only worlds, not only planes, but the entire multiverse at times.  Get enough residents in a town on the planes to change their minds on an idea, and that town could pop out of existence on one plane and be transported to another.  New ideas mean serious consequences, to be sure.  The interplay between Factions lead to deep roleplaying and pitched battles, and not necessarily to exclusion.  (OK, they are not diametrically opposed, but you get my drift.)  This is anything but traditional or generic fantasy RPG, so there would have to be a lot of work to update it to 4th Edition, not the least of which is the loss of four alignments.  Despite the difficulty, I think Planescape is a very worthy candidate.

Spelljammer

Spelljammer Back off!  Yes, it is so often derided, but I love this setting.  Its use as a unification of all settings was merely a side-effect – it was a setting in its own right.  Almost all of the supplements focused on locations within wildspace itself.  The image of a warrior standing on the deck of a ship in space is oh-so-evocative.  I would love to see a 3-dimensional ship-to-ship combat system for 4th Edition, as well as a Spelljammer Helm, different racial ships, and the giant space hamster.  OK… forget the giant space hamster.

Council Of Wyrms

Council of Wyrms I’ll admit – I wan’t at all crazy about this setting in 2nd Edition.  You get to play a dragon, a half-dragon or a servant to a dragon?  No, thanks, I’ll pass.  But, that was back then.  Now, however, with 4th Edition, we actually have a dragon-inspired player-character race, the Dragonborn, built into the core rules.  We finally have a good foundation upon which to build Council, rather than tacked-on rules.  I think 4E can make this setting work now, and make it work properly.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any favorite settings that you would like to see updated to the latest edition?  How about, like Council of Wyrms, any setting that didn’t work for you before, but could benefit from the current ruleset?  Let me know in the comments below.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 1 August 2011 in Gaming

 

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4th Edition – What It Got Right

Following up on my last post, I’d like to point out a few things that are new in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons with which I do agree.

  1. 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook

    At Will Powers For Spellcasters Since Basic D&D, my favorite class has been the Magic-User, or, as the class came to be called in later editions, the Wizard.  I fell in love with the idea of casting spells to change reality to better suit your needs.  The problem back then was that, especially at lower levels, once the spells were gone, so was your ability to contribute to the combat.  Sure, you could draw your dagger or brandish your quarterstaff, but unless you rolled a 20, you were almost certain to miss.  Add to that the fact that you had at most 4 hit points per level, plus your Con bonus, and you were lucky to survive even one hit from an enemy.  Well, no more!  4th Edition’s At-Will spells now mean that the wizard can fling magic missiles around all day long.  Finally, the Wizard is an actual, honest-to-goodness spellcaster, not simply a glorified stage magician, performing his tricks only once before each crowd.  No longer must the wizard worry about exhausting his spells before the day is over.  I’m focusing on the wizard, I know, but the same is true for clerics, druids, psions, and all other classes that have spells or spell-like powers.

  2. Minor Actions I think the addition of the Minor Action is long overdue.  3.x had it in the expansion books, first in the Expanded Psionics Handbook(if I’m not mistaken), then pretty much every book after that, but never in the Core Rulebooks (PH, DMG, MM).  It was tacked-on almost as an afterthought, causing too many arguments in our group (at least).  In 4E, it’s official, and it gives characters one more action, albeit a minor one (pun intended), during their turn.
  3. Encounter Experience Point Budgets This, I believe, is a huge benefit to game masters.  In 3.x, we had Challenge Ratings, Level Adjustments, Effective Character Levels, and a few tables thrown in to determine an appropriate encounter for a given party.  Add to the mix a PC or two who is one level above or below the rest of the party, or the equivalent CR of two or more of the same monster, and you have a mess.  4E does this right with the XP budget.  Sure, a table is still necessary, but once you have your budget, you have a good idea of what foes, traps and/or other challenges you can safely throw at the party.  Is there a chance of over- or underestimating the challenge?  Of course there is, but 4E is the first edition to give you an easy-to-use, accurate tool to build an encounter.
  4. 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide

    Skill Challenges I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flack for this one, but I think codifying a skill use to experience point award is long overdue.  According to the rules in 3.x, the only way (well, OK, the only well-defined way) to gain XP was through battle.  Other ways were mentioned, such as story or role-playing awards, but the only numbers given were for defeating foes.  4E is the first edition to say, “OK, you can use your skills to overcome a challenge, and you will get this many XP for doing so.”  The implementation may have been a little wonky, but we finally have official rules for gaining XP outside of combat.  While we’re on the topic of skills…

  5. Combining/Reducing Skills In 3.x, there were simply too many skills from which to choose, and far too many related skills that should not have been distinct.  Do you want some examples?  Hide and Move Silently; Spot and Search; Bluff and Sense Motive.  Theses skills are pretty much two halves of the same action.  Add to that the fact that three skills, Knowledge, Profession, and Speak Language, were really several skills under their respective umbrellas.  4E improved this tremendously by combining appropriate skills and splitting the others.  Let me say this, though: this skill system is not perfect, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

 So, what do you think? Do you like the changes I’ve mentioned here?  Are there any others that you think 4E got right?  Please comment below.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 29 July 2011 in Gaming

 

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4th Edition – What I Wouldn’t Have Changed

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since Basic and 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  Through the editions, I’ve seen a lot of changes.  Some I liked – for example, allowing the Thief to choose how to distribute his percentage points among his Thief Abilities.  Some I didn’t.  What follows are some of the changes from 3.x to 4E that I don’t like.

  1. Alignment changes What is up with this?  Sure, some folks consider the old alignment system restrictive and over-simplistic.  The truth is, I partially agree with that sentiment.  The 9-alignment system was very simplistic.  However, throughout the editions, it was a constant.  In 3rd edition, they built several mechanics around it, such as the various Detect and Protection spells, magic items, and damage reduction.  It wasn’t perfect, but it made sense within the rules.  My major problem with the 4E alignments is that they pared them to five alignments.  Five.  If you’re going to get rid of some, why not throw away the entire construct?  In 4E, they have no real effect on the game, other than the options available to divine characters.  Throw all of them out, and be rid of them, or, keep all nine, and make the logical connections like in 3.x.
  2. The Elemental Chaos In prior editions, the Inner Planes were the basic building blocks of the Prime Material Plane, and, sometimes, the rest of the planes.  The planes were distinct, there were the Plane of Fire, Plane of Air, Plane of Earth, and Plane of Water.  Now, in 4E, we have one single plane consisting of all four of the elements.  No infinite plane for each individual element, they are now all stirred together in a huge mess.  Sorry, but the classical elements divided make sense to me in this milieu, not a mish-mosh of all.  How do “pure” elementals make sense now, if their building blocks intermingle randomly?  Answer: they don’t.
  3. The Outer Planes Rather, the absence of them is a stickler for me.  Related to my first point, the absence of the nine alignments necessitates the removal of the Great Wheel.  Yes, I want it back, but look at what we have in its place.  The Astral Sea, a single plane, wherein we have islands, realms where none other than the gods themselves live.  No longer are infinite planes the homes of gods, but little islands where the greatest powers in the multiverse live.  Why?  Why limit gods to an island?  OK, so the earlier editions’ gods ruled over finite sections of the outer planes, or entire layers of them, but there were boundaries there, and not just the “shorelines” of a sea.
  4. Eladrin Please, earlier editions had elves, and their offshoots, the drow.  Why split the line further with another elf?  What’s the point?  So we can have an elf with different stat adjustments?  Allow me to roll my eyes.
These are only a few of the problems I have with the changes between 3.x and 4E.  I could go on, but I’ll stop here, for now.
Don’t get me wrong, I like 4E for the most part.  I haven’t had as much experience with it as I have with earlier editions, and that may have something to do with my complaints.  Still, from the first time I read the 4E books, I’ve had these issues with the rules.
How about you?  Do you have any problems with 4E, when compared to 3.x or earlier?  Or maybe you prefer these changes to the earlier editions?  Let me know in the comments.
 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 in Gaming

 

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