Saturday, June 28, 2008

4e: The First Game!

Tonight my group ran our first game of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. It was a good 2 weeks earlier than expected and I had nothing at all prepared as the decision was a bit last minute. I still hadn't finished reading all the books when we decided to play. So I hit the books , like I do during midterms or finals, and crammed as much 4e knowledge into my brain as I could manage. All in all the game went really well. We only had 3 actual PCs and an NPC (my character) that tagged along doing nothing but round out the group, still we had fun.
4e is amazingly similar to 3e in many regards and there were only a few things that caused some confusion. Mostly I think this came from WotC's side of the fence. The number one point we all found to be a bit confusing came as we filled in character sheets.
We were rolling along creating a Tiefling Rogue, Tiefling Warlock, Dragonborn Fighter and a Dragonborn Warlord until we reached the attack workspace. Everything else had taken 10-15 minutes to complete, but this part had us scratching our heads. There weren't enough spaces for everything we needed and that made us second guess what we thought we understood. Since we were still in the creation phase it was time to hit the rulebooks. We read and read various pages, coming to the realiziation that much of the book was not designed for ease of use in all things.
Too much information requires you to jump back and forth in the book for our taste. Since the 3 experienced gamers in the group were questioning what was right the new guy, who has never played any RPG, was left dumbfounded. We all took turns giving our interpretations of whether the Attack work space was messed up, truncated to conserve space, or if all of our intelligence scores had been drained by the Mountain Dew I had bought on special.
After spending well over 2 hours debating this and second guessing all of our decisions I finally made a call, DMs get to do things like that. Write it down the way we think it should be on a separate piece of paper and leave the Attack Workspace empty. So we did.

Since I was feeling a tad bit silly because we have never had that kind of confusion over any game system, especially our game of choice D&D, I hopped online to see if anyone else had similar problems. They did.
Numerous boards I visited had people asking the same question. "Why are there only X many spaces, when I need XZ many... did I screw something up?" To be honest I didn't find anyone that could answer that in a satisfactory manner. Many did exactly what my group did and said the hell with it, and did it how they thought it should be. Maybe WotC screwed up (completely unheard of... wink, wink) or maybe it was just too simple. Sometimes when you expect something to be hard, you make it much harder than it really is and I think that is a possibility.

The one thing we all agreed on, especially the new guy, was that the character creation could have been more clear. Granted there is the standard "this goes here" character sheet example, but the text didn't really explain how to figure some of the numbers you wanted. Some of that information was actually in the back of the book. Other bits of info were found in the gaining a level section, one place I would not initially think to look for stuff that pertained to character creation.
Overall we were happy with 4e. The action and game play was quick, fun and still familiar enough to feel like we weren't in completely unknown territory. The minor glitch was annoying as hell, but not bad enough to turn us away from the game. As a matter of fact we are picking up the same story next time we play. We are a 4e group, for now. The 3e books are still safely stored on the upstairs bookshelf... just in case.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

D&D Compendium

It's not much given that 4e has been out for a bit, but there is finally some content on D&D insider. The D&D Compendium is a 4e database that you can use when you need quick answers. There isn't a whole lot on the site and to be honest it isn't that impressive.
I had hoped that they would have more of the online applications up and running when 4e was released, but almost a year after the initial announcement and still nothing. To me it is not only disappointing, but sad that nearly a nearly a year after the initial announcement we still can not use the "incredible" online components of 4e. Isn't that one of the things they've kept stressing since Gen Con 08? It seems like all we've heard is "virtual table top" this and "virtual table top" that, but the release of 4e has come and gone, still no virtual table top. No way to get the maximum potential out of a newly released product.
Would people have flocked to the iphone if Apple had said " here is this great new phone and with it you can do all this amazing stuff, but there is no network and you can't make calls on it yet"?
OK maybe many would have still shelled out ridiculous amounts of money for the newest Apple product, but many more would not. We got excited about 4e, in part due to the fact we would be able to game with friends both near and far using the amazing virtual table top. While I do admit that I am liking what I read in the books, the lack of a core (though not absolutely necessary) feature has me less than amazed.
The whole process of getting 4e on the shelves has seemed rushed.There have been complaints from numerous buyers about quality issues with the new books, 3.x gamers are still crying foul, not to mention the books that hit the streets early and the pdf versions that leaked onto the net. 4e has been plagued with issues and WotC has only served to lessen their credibility by not delivering more to the fans that did, eventually, accept the new edition, myself included.
Since Dungeon & Dragon magazines' online content has been less than stellar over the past 10 months and the online component of 4e has yet to be released, I'm thinking that perhaps WotC should have waited. It would have been much wiser and probably more acceptable if they had waited until everything could be released and utilized around the same time. If nothing else they should have kept feeding us just enough since the announcement to keep us wanting more until it was completed. They definitely should have had a little more to show when the product hit the streets and got gamers in the mood to actually play. They dropped the ball as far as I'm concerned. Unless they really show me something to change my mind, I am losing interest in the online content more and more every day.