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The Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition Preview Books 378

Posted by Zonk
from the races-and-classes-worlds-and-monster-why-can't-we-get-along dept.
It's a big year for tabletop gamers. In just a few months the first books for the Fourth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) will be released by publisher Wizards of the Coast (WotC). The last major update to the game rules was released in 1999, and sparked interest in D&D not seen since the early 80s. To attempt to answer some of the biggest questions about this newest edition, WotC has learned from mistakes made in 99', and is previewing their game updates with a pair of softcover books. Called "Races and Classes" and "Worlds and Monsters", the two titles cover everything from character creation to the new default world's pantheon. More importantly, it includes a large amount of commentary from the designers about why things are going to be as they are. In short: they're must-haves for hardcore D&D fans. Read on for my impressions of these highly entertaining (and vastly overpriced) chapbooks.
Races and Classes
Compiled and Edited by Michele Carter
95 pages
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Rating: 9
ISBN: 9780786948017

From a player's perspective, "Races and Classes" is definitely the more important of these two books. Acting as a stand-in for the upcoming Player's Handbook (due out in June of this year), it shows off the player races and character classes Dungeons and Dragons players will be able to choose for their first Player Characters (PCs). The book is broken up into five sections, with two devoted to the titular character aspects. The other three outline the process of rethinking the game's core. Each section is broken up into a series of short essays on specific subtopics. Each race and class gets at least one essay, with some requiring three or more to fully explore.

As a veteran DM of the 3.0/3.5 era, their choices for which races and classes to include are at the same time surprising and reassuring. Their picks have definitely shaken up the status quo, bucking traditions that date back to the late 80's. The Gnomish race, for example, won't be in the first Player's Handbook. Half-Orcs, one of the favorite races of the current edition, won't be addressed until the Forgotten Realms sourcebook in the Fall.

Instead, standbys like the Elf, Dwarf, and Hafling have been refined and polished to clarify their place in the world. Haflings in particular have been given a fictive solidness they previously lacked: they're now a nomadic boat-people, tending to the waters in the same way the Elves tend to forests or Dwarves to hills and mountains. New additions to the racial roster fill in gaps that have been patched previously in non-core supplements. The Dragonborn race, a reptilian species, is the most obvious of these. Previous 'dragon-ish' races have fit into campaign worlds roughly compared to the core races. Tieflings (half-demons) are another example of this trend. A popular player race in 3.0/3.5, it was challenging to play a Tiefling because of restrictions at character creation.

The process of making and growing a character seems to be the element they examine most closely in the commentary sections of the book. One subheading says it all: "Expanding the Sweet Spot". 3.0/3.5, it has often been noted, follows a power curve that starts somewhat underpowered and eventually reaches a point where players are too powerful to be seriously challenged. Though there's a lot of debate on this point, personal experience suggests the sweet spot for D&D 3.5 is about 5th level to 14th. Though many campaigns will never make it that far, it's frustrating to deal with mechanical weaknesses like that over the lifespan of a game. Fourth edition is a valiant attempt to rectify that by making all levels viable for play.

For a player, viability essentially boils down to "fun". At any given moment, is the player having fun at the gaming table? The Classes they've chosen for core inclusion speak directly to the need for fun. While the Core Four (Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard) are there, they've also included a number of fun tweaks for additional classes. In 3.5 hybrid classes were rough to play; why would you want to play a Paladin (a weak fighter bolted to a weak cleric) when you could play one of the core four and do something well? Fourth edition solves this issue by looking at the roles behind the classes rather than at class particulars. The Rogue, for example, is the classic Striker. He uses stealth and guile to cause spikes of high damage at opportune times. But that's not the only interpretation you can have of that role; the Warlock (another fourth edition core class) is also a Striker, but he relies on Damage over Time spells and arcane blasts to do his job. The Cleric is the classic Leader, keeping his allies up and in the fight by tapping into a spiritual power. The Warlord does the same through discipline and sheer force of will; the same role, but with a different interpretation.

The real advance is that each class role should always have something interesting to do in a fight, because every role is defined. If you're a Defender, and you're not interposing yourself between the bad guys and the party, you're doing it wrong. That great start is expanded by the inclusion of 'powers'. Previously the domain of spellcasters only, powers are going to be a staple for every class. Instead of the Fighter being forced to dully repeat "I hit it" over and over again, every class will have unique moves and attacks that support their role in the party. And if the Warlock (with powers labeled things like hurl through hell or iron chains of misery) are a good representation, each class should be a lot of fun to play.

I've been reading information about fourth edition greedily since last year on the D&D Insider site, and I thought I had a handle on what this game was going to be like. The class book, though, has been an eye opening experience. The designers just 'get it'. Everything that gets in the way of having fun needs to be excised. This book illustrates that, fundamentally, the WotC designers understand that. In 3.5 Fighters have too few options and Wizards have too many. Fixed. In 3.5 race didn't fundamentally matter, and on top of that each race was fairly poorly defined in the core books. Fixed. In 3.5 class roles were a challenge to understand for new and old players alike. Fixed.

Reading this text read like an answer to every player frustration I've experienced in the past 9 years. The game they describe in the pages of "Races and Classes" sounds like an intrinsically different experience than Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. For some people it's not going to be what they're looking for. For me personally, it's everything I could have hoped for and more. It's always been easy to have fun roleplaying; if they can make character creation fun? If they can make combat purely fun? That's an innovation worth rebooting the system for.

My only complaint with this book is the price. For more on that, please read on.

Worlds and Monsters
Compiled and Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes
95 pages
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Rating: 7
ISBN: 9780786948024

Whereas the "Races and Classes" book speaks directly to the core of the new D&D, "Worlds and Monsters" primarily deals with the frippery and window dressing associated with the new core world. The loosely defined core setting that has always existed in previous editions of the game is going to become more codified in fourth edition. This text talks a bit about that world, and the decisions that went into that choice. It also runs through some of the most well-known monsters in Dungeons and Dragons, explaining how they've been adapted for the new version of the game.

For Dungeon Masters, this is far and away the more fascinating book. This stand-in for the DMG speaks directly to the storytelling core of the game, and hints at the kinds of high-adventure tales we'll be able to craft later this year. The game world sounds quite interesting, both for its specificity and its vagueness. Races, for example, are quite specifically outlined. Tieflings, Dragonborn, Elves ... all have specific creation stories that PCs can share as a common background. Racial traits stemming from historical events will add a lot of texture to character portrayals. At the same time, much of the world is being left deliberately vague. This setting is described just enough to hang plot hooks on, but not enough so that as a DM you'll have to deal with backstory cruft.

The world they describe sounds quite interesting, too. They're calling the core concept "Points of Light". Adventurers are heroes living in a world mostly covered by the darkness of wilderness and the unknown. Small cities and villages dot the landscape, providing shelter and a bright spot in this darkness. The wilderness hides numerous ruins, leftovers from the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. The last great human empire fell about a hundred years ago, in the setting, and the result is something akin to the historical dark ages. Layered on top of this ruin-strewn landscape is a faerie realm, accessible via special holes in the world. Monsters live in the deep woods, and dark magics are hidden underground. It sounds like a great place to adventure.

The monsters section of the book clarifies a number of things about what D&D combat will be like in fourth edition, and speaks again to their goal of 'fun all the time'. 3.5 combat was balanced around the concept of a party fighting one creature of an appropriate level. It turns out? That tends to get kind of boring. Fourth edition combat, instead, is balanced around an equal number of opponents for the players. Having the concept of 'slots', where monsters oppose players on equal footing, and roles (not unlike PC roles) ensures that fights will be actually challenging. 3.5 fights tend to be either bloodbaths or total routs, with little room in-between for contesting the outcome.

That concept of roles has been applied to monsters quite deliberately. Balancing a monster party with Defenders, Skirmishers, Controllers, and Leaders will result in a mixed bag of interesting critters. Monster races that tended toward the generic have even been given a degree of specificity. Instead of Gnolls just being Orcs with Hyena masks on, they'll now apparently fight with pack tactics and cowardly tricks. Giving flavour to the opposition seems to be the basic idea: off-the-rack encounters will no longer feel so rote.

Again, the game they're describing sounds like a lot of fun. My frustration with this text was high on the price side, though. While the "Races and Classes" book speaks directly to the core of the new D&D game, and is a great book to throw at someone still griping about the lack of Gnomes, "Worlds and Monsters" seems like it's mostly a lot of set dressing. Set dressing which (I can only assume) will be reiterated in more detail in the core books. Did I enjoy reading it? Of course. It's interesting stuff. But twenty dollars for set dressing is hard to swallow, especially when we're going to have to repurchase that information in the DMG for another thirty bucks.

At a cost of forty dollars for the pair, it's hard to say if the extremely interesting content is worth the price of admission. In podcasts and commentaries WotC has said how they enjoy the 'DVD extras' model, where consumers pay a premium for 'behind-the-scenes' info. If you really enjoy that kind of content, or just can't wait the next four months for the core books, these will be easy buys for you. The ideal would have been if purchasing these books represented preorders for the core books. Pay $40 now, buy the core books for only $20 each? Anything to make this investment last past May? Instead, we're left with the reality that nothing in these books can't wait until June.

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The Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition Preview Books

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  • So overpriced... The joys of inflation :)
  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:33PM (#22296938)
    The absurd cartoons concerning 4th edition on the Wizards of the Coast website. You either love them or hate them.

    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/welcome&dcmp=ILC-DND062006FP [wizards.com]

  • Am I the only one... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:34PM (#22296952)
    ... who feels like they may have simplified the most interesting parts clear out of the game, filled the gaps liberally with WoW, and ended up with a game that, admittedly, has a much lower barrier to entry but is also not particularly interesting?

    I mean, you can make Monopoly a lot easier to play and simpler to learn if you ditch hotel and house building, the rent for each property is the same, and instead of rolling the dice to move you move one space each time on your turn, but would it be fun?

    3/3.5E's not perfect by a long shot to me either, but what we've seen of 4E so far is honestly just not interesting to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cthulu_mt (1124113)
      I concur. They have taken the core D&D concepts, a copy of WoW; thrown it in the food processor and then homogenized the whole mess. Eliminating Greyhawk as the default setting should be a good indicator of their mindset. They want to make a brainless game to lure in the MMO players. (Don't jump on me. I played WoW for 2 years. It was fun but its not pen & paper gaming.) If they can chisel of some of that 10 million player WoW goodness they see it as a fair trade for shitting on their product
      • by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:48PM (#22297230) Journal
        I still like 1st edition......and it's kept me from shelling out too many $$'s for 2nd, 3rd, 3.5th, and now 4th editions of each book.

        Layne
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Darfeld (1147131)
        Isn't Role Playing the whole point of role playing games? who cares the rules are complex enough to role a dice for eating an egg? you won't remember to eat anyway...

        D&D have always been more like a dice game anyway...
        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:22PM (#22298884) Journal
          You've pretty much hit it on the head. The people I've played with who come out of the D&D tradition tended to be some of the biggest rule mongers around. They're mechanic-addicts who aren't really all that interested in roleplaying per se as they are in a sort of dice-based meta-gambling experience.

          I've gone completely rules-light. My PBEM is based on Palladium's Rifts environment (now there's a rule-heavy *and* rule inconsistent gaming system, what a fucking nightmare), but I use it pretty much as a backdrop. The horrible combat system has been boiled down almost beyond recognition, and the character stats are largely there to help the players define their characters.

          The best roleplaying experience I ever had was when I was sixteen years old and we were playing Twilight 2000, and, for whatever reason, we dispensed with most of the rules. The GM just sort of winged it, and it was infinitely more exciting and liberating than sitting there going through tables and calculating damage and so forth.
      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:07PM (#22298618)
        I'm just happy they didn't make the 4th edition collectible.

        You know, you buy a pack of rules, then you have to buy a booster pack of rules if you want to play them in the DnD setting.

        "Damn, I was really hoping to get Cleave in this pack."

        "Awesome, Whirlwind Attack!"
    • Other people have replied, and I'll add mine to theirs. You aren't the only one.

      I suspect one of the two groups I play with will adopt 4ed. If that happens I'll probably leave a gaming group I've been with for about 24 years. Everything I've read about the 4ed rules leads me to believe that it will be complete crap. I'd like to keep my EQ/WoW separate from my D&D, thanks.
      • by Nightspirit (846159) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:12PM (#22297650)
        Dude, you're going to leave a gaming group you've had for 24 years because of a ruleset? Any ruleset is playable with a good group; I have a great time with my shadowrun group even through the ruleset is a disaster.
        • If it came down to that, it would be because I don't want to support WotC anymore. I certainly wouldn't lose the people as friends or anything like that. I just wouldn't play 4ed D&D.

          It's still speculation to me at this point. I intend to give 4ed a fair chance once the actual rulebooks come out. It's just that what I've heard and seen so far has not been promising.
    • by crashfrog (126007) <crashfrog@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:07PM (#22297554) Homepage
      ... who feels like they may have simplified the most interesting parts clear out of the game, filled the gaps liberally with WoW, and ended up with a game that, admittedly, has a much lower barrier to entry but is also not particularly interesting?

      Neither of us know what the mechanics are going to be like, but from my perspective you couldn't be more wrong. I don't know specifically what you're talking about when you say "the most interesting parts", but the parts that they've confirmed aren't there anymore are the parts that always bothered me the most - like the way any dungeon adventure longer than four encounters stops being "let's go have adventures" and becomes "we need to find a way to sleep."

      I mean, my idea of heroic fantasy doesn't include a desperate search for a Motel 6 (or, God forbid, a magic spell that simply creates one.) So the new spellcasting mechanic of "at-will" powers sounds pitch-perfect to me. But, at the same time, a few of the powers are attrition-based, too, so having to decide whether or not to blow your big spells now or save them for something even more tough is still there.

      The more I hear about 4th Edition the more I wish it was the D&D I was running right now. As it is, every single one of my players now has at least one maneuver , if not their class or PrC, from Book of the Nine Swords - which is sort of prototype 4th Edition in some ways - and I think that speaks volumes. My players don't even want to sleep in dungeons, that's how stupid it feels to play that way, and they've all, independently, gravitated to ways to keep the power level up without using attrition powers.

      I don't know what it means to "fill the gaps liberally with WoW", except as far as WoW simply game-ified what players and DM's were already doing. Maybe you could elaborate on that.
      • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:32PM (#22298032)
        I don't know specifically what you're talking about when you say "the most interesting parts"

        Some of it for me is certainly in resource management, which from the rest of your post is something I can tell you don't particularly enjoy. I really like prepared spellcasting (AKA memorization), although I also like that you can play spontaneous casters if you choose. I really like the variety of having some characters in a group that are on a fairly even keel of power where others have only a few moments of greatness throughout a day (often, many fights) that they have to carefully hoard and marshal at appropriate times. I like that there are a ton of feats and spells and things in the game that are combat-important but don't deal damage, such as sleep or entangle. I like that you can play a wide variety of characters that all feel/play really different.

        This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, but everything I know so far about 4E suggests that some of these things are going outright and others are being diminished in importance severely, and that we're moving more to a game where everyone's got a bunch of 'once per encounter' abilities, and every fight of their career involves every character firing off their toughest ones in succession. In other words, choosing nearly the same sequence of actions in nearly every fight.


        I don't know what it means to "fill the gaps liberally with WoW", except as far as WoW simply game-ified what players and DM's were already doing. Maybe you could elaborate on that.


        Things like: pushing more to an 'everyone does damage' model vs. non-damaging malediction/battlefield control, or designing classes more along the MMORPG 'holy trinity' of tank/healing/DPS. The 4E rogue sounds like the typical MMO DPS-machine; the 3E rogue, I would argue, is more defined by his skills -- especially since as his level increases the number of sneak-attack-able enemies he typically encounters drops drastically.
        • by crashfrog (126007) <crashfrog@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:28PM (#22298960) Homepage
          Some of it for me is certainly in resource management, which from the rest of your post is something I can tell you don't particularly enjoy.

          I like it just fine right up to the point where it ends the adventure for everybody else at the table. They're certainly not getting rid of resources, by any means; if you haven't already you should play with the Book of the Nine Swords material to get a sense of what it's going to be like. That sense of managing resources and preparing abilities is still there, but my swordsage doesn't have to guess what he's going to need for a whole day's worth of adventuring - and he's not in desperate need of 8 hours of rest after only four battles - but he still has resources he needs to manage, and the choice to prepare one maneuver means that another can't be used when it really would have mattered.

          I really like the variety of having some characters in a group that are on a fairly even keel of power where others have only a few moments of greatness throughout a day (often, many fights) that they have to carefully hoard and marshal at appropriate times.

          If you're the second guy, though, you may not understand how the first guy feels. Maybe he's not as excited by the idea of doing nothing more than hitting with his 1d12 greataxe every round while everybody at the table cheers when the wizard picks up ten d6's for fireball damage. Sure, monopolizing the show-off power is good if you're the guy who gets to have it, but there's 2-4 other people at the table, and they'd like a chance to show off once in a while, too. "Ol' reliable greataxe damage" isn't much fun when the wizard is bending reality to his very whim, as much fun as that is for you.

          Nonetheless, if you want to play a character with reliable, constant power, I don't think that's going anywhere.

          I like that there are a ton of feats and spells and things in the game that are combat-important but don't deal damage, such as sleep or entangle.

          Not going anywhere, and they're adding mechanisms for non-combat encounters, like social encounters. So I don't think you have anything to fear, there.

          I like that you can play a wide variety of characters that all feel/play really different.

          I can't imagine that's going anywhere, either. Book of the Nine Swords gets maligned sometimes as "spells for fighters" but that's really not at all what it's about; ultimately, there's not much difference from the martial maneuvers in B9S and using a feat like Whirlwind Strike.

          This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, but everything I know so far about 4E suggests that some of these things are going outright and others are being diminished in importance severely, and that we're moving more to a game where everyone's got a bunch of 'once per encounter' abilities, and every fight of their career involves every character firing off their toughest ones in succession.

          I just don't get that sense. It certainly isn't that way in 3e now, wizards don't blow their toughest spells one after another in the same order for the day's encounters, and it certainly doesn't work that way in B9S, where you really have to set yourself or the situation up to get the best use out of your per-encounter power or you've wasted it. And there's still a daily-use power system, too; it's just not that every power is per-day. In 3e running out of per-day powers, like spells, is the end of the delve. Period. In 4e it sounds like running out of per-day powers doesn't leave you so powerless.

          Things like: pushing more to an 'everyone does damage' model vs. non-damaging malediction/battlefield control, or designing classes more along the MMORPG 'holy trinity' of tank/healing/DPS.

          The healing/tank/DPS was already in Dungeons and Dragons, though; that's why it's in so many fantasy video games. And honestly, tanking and DPS'ing are fun, and they should be in the game just like they've always been. Healing isn't much fun at the table-top, and the
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
        Yea, the group I played with hated that aspect of the game so much we made up a separate set of rules for magic that basically threw all the spell levels away, and allowed for casters who could cast massive numbers of low level spells, or very few high level spells, basically at will, through a kind of mana pool, that casters tracked same as with hitpoints.

        This was in second edition.

        It was pretty popular, and we used it for years until we finally diverged from D&D all together into systems of our own de
    • by QuantumFTL (197300) <justin...wick@@@gmail...com> on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:13PM (#22297668)
      I think a lot of folks are just getting tired of the same stale dungeon-crawling that D&D has been pushing for the last 25 years, moving on to bigger and better things (like GURPS, as mentioned in the tags).

      I'm very active in the Role-Playing Felllowship of Greater Boston [meetup.com] and lately we've been trying many new things. Probably my favorite is a small indy system called Universalis [indie-rpgs.com], a GM-less collaborative roleplaying/storytelling system which uses a set of simple socioeconomic feedback mechanisms to regulate the narrative and resolve conflicts without any centralized authority. This has the effect of making the game much more about creativity and interesting stories (indeed the game itself "pays" you to create conflicts in the story) than about playing what is essentially a video game on pen and paper. In a manner similar to brainstorming, Universalis combines the intellectual and creative abilities of the players in such a way that other players act as randomizing agents on your ideas, taking characters and story elements in directions that you yourself would have never thought of. I think it's absolutely brilliant, and indeed a feasible system for brainstorming and generating new and unique stories.

      If you live in the Greater Boston area, you should check us out. It's one of the few places you'll find roleplayers willing to try just about anything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jugalator (259273)

      ... who feels like they may have simplified the most interesting parts clear out of the game, filled the gaps liberally with WoW, and ended up with a game that, admittedly, has a much lower barrier to entry but is also not particularly interesting?

      That is what I felt began with D&D 3e, but unlike this time, I felt that sort of change was needed. D&D 3e ended up pretty nicely IMO, and 3.5 touching up some of the problems and adding minor improvements to some other things. It started feeling quite mature. Then this arrived. :-S No, I can't say I'm sitting on nails with my expectations up.

    • by podperson (592944)
      It seems to me that D&D's shortcomings are sufficiently ingrained that any serious attempt to fix them will be met with harsh resistance. It's nice to see someone actually attempt to fix D&D's clear shortcomings, but I suspect that this will fail badly.

      Let's look at some of D&D's fundamental design problems:

      1) Classes -- this is a really bad idea, it doesn't match reality or fiction. Even in official adaptations, no fictional character from source literature (e.g. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the
  • If I wanted the annotated versions, to explain just what people were thinking when they designed the game, I'd either wait for that version or read their blog. So far I still havn't read anything to impress me about this system; nothing as drastic, experimental and "fun" (rtfa) as say, the player's option books were to 2nd ed.
  • suggestions ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by boxlight (928484) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:38PM (#22297032)
    I used to play D&D (and AD&D) a lot when I was in junior high (I'm a crusty old 38 years now). I had a lot of fun. Occasionally I browse through the computer games at the box store and see things that look D&D-ish. But, I think I really would like to have something that feels like the old "pen-and-graph-paper" game rather than the most awesome 3d graphics.

    Is there a computer game out there that can give me that nostalgic experience? Or will I have to buy the books and get a group of like-minded geeks together for old times sake?
    • Re:suggestions ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:44PM (#22297150) Journal
      Try some of the GM'ed games of Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2).....it will add a different flavor. All of the fun and social interaction of the pen and paper with the nice graphics. Of course, it will depend on how good of a GM you actually hook up with (but the same was true of pen and paper).

      Layne
      • by rho (6063)

        NWN also lets you get back in a game with your old D&D buddies no matter where they are. NWN 1 has such a low entry barrier these days nearly any laptop can handle it. Add Teamspeak and some good whiskey and you'll have a blast even if you're just playing some random non-DMed module.

        It's also nice that your buddies won't be playing on their own and leveling up way beyond the rest of the party.

      • by GooberToo (74388)
        Try some of the GM'ed games of Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2).....it will add a different flavor. All of the fun and social interaction of the pen and paper with the nice graphics. Of course, it will depend on how good of a GM you actually hook up with (but the same was true of pen and paper).

        I completely agree with you on NWN1. As for NWN2, most everyone considers multiplayer to be a complete disaster. Crashes and playability bugs are common. Hopefully the next patch will drastically improve the state of mult
      • NWN + LAN (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Archwyrm (670653)
        I tried this out with a small circle of LAN gaming friends for a while. We got networked together as usual, loaded up NWN, and I played the DM on some pre-made campaigns for the online version of this. The nice thing about it is I was able to add the actual role-playing interaction of impersonating various characters to the fast combat dynamics of NWN.

        IMHO, one of the worst things about pen and paper is the sheer amount of time it takes to get through battles. With NWN most encounters are over in seconds. H
    • Re:suggestions ... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:53PM (#22297304)
      Or will I have to buy the books and get a group of like-minded geeks together for old times sake?


      I'm actually a bit curious about this aspect. I've recently moved, and unfortunately had to leave my gaming group behind. In the meantime, I've turned a few acres of my property into a nice pen and paper gaming area (Deck, grill, 2 room building for when it rains). It is great for bringing together the old gang for some planned weekends, but for most of them its at best a 3 hour drive. I'm looking for some more regular players rather than the 3x/year events we currently plan.

      Slashdot seems as an appropriate place as any to ask, Has anyone come across a good bulletin board, or method of finding a new group of 'geeks'? Have any of you met with any success?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by cthulu_mt (1124113)
        The Wizards of the Coast forums are a good place to start. They have a section dedicated to Looking for Group. They also have links to some affiliated sites. I'm at work or I'd provide links. I'll reply back to this with some good ones when I get home.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If they have any in your area, attending a local gaming convention is probably the best way.

        Usually over the course of a day/weekend/whatever you'll get to game with different handfuls of people at a time. Even if you decide the con scene isn't to your liking, probably you'll get to game with some people that you get along with and would like to play with again, and some people you don't. Talk to the people you do enjoy playing with and there you are.
    • by paganizer (566360)
      The only way to get the fun of gaming that you got with 1st ed. AD&D or Classic D&D, is to play 1st ed. AD&D or Classic D&D. there really isn't a way for a computer game to come close. The only experience I've had similar is online gaming via lejendary.com , using the Lejendary Rules game system that Mr. Gygax has kindly supplied us.
      Planescape: Torment will sort of hit you in a similar spot, also.

      Note: if you treated the 2nd edition AD&D books as sourcebooks, they were OK to add to a 1st
    • "I used to play D&D (and AD&D) a lot when I was in junior high"

      Which is why I tagged it ... "momsbasement"
    • by vimh42 (981236)
      Well, you've probably played them, and no doubt people will have made the same suggestion as I. Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2. Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale 2 are also pretty good. Oh and Planescape Torment. Neverwinter Nights (has the ability to have a DM and play Co-OP, make campaigns ect) was good but not as good as Baldur's Gate 1&2. The Temple of Elemental Evil wasn't bad either.

      Neverwinter Nights 2 and more recently The Witcher are both decent games but fall into the category of games where gr
    • I tinkered with D&D back in the day, but never really managed to find the time or people to play with. When the first Neverwinter Nights came out, I had a great time making modules. It was a treat to use all my programming skills, entertain others, and generally have a good time playing with the setting and the technology.

      These days I'm working on a new campaign [adamandjamie.com] for NWN2. The new engine is more challenging to work with, but it's quite pretty. I'm able to give my new computer quite a workout with
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by casper75 (44745)
      I bought Etrian Odyssey about a year ago for the nintendo ds. You explore a labyrinth, drawing the map on the ds with your stylus. I think it's great- take a look:
      http://www.atlus.com/etrian/ [atlus.com]
  • What it needs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lord_dragonsfyre (89589) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:43PM (#22297132) Homepage
    Want D&D to run smoothly again?

    1: The keywords here are "simple" and "straightforward". The current grapple rules are painful, many conditions make no sense (can a construct be nauseated? the answer may surprise you), and what exactly does polymorph do these days? You don't know. No one knows. It's been errata'd like eight times. If a rule takes longer than two or three sentences to explain, people have already stopped caring.

    2: Fix stacking and inherited bonuses. The days of sixteen different kinds of bonus all adding up to push a character WAY off the random number generator have to end; at the same time, feats that provide an advantage so small you frequently forget about it also must end. Feats and abilities need to provide meaningful options without turning rolls into "no lose" situations.

    3: Get rid of gold = power. The 3.5 conceit of assuming characters of level X would have Y gp worth of Magical Stuff ruined a lot of flavor and a lot of system. Let the GM handle the distribution of magic items, and let the PCs spend their gold the way it was intended: on ale and whores.

    4: Fix the phrase "level appropriate ability" firmly in mind. At every level, every character should gain new abilities appropriate to that level. Every one. It's WAY too easy in 3.5 to fall off the level appropriate ability train for life.

    5: Want to playtest? Recruit the twinkiest, most outrageous powergamers you can find. They're the ones that spot inane bullshit like Balor mining, chain-binding djinni, and the truly stupid amount of awesome that 3.5 clerics and druids bring to the table.

    Since based on what I've heard so far, not one of these is actually happening (with the possible exception of #1), I am not optimistic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kirin Fenrir (1001780)
      You need this guy to test:
      http://www.feartheboot.com/comic/default.aspx?c=23 [feartheboot.com]
    • by hedwards (940851)

      3: Get rid of gold = power. The 3.5 conceit of assuming characters of level X would have Y gp worth of Magical Stuff ruined a lot of flavor and a lot of system. Let the GM handle the distribution of magic items, and let the PCs spend their gold the way it was intended: on ale and whores.

      I really can't help but think that mirroring RL isn't the greatest idea in the world. [/obligatory comment on geek lack of action]

      5: Want to playtest? Recruit the twinkiest, most outrageous powergamers you can find. They're the ones that spot inane bullshit like Balor mining, chain-binding djinni, and the truly stupid amount of awesome that 3.5 clerics and druids bring to the table.

      In general that's the best way of going about things. I seem to recall magic having quite a few of these sorts of problems as well that had to be corrected.

      There's probably always going to be somebody that prefers this sort of complicated game to less complicated choices like computer games or LARP, but it's got to be meaningful details rather than an exercise in how many rules

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      "Since based on what I've heard so far, not one of these is actually happening"

      Then you should pay better attention. When I was reading your post, I assumed you were making a list of what they were doing right, because based on what I've heard so far, they're doing all those things. Grapple cleaned up, stacking bonuses cleared up (by simplifying and clarifying item slots mostly), the effect of gold->magicitems->power weakened (again, mostly through magic item slots, but through other means too), l

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by crashfrog (126007)
      Since based on what I've heard so far, not one of these is actually happening

      You must not be listening, then, since they're actually doing every single thing you mentioned in your list.

      1) Grapple and other complicated rules are being totally revamped, though they haven't said how.

      2) Static bonuses to stats are pretty much out - not from spells, not from magic items. That leads to...

      3) Since magic items no longer provide static benefits to stats, you no longer have to have stat-improving magic items just to
      • 5) I don't know the playtesters, but it's hard to imagine anybody but twinks wanting to work at WoTC in the first place, so I think they have that one covered.

        I don't know, man. I remember all the sharpest super-twinks I know declaring that in 3.0 druid was either the flat-out toughest or in the running for toughest class (depending on who you asked), and 3.5 made them tougher. The word on the street (which I believe but can't vouch for the truth of) was that in the internal games at WotC no one really wa
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      Want D&D to run smoothly again?
      Throw the rules, grab a scenario and background instead.
  • by etherlad (410990)
    Minor correction - D&D 3e came out in 2000, not 1999. Thus it's been eight years since the last major revision, not nine.

    I have thus far only ever been to one GenCon, and it was in 2000, and there was a big rush for the new edition. I remember it well. Scarred Lands was released to capitalize on this, and Exalted was postponed for another year because White Wolf didn't want to release their new fantasy game in direct competition with D&D.

  • Many moons ago, I spent some time trying to write up some tools to generate characters in dungeons and dragons, to generate realistic sounding names. Shameless plug http://www.kirith.com/ [kirith.com]

    I really thought back then that the online community would kind of take over. Have something like a wiki setup for role playing rules.
  • Ouroboros (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aeonite (263338) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:53PM (#22297296) Homepage
    D&D --> Diku/CircleMUD --> Everquest --> World of Warcraft --> D&D
  • by techpawn (969834) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:53PM (#22297298) Journal
    Adventurer 1: I spend my reward on new spells and potions how about you?
    Adventurer 2: I spend mine on ale and whores...So you know cure disease?

    I don't care the version, you won't lose some of the best "non-battle conversation"
  • by Otis2222222 (581406) on Monday February 04, 2008 @04:57PM (#22297360) Homepage
    What happened to "Ask The Designers of D&D Fourth Edition [slashdot.org]" that was posted back in January? Are we ever going to see a follow-up to this? Did they not like all the questions? Guess I shouldn't hold my breath...
  • tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:03PM (#22297480) Homepage
    "why would you want to play a Paladin (a weak fighter bolted to a weak cleric) when you could play one of the core four and do something well?"

    Because you're ROLE-PLAYING. Aren't you? You aren't just rolling dice and putting the business end of a sword into randomly-generated monsters to acquire their gold and +2 swords (+4 vs. randomly-generated monsters), are you?
    • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:15PM (#22297702)
      But if you could (for example) build a character you would RP the exact same way you'd play your paladin as a fighter/cleric or something much, much tougher (and you could), why wouldn't you?

      Honestly, there's power-gaming, and then there's just wanting to be a useful member of the team. Not everyone has the teenage fixation on being the toughest guy, but I think most people like to feel more like a contributing part of the group and less like the soldier with two broken legs whose comrades are slowly dragging back from enemy lines at great risk to themselves.
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:17PM (#22297738)

      Because you're ROLE-PLAYING. Aren't you? You aren't just rolling dice and putting the business end of a sword into randomly-generated monsters to acquire their gold and +2 swords (+4 vs. randomly-generated monsters), are you?
      What exactly can you RP as a Paladin that you can't roleplay as a LG Cleric?
      Why do some people think that you can only RP if you pick a sub-optimal character?
    • Well, yeah; but it'd be nice to be able to ROLE-PLAY a competant, faith-driven, warrior-priest that can actually... you know... get anything done within the framework of the rules. So, play a cleric and call yourself a paladin. Or, atlernately, fix the mechanic called "paladin" to actually reflect what the flavor-text claims it should be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChaosDiscord (4913) *

      Because you're ROLE-PLAYING.

      The default assumption of D&D is that I'm a fantasy hero, going forth to stop the forces of darkness, mostly by killing them. I want to role-play such a hero, fending back hordes of monsters. When I stand with my fellow party members, I want to be one of equals, not the spearcarrier. Paladins are supposed to be powerful holy warriors, different, but equal to warriors and clerics. If the game doesn't support that premise you've got a problem.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:06PM (#22297530)

    In short: they're must-haves for hardcore D&D fans.

    I'll bet there isn't anything worth justifying the price of the new books in there if you look at it honestly.

    Called "Races and Classes" and "Worlds and Monsters", the two titles cover everything from character creation to the new default world's pantheon.

    They've done that dozens of times. Races and Classes was originally called Player's Manual back when I was a kid. The pantheon book was Deities and Demigods, or optionally Greyhawk. It's been done and done and done.

    This is what WotC does. Take it out, polish it, change things just enough to be incompatible with the last version, and resell. Expensively. Look at Magic the Gathering for another example. Each expansion came out with something that would absolutely devastate the previous versions - to stay current you HAD to keep buying it. And for tournament play you weren't allowed to use older sets either. That's why they called MtG Cardboard Crack.

    This is just the latest round of "buy this update we need another injection of cash" from WotC. I'll pass.

  • I only started playing D&D seriously in 2006, so I missed the whole conversion from 2.0 to 3.0, but I have to ask. How many of the complaints about 4.0 were also made about 3.0 between its announcement and release? (MMORPG references naturally aside)
    • by Abreu (173023)

      How many of the complaints about 4.0 were also made about 3.0 between its announcement and release? (MMORPG references naturally aside)

      Basically all of them, including allegations that WotC was "pandering to videogamers" and "dumbing down the game"

      And you know what? D&D 3.0 was better than 2nd edition, and D&D 3.5 is better than 3.0... (I wasnt there for the 1st-2nd edition shift)

      I am definitely buying 4th edition, as I am happy about the changes proposed (many are similar to my houserules)

    • by Yosho (135835)
      I'll just chime in to reinforce the other poster's opinion. I had played 2e for years before 3e came out, and almost every complaint I'm seeing here is identical to the complaints I saw back then. 3e and 3.5e are simply better systems, mechanically. Some people still stick with 2e out of nostalgia, because they don't want to learn a new system, or because 3e has more of an emphasis on tactical combat -- which can be omitted entirely, as my group did for a few years after we switched to 3e -- but 3e reall
  • Points of Light is a design ethos, not a campaign setting.. All the proper names and histories mentioned in the book are like menu items for you to pick and choose. There are no maps, no geographies, no time lines. They're all just things to inspire you, detailed vaguely enough for you to run with or ignore as you desire.
  • I often think that D&D should have a basic character generation book, a world book, and a monster manual. No real rules...no dice. Just stuff for ideas and basic gauging of relative strength. We'd have D&D sessions at recess (yes...in the 6th grade) just walking around the athletic field. That being said, I can see how MMORPGs are going to affect a DM:

    DM: You are running down the middle of the street. A team of wild black horses pulling a demonic carriage is heading right for you.

    Player: I dive
    • by Yosho (135835)
      I often think that D&D should have a basic character generation book, a world book, and a monster manual. No real rules...no dice.

      For better or worse, that's not what modern D&D is about. D&D 3.x is just as much a game of tactical combat as it is a game of roleplaying, and it's very important to have clear, concrete rules for governing that sort of thing. Granted, as things currently are, the rules aren't always clear or concrete, and sometimes the game swings heavily in the direction of eith
  • by TheJerg (1052952)
    This article needs a getoffmylawn tag. I know that this is hard for a lot of vets to understand but things change. The mentality of "they're just trying to make more money off of me" is accurate but that is the nature of business. If you want to turn a blind eye to the myriad flaws in the 3.X series feel free, but don't try to bring the rest of us down with you. This will probably be marked for trolling but the truth is the people who are complaining about 4.0 haven't played it yet and have only seen a sam
  • Haven't read the comments, and maybe this has already been said, but:

    Instead of Gnolls just being Orcs with Hyena masks on, they'll now apparently fight with pack tactics and cowardly tricks. Giving flavour to the opposition seems to be the basic idea: off-the-rack encounters will no longer feel so rote.

    If you need specific instructions to tell you that one race might act/fight differently than another race, remind me not to game with you.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:26PM (#22297936)
    Since 4.0 shares at most some words and concepts with cannonical AD&D, it should be considered just one of the many of AD&D-inspired RPGs.

    Is it the best of the AD&D-inspired RPGs? I don't know, but I don't like what I've read so far. Besiders it will be hard to beat Hackmaster.

    Seeing the price of the books, what I would recommend to a beginner is the following: Go to a used book store and buy a set of the excellent hardcover AD&D books by Gary Gygax. Why play immitations when you can play the real thing? I can buy them locally in excellent condition for $10 each. For the DMG, PH, MM1&2 and Unearthed Arcana you will pay $50, but you'll walk away with something substantial, historical and cannonical. You'll also learn about the real spirit of AD&D, which has since been emasculated by various marketeers who tried to cash in on the game (by targeting 11-year-olds). Also, the binding is built to last for decades, unlike the modern glue crap.

    Many people are realizing the value of the AD&D, and several game cons are now hosting AD&D tables.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:28PM (#22297970) Homepage
    Did they bring back weapon speed factors and "vs. armor type" modifiers? And are there crude b/w drawings of bare-chested female monsters?
  • The price does sound pretty high for what sounds like basically a pair of ads for the upcoming new core books.

    Will the contents of these two books be worth much once the core books are out and I pay good money for them as well? (If I do that is...The system sounds a lot like a CRPG. Don't get me wrong; I play and enjoy WoW...it's just not what I'm seeking in a table top game.)

    Personally, I'm going to wait until the first scans hit usenet and check them thoroughly before laying down my pair of twenties.

  • That much hasn't changed. To be fair however, that only counts as a flaw due to my personal preference. If I want hard skill levels, I'll just play an RPG on the computer. I like to do table top because of the drama involved in the characters and story. For that reason, I've always been a fan of Vampire: the Masquerade (and even Vampire: the Requiem nowadays). The character is more important than the character's stats.
  • 3.75ed Books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by James McP (3700) on Monday February 04, 2008 @05:39PM (#22298158)
    For those curious, the Tome of Magic and the Tome of Battle (aka Book of Nine Swords aka Bo9S) and the Warlock from Complete Arcane, and the Dragon Shaman from PHBII were draft 4e rules that were modified for 3.5ed.

    If you can get past the balance issues with those books and the rest of 3.5ed, you can see the basic mechanics and approach that 4e is moving towards. (For those who haven't seen them, the Tome of Magic classes tended to be weak while the Bo9S classes are quite potent, at least compared to their "core rules" 3.5 equivalents)

    I'll say that many players love the heck out of the 4e-type classes; they are generally easier to play and tend to always have something useful to do. The warrior classes have some high-damage attacks and special moves that make up for their innate lack of spells. The "magic users" have a smaller list of mostly unlimited use powers that tend to be useful in many circumstances.

    The downside is that the magic-using classes are constrained in many ways compared to the traditional wizard or cleric, and that drives some people nuts. The arguement tends to boil down to "warlocks/binders/shadowcasters have less than a dozen powers available compared to the hundreds of spells a caster can prepare." On the other hand, I've never seen someone playing a warlock freeze with indecision the way a mage/cleric player might when staring at a couple dozen prepared spells.

    DMs are much more divided but they are also concerned with making those classes work with 3.x games, so there are other factors influencing their opinions. I don't like the ToM and Bo9S in comparison to 3.x but as sample mechanics I'm pleased with them, just so you know where I stand.
    • by Yosho (135835)
      (For those who haven't seen them, the Tome of Magic classes tended to be weak while the Bo9S classes are quite potent, at least compared to their "core rules" 3.5 equivalents)

      Hmm, I don't quite agree on the ToM. It's a very unbalanced book -- it's important to note that each of the three sections were written by different people. My group has used all three of the base classes in it a few times and some of the prestige classes, and in my experience, the binder is a very well balanced, versatile class, tha
  • Instead of Gnolls just being Orcs with Hyena masks on, they'll now apparently fight with pack tactics and cowardly tricks. Giving flavour to the opposition seems to be the basic idea: off-the-rack encounters will no longer feel so rote.

    Do your monsters just stand there while adventurers come by with a wagon to take their stuff? If that's the case then you fail as a GM.

    Tip: Doing some research on monsters you add to a campaign will give you a better idea about how to use them in fights. Even then t
  • by eclectic_hermit (1232884) on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:09PM (#22298648)

    Here are my concerns with 4e:

    1. WotC has not responded to the "Ask the developers questions" that have been posted for over a month.... Not a single question.

    2. WotC claims to still be playtesting and running into some major issues (War-Forged Palidins are nigh invincable). However, they are preparing to mass produce the books in order to ready for launch in June.

    ....a. After the 3edition vs. 3.5 edition issues, I will wait for the "Service Pack 2" (read 4.5) update... ; )

    3. WotC wants ~$14.00 subsciption fee to continue to get online updates and erratas.

    ...a. It will also allow for "virtual tabletop" but from what I have seen, there are open source "virtual tabletop" systems that CURRENTLY offer more flexability... and are FREE!!!

    .

    4. 4e will introduce "level specific" items. The playtesting reports indicate that at 11th level, a NON-combative character (wizard) is ASSUMED to have +5 bonus to thier armour class....

    5. You have to be 11th level BEFORE you can use a ring!!!! You need to be level 21 before you can use a second ring

    6. WotC seems to be creating a "digital devide".... The virtual tabletop will contain/replace miniatures... But they want us to buy miniatures as well. To my knowledge, these are mutually exclusive in the 4e gaming environment.

    7. Supposedly, WotC will be releasing a NEW Dungeon Master Guide and Players Handbook ONCE A YEAR!!! (however, maybe these will elminiate the need for online errata's???? Not a good deal either way, IMHO)

    8. If this is a preview, why do we have to pay for it??? And, to the author, how is that "valuable"?

    9. Now we need a new tag for "Hack and Slash-vertisement"

    P.S. Please don't use the Gandalf quote of "There are many magic rings in this world, Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly." to justify the level dependent rings... unless Bilbo was 11th level or higher at the time. ; )

    • 1. WotC has not responded to the "Ask the developers questions" that have been posted for over a month.... Not a single question.

      Lots of Slashdot interviews take over a month to get a reply. It sucks, but it's hardly fatal.

      2. WotC claims to still be playtesting and running into some major issues (War-Forged Palidins are nigh invincable). However, they are preparing to mass produce the books in order to ready for launch in June.

      Will Warforged be part of the initial release? No? Then chill out. There

  • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@g m a i l . c om> on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:49PM (#22299270) Homepage Journal
    Now I can go and spend money on prerelease books, before I go out and spend money on the real rulebooks when they're released? This is a new low.
  • Seriously? (Score:3, Funny)

    by StaticEngine (135635) on Monday February 04, 2008 @06:57PM (#22299390) Homepage
    They named a book "Races & Classes"? If I were an outsider who didn't play AD&D in Jr. High School back in the day, I would seriously wonder about what exactly was in a book entitled "Races & Classes."

    Clearly my logical side is shouting them out, but my two reactionary brain cells are screaming something in a knee-jerk fashion about encouraging divisiveness in our society.

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