Friday, January 14, 2011

Biggest Gaming Disappointment

Player's Handbook 2: A 4th Edition D&D Core Rulebook (Bk.2)Tonight I was working on a challenge post. We had decided that our topic was to be our biggest gaming disappointments and I had grabbed a boardgame off the shelf that I felt fit the tab. My wife, wise soul that she is, said, "That game? I thought you would have picked 4th Edition D&D." And the wheels started turning, and the game whisked back to the shelf. So, why would Dungeons and dragon 4th Edition be my biggest gaming disappointment? Let me tell you...

Flashback: I pick up the 3rd Edition D&D Player's Handbook. I had been on a bit of a hiatus from roleplaying games after moving to Oregon to finish college. I played 2nd Edition extensively in high school, and after moving away for college, I played sporadically when it came up. I even started a short-lived but fun campaign as the Dungeon Master. I decided to pop into my FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and check this out. I was not disappointed.

When I opened that book, I felt I had in my hands the ability to create any type of character I could imagine. Where earlier editions had fairly rigid archetypes, the customizability of character creation in 3rd Ed. was excellent. Skills, feats, generous multiclassing... I loved it. In short order, I found the university's gaming club, where I met other roleplayers... including Julian, the guy at Cool Factor 5 you hear about so much. And, indirectly, I also met my wife through the club via a listserve... to (surprise, surprise!) play D&D 3E. But I digress. Back to 3rd Edition....

Another gem of D&D 3rd Edition was the Open Gaming License (OGL). The basic system of D&D, called the D20 system, was open source. This means that third party publishers could create adventures, supplements, campaign worlds, etc., based on this system. And they did. Lots. This really opened the field for a lot of innovation, and great product lines rose from this. It was a great thing to experience. And it lasted for several years. And then 4th Edition D&D was announced.

At first, I was pretty thrilled by the announcement. I was pretty happy with the direction of the product line thus far, and was excited to see where they would take it. After all, they'd really made it shine, they're just going to do more of the same, right? Wrong.

I started being skeptical when Wizards of the Coast started giving previews. I just didn't feel behind what they were doing, but I still kept reservedly optimistic.But each subsequent preview made it really seem that something was not going right, in my opinion. And then it was released. I'll admit, I went to my FLGS to pick it up at midnight. Yup, I'm a geek and not ashamed to admit it!

So, I'm not going to review 4th Ed. I'll just say that I was unimpressed by character creation, and the fact that every character class pretty much does the same thing with slightly different window dressing. It wasn't ever, "What's YOUR cool power?", it was always "What's your 3d6 + ability modifier power?". Basically, they're all the same. At least it seems like that to me. Feats are also stripped of all flavor. And the archetypes and pretty rigid, backsliding to 2nd Edition. Among other things. All in all, it seems like a pen-and-paper MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), probably by intention.

Another point of note was the Gaming System License (GSL) for 4th Edition. Whereas the OGL was very permissive and encouraged third parties, the GSL did everything it could to say that Wizard of the Coast could terminate your rights to publish 4th Edition-compatible material at their whim. It is very restrictive, though there are quite a few third party publishers who do use it. I'm not impressed with it, though. And, as I understand, the GSL itself exists only because a lot of people pushed Hasbro (Wizards' parent company) really hard.

So... yeah. This post isn't really about bashing 4th edition, Wizards of the Coast or Hasbro. I just wanted to convey my disappointment about the system, as compared with my previous experiences. I have played 4th Edition a bit, and enjoyed it; it's just not what I want to spend my small amount of roleplaying time playing. I've chosen to look to the Pathfinder line by Paizo Publishing as my RPG of  preference. To put credit where credit is due, Pathfinder is based on the 3rd edition OGL. I recommend checking this system out if you haven't already.

Do you have a big gaming disappointment? Misery loves company! Share it with us! And also, check out what Julian has to say at Cool Factor 5!


  1. Just a quick comment about the characters in the 4th ed. feeling like a static generic MMO character class- DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online)Is based on the 3rd edition character creation including multi classes and feats galore - its the most customizable character build system i've ever seen in a MMO - in fact its a science in itself and i can almost guarantee that no two characters are alike in that system - except for those who copy successful builds (which plenty do) - when I heard that 4th ed. was forcing character creating back to standard roles I was afraid for DDO Character creation - but it seems that Turbine (license holder for DDO) is committed to keeping character creation based on the 3rd edition - but rumors are that a ADDO (Advanced Dungeon and Dragons Online) are in the making and 4th edition rules will be enforced - sigh

  2. That's interesting. I never really played DDO, mainly just not having a lot of time to devote to a game, and not being able to play games that don't pause (kids, y'know). I've heard good things about it, though. As for a 4E-based MMO... why not? A lot of people like that system, even if I don't. Ideally, it would be running concurrently with the 3E based one. Unfortunatrely, it would probably be the precursor to an end-of-life for the 3E.Anyway, thtnkj you for sharing! I hadn't heard of ADDO.

  3. Wow! My spelling was atrocious on that one! Sorry...

  4. ADDO is just a rumor going on in game chats, forums and blogs - probably just wishful thinking - DDO has fantastic character creation and really nice Dungeons - but the "world" or lack of a world is terrible and i think that people are looking at what AD&D did for "campaign" settings back in the day and are hopeful that history could repeat itself.

  5. just a test to see if my google sign in will make me not anonymous

  6. I've played some 4ed and am right there with you. I mean, I enjoy the powers mainly because I get to cut them out and glue them to index cards. However, it is definitely NOT the D&D that I love so much.

  7. I hear you! Yeah, having a little deck of cards explaining the powers is indeed convenient. Yes, though... not the D&D I expected.