Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's Time to Face the Facts

I still like D&D.

I thought my love affair with D&D ended after college, when I wished it farewell in one last fling (Sarah's WoW-inspired D&D campaign) and then threw myself fully into the more narrative games I have always preferred. My brief experimentation with True20 (Blue Rose) seemed to cement it. The world of d20s and D&D, of races and classes and levels, was no longer for me. The birth of 4e was the last nail in the coffin. The D&D I had really come into my own with - 3rd Edition and 3.5 - was gone.

As it turns out, it didn't last.

First, there were the Indie Guys on the various podcasts I listen to, who sang 4th Edition's praises as a fundamentally well-written, highly focused game. Then there was my own dry streak, when finding time to play and people to play with became extraordinarily hard. And then, out of my own curiosity, I became the recipient of a bequest of 4th edition D&D books. I joined a Dark Sun D&D game down in the peninsula, and shortly thereafter left it and joined another one that meets at my local Borders (woo hoo!). Now I've got an Amazon wishlist full of most every book they've released so far - a fair number of which I own - and it's time to admit that maybe this isn't as over as I thought it was.

What's the appeal?

This really is a very well designed game. It's very focused on a linear, have adventures and grow in power game model. It's also focused on maximizing every player's fun at every moment. Gone are the days of mages and priests benefiting from an entire chapter of rules, all for them. Now everyone has cool powers that let them enjoy the spotlight for their brief moment.

For the kind of playing I truly prefer - narrative and emotion-based storytelling - none of this is an asset. However, I have discovered that I really do enjoy 4e D&D as a tactical minis combat game, and if you don't mind having your tactical minis game interrupted by high fantasy adventure (or your high fantasy adventure spiced up with the occasional tactical minis game), D&D can produce a genuinely enjoyable experience. You banter, you deal with NPCs, you solve puzzles, and then you kick ass - wash, rinse, and repeat in whatever order you see fit. It's not gonna be high art, but it could be high adventure, and sometimes that's all you need.

I know 4th Edition D&D takes a lot of flack in some roleplaying circles. It gets accused of being too easy to play, too high-powered, too much like a computer RPG (*cough* World of Warcraft *cough*), and designed to sell books rather than to promote a genuine creative experience. To this I say: *thbthbthbt*! Ease of play is an advantage, power level is relative, and I don't care if the design sells books because the design is fun! Far more fun (do I dare I say it?) than 2nd or 3rd editions ever were (guess I do).

So, if you're looking for me on a Tuesday night, you can find me at the Stonestown Galleria Borders, kicking ass and taking names as Alexander the slightly mad summoner psion. The game I'm in is full, but what we've got here is a growing community of gamers, and I'm sure we'll find somewhere to put you.

Until next time, remember: Move, Minor, Standard, and flanking is your friend. 

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