Wednesday, September 15, 2010

4th Edition D&D

Recently I went to a local game shop to recruit playtesters and play in a Pathfinder game. But that game wasn’t coming together, and I had a chance to play a form of 4th edition D&D with ready-made characters. So I decided to try it. This was part of Red Box Day, and we were playing an adventure that was only available to be run that day through official channels, Sun Peak Temple or something like that.

I bought the 4th edition rules not long after they came out, and as I read them I saw that it was a game that encourages cooperation, quite the opposite of any of the 3.x editions of D&D. It’s just about impossible to have a super soldier character the way you can in three.x. There are no one-man armies. In that respect it’s a return to 1st edition. Mechanically it has very little in common with previous versions of D&D, to the point that I have said it may be a good game, but it’s not D&D. My experience of playing confirmed that. While our party of six did not have a warlord, which is one of the types that most encourages cooperation, five of the six players were relatively cooperative.

The sixth was a 16-year-old (“nearly 17" he said, birthday three months hence) who played the game as though it was 3rd edition, that is, looking for every advantage he could get, trying for head shots (which don’t exist in 4th edition), trying to do ridiculous actions, constantly talking to the referee over the other players (my only criticism of the referee as if he didn’t stop that), and not caring a bit whether he was screwing up the enjoyment for the rest of us. Very “Me” generation. Not long into the adventure he pushed one of our prisoners into a burning tree when no one else was looking except another prisoner, and then tried to pretend he hadn’t done it, evidently believing that Good equals stupid. (At this point the referee confirmed that he had become evil.) We probably should have killed him then but we were softhearted. At another juncture, just after we spied through a big set of doors and had seen much opposition, and were trying to decide what to do about it, he charged down the corridor and opened another set of double doors thus releasing a large quantity of undead.

Which only proves that the mechanics of a role-playing game cannot really force somebody to behave in a certain manner.

In other respects the game is somewhat like World of Warcraft, lots of levels that people can go up quickly, lots and lots of options–three Players Handbooks so far, each with lots of character classes–but the fundamental essence of the game is cooperation which is exactly what I want in a role-playing game.

But only time will tell whether I try it anymore. I have gone back to reading the first Players Handbook at least.

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