Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Farewell 4E (for now, at least)

For various reasons, I'm taking a break from running and playing D&D 4E.  When it came out, it fixed a lot of the issues that I'd had with 3.5, taking the tactical combat that was already in 3.5 and adding balance and options for each class each turn.  But running and playing it recently has been bogged down by paper shuffling, grinding combats and the over profusion of classes, races and powers that have started to all feel muddied, muddled and way too similar.  I've plotted out two last sessions for my ongoing D&D campaign that will hopefully provide closure for the still open plot lines and I've accepted that it's time for my chaotic evil, touched by the stars, slightly psychopathic Ardent to slip out of the party and become an NPC villain where he'll be more effective.  Mostly it's burnout, 4E has been pretty much the only game I've run or played for the past 4 years since it came out.

But instead of dumping on 4E, I want to remember some of my favorite bits:

  • Goblins shifting after being missed with a melee attack.  The first time I used this in a game, I remember how surprised the players were and it was great to see that goblins/orcs/kobolds could be more than interchangeable low-level monster stat blocks but could have some flavor that played out in the combat.
  • Fighters with interesting combat options.  Clerics who could be more than heal-bombs.  After the constant who will play the Cleric fights of the 3.5 games I ran and played in, it was refreshing to see Clerics (and the other 4E leader classes) be able to heal and do other things in combat.  And having fighters with interesting options was another revelation.  In fact, I can't recall a time when anyone played a straight fighter character in our 3.5 games.
  • My barbarian Amleth.  Previous editions of D&D never provided me with a barbarian class that felt satisfying.  4E changed that.  The Daily Rage mechanic felt like one of the least forced of the daily powers and had the added bonus of being able to sack a daily rage power to make a Rage strike.  An option that was strangely not used for any other classes.  Some of my favorite D&D moments were being able to charge recklessly into the middle of the fight and lay waste with Amleth, letting the mechanics and powers of the class support a character driven goal to lead from the front lines and charge to and fro in the battle.
  • Hobbits.  I ran a fantastic one shot where the players all played inter-related Hobbits and discussed tookweed as they fought off ghouls and then I stole that schtick for a game I played in to have a trio of hobbit siblings who baffled the rest of the part as well as the enemies as we ran about enjoying ourselves in spite of the often dark and terrifying goings on around us.
Now, though, it's time for a change.  I'm already looking forward to my new REIGN campaign, and we'll see if I can convince my current D&D players to try out another game.


  1. Z.,
    Does that mean you are 'Out' of the D&D group once Sid goes full blown 'THE STARS ARE NOW RIGHT!'? I sincerely hope not as you are a fantastic player and we love having you in the group.

    1. Well, I will miss the next session to attend my GF's b-day bash, and so it might just be time to let Sid become an NPC villain. When I came up with the idea for him, I was picturing a nice slow burn, working my way into the party and becoming relied upon as a healer and corrupting them and bringing them over to the side of the Stars. Since I got caught up in the fun of going full blown crazy and had a necromancer companion to enable my full on descent, it's pretty clear that none of the rest of the party is going to come along on my crazy train. So with the party already doing as much as they can to avoid Sid's healing help and their out-of-character knowledge of his ultimate goals hard to keep out of their character actions, I think it's just time to let him go. Mechanically, it's been a struggle to make the character capable of what I'd like for him to do as well.

      But mostly, I just need a break from D&D and especially 4E.

  2. You forgot to mention how effin' luxurious it was to create encounters. The math balance brought some strange things to the game (seemingly identical classes and such) but behind the wheel... luxurious. You had a really good idea of how difficult an encounter would be, even if every enounter took an hour to run. No wasted prep time selecting spells for the villians. The online tools were a bit clunky but 4e made it a lot easier to be the DM in many ways.

    Three solid encounters didn't always mean you had a great session, but prep was pretty quick and easy. I was always able to make impromptu changes or new encounters with my stack of printouts and the wet erase mat. I can hardly imaging doing that with 3.5/Pathfinder.


Post-Apocalyptic Names

As I'm prepping to run a Godless mini-campaign, I wanted to have a good post-apocalyptic name table to draw from. The Apocalypse World...