Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I Finally Got to Play 4th Edition
Dungeons and Dragons


Well, I still like Savage Worlds Better. Part of that is probably the fault of the Character Sheet I was given, and another part of the fault may be Dungeon Master that was running the game, and part of that may be the rules system...but I'm not completely sure about the rules system part of the equation.

The game took place in the home of the same person that introduced me to the game back when Third edition was making the transition to three dot five. Their group has grown too big, and so they have decided that the thing to do, was to split the group and run two games. Both groups would be playing the same adventure and have the same encounters planned. The plan was for it to be a competition, and allow both groups to compare notes afterward for camaraderie.

I've been wanting to try 4th edition since its inception two years ago (2008), but that was about the time our regular D&D group stopped being regular, and then stopped altogether. I was actually excited about the game, and I talked it up with our Dungeon Master—He got the books and we never played (I felt bad about that, since they aren't exactly cheap, and he was having some employment issues at the time.).

I eventually got the books (Heavily discounted—a lot of people disliked the new edition so much that it became easy to find them cheap in the second hand market), and I finally got to bust them out Monday.

I didn't go into this completely blind. Granted, I haven't really had a chance to read the books, but I have listened to/watched several actual play recordings/videos that I found on the internet. It didn't seem terribly different—roll d20 to determine success or failure, roll other dice to determine damage, and every one has specialized skills that they can use with varying frequencies.

Having played 3rd edition and 3.5 edition, I should have been able to understand the character sheet, but I couldn't. Some of the acronyms made no sense to me, even after seven hours I still didn't get it. This is not the fault of the system, this character sheet was a custom one, created by the host for their regular group. The Regulars all seemed to understand the formulas. That was my first frustration.

The second thing that I found frustrating, was that the Dungeon Master was not terribly descriptive. For an example, in our first encounter we found ourselves in an arena being attacked by creatures. When I asked for a description, all I got was, "Green Humanoids." According to the Tournament Rules anyone could ask to do a Lore roll to see what they know about the creatures encountered, and when someone did that, depending on a measure of success he would read a portion of the description directly out of the Monster Manual. I just wasn't feeling terribly immersed in the world, it felt like the focus was more on the Game portion, rather than a balance of Game and Role Play. It went something like this:

Game Master Reads Some Story, then an encounter that was just an exercise in die rolling. No descriptions of the action. These figures on the Grid Surround these figures on the Grid, and every one just roll dice until the Game Masters figures are removed from the table. Role a die for loot and move on to the next encounter—which goes down in pretty much the same way, starting with the reading of some story.

I'm pretty sure that could mostly be attributed to the Game Masters abilities, and I'll cut him some slack, because I know from experience how difficult it is to run a game. I've done it quite frequently in the past year.

The part I will put more blame on the rules for, is the seeming lack of room for creativity. The encounters seemed to be an exercise in picking the Rule off of the Character sheet that would allow you to create the most damage with your die roll. It felt stifling and uncreative, and I was bored with it after two encounters. In the third encounter I wanted to do something that wasn't, "I hit it with my short sword."

My trying to do something creative with the rules at hand made me think of a line from Galaxy Quest:
"I know! You'll need to make a weapon. Look around; can you construct some sort of rudimentary lathe?"

In the second encounter I had picked up a bag of nails and a small hammer, and I was trying to come up with something creative when we were attacked by Giant Spiders. I decided to do something different than just hit it with my sword, I tried to jump on the spider's back. I failed, but I was close. When it came around to my turn again I had decided to tie my rope to one of the legs and then weave myself in and out of the legs and tie it to a tree. I succeeded, but it was dead as soon as I started to drag it toward a tree. I felt much more satisfaction from that than the previous encounters, and I continued to look for opportunities to pull off such maneuvers in the remaining encounters, but the rules don't seem to award that sort of thinking.

To me it felt as though you'd be less likely to pull that sort of creative move off (one of the other players in the upstairs game tried to use the bag of nails in a creative way and the Game Master disallowed such an action), and you'll be less likely to take an enemy down through creative tactics, than if you just pick one of your encounter powers and roll the dice accordingly; I fully admit it might just be my lack of familiarity with the rules that make it seem so, it also could be that the lack of description made it feel like we were playing with  figs in an empty space, just us versus the monsters in a board game sort of way—rather than feeling like we were adventurers battling for our life in a fantastic and strange land—which made it difficult for me to creatively use the space tactically.

Don't get me wrong, I had fun, and the game wasn't that bad—I think I just have different expectations than this group of players.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting.
    I like Savage Worlds better, mostly because I feel like I actually understand it. I'm not confused all the time.