In D&D 4th Edition, dungeon masters, or DMs, are freed from a good deal of the bookkeeping associated with the hobby in previous editions of the game, as the designers have streamlined the process for preparing adventures. Boxes of statistical information and extensive charts were once the norm, but now DMs can almost throw together an adventure on the fly. This philosophy has also lead to some radical changes in monster design. Just as players now have a fun trick or two up their sleeves, monsters now wield fantastic abilities that are wholly unique.
The possibilities these mechanical changes unlock are exciting in and of themselves. Nerds love to debate game mechanics, but what all this ultimately means for the player and the DM is more time focusing on more important things.
Combat moves so fluidly now, and the DM has so much less prep time to worry about, that the art of role-playing itself finally moves into the foreground of Dungeons & Dragons. Telling a compelling story, and having a ton of fun doing it, is ultimately the reason players sit down to game in the first place. What D&D 4th Edition represents is the chance to have fun with your friends without a ton of hassle, to immerse yourself in a fantasy world without working at it.
In fact, many of the mechanics are so easy to use that they remind players of what it feels like to play a massively multiplayer game. Wizards' Slavicsek has absolutely no problem with those comparisons, as all good games build on what has come before.
It seems that D&D has finally, finally shed most of its clunky rules but for me, it comes too late. The lawyering, number crunching, and game preparation were way out of hand. I've always stressed that Roleplaying games should just be that, about roleplaying and sadly the D&D folks never quite understood this until now. Most people don’t enjoy nor have the time to endlessly scourer the rules just to do the most basic tasks. Versatility and ease of story creation is the way to go and so it sounds like 4th edition would now finally provid that. It might actually attract new, non-geeky types… well probably not, but Wizards of the Coast can dream can’t they? It seems like 4th edition would be right up my alley.
The problem is I’m way too invested in 3.5 to upgrade. I bought tons of D&D and D20 books, looking for ideas and hoping the next volume would be the one to unlock the secret of easy and fun gameplay. Now I’ve got no one to blame but myself, but why would I do this? Well, I was sublimating my desire for a universal roleplaying game into the D20 system. It was the most prevalent RPG and I thought that it would provide more opportunities to actually sit down with somebody and game. I was wrong about that.
What I really wanted was a universal gamming system from Chaosium. I've always loved how their mechanics work in a simple but appropriate manner for their various games like Call of Cthulhu, and Stormbringer. Their core mechanic has a name, it’s called Basic Roleplaying or BRP but Chaosium hadn’t really pushed it as a universal gamming platform before except for a halfhearted attempt with Worlds of Wonder. So in my desire to fill the void, that Chaosium seemed unwilling to satisfy, I self medicated with 3.5 and D20.
It’s ironic that D&D 4th edition is being released at about the same time as Chaosium’s new Basic Roleplaying game. Finally, I’m getting the game I really want, and it’s not from Wizards of the Coast. Of course, Chaosium should have done this years ago but at least it’s happening at a time when I’m feeling particularly left out of the next big jump in RPG industry.
Basic Roleplaying the Chaosium System is rolling out to a store near you as I type this. But if you’re more of a PDF type of person, downloads are now available for purchase on the website. Dungeons & Dragons and Chaosuim have changed with the times even if both were very late to do so.
See basicroleplaying.net and basicroleplaying.com for info on BRP outside of Chaosium’s website.