Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Adventures in Roleplaying

Well, the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons is out and the majority of reviews have been very positive. Wired Magazine’s take is quite good, here’ s a section:

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 and for info on BRP outside of Chaosium’s website.



Arkonbey said...

"I bought tons of D&D and D20 books"

Of course, now they want you go buy tons of 4.0 books. How many of us have old AD&D books that, while nice to look at, are totally useless with 3.5?

It's all academic for me as the only guy I'd let run a game for me is 250 miles away.

Dr. Zaius said...

I never liked D&d or video games. I am such a party pooper. **sigh**

Swinebread said...

Arkonbey – True, true. I guess you could still run AD&D lots of folks do.

Zaius – It’s not for everybody, I guess but there might be other games you could like… there are lots of genres and different rules nowadays.

Dr. Zaius said...

I am afraid that I don't like games as a rule. Perhaps I am anti-social! Although, I do play chess with my sister on the internet... Maybe there is hope for me yet!

Dean Wormer said...

Apparently there's going to be a way to play this online.


Randal Graves said...

I sort of followed the updates at ENworld, and I like the idea of inherent powers/skills for magic-using types (low-level wizards in the old days really were useless for the most part), but the impression I'm getting is that converting from 3/3.5 to 4 isn't all that easy (although one could definitely make an educated attempt). Would suck if you've invested a lot of time.

Overdroid said...

I played my first 4th game last Sunday and I'm playing again tonight. It is very fun and all the stuff about ease of play are true, however the game is SOOOO different that it is like playing another game. My DM bought us all copies of the players guide and I still haven't even read all of it. I just can't bring myself to read another rules set. I did read the section on my race and class though (I'm a human fighter with a flail). Also this first edition doesn't lend itself to unusual character builds and I'm concerned in my attempt to create a non-standard smart/tactical fighter may have gimped my character, especially once I start advancing in levels. We'll see. I'm also excited about BRP. Did you get the PDF? ASAP? WTF?

Swinebread said...

dr. zaius - well you like classic comic books so that's cool.

dean - WotC is going for a MMPG feel with the new version

randal – with a name like 3.5 I should have known that D&D was gonna change and change soon. I’m just surprised at the amount of product they put out despite the fact that they new 4th was coming so soon.

OD – You’ll have to blog about your 4th edition D&D game. I want to here all the details that you have time to post about.

I ordered BRP a while ago before it was delayed, so I’m not sure if my ordered went through it or not. I don’t want a PDF for the main rulebook, but it’s nice to see that it’s available for folks that want it.