Friday, June 8, 2012

Breaking up with Dungeons & Dragons 4.0

Breaking up with Dungeons & Dragons 4.0

This is a digression from the standard hobby and war gaming content that you normally see on this site but sometimes different topics are interesting to read.  I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was ten years old (25 years ago) and I got my start in fantasy when I made an “elf” named Wolfbrother back in the red Basic Set for D&D.  After my first game of D&D I rolled up another elf character named Sylvos and twenty-five years later he is still my mainstay in every game I play.  I think my love of fantasy started when I was in 3rd grade and read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit followed by Sir Walter Scott’s grand novel Ivanhoe in 5th grade.  It was then that I began to read series like the Lord of the Ring, the Wheel of Time, the King Arthur legends, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone`, the Eternal Champion and finally the nail in the coffin that cemented not only my love of fantasy and entrance into D&D but also fully developed the theme and concept behind my favorite character to play (Sylvos); I read R.A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard. 

I think R.A. Salvatore had the biggest impact on my early years of fantasy because it’s been 24 years and I still play dual wielding elven rangers as often as I can in any game system or video game I come across.  I only played the red boxed set for a few months before I went out and purchased the “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook” for 1st edition followed by the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.  It was then that I fully threw myself into the world of Dungeons and Dragons; I would absorb every bit of lore and information and read every single novel they published.  My gaming group would be pitted against every type of horror imaginable as we played a game that we enjoyed.  When 2nd edition D&D rolled around there was a sudden disappearance of Angels, Demons and Devils and the appearance of Seraphim, Ta’nari and Baatezu.  My friends and I shifted to the “newer” system which modified the old school “THAC0” (To Hit Armor Class Zero) mechanic and where Paladins and Rangers could only group with good or neutral characters and the Assassin and Monk disappeared from the game and lore (for those of you who remember – when Bhaal the Lord of Murder – and also my favorite god in Forgotten Realms besides Malar was slain by Cyric all the Assassins in the world just “died” – lol?).  It was during this era of Dungeons and Dragons when we had our first “troubles” and I began to stray from the beaten path of fantasy and started experimenting with this new system called the d10 system.  I started to play Vampire the Masquerade and Werewolf the Apocalypse in late high school and college, and D&D began to take a backseat in our gaming as I began to finally branch out in games I played.  It was also at this time I started to play MUDs (Multi-user domains for those of you who never had to log into telnet to access internet boards or access “pine” to get into your email). 

There was one mud that became my favorite and that was Sojourn (also known as torilmud).  It was from here that my involvement in MMO’s would begin years later and the birth of my virtual Sylvos would begin.  Through MUDs and MMO’s like Everquest, I could get my “fantasy roleplaying” in and also enjoy the visual representation of seeing my character and fighting monsters first hand.  I believe it was this shift in my gaming that led me to playing miniature war games.  I needed something to fill that social and gaming itch that wasn’t online yet I didn’t want to sit down and spend time playing a game system that I didn’t like.  With the introduction of 3rd edition D&D and its later predecessor 3.5E, my Dungeons and Dragon’s interest was renewed once again.  The d20 gaming system and the OGL that Wizards of the Coast had, provided an explosion of not only game systems but also campaign settings.  It was during this time that my tabletop gaming and online gaming dominated my free time and war gaming took a back seat.  It was during this time that the existing campaign settings like Forgotten Realms were provided numerous expansions chock full of lore, prestige classes and feats which only fed the desire to amass enough RPG books to permanently bow every shelf in every bookcase in my house.  I think it was during this time that my role playing book collection went from taking up maybe half a bookcase in a spare bedroom to filling almost eight bookcases over the course of 5 years.   This era of D&D gave birth to dozens of campaigns and hundreds of characters.  I would sit at home (and sometimes work) spending hours generating themed characters or min-maxed combos to either post on forums or play in games.  Epic campaigns like War of the Spider Queen, Rappun Athuk, Judge’s Guild the Wilderlands, the Empire of Shade, Shackled City, Age of Worms, Ptolus and many others would eat up months upon months of our time where we would meet once a week or sometimes even twice if our spouses permitted it.  It was during this time that Dungeons and Dragons was the king of its licensing and dominated the spare time of my gaming group. 

When they announced 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, I was very excited.  The new system was unlike anything I had ever seen with its class archetypes, powers and dedicated roles.  I fully enjoyed playing 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, it had dedicated progression, the issues that I had with the previous edition had been remedied; the tiered system for class progression was exciting.  Monsters and players having types associated with them in order to build balanced parties and encounters just made sense to me.  Magic weapons and armor not being as important where as in the previous edition they essentially made or broke your character.  4th edition Dungeons and Dragons to me was an absolutely well made system that I had very few issues with except for the complete reboot of my favorite campaign setting Forgotten Reams.  I understood why Wizards of the Coast did what they did but it really upset me to see four shelves full of Forgotten Realms books from previous editions now not only obsolete but meaningless since they progressed the story line a thousand years and destroyed the world. 

I played a few campaigns and even ran one in 4th edition and after a while I realized that while I liked the system and the way the game was designed, I did not enjoy playing the game.  It was during this time that I had also stopped playing MMO’s and had all but abandoned anything that wasn’t war gaming relating.   I started to seek out games that coincided content wise with Warhammer 40k and Fantasy.  I played in a few Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader games and really enjoyed the setting but the system just didn’t seem to work for me (an issue I’ll mention during the actual Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Review).  Going back to D&D, I had stopped playing MMO’s and it was then that I realized that 4.0 D&D was like playing a pen and paper MMO.  You had four archetypes that the party really needed to have in order to be balanced and each archetype fulfilled a specific roll in the party.  While this mechanic is fine and works well for the system that has been developed the system revolved primarily around combat and to be quite honest, I wanted something different. 

I decided to take a break from Dungeons and Dragons when I discovered Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3.0.  Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is unlike any other system I have played before.  I will be providing an evaluation of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay system in a follow up post soon.  But for now, D&D and I are going to see other people.

That is at least…until 5th edition comes out! J