4e D&D Plays Like a Video Game, and That’s Awesome.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent a decent bit of time here inside the D&D hive mind. After 26 years, 20 of those so far have been well spent playing a myriad of video games. So in turn my views on gaming and more specifically Dungeons and Dragons may be of the minority within this community. I’d like you to lend me your ears whilst I show you my side of the story.

I started playing D&D with 2nd edition during high school and have played every iteration since then, just recently I have widened my RPG horizons a bit by trying both Dragon Age and Gamma World. That being said I am no newcomer to RPG’s and do at least have a solid base understanding for what “old school” and “classic” are considered to be within our realm of hobby entertainment. However at the same time I have multiple definitions for those words and find it a bit unsettling that so much disambiguation often goes into defining these terms. Is only one definition of ‘classic’ allowed to fit into tabletop RPG’s?

Though not all always, there are plenty of blogs and personalities out there on the internet that claim that video game elements inside D&D are a bad, bad thing. Some do it boisterously, and some not so much. Though I won’t go too far into detailing these thoughts, I’m sure most of you are familiar with them. I don’t see the problem with D&D emulating WoW or other games, in fact I embrace it.

A Bit of History

Let’s keep in mind I didn’t’ grow up with red box, He Man, or incense choked rooms filled with graph paper, lead miniatures and dominoes forming makeshift dungeon walls. I grew up with Xbox, Mega Man, Nintendo and the Internet. I grew up with movies that had high production values and awesome special effects, so I suppose my imagination has been ‘spoiled’ by things I’ve already seen in these places.

To my generation our gaming “roots” are 8 bit Nintendo controllers, keyboards, and the horrible screech of dial up modems. Games like Hexen, Zelda, Diablo, Half Life and dare I even say World of Warcraft have all contributed to potential girlfriend loss and late nights of unhealthy binge eating/drinking/smoking while gaming – just like our pencil & paper gaming forefathers.

Let’s face it, the RPG biz isn’t exactly mimicking Hollywood or the video game industry in scope, canon or profit margins so keeping a customer base requires extra effort. Doing so means either re-enticing old players or drawing new ones in. Being that the latter seems to be the easier route to travel, it only makes sense to throw in some more popular gaming mechanics and tropes in order to familiarize the content for a younger audience. After all new players aren’t drawn to the hobby, it will die with us.

“Role Playing *Game*”

Let’s take for example the infamous martial daily powers, the argument against them is that there’s no way a character should ‘forget’ how to perform such feats and so they make no sense. To me these reflect powers from WoW that had extremely long cooldown times because in an MMO the cooldown time on certain abilities was made in efforts to balance the game, not enhance it’s realism. If an in-game reasoning is absolutely needed then perhaps the power is so straining or opportunistic that perhaps it could only be pulled off once a day, however I don’t find explanations like this necessary because D&D is in fact – a game.

Which brings me to the basis of my argument, which goes far beyond marketing implications. What I’m trying to say is that by putting video game elements into RPG’s we can potentially provide more fun, dynamics and balance. Yes ‘spamming’ abilities over and over isn’t ‘realistic’ or ‘classic’ when compared to the ancestry of tabletop RPG’s, nor is the high fantasy scheme that now vastly dominates the once primarily medieval fantasy setting. These mechanics that mirror video games are consumable, and for a lot of us easy to comprehend due intrinsically to their video game origins.

How more ‘realistic’, simulationist or plausible game elements and/or mechanics are elevated above those that exist solely to make the game more fun, is a notion I don’t quite grasp. Just because something isn’t cleanly represented as an in-game happening doesn’t mean it has no place, because once again we are discussing, a game.

Plausibility, the Only Recipe for Fun?

Puzzles and traps for instance, are always very guarded topics regarding dungeon ecology, purpose, placement, reasoning and functionality. The chess trap in Resident Evil 0, or the cake puzzle from the 7th Guest, gauntlets full of traps and monsters from Quake and Hexen were all quite memorable, and for good reason. These games, all critically-acclaimed, were riddled with traps and obscure puzzles that were totally out of place from a realist standpoint.The point of them was the fun and challenge they offered, not the faint logic that surrounded them.

Within healing surge mechanics I see video games far and wide: a bandage, some pills or item of food that replenishes health and heals those bullet wounds and lacerations right up! Sure it doesn’t make much sense and is far from realism, but it helps the game flow along nicely. I do understand hit points are abstract and that there are a ton of plausible ways to view healing surges from an in-game perspective if there is a need for such thing, but I truly don’t think there is.

What this all boils down to is that I do believe that Gaming is, at its core, a means of entertaining ourselves, and it is unreasonable to dismiss or undermine mechanics that emphasize this goal simply because they do not fit the simulationist or narrativist paradigm. I think I speak for the majority when I declare that we play games to have fun. I’m not trying to dole out prescriptive statements here, but merely articulate a different, equally-valid perspective on games and game design that is under-represented in discussions about roleplaying games.

Author: Dread Gazebo

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46 Comments

  1. I think you raise a good point about the different eras of gamers. In our group, the older pencil & paper generation have NOT taken to D&D4e in a BIG way, whereas the generation you identify with has completely embraced it. The issue has been quite divisive and we’ve had to switch to a variety of games to keep everyone happy. I think the main issue the older generations have with 4e is that they feel a bit betrayed or that 4e has abandoned its roots whereas the younger generation feels comfortable in the new changes as they are familiar with the concepts that have been adopted (as you clearly identify). Understanding the player’s gaming generation does go a long way to helping understand how people react to 4e… :)

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    • Thank you! Very well put and while there is this great divide and I’m sure it’s not going to go away anytime soon I think it’s good that we all just understand one another from the perspective of a generational standpoint.

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  2. I’m one of those old gamers who grew up with graph paper, and to be frank I am really bad at computer games and cRPGs leave me shaking my fist in frustration at their restrictiveness (or WASD controls).

    But I agree.

    The elements of 4E that have such clear ties to computer games are a boon to the game, and for me, who did start with that Red Box back in ’84, those things in no way detract from the game. Heck the thing that bugs me most about 4E is taken directly from 3E – Opportunity Attacks.

    I like spamming my at-wills, and doing cool stuff with my encounter and daily powers.

    I grok 4E.

    Nothing in its rules stops my having a compelling narrative for my games, and frankly it is a game I play because it is high fantasy. If I wanted a simulation I was never going to look at DnD, it has always been terrible at simulating reality. Simulating reality isn’t why I play RPGS.

    So yes I am quite happy with the original 4E design goals and the adoption of concepts from computer games that will make the game more accessible to those who grew up with those concepts.

    Now can we roll some dice and kill some orcs?

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    • Heck yes we can! Honestly the simplicity of 4e and the way I could tie it in to video game references are probably one of the biggest reasons my wife ever got into D&D.

      I think had I attempted to show her an older version it may have been too arcane or inaccessible for her, not to mention entirely off her radar. 4e made that possible, we made her a gnome sorcerer that I tied descriptions and explanations explicitly to her gnome mage from WoW and now I have a kickass gamer wife, what more could a man ask for?

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  3. You make some very valid points :-) I have heard many a gamer mention the similarities between 4th edition and WoW. I think my husband’s biggest complaint is that, by introducing so many mechanics that are similar to video games, the game becomes much more focused on combat, and much less focused on characters. It’s very easy for a 4e campaign to end up as so many strung-together-combat-scenes. For our first few games we really struggled to include role-playing, because so much of the mechanics lent themselves to “bash in the door and fight” type scenarios.

    However, with more practice, we are getting better :-) For example, my Saturday game is highly RP-centric, even though it’s 4e. It’s a conscious effort I make in session design, but I have to admit that I’m lucky to have the group of players that I do! They’re all wonderful girls who are really excited about the role-playing aspect of the game, so they’re trying to RP, too.

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    • See the mechanics do aid to combat, I won’t dispute that but saying that it takes from RP I’ll never understand because RP is, and always will be dependent on the group and what they make of it.

      To me the 4e rules providing mainly just that – rules – is great because it leaves you free to create your own non-combat experiences :-)

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  4. I’m with you on the 4e/WoW mechanical borrowing. You’re right: The point of gaming is to have fun with friends. Whatever framework you use for that (LAN Party, D&D, Board games, Beer Pong, etc.) is secondary to having fun. Video game roots or not, 4e is another useful tool in your gamer chest, and I’m peachy with that.

    Since the point of gaming is having fun, it kills me to have rules or philosophy debates online. Rule Zero, folks: Your game, your fun, do what you will to the rules.

    And I think that’s why old-timers (like me) have a harder time with 4e – the rules codify more of the game so there’s less wiggle room for doing offbeat things. Not to say it’s gone, it’s just harder to find. Even in 3e, you could pick feats and class powers from across several books and make a unique combination that really fit your character. Want a halfling Priest of Ptok (the god of improvised thrown weapons) who uses rocks as holy symbols and throws them as his main weapon? Done. It was easy to crank out new feats and change the rules as you wanted. With 4e, there’s less opportunity to do that.

    Not only that, the emphasis has been taken off Rule Zero. In earlier games, most rule books led with something akin to “these rules are guidelines, change them as needed for your enjoyment”. That’s just not true with 4e. Even the 3e PHB has “Check with your DM for house rules” as step 0 of character creation. With 4e, the attitude changed to “these are the rules, suck it up”. That’s a very video game attitude – you’re in this well-defined environment so your options are limited to the bounds of the video games/RPG ruleset.

    Not to say there’s not innovation happening and house rules being enforced, it’s just not encouraged by the rulebooks any more. And that sticks in my crusty-old-gamer craw.

    Thanks, I think I have a post fleshed out for my own blog now…

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    • Definitely rule number 0 should be the rule of cool aka the rule of fun! I do believe 4e leaves things like house rules and such as being merely implied but I never took it as something along the lines of ‘suck it up’ though I can see that perception.

      I think the 4e rule books stuck exactly to being just that and mostly nothing more – a collection of core rules where much of the customization and house ruling was never mentioned but not necessarily ruled out.

      I do see where you’re coning from though, 4e might not provide as wacky an example as you’ve provided (epic though, lol) but there is a lot of versatility there.

      Thanks for the comment man!

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    • Past editions allowed and encouraged houserules and frankly needed to. Sure you could make a wide variety of characters, but without some bending of the rules those characters wouldn’t really work in combat. In 4th Edition it’s very easy to find and reflavor a class to fill a concept, and feats and powers to go with it, and still be on par with everyone else in a fight. Not that fighting is all or even more of what 4E is about. Yes, there are lots of rules about it, but then roleplaying (which is not the opposite of combat, by the way) doesn’t really need complex rules.

      4th Edition does have a “rule 0.” It’s called “Yes, and…” and it’s mentioned several times in the DMGs. Say yes to what you and the players want to do. Make it happen.

      As for the videogame resemblance, first of all, I disagree that the game isn’t realistic. It’s not Earth-normal realistic, but it can very accurately simulate the kind of cinematic action and adventure I want to be playing. My character can take a beating, fall, and get back up under his own power, or because his ally is shouting at him. My character is capable of astounding feats, but the best of them he only applies every so often. Why? Mainly because it’s exciting and cinematic not to just blaze away with a character’s Wave Motion Gun, but I tend to go with what DG suggested: they’re opportunistic. That explanation allows some narrative and descriptive control to be handed over to the players, which I think more games need.

      It could be that video games are actually part of what help me think this way. I knew that my original Final Fantasy characters weren’t actually standing in a line, stepping forward and waggling their weapons to attack. They were actually getting into a viscious melee, but I knew that my Nintendo couldn’t show me that. Table top games can’t really do that either, and piles of rules intended to simulate that only make things worse. It’s better to allow the players to abstract the actions their characters are taking and fill in their own descriptions. 4th Edition does this better than any edition of D&D, and better than most RPGs I’ve seen so far, and not just in combat but with many other aspects of the games, including skills and NPCs.

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    • I think the apparent lack of Rule 0 as you put it isn’t a matter of a change in design philosophy in 4e, but rather a failure in presentation in the 4e material. The attitude of making a game your own is quite prevalent in 4e, it’s just not made as obvious as it perhaps should be in the 4e PHB. The Player’s Strategy Guide, which imo is mostly useless save for the first quarter or so of the book, does start off with the first step to designing a character being check with the DM for house rules or setting restrictions. The DMG dedicates quite a bit to altering the feel of the game to a different genre style as well as a fairly good albeit short section on how to make house rules and considerations you should take into account while doing so.

      This, like most complaints about how 4e is too far removed from older editions isn’t because the system or attitude is different, but because it is presented slightly differently so the perceived emphasis is different.

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      • I think that’s a pretty spot on analysis Jim, I definitely see a lot of the issues as being ones based on perceptions. Thanks for stopping in and commenting :-)

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  5. I’m one of the older gamers, having started with the basic Red Box. I honestly never gave 4th edition a chance, and here’s why: It had nothing to do withe rules. I never saw the rules. I was boycotting WotC. They discontinued my favorite magazines, Dungeon and Dragon, turned the good content on their site into a paid subscription, dumped all support for my favorite game at the time (3E), and with the rumors of 4E being an entirely different game, I realized all my game settings and adventurers were to be obsolete.

    I felt left out in the cold. They handled the switch-over very poorly.

    Years later, I find myself happily playing Pathfinder and now Gamma World. The wound has healed. I think I’ll actually grab myself the Red Box or even the Essentials and see if I might be missing something. I’m looking to start a virtual Skype game, so something like this might be just what I’m looking for.

    -Carl

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    • I’m absolutely stoked to hear this! I can imagine how you felt and when 4e hit a lot of people felt the same I think. I got into 4e after a long break and really the changes are what drew me back in.

      Im glad to hear those wounds have healed and there is another potential 4e player in our midst! Cheers!

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  6. Hey man. The post was insightful, and truth be told I agree with almost everything you say here. I love D&D and my commitment is to the hobby more than any particular set of rules, and D&D is the face of that hobby. Oh, and you suck.

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    • Awesome, thanks. You forgot to ask me a riddle though and now im highly disappointed ;(

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  7. I find dailies and encounters to be more narrative than some sort of video game mechanic…

    I grew up playing D&D before the redbox… I played atari 2600 and grew up as video games grew… and so did paper and dice games.

    Voltron didn’t form his blazing sword 2 seconds into the fight to split the robeast in half… he could have but didnt…

    wait that might not be old enough… Ultraman didnt kick monster butt till his chest started blinking

    Superman can use his eye beams all the time but doesnt

    Characters in stories have signature moves that they do all the time, some of the time or rarely.

    Iron Man has an encounter attack called Uni beam and an at will ranged attack called Repulsor Blast… in addition to a daily utility called… Roller Skates.

    Could he use roller skates at will? probably, but the story has him not.

    — yes I know not all of Iron Man’s armor had the awesome roller skates —

    You can read a lot of pulp fiction, like conan and see similar thing trends. They might not be as obvious as superheroes or scifi powers but you can make the same analogies.

    Tarzan has and at will Knife attack… he has Vine Swing encounter utility… he has a daily call of the wild attack power where he summons the whole fing jungle

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    • This is a really great take on things, never thought of them this way. Thanks for dropping by!

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    • This makes my day. I really enjoy 4e, but Daily and Encounter Powers are for me potentially the most believability-breaking and arbitrary part of the game. I’ve been able to see past it and get into it despite that by taking an attitude similar to what you’re expressing here, but this is the first time I’ve heard it expressed so eloquently. I officially don’t need to think about it any longer. Thank you!

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      • Wow, awesome and thank you for stopping by. I hope this comment isn’t someone just trying to be a smart ass, lol.

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  8. First of all, nice post. I think you stumbled on a major point here and that’s one of balance. WoW, Starcraft, and Myth The Fallen Lords (Bungie) were some of the most well-balanced video games I’ve played.

    D&D 4e balances the classes very well and this is another reason why the mechanics are written as such. D&D 3e and 3.5 had some glaring imbalances between the classes and min/maxing was rampant.

    I’m not going to say I’m a fan of healing surges but I get why they made it into the rules. I agree that rule zero is the most important rule and a good DM can make any version seem fun.

    If I wanted a truly “combat realistic” high-fantasy game I’d bust out my Rolemaster books. Combat took FOREVER but having an entire table for each weapon, or page after page of critical hit result tables is pretty crazy and fun in its own right.

    Keep up the good work Mr. Gazebo. I look forward to more insightful posts.

    P.S. Gauntlet rocks! “Elf needs food badly.” Too much fun.

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  9. Just wanted to throw in that I also strongly agree with what you’re saying here. (In fact, I wrote a similar article a year or two back.)

    One of the big things with me though is that this isn’t new to 4e. Maybe the direct influences are new, but Hit Points has ALWAYS seemed video-gamey to me, even though they predated video games. In fact, modern video games probably took it from D&D. It’s just more directly visualized there, whereas D&D encourages you to do mental hoops to make it work.

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    • Heh, well I accredit my re hashing the past on the subject here to only having gotten back into 4e earlier this year (march). Wasn’t trying to pull any stunts other than maybe help add some soap to the bucket that might wash away the bad video game stigma from 4e.

      I think most video games take from RPG’s to be perfectly honest, most of them came first and even then – some of the very first RPG computer games were D&D licensed titles. I don’t think it gets much more obvious than that.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a few good words, it’s an honor to know someone of such high caliber in the D&D arena has actually read my blog! :-)

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  10. I really don’t have anything interesting or insightful to add. I think I’ve said my piece and had it misunderstood enough in a variety of other places. After two years of playing 4E, I am right here with you and agree with your point. Its just that I don’t like it. Its not what I want from my RPG. And, that’s okay. The trouble is that some people who don’t like it take it personally and say “the game is broken” instead of “the game went in a direction I don’t care for.” And some people who do like it don’t like the suggestion that the game system can encourage or emphasize a certain play experience or feel because “its an RPG so you can do anything.” Well, to a certain extent you can, but there is also a point where it becomes easier to adopt a system that is closer to your desires. I said the same in discussion of Intended Experience in my Gamma World review. Built into every game (RPG or otherwise), there is a way the designers expect the game to played. That’s what keeps the design focus and cohesive and it guides design decisions. Play too far outside of those expectations and your mileage may vary. A lot.

    All in all, I’ve come to realize the new design direction isn’t one that I care for (perhaps it is a generational thing; I can call myself a grognard). But I’m not so foolish as to call it a bad design or to call it broken. 4E is well put together and it seems to achieve its goals. Its fun and balanced and I will play it occasionally for the experience it provides. And I am inclined to believe that it was a conscious design choice to “video game it up” and that it was a smart move, even if it leaves me feeling like an old grumpy puss. After all, D&D (and, by extension WotC) lives or dies on the ability to attract new gamers not keep old ones. Yeah, keeping the old players around is good too, but if you can’t have it both ways, you try to bring in the new blood. Its just good business sense. Honestly, I don’t even think WotC even failed to draw on the old blood. They kept a lot of the design intentions behind 3rd Edition (universal mechanics, same basic archetypes and world, and so on), but they did a lot of polish and cut a lot of dead wood.

    I’m not running my campaigns in 4E anymore, at least not for a while, but that’s not because the game is broken, bad, or poorly designed and I’m not mad at WotC for “killing my game”. 4E works, it works well, and its a fun system. But it is a system for a new generation and I’m an old codger.

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    • Well Angry, that was a blog post all by itself and a pretty good one I might add. I like your stance on this, mainly because you’re not BS’ing anyone including yourself. It takes a lot to call oneself and old codger, I salute you.

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  11. I’m glad WotC took the approach they did. I’d wager 4e is much more accessible to teens now than 3e was when it came out. Hopefully this accessibility will grow the hobby (is it just me or has that become a buzzphrase?).

    I play 4e and the streamlined combat is fun. I like the fact that a 1st level wizard has more to do than throw darts for 85% of a combat. I like that a cleric doesn’t have to be a healbot. I like the cinematic effect that encounters and dailies add.

    But, something is missing. During character creation I spend more time choosing feat tracks, powers, and balancing stats than I can ever remember doing in previous versions and less time wondering how my character grew up.

    Of course, it’s my choice. I could have spent the same amount of time working out the village where I grew up, how I learned the bow and what twist of fate led me to the adventurer’s life, and blown through my stats, powers and feats rather than the other way around. But, I’d miss more frequently, fail more saving throws, and generally not live up to the heroic future I’d dreamt of for my character.

    4e is a system designed for efficiency. It’s filled with clever mechanics, checks and balances, and character choices in a way none of the other D&D systems were.

    Because of this fine-tuning, the consequences of a sub-optimal character are more obvious than the consequences of a bland backstory and if I have a limited amount of time to spend on a 4e character, mechanical choices end up getting more consideration than backstory ones.

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    • I can agree with this, it does seem a lot more time spent (for me, and my group at least) is spent tweaking things like this and back stories come as a product of those choices we made mechanically. It is definitely the way the game is presented, as mentioned alot recently it seems that WotC just left out things about role playing as it was assumed people already knew this, maybe it would serve them well to make a release about the ins and outs of role playing and sprucing up peoples 4e games?

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  12. Early D&D also had videogame influences. Zork, Colossal Cave, Dragon’s Lair, even Gauntlet were all around during the 80s. The problem with making a tabletop game run too much like a videogame… is that a videogame usually does it better and faster. So taking ideas or themes is one thing, but when you start making your mechanics emulate a videogame I think you’re on the wrong track. We used to joke about running a ‘gauntlet’ style game back in the day… but madly clicking that button is a lot more fun than furiously rolling the d20. :)

    The game I ran on the weekend had a couple of WoW gamers in it who said the reason they didn’t like 4e was that if they wanted that they’d just play WoW.

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  13. The above is quite a nice essay, but much of it does revolve around the idea that D&D is a game. Which it is… kinda, sorta.

    In earlier times it was always more of a “game”, which was the best word available. It wasn’t just any game but a “role-playing game”, it needed clarification that it was different than other games. When introduced to people, it was always “well, it’s a *game*, but not like any other game.” Because there wasn’t a way to win, and no competition, and no score.
    In short, it’s a “game” in italics.

    Things have blurred as the diversity of games has exploded over the past 40 years, with new board games and video games and CCGs and the like. All the while, D&D has been pulling inspiration from all three, so it’s now very much a game. Not a “game” like the Sims but a game like Warcraft. It’s much less a big box of variable & modular rules and ideas with the push to make it your own, but instead a codified rule set with a built-in play style.

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  14. In absolute agreement with what you’ve said in this article.

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    • I should elaborate. I started D&D with the basic red box the same year I got my NES (not my first console, as I had been a proud owner of Mattel’s Intelevision). I’ve played all the iterations of D&D as well as many other rpgs through the years, as well as remaining a casual video game player. I think both industries have influenced each other over their lifdspans, with positive evolutionry results. In the end, all tabletop games and video games are both simulationist and cenematic to one degree or another, and the cross polination of ideas between them has and will continue to produce better games as a result.

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  15. I was an avid 1e D&D player, then went on hiatus until some coworkers talked me into trying out 3e. I enjoyed the gaming again, but found myself struggling with the D20 system. I’m a math geek, and the world tends to work in bell curves, not flat distributions, and I hated how “random” things were with the d20. A “1” was as likely as a “10” as likely as a “20”, yet the outcomes of those were all quite different.

    I tested retrofitting a “d10+d12″ combo instead of a d20 (where the 10 and 12 respectively were counted as zeros, giving you a 0-20 “curve” – really just a linear peak). It *almost* fixed things, but threw other things out of whack, like DCs for skills and so on. 3.5e improved some of the awkward combat bits, but I was already losing interest by the time 4e came out, since it was still d20 based.

    So here is my plea to you: What is another good fantasy game system that has a more “natural” (read: invisible/”least surprise”/realistic) mechanic to it? I really enjoy the ROLE playing more than the ROLL playing, but I need my ROLLs to not have me going “Oh come ON!” all the time. Anything that works like a bell curve (meaning most rolls are normal, and exceptional rolls are exceptional) would be appreciated. It’s a fine line to walk between simple/elegant and realistic/complex, but I want to do better than stock d20…

    Thanks!
    (PS I also tested another d20 replacement where you roll 3 of them each time and take the middle value. That does a curve too, but I’ve never heard a system that is based on this mechanic)

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    • I would suggest the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin, it uses the AGE system which uses 3d6 as the core rolling mechanic, it also has a very “old school” feel to it. http://www.greenronin.com/dragon_age/

      Beyond that I can’t give you much more advice as I mainly play D&D and have only dabbled in Dragon Age and other RPG’s (though I’m working to fix that). Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  16. I think discussions like these always invite a common confusion. Proponents of the change from 3E (or 3.5E) to 4E generally feel that the game got “better”, whereas opponents argue they liked it the way it was and they don’t welcome the change. The argument then goes into stacking up the improvements vs. bemoaning the loss of the “originality” or beloved quirks of the old version.

    What people seem to be missing is you could have the cake and eat it. Nothing stopped WotC from releasing a new game based on the same IP and still maintaining D&D 3.5E, ultimately even releasing a “classic” 4E. Sure, that new game would compete with its old self and it shouldn’t bear the name “Dungeons and Dragons” (but they could have called it “D&D Adventures” or whatever works in the marketing department). I don’t think competing with yourself is that much of a problem if the end result is selling more product overall.

    What they ended up with is another company making away with the old game (Paizo’s excellent Pathfinder) and D&D losing quite a bit of its luster with many of its older players. I can’t help thinking that WotC would have been better off holding on to that valuable community and building a new one on a new, but similar game – that’s better or worse depending on your preference.

    Still, the old D&D heritage seems to be in good hands with Paizo. And I just stopped calling it “D&D”. We now talk about “back in the days, when Pathfinder was called D&D”.

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    • It’s funny the way things work. Being an old schooler from way back, I remember when 3.0 came out. There was nearly as much moaning and gnashing of teeth as when 4E came out. It was the original “TETSNBN”. The Edition That Shall Not Be Named. It’s every bit as much a departure from “the D&D heritage” that 4E is. Had 2E had a similar OGL to 3.0, the same thing would have happened to 3.0 that happened to 4E. If you want to play D&D, you have to buy a TSR product (Or Castles & Crusades). Otherwise, you can play a more modern facsimile of D&D with Pathfinder or 4E. Neither one is really D&D to those of around when they were released, but both are great games in their own right.

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  17. Yes I grew up in the video game era, but I myself started d&d near the end of 2nd edition, loved it. then 3.0/3.5 came out I gave it a try enjoyed it then decided to blow it away when my fellow gamers have every damn class min/maxed (10th lvl characters doing 800 points of damage), I thought only one word for this “BROKEN”. 4e came out and took to it like 2nd edition. so many aspects I have read about and definitely more playable. It’s like advanced advanced dungeons and dragons. I am sure there are ways to min/max this edition as well, hopefully not so ridiculously “overpowered”. I may not have made any points, just my opinion.

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  18. Hmm, when I first read 4E I didn’t think “video game” at all; I thought “miniatures wargame”. I was a miniatures wargamer before discovering RPGs and to me 4E is a skirmish wargame with chunks of D&D bolted on to disguise it as something else. I was thrilled to see that they finally killed off the crappy “Vancian” spell-slot magic system. I always hated that mechanic. In addition I think that AEDU is a fantastic design concept. However, I just can’t stop thinking of it as a miniatures wargame, like Malifaux or something.

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    • I suppose that’s another way of looking at it. I mainly went from this angle because the RPG community was always so up at arms in comparing 4e to WoW. It’s not my game of choice anymore but this piece still stands.

      Thanks for dropping in and reading, and commenting!

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  19. I would just like to verify some claims. I, and about 20 other teens, are playing in a giant D&D 4e group. I am the only one over 18; the rest range down to as young as 14. I would not have understood the rules if I had picked up an AD&D book. However, 4e makes sense to me as I have grown up in the video game generation (though I very much dislike video games). Sure, now I could probably get my head around AD&D if I wanted to, but 4e is what got it to make sense for me.

    Everyone else in the group started with 4e except for one or two who started at the tail end of 3.5. A large portion of my friends went from WoW to 4e. In the past year they have quit playing WoW, but continue to play 4e.

    So yeah, just kinda wanted to say: Yes! 4e is very easy for us to understand and my generation – or at least everyone I play with – have really enjoyed it because of how easy it is for us to connect with it.

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    • Thanks for reading, and especially for this comment!

      I’m not too into 4e anymore at all but I really respect the game for what it is/was and what it did for D&D.

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  20. You say you’re not into 4E anymore. What’s your go to game these days? My group is tiring of 4E as well and even with higher levels, I don’t feel like the 5E playtest is ready for a primetime long term campaign. I’m looking for input.

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    • I’ve been in the Friends & Family 5e playtest for a long time now so that’s currently our game of choice. We receive materials different than the public docs, yes we use it for our ongoing campaign but none of my players mind rolling with the rules changes and testing things out. Aside from that I also currently am running a mini Iron Kingdoms RPG game as well as lots and lots of one shots of various systems we’d like to check out: Savage Worlds, etc.

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      • Awesome, thanks for the feedback! I think once we get some more expanded classes, like Druids, Rangers, Paladins, etc, I’ll probably be ready to move my group to it full time. We ran a mini campaign with it when it first came out but the LVL 3 cap ended up forcing us to move to other things. We moved through pathfinder, 2E and Castles and Crusades (which was surprisingly awesome) but eventually worked our way back to our 4E campaign which we were 18 months into when we moved to give the playtest a workout. We’ve already started to intermingle some 5E concepts into our 4E game. Things like 2d20 advantage and skill based saving throws. I really look forward to future packets.

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  21. If you want to play video games, play a video game. Dungeons And Dragons is not a video game and its mechanics should not try to be like one. Fourth edition would have been fine if it was released under a different name…but at its core, it is not Dungeons and Dragons.

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    • You’re fully entitled to you’re opinion but I’d venture to say that by definition D&D 4e was definitely D&D whether you liked it or not.

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      • The point of a role playing game is that it allow you to rise above the limitation of a video game. You are able to do all of things that you cannot do in a video game, interaction with NPC other than combat, go off the map if you want.

        It seems video games develope some level of strategic thinking and hand/eye coordination but totally stunts imagination.

        Well, at least I guess you save some money on electricity.

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  22. Why play a pen and pencil role playing game so your character would face the same limitation as in a video game? If I want the game to be limited by a computer’s artificial intelligence, I play a video game. Otherwise I want my DM to use his brains and give me the endless choices you can never have in a video game.

    The blog from Caffeinated Symposium is correct about the current generation that embrace 4E.

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