Category Archives: Legacy D&D

Dungeons and Dragons, Edition 4.1

With the Essentials line on the horizon, a new era is coming for Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition.  Wizards has made it clear that this will not be edition 4.5.  The new content will be compatible with the old, and the new versions of the fighter, cleric and wizard will be alternate builds rather than brand new classes.

At the same time, the presentation is aimed at new players, and I’ll bet that the mechanics of those new class builds will stay on the simple side.

With the focus on online content via the DnD Insider, Wizards has been able to fix mistakes, clarify wording and even alter 4th edition rules since the beginning.  In a sense, those of us who keep up with the errata haven’t played 4e for nearly two years.  We’ve been playing 4.01, 4.02, etc…  and this is good.  We haven’t had to wait to get the rules updates.

This resembles software patches.  With The World of Warcraft for example, Blizzard has been able to resolve bugs, improve the interface and add content all along the way.  WoW players didn’t have to wait for Burning Crusade to enjoy game improving adjustments.

It’s disingenuous to say that Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition in September will be exactly the same game we played in the summer of 2008.  At the same time, it’s not the drastic reboot gamers experienced with 3.5.  All the little changes are moving toward something notable with the essentials line, especially with the Rules Compendium.  I like to think of it all as D&D 4.1

Now if they’d only revise those first two Monster Manuals to include the later math changes…

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Photo of Fantasy Wargaming by Bruce Galloway

Here is a picture of my copy of Fantasy Wargaming, The Highest Level of All, which I wrote about a week or so ago.

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Fantasy Wargaming

As I mentioned in my previous post, I found a copy of Fantasy Wargaming at Half Price Books last week.  This brought back personal memories for me, but also represents a slice of gaming history that I’d like to write about here.

This book is delicious with its old school gaming weirdness.  The modern gamer in me finds it nearly incomprehensible.  It rips into D&D because its ‘scenarios exist in a vacuum, and that is why we call them unsatisfactory,’ and ‘the sheer unlikelihood of such a motley crew being able to agree…’  I suppose this may have been true in 1980, but wasn’t Gygax using Greyhawk and wasn’t Ed Greenwood using his Forgotten Realms, even then?  The difference is that Fantasy Wargaming roots itself squarely in the European middle-ages while D&D of that era requires dungeon masters to create their own worlds.

Other oddities include:  ‘I’m no great advocate of women’s lib but . . . [John Norman’s Gor novels] are sufficiently strong in places to be more than mildly offensive . . .  For heaven’s sake don’t let a “liberated” wife or girlfriend read them, though, or you’ll never hear the last of it!’  Later, in the character generation chapter, readers are instructed that ‘Players wishing to play a female character must unfortunately take the penalties of a patriarchal society.  Make the following adjustments …  physique and endurance -3, charisma -2, social class -3, bravery -2 [!], greed/selfishness/lust -3.  They will be excluded from combat . . . and expected… to adopt a domestic position as wife, housekeeper and servant.  These factors are invariable.’  Oh dear.

There’s some entertainingly odd stuff in here too:  a character’s characteristics are subject to astrological sign based alterations.  There are also rules for conjuring demons, angels and gods, and it offers advice that ‘Characters in Fantasy Wargaming should live their lives in continual awareness of salvation and damnation.’  You don’t see this sort of thing in 4e.

My experience with Fantasy Wargaming reminds me how delightful it is to live in the here and now, where 4th Edition D&D is balanced and fun, and there are a legion of other games should I need a break.

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The Dawn of Gaming

My gaming life started in the early 1980s, when I was in the fifth grade.  We lived in rural Washington State and for awhile, I had to ride the bus to school.  Those rides were little pockets of Hell for the most part, but there were some advantages to being one of the last kids dropped home each night.  There was almost a little fraternity between some of us and the driver.  I didn’t understand it then, but it was one of my first experiences of being in the ‘cool group.’  After all, some of the others were High School Students.

One of my fellow riders was a young man named Al Willet.  He and the bus driver discussed military history, naval tactics and the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States.  One day, for reasons I never really understood (perhaps he overheard me babbling on about Clash of the Titans or something), Al offered to let me look at some of his 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books.  I couldn’t really comprehend it, but it was blowing my mind.  The Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II were the most accessible that I can remember.  He probably showed the Player’s Handbook, but I can’t really remember.  The character sheet he showed me was hand written, on college rule notebook paper, and the spot for hit points had been erased and re-erased so many times that a hole was worn through the paper.

D&D eventually lost favor in his group, because one day, Al showed me a different kind of gaming book:  Fantasy Wargaming, compiled and edited by Bruce Galloway.   Again, I was blown away.  I was already struggling to figure out what gaming was about and how the rules fit together.  The difference between D&D and AD&D caused all kinds of confusion with me and my other 5th grade friends.  Fantasy Wargaming impressed me because it seemed to have everything all in one place.  Combat, magic, character generation and role-playing all have homes within.  It seemed, almost, more perfect than D&D.

The world moved on, my family changed houses and my friends started playing AD&D.  I noticed copies of Fantasy Wargaming in book stores and game shops, but in that era of very low disposable income, I left it alone.  Just this week, however, I ran across a copy of the book for $7, and I couldn’t resist.

In my next post, I’ll write more about what I found within that ancient tome’s covers.

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