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…
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.