As a Dungeon Master, I have a love / hate relationship with Dungeon Tiles. I love the simple fun they add to an encounter, and the detailed artwork inspires encounter design. I love how my players interact with the artwork, and I love the nice clean surface they provide. There are no odd curls for miniatures to get stuck on, and they typically make it very clear which squares can be occupied and which are blocked.
I hate preparing dungeon tiles. It starts with a box of randomly disorganized tiles which I have to fidget with until I put together something suitable for the encounter I have in mind. Often this leads to some mix and matching (which I also dislike). I try to minimize mixing dungeony tiles with village or foresty tiles, because that just looks janky, and if you’re using dungeon tiles, it shouldn’t look janky.
When possible, I try to have the tiles laid out prior to the session; I then cover them with a wet erase map to preserve the surprise. That works pretty well, but sometimes I have to move the tiles in when an encounter begins, or else build the encounter anew, in the moment. Either way, there is a disruption of play that I don’t love.
Later in my 4th edition campaign I started using poster maps more often (following Michael Shea’s advice from Sly Flourish.), and I always had my trusty wet erase map at hand. When I had a specific vision for an encounter, I found the wet erase map, sometimes combined with tiles, to be the best tool.
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…
I take a decidedly lazy approach to magic items in my monthly Dungeons and Dragons game. I award the player characters gold, and let them buy what they like off screen. The economics are standard; they can sell existing items at 20% value and they get the appropriate parcels of value for their level.
While there is something lost for the players since they are never pleasantly surprised when a sweet item comes their way. On the other hand, they aren’t disappointed either. They can simply get the item that best suits their character without the roundabout ritual of giving me a wish list.
A controversy arose during last session about the best way to manage the financial resources: one player suggested that the group pool its money, in order to get higher level items quicker. The other player wanted to divide up the gold evenly and let each player manage his character’s finances separately. None of the other three players expressed preferences. Since I had abdicated magic item control to the players, I very intentionally stayed out of it.
I wonder, is there an advantage to giving one character a high level item rather than a few characters something of lower level? I have contrary intuitions: on one hand, it seems that you should get powerful items as quickly as possible. On the other, the economy seems designed to work out evenly.
Am I (or my players) missing something?