271: Red Box Renaissance

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Red Box Renaissance

What do you do if you're an old school gamer who was handed the reins of Dungeons & Dragons, the latest edition of which many of your fellows loathe? Alex Macris spoke to Mike Mearls, D&D Manager, at Wizards of the Coast and found out whether the new Red Box will save D&D.

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I'm excited about the new Red Box just because looking at it gives me the same tingle as when I got my first red box in '83(?)

The very best advertisement I ever saw for 4th edition were the ongoing articles at Penny Arcade.

I liked 3rd edition because it provided a coherent rule system that was understandable to both the players and DMs without relying on a bunch of secret tables in the DMs guide. I didn't like how to DM 3rd edition right you had to have an accounting degree and keep 50 spreadsheets open to contain all your game data.

As much as the money men will hate it I think the emphasis on miniatures and maps makes the game worse to play. Whipping out the maps for a big final battle is one thing but pretty much being required to do it for every little encounter tedious and slows the game down.

I started D&D with the Magenta Box (back when Elves were considered a class, not a race...and the only alignments were Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic) - and then I went straight to AD&D when that came out, skipping the continuations of the Basic line. I'm probably considered weird for this (and a multitude of other things, but that's beside the point), but I don't like my RPG's "simple"...my favorite RPG systems are the original Rolemaster and the HERO System. So I don't think this new Red Box or the Essentials line is for me. For new players, though, it might work well. Thanks for the interview - good to know they have an old-schooler in charge.

Every one complained about 3rd edition (3.5 even more)I personally didn't like the 4th, it all seem a bit basic. Good for the newbies, back in the day there was basic, expert, etc so maybe I'll change my mind. Still playing city of the spider queen (probably till the day I die unless the pc get a move on)

any thing that brings new people to the game cant be bad

I don't like that the Essentials line is removing options for Fighters. Yes, at-will, encounter, and daily powers aren't justified in-game, but that comes at the advantage of all classes being enjoyable to play at all levels. In earlier editions, fighter-like classes were fun at early levels, with lots of hit points and big weapons, but at later levels, none of that matters and all the fighter can do every turn is a basic attack. Low-level magic users on the other hand, only had enough spells for a single encounter a day and were useless the rest of the time. At higher levels they became overpowered god's of death and destruction, shadowing everyone else in the process. 4E fixed that by giving all classes a range of options they can use, no matter what level they are. And classes are still different from each other, especially given the emphasis on their roles (defender, striker, controller, leader) in combat.

Archon:
snip

loved the interview, i agree with most of the points

people complaining i feel are more like "fanboys" that confronted with a new system just have to keep putting it down because "their" system is better

i really havent played D&D but the arguments presented seemed more like "ps3 is better than Xbox because bla bla bla"

now... DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN ORDER THIS ONLINE!!!???!?!? i live in México and can´t find it anywhere!!!!!!

i dont care if its in english, i will translate it my self but I HAVE TO BUY THIS ESSENTIALS!!!! (never seen a D&D game translated after 3rd edition)

I very much appreciate that there is, at the head of things, someone who seems to be listening, and wants to make D&D better from where it is now. It takes a strong person to admit that perhaps their initial direction was wrong, and a stronger one to think 'Okay, let's see how we can make it right.'

While this doesn't change my opinion of 4th E., this article has eased a bit of my disappointment at where things are. The red box is just a little bit before my time, but I'll definitely check it out now; before I had read this, I probably wouldn't have touched it with my 10 ft. pole and trapsense.

My friends & I were avid 3 & 3.5 edition players who tried 4th edition for over a year before we gave up on it, and what killed us were the balance and the emphasis on melee combat. Everything was perfectly balanced, which sounds good on paper but is boring as hell in actual play.

Fighting a boss? You KNOW he has 600 hp (for example) and your attacks all do 30-60 points - there are no one-hit kills. None. Ever. So every fight is a grind. The idea - get rid of the endless parade of one-hit kills at high-level play - was good, but in practice it's really boring. Set the perfect ambush and instantly assassinate someone? Impossible.

Tied into that is the emphasis on melee combat. Ranges for bows, spells, everything is a joke. If you can shoot them they can reach you for melee within a round or two... and the handful of flying archer monsters are horrifyingly powerful. "Real" ranged combatants - archers who can pin you down across a battlefield, snipers, etc. - are nonexistent.

There's other stuff, but these two things are symptomatic of the general problem: LESS options than any previous version. You have a list of carefully balanced cards and... that's it. You can do other stuff, sure, but the effects are all relatively limited to keep it in balance with everything else. Disarm an opponent? Not unless you have the disarm special ability (which comes at fairly high level powers). Shatter a rapier? Never. Insta-kill with a headshot or lethal poison? Nope. Run through the same short list of powers again, and again, and again? There ya go!

So yeah, we play other stuff.

When 4th Edition initially came out I remember what my reaction was, one of anger and horror at these strange and alien new rules that I'd suddenly purchased. Madness! What are these powers that encourage such a strong disconnect with the narrative! All the classes feel so samey! Where's my monk! What the hell is with this skill list etc. I felt the sting of betrayal from the Wizards game designers, felt that they were no longer making games "for me". Now to be exceptionally fair to Wizards, I had already abandoned DnD, 3.5 had grown staid, tired and bloated in its age. I was tired of "min-maxed ideal builds" and over powered classes from the myriad of splat books and had jumped off of the Fantasy ship and onto the ship of d20 modern and later Star Wars SAGA. When 4e was released I was hoping it would restart my interest in DnD and when it didn't I felt stung and assaulted, so I ran, far away, deep into the realms of indie systems and house rules.

About a year ago a friend of mine proposed a DnD game utilizing the (then beta) Pathfinder Rules for some friends of his new to DnD and they needed a GM. As my primary group had been on hiatus for awhile, I acquiesced and started running a DnD game once again. Immediately I was struck by the clumsiness of the system I remembered. It was just a refurbished version of 3.5, not the happy combination of DnD 3.5 and Star Wars SAGA edition I desperately wanted to see. It had the same problems, clunky encounter building, Wizards who could only do one interesting thing a day, an overloaded skill list and that damn min-maxing and splat book combing that I loathe so much. I started to look more fondly at 4th Ed then, I wasn't running a deep roleplaying experience with Pathfinder, there are better systems for that, I was running an action heavy hack and slash game and I wanted something that did it cleaner. After a year of my Pathfinder game and a long hiatus this past August (caused by my own marriage and honeymoon) myself and the game host started to discuss the possibility of giving a 4th Ed game a go, as while Pathfinder was fine we were wondering if it REALLY offered anything better than 4e for what we were doing. The eventual decision led to the "disintegration" of the Pathfinder game and the birth of a brand new Eberron Set 4th Edition game which had its first session last week. I have come full circle.

In the end I think the best part of this cycle was my period as a system wanderer where I delved into stranger more esoteric games like Burning Wheel (a must play for the dedicated Role-Player), FATE 3.0 (cornerstone of the new Dresden Files RPG and one of the easiest running systems out there) and the e"ven faster and easier than 4e" system of Savage Worlds. I've learned what games can do, I've learned how you can use rules to re-inforce every type of play, from Dungeon Crawling to Political Intrigue, I've discovered the dangers of stagnation, of just playing one system and refusing to broaden ones horizons, hence it became very easy to forgive 4th Edition for that "perceived" betrayal, 4th Edition didn't hate me, Wizards game designers didn't hate me, they just wanted to make a game that did Dungeons and Dragons, a game about Killing Monsters and Taking Their Stuff, very well. Essentials strikes me as no different and I bear it no more ill will than that which I currently bear 4th Edition, which is to say that I see it as a great tool for bringing in new gamers and an experiment in new ideas, something that should never be decried.

I'm so glad to see this interview here and to get Mr. Mearls' perspective on things. I'm not the sort that lurks around the Wizards forums all that much these days, but ever since they switched over from 3.5e to 4e, for various reasons (some having nothing to do with the rules) I've just played a whole lot less D&D. However, I was recently in a game and it reminded me that while there's this perception of limited options because you've got more delineated powers, it wasn't as if a lot of what I did in 3.x was all that varied, rules-wise. When I was melee, it was run up and beat on the bad guy. When I was a caster, it was hang back an provide fire support. If I was more of a hybrid, I'd scrap some then fall back and heal or cast. That hasn't really particularly changed all that much, and most tabletop or CRPG combat tends to involve a fairly limited set of basic powers, though how you apply them changes from encounter to encounter.

Now, are there other, more complex systems that offer a lot more flexibility and variety for building characters, powers and encounters? Sure. I've played the Hero System and GURPS, I own and have read, but never played, Rolemaster. At some point there's some dramatically diminishing returns when you pile on the complexity, and I believe 4e was an attempt to narrow things down further to see if it could work. I think they sacrificed one too many systemic holy cows for most people's taste, though perhaps with the Essentials line they're trying a different tack.

4e was a vastly better system and essentials is a clear step backwards. It's insulting to think that WOTC would create a new, extra-boring type of fighter just to appease a bunch of people who will probably never play 4e either way, and would never play a fighter in any edition, no matter what they claim. 3e was an absurdly imbalanced game where some players got to vastly outshine others based on class choice. That's terrible design and fixing it was a very positive move.

Going back on that is an extremly poor move, and it won't recover market share in any event.
4e fighters were amazing fun and extremly popular with everyone I know who actually played the game- as opposed to turning their nose up at it. Complaints came from people who resented that fighters were now every bit as viable and interesting as their beloved clerics and wizards. The whole idea of 'sameness' as a negative is garbage- it's an argument made by people who liked that some players were objectivly vastly more important than other players, due to the classes they were playing.

4e classes have vastly more gneuiny variety, because in 4e, the decisions matter and are well balanced, unlike 3e where many options were a trap that would result in a disasterously inefective character. 3e fighters were a clear example of this- past around 9th level not only were they completly outshined, but they were utterly helpess against any foe that forced them to make a will save.

But now 4e is following the same trend, and they're dumbing fighters down into a half-class that some poor newbie will be stuck with. I'm sure that incremental level based damage bonus the new fighter gets will really make up for him not being able to use the really amazing and fun fighter dailies present in earlier iterations of the edition. No doubt the wizard will pause from casting meteor storm and say "gee, I wish i could get slightly more damage per level! That would be really sweet! Oh well, I guess i'm stuck channeling the same old cosmic forces of the universe".

I feel sorry for the guy who's friend buys the red box and gets stuck playing the boring fighter, who gets to wack away endlessly at the monsters to little effect beyond straight damage, while the important players playing spellcasters and the like get a full set of powers. The sad thing is, as new players, a lot of those people will probably never know any better, they'll come in wanting to play a cool guy with a sword, and just like previous editions, they end up playing a boring guy with a sword, instead. A few years later they'll quit the hobby and never come back.

I don't understand the edition wars. We live in a day and age when information about all current and previous editions of D&D are just a mouse click away. If you want to play "original" D&D, there are websites where you can get maps, scenarios and rules for free or in some cases, low cost. There are websites for every edition of D&D and some are nice enough to have materials for several of them on the same site. If you prefer 3.5, then play it. If you prefer 4.0, then play it. If you find faults with all of the rules editions, take the parts you do like and mix them together into your own house rules version. D&D was never supposed to be about following the letter of the law in the books. The books were supposed to be starting points and ways to provide some kind of framework so that a group of individuals could have some common ground to start a story with.

I like what Mike Mearles said in comparing D&D to a football game. Sure, there are rules in football and coaches who write plays, but how the game turns out depends on what each player does or doesn't do and how well (or poorly)they work together as a team. It also depends on the defense reacting to the offense and vice versa. The same is supposed to be true with D&D. You've got rules for what is allowed and for how certain things in the game work. Without rules, D&D becomes less like football and more like Calvinball in which Calvin and Hobbes make up the rules as they go along and spend more time arguing over the rules than they do in playing the game.

The key to an enjoyable game of D&D is in picking which rules you and all the players are willing to agree to abide by for the duration of the story (whether these are found in one certain edition or are a set of house rules that are made up and then written down) and then allowing the players to bend and flex (but not totally break) the rules to allow their imaginations room to romp and play. It's about everybody at the table having a good time and getting along with each other. It's not about who's rules are "best" or who's opinion is "right".

I'm afraid that too many people have forgotten what the D&D RPG is. It's a shared storytelling experience, not a competitive game. It's okay to role play a "weak" character who can't slay every monster on the map by himself. That's why the game is usually played by a co-operative group of five or so players. The teamwork comes out the most when each player has his or her specialty that the other players need him or her for. You need the Barbarian or Fighter to deal crushing blows and to protect the other heroes (if the other heroes are almost as buff as he is, what good is he?) You need the Rogue to pick the locks and play tricks on the NPCs (if other heroes are just as tricky, they don't need a rogue). You need a Mage or Wizard to casts spells that help the party survive against otherwise overwhelmingly powerful foes who aren't hurt by blades and arrows much (if every hero can cast magic spells, who needs a wizard?). You need a Cleric to heal wounds, commune with the spirits or with nature, soothe savage beasts or use his knowledge of lore to decipher some puzzle (if everyone is some kind of insert class here/cleric, then you don't need a cleric). If every player character in the adventuring party is a jack-of-all-trades and is self sufficient, why would they bother to travel together? Like in football, there is no one player who can play all positions equally well. Can you imagine a guy who is big enough to hold the defensive tackles away from the quarterback but who can also run 90 yards for a touchdown? Or subbing in the designated kicker to replace an injured nose tackle? Of course not. Each hero in a D&D story (whether it's in a novel, comic book, video game or tabletop RPG) needs to be unique and have his or her niche to fill. Otherwise, you don't have D&D. You have some other kind of game.

I've already purchased and played through a session of the Red Box with 3 new players and one returning 4e player.

Micro-Review:
-The Red Box is easy to get started with. The single player/character setup/tutorial is pretty well done, if lacking in some polish. The reduced rule set and lack of weapons choices means you get to "hard code" in a lot of the various statistics which means that calculating them is easier.
-Options are limited. Even the new players were asking about playing as half-elves or paladins or rangers. It was most telling with the 4e player who said that playing as the fighter "made her miss her dragonborn paladin".

Overall I would say that the article misses the point a little. You can talk about things like how 4e borrows from videogames and that Wow players expect their fighters to have a whole list of powers. You can talk about how that hurts the role playing/narrative aspect of the game. You can talk about balance and what not but none of those things are keeping people from D&D.

I have tried to get 3 different D&D sessions going. One with 4e, one with 3.5, and one with this new essentials stuff. The first two fell apart because we couldn't meet often enough to keep the game going and it doesn't look any better this time around. Maybe my friends aren't dedicated enough or whatever, but getting 5 people together in the same place in real space for 3-4 consecutive hours is just too hard to do with any frequency.

I started playing while AD&D 2nd was the thing being played and personally, I really like 4E. I think it is a definite improvement over 2nd Edition.

I've always wanted to try out 4E, but none of my D&D pals really wanted to try it. It already took us a lot of time to learn those 3.5 rules. But even if i dislike 4E, i can still go back to good old 3.5

Also, a name popped up in the article. Rob Heinsoo. I'm damn sure that Heinsoo is an Estonian name. I mean, how are people who speak English supposed to pronounce that? I have no clue, but in my language, the name makes perfect sense.

Edit: after making some google searches and reading his blog, i found out that he has some Estonian blood. Sweet.
Don't really know why I'm happy, but still. Sweet!

This article is complete and utter bullshit.

This is the sort of irresponsible, heavily editorialized shit I expect to see from Fox News...even though this is hobby journalism, and the author most likely has a day job working in a techsupport call center or something, I think that a little journalistic objectivity shouldn't be too much to ask for.

The closest illustration I can come up with for what this article does, is if you ran into a celebrity and posed for a photo with them, and then drew devil horns on the celebrity or photoshopped turds on their head. This article is an agenda riddled hack job, that consists of the author painting a picture of D&D as a failing enterprise (there is much evidence to the contrary) with a few of Mr. Mearls memes sprinkled inbetween, edited in such a way to support the picture it paints. 1937 total words and 1100 of them belong to the interview...I wonder how much of what Mearls said was edited out to support the author's petty screed.

The EN World thread "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" for example, is a joke thread with a positive connotation.

Furthermore, the "LET'S GET RID OF ALL OUR FANS AND REPLACE THEM" excerpt, with that one out-of-context blurb in big, bold red letters is a good indicator of what the author wanted to accomplish. This whole article was nothing more than an unprofessional and irresponsible smear job from a dedicated anti-fan.

WotC is in an unenviable position...no matter what they do, or how they go about doing it, SOME minute, vocal contingent within the hobby is going to make a huge stink about it on the internet. Many D&D fans tend to think that the game should cater to their individual playstyle over all others, and when the game shifts away from that direction they can take it personally and go apeshit, spewing vitriol like a gibbering hate monkey at every opportunity. Seriously, you can't find a D&D based article on ANY community anywhere without some mouth-breathing aspie basement cases making it a point to exalt their favorite version of the game and decry all others.

This article is an example of that phenomenon...but for some reason the Escapist gave the fanboy a podium.

Well, as an advocate for 4E I also find Essentials is an excellent addition to the system; a very clever package that manages to provide a great framework for new players, and in subsequent books like Heroes of the Fallen Lands manages to introduce some very clever, focused new class builds that work well on their own while being fully compatible with 4E; it's a shame to see other 4E gamers dissing it, apparently not realizing that there's nothing different going on here, other than some clever new designs to complement their existing material.

Anyway, I have a high degree of confidence in Mike Mearls; I've loved his works all the way back (from Darkness & Dread onward) and I think he's in the same boat I am as to how to capture the feel and essence of D&D, while still having an outwardly progressive view on the rules.

I was wondering about a couple spots in the article, though: the link to that thread in enworld suggests its some sort of hard defamation of Mearls, when it struck me as a modest joke post site. Also, tieflings have been in D&D since the mid nineties, with Planescape; they've earned the right to be major players in D&D 4E, and my only questions on the matter is where are the damned Aasimar?!?!?! We need the aasimar back. Devas don't cut it! And the dragonborn in 4E are simply something we needed in the game long ago, but didn;t surface until 3rd edition, and didn't blossom until 4th. The great thing about D&D is, if you don't like something, you don't have to use it, so these really are non issues.

Gamer Cred: ran my first game of Gamma World in 1980, and subsequently started my career with the Otus edition Basic D&D set.

Wow, this is an unbelievably biased "Interview." One of the worst hack jobs I have seen in a long time reading nerd rage on the internet. Incredibly disappointing to see it on the escapist.

I don't think D&D needs to be "saved." Unless Hasbro plans to open their books and let us see how it has been doing, and then have other companies do the same, its a matter of guesswork and opinion (and aforementioned nerd rage).

If I was an author of any game I wouldn't ever submit to an interview with the Escapist after seeing Merl's comments sandwiched between the author's invectives and (mis)leading prose.

Shame on you.

No. 3.5 struck the almost perfect balance.
4th Ed. Classes felt so goddamn samey that the whole party could've played fighters, and it would've made little difference. That being said, Vancian (3.5) magic does get annoying after a while, and I do wish there was some way to work in "at-will" spells in 3.5. And it is kinda true that fighters get left in the dust at higher levels, but monks get so overpowered I want to **** them with a ******* with a ***** on top. They make it a pretty hard job to be a DM when you have to balance each encounter to the player group and a monk would breeze through encounters others struggle with. Where was I going with this again?
Oh yeah, a hybrid of 3.5 and 4 would've been interesting.

Clevername, the only person I'm experiencing nerd rage against is you! What the heck "invective" are you referring to?

I said Mearls "eats, breathes, and sleeps classic D&D" and said Wizards was releasing "an innovative set of new products that aim to recapture the classic feel many fans had missed"? And I empathized with him about the challenges of attracting players in a world with so many other types of entertainment competing for our interest, and nodded in agreement with his strategy. And

The rest of the article is largley his words. I read Mearl's blog on a regular basis and went out and bought his Iron Heroes book. I'm hardly filled with nerd rage against the man.

Hell, I called my article "Red Box Renaissance", not "D&D is Doomed" "Another Botched Job by Wizards" "Watching the Death Spiral" or something else that would be nasty.

If you think this is invective, you need to visit www.any other site on the internet.com someday.

Edit: I am also experiencing nerd rage against Gizmoduck, to whom I have the same response.

camazotz:
I was wondering about a couple spots in the article, though: the link to that thread in enworld suggests its some sort of hard defamation of Mearls, when it struck me as a modest joke post site. Also, tieflings have been in D&D since the mid nineties, with Planescape; they've earned the right to be major players in D&D 4E, and my only questions on the matter is where are the damned Aasimar?!?!?! We need the aasimar back. Devas don't cut it! And the dragonborn in 4E are simply something we needed in the game long ago, but didn;t surface until 3rd edition, and didn't blossom until 4th. The great thing about D&D is, if you don't like something, you don't have to use it, so these really are non issues.

Gamer Cred: ran my first game of Gamma World in 1980, and subsequently started my career with the Otus edition Basic D&D set.

Camazotz, thanks for your well thought out comments.

You're right that the "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" thread is basically a joke thread, in the same sense that the Chuck Norris threads are joke threads. But jokes are largely funny when they tug on the threads of expectations that people really do hold. Obviously, no fully informed consumer genuinely thinks "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" but the fact that the thread exists is symptomatic of real and genuine frustration on the part of people who do think D&D 4e did damage to a brand they love. Or, put another way, the thread may be poking fun of the ideas of people who genuinely DO think Mearls ruined everything, but it's only funny because some people DO think that.

As far as Tieflings and Dragonborn, the point I made in my previous interview with Andy Collins is that the introduction of those races as *core races* suggested a very different world and setting than the Humanocentric D&D of past editions. (Read Gygax on why D&D must be Humanocentric in the 1st edition DMG if you disagree with me that this has been a long-stated philosophy of the game). The only playable races in D&D were Humans, and demi-Humans from Tolkien. It's fine to change it (Dark Sun did) but let's be honest and acknowledge it as a change that fundamentally alters the nature of the default setting.

I have tremendous empathy for the challenges that Mearls is facing, which is why I ask the reader to put themselves in his shoes. He's literally the flag-banner for an entire industry. I have strong opinions about the sort of games I like,, but if I have any bias, it's that I desperately want Wizards to succeed, because I love tabletop RPGs and want the hobby to thrive, and they are the only ones who really can make that happen.

I AM GETTING THE REDBOX AND ESSENTIALS!

Screw the entire article, redbox is hte only news I need.

Oh, and I feel sorry for the mike guy. I love 4.0.

I really enjoyed the article and I do not understand the nerd rage reaction to it. I didn't like D&D 4E when it released 3 years ago for many of the reasons touched upon in the article and for others. This article was speaking to me. After reading it, I went to my hobby store and I picked up the Red Box, Rules Compendium and the Heroes of the Fallen Lands. I want to give WoTC a fair chance with the release of Essentials.

Well I for one am definitely happy about the Essentials, I just picked up the Rules Compendium, already got lots of use out of it. So I'll be picking up the rest of the line including the Red Box. And seeing how I got my start with a box set, the black one from 2nd ED, I'm really jazzed about the Box Sets coming back. I've missed them since 3rd ED.

I didn't realize The Escapist were taking their journalism cues from FOX News. Wading through a few hundred words of the usual autistic grognard chest-beating about "betrayed legacies" and "disassociated mechanics" before the first actual quote by the actual interview subject left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. This is even before we get into stuff like presenting a joke thread as if it were actually serious.

Silly me for venturing outside of Zero Punctuation to begin with.

jacobkosh:
I didn't realize The Escapist were taking their journalism cues from FOX News. Wading through a few hundred words of the usual autistic grognard chest-beating about "betrayed legacies" and "disassociated mechanics" before the first actual quote by the actual interview subject left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. This is even before we get into stuff like presenting a joke thread as if it were actually serious.

Silly me for venturing outside of Zero Punctuation to begin with.

4EVENGER'S ARE GO!

But seriously, i'm not a 4E fan. However i'm not a 4E fan, not because i enjoy 3.5, but because i found 4E to be dull, repetitive, unable to create more then the most basic story due to a lack of fluff & generally very MMORPGish (to much focus on balance & monsters as nothing but things to be killed).

The fact is WotC lost its way with 4E, it pandered to an audience it thought it could entice AFK to play there RPG & found that this audience has the attention span of a cocker-spaniel with ADHD. Sure the 4E book is pretty, but its not as pretty as Pathfinder or Eclipse Phase (my current RPG of choice). It wasn't the rule changes that people disliked so much as it was the change in every single paradigm to something very un-D&D-ish.

WotC should have focused more on making a solid product, rather then trying to promise us digital bells & whistles. Bells and Whistles i might add, that never eventuated in most cases (hmmmm, smells like vaporware to me). Now while we can't say for sure that D&D is in a death spiral or anything like that, i will say this: 2010 Ennies awards, WotC got 4 nominations & only two for a D&D product... One of those was in the category of "best cartography." On the other hand products like Pathfinder & Eclipse Phase vied for "Best Product."

Its become pretty obvious that D&D may not be in a Death Spiral, but it sure is in crisis. A good deal of the previous market has found they don't like the new game & even people who were huge 4E fans when it originally came out (such as my self), have lost all interest in the game (in some cases going back to 2E). WotC has to do something & i personally don't think that essentials is going to be enough to save the line.

-M

matthew_lane:
The fact is WotC lost its way with 4E, it pandered to an audience it thought it could entice AFK to play there RPG & found that this audience has the attention span of a cocker-spaniel with ADHD.

Wow, both insulting and illiterate! Quite the hat trick.

Thank you for the interview. It was a much appreciated read.

I just received the Red Box today, and, as a lapsed WotC D&D gamer who has been very critical of the current edition of the game, I have to say that my first impressions are positive. I am cautiously optimistic, and will start to read through the set tonight as if I had never read the 4e core books before. I'm willing to re-start from scratch and see where that leads me.

I hope Essentials represents a genuine adjustment of the way WotC's R&D department is looking at the game, and not just a temporary marketing move for the next few months.

On RPGnet, Mike Mearls was pointing out that "When you're dealing with beginning players, mechanics that clearly model what's happening in the game world are really, really helpful. They make it that much easier to understand how the game works and make informed decisions." (link provided at the end of my post)

To quote my answer to him on that thread, thing is, I don't think it's just beginners who are like this, but a sizeable subset of the player base as a whole, veterans, beginners and everyone in between. Some people, like myself, need mechanics to represent something in the game world, and are increasingly bothered with the rules of the game the more removed from the game world, or abstract, they become.

This makes them think more and more in terms of rules first, and game world second. This can even drive a wedge between these two aspects of the game for them. And there, you have it: people getting really upset with the game because "it doesn't let them role play with it". I'm guessing that's what they really mean when they write things like this (there's a thread on these boards titled with a variation of this), and that's really something that D&D R&D needs to understand and catter to for the game to become inclusive again for them.

I am cautiously optimistic.

Link to the RPGnet thread:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=12815503#post12815503

jacobkosh:

matthew_lane:
The fact is WotC lost its way with 4E, it pandered to an audience it thought it could entice AFK to play there RPG & found that this audience has the attention span of a cocker-spaniel with ADHD.

Wow, both insulting and illiterate! Quite the hat trick.

Nope... I'm midly offended by your post, because i can in fact read it. I do love how you jumped so quickly to ad homenium attacks though. If you want to discuss something rashly however you may want to avoid that kind of behaviour, as it counter productive.

matthew_lane:

jacobkosh:

matthew_lane:
The fact is WotC lost its way with 4E, it pandered to an audience it thought it could entice AFK to play there RPG & found that this audience has the attention span of a cocker-spaniel with ADHD.

Wow, both insulting and illiterate! Quite the hat trick.

Nope... I'm midly offended by your post, because i can in fact read it. I do love how you jumped so quickly to ad homenium attacks though. If you want to discuss something rashly however you may want to avoid that kind of behaviour, as it counter productive.

I realize this may be a shocking and difficult concept for you, but comparing gamers to "cocker spaniels with ADHD" is not actually a classy thing to do. The fact that it was rife with misspellings and bad punctuation was merely the icing.

jacobkosh:

matthew_lane:

jacobkosh:

matthew_lane:
The fact is WotC lost its way with 4E, it pandered to an audience it thought it could entice AFK to play there RPG & found that this audience has the attention span of a cocker-spaniel with ADHD.

Wow, both insulting and illiterate! Quite the hat trick.

Nope... I'm midly offended by your post, because i can in fact read it. I do love how you jumped so quickly to ad homenium attacks though. If you want to discuss something rashly however you may want to avoid that kind of behaviour, as it counter productive.

I realize this may be a shocking and difficult concept for you, but comparing gamers to "cocker spaniels with ADHD" is not actually a classy thing to do. The fact that it was rife with misspellings and bad punctuation was merely the icing.

Well then thats not illiterate then is it. Also, as creative as my punctuation can get at times, the post is not rife with misspellings.

It's funny, isn't it, how our feelings about things we love can cloud our perceptions of the world. There's nothing particularly negative about this article, and yet several people have jumped down Archon's throat, comparing it to Fox News, of all things. First of all, this makes no attempt to be news-- it is an interview and an opinion piece, and a very interesting one at that. Why should Archon attempt to be "unbiased" about something he feels very strongly about?That would be deceitful. At the same time, he is rather more thoughtful and balanced in his approach than any of those who are attacking him.

My own relationship with D&D has been a tricky one. There has always been something about the concept of it that has filled me with wonder. I love games of all types, and in some ways D&D is the archetypal game. I started playing it back in the 2nd Edition days, and since then I have also bought 3rd and 4th editions (I skipped 3.5). Each time, I have read the books closely, I have been excited by the changes the designers have made, the attempts they've made to resolve the issues of the previous edition. I put hours and hours of work into designing a setting, a story and NPCs. I get my friends together, build some characters and start a game.

And it collapses after three sessions.

The third collapse, after an attempt at 4th edition, has led me to reflect on the game as a whole. And I think this is the problem: although conceptually exciting, the D&D rules have never been able to fulfil their promise, because they only try to "fix" what has come before, instead of trying to play to the strengths of a role-playing game.

Second Ed suffered from a lot of rules that were ludicrously inconsistent, so in 3rd Ed, they tried to standardise all the rules. When I saw what they'd done, as a game designer I approved. But what happened was that in removing the inconsistencies, they basically only revealed the weaknesses of the core rules. The complexities of the arcana of 2nd edition were in fact part of the fun of playing the game. It felt good to have an understanding of something so complex, as though we ourselves (the players, the DM) were wizards.

So the problem revealed in 3rd edition was this: D&D combat isn't a whole lot of fun. Fighters get to roll the same d20 every round, and hack a little bit more off their enemy, as though they were carving a marble statue. There's nothing dynamic or interesting about hit points!

Which brings us to 4th edition. As far as I can tell, this was the designers' logic: 1) Combat is a very important aspect of D&D, perhaps the most important; 2) Combat is boring a lot of the time; 3) Computer games do some interesting things that could make combat more fun.

Their solution, then, was to give every class more things to do in combat, and by making the game more reliant on miniatures and tactics. The problem was that in doing so, they moved further away from what makes role-playing games fun-- imagination.

Some of this has already been covered by the Dissociated Mechanics article linked in the post, but I want to make a couple of points about what I've realised about my own responses:

1) Computer games do combat much better than tabletop games, because the computer handles all the technical bits.

2) Role-playing games do story and character and imagination and social interaction much better than computer games.

3) The thing that I want from D&D is not streamlined rules or balance, nor is it combat that feels like carving a piece of stone. Instead, I want something that stimulates imagination. I want less rules and more freedom to do things that are exciting.

And yes, I realise that there are other RPGs out there that do these things better (but for better or worse) has always been THE role-playing game, and I believe that it should be leading the way. So when (god forbid) it comes time for 5th edition to be designed, I hope the developers head this advice:

Play to the strengths of role-playing games. Make the CONCEPT of D&D sacred, not the rules. Throw out levels and hit points -- they belong to WoW now. Stimulate out imaginations. Think big.

The End

(I'd just like to thank Chrome for saving this entire post from my accidental browser-close towards the end. I didn't know it did that. Chrome is awesome.)

sounds like his basicly saying that if you didnt like 4ed fuck off your not a real roleplayer... or something

I honestly think the article does really lean too heavily on the "4E is failing!" narrative, when there's really not much evidence for that. What sales information we have for the new edition has been solidly positive, and while there are people who don't like the new edition, there are people who didn't like 3e, 2e, or anything past the original Basic Set. That's pretty much a universal thing, and people being up in arms about 4th edition doesn't really say much. We're gamers. We hate and fear change.

If anything I think the Essentials line is going even further in the direction that the first few 4th edition books started, in paring down the game and making it more accessible and streamlined. The 3rd Edition and 3.5 books are fine, I've kept most of 'em and may use them for certain settings, but there was a lot to keep track of. 4th edition sacrifices a little flexibility but we get some simplicity back in the process, and I'm glad WotC is continuing the push to have a good basic set for new gamers.

Let's keep this in perspective. No one here killed Black Leaf. And for that we should all be grateful.

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