271: Red Box Renaissance

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 NEXT
 

Never had one issue with the mechanics in 4.0

I hate the lore and lack of information to create a world with. The lack of information as to why things happen. Thats what makes me want to stab WOTC.

tendo82:
Let's keep this in perspective. No one here killed Black Leaf. And for that we should all be grateful.

My first response to reading that tract way back when was "Where do I find the spell that gets my Dad to buy me $200 worth of D&D stuff?"

If you hate 4e and are preparing to dance on it's grave, fine. Put on your dancin' shoes, you've won.

But stop and think about it for a moment. D&D was never printed on rice paper. All the D&D, AD&D, and 3.x stuff ever printed is still out there. You can still play it. AD&D had a 12 year run. 2e went 10 years, and there were multiple campaign settings and mountains of suplements for it. I know people who are still playing 1e or 2e campaigns they started when those editions were relatively new. 3e had an 8 year run, has unprecedented 3rd-party support, including the in-print, ongoing Pathfinder.

4e has been around for 2 years. And for the crime of not sucking the way you're used to, it has to go? After 2 years? Really? You're that petty, are you?

Fine, enjoy the vengance your nerdrage berserkergang has wrought.
Hope you dug two graves.

I haven't picked up anything in 4Ee because I don't know anybody else that picked up anything 4e. If it isn't old(or New World of Darkness) then nobody's running it, because they don't know anybody else that has any books. It's a poor man's stalemate.

I haven't seen any of the gaming stores try to run any demos, I haven't seen anything really showcased, it's just all sitting there, collecting dust. Nobody wants to be the first to spend their money on it, so nobody's going to play it.

the article is interesting but the enworld thread you mention:

"Some of those fans say that Mearls betrayed everything that D&D has ever stood for. A popular thread at the ENWorld RPG community called "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" is up to seven pages."

is a tribute to Mike not a rabid attack to him

It really is sad that fourth edition has attracted such criticism. 4E is easily the best D&D has ever been in terms of overall fun factor and it's sad to me how much nostalgia keeps people from seeing that. Is it perfect? No, but it's much closer than any of the older editions were.

machvergil:
It really is sad that fourth edition has attracted such criticism. 4E is easily the best D&D has ever been in terms of overall fun factor and it's sad to me how much nostalgia keeps people from seeing that. Is it perfect? No, but it's much closer than any of the older editions were.

But fun is a subjective experience, so you can't say that 4E is more 'fun' than another other edition sans your own interactions with it. So if you've had more fun with 4E and I've had more fun with another edition than we effectively just cancel each other out, but that doesn't make either one of us wrong in measuring our own enjoyment, just that we differ. I had fun with my time with 4E. I would probably even play in a campaign if given the chance, I enjoy the medium of tabletop games in almost any form. I simply prefer the experience given from older editions.

The irony here is that everyone complaining about new changes is becoming, in a way, the grognards which they scorn. At the end of the day 4E is going to change just like all the other editions did, and the new changes will have supporters and detractors like every other one did down the line.

So maybe we can all complain about 5E together?

There are plenty of good indicators as to why 4e might have betrayed D&D's legacy. But trying to push that EN World thread as evidence of 4e's failure? Stupidfuckery.

Lets hope more of the classical D&D gaming style works its way in. 4E is the most enjoyable version of the game since 1e IMO. It has its problems but so did 1e.

Contrary to some of the hysterical posts that came before me, i felt that this interview was both honest and kind to its subject as well as informative. I am not a fan of 4th edition. I have given it a try and i like a lot of the theories that went in to it (eg everyone should always have fun stuff to do) but in the end, it just doesn't work for me. It doesn't feel like D&D. It feels like a crappy miniatures game with the option of tacking on some free-form role-playing in-between combats.

"I almost think narrative games are a different hobby, where it really is group world building or literal group storytelling. In a more traditional roleplaying game like D&D, you build it as you go and it's almost like a game of football or some sport where the action arises as you go."

This highlights what i've been feeling since the launch of 4E. It looks like there's a fundamental disconnect between the way the people in charge of D&D play D&D and the way me and my friends and every other gaming group i've ever been a part of play D&D. We don't just have cool fights - we create worlds and tell stories. We've played that way since we were playing Basic D&D, played it that way in AD&D and in 2E and 3E. 4E seems to be a game that at best does not support that style of play, and at worst, actively discourages it. It looks like 4E is designed for convention games - one-offs that highlight interesting mechanics or scenarios, but which don't make up the bulk of your gaming time.

I can accept that the game is changing and maybe i should stick with my old edition - that's fine. What caused me to write off WotC wholesale was their abortive stab at making an online table-top experience. The hobby as a whole needs to go online, but the stuff available now is a mishmash of good and bad tools that require more technical expertise than most of my table-top gaming friends possess. 4E's announcement highlighted their digital efforts, promising online tools for playing and managing games. That was more attractive than any of the rules changes they talked about.

At launch, none of it was available - not even a character generator. I stopped waiting for it after a year of almost no progress, but afaik they never got the virtual game table up and running and have largely abandoned all of their digital efforts. WotC has proven time and again that they cannot handle a programming project for D&D. If they want to have a real go at it, they need to stop trying to do it on the cheap, in-house. They need to hire real developers and devote real resources to it because the online tools are the future of their business. If they can't see that then maybe they are headed for the death spiral.

Slycne:

machvergil:
It really is sad that fourth edition has attracted such criticism. 4E is easily the best D&D has ever been in terms of overall fun factor and it's sad to me how much nostalgia keeps people from seeing that. Is it perfect? No, but it's much closer than any of the older editions were.

But fun is a subjective experience, so you can't say that 4E is more 'fun' than another other edition sans your own interactions with it. So if you've had more fun with 4E and I've had more fun with another edition than we effectively just cancel each other out, but that doesn't make either one of us wrong in measuring our own enjoyment, just that we differ. I had fun with my time with 4E. I would probably even play in a campaign if given the chance, I enjoy the medium of tabletop games in almost any form. I simply prefer the experience given from older editions.

The irony here is that everyone complaining about new changes is becoming, in a way, the grognards which they scorn. At the end of the day 4E is going to change just like all the other editions did, and the new changes will have supporters and detractors like every other one did down the line.

So maybe we can all complain about 5E together?

"Edition Rage" is a big part of what seems to form the discussion in gaming in general, weather it's people who loved WoW before Burning Crusade to people who'd never go back to a day before Death Knights, or arguing over editions of D&D. I agree that "fun" is subjective, but the important thing here is no one is making us play the editions of D&D we don't want to. Unlike with say WoW where I can't go back to an era before resilience, I could choose to keep playing 3.5 if I wanted to. I just choose not to, because I prefer 4th Edition.

The reason for my comment, and I see my efforts to say brief so as to not draw ire failed, was to say this: from a game design stand point, in terms of clarity of rules, options in character design and development, progression, and balance, Fourth Edition represents progress over its predecessors. I as a player feel like I don't have to put up with playing a class until I become useful, nor do I have to worry about how much my class will suck in so many levels. My casters don't have to wait forever for all the weapon-based players to resolve their extra attacks, and get to make all kinds of cool choices every time my turn comes up other than "I swing my sword."

It's not perfect. There's still a lot of stuff that's confusing, and I personally think the way encounters is handled supports dungeon grinding more than I would like, and other little nit picks, but these changes don't stop me from not being able to stomach the concept of playing an old edition of D&D again.

As a quick aside - I've been role playing since before 3rd Ed. 3rd Ed was the first time I enjoyed D&D enough for me to play it more than once. AD&D throughly disgusted me.

My concern about the naysaying isn't because I think people who think the previous editions are "wrong" so to speak as much as I am worried that it will result in the game taking steps backwards to a day when a wizard could be killed at level 1 with a single melee attack from a single Orc, and can only cast two spells a day, and therefore is helpless to all the other characters until the achieve a level of usefulness. These would represent to me a step backwards in game design, and one that I would hope that upset forum posts don't cause Wizards to take.

It is my opinion that D&D4 is more fun than previous editions, but hey, at least if they do takes steps backwards, I can keep playing 4th ed until my books decay.

I certainly hope the new Essentials line doesn't become the dominant direction WoTC takes the D&D franchise in, because I hate with a fiery passion and fury attempts to simplify things that don't really need simplified by removing options.

4th Edition D&D isn't especially complicated - it's a highly streamlined ruleset that admittedly made individual classes seem somewhat "less distinct" by virtue of giving them all options to do badass things more often and allowing them to heal themselves in combat or whatnot, but it's disingenuous to assert that at-will, encounter, and daily powers translate into "all classes play the same now". They don't; the rule changes allow party members to be more self-sufficient certainly, and the power system definitely alters the disparity of the power level between classes like Fighters or Wizards[1], but my paladin isn't anything like our party's rogue.

When 4th Edition first came out, long time D&D players lamented the dearth of Gnomes and wondered just where the hell races like Dragonborn and Eladrin came from and why WoTC seemed to think we needed them and not Gnomes, but Gnomes are in the game now. So are Githzerai, sentient collections of crystal from the Astral Plane, shapeshifters, Revenants, Devas and Shadar-kai. Old familiar classes like Monks are back in the game, and there are a bloody ton of new ones (or at least I think they're new, I'd never heard of them before anyways), some of which are really cool. There are a bloody ton of options when creating a character, and even more when leveling up and advancing them.

And then we have something like Essentials and the Red Box, where you have Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings. Fighters without daily abilities so they'll "feel more like fighters". No bloody thank you. I never played a run of the mill fighter in any CRPG system based on a D&D ruleset precisely because I didn't want to play a character who couldn't really do anything other than "hit stuff until it dies". I played Paladins, who had special abilities and could learn to cast spells, I played monks (who had all sorts of special abilities that were sort of like spells), I played elaborate multiple class/prestige class combinations, but I never just played a bloody fighter.

    I am routinely jealous of my current party's dwarven fighter (who is playing a character I actually redesigned for him), because the stuff he can do is really damn cool[2].


Sacrificing all the nifty abilities fighters can use in 4Ed simply to make "fighters and wizards feel different" strikes me as a wrong-headed approach to a problem that isn't there - fighters do feel different from wizards. Fighters are all about getting up close and personal, acting as a bulwark against attacks on other party members, and generally singling out individual targets (or just the ones close by). In short, they pretty much just hit things, but in interesting and varied ways.

Wizards on the other hand are all about AoE, altering the battlefield environment through persistent effects, dominating enemies minds, blasting things with columns of flame, etc. They are almost never going to be in melee range of their own volition, and while 4th Edition spellcasters are a great deal more durable than spellcasters from earlier rulesets, armor restrictions and their class features still leave them "squishier" than martial classes like fighters.

Both classes have access to at-will, encounter, and daily powers, but to equate these classes with each other simply because they both have the same number of daily/encounter abilities to use is silly - wizard powers and fighter powers do very different things; the implementation of that whole power setup wasn't to make all the classes feel the same, it was to make everyone feel useful all the time by giving them more abilities to use besides the ever present "basic attack" or "die from a single blow because my class has no hitpoints oh noes".

You're not going to bring around the complainers who don't like 4th Edition now because it's more streamlined and simplistic than 3.5 by simplifying it even further, and taking away options from players like me does not endear you to us - 4th Edition is only barely complex enough now to really capture my interest, "streamlining" 4th Edition sounds to me like a recipe for making it dreadfully dull. I therefore sincerely hope that Essentials doesn't really catch on to the point where WoTC starts developing for it exclusively, and it remains forever "4th Edition for Dummies" as I perceive it, the exclusive domain of absolute beginners and nobody else.

[1] Where at first the latter tend to be next to useless thanks to their reliance on expendable daily abilities coupled with physical frailty and the former are awesome due to better combat survivability and the "I just hit things" principle, only for the reverse to apply at higher levels.
[2] Not jealous of that fighter's player mind you, as he tends to fail miserably at doing those cool things he theoretically could thanks to abysmal dice rolls, but I still look at what he should be capable of with envy.

Wow, this is too intense for me. I need to find a less controversial topic. What do you guys think of Glenn Beck?

Sorry - on reflection, Gildan, you deserve a longer response, as your post was long and thought-out. I'm not really sure what to say, though, in that you and I obviously would prefer very different styles of D&D.

I think what Mearls is trying to achieve is a set of rules that is robust enough that both you and I could enjoy the game. I could run D&D with the Essentials classes and you could run it with the Core Classes and we'd both be happier. Time will tell, I suppose.

You know, I left D&D years ago.
So I have been 'outside looking in' for a while on this. And I find it funny when anyone accuses me of a bias, since my only real stake in the game is that I really want the hobby to grow, so the more money WotC and every other company can make, the happier I am.

I think the article/interview in question was informative and fair, and I again find the obvious bias in some of these responses to be humourous. I can notate shifts in what the different editions focus on and the resultant games they create.

I was happy you mentioned the Justin Alexander stuff. I really believe that immersion is really aided by associatve mechanics, directly and indirectly.

Archon:
I think what Mearls is trying to achieve is a set of rules that is robust enough that both you and I could enjoy the game. I could run D&D with the Essentials classes and you could run it with the Core Classes and we'd both be happier. Time will tell, I suppose.

That was my understanding of how things worked, they're supposed to be "compatible" with each other to the extent where you could run Essentials characters alongside standard 4Ed characters. Obviously that's not something I'd personally want to do, but the possibility is built into the system. My concern isn't that Essentials is going to ruin 4th Edition (can't really do that, as it's a parallel system running on the same underlying rules) but that increasing focus on it might slow down the ever expanding power creep to be had in the myriad 4th Edition supplements that are the lifeblood of rules lawyer min/maxing junkies like me who currently spend entire evenings concocting characters they never actually intend to play for the sheer sake of making them... and I would hate that, because I loves me some new supplements.

That last run on sentence wasn't comedic exaggeration, I treat the 4th Edition Character Creator like it was a game in and of itself, and my gaming buddies joke that I know the ins and outs of their characters better than they do (literally true in some cases, as I ended up redesigning their character sheets to take the core idiom they wanted to embody and make it "more awesome"[1]).

[1] Something I was specifically asked to do by our DM when he noticed that one of the guys hadn't printed out a new sheet since 3rd level.

I am a big fan of the simplicity of 4E. In my opinion, the new changes with Essentials are mucking up a game. Merals attempt to bring back the old players into D&D is alienating me. If they want to sell books to the old 3.5, 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 player why don't they print new books in those old systems. I am not going to buy many of the new essentials products and may start looking at another system to play in. He has now lost the hard-core 3.5 crowd and is working on losing players like me.

Michael Benensky:
I am a big fan of the simplicity of 4E. In my opinion, the new changes with Essentials are mucking up a game. Merals attempt to bring back the old players into D&D is alienating me. If they want to sell books to the old 3.5, 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 player why don't they print new books in those old systems. I am not going to buy many of the new essentials products and may start looking at another system to play in. He has now lost the hard-core 3.5 crowd and is working on losing players like me.

Michael, you raised a really good question which I asked Andy Collins earlier this year. I recommended to Wizards that they re-release one of the classic editions. From my point of view, if people want to play 3rd, 2nd, or 1st edition D&D, why have them play Pathfinder or Osric or some other clone if you can sell them the real thing? If Coca-Cola can have "Coke Classic," "New Coke" "Cherry Coke" and so on, why can't D&D have "D&D Classic" "D&D 4e", "D&D Grognard" and so on.

But their strategy seems to be to want to address all the different segments within the 4e brand.

Archon:
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.

The thread "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" is, of course, a satirical tribute. We get a lot of habitual complainers at ENWorld; check out the apocalyptic warnings about D&D Essentials that preceded their release.

That kind of silliness rightly deserves a good dose of satire. However, the existence of "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" in no way is meant to endorse or legitimize the complaints of the complainers it satirizes.

Davran:
The thread "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" is, of course, a satirical tribute. We get a lot of habitual complainers at ENWorld; check out the apocalyptic warnings about D&D Essentials that preceded their release.

That kind of silliness rightly deserves a good dose of satire. However, the existence of "Mike Mearls Ruined Everything" in no way is meant to endorse or legitimize the complaints of the complainers it satirizes.

Davran, thanks for dropping by from ENWorld! Linking that thread was, I thought, a quick and funny way of summarizing the "nerd rage" but it has not gone over too well.

Please tell the ENWorlders that I understand and I don't think the people posting therein actually think Mike Mearls ruined everything. Everyone here at The Escapist understands that it was actually Rob Heinsoo who ruined everything, and that Mike Mearls is going to fix it.

OMG, I kid, I kid. Please don't sick Rob Heinsoo on me.

"So if Heinsoo just wanted to create a fun game, what did Mearls want to create?"

Obviously, something to get grognards to open up their wallets and get more market share. Essentials is nothing more than a capitulation to everyone who ever said "this is D&D WoW edition make it like the same game we've had for 30 years no changes!!!" and a big fuck you to everyone who bought 4th edition books and supported the game it was meant to be. Because make no mistake, Mearls is killing 4th edition and making something that will not support 4th edition as designed and released. People talked about 3.5 as being an unneccessary cashgrab, people talked about 3e as video-gaming the hobby, but none of those criticisms and none of that indignation was backed up by the betrayal that Mearls is conducting here.

moonkid:
There's nothing particularly negative about this article

The dishonesty of it all. I mean, who can seriously call Tieflings new fangled? Or what about the idea of finally getting fighters out of the class ghetto being a horrible, horrible idea?

Woah, 4e Player Betrayed. Nothing I heard in that interview made me think they were going to stop supporting 4th edition. I think Mearls is just trying to pitch a bigger tent, one that is inclusive of old fans as well as new.

If you think including old fans is bad, then who is really telling who to f**k off? Let's be real here.

Wow.

Weren't some 4e fans pointing the finger laughing at grognards and their nerdrage over 4e?

Come on, guys. Relax.

Mike Mearls ruined '4e Player Betrayed.'

Oh no...the meme...ITS SPREADING.

Archon:

I think what Mearls is trying to achieve is a set of rules that is robust enough that both you and I could enjoy the game. I could run D&D with the Essentials classes and you could run it with the Core Classes and we'd both be happier. Time will tell, I suppose.

I don't people mind that part. What gets us up in arms is the idea that the Essentials classes represent a change in the overall direction of D&D (much like Tome of Battle heralded the new era of melee classes). Letting your little bro play a gimped fighter because it's less complicated is fine. Gutting the fighter completely so that in a few years we'll be forced to play said gimped fighter is not.

Personally, I don't think what I've heard about the Essentials box is going to sway too many people into playing the game. For all its faults, 4E is a fairly easy game to pick up and play. The game could do with some pre-generated characters, and a cheaper book combining the PHB, MM and DMG with basic classes, monsters and rules would be appreciated. If Essentials can be that, then it will serve its purpose.

But to try to appease the grognards by rolling back the clock is a bad move. The new design is a BETTER design. Balance is good. Less save-or-die one-hit kills is good. Better/more streamlined combat is good. Yes, some of the mechanics are less realistic. It's a game with magic in it. Realism can only stretch so far and has to bow to the dictates of gameplay.

Ultimately, I think products like the new Ravenloft board game are probably going to be easier to get new players into the system.

Part of me thinks they are less concerned about getting the grognards back as they are about getting the grognards' *kids*. Figure the average 10-year old who picked up D&D in 1983 is now 37 and probably has kids in the right age range to start with Red Box. A whole generation of kids, younger than the current 4e crowd, with parents with warm, nostalgic feelings towards classic D&D.

Mike Mearls ruined our blind edition hatred!

LMAO! Some of your readers don't know satire when they see it!

I think a hard thing to understand for a lot of people is that many 'grognards' are not opposed to new systems as much as they are the change of focus. 4e does what it tries to do extremely well; and this is why the adherents to it are somewhat vehemently upset about a need to change.
And ultimatly. changes will not attract any older gamers or their children unless they change that focus, or unless they make versions of the game with different foci.

OD&D, in my estimation, was a game focused on exploration as it's primary goal, in that the classes and roles were balanced in utlity based on this. It didn't matter if the low level mage was less useful in combat, he could detect for magic or read languages, which were just as important to that game style.

AD&D's main focus for game balance moved out a little further, to more adventure balance with some campaign balance added in. For example, Assassins and Thieves had more skills based on being in town, and many equalizers were in the rules about later growth, such as stronghold building.

and this has moved until 4E. where the balance is in the encounter, as one can see by Gildan's conversation above dealing with what makes the fighter and the wizard different, or Machvergil's writing on why he likes this game.

It's not that one focus is better than the others. It's just that they are each designed for different game styles.

Being a newcomer to tabletop gaming myself, it was really neat to read some of the reasons why there is a kerfuffle over 4th Edition as opposed to older versions. It was also nice to read about a person in charge of a huge "empire" who still was not only willing, but wanted to listen to the "common people". It's nice to see him doing what I think would be honoring of the foundations of D&D. Imagination is key, and it truly seems like that is where he's coming from and where he's leading.

It's a long comments thread, so I apologize if any of these points have been made already.

Crimson_Dragoon:
I don't like that the Essentials line is removing options for Fighters.

Gildan Bladeborn:
I certainly hope the new Essentials line doesn't become the dominant direction WoTC takes the D&D franchise in, because I hate with a fiery passion and fury attempts to simplify things that don't really need simplified by removing options.

The Essentials line isn't removing anything (well, except for the attack roll for Magic Missile). It's adding new versions of fighters and other classes that give players choices other than the normal-until-now spread of at-will/encounter/daily powers. It's doing the same thing for the most iconic classes that Player's Handbook 3 did for psionic classes. It's adding options, not removing them.

Admittedly, the no-dailies type of fighter will be the first fighter that a new player sees if s/he gets into the game via the Essentials line, but s/he can then easily pick up the Player's Handbook or Martial Power to play with an AWED build. Obviously, a player who starts with the Essentials Red Box or Heroes of the Fallen Lands might not know about all the options in the Player's Handbook. But by the same token, a player who starts playing tomorrow with the Player's Handbook won't necessarily know about the alternatives in Heroes of the Fallen Lands. Everybody starts somewhere. Nothing in the Essentials line says, "Don't play those other builds." The red box and the two Essentials player (race/class) books are designed as entry points into the game, not restrictions on current or future games.

Mr.Squishy:
4th Ed. Classes felt so goddamn samey that the whole party could've played fighters, and it would've made little difference.

I've been playing D&D since the full-color 1978 boxed set (with the pastel blue rulebook inside). I did not play much 2E, but DMed 3.5e from 2003-2008 and switched over to 4e upon its release. I've been DMing the same 4e campaign for the last two years. I've played and DMed for a lot of different characters in a lot of different classes, and in my view the so-called "sameyness" of 4e classes is an illusion. Until the release of Player's Handbook 3, all 4e classes did have the same "slots" to fill, from a mechanical point of view, but that doesn't make them identical. A party full of fighters has no effective artillery; sure, you could give one or two of them bows, but (for example) a fighter with a longbow is nowhere near as effective as a ranger with a longbow. A party full of fighters has to pick off the horde of minions (mooks) one at a time (or maybe two, with Cleave or with the tempest fighter build), while a good wizard will eliminate several minions with a single well-placed attack. At the very least, having a spread of classes in the party increases your tactical options in combat, never mind the difference it makes outside of combat when the characters interact with the world around them.

Mr.Squishy:
Oh yeah, a hybrid of 3.5 and 4 would've been interesting.

This exists, and it's called "the D&D Essentials line." Seriously. The new fighter (slayer), cleric (warpriest), and wizard (mage) builds, at least, are basically the look-and-feel of 3.5e classes operating within 4e mechanics.

matthew_lane:
i found 4E to be dull, repetitive, unable to create more then the most basic story due to a lack of fluff

I've been running a D&D 4e campaign continuously for the last two years. The fact that the players keep coming back to the table and that podcasts of our sessions get 5-star reviews in the iTunes Store suggests that 4e certainly can be something other than "dull, repetitive, unable to create more then [sic] the most basic story." I think that probably qualifies as more than "the most basic story." Story depends on the DM and the players, not on the rulebooks. Not that rulebooks can't help, and WotC has tried very hard to increase the amount of fluff in recent products; compare Monster Manual 3 to Monster Manual to see this in action, or open up the character creation book in the new red box. The core books are already chock full of the crunch, and a lot of the world-making fluff comes in the supplemental books, such as the planar/environment books and anything ending in -omicon. It is true that WotC resisted created a "default" setting for 4e, preferring to give "examples" instead. However, this has shifted, and the Nentir Vale setting is getting a lot of attention and even a gazetteer in 2011.

Benoist:
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.

The fact that WotC intends to keep the Essentials products in stock regardless of whether other books, tile sets, etc. go out of print supports the idea that Essentials embodies the long-term vision ... or at least as long-term as anything can be in the tabletop RPG industry these days.

Selvec:
I hate the lore and lack of information to create a world with. The lack of information as to why things happen. Thats what makes me want to stab WOTC.

This criticism was probably valid in August 2008, when 4e consisted only of the three core books and a few articles on D&D Insider. But no longer. WotC started out 4e with the idea that they didn't want to restrict DMs' options by setting out a particular default campaign setting, beyond things like the basic tone, a suggested pantheon of gods, and so on. Since then, however, WotC has given us three campaign settings (Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun), as well as three books about the planes/cosmos, a book full of undead fluff, a book full of Underdark fluff, two dragon books, one demon book, plus more story material in Monster Manual 3, two city books (Hammerfast and Vor Rukoth), and so on. WotC is also planning more products (at least a gazetteer, a monster book, and a novels line) that explore the Nentir Vale (introduced in the first DMG, by the way) in more detail, never mind a quasi-independent Ravenloft game/campaign setting, coming in 2011, and the Essentials player books are supposed to give more attention to story than the existing PHs have given (I say "supposed to," because I haven't seen those books yet personally).

vxicepickxv:
I haven't picked up anything in 4Ee because I don't know anybody else that picked up anything 4e. If it isn't old(or New World of Darkness) then nobody's running it, because they don't know anybody else that has any books. It's a poor man's stalemate.

Did you know that you can [link="http://www.wizards.com/dnd/TryDnD.aspx" target="_blank"]Download some quickstart 4e rules for free from the WotC web site? You can also download The Keep on the Shadowfell, which includes a module (not the greatest in the world, admittedly) to use with the quickstart rules, and Khyber's Harvest, the Free RPG Day 2009 module. If you have an Internet connection and a PDF reader, you can try 4e with no outlay of money at all. Well, except for dice, but chances are you have those already.

machvergil:
4E is easily the best D&D has ever been in terms of overall fun factor and it's sad to me how much nostalgia keeps people from seeing that.

Michael Mifsud:
Lets hope more of the classical D&D gaming style works its way in. 4E is the most enjoyable version of the game since 1e IMO. It has its problems but so did 1e.

As someone who has played D&D since a friend introduced me to the Holmes basic rulebook (pastel blue cover) in 1978, I agree with Michael Mifsud. 4e feels to me more like 1e than 3.5e ever did. This is a personal, subjective experience, of course. Your mileage may vary. But I'm just saying that "nostalgia" cuts both ways. WotC is obviously trying to capitalize on nostalgia for the 1970s-80s D&D experience with the packaging and promotion of Essentials, while the mechanics seem aimed at those who are nostalgic for the 2000s (I feel funny using "nostalgia" and "2000s" in the same sentence, but there it is.)

Archon:
Part of me thinks they are less concerned about getting the grognards back as they are about getting the grognards' *kids*. Figure the average 10-year old who picked up D&D in 1983 is now 37 and probably has kids in the right age range to start with Red Box. A whole generation of kids, younger than the current 4e crowd, with parents with warm, nostalgic feelings towards classic D&D.

Let's test that theory. I started playing D&D at age 11 in 1978. I'm now 43. I have a 12-year-old son and a 6-year-old son. The 12-year-old just worked through the character creation adventure in the 2010 Red Box last week, and went with me to Red Box Game Day. My anecdotal evidence confirms your theory. Except that I've been DMing 4e continuously for the last two years ... does that blow the curve?

Oh, and Mike Mearls killed the radio star. That's what I heard.

d20philia:
It's a long comments thread, so I apologize if any of these points have been made already.

Thanks for taking the time to provide such a measured and thought-out response to many of the threads in this discussion. Everything you wrote above about Essentials accords with my understanding of the game as well.

As I noted on RPG.net yesterday, I like the direction I'm seeing 4.0 move: Better integration of game and setting and more opportunity for classic styles of play.

d20philia:
It's a long comments thread, so I apologize if any of these points have been made already.

Crimson_Dragoon:
I don't like that the Essentials line is removing options for Fighters.

Gildan Bladeborn:
I certainly hope the new Essentials line doesn't become the dominant direction WoTC takes the D&D franchise in, because I hate with a fiery passion and fury attempts to simplify things that don't really need simplified by removing options.

The Essentials line isn't removing anything (well, except for the attack roll for Magic Missile). It's adding new versions of fighters and other classes that give players choices other than the normal-until-now spread of at-will/encounter/daily powers. It's doing the same thing for the most iconic classes that Player's Handbook 3 did for psionic classes. It's adding options, not removing them.

Admittedly, the no-dailies type of fighter will be the first fighter that a new player sees if s/he gets into the game via the Essentials line, but s/he can then easily pick up the Player's Handbook or Martial Power to play with an AWED build. Obviously, a player who starts with the Essentials Red Box or Heroes of the Fallen Lands might not know about all the options in the Player's Handbook. But by the same token, a player who starts playing tomorrow with the Player's Handbook won't necessarily know about the alternatives in Heroes of the Fallen Lands. Everybody starts somewhere. Nothing in the Essentials line says, "Don't play those other builds." The red box and the two Essentials player (race/class) books are designed as entry points into the game, not restrictions on current or future games.

I'm well aware that Essentials isn't "removing options" from 4th Edition itself and is simply alternate rules for character creation and advancement, but the characters it lets you create are character that have less options. By itself that isn't worrying, as I don't have to use those "boring" versions if I don't want to - my concern is the possibility that an increased focus on producing material for the Essentials line may at some point supplant or otherwise diminish the frequency of new material released for normal 4th Edition characters.

I'm cynical enough to easily envision a future where Essentials just becomes the new 4th Edition, leaving the folks who liked the regular version of 4th Edition to cling to their old source books like drowning men, bemoaning the fate of their beautiful D&D. That's a future I'd kind of like to avoid, because I crave new supplements (and the gradual power creep they bring) and it would totally suck if they stopped making them for the version of 4th Edition I am able to perceive as something other than a lame attempt to appeal to people who don't actually like 4th Edition by undoing the changes they made to classes that desperately needed them.

Indeed, Gildan. I think the distinction between 4E and Essentials 4E can be distilled down to this:

1) 4E was aimed at recruiting new players to the game, kids who grew up on video games.

2) Essentials is aimed at re-recruiting lapsed players, and at recruiting the children of lapsed players.

There are some problems with trying to pretend that the two approaches can coexist within a single edition of the game. For example, Essentials class builds can't take multiclass power-swap feats, since they have no attack powers to swap, and there are certainly no hybrid versions of the Essentials builds. In 4E, having a class that doesn't follow the power structure simply makes no sense. Even the psionic classes can be hybrids since the power point structure is a simple mirror of the encounter attack power structure. Consequently, Essentials stands a good chance of alienating a chunk of the existing 4E player base.

That might be okay if Essentials can attract more players. But I'm not sure it can. I'm not convinced that the lapsed/children-of-lapsed player market is really all that large. I think the retro styling of the Red Box will hurt Essentials in big box stores. More importantly, though, I think it's too late for WotC to court lapsed players. The ones who are just lapsed D&D players, not lapsed RPGers, are already playing Pathfinder if 4E didn't deliver what they wanted in D&D. Paizo's support in terms of things like adventure paths is excellent; I don't think Pathfinder players are going to be defecting to 4E.

I also thought that 4E was reasonably successful at the first item, although of course my experience is anecdotal. Still, I got more friends to try D&D with 4E -- and more of them liked and stuck with it -- than any previous edition of the game, or indeed any other RPG. My girlfriend has gone from having played one session of D&D in her life to trying 4E to actually running her own D&D games. Other friends have followed similar trajectories. Maybe we aren't representative of the broader market, but I'm not so sure.

If Essentials was being introduced as a basic version of the game, like the old Basic/Advanced divide that existed back in the 2E days, I think it would make more sense, although I'm not sure it would be any more successful sales-wise. Basic D&D and AD&D were two different games with different rulesets that shared some fundamental mechanics. Essentials and 4E are similar, but Mike Mearls keeps trying to convince us that the two are mechanically compatible. Unfortunately, they just aren't.

As someone who returned to buying D&D materials with 4E, though, the main thing that bothers me about Essentials is that it's being billed as "the baseline experience for the game going forward."

Since Essentials builds are incompatible with existing classes -- an Essentials fighter can't mix and match attack powers like every other fighter can -- any mechanical support for them in Dragon magazine is taking space and effort away from mechanical support for classes and builds I'm actually interested in. In that sense, Essentials is actually hurting 4E.

To me, 4.0 distilled D&D down to its purest essence -- killing monsters and taking their shit. That is the core of Dungeons and Dragons as it has been since 1E. But over the course of the editions, it grew into this gigantic world-simulator; d20 was intended to be the one system to rule them all. If you want sci-fi, play d20 Future. Horror, d20 Cthulhu. Etc. But the D&D mechanics aren't suited to all these different styles of play. 4E pruned all of that away and refocused the game on Dungeons and Dragons. And loot. In addition, it provided DM frameworks that were unprecedented in their simplicity and flexibility -- encounter balancing, trap/hazard design, monster templates, treasure parcels and skill challenges -- for handling the behind-the-scenes stuff. I still run Iron Heroes, a 3.5 variant designed by Mearls himself, but whenever it gets into crunch, I'm constantly wishing it was 4.0.

As a result, I struggle with Essentials. Essentials is an attempt to graft old-school style onto current mechanics, and the warts show. Essentials Wizards have to consult a table to determine how many spells they can memorize per day. Essentials Fighters are back to making melee basic attacks round after round after round -- which the designers of 4.0 were explicitly trying to move away from. That's problematic for balance because other "normal" 4E classes aren't expected to make melee basic attacks often, so there are feats and other class abilities that buff them. Essentials Fighters can get those perks on every attack, since they literally have no other options. Mechanically boring yet mechanically optimal strikes me as a less desirable outcome.

Pre-Essentials, "the baseline experience for the game" was the at-will/encounter/daily attack power framework. If that's really no longer the case, it's a significant problem for people who play and enjoy 4E today.

I hope WotC continues to support the pre-Essentials "baseline experience" after Essentials comes out. That would go a long way to keeping me buying books and renewing my D&D Insider subscription. If Essentials content really does become the "baseline experience," however, I'll probably drop D&DI and stick with the crunch I already have in my 4.0 books.

The editorial content rather eclipsed the interview. And, enh, fine, it's your site and all, but that does mean the article ends up sacrificing "insider" insight into the subject in favor of a fan perspective.

-- Alex

Alex_P:
The editorial content rather eclipsed the interview. And, enh, fine, it's your site and all, but that does mean the article ends up sacrificing "insider" insight into the subject in favor of a fan perspective.

-- Alex

Alex - We're sensitive to that fact. We posted the complete 12 page interview here.
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/writersroom/8115-Complete-Mike-Mearls-D-D-4th-Edition-Essentials-Interview

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here