Saturday, March 13, 2010

A big ol' pile of meh.

I went to a gaming store today, one that is not in my neighborhood...actually, it was the place where I played in an all too brief and somewhat ill-fated game of Swords & Wizardry early last year.

I really, really must stop going to gaming stores.

The first thing I pass is the big display of Player's Handbook 3. I had the briefest urge to crack one open out of sheer, morbid curiosity, but I quickly squelched that.


  1. I read on Carl Nash's Other Blog that in it, they introduce un-balanced Hybrid Classes.
    --Everything old is new again, it seems. ;)

    How did the Breakfast Club go?

  2. I had four students show up and save their grades. Unfortunately, I did not get to drink Old Style in the basement with a janitor named Carl while the students broke down the social barriers enforced by their peers and learned a lesson about who they really are inside.

  3. I read the title of this post as "A Big ol' Pile of Meth." Oh, I am tired and not seeing straight.

    Three players handbooks? What the hell do you need three for?!

  4. @Christian:
    More rules = more funz, Dood!!!

    Or so the kids these days tell me.

  5. Gotta catch 'em all.

    Just kidding. Sort of.


  6. @Lord Gwydion - actually, the 4E playerbase is asking the same question. Right now, the word on the forums is "less rulebooks, more campaigns/adventures". Of course, then they go on to tell WotC how all of their published adventures suck...

  7. Well, drinking with Carl is best reserved after you've had a long career and have been demoted to Coach, after all. ;)

  8. Right now, the word on the forums is "less rulebooks, more campaigns/adventures".

    Sheesh, I could've told them that. No one asked me, unfortunately, and so the same old lessons get learned again and again.

  9. @eabod- I'd like to see that discussion, but I have long sworn off the WotC boards.

    Anyway, I hope the enjoy the PHB4. I hear it's supposed to be epic.

  10. Actually the PHB3 introduces several excellent rules options (including hybrids, which are smartly balanced), a few semi-excellent classes/races, and a robust but complicated framework for psionic powers. It's quite a sharp bit of design, though power creep is beginning to set in.

    This rules-expansion work will seem totally justified when the 4e Rules Compendium comes out this fall, fitting all the game's modular systems between two digest-sized paperback covers.

    All the 4e materials have improved dramatically since the 2008 releases - the MM2 and DMG2 in particular are huge steps forward from their forerunners. And the new paperback rules releases are a very good idea from WotC.

    What's so terrible about that?

  11. This rules-expansion work will seem totally justified when the 4e Rules Compendium comes out this fall, fitting all the game's modular systems between two digest-sized paperback covers.

    Seriously? What I get from this is "It gets totally awesome once you buy enough books!"

    Screw. That.

    I don't want to play a game where I have to keep buying further iterations of the core books until they "get it right."

    I wanted to like 4th ed, I really did, and I gave it a shot for seven months. As the years go by, what I want out of a game and what WotC wants to do with D&D have diverged to the point where saying that we're not on the same page doesn't cut it anymore; we're reading different books entirely.

    ...but hey, if it's working out for you, great.

  12. Seriously? What I get from this is "It gets totally awesome once you buy enough books!"

    Well, no. Rather, 'It gets more interesting as it gets more complex, but it's interesting to start with.' 90% of the 4e system was rock-solid in 2008; skill challenges not so much. The core enhancements (new races/classes, psionics, 'skill powers,' smart new mechanics like dragonmarks for Eberron, etc.) have almost all been excellent. The PHB3 is a strong book mechanically speaking but, again, power creep is inevitable.

    Of course old-school gamers are in no position to complain about power creep, what with their 'game balance and consistency are for little millennial assholes' outlook and all...:)

    4e has gotten deeper over time, but crucially it also started out with a cleaner, more versatile core design than any previous D&D/AD&D edition. (3e is obviously a version of AD&D under the more marketing-savvy D&D brand name.) I'd also say 4e's track record has thus far been better than previous editions' in terms of clean, playable, interesting new material that doesn't dilute or fundamentally alter the game. Lessons learned from 'Magic: the Gathering' I (ahem) gather.

    (Compare to, say, the run of AD&D 1e books including the Dungeoneer's/Wilderness books, Unearthed Arcana, Deities & Demigods, the fucking Fiend Folio, Oriental Adventures...very, very, very mixed bag right there, and several of those books are just trash.)

    Plus the forthcoming digest-sized books will allow players to pick up all the new mechanical material without plunking down huge cash for a couple of years' worth of supplements. That's a good deal for gamers - 4e's fluff is middling, in general, but the rules are elegant and streamlined, meaning the Rules Compendium will be, among other things, a concise 4e kitbashing guide. The first three 4e books remain strong even if the later stuff is (way) better - there's nothing wrong with that!

    I'm with you 150% on the expense and risible juvenilia of 4e, though - it's as immature as previous editions in every aesthetic sense, though with much more professional visual design/art/layout of course. I just want to make the point that the PHB3 is a good book, and over a couple dozen books 4e has gotten better and better in pretty much every way - how many D&D editions can make that claim?!

  13. Which editions can lay claim to that depends entirely on your preference. I knew a dude who was a total 3.5 fanboy and believed that every single book was solid gold, and that the game only got better by adding endless numbers of new feats, classes, etc. He would say that 3rd could lay claim to that, even though I (and apparently, you) disagree.

    The problem is that I never found 4th edition interesting or fulfilling, though I will definitely agree on "rock solid." As I said, I wanted to like it very badly, but my group found it to be tedious. (Every single combat seemed to last forty-five minutes to an hour.) To know that it is now mechanically deeper does it no favors in my estimation.

    So, perhaps the PHB3 is mechanically brilliant or balanced or whatever, but I have no interest at all in the game line it comes from, so my reaction remains "meh." For me to ever consider 4th edition again, they would have to take things out of it, not add things to it.

    I also agree with you on most of the AD&D1 books you mentioned, but not all. (I have a copy of OE on my shelf)

    Oh, a final note... I don't know if you've ever read my blog before now, but I don't play strictly old school games, just old school D&D You will find World of Darkness, Savage Worlds, etc. on my shelf. I also did not return to old D&D until after I had written off 4th edition, and prior to 4th edition I ran nothing but 3.5 for something like three years.