I realized something during a little playtest of Fourth Edition a few nights ago. It’s the small things that make the biggest difference.
Now, a lot has changed in the style and rules of D&D. The core Races have altered (goodbye Gnome, hello scaly dude), the Classes are different (Bards begone! I summon you, Warlord!) and the game has added a whole new layer of mechanics with it’s Powers.
At the same time though, much of the game is still the same. In fact, it could be argued that 4e hasn’t gone far enough and it should have made the jump to being the whole-scale point-buy system it’s slowly evolving into. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blogpost for another time.
What I realized is that one teeny tiny rule in the whole game has changed, and with it, it’s changed the whole game.
Diagonal movement, I’m looking at you.
Bear with me here. I’m not crazy, I swear. Here’s a quick recap by way of explanation.
In Third Edition, diagonal movement was calculated differently to standard up-down side-to-side movement. Instead of moving 3,4,5 or however many squares, diagonal movement was counted in multiples of 1.5, in some kind of wierd inaccurate homage to Pythagoras. That first square cost 1 “movement point”, the second cost 2, the third 1, the fourth 2, and so on.
One of the many things that 4e does right is fix that. Move one square in any direction, and it costs 1 square. Just adjust for terrain (difficult costs 2 per square), and you’re done.
So here’s the thing.
You don’t need a grid any more!
Read that again, and let it sink in.
Just grab a ruler to measure the inches, and your minis can move anywhere, however the heck they want. No grid needed. Count each full inch of difficult terrain as 2 inches, and move front-of-base to front of base. Go ‘round corners by following the path, and allow free movement of 1” for the shift – the old 3e 5-foot step, reborn.
Getting rid of the grid means getting rid of the battlemat and boardgame mentality. It means that grey tablecloth (the one you washed with your socks by accident. Yes, that one) is your dungeon floor, with books marking dungeon walls. You’re out of Boardgame-land where you’re counting the movement and firmly into Wargame-land with all that entails. Freedom of movement, tactical use of terrain and pure, unadulterated old-school D&D goes back to it’s Chainmail roots fun.
Grab that ruler to check distances for range, blast radius and the like, or – if you’re feeling particularly wargamey – only allow measuring distances after the roll to simulate misjudged ranges.
Taking this a step further, it also means you can use figures of any scale. Grab those 6mm Fantasy Miniatures you’ve been drooling over (check out their 6mm fantasy Range, then faint at the prices – 4 Dark Elf Champions, £0.50. Wonderful!) and create an entire dungeon on your worktop. Set 1 square = 1cm, and you’re good to go. Brilliant! £11.00 will buy you an entire freaking army of 6mm minis – 250 to 300 minis, more than enough to populate your gaming for years to come! Sure, it’s using a wargaming mindset, but with 4e’s role-playing rules to keep the game centred on the heroes at all times.
That’s one heck of a change to the game.
And it’s all down to the way diagonal movement is calculated.