A while ago I wrote TheDungeonMastersCreed as a response to the piss-poor handling of the pre-launch of Fourth Edition D&D by Wizards’ of the Coast. I’m thankful that 4e is a very, very good game indeed, so rather than dwell too much on the failings (ChattyDM’s latest post has that covered), I dusted the Creed down to see whether the 4e we have in our grubby hands right now hits any of the marks. Surprisingly, it does.
Here’s the Creed repeated and whether I think Fourth Edition has hit the target.
We, the undersigned……
1. Demand a rules system that is consistent, clear and concise in all respects
I’ll give 4e the nod for this; the classes are a thing of beauty, and even a new player should be able to get up and running in no time. While the layout of the PHB could be (much) better, this is a game where it’s possible to play without cracking open the books once during a session. Terrific!
2. Want one book that contains character generation, the game rules and a wide and inspiring selection of opponents
Seriously, this was never going to happen, now was it? I’d still love to see a definitive one-book fantasy RPG in a similar vein to d20 Modern, the Star Wars RPG or Mutants & Masterminds. One day…………
3. Expect regular supplements which take the game in fun, exciting and unexpected directions. Give us new monsters, new rules and new ideas, not formulaic repetition and rehashes of previous material
So far, Wizards’ are getting this right. While there’s expected to be a fair amount of old ground being covered, the adventures and articles that are making up their Dungeon and Dragon content are superb. I’m hoping that the new products deliver clever, imaginitive and exciting content rather than fall into the morass we endured with the likes of the rehashed “Complete…..” series of 3e. Yep, 4e has this one – so far.
4. Need published adventures created by the best minds in the industry that are fun to run and don’t require multiple rule books and monster manuals open at the table just to run a simple encounter. Give us all we need to run the encounter straight off the page
Yep. Keep on Shadowfell (for all it’s faults) set a pretty good starting point with the encounters providing everything you need to run them, right on the page. The Dungeon adventures are all of a high quality, and improve with each one we see. I’ve no complaints, at all.
5. Demand a system which works with (but doesn’t demand) miniatures, an internet connection or an electronic gaming aid. Let us choose how we play rather than be dictated by the financial interests of your company. Get this right and the profits will follow. Have faith in your customers, and they will have faith in you
FAIL! 4e needs miniatures; there’s no way around that one, for all Wizards’ bluster claiming otherwise. I’ve yet to work out how the heck you play 4e over IRC (any suggestions?), which is something that 3e does pretty well, meaning you’re left waiting for vapouware from Wizards’ for your ‘net enabled gaming. If anything, 4e is more limited in where and how you play than 3e. Crazy, eh?
6. Want a combat system which can scale with the number of opponents, whether it’s a single foe or a thousand screaming goblins.
I’m happy enough with the way that 4e handles combat that I’ll give this one a yes too. I wouldn’t hesitate to run a combat with 40 foes using 4e, and that’s more than enough for me. 3e hurt my brain with more than 8 opponents – with or without miniatures. 4e is a vast improvement in this respect.
7. Expect to be able to be able to create and customise monsters and NPCs simply, whether we be planning a scenario or sat at the table mid-game. We demand simplicity.
Oh boy did they deliver on this one 4e is MUCH more GM friendly; it’s possible to create monsters in minutes and entire encounters in seconds. Gone are the bad days of CR, EL and head-scratching over XP tables. Oh yes!
8. Want stat blocks which take up a few lines of text, not a whole page
Aaaaaaand a yes for this one too, as I’m feeling generous. The statblocks are a managable size, and as you’re no longer tied to creating NPCs with full Classes, even the biggest badass in your game isn’t going to take up a page and a half of 8 point type. Much, much better.
9. Demand character generation that is as flexible and unrestricted as possible
D&D was never going to provide unrestricted classless character generation; that’s not it’s thing (me want Mutants & Masterminds Fantasy!), but within the bounds of what makes D&D, 4e is at least as good as Third Edition, with the potential to get even better as new PHBs are released. The flexibility of allowing the characters to choose their own Trained Skills, the new multi-class Feats (and the fact that the Powers system opens up Feats for new uses) means it’s possible to create characters with a surprising level of depth. I like. It’s a yes.
10. Expect the rules system to reflect the genre, not mould the genre into it’s image
Another one which wasn’t going to happen. D&D is D&D, not fantasy, and 4e has entrenched even further with it’s invention of the Eldarin and Dragonborn races. If you want to run a role-playing game set in a Classic Fantasy setting from Literature (such as Midkemia, Hyborian, Thieve’s World or the Drenai Empire), look elsewhere or be prepared for much House Ruling, Hand Waving and Head Scratching. It’s a no.
11. Want game designers who listen, not preach; improve, not re-invent; and inspire, not promote.
They’re trying, really they are. After the sheer preechiness of the pre-launch, Wizards’ are shaping up to be the great bunch of guys we know them to be deep down. For sheer effort, I’ll give them a yes. Keep going guys!
12. Require a freely downloadable Test Drive Preview of the game with which we can run a sample adventure from start to end.
STILL no. Will they never learn? Release the Quick Start Rules from Keep on the Shadowfell with a revised Burning Plague and a handful of pre-generated characters, all bundled as a free PDF. That’s half a days’ work and it’ll get more downloads than Pathfinder’s Alpha RPG in no time, and a heck of a lot more traffic to your site. C’mon!
By my reckoning that’s 8 out of 12 – not a bad store at all, and much higher than I believed before the dust settled following the launch. With new supplements on the horizons and the much anticipated (and long overdue!) Starter Set coming out in November, the score can only improve too.
Way to go, 4e!