D&D 4th Edition

I've owned the books for 4th Edition D&D for more than a year. Indeed, it may be creeping up on two years now. But I hadn't played it until the end of February. Mostly, this was because I had plenty of other things to run. But it was also because I was very tired of what I refer to as the "flipping crunch" problem - the tendency in rulebook-heavy games for players to pull out the books and flip pages until they find a rule, spell, magical item, or feat that solves the current problem, rather than thinking about it terms of what would be cool, or what might work in a "realistic" manner. I feared that 4E would have this in large measure - it certainly looked like it from an initial perusal.

I was, in fact, completely wrong. There are, I think, three major reasons for this.

No rituals in combat

Spells have been divided out into rituals and combat powers. Rituals take a long time, and you need to read them directly from a ritual book or scroll [1]. You can't use them in combat - you can only use your combat powers then. This makes things a hell of a lot smoother, and cut the "flipping" out of the crunch in one shot.

You can do one of a few things

Because of the combat-powers-only thing, at any given time in a fight - which is where previous games tended to bog down horribly - any player character has a limited set of things they can do. I haven't worked out the exact numbers yet, but I suspect this maxes out around 10 different things. This means that even the most indecisive player can quickly see which is the most useful action, and take it.

Everyone can do something interesting

A corollary of this is that at any given point in a fight, everyone can do something. There's very little left of "I hit it again", "I hit it again", and so on, nor yet "I cast cure moderate wounds" repetitions - everyone can do something useful and interesting, pretty much all the time.

I'm still digging through the rulebooks, but having run a trial session a couple of weeks ago, my interest has been piqued to the point where I am going to try running a short campaign. I have a world in mind, some initial adventures, and even a set of players, and I'm quite enthused about the game-ish nature of it, as opposed to the very narrative nature of my other (Fate) campaigns. Apart from anything else, I think the game-ish games are going to be much more relaxing to run, since I won't have to keep actions and plot flows and consequences in my mind all the time, but can just kick back when combats starts and play the board game.

[1] The economics of magical item and scroll creation are broken - quite deliberately. I can see why the designers have done this - it means the player characters can't use downtime to make lots of gold making and selling things, and thence overpower themselves with other magical items - but the economic nonsense of it grates on me. This will, I suspect, be something I house rule fairly early on.

Posted by Drew Shiel at March 13, 2010 8:25 PM

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