I’m going to repost my thoughts about what I know from having been around the playtest group for the 4th Edition, and being on the beta Insider forums (lucky me, I was invited). I had to post a comment on this dude’s blog, because it is sort of infuriating to see someone talk up a game they don’t physically have in their hands yet. That hasn’t been tested by dozens of people outside the playtest yet.
One of the downsides of pen and paper RPGs (and some MMOs) is that a lot of people who play don’t understand that it’s a game you don’t play to WIN, but play to have FUN. Several things I see in 4th Ed have me worried in that aspect (and I blame the designers who seem to be more concerned about building a MARKETING plan for a video game than an RPG game):
How much is too much?
Options-wise, there’s a point where options for character creation should stop or things start to get out of hand. Roles are one of the things I think is going to be vastly abused, and make it less fun for the DM to run a game. There are classes for a reason – it forces everyone to take a different part in the story so you don’t have nine cloned adventurers running around. The reality is that the DM should alter his campaign to adjust for a party without a cleric instead of forcing someone to play one.
The second problem I see arising with the addition of more skills, the change up to “feats” (whatever they are going to call them now), and powers is that the temptation to “twink*” gets worse. One thing that is horrid in MMOs for both devs and players is when some players totally build a character that exploits every angle to be a solitary “winner.” It’s unavoidable, as nearly every group of players has a twink or several twinks. 4th Edition caters – no, invites – players to twink.
The last problem I see with the new edition is that the game has been stripped of complexity in favor of dumbing down D&D for a very young group of players. Granted, Wizards targets that group, so it was inevitable that it would spill over. However, 13 year-old kids on the whole do not play or invest in D&D as much as the older, more mature crowd does. Making it 13 year-old accessible (and I directly quoted the designers on that one) makes it less desirable for people like me.
For example – cool-down spell/feat use (an MMO thing). No. Absolutely not. That is a DM tracking nightmare that should not exist and will be exploited by players in ways that will break games. Regardless of how useless they think spellcasters at the present are. A mana pool? Maybe. That’s preferrable. But that suggestion was shot down by the designers because it’s “not simple enough or quick enough for players in their design.”
The game doesn’t need to be easier or harder for PLAYERS. What it needs is to be great for DMs. There are one or two great ideas in there, but all the focus seems to be on the players. Most of the problems that the designers addressed in their podcasts were DM related. But they thought if they fixed the player-side of the game, it would get better, easier and pull people in from the MMO group. Which is not desirable at all for me and most of my associates (and there are a lot of us).
The DM is the heart of the game. If it is still tough for the DM or worse, the game will not fly. It will fall. I already know I’m not going to buy it, and I’m moving to another RPG line altogether in light of what they have shown me in one-on-one demostrations at Cons and online/downloadable articles/items.
Sorry, Wizards, but you had me until I started seeing the reality of your game. I’m out. That means Savage Worlds now has my full attention.
I’ll go even farther to say here that every damn thing I’ve heard the designers talk about has been aimed at marketing. They don’t seem to listen to anyone or care about outside opinion, which is bad. The entire idea of an online subscription is bad. For dedicated D&D players who will stick around and have friends online to play with, it sounds great. Also a great way to disperse eratta/FAQs. But there won’t be enough people willing to pay for it when the economy sucks and people have to decide between their precious MMO and a passing interest in an online pen and paper game.
Poor designed and implemented, on the whole. The wrong focus and the wrong direction for D&D.
* Oh and for those of you reading who don’t know what a twink is, it is a player who analyzes every skill, every trait, every aspect, etc. in relation to the game being played so they can design an uber-character. For instance, building a virtually indestructable first level tank that only gets more obnoxious and indestructable as he levels up. To the point it is boring for other players to even role-play combat anymore. Imagine a group of these people. Wait, you don’t have to – there’s probably a couple hundred thousand of them in MMOs. Annoying, aren’t they? Now put yourself in the DM’s shoes. Get my drift? Twinks don’t play to have fun. Twinks play to WIN (whatever they rationalize in their head that they are winning, I guess).
= APRIL 2nd, 2009 UPDATE =
I just recently wrote a new review. I noticed that a lot of people are still coming to this one from searches or links from other blogs. You can read it here. It’s a more updated version of what I think after having played it/watched it being played by others.
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