Saturday, June 07, 2008

My zeroth impressions of 4e

I took my daughter to her favorite eating establishment for dinner. After polishing off our meef quesaritos Elizabeth informed me that she wanted to go to the nearest bookstore. Pages for All Ages has been a favorite bookstore of mine for more than a decade. It has all the amenities of big chain bookstore combined with the personal touch that comes from being locally owned and operated.

(Back in '97 or so they had no problem stocking some obscure stuff for the Masonic reading circle I was running at the time. The other store I contacted for that project wouldn't touch the order unless I promised to personally buy any copies that didn't sell. And that joint was run by a self-proclaimed Brother o' the 3rd degree. Of course, he said he got his degrees in some California lodge. Maybe it was one of those rogue operations they warn you about.)

Anyway, when my daughter asked to go to Pages, I thought to myself Hey, what the hell. I'll use this opportunity to check out the 4e corebooks. Elizabeth browses a bit before picking out a book or three and sometimes she plays with the toys available in the kids area. In the time that took I figured that I could at least flip through the new PHB.

No dice. Or more accurately, no books. The small RPG section had no 4e books. The nearest endcaps had no 4e books. The new releases section had no RPG books. Either they sold out yesterday or they're hiding them or they didn't order any or no one could be bothered to get them out on their street date or the day after. I hadn't expected it to be any problem to find the corebooks at this store. Their RPG section is shrinking, but they still stock new stuff.

I wasn't in any big hurry to take a look at 4e, but now that I've been frustrated once I want it a little bit more. My brain just works that way. Hopefully Armored Gopher (my FLGS) has some copies. I'm going to try to get over there this weekend and take a look at them. Most of what I've read online about 4e has been personally discouraging, but I feel kinda foolish writing off a new edition of D&D without at least looking at the actual books first.


  1. What do you find discouraging so far? Everything I've heard about fourth edition so far sounds really great.

    As background, I've barely ever played any D&D in my life, and always found AD&D 1e and 2e uninspiring, and D&D 3e fiddly as hell. If I were to run a game, I'd crack out my Cyclopedia -- or, possibly, play 4e with Wuxia-style heroes leaping and bounding off objects, cutting down swathes of minions, and generally kicking ass.

    So yeah, I imagine wanting my D&D in two modes:

    Cyclopedia - "Rats! Run!"

    4th edition - "You take the orcs, I'll handle the umber hulk!"

    It does sound as if 4e may properly facilitate the kickass Old Republic era Star Wars game I've been wanting to run.

  2. I'm digging 4e, plus they have that new rule book smell. Mmmm, they should make a car freshener in that scent. Played a demo of it this morning, Jum ran it. Tons of fun, I thought. Heck, only one guy got out alive. Not the cake walk whoop-ass-fest I had been led to believe it would be.

  3. I'm still reading the books I picked up. Earlier today I saw something and thought you'd really like it... but I don't remember what it was.

  4. Oh. Yeah.

    Magic holy symbols.

  5. I can believe them being sold out. I'm in Borders damn near every day, and they put their 4th out Thursday (PHB/MM), then set up the standee with the DMG friday, and they were sold out of all the PHBs on the shelf today.

  6. We (Armored Gopher) currently have no PHB's left. We do have MM's and DMG's though...

    And I should be at the store tomorrow (Sunday the 8th) so you can thumb through my copy.

    peace... Dave

  7. Anonymous1:34 AM

    I can believe them being sold out. I'm in Borders damn near every day, and they put their 4th out Thursday (PHB/MM), then set up the standee with the DMG friday, and they were sold out of all the PHBs on the shelf today.

    Hehe, same thing almost happened to me at my local Borders on Friday. I go in and noticed that they moved their RPG section. When I found it, what was immediately display were only DMG's. Luckily for me, I made my Spot check. There was a hand cart in the same aisle with a stack of books. DMGs on top, MM's in the middle, PHBs on the bottom the stack. Looked like whoever was supposed to stock the shelf suddenly took their coffee break. So I dug the books out myself and purchased them.

  8. Anonymous5:59 AM

    4E subscribes firmly to the "Let your players be kickass and have fun" philosophy that you espouse, and it's all the better for it. Plus, making a character is way more fun and way faster. I made a level 1 today and it took twenty minutes. Consider that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and had no help, and that should sound more impressive.

  9. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Jeff, is there any one 4e shill left that doesn´t use offensive reasoning while praising the game?
    All the praise I´ve read so far is basically pointing to all the stuff I hate about 4e and stating it as if it was inherintly cool.

  10. I heard secondhand that the Source here in the Twin Cities sold through 800 copies of the PHB yesterday, so I can see how a store that didn't get nearly so many would sell out as well.

  11. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Now that´s a lot!

  12. I was at the Source yesterday, and every time I went past any of the displays it was either a) conspicuously smaller than the last time, or b) being restocked.

    I didn't get any. It would only make me want to play (or worse, run) and I really can't afford that right now.

  13. @ Jeff: "a dude" is correct. I find the game actually harkens back some to older editions in that nobody does their job better than the class meant for the job, and it definitely takes the ball and runs with "players as rockstars."
    I've read your Exalted posts lately, and I think you'd find 4E to be awesome in the same ways, but not so pretentious in delivery, because you know EXACTLY what you're capable of and you can rock THAT without having to second guess your character.

    @ Settembrini: "All the praise I´ve read so far is basically pointing to all the stuff I hate about 4e and stating it as if it was inherintly cool."
    All of it? Really?
    Have you given it a chance by reading it, or are you just in the frame of mind to dislike it out of the gate? I ask simply out of curiosity as to what you dislike and your reasonings. Not trying to bash your views.

  14. Anonymous4:23 AM

    Dude: Saying D&D is good for Star Wars-like action (or Indy-like action for what it´s worth) is one off-putting example. Another one is : Mooks destroy RPGs as we know them. Mooks are a slap in the players face, and the game designer yelling in your face:


    Apart from that, my opinion is pretty well established & supported with samples of text, check out theRPGsite for treatises on the subject.

  15. Anonymous10:38 AM

    I've had my set for all of two days now, but I've come to two conclusions: 1) the way this version works is so divergent from previous incarnations of D&D that it's barely what I would call D&D; 2) taken for what it is, it looks like a hell of a good time.

    Some of the things that I thought would be ridiculous on first hearing about them were appealing when I actually read them. For example: "Paladins of any alignment? Preposterous!" has turned into "Paladin of the Raven Queen? Hell yeah!"

  16. @Settembrini: My players and I have found that we aren't so keen on the "minions" ourselves. More than once, players have felt cheated when they use a power at what would normally be a good time just to one-hit a baddie.
    That's off-putting to me when I run the game because it turns otherwise dangerous situations into easily escapable ones.

    I fully understand you there, though I don't agree that it's a horrible edition of the game. For the reasons I posted in my first comment, I like it, and it's helped me draw in some newbies already, so I'm keen on that. Definitely not my favorite system, but it is fun in execution.

    Like I said, I wasn't trying to tear you down, just wanting your take.

    @Jeff: I still think you might like it.

  17. Here's something I found only slightly horrifying: I gathered up all the character sheets and rules handouts from my group after a 4E demo this week...and I'm pretty sure I've got the basics of playing the game right here in front of me, scattered amongst four or five character sheets and the intro rules handouts. I guess that's a good thing. All I need are some miniatures.