In an attempt to keep this blog open and fair and not just a 4E fanboy site, I’ve decided to take a moment to mention a few rules I’ve either changed, tweaked, or completely tossed out the window entirely. Mind you, some of these changes I’ve done aren’t necessarily changes specific to 4E, but just my style of gaming in general and how I’ve abused D&D to my liking. I know some people love to gripe that if 4E requires “House Ruling” then it isn’t perfect; and I agree 100%. On the other hand, I feel if a system doesn’t allow room for GM’s to toss out rules and add his own, then it’s really not fun to run now is it? Sometimes, people just need to realize there is a breed of us who can take a “perfect system” and decide we want to butcher it for flavor; we’re like RPG-obsessed tinker gnomes and we’re never satisfied.
Rules are not laws; they are toolkits. And as such, I’ve tossed a few things out the window:
One: The “Quest Card” System.
4E was cool for introducing new players because of the Power Card. To be honest, that shouldn’t just be a “4E Exclusive” feature. It’s been done before; they just found a good way to theme it. It could easily be used in Pathfinder, OAD&D and or any other system. Matter of fact, I use to have a “Powers Cheat Sheet” for Vampire: The Requiem when it came out….very similar to power cards in 4E format. I liked the implementation of it, thought that even if it wasn’t “evolutionary” it was still cool. Because, unlike some, I’m not trying to be foamy mouthed and scare off new players with archaic playing rituals like copy these damn things out of the book by hand and tell me when you’re done.
That said, the “Quest” reward system in 4E makes me feel sick. As much as I try to argue that 4E is more than a tabletop MMO (and I was one of the original trolls flaming on about it this time last year), this one aspect alone screams KILL 10 BUNNIES FOR ME! I’ve been tempted to just leave out minis of NPC’s and glue giant, bold exclamation marks on them so the players know they offer quests. WRONG.
I tossed that concept out the window after sticking to Keep on the Shadowfell and reluctantly played along with it. If you use Quest Cards in your campaign, by all means don’t stop because I’m ranting about it. Just, I dunno, I feel as if the players need a reminder and a carrot for what they’re supposed to be doing, apparently you as a DM didn’t convey enough story or reasons for the players to care. Or the players just really don’t care.
Two: Treasure Parcels & XP Wallets
I don’t mind the “treasure parcel” system or the “Experience Budget” for encounter design existing and at times I do turn to them just to help me brainstorm up a good encounter. Matter of fact, I think it’s really handy for those nights you want to throw something together but don’t have time to flesh out a lot of details.
But I refuse to let them dictate my Dungeon or Adventure design. Again, to me they’re tools and not law. I’ve been keeping magical items scarce in my world anyway….when the players come by some powerful loot, it’s a big deal. And really, I’m blessed to have a gaming group that doesn’t care about the cool loot anyways, they’re more about the adventure and the story. Yes, we’re a bunch of narrativists at times. Simulationists may go puke in the corner now.
But even if you are a simulationist-style gamer, you probably agree with me: I’m not going to let the formulas decide for me what every encounter is. Sometimes, the players are just morons who don’t understand that when the DM says “The nest echoes with the sounds of hundreds of lizardmen” you may actually mean the nest has hundreds of lizardmen, and they just need to accept that even if they decide to charge in and kick in the door.
It’s kind of like in another game I play, Shadowrun, when one of the new guys decided that — for no reason — it was necessary to unload an entire clip of assault rifle ammo at a patrolling police car when they were supposed to be stealthy and undercover for a run. Guess what I did to that player? I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t balanced to his “skill” level.
Three: The Dungeon Crawl
This isn’t 4E exclusive. The last time I ran everything strictly by the crawl was World’s Largest Dungeon in 3E. I had a good setup for it at the time. We had a card table that I snapped together a massive playing grid using Mage Knight: Dungeons floor tiles. I would just copy the chunk of map using the snap in walls and doors, and life was grand. Since then, I do think I’d care to do another Dungeon Crawl ever again. After running Keep on the Shadowfell, it only reminded me more how much I think the term “crawl” really lives up to its name. From henceforth, everything is being ran as a series of encounters. My “dungeons” are now well thought out flow charts (both Notebook Paper and using software like The Master Plan) and only busting out tiles for the combat scenes themselves.
May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but damn it it’s mine in a 44 oz. Big Gulp.
This doesn’t mean I’m opposed to the dungeon maps; just, I don’t bother with anal details anymore. None of this rolling every so many squares to check Perception rolls, rolling random encounters etc….I’ll tell you if there’s a directional choice, a door or if you stumble into a room full of zombies.
A little bit of insight: This has become our preferred method because now we only get a weekly game night, and we can’t even start until usually after 8 PM and no longer than 1 or 2 am. It’s just agreed we don’t have time for the “classic crawls” like we used to.