As much as I bitch about the direction WoTC took with 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, as much as I talk about wanting to branch out into other games, there are some basic facts about my gaming circle:
- Nobody really sees these problems but me. I blame the internet. It’s easy to see everyone bitch online; unfortunately a lot of that bitching also comes from those I’ve dubbed “opinionated fuckwads who just want to shit on everything.” But when it comes to my little gaming circle, nobody has any ill-will against the game. Yeah, combat can take a while….but the character options are massive, and my crew loves all of the possibilities. We haven’t even scraped the surface of characters we want to try out….and some of my players even want to play the same classes again just try the other builds and experience the different tactics. I also forget that my players have had opportunities to try D&D in past incarnations…..this is the one that really got them into it.
- There is no “Buy In” (we’ve already bought it!) I forget some times that my players have already invested not only a couple hundred bucks buying up the books they wanted to play with (which we’ve hardly used yet), but that they’ve also invested time. A lot of time. At a point in our lives when time is very, very precious and scarce.
- The Rules are Secondary Anyway. My players don’t really care about balanced game formulas or progression in terms of stats and damage output and the like. They care about their characters, their adventures and their story. So why the hell am I bothering myself with that shit?
If playing Gamma World taught me anything, the mechanics still hold just fine and can play plenty fast without a lot of the bloat going on. In my particular case, I’m blessed with a group who doesn’t even care about things like acquiring phat loots and experience levels as long as the adventure itself is fun, and they feel like they have an active part in the tale. There’s plenty of tools available in 4E D&D so I don’t have to bog the game session down with fight after fight, yet still engage them in heroics and challenges. There’s also plenty of ideas I’ve learned from other RPG’s that can be adapted and adopted into 4E with minimal work. So the next time I get behind the screen, here’s how I’m going to roll:
- Character Advancements based on Triumphs: Stolen from High Valor, I’m ditching the XP system completely. Instead, I’ll be making players keep track of major accomplishments (and failures) that are based off not only accomplishing quests and surviving dangers, but building the memory and legacy of their story. As they progress, the degree of heroics required to continue advancing become more and more dangerous. This allows the game to focus more on a natural plot progression as opposed to number of encounters.
- Magical Items (as presented) Go Bye-Bye. Someone commented that Magical Items in 4E were like Feats in 3E. Which is a shame, since Feats were always my least favorite aspect. I don’t necessarily despise magical items in D&D, I just hate distributing them. It always bothered me that 4th Edition put magical items into “the formula” for character progression, where to me they’re supposed to be wondrous, unique things to reward players and give them an edge. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Luckily, DMG 2 offered alternatives to treasure. I like the idea of the flat Enhancement Bonus in practice…..aside from the fact it’s kind of a superficial system to pick up slack where magical items should be, but only just a bit. I may opt to go another route, taking a cue from Gamma World: Just flat out give everyone a “+Level” to just about everything. Yeah, that’s twice the power….effectively making a level 10 like a level 20. But, he’s not going to have his +4 flaming swords and armor of mystical bad-assery, either. That said, I’d probably still keep the alternate rewards of Boons around. Just, they’re so going to be side quests that the players will damn well have to earn. There may be rare relics of power….but those are my bad boys to design, and not in the standard layout.
- Random Stats are Back In. Taking another cue from Gamma World: Players are getting a free 18 and 16 in their stats, and rest are the result of 3D6. I enjoyed how Gamma World gave decent stats to ensure the characters aren’t useless, yet allowed for a wacky imbalance of the rest of their characteristics. It’s really funny to see a big hulking brute who is dumb as a brick suddenly capable of picking a lock or activating a device better than the rest of the party.
- Backgrounds Before Builds: Okay, you picked a race and a class and got stats. Before we move forward with what you’re going to be, who is your character now? This isn’t just picking backgrounds….I want players to scheme up a semblance of a background story. Professions, training, family life etc. A small thing, but something I think gets over looked. Although, my gaming crew talked me into bothering with backgrounds by giving me back stories…..so, that’s their influence on me for sure.