4enfreude

4enfreude: the act of enjoying someone else’s dislike of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, usually by prowling online forum communities, such as Story Games, ENworld, Gleemax or RPG.net.

I admit, I have indulged in some 4enfreude. I have joked with friends that I drink their tears like wine.

The rabid dislike some online folks feel is very tangible, because it is so very easy to be-shit a thread in a forum and because negativity is so much easier to bring on than positivity. It just takes more skill to radiate enthusiasm than it does to vomit bile on the internet.

So, what is this post about? Judd hates gamers and loves that many gamers of trad games are upset while his vile Story Game cult plays this hobbled version of D&D and laughs at the rest of us who just want to have fun!

No, not that at all.

I’ve been thinking about why someone might not like D&D’s newest incarnation. Since I’ve posted up Bret’s awesome 4e campaign one-sheet damn near everywhere I’ve been peaking around at the different reactions and some of them are pretty wild.

If you had this pet setting and you took it from D&D to AD&D to 2nd edition, to 3.X, I think it would be pretty damned hard to convert it all over into 4th edition. There is certainly a case that taking a setting or a game from D&D to AD&D or either of those into 3.X would be pretty hard but I don’t think that is necessarily a case of the game’s text but the philosophy behind the text. I think it was pretty easy to take 3.X and turn it into the fantasy game you want D&D to be, whatever that might be or whatever that might mean.

4e feels a whole lot more focused. It isn’t a Rorchach blot of a game that morphs vaguely into what you want it to be, leaving you to hammer off the rough bits and sand the corners for yourself. It is a solid game for taking a character from saving his village, to saving the world to walking the worlds and knocking on demon-gods doors, kicking down those doors very much like you kicked down goblin doors back in the day, in the ole ‘hood.

It is stiff! 4e is not flexible! He is saying it is one of this Forge micro-games that only does one thing well otherwise it’d be incoherent!

No, that isn’t it at all.

I think this version of D&D, more than the other version that I have had experiences with, AD&D, 2nd and 3.0, attacks that dungeon-crawling premise with gusto, moreso than past editions. It no longer wants to cover every inch of imaginary real estate between Westeros and Middle Earth. 4e appears to be covering the imaginary real estate that is taken up by your players at the table while kicking down doors and taking monster’s stuff.

People will hack at it and tinker with the engine, change the tires and all that. We are gamers. That is how we do.

But for now, these three books make it really easy to get friends together and make good on the promise suggested in the title containing dungeons, ampersand, dragons. After making a character, I instantly looked down at the sheet and had a burning desire to roll some d20’s and bash evil’s head in.

I have a human paladin in the making and I fully plan for him to philosophize about death, hack anything that gets in his way with his axe, become a demi-god so that he can marry his goddess, the Raven Queen and kick Orcus in the junk.

I haven’t read the books carefully yet. I might be wrong; it might not the be game for me and if so, you can have your own 4enfreude should I kvetch.

But here’s the thing about those who hate it and love 3.X. They have 3.X. They have all of the books they could ever need for it (and they’re about to get cheaper too). More than that, MUCH more than that, they have an OGL for 3.X that allows their communities of play to gather and publish whatever they can imagine.

Why hate on 4e when you have Dragonsfoot and d20 Haven as communities of past editions with all of the tools you need to create your own worlds, rules and books on the game and fully publish them?

This generation of past edition D&Ders, the 3.Xers, have an advantage that none before it ever had. They have the option, should they wish to exercise it, to fully ignore the new edition, and build a culture of play around the past edition that includes a publishing model.

Don’t like 4e and love 3.X? Fine. You don’t need it. You have each other.

That is all you need.

EDIT: had to change my userpic to my swank new Githyanki pic.

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162 thoughts on “4enfreude

  1. You know all the “ZOMG” going around? It has less to do with 4E and more to do with the general culture of gamerdom. Like all these objections and such? You hear the same things when folks try to introduce new games to their groups:

    “This game needs to be more like game X”
    “OH NOES!!! We have to learn new rules!”
    “This game relies too much on minis/has dice pools/has too much blue on the cover”
    “But, if we actually have to use the rules, where will we ‘fit’ the imagination in?”
    “This game is being made too simple to understand, are they insulting my intelligence/this game is too complicated, are they elitist?”

    etc.

    What I’m hoping to see, is that now that folks don’t have to even try to worry about remaining compatible with 3.5 stuff that could be coming out in the future, that we see an explosion of OGL stuff that actually innovates and doesn’t worry about the larger OGL market.

    That would be cool. Though, the question is if the people bitching are also the kind of people who do things as well, or just moan.

    The latter deserve all the 4enfraude that can be had.

    • OGL

      I’m really curious to see the OGL’s use in the coming years. The whole Pathfinder movement fascinates me.

      I wonder if lulu will have a shot of tiny publishers making up cool shit for 3.Xers, derived from play and written for utility. Monte stands out among the d20 developers as a d20 game designer who loved the game and played it a whole lot. I think that really shined through in his design too.

      • Re: OGL

        Yep, that’s what I’d like to see. I’d especially like to see folks who move away from D&D-isms for their own games, and retool rules to match it.

      • Re: OGL

        Yep, that’s what I’d like to see. I’d especially like to see folks who move away from D&D-isms for their own games, and retool rules to match it.

      • Re: OGL

        Yep, that’s what I’d like to see. I’d especially like to see folks who move away from D&D-isms for their own games, and retool rules to match it.

    • OGL

      I’m really curious to see the OGL’s use in the coming years. The whole Pathfinder movement fascinates me.

      I wonder if lulu will have a shot of tiny publishers making up cool shit for 3.Xers, derived from play and written for utility. Monte stands out among the d20 developers as a d20 game designer who loved the game and played it a whole lot. I think that really shined through in his design too.

    • OGL

      I’m really curious to see the OGL’s use in the coming years. The whole Pathfinder movement fascinates me.

      I wonder if lulu will have a shot of tiny publishers making up cool shit for 3.Xers, derived from play and written for utility. Monte stands out among the d20 developers as a d20 game designer who loved the game and played it a whole lot. I think that really shined through in his design too.

  2. You know all the “ZOMG” going around? It has less to do with 4E and more to do with the general culture of gamerdom. Like all these objections and such? You hear the same things when folks try to introduce new games to their groups:

    “This game needs to be more like game X”
    “OH NOES!!! We have to learn new rules!”
    “This game relies too much on minis/has dice pools/has too much blue on the cover”
    “But, if we actually have to use the rules, where will we ‘fit’ the imagination in?”
    “This game is being made too simple to understand, are they insulting my intelligence/this game is too complicated, are they elitist?”

    etc.

    What I’m hoping to see, is that now that folks don’t have to even try to worry about remaining compatible with 3.5 stuff that could be coming out in the future, that we see an explosion of OGL stuff that actually innovates and doesn’t worry about the larger OGL market.

    That would be cool. Though, the question is if the people bitching are also the kind of people who do things as well, or just moan.

    The latter deserve all the 4enfraude that can be had.

  3. You know all the “ZOMG” going around? It has less to do with 4E and more to do with the general culture of gamerdom. Like all these objections and such? You hear the same things when folks try to introduce new games to their groups:

    “This game needs to be more like game X”
    “OH NOES!!! We have to learn new rules!”
    “This game relies too much on minis/has dice pools/has too much blue on the cover”
    “But, if we actually have to use the rules, where will we ‘fit’ the imagination in?”
    “This game is being made too simple to understand, are they insulting my intelligence/this game is too complicated, are they elitist?”

    etc.

    What I’m hoping to see, is that now that folks don’t have to even try to worry about remaining compatible with 3.5 stuff that could be coming out in the future, that we see an explosion of OGL stuff that actually innovates and doesn’t worry about the larger OGL market.

    That would be cool. Though, the question is if the people bitching are also the kind of people who do things as well, or just moan.

    The latter deserve all the 4enfraude that can be had.

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said, and would further note that 4e not only gives wonderfully thorough support for kicking down a door and slaughtering those within, but also provides mechanical support for knocking politely on a door, and engaging in a hard-nosed parley with those within.

    This makes me happy.

      • Re: H-NP

        One of the little mini-sessions I’ve run ended up having two skill challenges in it: the interrogation of a prisoner who’d been rescued from kobolds but who’d obviously been dealing with said kobolds beforehand (run using the interrogation template given in the DMG), and an attempt by mainly non-dwarf PCs to convince a dwarf bar that one dwarf had been cheating at dice.

        They worked quite well, got all the players involved, and got a lot of positive feedback from the folks involved. There was a slight kink that was me not seeing a rule before I ran, but other than that it went nice and smooth.

      • Re: H-NP

        One of the little mini-sessions I’ve run ended up having two skill challenges in it: the interrogation of a prisoner who’d been rescued from kobolds but who’d obviously been dealing with said kobolds beforehand (run using the interrogation template given in the DMG), and an attempt by mainly non-dwarf PCs to convince a dwarf bar that one dwarf had been cheating at dice.

        They worked quite well, got all the players involved, and got a lot of positive feedback from the folks involved. There was a slight kink that was me not seeing a rule before I ran, but other than that it went nice and smooth.

      • Re: H-NP

        One of the little mini-sessions I’ve run ended up having two skill challenges in it: the interrogation of a prisoner who’d been rescued from kobolds but who’d obviously been dealing with said kobolds beforehand (run using the interrogation template given in the DMG), and an attempt by mainly non-dwarf PCs to convince a dwarf bar that one dwarf had been cheating at dice.

        They worked quite well, got all the players involved, and got a lot of positive feedback from the folks involved. There was a slight kink that was me not seeing a rule before I ran, but other than that it went nice and smooth.

  5. I agree with everything you’ve said, and would further note that 4e not only gives wonderfully thorough support for kicking down a door and slaughtering those within, but also provides mechanical support for knocking politely on a door, and engaging in a hard-nosed parley with those within.

    This makes me happy.

  6. I agree with everything you’ve said, and would further note that 4e not only gives wonderfully thorough support for kicking down a door and slaughtering those within, but also provides mechanical support for knocking politely on a door, and engaging in a hard-nosed parley with those within.

    This makes me happy.

  7. I feel bad for Wizards in 4th ed.

    But the DM rules for building an encounter? Multiply these two numbers and that’s your budget to “buy” monsters for the encounter? That’s so fantastically good that I want to be a D&D DM again.

    later
    Tom

    • 4e stuff

      Storn is makin’ up a Wizard and seems to like how it looks on paper. What are you not liking about ’em?

      Bret is really excited to put on the mantle of Dungeon Master.

      -Dungeon Master-

      What an odd title.

      • Re: 4e stuff

        First off, these “problems” with wizards stem from the fact that 4e is significantly different from previous incarnations. It’s not a “problem” per se, it’s just that I have a fondness for the old ways.

        That said: Wizards feel like they’ve been replaced with sorcerers. I kinda liked the Vancian system. I really liked the versatility that wizards used to have. Now, you get a bunch of encounter/daily spells that are mostly blaster spells and everything else gets shoved into ritual castings. I feel like it’s harder to get a quirky caster.

        And I liked the power progression for wizards. You start out at suck and if you survive long enough you’re torching continents for fun. I realize that totally sucks for everyone else in the game, but it was kinda neat and appeals to my teenaged-self (someday I’ll show them all!).

        I’m very sure that all these changes will probably make the game better for everyone, but reading over the new Wizard made me really crave a good Ars Magica game.

        I’m still really anxious to give the new system a whirl though and I’m totally ready to give it a fair shake as it’s own game.

        later
        Tom

        • On, Away or Under the Table?

          Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?

          If so, geek out and tell me about your character.

          If not, be subjected to my hard gaze.

          I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise. I should really snag a copy of that game’s first edition and give it a read-over.

          • Re: On, Away or Under the Table?

            “Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?”

            Yeah, although it’s been so long, I can’t remember his name. I just remember that he rolled up a weasel for a familiar. For awhile there, the weasel was gaining XP faster than the PC. Hell, I’m pretty sure I remember that the weasel’s name was Sparky. Sparky the Wonder Weasel.

            The jeers changed to groans once the wizard hit 5th level though. We were playing with 1st ed. rules that awarded a monster’s XP to the person who killed it or split it among the party if more than one person hit it.

            “Charging orcs!”
            “Fireball!”
            *fwoosh!*
            “OK, so that’s 75XP per orc times 10 orcs…750XP to the wizard.”

            There were heated arguments about how the wizard was being protected by the other party members and thus shouldn’t qualify for solo kills.

            Good times.

            “I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise.”

            I believe you’re absolutely correct. I also think the thing that’s doing the most damage in this regard is a strong push towards “historical” accuracy (well, that and the whole White Wolf angsty goth “all is getting worse” mentality). Mythic Europe can and should play fast and loose with history.

            later
            Tom

          • Re: On, Away or Under the Table?

            “Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?”

            Yeah, although it’s been so long, I can’t remember his name. I just remember that he rolled up a weasel for a familiar. For awhile there, the weasel was gaining XP faster than the PC. Hell, I’m pretty sure I remember that the weasel’s name was Sparky. Sparky the Wonder Weasel.

            The jeers changed to groans once the wizard hit 5th level though. We were playing with 1st ed. rules that awarded a monster’s XP to the person who killed it or split it among the party if more than one person hit it.

            “Charging orcs!”
            “Fireball!”
            *fwoosh!*
            “OK, so that’s 75XP per orc times 10 orcs…750XP to the wizard.”

            There were heated arguments about how the wizard was being protected by the other party members and thus shouldn’t qualify for solo kills.

            Good times.

            “I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise.”

            I believe you’re absolutely correct. I also think the thing that’s doing the most damage in this regard is a strong push towards “historical” accuracy (well, that and the whole White Wolf angsty goth “all is getting worse” mentality). Mythic Europe can and should play fast and loose with history.

            later
            Tom

          • Re: On, Away or Under the Table?

            “Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?”

            Yeah, although it’s been so long, I can’t remember his name. I just remember that he rolled up a weasel for a familiar. For awhile there, the weasel was gaining XP faster than the PC. Hell, I’m pretty sure I remember that the weasel’s name was Sparky. Sparky the Wonder Weasel.

            The jeers changed to groans once the wizard hit 5th level though. We were playing with 1st ed. rules that awarded a monster’s XP to the person who killed it or split it among the party if more than one person hit it.

            “Charging orcs!”
            “Fireball!”
            *fwoosh!*
            “OK, so that’s 75XP per orc times 10 orcs…750XP to the wizard.”

            There were heated arguments about how the wizard was being protected by the other party members and thus shouldn’t qualify for solo kills.

            Good times.

            “I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise.”

            I believe you’re absolutely correct. I also think the thing that’s doing the most damage in this regard is a strong push towards “historical” accuracy (well, that and the whole White Wolf angsty goth “all is getting worse” mentality). Mythic Europe can and should play fast and loose with history.

            later
            Tom

        • On, Away or Under the Table?

          Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?

          If so, geek out and tell me about your character.

          If not, be subjected to my hard gaze.

          I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise. I should really snag a copy of that game’s first edition and give it a read-over.

        • On, Away or Under the Table?

          Do you have a favorite Wizard PC who stands out in your mind?

          If so, geek out and tell me about your character.

          If not, be subjected to my hard gaze.

          I played Ars Magica for years and have come to the conclusion that as each edition has gone on, it has wandered farther and farther away from what interested me in its initial premise. I should really snag a copy of that game’s first edition and give it a read-over.

      • Re: 4e stuff

        First off, these “problems” with wizards stem from the fact that 4e is significantly different from previous incarnations. It’s not a “problem” per se, it’s just that I have a fondness for the old ways.

        That said: Wizards feel like they’ve been replaced with sorcerers. I kinda liked the Vancian system. I really liked the versatility that wizards used to have. Now, you get a bunch of encounter/daily spells that are mostly blaster spells and everything else gets shoved into ritual castings. I feel like it’s harder to get a quirky caster.

        And I liked the power progression for wizards. You start out at suck and if you survive long enough you’re torching continents for fun. I realize that totally sucks for everyone else in the game, but it was kinda neat and appeals to my teenaged-self (someday I’ll show them all!).

        I’m very sure that all these changes will probably make the game better for everyone, but reading over the new Wizard made me really crave a good Ars Magica game.

        I’m still really anxious to give the new system a whirl though and I’m totally ready to give it a fair shake as it’s own game.

        later
        Tom

      • Re: 4e stuff

        First off, these “problems” with wizards stem from the fact that 4e is significantly different from previous incarnations. It’s not a “problem” per se, it’s just that I have a fondness for the old ways.

        That said: Wizards feel like they’ve been replaced with sorcerers. I kinda liked the Vancian system. I really liked the versatility that wizards used to have. Now, you get a bunch of encounter/daily spells that are mostly blaster spells and everything else gets shoved into ritual castings. I feel like it’s harder to get a quirky caster.

        And I liked the power progression for wizards. You start out at suck and if you survive long enough you’re torching continents for fun. I realize that totally sucks for everyone else in the game, but it was kinda neat and appeals to my teenaged-self (someday I’ll show them all!).

        I’m very sure that all these changes will probably make the game better for everyone, but reading over the new Wizard made me really crave a good Ars Magica game.

        I’m still really anxious to give the new system a whirl though and I’m totally ready to give it a fair shake as it’s own game.

        later
        Tom

    • 4e stuff

      Storn is makin’ up a Wizard and seems to like how it looks on paper. What are you not liking about ’em?

      Bret is really excited to put on the mantle of Dungeon Master.

      -Dungeon Master-

      What an odd title.

    • 4e stuff

      Storn is makin’ up a Wizard and seems to like how it looks on paper. What are you not liking about ’em?

      Bret is really excited to put on the mantle of Dungeon Master.

      -Dungeon Master-

      What an odd title.

  8. I feel bad for Wizards in 4th ed.

    But the DM rules for building an encounter? Multiply these two numbers and that’s your budget to “buy” monsters for the encounter? That’s so fantastically good that I want to be a D&D DM again.

    later
    Tom

  9. I feel bad for Wizards in 4th ed.

    But the DM rules for building an encounter? Multiply these two numbers and that’s your budget to “buy” monsters for the encounter? That’s so fantastically good that I want to be a D&D DM again.

    later
    Tom

  10. Excellent job, Judd. Far better than I could have done.

    I am deeply engaged in 4enfraude, yet from the perspective of someone who’s not that interested in 4e.

    I think the difference between someone who’s 4enegative and 4ephobic has to do with the level of engagement. I don’t really care (other than some of the cynical marketing-driven stuff), so it’s easy for me to find this whole thing funny.

    • 4 life

      Level of Engagement and/or there are some funky identity issues with the more manic detractors. There is a level of, “I don’t like it, therefore it isn’t really D&D because D&D is something I like.”

      Those with the D&D 4 Life tatts on their bellies, Tupac-style.

      Scary stuff.

    • 4 life

      Level of Engagement and/or there are some funky identity issues with the more manic detractors. There is a level of, “I don’t like it, therefore it isn’t really D&D because D&D is something I like.”

      Those with the D&D 4 Life tatts on their bellies, Tupac-style.

      Scary stuff.

    • 4 life

      Level of Engagement and/or there are some funky identity issues with the more manic detractors. There is a level of, “I don’t like it, therefore it isn’t really D&D because D&D is something I like.”

      Those with the D&D 4 Life tatts on their bellies, Tupac-style.

      Scary stuff.

  11. Excellent job, Judd. Far better than I could have done.

    I am deeply engaged in 4enfraude, yet from the perspective of someone who’s not that interested in 4e.

    I think the difference between someone who’s 4enegative and 4ephobic has to do with the level of engagement. I don’t really care (other than some of the cynical marketing-driven stuff), so it’s easy for me to find this whole thing funny.

  12. Excellent job, Judd. Far better than I could have done.

    I am deeply engaged in 4enfraude, yet from the perspective of someone who’s not that interested in 4e.

    I think the difference between someone who’s 4enegative and 4ephobic has to do with the level of engagement. I don’t really care (other than some of the cynical marketing-driven stuff), so it’s easy for me to find this whole thing funny.

  13. Hi Judd,

    I think you’re basically on target with most of your comments here, especially about the issue with settings. I do have a somewhat different take on whether or not D&D 4 better supports dungeon crawling than previous editions of D&D.

    It depends on what you mean by dungeon crawling.

    And here’s where a lot of people seem to be talking past each other. There are a lot of folks saying, “This is the most focused version of D&D yet. It knows what it wants to do, and it does it.”

    I agree with this so far.

    I think this version of D&D, more than the other version that I have had experiences with, AD&D, 2nd and 3.0, attacks that dungeon-crawling premise with gusto, moreso than past editions.

    This is where a lot of people are having serious disconnects. It’s a true statement if, by dungeon crawling, you mean something along the lines of going into dungeons, going room to room and having cool, knock-down, drag-out fights. This is a lot of fun, no question. But I think there’s a lot of good evidence from old timers and older game texts that this isn’t how dungeon crawling works in classic D&D. Monsters weren’t worth much xp in early editions, so you were much better off not fighting anything that was a drain on your resources (HP, spells, magic item charges). The “unit of play” was the “dungeon expedition” rather than the “encounter,” so strategic thinking in older versions was meant to be a big picture, strategic affair. How deep do we go in? When do we fight, and when do we run? What rooms should we spend time in, and what rooms should we leave for another expedition? Given that wandering monsters rolls are made every X turns (turns being 10 minute units of expedition time, while rounds were 1 minute units of combat), and given that wandering monsters are not worth xp and don’t have treasure, they’re just a drain. What if we go in too deep and have bad luck with the wandering monsters on the way out?

    And so on. So combat isn’t actually the main thing. The combat rules in OD&D are even somewhat vestigial. I know that sounds funny because of widespread misconceptions about the relationship between chainmail and D&D, but most accounts agree that even Dave and Gary hardly used Chainmail to play D&D. Tried it a few times but didn’t use it. They used the so called “alternate” combat sytem instead. Combat rules, along with saving throws, seemed to be mechanics that are meant to be engaged when you’ve got no better alternative. You’re rolling that saving throw because you’ve done messed up. You’re in a fight because it’s necessary to achieve your goal, or maybe because you couldn’t avoid it this time, or you got surprised.

    Here’s an interesting actual play account of an excursion into Castle Greyhawk. It’s worth reading, and I think it brings out some interesting aspects of old school dungeon delving. There’s not much combat. The characters have a mission objective: they’re going into the dungeon to achieve that objective, and they want to avoid other entanglements and problems that might keep them from reaching the objective. There’s a strong reliance on DM judgment calls. The use of the term “referee” in the early books isn’t a misnomer. The DM role is more like that of a referee in a “free kriegspiel” – the DM is responsible for making judgment calls about what is likely to work, what isn’t likely to work, and so on, in a given situation based on their expertise. In a classic kriegspiel of this nature, the referee might have been a military strategy expert, making judgments based on their own relevant expertise. The DM makes ad hoc judgments about things and might call for a roll, say, “This might work — roll 1d6, on a 1 or a 2 it works.” In D&D, because it’s a hobby game, the DM’s expertise in making these judgments will vary. But D&D is a descendent of a particular wargaming culture where this kind of role had precedents. An expert judge acts as a “black box” generator of results of strategies being attempted by two opposing players. So when modern gamers say, “But D&D comes out of wargaming!”, they often have a skewed view of what all that might entail.

    • Anyway, this is a bit of a whirlwind tour with few links or support because I’m supposed to be working πŸ™‚ But my point is basically that the meaning of “dungeon crawl” is what a lot of old timers’ problems are hinging on. OD&D, Holmes, B/X, BECMI, AD&D1 – all these games had rules for dungeoneering. There was a turn structure for movement through the dungeon. Various actions used up various amounts of time (searching a 10×10 square, for example). Wandering monster rolls were made every few turns (every turn in OD&D, every three turns in Holmes, every two turns in Moldvay, Cook / Marsh B/X and Mentzer BECMI, I don’t know AD&D1 off the top of my head). Wandering monsters are dangers and drains on resources, they’re not bags of XP. Treasure is far more valuable to XP than klling monsters: so much more that its not worth fighting monsters if all you care about is XP. There are explicit rules for what happens if you drop bags of money or food behind you when running – will the monsters keep chasing you, or will they stop to take what was left behind? Players face puzzles and have to basically figure them out themselves. Parleying with enemies is essential to success, and dungeons are weird places. There are iron spikes on the equipment list for a reason: you use them to spike closed doors when fleeing enemies or keeping potential wanderers from easily busting in on a resting place. And so on. And so forth.

      This is what dungeoneering means to a lot of folks who are not happy with 4th edition. I look at 4th edition and I think, huh. This, I could do something with this. This could be cool. But hm, it’s not set up for dungeoneering out of the box. I have to sort out a bunch of things first. Ok, yeah, it looks like I can get some morale rules out of the way the intimidation skill works, and they could be pretty cool. Um, I can import some of the dungeoneering rules from older versions of the game. And so on. But I don’t look at it and think, “Yes, this game gets dungeoneering right.” The game is a logical next step from 3rd edition, and many of the dungeoneering rules were well on their way out (or dead and gone) by 2nd edition. I actually am not bothered by the codification and formalization that D&D 4 continues to develop. I do regret the loss of dungeoneering: 4th edition has tunnel-vision on the encounter. In the process, it sidelines other “units of play”: especially the dungeon expedition and the wilderness excursion. The tunnel vision means that everyone has to become a fighter. That’s unfortunate, I think. If the designers were more in touch with older editions, they might have developed formal procedures at other levels of play as well. Maybe the fighter gets a lot of “at will” abilities for combat, the rogue has a wider range of “at will” and “per excursion” abilities during dungeoneering. The ranger excels on excursions. And so on. I think in some ways they’ve missed the forest for the trees. That said, I’m not saying the game itself looks like a failure. I’m just saying there are good reasons folks might claim it’s a poor successor to D&D on the basis of its current rules for dungeoneering, which are exceedingly focused on a single unit of action – the encounter – which is arguably a different core unit of action than the core unit in classic dungeoneering (the dungeon excursion).

      • interacting with the text

        Another disconnect, Rich, is that I wonder how many people have played classic D&D right out of the book as you have. I also wonder if there is a cultural disconnect in that some people want a book that plays right out of the text and others want a game with plenty of options, some to use, some to toss out.

        I have more to say on this but I’m still digesting.

        Thanks again for writing.

        • Re: interacting with the text

          Yeah, I can pretty affirmedly say I’ve never played any version of D&D (having played most of the ones Rich references) the way Rich has.

          Dungoneering sounds like “that stuff we always skipped past because that’s never where the excitement happening in the movie of our game lives”.

          I fully accept that there are folks out there who get their fun from managing resources rather than having exciting fights, but the activity is so alien to me as to have rarely if ever occurred to me as an intentional highlight of the game.

          • Re: interacting with the text

            Your post gave me a vivid flashback of being a young gamer and always enjoying the town adventures in between dungeons so much more than the dungeons themselves.

            The messy politics and corrupt town watch and bar fights. Fun times.

          • Re: interacting with the text

            Your post gave me a vivid flashback of being a young gamer and always enjoying the town adventures in between dungeons so much more than the dungeons themselves.

            The messy politics and corrupt town watch and bar fights. Fun times.

          • Re: interacting with the text

            Your post gave me a vivid flashback of being a young gamer and always enjoying the town adventures in between dungeons so much more than the dungeons themselves.

            The messy politics and corrupt town watch and bar fights. Fun times.

        • Re: interacting with the text

          Yeah, I can pretty affirmedly say I’ve never played any version of D&D (having played most of the ones Rich references) the way Rich has.

          Dungoneering sounds like “that stuff we always skipped past because that’s never where the excitement happening in the movie of our game lives”.

          I fully accept that there are folks out there who get their fun from managing resources rather than having exciting fights, but the activity is so alien to me as to have rarely if ever occurred to me as an intentional highlight of the game.

        • Re: interacting with the text

          Yeah, I can pretty affirmedly say I’ve never played any version of D&D (having played most of the ones Rich references) the way Rich has.

          Dungoneering sounds like “that stuff we always skipped past because that’s never where the excitement happening in the movie of our game lives”.

          I fully accept that there are folks out there who get their fun from managing resources rather than having exciting fights, but the activity is so alien to me as to have rarely if ever occurred to me as an intentional highlight of the game.

      • interacting with the text

        Another disconnect, Rich, is that I wonder how many people have played classic D&D right out of the book as you have. I also wonder if there is a cultural disconnect in that some people want a book that plays right out of the text and others want a game with plenty of options, some to use, some to toss out.

        I have more to say on this but I’m still digesting.

        Thanks again for writing.

      • interacting with the text

        Another disconnect, Rich, is that I wonder how many people have played classic D&D right out of the book as you have. I also wonder if there is a cultural disconnect in that some people want a book that plays right out of the text and others want a game with plenty of options, some to use, some to toss out.

        I have more to say on this but I’m still digesting.

        Thanks again for writing.

      • Interest, Rich. It’s kind of a Battlelore or Memoir ’44 take on dungeon crawling, then, where you mostly focus on a single encounter battle and can largely ignore its impact on the broader campaign. In that regard, it definitely seems to fit with the modern/indie design tradition that tries to isolate specific chunks of play, so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).

        But, you’re right, if you are mainly interested in the “long war” and the consequences of previous encounters mattering in future encounters (as opposed to previous actions being near inconsequential once a chunk has been finished), then it’s a different thing entirely.

        • Necessary Context

          “…so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).”

          With Dogs, I see the way that fallout effects the character sheet as giving context for the next time. You wear the scars of the last town on your character sheet.

          Burning Empires I’m not as familiar with but I’m fairly sure there are bits that track the game from session to session.

          One of the ways we’re keeping context in the 4e game we’re playing are the Quest mechanics, where you can write a Quest down on an index card and get XP for completing it. Bret is building the dungeons and adventures out of these quests.

          But it raises and interesting question, what, mechanically, keeps context between adventures and keeps them from being disconnected conflicts and advancement not just in D&D but in any game.

          Foods for thought.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            Sure, Judd. My point was more that, now, you can play a single session (a town, a “phase,” a few encounters) and have that be a measurable, satisfying unit of play instead of feeling like you’re stopping right in the middle of something, with nothing accomplished.

            You’re totally right, though, that in on-going play of games that are structured this way, you need something like Fallout or tracking progress towards narrative (non-mechanical or leveling) goals to give weight to past choices. That was my inspiration for the thread on weird scars and wounds that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere. I’m hoping to implement something like that in my 4e play.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            Sure, Judd. My point was more that, now, you can play a single session (a town, a “phase,” a few encounters) and have that be a measurable, satisfying unit of play instead of feeling like you’re stopping right in the middle of something, with nothing accomplished.

            You’re totally right, though, that in on-going play of games that are structured this way, you need something like Fallout or tracking progress towards narrative (non-mechanical or leveling) goals to give weight to past choices. That was my inspiration for the thread on weird scars and wounds that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere. I’m hoping to implement something like that in my 4e play.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            Sure, Judd. My point was more that, now, you can play a single session (a town, a “phase,” a few encounters) and have that be a measurable, satisfying unit of play instead of feeling like you’re stopping right in the middle of something, with nothing accomplished.

            You’re totally right, though, that in on-going play of games that are structured this way, you need something like Fallout or tracking progress towards narrative (non-mechanical or leveling) goals to give weight to past choices. That was my inspiration for the thread on weird scars and wounds that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere. I’m hoping to implement something like that in my 4e play.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            I’m fiddling with the quest mechanics right now to set up my game. I think the trick to making 4E quests connect is simple, though I’m not sure if it’s stated.

            Whatever the outcome of a quest, it will have a ripple effect that produces room for new quests.

            – “Save the princess”
            – “Now the princess wants us to save her hand maiden, who was sold off to raiders”
            – “The hand maiden fell in love with a pirate who was captured by another king. Negotiate or engineer his freedom”
            – “Turns out the pirate was the bastard son of another noble, he wants to find proof of his heritage”

            That’s a linear example, but the outcome of any quest could probably suggest 2-3 more quests especially when you tie it into the specifics of your group.

            Over time, those quests become a story in and of themselves.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            I’m fiddling with the quest mechanics right now to set up my game. I think the trick to making 4E quests connect is simple, though I’m not sure if it’s stated.

            Whatever the outcome of a quest, it will have a ripple effect that produces room for new quests.

            – “Save the princess”
            – “Now the princess wants us to save her hand maiden, who was sold off to raiders”
            – “The hand maiden fell in love with a pirate who was captured by another king. Negotiate or engineer his freedom”
            – “Turns out the pirate was the bastard son of another noble, he wants to find proof of his heritage”

            That’s a linear example, but the outcome of any quest could probably suggest 2-3 more quests especially when you tie it into the specifics of your group.

            Over time, those quests become a story in and of themselves.

          • Re: Necessary Context

            I’m fiddling with the quest mechanics right now to set up my game. I think the trick to making 4E quests connect is simple, though I’m not sure if it’s stated.

            Whatever the outcome of a quest, it will have a ripple effect that produces room for new quests.

            – “Save the princess”
            – “Now the princess wants us to save her hand maiden, who was sold off to raiders”
            – “The hand maiden fell in love with a pirate who was captured by another king. Negotiate or engineer his freedom”
            – “Turns out the pirate was the bastard son of another noble, he wants to find proof of his heritage”

            That’s a linear example, but the outcome of any quest could probably suggest 2-3 more quests especially when you tie it into the specifics of your group.

            Over time, those quests become a story in and of themselves.

        • Necessary Context

          “…so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).”

          With Dogs, I see the way that fallout effects the character sheet as giving context for the next time. You wear the scars of the last town on your character sheet.

          Burning Empires I’m not as familiar with but I’m fairly sure there are bits that track the game from session to session.

          One of the ways we’re keeping context in the 4e game we’re playing are the Quest mechanics, where you can write a Quest down on an index card and get XP for completing it. Bret is building the dungeons and adventures out of these quests.

          But it raises and interesting question, what, mechanically, keeps context between adventures and keeps them from being disconnected conflicts and advancement not just in D&D but in any game.

          Foods for thought.

        • Necessary Context

          “…so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).”

          With Dogs, I see the way that fallout effects the character sheet as giving context for the next time. You wear the scars of the last town on your character sheet.

          Burning Empires I’m not as familiar with but I’m fairly sure there are bits that track the game from session to session.

          One of the ways we’re keeping context in the 4e game we’re playing are the Quest mechanics, where you can write a Quest down on an index card and get XP for completing it. Bret is building the dungeons and adventures out of these quests.

          But it raises and interesting question, what, mechanically, keeps context between adventures and keeps them from being disconnected conflicts and advancement not just in D&D but in any game.

          Foods for thought.

      • Interest, Rich. It’s kind of a Battlelore or Memoir ’44 take on dungeon crawling, then, where you mostly focus on a single encounter battle and can largely ignore its impact on the broader campaign. In that regard, it definitely seems to fit with the modern/indie design tradition that tries to isolate specific chunks of play, so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).

        But, you’re right, if you are mainly interested in the “long war” and the consequences of previous encounters mattering in future encounters (as opposed to previous actions being near inconsequential once a chunk has been finished), then it’s a different thing entirely.

      • Interest, Rich. It’s kind of a Battlelore or Memoir ’44 take on dungeon crawling, then, where you mostly focus on a single encounter battle and can largely ignore its impact on the broader campaign. In that regard, it definitely seems to fit with the modern/indie design tradition that tries to isolate specific chunks of play, so that you can play just one or two sessions/encounters have have it still be really enjoyable, without the bigger picture providing necessary context (endgames, towns in Dogs, session structure in Burning Empires, missions, etc).

        But, you’re right, if you are mainly interested in the “long war” and the consequences of previous encounters mattering in future encounters (as opposed to previous actions being near inconsequential once a chunk has been finished), then it’s a different thing entirely.

      • Thanks for writing that out! It’s a really interesting take on things.

        FWIW, both the ranger and the rogue (as well as other classes, IIRC) do get utility powers that are very useful outside of combat. And Mike Mearls wrote an interesting article about converting some “old school” dungeoneering challenges to D&D using the skill challenge and traps system.

        Just to clarify, this isn’t me saying your take on D&D is wrong: 4e does focus pretty tightly on the encounter. But it does provide some tools for looking challenges over a longer time-frame, though possibly not to a depth you’ll find to your liking.

      • Thanks for writing that out! It’s a really interesting take on things.

        FWIW, both the ranger and the rogue (as well as other classes, IIRC) do get utility powers that are very useful outside of combat. And Mike Mearls wrote an interesting article about converting some “old school” dungeoneering challenges to D&D using the skill challenge and traps system.

        Just to clarify, this isn’t me saying your take on D&D is wrong: 4e does focus pretty tightly on the encounter. But it does provide some tools for looking challenges over a longer time-frame, though possibly not to a depth you’ll find to your liking.

      • Thanks for writing that out! It’s a really interesting take on things.

        FWIW, both the ranger and the rogue (as well as other classes, IIRC) do get utility powers that are very useful outside of combat. And Mike Mearls wrote an interesting article about converting some “old school” dungeoneering challenges to D&D using the skill challenge and traps system.

        Just to clarify, this isn’t me saying your take on D&D is wrong: 4e does focus pretty tightly on the encounter. But it does provide some tools for looking challenges over a longer time-frame, though possibly not to a depth you’ll find to your liking.

      • Having had more time to think, this leads to two things:

        First, Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.

        Second, isn’t this a little bit at odds with the fact that the published adventures of old were absolutely awash with “big room” encounters that were very clearly showpieces for some idea or another? There were no shortage of published adventures that were just excuses to string together any number of these, and as a reader, they seemed to be far more the point.

        (I admit that the Slave Lords are jumping to the forefront of my mind in this regards, since I’m not sure there was a more blatant example)

        I know that my groups still took rest and recovery very seriously, but it generally just meant either using the iron spikes to make it impossible for a monster to wander in, or just killing our way through the random encounter table from a secure location. One way or another it was just the speedbump to getting back to the interesting stuff – sort of the way it’s fun to set up a watch for the night once, but less so the 40th time.

        At least that was the case for us, and I think that may inform on the direction things went.

          • Re: “Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.”

            If you look at a lot of the D&D inspired games, the assumption is that they were looking to improve the play experience in some way the designer found appealing. Harn was gritter, Rolemaster was finer grained and more bloody and so on. Palladium was always a little confusing to me in this regard, because I could never see the thrust of the change. Combat’s a bit more fiddly, sure, but not enough so to really get excited about. That left the explanation that it was just in service of its setting, which is not bad, but never quite sat right.

            But what Palladium does well is, well, to be frank, stuff I’ve always considered being mean to players. Unreliable armor, stingy XP, class disparity and so on. The thing is, those make more sense when you shift to this non-encounter perspective. If the dungeon (whatever from it takes) and the fights are intended to be less central to play, the logic that allows one player to create a godling and the other to make a CPA makes a little more sense.

            Now, I still think it fails in practice. The changes in combat to make it better also made it more central, so we end up with a potential disconnect between the behaviors the designers see and the outcome of play. But without *some* logic on the designers part, it can seem arbitrary or nonsensical. Rich’s perspective suggests a logic at work which, even if it was not successfully carried out, may explain _why_ certain decisions were made.

          • Re: “Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.”

            If you look at a lot of the D&D inspired games, the assumption is that they were looking to improve the play experience in some way the designer found appealing. Harn was gritter, Rolemaster was finer grained and more bloody and so on. Palladium was always a little confusing to me in this regard, because I could never see the thrust of the change. Combat’s a bit more fiddly, sure, but not enough so to really get excited about. That left the explanation that it was just in service of its setting, which is not bad, but never quite sat right.

            But what Palladium does well is, well, to be frank, stuff I’ve always considered being mean to players. Unreliable armor, stingy XP, class disparity and so on. The thing is, those make more sense when you shift to this non-encounter perspective. If the dungeon (whatever from it takes) and the fights are intended to be less central to play, the logic that allows one player to create a godling and the other to make a CPA makes a little more sense.

            Now, I still think it fails in practice. The changes in combat to make it better also made it more central, so we end up with a potential disconnect between the behaviors the designers see and the outcome of play. But without *some* logic on the designers part, it can seem arbitrary or nonsensical. Rich’s perspective suggests a logic at work which, even if it was not successfully carried out, may explain _why_ certain decisions were made.

          • Re: “Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.”

            If you look at a lot of the D&D inspired games, the assumption is that they were looking to improve the play experience in some way the designer found appealing. Harn was gritter, Rolemaster was finer grained and more bloody and so on. Palladium was always a little confusing to me in this regard, because I could never see the thrust of the change. Combat’s a bit more fiddly, sure, but not enough so to really get excited about. That left the explanation that it was just in service of its setting, which is not bad, but never quite sat right.

            But what Palladium does well is, well, to be frank, stuff I’ve always considered being mean to players. Unreliable armor, stingy XP, class disparity and so on. The thing is, those make more sense when you shift to this non-encounter perspective. If the dungeon (whatever from it takes) and the fights are intended to be less central to play, the logic that allows one player to create a godling and the other to make a CPA makes a little more sense.

            Now, I still think it fails in practice. The changes in combat to make it better also made it more central, so we end up with a potential disconnect between the behaviors the designers see and the outcome of play. But without *some* logic on the designers part, it can seem arbitrary or nonsensical. Rich’s perspective suggests a logic at work which, even if it was not successfully carried out, may explain _why_ certain decisions were made.

      • Having had more time to think, this leads to two things:

        First, Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.

        Second, isn’t this a little bit at odds with the fact that the published adventures of old were absolutely awash with “big room” encounters that were very clearly showpieces for some idea or another? There were no shortage of published adventures that were just excuses to string together any number of these, and as a reader, they seemed to be far more the point.

        (I admit that the Slave Lords are jumping to the forefront of my mind in this regards, since I’m not sure there was a more blatant example)

        I know that my groups still took rest and recovery very seriously, but it generally just meant either using the iron spikes to make it impossible for a monster to wander in, or just killing our way through the random encounter table from a secure location. One way or another it was just the speedbump to getting back to the interesting stuff – sort of the way it’s fun to set up a watch for the night once, but less so the 40th time.

        At least that was the case for us, and I think that may inform on the direction things went.

      • Having had more time to think, this leads to two things:

        First, Palladium now makes _much_ more sense to me.

        Second, isn’t this a little bit at odds with the fact that the published adventures of old were absolutely awash with “big room” encounters that were very clearly showpieces for some idea or another? There were no shortage of published adventures that were just excuses to string together any number of these, and as a reader, they seemed to be far more the point.

        (I admit that the Slave Lords are jumping to the forefront of my mind in this regards, since I’m not sure there was a more blatant example)

        I know that my groups still took rest and recovery very seriously, but it generally just meant either using the iron spikes to make it impossible for a monster to wander in, or just killing our way through the random encounter table from a secure location. One way or another it was just the speedbump to getting back to the interesting stuff – sort of the way it’s fun to set up a watch for the night once, but less so the 40th time.

        At least that was the case for us, and I think that may inform on the direction things went.

    • Anyway, this is a bit of a whirlwind tour with few links or support because I’m supposed to be working πŸ™‚ But my point is basically that the meaning of “dungeon crawl” is what a lot of old timers’ problems are hinging on. OD&D, Holmes, B/X, BECMI, AD&D1 – all these games had rules for dungeoneering. There was a turn structure for movement through the dungeon. Various actions used up various amounts of time (searching a 10×10 square, for example). Wandering monster rolls were made every few turns (every turn in OD&D, every three turns in Holmes, every two turns in Moldvay, Cook / Marsh B/X and Mentzer BECMI, I don’t know AD&D1 off the top of my head). Wandering monsters are dangers and drains on resources, they’re not bags of XP. Treasure is far more valuable to XP than klling monsters: so much more that its not worth fighting monsters if all you care about is XP. There are explicit rules for what happens if you drop bags of money or food behind you when running – will the monsters keep chasing you, or will they stop to take what was left behind? Players face puzzles and have to basically figure them out themselves. Parleying with enemies is essential to success, and dungeons are weird places. There are iron spikes on the equipment list for a reason: you use them to spike closed doors when fleeing enemies or keeping potential wanderers from easily busting in on a resting place. And so on. And so forth.

      This is what dungeoneering means to a lot of folks who are not happy with 4th edition. I look at 4th edition and I think, huh. This, I could do something with this. This could be cool. But hm, it’s not set up for dungeoneering out of the box. I have to sort out a bunch of things first. Ok, yeah, it looks like I can get some morale rules out of the way the intimidation skill works, and they could be pretty cool. Um, I can import some of the dungeoneering rules from older versions of the game. And so on. But I don’t look at it and think, “Yes, this game gets dungeoneering right.” The game is a logical next step from 3rd edition, and many of the dungeoneering rules were well on their way out (or dead and gone) by 2nd edition. I actually am not bothered by the codification and formalization that D&D 4 continues to develop. I do regret the loss of dungeoneering: 4th edition has tunnel-vision on the encounter. In the process, it sidelines other “units of play”: especially the dungeon expedition and the wilderness excursion. The tunnel vision means that everyone has to become a fighter. That’s unfortunate, I think. If the designers were more in touch with older editions, they might have developed formal procedures at other levels of play as well. Maybe the fighter gets a lot of “at will” abilities for combat, the rogue has a wider range of “at will” and “per excursion” abilities during dungeoneering. The ranger excels on excursions. And so on. I think in some ways they’ve missed the forest for the trees. That said, I’m not saying the game itself looks like a failure. I’m just saying there are good reasons folks might claim it’s a poor successor to D&D on the basis of its current rules for dungeoneering, which are exceedingly focused on a single unit of action – the encounter – which is arguably a different core unit of action than the core unit in classic dungeoneering (the dungeon excursion).

    • Anyway, this is a bit of a whirlwind tour with few links or support because I’m supposed to be working πŸ™‚ But my point is basically that the meaning of “dungeon crawl” is what a lot of old timers’ problems are hinging on. OD&D, Holmes, B/X, BECMI, AD&D1 – all these games had rules for dungeoneering. There was a turn structure for movement through the dungeon. Various actions used up various amounts of time (searching a 10×10 square, for example). Wandering monster rolls were made every few turns (every turn in OD&D, every three turns in Holmes, every two turns in Moldvay, Cook / Marsh B/X and Mentzer BECMI, I don’t know AD&D1 off the top of my head). Wandering monsters are dangers and drains on resources, they’re not bags of XP. Treasure is far more valuable to XP than klling monsters: so much more that its not worth fighting monsters if all you care about is XP. There are explicit rules for what happens if you drop bags of money or food behind you when running – will the monsters keep chasing you, or will they stop to take what was left behind? Players face puzzles and have to basically figure them out themselves. Parleying with enemies is essential to success, and dungeons are weird places. There are iron spikes on the equipment list for a reason: you use them to spike closed doors when fleeing enemies or keeping potential wanderers from easily busting in on a resting place. And so on. And so forth.

      This is what dungeoneering means to a lot of folks who are not happy with 4th edition. I look at 4th edition and I think, huh. This, I could do something with this. This could be cool. But hm, it’s not set up for dungeoneering out of the box. I have to sort out a bunch of things first. Ok, yeah, it looks like I can get some morale rules out of the way the intimidation skill works, and they could be pretty cool. Um, I can import some of the dungeoneering rules from older versions of the game. And so on. But I don’t look at it and think, “Yes, this game gets dungeoneering right.” The game is a logical next step from 3rd edition, and many of the dungeoneering rules were well on their way out (or dead and gone) by 2nd edition. I actually am not bothered by the codification and formalization that D&D 4 continues to develop. I do regret the loss of dungeoneering: 4th edition has tunnel-vision on the encounter. In the process, it sidelines other “units of play”: especially the dungeon expedition and the wilderness excursion. The tunnel vision means that everyone has to become a fighter. That’s unfortunate, I think. If the designers were more in touch with older editions, they might have developed formal procedures at other levels of play as well. Maybe the fighter gets a lot of “at will” abilities for combat, the rogue has a wider range of “at will” and “per excursion” abilities during dungeoneering. The ranger excels on excursions. And so on. I think in some ways they’ve missed the forest for the trees. That said, I’m not saying the game itself looks like a failure. I’m just saying there are good reasons folks might claim it’s a poor successor to D&D on the basis of its current rules for dungeoneering, which are exceedingly focused on a single unit of action – the encounter – which is arguably a different core unit of action than the core unit in classic dungeoneering (the dungeon excursion).

    • Ye Olde School

      Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out.

      I don’t know anything at all about Classic D&D, as I never played it and have only skimmed the text.

      Interesting…digesting.

    • Ye Olde School

      Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out.

      I don’t know anything at all about Classic D&D, as I never played it and have only skimmed the text.

      Interesting…digesting.

    • Ye Olde School

      Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out.

      I don’t know anything at all about Classic D&D, as I never played it and have only skimmed the text.

      Interesting…digesting.

  14. Hi Judd,

    I think you’re basically on target with most of your comments here, especially about the issue with settings. I do have a somewhat different take on whether or not D&D 4 better supports dungeon crawling than previous editions of D&D.

    It depends on what you mean by dungeon crawling.

    And here’s where a lot of people seem to be talking past each other. There are a lot of folks saying, “This is the most focused version of D&D yet. It knows what it wants to do, and it does it.”

    I agree with this so far.

    I think this version of D&D, more than the other version that I have had experiences with, AD&D, 2nd and 3.0, attacks that dungeon-crawling premise with gusto, moreso than past editions.

    This is where a lot of people are having serious disconnects. It’s a true statement if, by dungeon crawling, you mean something along the lines of going into dungeons, going room to room and having cool, knock-down, drag-out fights. This is a lot of fun, no question. But I think there’s a lot of good evidence from old timers and older game texts that this isn’t how dungeon crawling works in classic D&D. Monsters weren’t worth much xp in early editions, so you were much better off not fighting anything that was a drain on your resources (HP, spells, magic item charges). The “unit of play” was the “dungeon expedition” rather than the “encounter,” so strategic thinking in older versions was meant to be a big picture, strategic affair. How deep do we go in? When do we fight, and when do we run? What rooms should we spend time in, and what rooms should we leave for another expedition? Given that wandering monsters rolls are made every X turns (turns being 10 minute units of expedition time, while rounds were 1 minute units of combat), and given that wandering monsters are not worth xp and don’t have treasure, they’re just a drain. What if we go in too deep and have bad luck with the wandering monsters on the way out?

    And so on. So combat isn’t actually the main thing. The combat rules in OD&D are even somewhat vestigial. I know that sounds funny because of widespread misconceptions about the relationship between chainmail and D&D, but most accounts agree that even Dave and Gary hardly used Chainmail to play D&D. Tried it a few times but didn’t use it. They used the so called “alternate” combat sytem instead. Combat rules, along with saving throws, seemed to be mechanics that are meant to be engaged when you’ve got no better alternative. You’re rolling that saving throw because you’ve done messed up. You’re in a fight because it’s necessary to achieve your goal, or maybe because you couldn’t avoid it this time, or you got surprised.

    Here’s an interesting actual play account of an excursion into Castle Greyhawk. It’s worth reading, and I think it brings out some interesting aspects of old school dungeon delving. There’s not much combat. The characters have a mission objective: they’re going into the dungeon to achieve that objective, and they want to avoid other entanglements and problems that might keep them from reaching the objective. There’s a strong reliance on DM judgment calls. The use of the term “referee” in the early books isn’t a misnomer. The DM role is more like that of a referee in a “free kriegspiel” – the DM is responsible for making judgment calls about what is likely to work, what isn’t likely to work, and so on, in a given situation based on their expertise. In a classic kriegspiel of this nature, the referee might have been a military strategy expert, making judgments based on their own relevant expertise. The DM makes ad hoc judgments about things and might call for a roll, say, “This might work — roll 1d6, on a 1 or a 2 it works.” In D&D, because it’s a hobby game, the DM’s expertise in making these judgments will vary. But D&D is a descendent of a particular wargaming culture where this kind of role had precedents. An expert judge acts as a “black box” generator of results of strategies being attempted by two opposing players. So when modern gamers say, “But D&D comes out of wargaming!”, they often have a skewed view of what all that might entail.

  15. Hi Judd,

    I think you’re basically on target with most of your comments here, especially about the issue with settings. I do have a somewhat different take on whether or not D&D 4 better supports dungeon crawling than previous editions of D&D.

    It depends on what you mean by dungeon crawling.

    And here’s where a lot of people seem to be talking past each other. There are a lot of folks saying, “This is the most focused version of D&D yet. It knows what it wants to do, and it does it.”

    I agree with this so far.

    I think this version of D&D, more than the other version that I have had experiences with, AD&D, 2nd and 3.0, attacks that dungeon-crawling premise with gusto, moreso than past editions.

    This is where a lot of people are having serious disconnects. It’s a true statement if, by dungeon crawling, you mean something along the lines of going into dungeons, going room to room and having cool, knock-down, drag-out fights. This is a lot of fun, no question. But I think there’s a lot of good evidence from old timers and older game texts that this isn’t how dungeon crawling works in classic D&D. Monsters weren’t worth much xp in early editions, so you were much better off not fighting anything that was a drain on your resources (HP, spells, magic item charges). The “unit of play” was the “dungeon expedition” rather than the “encounter,” so strategic thinking in older versions was meant to be a big picture, strategic affair. How deep do we go in? When do we fight, and when do we run? What rooms should we spend time in, and what rooms should we leave for another expedition? Given that wandering monsters rolls are made every X turns (turns being 10 minute units of expedition time, while rounds were 1 minute units of combat), and given that wandering monsters are not worth xp and don’t have treasure, they’re just a drain. What if we go in too deep and have bad luck with the wandering monsters on the way out?

    And so on. So combat isn’t actually the main thing. The combat rules in OD&D are even somewhat vestigial. I know that sounds funny because of widespread misconceptions about the relationship between chainmail and D&D, but most accounts agree that even Dave and Gary hardly used Chainmail to play D&D. Tried it a few times but didn’t use it. They used the so called “alternate” combat sytem instead. Combat rules, along with saving throws, seemed to be mechanics that are meant to be engaged when you’ve got no better alternative. You’re rolling that saving throw because you’ve done messed up. You’re in a fight because it’s necessary to achieve your goal, or maybe because you couldn’t avoid it this time, or you got surprised.

    Here’s an interesting actual play account of an excursion into Castle Greyhawk. It’s worth reading, and I think it brings out some interesting aspects of old school dungeon delving. There’s not much combat. The characters have a mission objective: they’re going into the dungeon to achieve that objective, and they want to avoid other entanglements and problems that might keep them from reaching the objective. There’s a strong reliance on DM judgment calls. The use of the term “referee” in the early books isn’t a misnomer. The DM role is more like that of a referee in a “free kriegspiel” – the DM is responsible for making judgment calls about what is likely to work, what isn’t likely to work, and so on, in a given situation based on their expertise. In a classic kriegspiel of this nature, the referee might have been a military strategy expert, making judgments based on their own relevant expertise. The DM makes ad hoc judgments about things and might call for a roll, say, “This might work — roll 1d6, on a 1 or a 2 it works.” In D&D, because it’s a hobby game, the DM’s expertise in making these judgments will vary. But D&D is a descendent of a particular wargaming culture where this kind of role had precedents. An expert judge acts as a “black box” generator of results of strategies being attempted by two opposing players. So when modern gamers say, “But D&D comes out of wargaming!”, they often have a skewed view of what all that might entail.

  16. Thanks for all the responses. I think people are right to wonder about how representative the sort of approach I’m talking about actually was across a wide range of D&D players. I don’t know. I know there was/is a culture of playing that way, but I can’t say whether it was the dominant strain. My own experience is a mix of things.

    As a kid, playing D&D, we didn’t do any of this stuff. I never noticed the distinction between rounds (combat units of time) and turns (10 minute exploration units) until I came back to the game as an adult. (Did you know the sleep spell has its duration in turns? In Moldvay, 4-16 turns. That’s 40 to 160 minutes. And so do a lot of other spells. I didn’t realize that as a kid.)

    And when we first started playing Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X D&D somewhat regularly last fall, it took time for some of these things to emerge. At first, the players were throwing down with just about every monster they encountered. The breakpoint came around the third session, after an encounter with giant spiders went horribly wrong. They were wandering monsters. On the reaction table, I rolled that the spiders were neutral toward the party (the players of course didn’t know what I’d rolled). I figured these spiders had already eaten recently and were wandering by but had no particular reason to get in a fight – too dangerous! Anyway, the party leader/caller chose to fight them, not knowing they were just going to wander on by, and he overrode the vote against it by another player. The PCs prevailed, but the thief (a secondary character of the player who had instigated the fight) got poisoned twice before the brief fight was over. He had a hilarious, sputtering death scene that got even worse when he decided to drink two unknown potions from the party’s previous loot in the hopes that one would be a cure poison. Neither one was, and mixing potions in basic D&D is a very bad idea.

    It was a death scene for the ages. We were laughing pretty hard, and that’s including the player of the character who was dying in this most unfortunate, horrible, and ultimately unnecessary way.

    The term “resource management” makes dungeoneering in this style sound kind of like bookkeeping, but my experience is that it can be quite a good way to get mounting tension. You’re deep in a strange underworld, any wrong move could be your last, you don’t know what’s on the other side of that door, and your rogue lies dead in a dingy hallway because a spider bit him and he’s too heavy to drag around with you. You’ll go back for the body if you can, but you’re so close to your goal – the fabled Gem of Gaxyg! Your tattered map indicates that it’s in the chest that lies before you.

    But someone has to open the chest. Or you could risk lifting it from its pedestal and carrying it out. That would slow you down, and you’re deep in the bowels of the dungeon. And what if the pedestal is trapped? What do you do?

    And so on.

    So say Fred’s game is more of an action adventure type of story, this one might be more like a spec ops mission in a (very) hostile territory. You have a mission objective (one you’ve set for yourself, in many cases, based on rumors and hearsay). Maybe you’ve made some past expeditions to check things out. Maybe you’ve done intel work, and this time, you’re ready to carry out the job. You’ve put together your team. Now it’s time to take action.

    That sort of thing.

    • Is this representative of how the game was played? For some groups, yes. For most groups? I don’t know. Probably not for those of us who came in without a background in the wargaming culture of the 60s and 70s. And maybe not for all groups coming out of that culture, either. Now, once I discovered it, I see it all over the place: there’s plenty of evidence that at least some people were playing this way if you read a lot of RPGs from the time. But combat was also the most important thing for a lot of groups, clearly. And not all modules support this sort of approach, as Rob notes – some do, some don’t.

      Have you ever seen a DMing advice chapter where the writer is talking about ways to avoid a party that takes forever to get anywhere because they’re poking every square with a 10′ pole? They’re just too cautious? That, to me, sounds like maybe they’ve played in a particularly unforgiving version of the above (maybe without wandering monsters), and now they’re with a DM who has an action adventure dungeon instead of a strategic operations dungeon.

      Also, credit where credit is due, I’m not really responsible for much of this stuff. I’ve gleaned a lot of insights about this approach from all over the net: the OD&D discussion boards, Fight On!, various threads at Dragonfoot and Rpg.net and Enworld where old school gamers and originators have commented on how they played (OldGeezer’s posts on RPG.net, for example, Q&A threads with Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, and others), posts by some folks at The RPG Site, following blogs that are part of the “old school renaissance” and so on. So my thoughts here are based on a combination of things, not only my group’s Basic D&D campaign from last fall but also reading a lot of smart stuff said by people who are or have been doing similar things.

      Jonathan, I like that comparison by the way, and maybe it helps explain part of the appeal of 4e to some of the indie folks who aren’t as interested in “trad” games.

      Niwandajones, thanks for the pointers – I still haven’t read 4e thoroughly yet, so that’s good to hear. I’ll file it away in my list of things I should pay attention to if we decide to play some 4e in the future.

      • Rich,

        You exploded my head today. I started playing D&D in the late 70s with the Holmes Basic Set, one-on-one with my best friend as DM. I always had a main character (a dwarf thief named Fingon for a long time) and a sidekick friend character. This early gaming was about going into dangerous circumstances for various purposes of getting something done.

        One particularly memorable arc revolved around my efforts to rescue my sidekick wizard friend from a massive tree inhabited by wood elves. It was nail-bitingly dangerous. I’d paid a couple of swords-for-hire to help, but we were egregiously overmatched by how many elves there were living in this giant tree. My wizard friend got shot to death by one of maybe a dozen elven archers as we fled the tree.

        At some point after the publication of AD&D, I was gaming with different friends, running more often than I played, and the style was about clearing levels and not missing out on any XP. I never saw that there’d been a transition of style until reading your posts here today.

        4e could be the latter style done right, but I think what I might be more tempted by is the former.

        Paul

        • Paul,

          I’m glad to hear it’s ringing true for other people as well. I’ve only really gotten the language to talk about it myself over the last year or so, since playing that basic D&D campaign last fall and starting to read about the history of the game more thoroughly. I also tend to best enjoy the dungeoneering / operational level of play myself.

          One thing I like about it, among other things, is how it contextualizes megadungeons. A megadungeon seems like a big old plodding thing if you’re kicking in all the doors and fighting everything inside. But if it’s a dangerous otherworld you enter to carry out targeted missions under high pressure and surreal circumstances, then it becomes a much more interesting environment, I think. The players have to manage their level of risk — they can’t control it, but they can attempt to negotiate it as intelligently as possible. “Balance” is a more organic issue in a setting like this. Sometimes you really are trying to prevail against all odds, or to find a way to turn the odds to your favor.

          One session in our basic D&D campaign my players totally surprised me by deciding to go after a vampire. The party was roughly 4th level at the time, and vampires are the most powerful undead in Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X. Two levels of energy drain per hit! But the players risked it and strategized, avoided unnecessary risks, and managed to take the vampire by surprise and destroy it in a coordinated surprise round. They did lose a couple party members to a betrayal by an NPC minion of the vampire and I think to a poisoned door trap at the entry to the vampire’s lair. But they had a successful excursion and earned the rewards.

          Good times.

        • Paul,

          I’m glad to hear it’s ringing true for other people as well. I’ve only really gotten the language to talk about it myself over the last year or so, since playing that basic D&D campaign last fall and starting to read about the history of the game more thoroughly. I also tend to best enjoy the dungeoneering / operational level of play myself.

          One thing I like about it, among other things, is how it contextualizes megadungeons. A megadungeon seems like a big old plodding thing if you’re kicking in all the doors and fighting everything inside. But if it’s a dangerous otherworld you enter to carry out targeted missions under high pressure and surreal circumstances, then it becomes a much more interesting environment, I think. The players have to manage their level of risk — they can’t control it, but they can attempt to negotiate it as intelligently as possible. “Balance” is a more organic issue in a setting like this. Sometimes you really are trying to prevail against all odds, or to find a way to turn the odds to your favor.

          One session in our basic D&D campaign my players totally surprised me by deciding to go after a vampire. The party was roughly 4th level at the time, and vampires are the most powerful undead in Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X. Two levels of energy drain per hit! But the players risked it and strategized, avoided unnecessary risks, and managed to take the vampire by surprise and destroy it in a coordinated surprise round. They did lose a couple party members to a betrayal by an NPC minion of the vampire and I think to a poisoned door trap at the entry to the vampire’s lair. But they had a successful excursion and earned the rewards.

          Good times.

        • Paul,

          I’m glad to hear it’s ringing true for other people as well. I’ve only really gotten the language to talk about it myself over the last year or so, since playing that basic D&D campaign last fall and starting to read about the history of the game more thoroughly. I also tend to best enjoy the dungeoneering / operational level of play myself.

          One thing I like about it, among other things, is how it contextualizes megadungeons. A megadungeon seems like a big old plodding thing if you’re kicking in all the doors and fighting everything inside. But if it’s a dangerous otherworld you enter to carry out targeted missions under high pressure and surreal circumstances, then it becomes a much more interesting environment, I think. The players have to manage their level of risk — they can’t control it, but they can attempt to negotiate it as intelligently as possible. “Balance” is a more organic issue in a setting like this. Sometimes you really are trying to prevail against all odds, or to find a way to turn the odds to your favor.

          One session in our basic D&D campaign my players totally surprised me by deciding to go after a vampire. The party was roughly 4th level at the time, and vampires are the most powerful undead in Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X. Two levels of energy drain per hit! But the players risked it and strategized, avoided unnecessary risks, and managed to take the vampire by surprise and destroy it in a coordinated surprise round. They did lose a couple party members to a betrayal by an NPC minion of the vampire and I think to a poisoned door trap at the entry to the vampire’s lair. But they had a successful excursion and earned the rewards.

          Good times.

      • Rich,

        You exploded my head today. I started playing D&D in the late 70s with the Holmes Basic Set, one-on-one with my best friend as DM. I always had a main character (a dwarf thief named Fingon for a long time) and a sidekick friend character. This early gaming was about going into dangerous circumstances for various purposes of getting something done.

        One particularly memorable arc revolved around my efforts to rescue my sidekick wizard friend from a massive tree inhabited by wood elves. It was nail-bitingly dangerous. I’d paid a couple of swords-for-hire to help, but we were egregiously overmatched by how many elves there were living in this giant tree. My wizard friend got shot to death by one of maybe a dozen elven archers as we fled the tree.

        At some point after the publication of AD&D, I was gaming with different friends, running more often than I played, and the style was about clearing levels and not missing out on any XP. I never saw that there’d been a transition of style until reading your posts here today.

        4e could be the latter style done right, but I think what I might be more tempted by is the former.

        Paul

      • Rich,

        You exploded my head today. I started playing D&D in the late 70s with the Holmes Basic Set, one-on-one with my best friend as DM. I always had a main character (a dwarf thief named Fingon for a long time) and a sidekick friend character. This early gaming was about going into dangerous circumstances for various purposes of getting something done.

        One particularly memorable arc revolved around my efforts to rescue my sidekick wizard friend from a massive tree inhabited by wood elves. It was nail-bitingly dangerous. I’d paid a couple of swords-for-hire to help, but we were egregiously overmatched by how many elves there were living in this giant tree. My wizard friend got shot to death by one of maybe a dozen elven archers as we fled the tree.

        At some point after the publication of AD&D, I was gaming with different friends, running more often than I played, and the style was about clearing levels and not missing out on any XP. I never saw that there’d been a transition of style until reading your posts here today.

        4e could be the latter style done right, but I think what I might be more tempted by is the former.

        Paul

    • Is this representative of how the game was played? For some groups, yes. For most groups? I don’t know. Probably not for those of us who came in without a background in the wargaming culture of the 60s and 70s. And maybe not for all groups coming out of that culture, either. Now, once I discovered it, I see it all over the place: there’s plenty of evidence that at least some people were playing this way if you read a lot of RPGs from the time. But combat was also the most important thing for a lot of groups, clearly. And not all modules support this sort of approach, as Rob notes – some do, some don’t.

      Have you ever seen a DMing advice chapter where the writer is talking about ways to avoid a party that takes forever to get anywhere because they’re poking every square with a 10′ pole? They’re just too cautious? That, to me, sounds like maybe they’ve played in a particularly unforgiving version of the above (maybe without wandering monsters), and now they’re with a DM who has an action adventure dungeon instead of a strategic operations dungeon.

      Also, credit where credit is due, I’m not really responsible for much of this stuff. I’ve gleaned a lot of insights about this approach from all over the net: the OD&D discussion boards, Fight On!, various threads at Dragonfoot and Rpg.net and Enworld where old school gamers and originators have commented on how they played (OldGeezer’s posts on RPG.net, for example, Q&A threads with Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, and others), posts by some folks at The RPG Site, following blogs that are part of the “old school renaissance” and so on. So my thoughts here are based on a combination of things, not only my group’s Basic D&D campaign from last fall but also reading a lot of smart stuff said by people who are or have been doing similar things.

      Jonathan, I like that comparison by the way, and maybe it helps explain part of the appeal of 4e to some of the indie folks who aren’t as interested in “trad” games.

      Niwandajones, thanks for the pointers – I still haven’t read 4e thoroughly yet, so that’s good to hear. I’ll file it away in my list of things I should pay attention to if we decide to play some 4e in the future.

    • Is this representative of how the game was played? For some groups, yes. For most groups? I don’t know. Probably not for those of us who came in without a background in the wargaming culture of the 60s and 70s. And maybe not for all groups coming out of that culture, either. Now, once I discovered it, I see it all over the place: there’s plenty of evidence that at least some people were playing this way if you read a lot of RPGs from the time. But combat was also the most important thing for a lot of groups, clearly. And not all modules support this sort of approach, as Rob notes – some do, some don’t.

      Have you ever seen a DMing advice chapter where the writer is talking about ways to avoid a party that takes forever to get anywhere because they’re poking every square with a 10′ pole? They’re just too cautious? That, to me, sounds like maybe they’ve played in a particularly unforgiving version of the above (maybe without wandering monsters), and now they’re with a DM who has an action adventure dungeon instead of a strategic operations dungeon.

      Also, credit where credit is due, I’m not really responsible for much of this stuff. I’ve gleaned a lot of insights about this approach from all over the net: the OD&D discussion boards, Fight On!, various threads at Dragonfoot and Rpg.net and Enworld where old school gamers and originators have commented on how they played (OldGeezer’s posts on RPG.net, for example, Q&A threads with Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, and others), posts by some folks at The RPG Site, following blogs that are part of the “old school renaissance” and so on. So my thoughts here are based on a combination of things, not only my group’s Basic D&D campaign from last fall but also reading a lot of smart stuff said by people who are or have been doing similar things.

      Jonathan, I like that comparison by the way, and maybe it helps explain part of the appeal of 4e to some of the indie folks who aren’t as interested in “trad” games.

      Niwandajones, thanks for the pointers – I still haven’t read 4e thoroughly yet, so that’s good to hear. I’ll file it away in my list of things I should pay attention to if we decide to play some 4e in the future.

      • Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

        Warhammer and Warmachine do it better and if this were electronic Wow would beat it’s socks off with its ability to grind your soul into little sad pieces.

        Seriously, I want to role-play and have rules that help me do it.

        This game seems EVEN more apt for Wick’s story of FITOR the Rogue who walked around naked because he could.

        Making the current popular MMO game mechanics into a table top game is not a good thing.

        It’s like a sad dying genetic mutant of a miniatures game and role playing game. It dies because it cannot do either well.

        • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

          Let’s not play the “its-no-a-role-playing-game” game.

          D&D was born a genetic mutant of a miniatures game and an RPG. Sad and dying? I dunno.

          I’m not going to argue about the quality of a game I haven’t played yet but c’mon now…

          • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

            Why can’t we? I can role-play just as easily with my Lego mini-figs (if I still owned any) as I can with all these hopped up rules pretending to be ‘role-playing’ rules.

            D&D4 isn’t a RPG, and has moved even farther away from one. It may be a fun miniatures game, but I don’t think I could ever call it an RPG.

            I’m not trying to be a Story-game Hippie either. I LOVE me some TanHauser and Arkham Horror, but those games are at least honest about what they are.

            D&D4 is a glorified version of classic Battletech, but using people instead of machines.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                I won’t mention Houses, because that’s a Hippie game.

                I am running WFRP and Dark Heresy atm.

                Besides those two games I’ve run and enjoyed: L5R, 7th Sea, Exalted, and Mutants and Masterminds.

                I’ve run many other games, and enjoyed myself, but even including the games I’ve listed I’ve found that I’ve had to work at creating ways for my players to Role-Play more than just roll-play.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                What? I can go play Samurai Sword if I want to play a Japanese table top board game, but if I want to role-play I’ll go grab L5R.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                You win the internet. I’m now convinced it isn’t an RPG and that I shouldn’t like it.

                Games you don’t like are NOT RPG’s. Games that you like ARE RPG’s.

                Got it.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                Come on Judd, don’t be like that, you’re just coping out. That wasn’t what I was saying at all. I love board games, and miniature games and role playing games, but we need to be honest about which games are which.

                Just because a game claims to be one thing doesn’t make it that thing. Everyone is finally realizing that even though a lot of computer games claim to be RPGs they are more in line with a choose your own adventure and not a true RPG. The MMOs are especially guilty of this.

                My hatred for D&D4 comes not from whether I’d enjoy playing the game. A friend of mine used to run this kick-ass Vietnam War miniatures game where we could level up our guys if they lived and all sorts of cool stuff. The only problem was that the game wasn’t a real RPG…we were just going from Ding! to Ding! and not creating a fun story, if anything our characters were tertiary, just like they are in D&D4.

                Do the games I play and like all meet the RPG criteria/definition I laid out? No, do I think my definition is bad? No, I just think that the industry needs to work on understanding better what they’re creating and either create new definitions for what they’re doing or use existing ones that fit the game better than a blanket RPG.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                Come on Judd, don’t be like that, you’re just coping out. That wasn’t what I was saying at all. I love board games, and miniature games and role playing games, but we need to be honest about which games are which.

                Just because a game claims to be one thing doesn’t make it that thing. Everyone is finally realizing that even though a lot of computer games claim to be RPGs they are more in line with a choose your own adventure and not a true RPG. The MMOs are especially guilty of this.

                My hatred for D&D4 comes not from whether I’d enjoy playing the game. A friend of mine used to run this kick-ass Vietnam War miniatures game where we could level up our guys if they lived and all sorts of cool stuff. The only problem was that the game wasn’t a real RPG…we were just going from Ding! to Ding! and not creating a fun story, if anything our characters were tertiary, just like they are in D&D4.

                Do the games I play and like all meet the RPG criteria/definition I laid out? No, do I think my definition is bad? No, I just think that the industry needs to work on understanding better what they’re creating and either create new definitions for what they’re doing or use existing ones that fit the game better than a blanket RPG.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                Come on Judd, don’t be like that, you’re just coping out. That wasn’t what I was saying at all. I love board games, and miniature games and role playing games, but we need to be honest about which games are which.

                Just because a game claims to be one thing doesn’t make it that thing. Everyone is finally realizing that even though a lot of computer games claim to be RPGs they are more in line with a choose your own adventure and not a true RPG. The MMOs are especially guilty of this.

                My hatred for D&D4 comes not from whether I’d enjoy playing the game. A friend of mine used to run this kick-ass Vietnam War miniatures game where we could level up our guys if they lived and all sorts of cool stuff. The only problem was that the game wasn’t a real RPG…we were just going from Ding! to Ding! and not creating a fun story, if anything our characters were tertiary, just like they are in D&D4.

                Do the games I play and like all meet the RPG criteria/definition I laid out? No, do I think my definition is bad? No, I just think that the industry needs to work on understanding better what they’re creating and either create new definitions for what they’re doing or use existing ones that fit the game better than a blanket RPG.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                You win the internet. I’m now convinced it isn’t an RPG and that I shouldn’t like it.

                Games you don’t like are NOT RPG’s. Games that you like ARE RPG’s.

                Got it.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                You win the internet. I’m now convinced it isn’t an RPG and that I shouldn’t like it.

                Games you don’t like are NOT RPG’s. Games that you like ARE RPG’s.

                Got it.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                What? I can go play Samurai Sword if I want to play a Japanese table top board game, but if I want to role-play I’ll go grab L5R.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                What? I can go play Samurai Sword if I want to play a Japanese table top board game, but if I want to role-play I’ll go grab L5R.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                I won’t mention Houses, because that’s a Hippie game.

                I am running WFRP and Dark Heresy atm.

                Besides those two games I’ve run and enjoyed: L5R, 7th Sea, Exalted, and Mutants and Masterminds.

                I’ve run many other games, and enjoyed myself, but even including the games I’ve listed I’ve found that I’ve had to work at creating ways for my players to Role-Play more than just roll-play.

              • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

                I won’t mention Houses, because that’s a Hippie game.

                I am running WFRP and Dark Heresy atm.

                Besides those two games I’ve run and enjoyed: L5R, 7th Sea, Exalted, and Mutants and Masterminds.

                I’ve run many other games, and enjoyed myself, but even including the games I’ve listed I’ve found that I’ve had to work at creating ways for my players to Role-Play more than just roll-play.

          • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

            Why can’t we? I can role-play just as easily with my Lego mini-figs (if I still owned any) as I can with all these hopped up rules pretending to be ‘role-playing’ rules.

            D&D4 isn’t a RPG, and has moved even farther away from one. It may be a fun miniatures game, but I don’t think I could ever call it an RPG.

            I’m not trying to be a Story-game Hippie either. I LOVE me some TanHauser and Arkham Horror, but those games are at least honest about what they are.

            D&D4 is a glorified version of classic Battletech, but using people instead of machines.

          • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

            Why can’t we? I can role-play just as easily with my Lego mini-figs (if I still owned any) as I can with all these hopped up rules pretending to be ‘role-playing’ rules.

            D&D4 isn’t a RPG, and has moved even farther away from one. It may be a fun miniatures game, but I don’t think I could ever call it an RPG.

            I’m not trying to be a Story-game Hippie either. I LOVE me some TanHauser and Arkham Horror, but those games are at least honest about what they are.

            D&D4 is a glorified version of classic Battletech, but using people instead of machines.

        • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

          Let’s not play the “its-no-a-role-playing-game” game.

          D&D was born a genetic mutant of a miniatures game and an RPG. Sad and dying? I dunno.

          I’m not going to argue about the quality of a game I haven’t played yet but c’mon now…

        • Re: Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

          Let’s not play the “its-no-a-role-playing-game” game.

          D&D was born a genetic mutant of a miniatures game and an RPG. Sad and dying? I dunno.

          I’m not going to argue about the quality of a game I haven’t played yet but c’mon now…

      • Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

        Warhammer and Warmachine do it better and if this were electronic Wow would beat it’s socks off with its ability to grind your soul into little sad pieces.

        Seriously, I want to role-play and have rules that help me do it.

        This game seems EVEN more apt for Wick’s story of FITOR the Rogue who walked around naked because he could.

        Making the current popular MMO game mechanics into a table top game is not a good thing.

        It’s like a sad dying genetic mutant of a miniatures game and role playing game. It dies because it cannot do either well.

      • Just don’t call it an Role Playing Game…

        Warhammer and Warmachine do it better and if this were electronic Wow would beat it’s socks off with its ability to grind your soul into little sad pieces.

        Seriously, I want to role-play and have rules that help me do it.

        This game seems EVEN more apt for Wick’s story of FITOR the Rogue who walked around naked because he could.

        Making the current popular MMO game mechanics into a table top game is not a good thing.

        It’s like a sad dying genetic mutant of a miniatures game and role playing game. It dies because it cannot do either well.

  17. Thanks for all the responses. I think people are right to wonder about how representative the sort of approach I’m talking about actually was across a wide range of D&D players. I don’t know. I know there was/is a culture of playing that way, but I can’t say whether it was the dominant strain. My own experience is a mix of things.

    As a kid, playing D&D, we didn’t do any of this stuff. I never noticed the distinction between rounds (combat units of time) and turns (10 minute exploration units) until I came back to the game as an adult. (Did you know the sleep spell has its duration in turns? In Moldvay, 4-16 turns. That’s 40 to 160 minutes. And so do a lot of other spells. I didn’t realize that as a kid.)

    And when we first started playing Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X D&D somewhat regularly last fall, it took time for some of these things to emerge. At first, the players were throwing down with just about every monster they encountered. The breakpoint came around the third session, after an encounter with giant spiders went horribly wrong. They were wandering monsters. On the reaction table, I rolled that the spiders were neutral toward the party (the players of course didn’t know what I’d rolled). I figured these spiders had already eaten recently and were wandering by but had no particular reason to get in a fight – too dangerous! Anyway, the party leader/caller chose to fight them, not knowing they were just going to wander on by, and he overrode the vote against it by another player. The PCs prevailed, but the thief (a secondary character of the player who had instigated the fight) got poisoned twice before the brief fight was over. He had a hilarious, sputtering death scene that got even worse when he decided to drink two unknown potions from the party’s previous loot in the hopes that one would be a cure poison. Neither one was, and mixing potions in basic D&D is a very bad idea.

    It was a death scene for the ages. We were laughing pretty hard, and that’s including the player of the character who was dying in this most unfortunate, horrible, and ultimately unnecessary way.

    The term “resource management” makes dungeoneering in this style sound kind of like bookkeeping, but my experience is that it can be quite a good way to get mounting tension. You’re deep in a strange underworld, any wrong move could be your last, you don’t know what’s on the other side of that door, and your rogue lies dead in a dingy hallway because a spider bit him and he’s too heavy to drag around with you. You’ll go back for the body if you can, but you’re so close to your goal – the fabled Gem of Gaxyg! Your tattered map indicates that it’s in the chest that lies before you.

    But someone has to open the chest. Or you could risk lifting it from its pedestal and carrying it out. That would slow you down, and you’re deep in the bowels of the dungeon. And what if the pedestal is trapped? What do you do?

    And so on.

    So say Fred’s game is more of an action adventure type of story, this one might be more like a spec ops mission in a (very) hostile territory. You have a mission objective (one you’ve set for yourself, in many cases, based on rumors and hearsay). Maybe you’ve made some past expeditions to check things out. Maybe you’ve done intel work, and this time, you’re ready to carry out the job. You’ve put together your team. Now it’s time to take action.

    That sort of thing.

  18. Thanks for all the responses. I think people are right to wonder about how representative the sort of approach I’m talking about actually was across a wide range of D&D players. I don’t know. I know there was/is a culture of playing that way, but I can’t say whether it was the dominant strain. My own experience is a mix of things.

    As a kid, playing D&D, we didn’t do any of this stuff. I never noticed the distinction between rounds (combat units of time) and turns (10 minute exploration units) until I came back to the game as an adult. (Did you know the sleep spell has its duration in turns? In Moldvay, 4-16 turns. That’s 40 to 160 minutes. And so do a lot of other spells. I didn’t realize that as a kid.)

    And when we first started playing Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X D&D somewhat regularly last fall, it took time for some of these things to emerge. At first, the players were throwing down with just about every monster they encountered. The breakpoint came around the third session, after an encounter with giant spiders went horribly wrong. They were wandering monsters. On the reaction table, I rolled that the spiders were neutral toward the party (the players of course didn’t know what I’d rolled). I figured these spiders had already eaten recently and were wandering by but had no particular reason to get in a fight – too dangerous! Anyway, the party leader/caller chose to fight them, not knowing they were just going to wander on by, and he overrode the vote against it by another player. The PCs prevailed, but the thief (a secondary character of the player who had instigated the fight) got poisoned twice before the brief fight was over. He had a hilarious, sputtering death scene that got even worse when he decided to drink two unknown potions from the party’s previous loot in the hopes that one would be a cure poison. Neither one was, and mixing potions in basic D&D is a very bad idea.

    It was a death scene for the ages. We were laughing pretty hard, and that’s including the player of the character who was dying in this most unfortunate, horrible, and ultimately unnecessary way.

    The term “resource management” makes dungeoneering in this style sound kind of like bookkeeping, but my experience is that it can be quite a good way to get mounting tension. You’re deep in a strange underworld, any wrong move could be your last, you don’t know what’s on the other side of that door, and your rogue lies dead in a dingy hallway because a spider bit him and he’s too heavy to drag around with you. You’ll go back for the body if you can, but you’re so close to your goal – the fabled Gem of Gaxyg! Your tattered map indicates that it’s in the chest that lies before you.

    But someone has to open the chest. Or you could risk lifting it from its pedestal and carrying it out. That would slow you down, and you’re deep in the bowels of the dungeon. And what if the pedestal is trapped? What do you do?

    And so on.

    So say Fred’s game is more of an action adventure type of story, this one might be more like a spec ops mission in a (very) hostile territory. You have a mission objective (one you’ve set for yourself, in many cases, based on rumors and hearsay). Maybe you’ve made some past expeditions to check things out. Maybe you’ve done intel work, and this time, you’re ready to carry out the job. You’ve put together your team. Now it’s time to take action.

    That sort of thing.

  19. I normally wouldn’t care much one way or the other about 4th ed, I think. My only cause for disgruntlement is that it may take my friends’ mindshare and timeslots that they might otherwise be persuaded to use on games I’m more interested in.

  20. I normally wouldn’t care much one way or the other about 4th ed, I think. My only cause for disgruntlement is that it may take my friends’ mindshare and timeslots that they might otherwise be persuaded to use on games I’m more interested in.

  21. I normally wouldn’t care much one way or the other about 4th ed, I think. My only cause for disgruntlement is that it may take my friends’ mindshare and timeslots that they might otherwise be persuaded to use on games I’m more interested in.

  22. I’m in a similar position to drcpunk. So I gave in and got interested in 4e, using my friend’s enthusiasm as a jumping off point. I am much happier for it and finding some interesting stuff to dig around in 4e. It’s strange broadening back into a place I had abandoned.

    Also, Rich’s discussion of dugeoneering is incredibly inspiring! I want to play that, right now.

  23. I’m in a similar position to drcpunk. So I gave in and got interested in 4e, using my friend’s enthusiasm as a jumping off point. I am much happier for it and finding some interesting stuff to dig around in 4e. It’s strange broadening back into a place I had abandoned.

    Also, Rich’s discussion of dugeoneering is incredibly inspiring! I want to play that, right now.

  24. I’m in a similar position to drcpunk. So I gave in and got interested in 4e, using my friend’s enthusiasm as a jumping off point. I am much happier for it and finding some interesting stuff to dig around in 4e. It’s strange broadening back into a place I had abandoned.

    Also, Rich’s discussion of dugeoneering is incredibly inspiring! I want to play that, right now.

  25. Austrian nitpicking here…

    Unless I’m totally miss some subtle joke here, shouldm’t this thing be called “4enfreude” instead of “4enfraude”?

    You know, like it’s “Schadenfreude”? ^_^

  26. Austrian nitpicking here…

    Unless I’m totally miss some subtle joke here, shouldm’t this thing be called “4enfreude” instead of “4enfraude”?

    You know, like it’s “Schadenfreude”? ^_^

  27. Austrian nitpicking here…

    Unless I’m totally miss some subtle joke here, shouldm’t this thing be called “4enfreude” instead of “4enfraude”?

    You know, like it’s “Schadenfreude”? ^_^

  28. I have come to a conclusion after typing back and forth with you, perusing the books themselves, and reading what my friends have said about the games.

    Be warned though, it’s a simile:

    D&D 4th Edition is like a kick-ass little go-kart (I am imagining one of those cool new Mario Kart racers) that you buy full-assembled from Honda and has absolutely no after market products for it. Whereas D&D 3.0-3.5 were Honda Civics that were cars that while initially really crappy could be modded beyond belief and had more after market products for them than anything else ever.

    Just because Honda released a new go-kart and called it the Civic doesn’t mean that you can’t keep playing with you old Civic. You can’t really take it on the street, and even though there are still tons of after market products for the old Civics those days are essentially over, and eventually the old Civics will give up the ghost and not really work anymore.

    Every blue moon you’ll see a guy driving an old modded Civic but he’ll be like the hippie relic who drives the VW Bus.

    Now a metaphor: People had these apples (3.5) and they were really happy with the apples and even though they got worms and the like in them, and asked the farmer (WotC) to get them a new Apple they were non-plussed when the farmer came back and gave everyone oranges.

    Some people liked the oranges, but others didn’t.

    My final comment: Ce la Vie.

  29. I have come to a conclusion after typing back and forth with you, perusing the books themselves, and reading what my friends have said about the games.

    Be warned though, it’s a simile:

    D&D 4th Edition is like a kick-ass little go-kart (I am imagining one of those cool new Mario Kart racers) that you buy full-assembled from Honda and has absolutely no after market products for it. Whereas D&D 3.0-3.5 were Honda Civics that were cars that while initially really crappy could be modded beyond belief and had more after market products for them than anything else ever.

    Just because Honda released a new go-kart and called it the Civic doesn’t mean that you can’t keep playing with you old Civic. You can’t really take it on the street, and even though there are still tons of after market products for the old Civics those days are essentially over, and eventually the old Civics will give up the ghost and not really work anymore.

    Every blue moon you’ll see a guy driving an old modded Civic but he’ll be like the hippie relic who drives the VW Bus.

    Now a metaphor: People had these apples (3.5) and they were really happy with the apples and even though they got worms and the like in them, and asked the farmer (WotC) to get them a new Apple they were non-plussed when the farmer came back and gave everyone oranges.

    Some people liked the oranges, but others didn’t.

    My final comment: Ce la Vie.

  30. I have come to a conclusion after typing back and forth with you, perusing the books themselves, and reading what my friends have said about the games.

    Be warned though, it’s a simile:

    D&D 4th Edition is like a kick-ass little go-kart (I am imagining one of those cool new Mario Kart racers) that you buy full-assembled from Honda and has absolutely no after market products for it. Whereas D&D 3.0-3.5 were Honda Civics that were cars that while initially really crappy could be modded beyond belief and had more after market products for them than anything else ever.

    Just because Honda released a new go-kart and called it the Civic doesn’t mean that you can’t keep playing with you old Civic. You can’t really take it on the street, and even though there are still tons of after market products for the old Civics those days are essentially over, and eventually the old Civics will give up the ghost and not really work anymore.

    Every blue moon you’ll see a guy driving an old modded Civic but he’ll be like the hippie relic who drives the VW Bus.

    Now a metaphor: People had these apples (3.5) and they were really happy with the apples and even though they got worms and the like in them, and asked the farmer (WotC) to get them a new Apple they were non-plussed when the farmer came back and gave everyone oranges.

    Some people liked the oranges, but others didn’t.

    My final comment: Ce la Vie.

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