Praise for Chris Bateman

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    "the most thoughtful respondent in games, barring none"
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I still play first edition (using the books I acquired as a 13-year-old in 1981), where I play something with classes and levels at all. 2e was too complex, 3e changed the rules, 3.5e seemed to be an attempt to wring money out of the 3e players who wanted to keep up to date, and I already have a WoW account so see little reason to play a paper version in 4e.

The whole class/level thing seems utterly broken from a roleplaying perspective, however, so I tend to play games with less restrictive rule sets (GURPS, Toon, or just wing it) when doing "tabletop" role-playing.

I discovered the game when my english teacher showed me her son's books and later gave me as a gift the red box od Dungeons & Dragons.

There were no hobby stores in my country, but when i found one I got immediatly my first set of dice and my first ruelset for the 2nd Edition Advance Dungeons & Dragons... since then I have tasted 3.0 and 3.5, each time complaining a bit more about magic being nerfed...

I myself I am not moving for 4E... I am one of thos reoleplayers who actually care about roleplaying, so 4E is not for me, the only salvageable thing are the rituals... 4e's only saving grace.

I originally jumped on Pathfinder RPG ship... but the truth is that they too are more and more into "game balance", pushing the clases into niches and passing the roleplaying into a 2nd place... which I don't care for. Still I love the world they have created.

So right now we are playing using 3.5 rules, Pathfinder BETA rules for races and Cleric Domains and Bard Rules, and for everything else we use Monte Cook's Complete Book of Experimental Migth.

Besides that we play with Alternity Rules that are more flexible, while planning our own set of rules after having tries almost a dozen systems (including diferent veresions of some).

"Nothing can take away the tremendous contribution of this game to the history of play, but it is still slightly saddening to see that now, even more than ever before, D&D as a commercial product is less about supporting the incredible niche hobby of participatory storytelling that it founded, and much more about wringing the spare change out of teenagers."

I think this is rather unfair, particularly as D&D has never been, mechanically speaking, supportive of roleplaying. Compare to the Burning Wheel series, or Dogs in the Vineyard, where a character's personality and beliefs have a deep impact on the game-layer of play.

If anything 4E subtly improves on D&D's support of the fiction layer by elevating non-combat challenges to a first-class source of rewards. The skill challenge system encourages attention to the shared fiction and the preferences of the group in a small but constant way. You need to consistently justify the plausibility of using your better skills if you wish to consistently succeed (this is similar to Exalted's stunt system, which provides concrete rewards for riffing off the scene while describing your actions).

Skill challenges and quests give low amounts of XP but are comparatively quick to resolve, allowing a predominantly non-combat session to be fairly dense with rewards.

The MMO resemblance is little more than skin deep (I say this as a 4 night a week raider ^_^). Making the long-implicit roles explicit is helpful for learning and balance, as well as presenting tactically interesting encounters. It does not make a Warlord play anything like a Restoration Shaman. Actual play is much more like a Final Fantasy Tactics-like game than any MMO.

4E is easily the best of the editions on the game layer; its balance and smoother learning curve help the concept-focused player just as much as the tactical gamer. What it's really missing in my opinion is a system for tying combat objectives to character goals and story. It's still usually a race to 0HP, when its more sophisticated tactical engine has lots of hooks that would be suitable for a broader palette of objectives.

All that being said, D&D still is and always has been a monster killing game. If you're looking to get deep into shared fiction there are much better alternatives.

Peter: I'm not surprised that you are still a first edition player. ;) If I were still tabletop role-playing and I wanted to play D&D, I'd probably favour the original basic D&D ruleset, since it's so stripped down. (I believe I still have 1st edition AD&D books in my sister's attic, though). But when I role-play these days it's almost always with one of my own systems - and it's a very rare event anyway.

The class and level system has enormous advantages in terms of instant access for a wide audience... I have great respect for this form of mechanics, and don't feel they necessarily need to hinder role-playing.

I once believed (as Corvus still does, I think) that skill-based systems better support role-playing, but ultimately I have come to the conclusion that it's only the role-players that support role-playing... the system may help make more satisfying props, or reward role-playing to a lesser or greater extent, but ultimately role-players do what they do best irrespective of the mechanics.

Ernesto: interesting to hear from someone who has been caught in the pinch of the 3.5 vs 4e furore... You don't say which country you're in - somewhere in South America, perhaps? Also fascinated by the extent to which you have hybridised various different resources to get the rules you want! Of course, this has always been part and parcel of the hobby... most of the sales of GURPS sourcebooks were to people who never used them to play GURPS, for instance. :)

Mengtzu: "I think this is rather unfair, particularly as D&D has never been, mechanically speaking, supportive of roleplaying."

I take your point, and this was the intended meaning of my "even more than ever before" quip - I recognise that D&D hasn't been the most supportive of this side of the hobby, but at the same time it *did* get the ball rolling, and in this regard remains highly significant. Also, when I talk of "supporting the hobby" this is a dig at the move away from open gaming, on the premise that open gaming did support the hobby, while proprietary control seems less supportive. Hope this distinction is clear.

Also, I am thoroughly unfamiliar with 4e rules so your defence of the move towards better support for role-playing in the new version is very much appreciated as a counter-point. It's great to get different perspectives on these issues, especially since Ernesto is clearly pulling in the opposite direction in this regard.

"All that being said, D&D still is and always has been a monster killing game. If you're looking to get deep into shared fiction there are much better alternatives."

I thoroughly agree... yet talk to players from the glory days and you'd be amazed at the extent to which D&D - by its very existence - facilitated genuine role-playing. The diehards of this era lament the transformation of play from it being taken "seriously" to it just being "a bit of a laugh"... I'm often amazed at the intensity of the anecdotes and perspectives of the early players, especially since for me I didn't see much serious role-playing until we moved away from D&D.

Also, the most beloved of the modules tended to be those which offered more than a straight dungeon-bash - Castle Amber (Chateau D'Amberville) springs to mind as a classic example. Although it kicks off as a classic monster-spree, it soon transforms into something really quite different.

Hopefully, more people will drop by and share a perspective on the 4e rules, since I'm genuinely interested in learning about its merits and problems, and the best way is to listen to the players themselves.

Thanks for commenting!

Dungeons and Dragons had a HUGE influence over what I have done with the rest of my life. I actually played the game very little. I had all the books, made millions of characters, but I was never able to find people who I wanted to play with.

However, it led me down a long path to my current career, creating online text games, and now running an online fantasy text game company.

I have never played the most recent additions of D&D, but I always pick them up and thumb through the books in the store.

Jeremy: One of the central themes of this post is that even if you never played D&D once, if you play modern videogames, you have been affected by it in one way or another.

PS: I let your other comment ride, even though it was borderline spam. ;)

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