Thursday, June 6, 2013


I just want to be clear here: I'm a big fan of Wizards of Coast and D+D (and a dozen of other RPGs), and this particular posting is purely my opinion...based on my surroundings...and my experiences...You'd think that was already implied, but I'm NOT leaving anything to chance here...So, with that in mind, here's MY DEAL with the 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons...

4.0 was built to be, let's say...transferable... to your computer, so you could stop playing  World of Warcraft, and play D+D on-line instead. The 4.0 rules are the table top, paper and pencil, dice rolling, miniature figures version of the game that treats everyone like a BOSS FIGHT from a video game. And I mean EVERYONE. From the main evil villain to the guy who just sold you a loaf of bread (just like in the World of Warcraft). It's D+D on Crack. It's faster, more lethal, but, in a 'gamey way', it's so far removed from original D+D rules, it drove old gamers (like me) nuts.

But the 4th edition sold. It sold a lot. Plenty of 12-14 year old boys (and I imagine some girls) got the books for X-mas in 2008-2010. Hasbro flooded, and I mean, flooded the market with book after book after book. My (and some others) biggest problem: It was ALL OFFICIAL EDITIONS. There was no room left on the shelves for competitive game makers. Hasbro's deep pockets buried everybody. It clogged up so much shelf space in the comic and gaming stores, there was NO ROOM for anything else. Plus, the reinterpertated combat system (with it's various Action Sub Catagories) didn't win us over. As a matter of fact, it spurned an Internet wide backlash. See, I wasn't kidding when I said D + D instills a love / hate kind of relationship...

It was sad. So much money going into such a lame version of The Game. Bloggers like Bat In the Attic, Black Blade Publishing, Brave Halfling, Mythmere Games, and Grognardia started springing up in 2003-2005. These guys started putting out fanzines (Knockspell and Fight ON!) and their own adventures, based on the 1st Edition Rules, thinking...the OPEN GAMING LICENSE lets me use D+D rules, why not just go back to beginning, (and pay attention here) and invent the games Gary Gygax and Dave Arnoson would've printed, if things didn't turn so horribly wrong back in 1983-1989. These are the games they might have invented, in an alternate history. If the D+D game went in the direction they wanted it to go, and not the way it went down. And, as such, these 'games' are protected under free speech and the Gaming License...because, technically, you don't call it D+D. Early on, (by way of example) there was a game entitled "Encounter Critical", claiming to be a lost and forgotten game design from the 70's, from TSR. It mimicked the old school fanzine size format, the old typesetting, and it got a lot of buzz, until it was discovered to all be a fake, and just a "marketing gimmick". But that's all it took. It made some big money, and still sales today. More importantly, it gave everyone else this idea of getting around Hasbro's dominance, by producing your own compatible adventure and set it in a world that combines any and all rules (from any and all games or editions) and call it your own. In my opinion, this freedom is both invigorating and troublesome.  

But can you blame them? If all you have is the 4th edition game, and you detest it, why wouldn't you go back to what you love. Let me digress for a moment here...

One reason  why Marvel Comics had to get bought up by Disney is case you didn't know...COMIC-BOOKS... right now, have been reduced to the role of promoting or writing Hollywood movies...because, nobody buys comic books anymore, they buy graphic novels. And they don't buy a lot of those, only their favorites. I briefly bring up Marvel Comics, because that was kind of their marketing strategy back in the 90's...It didn't matter if the books were any good or not, (and most wer NOT), they just spent all of this money to get them published, in order to take up the shelf space at comic stores across the country - Edging out any competition. The 90's were a dark time for comic book fans. You can still find a ton of 90's comics in countless dollar boxes...Then they almost went broke.  

And, in a way, that's been WotC's M.O. for the past couple of years with the 4th edition. You can find a 4th edition book on every type of monster, realm, or magic treasure, ever produced...Right Now. WotC has been re-releasing the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books (the 1974-1977 1st edition rule books, and some early modules), written by Gary Gygax  (and others), in order to raise money for a statue of him, in his honor back in Milwaukee. They've organized fund drives and are trying to meet these Internet gurus, by appealing to their nostalgia for the game, and to tell them that they "miss Gary and Dave and all the rest, just as much, if not more, than you do". And...(are you sitting down?)...They are kind of implying..."Hey, we're really sorry about this whole 4.0 thing. We're going to fix all this by... putting out a 5.0 version as soon as possible. And you'll love it ! We're gonna dedicate it to Gary and Dave and do it right this time. We promise."

Pshew. I feel better already. But that hasn't stopped the 4.0 runaway train. I don't blame WotC for trying to make oodles of money, but are they really expecting me to shell out thousands of dollars for a never ending series of super-deluxe hardback books, basically covering a plot (and setting) I've already bought, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. And now that I know all of these Official Editions are going to be negated by a new rules set, I'm glad I didn't buy into it at the beginning. Like everything, only time will tell. Having Frank Metzer seems like a good start, but  when Monte Cook left the group designing the new game, the Internet comment sections went nuts with all sorts of rumors and theroies.

Don't get me wrong, the 4th edition books are great looking...The art is top of the line...The paper is high grade, and there's a ton of cool information in there, but...I dunno...If WotC wanted to, they could produce an affordable, soft-cover mini-book, that harkens back to the early days, (with some more Errol Otus art) and meet old timers, like me, half way. Of all of the editions, the 4th edition (and it's marketing campaign) kinda flies in the face of the first (and real) rule of the D+D games, which is: You are supposed to HAVE FUN ! 
And that's kind of where things stand now a days...Again, in my opinion...


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