Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Race and Language

With a subject like that, this could actually be a serious post. I could talk about the things we do to categorize each other, the false names we give to bigotry and fear and perversion. I could talk about heritage, about mystery, about the other. I could.

But you know I won't. Instead, I'm going to talk about D&D, and pretty words. Pretty words first, because they are minor and inconsequential. I ran into two random phrases today. One was on LJ, where someone described a fellow sales associate having a smile that "crystallized into a grinding rictus" when faced with crazy clients. I thought that was nice. Secondly, on Girl Genius, the term "false men-puppet things of shadow and dead meat" set my heart a-flutter. I thought you should know.

Now. Dungeons and Dragons. WotC recently released the much ballyhooed fourth edition of the game. I have the PH, and will probably get the MM and DMG. If these terms mean nothing to you, stop reading.

People are divided about 4e. Here's the thing. It's not the same game. Every complaint that you will bring against it will be some form of "This is not how they did it in 3.5" or something. And you're right, it's not how they did it in 3.5, but that's okay. 3.5 was complicated. 3.5 was ripe with cross rules and counter examples and misplays and reprinted errata that BROKE CLERIC IN TWO, BITCHES! So they're rebooting. Accept that it's a new game, a different game, and judge it on its own. Maybe you'll still play 3.5. I probably will. But maybe you'll play this in addition. And maybe eventually, you'll play this instead.

I haven't gotten my head all the way around the rules. This is also true for 3.5, because there the rules set is enormous. I don't have the time. This might also be what's driving my tolerance for 4e. Honestly, it might take less energy for me to become adept with 4e than it would for me to become truly adept at 3.5, in the way that several people in my party are adept. Also, the rules are simpler. Some examples:

Skills. There used to be a lot of skills. Between levels I would often screw up my skill increases somehow, usually because I was leveling during the session as we geared up for the next foray. And then I'd get to tenth level and I'd casually review my skills and realize that I was missing about twelve ranks, somewhere, somehow. Okay, I'm dumb, I get it. And there were too many skills, and it was hard to be really good at something without being dangerously incompetent in something else, like Swim or Climb or Dance With Peasant Girls.

Here's how it is now. 18 skills. They basically merged a bunch of stuff together. Swim, Run, Climb, Lift, Bend? Athletics. Disable Device, Search, Pick Pockets, Detect Traps? Thievery. I can't get over that. All that shit you used to have nine skills for? One Skill. It gets better. You no longer have ranks. Either you're trained, or you're not trained. +5, or no +5. Ding.

All the rolls are like that. Pretty much every roll in the game is (half your level)+stat+d20 vs. target. The target is either a DC set by the DM, a passive stat like your opponent's perception (substituting 10 for the d20) or an opposed roll of the same formula. Ta da. Skills, as mentioned, can give +5 to some stuff. Feats can provide bonuses, both to skill rolls and attack rolls. It's pretty straight forward.

I haven't gone through all the powers yet, so I'm going to be vague. Basically, every character class has "powers" that let you do cool things. This replaces the traditional memorized spell list for arcane and divine characters. Some powers are at-will, some are once per encounter, and some are once a day. Martial characters have their own powers, as well, with the same restrictions. Again, I haven't gone through them yet, because I want to get a feel for how combat is going to work, so the numbers mean something to me. But I've always, always, always hated spell lists, spellbooks, etc. To hell with them. To hell I say!

I said Race in the subject, and Race I will get to. First off, there's this new race called Eladrim. Or something. I forget. Point is, I don't understand why they exist. They're elves. They're elfier elves. They don't demand an existence as a player race. Races should be unique from one another, each one should satisfy a different demographic, and each one should provide a different player experience. These guys don't. They're fucking elves. Do something about it.

Finally...Dragonborn. I don't know what to say. They're like dragons, only they, uh...walk around, are medium sized, and are bad-asses. I guess if you're going to get rid of half-orcs, this is an okay substitute. But I have two questions. Each of the races has a list title "Play (race) if you want:" and then a bunch of things you might like about them. Elves say "If you want your character to be quick and stealthy" or something like that. Dragonborn? The first list item is "Play a Dragonborn if you want your character to look like a dragon!" Seriously! Seriously! What is wrong with you people.

Also, how is even possible that every single dragonborn fighter out there doesn't get the name Trogdor. Burninate, people. It's inevitable.

Sorry, okay, geeking out now. Done with the geeking. I just felt it was duty to, you know, inform you of the process. You may go back to rolling dice and looking things up on tables now.


At 10:49 AM , Blogger colin said...

Jeez. I think the last time I played D&D was second edition. 4th ed sounds pretty cool though. Actually, it sounds like they've been stealing some of the ideas from my home-brew system that I used to tinker with about fifteen years ago, particularly the simplified rolls (although mine were all d10 based and used an idea stolen from Vampire... but don't tell anyone).

Dragonborn? Ugh. That smacks of fan service. I've never really liked the hugely multi-species (and masses of half and quarter breeds) that D&D usually had. Again, to harp on my system (or world). I had humans, elves and dwarves. And there were orcs, but they were actually just bad elves, or bad in a different way. And none of this interbreeding crap, because the species don't actually like each other that much.

Then again, I was always a bit of a minimalist as far as setup goes. I like big simple ideas, and the complications set in later.

At 4:22 PM , Anonymous aetius said...

WotC seems as obsessed as MMOs with releasing new classes or races with each edition. Pure silliness for D&D, which has such a rich background that such things cheapen the core rulesets.

I'll be interested to hear some post-mortem on actually playing - I've heard that it's very miniatures-oriented and much simpler than 3E.

At 12:18 PM , Anonymous Scott Janssens said...

Fourth Edition?!

I still refuse to acknowledge second edition!


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