So this evening we attended the launch parrty for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons at the London Dungeon. After nibbles and a drink, the marketing man gave a speech. "This has been a great year for D&D, the death of Gary Gygax has given us a lot of extra publicity," or words to that effect. Sasha and I just looked at other. "He can't say that," he said, but nobody else seemed to notice.
So we played the game. It's even more a tactical combat game, very hard to play, I imagine, without miniatures. The powers system which replaces spells and feats seems well done so that even at first level PCs have plenty of options. The feel is more heroic, more World of Warcraft.
We then had a few drinks and a kebab. There are worse ways to start your birthdsy.
In the D&D demo yesterday, I played the half-elf rogue. "It's all in the wrist" was his strapline. Obviously, the players being English, half the banter was inneundo and smut and this didn't help one little bit.
But on to the game. The character sheet is as busy as ever, two sides of A4 with stats, stat bonuses, saves, racial and class abilities, hit points and healing surges, normal attacks on one side and the other side completely taken up with powers, each of which has about as much information as a spell used to have. It's a lot of stuff to remember and quite difficult in the semi-dark for those of us who are long-sighted. And that's just at first level, at fifth or tenth level I imagine it runs to several pages.
The game play was fairly smooth. The combination of at-will, encounter and daily powers mean that the characters always have something to do and the new hitpoint rules make characters much less likely to die at low level. That said, we had a casualty in our group against only two opponents - but I think they hit every round for about 20 damage.
The play was also very slow. We killed two hobgoblins, four skeletons, 2 statues and a wizard of some kind, in about 3 hours play. Admittedly the wizard did only last three rounds, mainly due to the rogue's scary damage dishing possibilities when using his daily powers.
I'm assuming that the mook rules will speed this up but it all smacks a bit of artificiality. Dungeons will probably have to be designed more around the characters than for their own sakes and most of the time will be spent micromanaging fights. Overall, more than anything else, the new game resembles early Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
We didn't get to see the experience system in action and I didn't buy the books but as with WoW, when you go up levels, everything goes hp, saves, stats etc. Which is all a bit tedious. You don't make the character more involved in story you make them more capable of giving and receiving damage.
We will be playing 4e but I have no particular long term interest in the game, per se. I do hope, on the other hand, that it rekindles some interest in roleplaying generally and that this spreads into the darker niches of the hobby - which, let's face it, is everything else that is not WotC.