A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hey, is this a post about gaming?!

Hello World!

I haven't talked a great deal about gaming lately.  I've been busy.

Lately I've begun to feel the gaming itch again, and have talked about doing some Shadowrun, and thought about doing some more D&D/fantasy gaming.  I'm going to dump my thoughts here about D&D and running a game of it.

I spent a goodly bit of time talking about 4e during '08 and some of '09.  We ran it right when it came out, and by and large, we all enjoyed ourselves.  I developed some gripes about it, and as I recall, I grew a bit frustrated that combats became so long, and seemed so.. constricted.  Bear with me here.

I wavered back and forth between enjoying the openness and lack of 'constricting rules' with old school 0e/1e D&D.  Combat is short, somewhat narrative, often fatal.  I won't get sidetracked here with long discussions about the merits of old school gaming vs new school gaming.  Combat in 4e is longer, very tactical, with tons of options, but all of them are printed.  So to further clarify, in old school combat, the players have lots of creative room, if they're the creative type, to describe what their characters are doing, their only limitations really being their own imaginations and the box that the GM makes them work inside of.  In 4e, the players have tons of options for their characters, but they're all in the book.  There are few or no "calls" by the GM, and tons of rules searching and debate.

But this is all kinda background and staging.  I'm actually going to try to talk up 4e.  Here's what's on my mind:  4e combat is lively and fun, and full of options.  Narrative and descriptions are and have always been critically important elements in role playing.  We've all played with a bad GM - "There's a long hall and some lizard men, roll initiative!", "Okay you killed the lizardmen, you open the next door and there's a room with some goblins, roll initiative!".  The player's narrative is just as important as the GM's narrative.  Even with the most descriptive GM in the world, if the players sit around the table each taking turns with "I hit the goblin" , then it's simply a boring exercise in rolling dice until the GM says you're done.  Its an easy trap for anyone to fall into.  The same is true with 4e.  "Okay, I use my 'Elemental Whirlwind' power, its a daily." , it is just as boring.  It reduces the narrative game of D&D to a poker game in which you're simply "using" what's in your hand until its time for the next hand.  Perhaps Magic the Gathering is a better analogy.  I'm sure someone somewhere "role plays" magic, but its a card game.  D&D /should not be/ a card game.

Again though, its somewhat easy to fall into the rut of just naming off powers, letting someone else take their turn, ad nauseum.

My other gripe had to do with the rationing of magic items, and how magic items seemed to be generally castrated to me.  They were "special items", not magical.  Magic implies some sense of amazement and wonder, perhaps an air of mystery.  4e magic items are simply special equipment that confers bonuses.  Perhaps this was my own fault - did I not "magic them up enough"?

So, just off the top of my head, today I'm kicking around the idea of running old school adventures through 4e.  I'd be inclined to retool "magic item distribution", and maybe just old school it.  The matter of role playing combat is really Social Contract territory, and I think would simply need to be agreed upon by the players involved.

Alright, that's it for me, I'm going to go flip through my printed copy of Keep on the Borderlands.

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