Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Playing DnD 4E

Yes, it's true. I played DnD 4E on Sunday. The occasion? Some friends purchased the new "Essentials" line of DnD products for their son, and were looking for some players to try it out.

Here is a picture of the easel pad sheet taped to the wall, providing the rules for character actions. Having that sheet taped to the wall as a reference felt a little like being in a brainstorming session at work.

There were three 200-page rule books at the table (the Rules Compendium and two different Player's Handbooks) and I believe our friend also purchased a Dungeon Master's Kit. Having not already been familiar with the contents of those three books, it was a touch overwhelming, and we seemed to spend a fair amount of time refering to the rulebooks during combat.

We played through 3 combat encounters, and visited the local town for rumours, all in four hours of gaming time.

I enjoyed spending time with our friends. The DnD experience itself? Sure, i'd play the game with them again, but I find 4E to be too mechanical and combat-centric for my tastes.

15 comments:

Emma Peel said...

who was DMing? And did they have any experience?

My experience with 4e and every other edition is that the group and DM determine exactly how much combat is the focus of the game. If the DM wants to feed encounter after encounter to a group willing to hack and slash, then sure, any edition is combat centric. If the group wants to talk, or find alternate solutions to problems, adopts a "fight as a last resort and usually in self defense" policy, gets involved in political intrigue between factions, etc... then any edition is not focused on combat.

Carl said...

Oops, my wife was logged in to her google account - that was me posting the previous comment, Paladin!

J G Halmayr said...

Maybe it's not combat-centric, but taking four hours to play through three combat encounters and talking in town for rumors seems like combat takes way too long to resolve. How much of the four hours was spent in combat vs time in town?

Tim Shorts said...

I've played through a few sessions at conventions and a few sessions with our group and the more experienced the GM the better of course, but it still felt like a board game to me. Granted, I had fun and would play it again, but I agree with you Paladin. While I would sit down and do one shot sessions I don't think I would enjoy a campaign.

Sully said...

There are a ton of tactical options for combat in 4e, and that part of it can definitely feel like a board game. I've found that all of that is really only useful for big important battles. Skirmishes and such can be handled quickly if done right, though. Honestly, I'm surprised you got through as much as you did in that amount of time. I've seen newbie 4e players take way longer with combat encounters.

Dave Cesarano said...

Friends don't let friends do many things:

...drive drunk.
...watch MACROSS 7.
...go home with Lola.

But friends should seriously NEVER let friends play D&D 4E.

Okay, all humor aside, yeah. I tried playing 4E. I didn't get past the PHB. I mean, it is NOT D&D, but a more rules-heavy version of HeroQuest. As long as you guys had fun. But I'd seriously find some way to introduce kids to tabletop through some classic D&D (Moldvay's Basic Set). The rules are much lighter (even though the math is more involved), and I imagine kids can pick it up better.

Derobane-bane said...

4E... just say no. D&D should not be about equality and standardization of class powers. D&D is supposed to be rough and unfair with an emphasis on role playing.

In my opinon, anyway.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Carl said...
who was DMing? And did they have any experience?

My experience with 4e and every other edition is that the group and DM determine exactly how much combat is the focus of the game. If the DM wants to feed encounter after encounter to a group willing to hack and slash, then sure, any edition is combat centric. If the group wants to talk, or find alternate solutions to problems, adopts a "fight as a last resort and usually in self defense" policy, gets involved in political intrigue between factions, etc... then any edition is not focused on combat.


My friend was DMing. He has no experience with 4E, but played AD&D back in the day.

4E is designed for combat. Nearly all of the powers/ feats/ abilities/ spells are combat-centric.

The available experience points (at least in the published adventures) seem to be 80% combat experience / 20% skill challenge and other experience.

If i'm incorrect on that score, please let me know.

I don't disagree that 4E can be played differently. Hey, i'm a big advocate of house-ruling.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

J G Halmayr said...
Maybe it's not combat-centric, but taking four hours to play through three combat encounters and talking in town for rumors seems like combat takes way too long to resolve. How much of the four hours was spent in combat vs time in town?

The town part was my favorite, we wandered around, talking the townspeople up. That was about 45 minutes of playing time. The other 3 hours + was the combats.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Tim Shorts said...
I've played through a few sessions at conventions and a few sessions with our group and the more experienced the GM the better of course, but it still felt like a board game to me. Granted, I had fun and would play it again, but I agree with you Paladin. While I would sit down and do one shot sessions I don't think I would enjoy a campaign.

Ya, i'd have no problem playing again. I don't think i'd use 4E for my rules engine if I was DMing. If I want to play a combat game, i'll break out my LOTR:SBG. The combat moves fast and there are lots of interesting strategic options, even though there are few rules.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Sully said...
There are a ton of tactical options for combat in 4e, and that part of it can definitely feel like a board game. I've found that all of that is really only useful for big important battles. Skirmishes and such can be handled quickly if done right, though. Honestly, I'm surprised you got through as much as you did in that amount of time. I've seen newbie 4e players take way longer with combat encounters.

We didn't have a lot of strategic options, but we were all first level, so we had a limited repertoire of abilities.

I'd heard that combat takes forever in 4E. We spent about an hour per encounter. I'm not sure if that is short or long for 4E. It seemed to go relatively fast, although we got through at least twice as many combats plus various role-playing opportunities in 2 hours playing Swords & wizardry, an OD&D clone, during my son's birthday party game.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Dave Cesarano said...
Friends don't let friends do many things: NEVER let friends play D&D 4E.

Okay, all humor aside, yeah. I tried playing 4E. I didn't get past the PHB. I mean, it is NOT D&D, but a more rules-heavy version of HeroQuest. As long as you guys had fun. But I'd seriously find some way to introduce kids to tabletop through some classic D&D (Moldvay's Basic Set). The rules are much lighter (even though the math is more involved), and I imagine kids can pick it up better.


I much prefer the old rulesets and their various clones. I introduced 5 of my son's friends to OD&D via the Swords & Wizardry retroclone. The great thing is that the rules didn't get in the way of the game. If they wanted to do something, I simply made an on-the-spot judgement call.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Derobane-bane said...
4E... just say no. D&D should not be about equality and standardization of class powers. D&D is supposed to be rough and unfair with an emphasis on role playing. In my opinon, anyway.

It seemed like a good idea to WOTC. After all, wasn't everybody on the WOTC forums complaining about broken rules, killer DMs, and unbalanced characters? One of those "be careful what you wish for" things!

George said...

I have to say I agree with the principle of your post about 4E, but, while it was always hard to find new people for other editions, 4 seems to appeal more to newcomers (not that I’m a hard core gamer or anything).
The way we play at the moment, involves a laptop connected on a TV set where we have a digital version of our map and a browser logged in to the Dungeons & Dragons Compendium

That way, we spent less time both preparing the session and looking up rules.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I gather once you have internalized most of the game mechanics, 4E runs fairly smoothly.

Being a casual gamer, I find I have little time to read and digest the amount of material required to get there.

I like the D&D minis, though, and am sad to see they have been retired. They were the best thing about WOTC D&D.