Sunday, March 11, 2012

4th Edition debriefing -- planting the seeds

After my whining, I have to say the 4th edition game was not as horrid as I was expecting.  We managed to get through four encounters or so in a 4-5 hour slot interspersed with a short meal break.  But I managed to have a short conversation with Brodie, the DM, afterwords.

I proffered this pearl of wisdom: we could have played the entire session under any version of D&D rules.  Given the setting (dungeon-like tombs, filled with tricks and traps and magical power nodes), there was nothing 4e-specific.  Brodie admitted this was true and related a tale that he enjoyed 2nd edition the best, simply because he could strip it down and houserule it to let it run the way he wanted.  He also owned up to the fact that he was not able to use all of the 4e critters' powers optimally because of their quantity and his limited preparation time due to his real life schedule.

I then offered that the battlemat was required in 4e (as it was, for the most part, in 3.x).  He agreed and reflected that they didn't even use miniatures in his house game until 3e came out.  In fact, the battlemat actually got in the way of the game -- we became so habituated to looking at it instead of listening to the DM's description that we missed something incredibly obvious that nearly caused a character death. 

Another factor, for me anyway: flipping through pages of "power cards" was not really adding to my gaming experience -- and I've been playing this character for the last six of his 11 levels.  I had played 4e previously, too.  I had that moment where I realized I understood 4e as much as I was going to and I had no desire to learn more.  And that level of knowledge is inadequate for my comfort level.

Looking back, the game mechanics that were actually utilized in this session were essentially combat, spells (combat and rituals, in 4e parlance) and skill usage.  We could have played the same game, the same story, and had a better pace and a lot more FUN with a leaner, stripped down, less wargamey system.

It was a moment of clarity for me and I think a realization for Brodie, too.  Among my epiphanies: anyone publishing content needs to make it as rule-neutral as possible, since everyone houserules, and to not design settings, scenarios, and even monsters and treasures with game mechanics in mind.

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