Grappling with 4th Edition–Part II


For a number of reasons, most of them financial, we didn’t go to GenCon this year, for the first time since 1998. That meant that after DexCon in July, Kat and I were looking at the prospect of no RPGs until Dreamation in February! There was the bright spot of CleaverCon in late August, but not much after that. There were a few autumn cons, but they all had some serious downsides that made it seem like a con-free autumn was likely. We’ve got a number of friends in the extended area that are too far and (generally) too busy to commit to a regular game.

At the same time, Kat’s been looking over the D&D4 books I finally caved in and bought for her at DexCon. She’s liking what she sees. But, it’s a complex game, so she’s not sure if she’s seeing everything she needs to. She wants to run it. My attitude is “It’s old-school D&D on 21st century steroids, and I don’t miss old school D&D at all.” But she persists. She’s got the itch to run something, and I can deny my wife few things. Down deep, I’m still pretty sure I’m not going to like the game.

We plunk down the thirty bucks (!) for Keep on the Shadowfell that everyone’s been raving about. And we set up an Evite list inviting people, some local folks that we’ve had various problems getting together with, and some regional folks that had expressed interest. We buy a lot of food and put out a tasty spread of snacks. As luck would have it, none of the regional friends can make it. But we somehow still end up with SIX players (including me)! It’s … it’s like I threw a … party … a gaming party at my house, and people came!

Kat had already done a few things that vastly improved the game over straight out-of-the-box D&D.

  1. She created all new characters. Not liking the bland Shadowfell PCs, she created a group with a mix of races and classes, but that all had interconnected backstories and a REASON to be travelling together.
  2. She made new character sheets. Instead of the intimidating and hard-to-read standard D&D4 character sheet, she custom-made everyone’s character sheet putting the important numbers front-and-center.
  3. She printed out power cards. She also printed out everyone’s powers on blue, red, or green index cards so we could easily keep track of our options, as well as which ones were daily, encounter, or at-will.

That first session was pretty rough. We had done a quick fight-only playtest with me & Michele earlier in the week, but everyone was struggling to come to grips with the new system. What’s the difference between a “blast” and a “burst”? Where’d these dragon-people and half-demons come from? Why is it such a big deal that kobolds can shift as a minor action–can’t everybody just convert their minor to a move action to shift? Do you get your weapon proficiency bonus when you use a power, since they only list the stat name? And what’s with 24 hit point kobolds, anyway? They used to be 1d4 hit die monsters!

But, we hacked our way through the rules and the kobolds. We interpreted some things wrong, but we figured it out, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Fun I never would have expected to have. What flavors of fun, specifically? Well, tune in nex time for:

How I stopped being bitter and learned to love my dragonborn fighter.


4 Responses to “Grappling with 4th Edition–Part II”

  1. Are you looking for answers to the above questions, or are they just things that came up in play that your group already figured out?

  2. I’ve been playing d&d, too, though not as often, and i agree that those three things are really essential enhancements to the basic game.
    You’ve got to have a party that works fictionally, even more than mechanically. You have to be able to quickly access all of the character’s bits and pieces – powers and skills especially, but also equipment, quests, feats, and basic statistics.
    Another thing i’m still trying to get into regular use in the game i’m playing in is condition cards – little tokens like that are great. (I just use a white-board for initiative.)

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