I don’t play pen and paper role playing games much these days, but I used to be quite into them during my teenage years and like a lot of gamers I cut my teeth on the venerable Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. Countless were the hours that our group of friends spent gathered around a table with our books arguing over rules and tossing various polyhedral dice around. We had moved on to other RPGs by the time the second edition came out, but some of us took the time to play it and when third edition came out several of my friends bought the rule books out of tradition more so than any real desire to play the game, though the release of Neverwinter Nights did provide some justification. A couple of years back I finally broke down and bought the 3.5 edition core rule books on a lark, but only managed to play one session with them.
Nostalgia tends to grow stronger the older you get, however, so it was intriguing to hear that Wizards of the Coast has just announced a brand new Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition set to release in May of next year:
The 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons game includes elements familiar to current D&D players, including illustrated rulebooks and pre-painted plastic miniatures. Also releasing next year will be new web-based tools and online community forums through the brand-new Dungeons & Dragons Insider (D&D Insider) digital offering. D&D Insider lowers the barriers of entry for new players while simultaneously offering the depth of play that appeals to veteran players.
The 4th Edition rules emphasize faster game play, offer exciting new character options, and reduce the amount of “prep time” needed to run the game. D&D Insider includes a character creator that lets players design and equip their D&D characters, dungeon- and adventure-building tools for Dungeon Masters, online magazine content, and a digital game table that lets you play 24/7 on the internet — the perfect option for anyone who can’t find time to get together.
“We’ve been gathering player feedback for eight years,” said Bill Slavicsek, R&D Director of Roleplaying and Miniatures Games at Wizards of the Coast. “Fourth Edition streamlines parts of the D&D game that are too complex, while enhancing the overall play experience. At its heart, it’s still a tabletop game experience. However, D&D Insider makes it easier for players to create characters, run their games, and interact with the rest of the D&D community.”
I’ve been reading various write ups on the announcement from around the web and it appears that the new version is taking some ideas from the ever popular would of video game RPGs such as Diablo II and World of Warcraft. The folks at Wizards of the Coast have some video clips up demonstrating how the new online tools they’re developing for 4th edition will work including the character generator (it looks a lot like making a character for a MMORPG), the Digital Game Table, and so on.
The DGT is particularly interesting to me as one of the problems we had as our gaming group grew older and had to get jobs in the real world was simply finding time to gather at someone’s house to play on a regular basis. As it stands now the group of guys I used to game with are split up all over the place with several of them living in other states. The idea of a Digital Game Table that could be played online using voice chat is exactly the solution we longed for years ago. Though we did have a good time with Neverwinter Nights for awhile, it wasn’t a full pen and paper experience which is what the new tools for 4th edition appear to be trying to create.
I doubt I’ll be picking up the 4th edition rulebooks anytime soon, but it’s still cool to see something I used to spend hours enjoying still out there for new generations to enjoy. If I were to run a game these days it’s more likely to be Paranoia than Dungeons and Dragons simply because it would take less time and effort to set up and run, but this does make me long for the long nights of pizza eating and dice rolling of my youth where many a troll met a grisly fate and more than a few dragons wondered where their treasures got off to.