“Dungeons and Dragon’s Fourth Edition” due early next year.

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.

8 thoughts on ““Dungeons and Dragon’s Fourth Edition” due early next year.

  1. The 4th Edition rules emphasize faster game play

    I haven’t looked into the 4E rules, but there was a short write-up on Slashdot.  One thing they did to make gameplay faster was move saving throws from the target to the caster.  In other words, if someone casts a fireball on your group, players no longer roll individual Reflex saves.  Instead, the caster rolls one “spell attack” d20, and the adjusted number is compared to your players’ Reflex scores.

    This would certainly speed casting up, but it seems like a terrible idea.  Party wipes (player or NPC) are going to be a lot more common under this system.  Moreover, your party will always make or fail their saves in the same order.  Any time the rogue with 18 DEX misses a Reflex save, the rest of the party will miss theirs as well.  If the mage with an 8 CON makes his Fortitude save, the whole party is going to be safe.  Et cetera.

    That’s too bad.  Forever gone is the possibility that the cleric with lousy DEX will roll a 20 and survive an attack which everyone else succumbs to.  Or the Barbarian with 19 CON who rolls a 3 and ends up being the only one affected by poison gas.  Let the weaklings drag his gigantic, unconcious body around for 2d4 hours.  That’s role-playing!

    Also: No experience cost for magic item creation?  I thought this was one of the best design decisions in 3E.  The magic item creation rules were well-defined and well-balanced.  XP cost and creation time keep a lid on the magic-using characters.  I am picturing the scene in the Matrix where Neo asks for “Guns.. Lots of guns” and gets dropped into a virtual universe with an endless supply of items.  The XP cost for spells like Wish was a great “how bad do you want it” gut check.

    I’ve also heard they’ve homogenized the classes almost to the point where they are indistinguishable.  I hope that’s not the case; I really thought 3E was one of the best pen-n-paper rules system ever published—particularly if the GM wasn’t afraid to do away with some of the game’s “sacred cows” (getting rid of the Harm spell comes to mind).

  2. I think that, since the game isn’t finished yet and won’t be for almost a year, any assumptions regarding game play and structure are little premature.

  3. Meh, I think I’ll wait until 8th edition.  I hear the metamorphosis of D&D into Warhammer will be complete by that edition, so I can finally ditch all that annoying role-playing crap and get on with the battles.

  4. No one’s ever told anyone they couldn’t roleplay regardless of rules, which is really how the whole thing got started with Gygax adopting wargames into impromptu acting sessions with dice. My five year old niece has “roleplaying” down pat when she’s “playing house.” It’s always been about the rules supporting the combat as the contentious area.

  5. Under 4E rules, spellcasters and brute-force fighters rule the seas. Finesse fighters are practically impossible to create and play any longer. The way reflex rolls have been redone…argh. Forget those Drizzt or Mariabonne clones, now you are stuck with boring old Brian the Fist (if you get this reference, kudos).

  6. No one’s ever told anyone they couldn’t roleplay regardless of rules

    Um..oops, I forgot to insert “

    “.  Very sorry about that.  I thought that my reference to 8th edition made it clear I wasn’t being serious, but I guess not. tongue rolleye

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