It’s the Fourth Edition of something, but that doesn’t make it bad

During July I went on vacation, left my home for the better part of a month taking with me only the possessions my family and I could fit into a nineteen-foot recreational vehicle.  We had one compartment for books, and I packed into it Castles & Crusades and StrikeForce, thinking I’d get some work done on each of them.  I didn’t.  I rarely do, in fact, get much work hobby stuff done while relaxing at the beach and spending time with my family.  But it did get my thinking: if I had to choose, what RPG’s and/or wargames would I take with me for a long trip if I could only take a couple?  Say, one each?

Part of this was because while on vacation I fanatasized about leaving my job and driving around the US like that TV show starting the hick brother from Simon and Simon.  It also was because Phil Olley (of the War Cabinet, see the blogroll in the sidebar) had wrangled over a similar question and came out of it starting his impressive Pils Holstein project.

While I haven’t come to any grand conclusion, I did realize that there were a lot of games that would never make even the short list, or for that matter the long list.  That got me wondering why I had the games in my house at all.  So I packed up several RPG’s that just don’t even begin to float the Strangevistas Boat and put them in the attic.  I also took a long, hard look at Starship Troopers.  You may remember from an earlier post that I picked up a ton of SST minis from a gaming store for a literal song (okay, about $37).  But I realized I would never paint those minis, never play that game, but the outside demand was pretty high, a lot higher than I paid the somewhat hysterical gaming store owner who feared that Mongoose’s elimination of the line would somehow make the fanbase of the game disappear into a black hole.

So, long story short, I sold them on eBay.  Or rather I am selling them right now, since the auctions aren’t done yet.  But between bids and buy-it-nows I’m easily making about $60 profit.  That’s sixty bucks I then turned right around and spent on Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, making it a game I purchased out of nothing more than my own savvy for the gaming industry.  Flip This Mini.

There’s a lot of reviews out there for 4E, and I read a lot of them.  I’ve even talked about a few of them.  But a few weeks after getting back from vacation i was at a wedding rehearsal dinner talking to people about the game, people who played it and loved it.  So I went for it, and you know, I like it too.

It’s not, as a friend said, much like D&D.  In fact I think most of the negative reviews come from people who have the perspective of seeing the product move exponentially farther away from the original game with each new edition.  Two PC races, three classes, multiclassing, Vancian magic, single hit point novice PC’s–all gone.  What’s in?  Three new PC races, two classes, a whole new power structure, just to name a few.  It’s also very “tactical” in that the abstraction of the earlier editions, where knowing where in the room your PC was wasn’t very important to where you position down to the 5′ square is not only essential but also the realm of many of the aforementioned powers is a critical component of the game.

Is that good?  Bad?  The game is better when viewed as just a fantasy RPG qua fantasy RPG, not as D&D.  And for that, it isn’t a bad game, especially for beginners and, as many have pointed out, those more acclimated to the MMORPG market, although the viability of that market is a point of some good debate.  What do I l like about the game?  The whole GM cookbook model, where encounters are all budgeted.  That might smack of “not-so-freeform” adventure creation, but what it does for me is give me a margin to build balanced encounters within, something that I constantly have difficult doing in C&C.

I’ll leave it there until I’m able to run a few playtests.  I’ll post my experiences once I’ve done that.

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