I gave D&D 4E a try a week or so ago, and it met with great reviews from my gaming group. We used “power cards” to help players keep track of their various abilities, along with some pre-generated PC’s. After it was done most of us agreed to switching from Castles & Crusades to 4E, only we’re going to call it “Heroes & Horrors” to help some of the players avoid the stigma of Dungeons & Dragons.
The switch is going to be essentially a “reset” to the game, with players having the options of created 1st level “H&H” versions of their PC’s (which would be about as powerful as a 3rd level C&C character). Alternatively they can bring in new characters, which apparently a few people will be doing. I’m dropping the whole “quest for a dozen relics” campaign in favor of what is called a “Sandbox Campaign.”
What is a Sandbox Campaign? The term comes from games like Grand Theft Auto where there isn’t a linear story but rather the PC’s can wander around a given area exploring various areas. The plot is determined less by the GM throwing adventure hooks at the players and more their own decisions about what interests them. The farther out they go, the more they will find.
In addition, each session the PC’s must return back to base, in this case the Old Bag of Nails Inn, located in the main city of the region, Silverton. Even if the PC’s are halfway through a dungeon, returning back each session allows for PC’s to be cycled in and out easily as players are available–a good feature for my very inconsistent group. Treasure and XP are divided up between whatever PC’s participate in the given session. In theory this will lead to a little incentivizing as players attempt to make sure that their PC’s get a share of the take by showing up.
The Sandbox Campaign isn’t a complicated structure per se, but you do need to have a bunch of locations already mapped and statted out, plus a little advance warning (and the ability to think on your feet). Right now, the PC’s have heard rumors about a couple of places (an abandoned house that turned out to be the base for some goblin slavers, a sunken fort out in the swamp, a mysterious island), and I’ll continue “seeding” the campaign as it goes along.