The fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks have leaked onto the interwoobs, and out of curiosity I decided to take a look. I highly doubt I’m going to sit down and play straight D&D ever again – standard fantasy RP doesn’t interest me any more, hasn’t for years, I find whatever RPG interests I have left veer more towards the altered-historical sort of setting – but fourth edition D&D will likely be what people crib from for the foreseeable future, so I figured it was worth taking a look just to stay in touch.
It’s a whole new concept at work here, people. Wizards can cast magic missile at will any time they want – all the classes, in fact, get basic attack and defense powers they can activate at will. Other powers become available as your character advances and can be activated on a time basis (once per hour, once per day, et cetera). But these powers are scaled to character advancement and weaker than you would expect. The standard big-boom spells like lightning bolt and fireball now do greatly reduced damage, for example.
Then you take a look at the monster stats, and you realize – wait, the monsters have shitloads of powers and hitpoints out the ass. This isn’t to say that they are overpowered, but simply to point out that in fourth edition, a party taking on equal-level monsters will have a tough go of it, because the old one-shot-one-kill techniques that have always been present in any form of D&D are pretty much entirely gone. This trend just becomes more noteworthy as you look at the really high-end monsters: arch-demons and dragons have 600 to 900 hitpoints, for crissake.
Fourth edition D&D promises to be, in short, a grindfest of massive proportions. And I have no doubt at all that this is intentional in design, because the more I look at it and think about how a combat between a party and a bunch of monsters would go, the more I think, “my god, this plays like a tabletop recreation of World of Warcraft.” Or a Japanese console RPG. Or anything along those lines, really. You can just hear the fighters yelling out their custom attack names as they perform their power moves.
The more I think about it, the more I’m positive that’s the idea, because, come on, if you want to make money with D&D these days, rather than bother catering to the diehards, why not simply instead try and snag the massive online play market with a game similar to that which they’re accustomed?
I’m not interested in playing 4th ed – not at all. But I have to concede the basic brilliance of the design from a marketing standpoint. It might not work at all, but it’s the best effort they could logically make.