Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Really Good Wargame

Despite the chapter on skills and skill challenges, 4E really is just a very good tabletop skirmish game. I could see myself filling the table with a Dwarven Forge maze and running a three hour session of delving with pre-made PC's as a one-shot wargame, or even a series of linked scenarios. The rules are an excellent vehicle for organized play and pick-up games like the D&D Encounters sessions sponsored by WotC at game stores across the country. Despite what I feel were my best attempts, my 4E games all devolved into combat grinds with players shuffling through their power cards. Discussions between games were not about the characters, but rather their builds - which power/feat combo they would take at next level, etc. The rules force some level of min/maxing or optimization because the math in the game assumes it in order to keep up with level appropriate challenges.

Of course, no set of rules can force you NOT to role-play or limit your exploration, but the combats are so long, you ARE forced to gloss over many aspects of non-combat because of this. Again, the math in the game assumes a certain number of encounters to properly test the characters and unless every delve/chapter/etc. is to span two or three sessions, you can't achieve this in a normal evening's game. For me the most important part of D&D is immersion and story telling and this requires pacing. Each session should reveal a little more of the plot and build on what has happened before. Taking three sessions (three weeks for my normal group) to fight your way through five encounters ensures that your players will have trouble remembering your story.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to write about the things I want from a fantasy RPG and show why 4E is just not for me. I haven't settled on a definite replacement yet, but the search goes on. Based on columns by Mike Mearls and the return of Monte Cook, I am hoping 5E looks more like what I want, but that's probably two or three years out so until then I may just settle for wargames...

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