Saturday, September 13, 2008

4th Ed

We moved out here, and all our GwenCon-and-Werewolf friends (many of whom do or did work for WotC) were talking about 4th Ed. "You've gotta try it, you'll love it, etc." But since we'd settled in the northern part of town, and they all lived southerly, it just never worked out for us to get in on any of the playtests. Honestly, we haven't gotten to game with any of them even half as often as I'd imagined. I didn't stress about it, since I had my Scion game to keep me busy, and this wonderful city to explore. If I had to wait till 4th Ed released, so be it.

I placed a preorder with a store, 'cause I remember how helpful it was to our store to know far in advance how many copies to bring in. Apparently, that's not how these folks use preorders, 'cause while I was committed to the purchase, I had to wait an extra month and a half for them to actually have enough boxed sets for me to get one. Meanwhile, a different store had them available. But, I recalled how much evaporating pre-orders hurt us when I ran a game store, so if I had to wait for them to get it back in stock, so be it.

Finally, I get my copy, but by then we'd moved (which is funny, 'cause the move put is within walking distance of the store that had plenty in stock - wish I'd preordered there instead), and it was getting really close to GwenCon. I had a short couple of weeks to finish unpacking, then figure out Dark Heresy well enough to run it and prep my scenario. Since those weeks were interrupted by 5 days of family visit and several other events, I just knew I wasn't going to get much time to read 4th. But that was okay, as I'd no doubt end up in at least one 4th Ed game at GwenCon. If I had to wait till then, so be it.

If you've read my GwenCon reports, you'll know I didn't get into any 4th Ed games. There were fewer events this year than last, so we ended up almost entirely on our alternate picks. In fact, the only things that were my first choices were the games I ran. Not that I'm saying I didn't have a lot of fun at GwenCon. It was a blast. But I didn't get to play any 4th Ed. (Ironically, Amy and Kevin did get to. And they didn't first-pick any 4th Ed games. There ended up being two unexpected openings in a game during a block were they officially didn't get into anything.)

So, here I am. The summer is over. The game is old news. :) And I haven't played it, nor given it more than the most basic speed-read/skim-over.

Here's what I can tell you from the little I've seen:
  • It's lighter and less cumbersome than the previous edition. I like that a lot. I've gotta say that 3.X was at the top-end of the amount of fiddliness I'm willing to put up with, and I would have played it more often if it had been as straight-forward as 4th Ed looks to be.
  • The monster manual seems to have no descriptions. You're only cue as to what a monster looks like is the pictures. That bugs me. Take the Displacer Beast, for example. It has 6 legs and 2 tentacles. However, in the picture, only 5 legs are visible. How does a new gamer know that the 6th leg is out of view, and not that the 5th leg is a weird painting error? The answer, of course, is they either get told by someone who played a previous edition, or from randomly getting the miniature in a booster pack. That's kinda frustrating.
  • Combat, as a whole, looks to be more exciting. Looks like you move around more - especially when fighting goblins. They freed you up from the yoke of "someone's gotta play a cleric". They give better tactical options to nearly every monster, and pointed them out to the GM. Wizards have to roll to hit. There's some things here that look like huge improvements.
  • Overall, the game leaves a lot more of it's flavor up to the individual group. As the sort of GM who tends to tweak settings heavily, I appreciate that. It's not what you'd expect from a company with such a strong eye on branding and market share - but it is what I'd expect from the various games I'd played at past GwenCons that used 3.X rules and very strange settings. Good to know the artists and visionaries won out over the corporate suits.

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