Saturday, January 15, 2011

System Wars

Edition Wars

The other day I was looking at my D&D 4th edition book and I was trying to figure out where exactly it goes wrong for me. See, the problem with me is that I don’t like 2nd/3rd/3.5/ or the 4th edition rules. I will freely admit that 3rd edition is better than second edition but hey that really wasn’t very hard. However, to me system is only half of the game. I still believe that is true even with all the forge theory running about my head. A system and a game share relationship that is different from game to game and even from GM to GM. The forge struggles to universalize our play experience by producing laser focused rules. As a result we have all the game but not the same sort of blank slate variety that D&D can provide us. They also hide the goal of unification with excessive artyness. I do love me some artyness. I love me artyness all night and all day long. Still this isn’t about the forge so much as it is about why it is I don’t like 4th edition and why if given the choice I will end up running 3rd.

I finally realized it as I started looking over the Paladin once again. 4th edition commit’s the cardnial sin of role playing game design. It fails to capture my imagination. See I can deal with a bad system. Hell I rewrote asylum’s system in the middle of a game sessions. I’ve rebuild SLA’s system from the ground up twice. I take a little of this and a bunch of that and smoosh it together until I get something that works. I tend to shy away from 3.5 because as the gm you are expected to not do that. You are expected to follow the rules. I railed against this for many years but ultimately I feel that this is fair. I railed against it because I did. However, since I stopped telling everyone how they should feel and just started doing my own thing I find that it works out and if I wanna run D&D I should just learn the damn rules. I got most of it down but jesus when you get into multicasting, and stuff like that my head just claims that it doesn’t care and takes a nap.

3.5 captures my imagination though. I’ve wanted to run a game featuring a group of wandering paladins following different faiths but united under one cause, I’ve wanted to run an evil campaign where charecters start off at a certain level and they start building their evil lair, populating it with monsters, dealing with local heroes, subduing local villians, getting kings under their thumb et cetera. I think that would be really fun. I wanted to run a game set in the planescape game setting oh and I still wanna run an epic level campain because the epic level source material is fucking cool. My favorite is the true death assaisn’s guild which is a guild that kills someone, and then makes absolutely sure that this person is never coming back…ever. This could include traveling to heaven and destroying the soul. God now does that sound fun or what?

Prestige classes are neat. They just are. The way they work annoys me, and I wish to god that they just used character kits instead of prestige classes but what the hell can’t have everything and I man oh man I love me some prestige classes. That whole assasin thing I just mentioned? Prestige class that’s right. If I were to run a troop of wandering paladins when they start to prestige out they would all become radically different. Some could focus on mounted combat, others on melee, ranged combat, or any other wide variety of things.

The point is that what the system lacks it makes up for in spunk. I want to create worlds and little imaginary people to run around in them. This is something that I want to do, like right now. I am excited.

4th edition didn’t do this for me. My charecters have never felt like a collection of numbers but instead people who I have build out of dice, clay, ambition, and thought. My 4th ed character I didn’t care about one way or the other. The combat feels even more like a game than 3.5 and that is my main complaint about 3.5 combat. The power system, which is supposed to make charecters feel more dynamic, instead makes everyone seem more static. The way everyone just sort of clicks together feels more like I am putting together figures for game of Descent/Talisman/ or Castel Ravenloft instead of getting ready for an rpg. Extra books feel more like expansion packs rather than lists of options that will more than likely never be used even though they are cool. Stuff to keep in your back pocket for a rainy day.

Some people do feel this with 4th and please for the love of god more power to them. D&D is the thing that pretty much single handedly keeps our entire hobby alive. If it dies I am confident that everything else would go along with it. It is the MAIN way we get new people into the hobby and it is soon to be the only way since white wolf is going all retarded on us. I am not dooming and glooming but lets face it when I describe shadow run to a non role player that are going to say “Oh kind of like D&D” this is because people know what it is without knowing to much about it.

Anyway system wars they get intense, worse than political debates. I know I’ve seen them. They are all really unnecessary though because ultimately the problem isn’t system in origin. The problem is that I don’t want to tell a story with 4th edition charecters, even if it is easier to run.

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