piątek, 7 grudnia 2012

Edition wars almost made me stop playing D&D

It has been some time since I played D&D, and let me tell you something, if you are a Role Player but you never tried it, thought about it, but never tried it, don't even get in touch with this god awful community it has, or you're gonna be tainted for life. Stay with me for a minute before you nerd rage every corcner of this blog, which as the matter of fact sparked not because of a hobby, but because of deep emotions I have for a thing that is constantly ravaged by barbarians I thought never existed in RPGs (well, not like a class, but rather people's characters).

I've seen console wars on You Tube, where people fought what is better, PS3 or Xbox and they were insulting their own mothers, sending each other death threats etc. I thought back then... "Geez, who let those monkeys out?" (Not talking here about fans who stuck to their own platforms and games, but rather huge vocal majority of mentally and emotionally wounded idiots who couldn't stand one thing only: That there are poeple who have fun doing something not their way. That was the only thing.)
I've seen couple 4E reviews recently, which were more or less ok and just, but the shitstorm underneath them, in coments, the ratings made me wonder, who let those monkeys in our RPG community and why? The sad thing is they made up their minds long time ago, but still are active, walk arround the web insulting people and seek out every possible chance to just spew some hate. It's pathetic to say the least and insulting, especially when some other fanbases show how to deal with changes better and with reason. I tell you what, for last couple years, and especially last couple months D&D 3rd edition fans are the last people I would sit to play with. Whatever the game. And to all 3rd edition enthusiasts who are just ok dudes out there, chilled out and open minded, I sympathize with you guys, some of you I know and many I respect, but that's the public opinion you have to bear now made by those Edition Wars and a group of most vocal idiots out there.

A sad thing indeed cause having my own insight in RPG community of Poland I see more and more people who get intrigued by D&D and walk away the moment they see all the fuss. This article will be devoted to debunking some of the absolute nonsense  3rd edition Jihad has against 4th edition, and it all comes to a simple idea:

"They are mad because 4th edition is not 3rd edition."

Let's start with analysis of each argument at a time, shall we? And trust me at some point, especiall if you are Role Player not into 3rd edition, you will feel confused by insane stupidity and fact how someone who claims to be RPG authority and reviews a lot of games all of a sudden can turn of his brain and pull an argument right out of his ass. How staggering is the rage and how wounded is the pride. Some arguments will make you laugh, when you realize that their authors insult themselves with the very opinions presented.

I really tried to like 3rd editon. I bought a lot of books and I guess it never was for me. I always valued story and atmosphere, the one you'll get in novels and I always expect the gameplay to give me that feel. When you read about Drizzt, heroes of the Lance and many others they go out to do epic things from the very first day they set their foot on the path of adventure. When I watched Starship Troopers however, you see how fragile our heroes are, how easy to snap should arachnids ever try to scisor their torsoes. You would expect to feel constant threat of arachnids and how dangerous they are, how you can perish with a single hit, die in an instant and there is a lot of games that do just that. Now, in case of heroic adventurers you would expect, that being them, you'd have whole lot actions to take. If you follow any kind of hero from novels or movies they are full of options, they have their speciall perks, they do marvels with their blades, special attacks, maneuvers, and how they fight makes it thrilling to read. So many options from the very first seconds. Sitting to a game of heroic adventure, wouldn't you expect that?
I'm a melee fighter type, I just like blades and mauls, mighty armors or compleetly other way arround, a nimble striker with a precise rapier. There are thousands of games that include variety of options from the very first seconds, polish RPGs like Wild Fields, Monastyr, Witcher english ones like Fading Sunds, new Warhammer you look at what your character can do from the very first session and you go "wow".
But whenever I sat to play 3rd edition fighter, paladin, etc. It always was the same:
GM asks: What you do?
Me: I attack...
GM: Make a roll.
Me: Missed...
next turn
GM: What you do?
Me: I attack...
GM: Ok, roll now...
Me: Hit... I deal 8 points of damage.
next turn
GM: What you do?
Me: I attack...
GM: Roll d20
Me: Hit... 6 points of damage

And that how it goes untill you gain some serious levels and couple features, then it's like:
GM: What you do?
Me: I trip him with a morningstar and than attack
GM: Ok, roll now... and roll...
Me: He's tripped... Hit with 21 points of damage...
Copy/paste till you get bored.

And if you are a Wizard? Oh don't even get me started.
Cast a spell and hind behing cover for next 20 minutes, fascinating RPG session indeed... oh, action and adventure!

I like and value everything that stays true to what it tries to be John Wick's Blood and Honor and House of the Blooded games are magnificent displays what it means to Role Play, what interraction and storytell is. White Wolf's World of Darkness, Exalted or Scion series are very well designed and done when it comes to fast paced interraction and action oriented gameplay where narrative and roleplaying is simple, minimalistic, yet full and very rewarding. Warhammer Fantasy Role Play second edition was really into the grittiness of combat, mortality and player interaction. Game was designed in a way to give players as few stats as possible, but also put a huge emphasis on  modifiers. Winning on your stats was almost impossible, whereas taking special actions, use of cunning planning  and whatever advantage you could get, provided you with satisfaction of overcomming the odds. I'm not saying it's not in other games, just making a point, the whole game was designed on that very fact and impact narrative player decisions had on gameplay. And it was ALL available from the very first session.

When I come to play RPGs I want fun, it's obvious, right? Some people though forget that quite often. I'm not there to wait half a year (playing like 1 session every week or every other week), till I reach some ambivalent level so I can get finally some things to do with my character, something thrilling in fantasy action adventure themed RPG, where I used to do just a boring standard attack again and again. Or cast a spell and feel useless for rest of an encounter. Sure this changes with time, but when I play (you know, it's a leisure activity) I expect to get amused, not endure some ascetic pilgrimage till the gameplay changes. For me that's just a lousy game design, really boring one. I won't crawl through a pit of manure just to get to the muffin on the other side. Hey, if that's your thing, godspeed. I'll just go to different store.

I guess I wouldn't really blame 3rd edition for being what it is, if... well... whole legacy of D&D is to be a brave hero on the path to great things. All the novels give you that feel, right? You watch  Lord of the Rings and go "I want to be like Aragorn...". Legolas doing a slide down on Orc's shield, sniping dudes at the same time, Gandalf whooping ass in the siege of Gondor like he was Tony Jaa with PHD in divine shit crossed with Neo's pole-dancing-kickassery. You wan't that?
Well, than open up a player's handbook of third edition, roll a character and march against giant rats, doing standard shitty atacks that maybe, just maybe do some harm to a vermin or two, before you and your team of epic adventurers become so exhausted you'll have to rest for next day to patch up wounds and regenerate whatever 2 spells your lousy wizard has.
And if that's so, why the heck advertise it as a Heroic Adventure system?! Thats what many of D&D fans said when I asked for a heroic system! They said D&D 3.5 is what I should get. But now when I tell them that' all of a sudden you try to explain me, "Well D&D is something more, it's not all about adventure, it's a system that you can run everything on."
When I am in mood for classic music, I play Vivaldi, Dvorak, Smetana, Wagner, when I want to listen to some rock music I listen to Clutch, DIO, when I want blues, I go for Howlin' Wolf. I like when a game knows what it want's to be, so that when I want a solid narrative role play, I go for World of Darkness, Scion, or Blood and Honour, when I want a tactical sim combat oriented game with RPG on side, I go for new Warhammer 40k RPGs, Heavy Gear and other Silhouette based products. When I wan't something pulpy and fast paced, Savage Worlds and Feng Shui would be my choice. But D&D 3rd edition? I don't know why should I play it and what for.
4E is honest with whoever picks it up, and I respect that. You wan't storytell, tactical realism? We don't have that, there are dozens of games that do that better and always did that better, no matter the edition. Verry good, no bullshit here. 
But! Should you want a fast paced  action adventure oriented RPG with emphasis on combat? We are here for you. Finally! Someone who doesn't pretend to do everything at once. With the metaphore used above, with 3rd edition I always felt like it tried to be a pop-music of RPGs, trying to suit everyone's taste, yet failing to bring out the fundamental theme it used to have in editions before.

The idea behind it was, "we all start from somewhere and for most parts we walk blind". When TSR formed their first rule systems, they wanted to play out stories of epic adventures, that was the goal. To walk like Conan the Barbarian and many other heroes to hell and back, slay beasts and monsters. The system was bult from nothing, like the first plane and first car. It was supposed to do something... it was just it's architects had to experiment to find most optimal design for their creation. No one did a written RPG with combat system before Gygax and Arneson. They wanted to live the lives of heroes from the epic tales and play that style, so they took what they knew best - wargame mechanic, and adapted it in a way gameplay was fast and thrilling at a time. But it was closest they could get. You can see further experiments with making game faster in AD&D, with introduction of THAC0 - it looked like that not because TSR guys tried to make a perfect system as it was written, but because the system was always an imperfect media to convey gameplay. I'm sure should those two gentlemen live and be young, they would still experiment and change, constantly rebuild their systems so that systems fit more and more what they intented to convey in first place.

Wright brothers had no plane design to follow, they did what they felt would somewhat work, and with trials of errors, finally made something that could fly. In their early design they put engine with propeller on the back, thinking it'll do better to push their creation, and horizontal elevators on the front, cause they 'felt' it would work. Now the design changed compleetly, cause after years of studying we know how to best make a plane that serves it's purpose.
Same thing was with original D&D and history of it's evolution. It's goal was to give you fast paced thriling gameplay of heroic adventure. Sure it went through a rocky way of evolution, sometimes looked clumsy, other times bit better than in previous incarnation. But never did the system existed for sake of system, but for sake of gameplay... Gameplay was always prior to a 'tool'. But of course wherever there is a large group of followers there grows a cult which began to worship a system because it's a system, and not just a tool. Worship of those edition, or any RPG in general is silly and most of fans just go as far as saying "I like that system most, cause  simply spent so many years with my friends playing it and had fun... it's a nostalgia thing." And it's compleetly understandable. I have such things of my own. However... some fans just don't get it, and they worship the system like it was their religion. And mark my words, if you meet one of them, run!

4E stands true to what D&D always tried to be and always tried to sell. And remember, if you have a franchise with a certain reputation to live up to, you can't roll constantly on nostalgia of old generation, cause that burns out the hobby. Young people, who one day will be the water on the watermill of RPGs are drawn by various media to Dungeons and Dragons, video games and novels play big part, they are the face, the addvertisement that draws people in. Many of who will be very good Role Players contributing to the community. But if the hobby doesn't live up to their expectations, if they read about heroes who overcome the odds with might of their martial skill and bravery and what they got is lvl 1 fighter killing giant rats and making a day long recovery rests because he needs to heal and his wizard mate learn back whatever shitty spell he has, than they'll walk away. They'll get bored. They were promissed a ferrari with a smoking hot babe and a trail of cokaine between her tits and what they got is an old sailor on a bicycle and with a powdered sugar up his crack.
D&D used to be a powerhouse, it still is in a sense, but more like a crumbling old giant. More and more people leave D&D cause they see alternatives. And don't start with this Pathfinder thing, it's just a product bought by same people who bought 3rd edition, just feel bad about the 4th so they switched to another same incarnation just 'fresher'.
New people, with potential to join the hobby and D&D in general aren't really that interrested like some would like to belive pointing out sales of Pathfinder. Let me tell you something, of all people who do Role Play and I know they are NOT into D&D and never were, not a single one bought Pathfinder. However, all my friends who already played D&D 3.0 and 3.5 and won't accept 4, they pooled arround Paizo's product like it was their new messiah. But Pathfinder is still mostly designed for fans of  3.5 D&D, and if you never were a fan of Gameplay Style in that edition, you won't really be a fan of Gameplay in Pathfinder... well, at least I don't know of any. But that's purely subjective.

As for the most pointless and ridiculous arguments, let's bust some balls.
I should really make an "imbecill of the week" sort of corner here for some of BS served by 3rd edition loathers, but bear with me... Jesus, I just want to laugh thinking about this.
Ok... Here it goes.

1) "4th Edition is bad, cause there is no role play."
How is there no roleplay? Hm? Have you noticed no one ever explains this point? Like it's some vague simply acknowledged fact... someone just said that, and the bunch of lemmings repeats. That's it.
I almost pissed my pants when I heard that from a video review on YouTube wandering if the dumbass who said that really haven't noticed he just insulted himself by standing up for roleplaying.
You see, he said he was roleplayer first, and how roleplaying was important to him. In previous editions they used to have normal interactions with npc, now they don't... Wait... you mean, you played 4th edition, right? You wouldn't be that stupid to make a review of something you haven't played at all. Aaaand, being a Role Player, you probably have a gaming group with which you ROLE PLAY, right? So, when you sat down with your people, your DM that, keep in mind, used to run other games with a lot of role playing interactions and delivered lots of roleplaying interractions you care so much about, all of a sudden in 4th edition, he and other players, like tottaly forgot you can still do that?
What, you need a big sign on the front page that allows you to roleplay? Invitation perhaps? A script?
There are some who b(a/o)ldly claim: "It's because of skill challenge system! Grump, grump! It's broken and enforces rolling dices instead of roleplaying!"
Oh yeah, what a terrible idea, roll for diplomacy rather than roleplay it out... only if this like hasn't been done in almost every other game on the fucking planet! 4th edition just worked out a system that up to this rewards players with xp and still is just an optional feature. Let me tell you how it works and how it always worked in other games, cause some people, just like to turn of their brains the second they touch a sonic screwdriver. I'll use the example of WarhammerFRP 2nd edition to give you best perspective. When you enter a town and are in a hurry, you can of course roleplay out asking every single pedestrian and towsfolk about the local rumours and gossip, or just roll for inquiry. According to what declarations you make (I'll buy some guys beer in tavern) you'll get bonuses to that roll or (depending on what questions exactly I ask) I may get a penalty. You make a roll and you got what you wanted. Now, the same works for social interractions, persuasion, bluff, etc. In every game I know it's exactly the same. You want to convince some guy to join your cause. You have your say and GM converses with you, roleplaying the scene out. When you used enaugh good or bad arguments, GM calls for a skill check with apropriate modifiers (that you gained during the roleplay, sometimes your arguments may be good enaugh to convince the character that no roll is needed - that would be an automatic success, or failure should you insult the guy beyond redemption). It works like this in EVERY GAME I KNOW. Giving you options to mix the narrative with random element of dice roll. Some mechanics like in Warhammer stand, that to convice a guy to your cause you need at least couple degrees of success, so you do really well to gather as many positive modifiers as you can with the apropriate roleplay, making sure odds are on your side. Same goes for narrative storytell system of World of Darkness.
In 4th edition, you make skill challenges, you need to gather a set number of successful rolls before you gathert a set number of failures. In every 4th edition game I played I saw no problem with that, we spoke to a guy and we roleplayed like in every other RPG known to man. Our GM ajdusted the DC accordingly to what we said, making it lower or higher depending on what we did during adventure, according to our reputation and so on. We interracted and made our rolls, according to result GM adjusted his tone and NPCs opinion on our cause, we continued the conversation till the NPC was convinced to help us.
BUT SOMEHOW! Everyone including his majesty, Kurt Wiegel just decided to turn off their heads and go "Role play in 4th edition? Nope... it's not there."
It's so silly that such a basic thing must be explained to people who claim to be oldschool or long time roleplayers, I just don't know what to say...
Also, I compleetly understand the mechanic and apreciate it, cause, with words of John Wick, D&D is a system in which you have thousand modifiers for a single swing of a sword that literarly takes a second, but all it takes to seduce a barmaid is one roll. D&D had this problem that everything in interaction was decided by one roll. If you had bad luck? Well that's it... Unless you housrule something out you'r plot is cut right there.  Skill challenges in 4th edition, especially in social interractions allow you to make it a little longer and complexed process, where if you screw up, you can always come back with some other argument, and so on. Why people stay blind to that? You have everything you need. You have tables for higher and lower DCs depending on how well the characters do, why for some odd reason you don't use them? You really need it pointed to you or have a technical drawing done? A manual how to use modifiers? Come on!
Maybe the greatest sin of 4th edition against roleplaying is that it doesn't say that specifficly, that you should do that, pointing all the dirrections? Let me tell you, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play doesn't say that specificly too, World of Darkness neither, it's just common knowledge to roleplay things out, apply set modifiers to rolls and do the test! It's so basic this should be a no-brainer, this should be fuckin' cardinal!
And yet we get this "4th edition? baaaw skill challenges mean no roleplay!" from a bunch of imbecils that haven't played the game, like with example of the idiot above, the one from YouTube Review, who, I don't belive, ever run or played 4th edition at all, but like many 3rd edition fanboys raves and rants everywhere filled with hate that YOU DARE to have FUN not the way he WANTS you to have fun. Or that because of the new edition, less and less people will be keen on playing the game he spend so many years learning and mastering. It's a crime you do playing 4th edition! Oh noes!
And to just think this skill challenge system is so antagonized because it makes social interractions longer and not reduces them to a single roll... God damn, you see that?! According to them it's actually worse for roleplay for social interractions to be longer! Not to mention the fuss about xp for social interraction! Oh no, what a horrible crime... the fuck?! Killing rats and wiping your ass with level 1 kobold in any edition is absolutely ok to be rewarded for xp even if it magicly contributes to your social skills with level up and allthough it's patheticly easy to stomp on a rat when you are high level you still get it, but convincing a general to go to war, or seducing a barmaid (winning someone's heart with a song or a poem?) Nope... it's not worth a shit according to those idiots. System that finally recognises that affecting people's lives by use of other things than just boot to the head and rewarding players for that is BAD for roleplay?
If you have a wife or at least a girlfriend you know you care for, ask yourself a question, what was harder to achieve: building a relationship with this woman, or killing a rat in your basement? What contributed more to making you a better person? What made you more skilled in diplomacy?
Of course, killing a rat.

2) "4th edition is bad cause it's a board game or an MMO."
I can't decide if this falls under obviously stupid or straight forward troll statement, cause I don't belive someone could be really this dumb.
First of all, take a look at the attitude and see what kind of people you deal here with. This is where the "bad press" for the community starts to emerge and why less and less people would like to bother sitting beside 3rd edition 'nerd' every single day. This is where a myth of openminded hobby for creative individuals starts to crumble. Role Players had to deffend themselves for years from strict public scrutiny and judgement that labeled them socially awkward, tried to attach so many negative conotation to our hobby, presenting it as strange activity in face of 'vastly superior' sports, card games, etc. And we proved the world it is wrong to judge us, for our hobby is very social, creative and allows people to do and be who they want...
Now look at this elitist-wannabe-my-hobby-is-the-best-douchebags. Board games? Yeah, let's use it as an invective. How dare those filthy board-game peasant's invade our perfect master-race world of imagination!
Thank Christian God that earlier editions never had system designed with intent to play out encounters on maps! Oh not the maps! Caverns of Chaos? Temple of Elemental Evil? Oh, yeah, fuck that board-gamy legacy.
Ok, seriously now, D&D was a combat system. Always was a combat and always will be a combat system. And that's good, you know, I like knowing what I'm dealing with. I don't expect my pillow to be a chainsaw or my razor to be a brick. So when I want combat system and combat oriented game I know where to look.
Since very first editions it was played on the map, or using some kind of board. Rules became more or less specific about how to play it, but keep in mind Gygax and Arnson were wargaming enthusiasts. Their first tries at RPGs were exactly that, individual-oriented wargames with character aditional developement, involving minis and interacting with them. 3rd edition was also played on dungeon maps, you didn't really needed them, you could keep all in your imagination, but just for sake of keeping things clear and interresting you had encounters designed for particular rooms with traps and hazards. You could run an encounter, of course, just narrating another empty room with random mobs fighting one on one with our heros, but that get's boring even faster. When you have an encounter in designed surrounding in some sort of chamber with traps, pits, hazards, ledges, secret doors. You can bullrush a guy down the hole, you can flank, surprise, get on higher ground, the surrounding always was plastic and usefull. And you know what gave me such lesson? 3rd edition. Although I played with many groups and people preffering different game styles, rearly did we played without maps, unless our campaign was more about minor skirmishes here and there, random encounters and social intrigues. But for most parts, when we were doing really epic battles in dungeons, we used maps, and I bet many of you did too.
Well, 4th edition also uses maps, for exactly same reason... And that makes it a board game? What? You got me lost here, you know. Some people will now say that 4th edition forces you to use maps and boards... How? I'm still waiting for any example at all. Is that because combat rules make it difficult to follow all the mods without look at the map? Nope. In fact ou have less confusing modifiers and special exceptions from the rules you had in previous editions. Things like flanking no more need to be detrmined by target's facing, what in narrative combat without maps only made it more confusing, trying to tell your players they stand by the side of an enemy... but not quite yet... That contributed only to more confusing meta-talk. In 4th edition it's easy, you just have to be on oposite side of your enemy, that's it. All the mods were unified to more or less same value and name "combat advantage". What actually makes it even easier to use in narrative, cause whenever you as a GM think your player might have a Combat Advantage, guess what... there is this unified modifier called... a lucky guess? COMBAT ADVANTAGE! Just give it to him! No more +1 here - 2 there +4 for washing your hands -2 bcause its a lap-year. Whenever a circumstance occurs that would hinder enemy's combat performance, lower ground, attacked from flank, drunk, tired, etc, you got one thing to summ it up for quick and easy math: Combat Advantage. Most of penalties and bonuses were delt exactly same way: It's +2 or -2 for like 90% of mods you gonna use. Again, those who claim 4th edition forces them to play a board game, never played 4th edition in the first place. They are just angry and furious, and can't stand people don't apreciate their model of game any more.
Now, they will tell you, it forces you to play on game board cause many of values on your character sheet are explained in squares and not in feet as it used to be. Only that, in every previous edition, people used to write a value in squares next to the normal 30ft speed anyway, and you know why? Though I live in Europe I know exactly what lenght 2 meters is, that's easy. But 26 meters? I have no bloody idea. It's because our geometric 3d perspective ends at some distance, after few meters our brains already start to flatten the seen world, it's very hard to describe lenght with geometric imagination, cause you need a perspective. That's why in so many documentaries we like beng said something is as tall as 34 Eifel Towers, long as 12 Jumbo Jets, or weights 3 times battleship Yamato. Since the ancient times alchemy and used relations: 2 parts of sulfur, 4 parts of charcoal, 1 part of saltpetre. It was because it's much easier to operate with set units rather than count on the fly every 5 feet of the movement allowance. That's why so many of you made a little bracket on your character sheets in 3rd edition, listing how many squares there are, just for sake of simplicity. 4th edition realizing that most people would use squares anyway, was honest and straightforward with it's approach.
Not convinced? Well belive or not, but there are games that still do that exactly same thing. Mutant Chronicles(also heroic action adventure game) - using squares for simplicity. Rogue Trader - using Units as a measurment. Silhouette - likewise, but with hexes.
And 5 feet is about 1,5 meter, now have a good luck trying to translate range of a spell. There is one very important rule in every design: "convenience" - if one process is faster, simpler and leads to same effects, it is better and more user-friendly than one which takes longer and is more convoluted. 4th edition realizes that in the first place...
So 4th edition is a board game or not? Of course not, it can be run on a board and a map and with figures like EVERY previous edition was. Is the combat without maps and minis possible? Yes it is, even easier than previously. 4th edition being a board game argument is just full of shit, and pathetic espcially that people who use it are either ignorant of the mechanics in 4th edition, AND to make things worse, they, calling themselves roleplayers, standing for what roleplay is, ignore board-gamy legacy of earlier editions using another hobby as an insult. According to those guys, if you are a board game player or wargamer, you are "that guy", you don't belong to the elite club of role players, you filthy sub-human...
And that's another tag those idiots give your community.

As for MMO, it's another fanboyish rave not making a little bit of sense in whole broad perspective of previous editions and other RPGs. It's sometimes so silly it makes me wonder, weather those people who rant 4th edition reminds them of MMOs have played other RPGs at all, and I don't mean other OGL products or Pathfinder, but compleetly different systems. Most common argument here is that the classes and their roles in a team are neatly described like in MMOs, and now they have special "powers" that to some look like talent trees from MMOs. Let's look at every point step by step.
Imagine you just bought a D&D 3rd edition player's handbook, and heard about the group that looks for people. You talk with them and come to a session, allright. You've heard about wondrous options to build your characters! About mythical openess of this D&D edition, after all people say you can build everything with right set of feats and stat development. Ok, you want to play a knight commander, or a swift and agile fencer, like D'Artagnan piercing foes with your rapier... Bu when you say that to your group they get mad, cause as a fighter you were suppose to play a certain role in a team., whereas you invested most your points in intelligence, dexterity and charisma - going kinda Jack Sparrow line. Even if you are playing with nice openminded people who value character development more than your combat effectivness you're gonna see that your character kinda stays behind everyone else, being less usefull then others. (Oh! And don't give me that shit about "You can build everything! Look the feats are in this and this supplement!" - you either stop whining about WotC selling their products, cause you do that all the time, or deal with the fact I can have actually different thrilling builds from 4 E just based on Player Handbook 1, way more than I could with 3rd edition.) And D&D was ALWAYS about playing out certain roles in a fight. You had to have your controler trickster wizard, your cleric, your tanks and damage dealers. It worked like that since always. What 4th edition did was simply naming things as they are! Oh my god they called Cleric a Healer? No way, it's not like in most previous D&D editions you played Cleric which was healing the party...
Let me tell you, that there are many people who tried this hobby, lured in with a premise they can be anyone they want, but the moment they started playing, whole ilusion broke when team preassure funneled them sooner or later into one narrow path of "who was necessary". 4th edition again simply named what was always there, giving you right off the bat directions of where to go and what to do, to play a role of your class. I guess some people think it's bad, I'll say they are exactly the same types who think problems will vanish if we won't talk about them.
Like in MMOs you chose talents, here you choose powers, but what people forget about is that MMOs like Worldcraft, so fondly mentioned, was in fact inspired by D&D with talent and class system being a homage paid to previous D&D editions, with feats of same names as WoW talents, with same classes, same concepts. Every western MMO out there with many of the asian ones catching up, are pure essence of 3rd edition more than 4th will ever get even close. And funny thing is, the ilusion that the powers chosen are talents from MMOs is so silly, because same concept of 4th edition powers choice per level was already introduced in other RPGs in history, long before 4th edition appeared on the planet, one of which (Neuroshima) comes from my home country.
What this argument also proves is that not only most of 3rd edition fanboys lack knowledge about the MMOs (I doubt they ever played them.) but also lack knowledge of role playing hobby in general and other systems that used same gimmicks for years, yet no one was that stupid to call them tabletop-WoW-clones.
MMO argument than is just another mindless slogan used as an invective to antagonize a game they hate for the very sake of it not being exactly like the product they already have.

3) "4th edition is bad, because it's balanced..."
This is another thing that I honestly don't understand, why balance is bad in D&D whereas every other game without it would be considered an utter crap. I thought about it, asked some people and finally realized, it's first because most don't know what this phrase even means or what balance stands for. And second, because people are assholes.
Balance is not about encounters, mobs being rightly adjusted to player level, no. Balance stands for all members of the team, being equally usefull and capable. What that means? Let's say you play some other game, and you joined the team. Before you do any harm to the enemy during encounter, there is already this guy who killed everyone. He does everything in a group, slays monsters, talks with people, excludes you from most interractions. That's what playing a D&D wizard was like for most part. Before you can do something serious and fun, you need to sit through a period of time where all you do is cast whatever silly spell you got, and hide behind your team, waiting for encontuer to end.
Now think you watched a movie about super heroes. You saw batman kicking ass, iceman freezing bad guys, colossus turning into solid steel and taking a tank shell on his chest like it was a pixy fart. And you think... damn! I would love to be a batman in a role play, right? Imagine yourself you got yourself a team, but when you sit at the table, it appears you got to play a sidekick... Yay! Imagine yourself playing a video game, where you start with character useless to a point, NPCs do most of the job for you. Wouldn't that be a fun, sitting behind cover and watching NPCs do the epic battle? Wouldn't that be a fun watching their story being told in cutscenes? No?
So how come when you read fantasy novels about whatever hero from D&D multiverse, you all of a sudden you accept a role of useless sidekick? Ah, because you wait for this magical moment, when the roles change and you are the one who is the master of the universe and everyone else is the sidekick.
Same goes to Warrior types, who are the badassery of first 10 levels and look upon all others like they were useless trash. Again, don't give me this BS about minmaxing the shit out of bazylion supplements, fishing out each feat to build a 5th level god, Pun-Pun (For those who don't know, it's a Kobold who at 5th level is so powerfull, he could take every god like they were his bitches). 3rd edition is loved by minmaxers, they absolutely adore the concept of 'open character developement'... but don't belive their delusions, it has nothing to do with creating the character you want or the way you want... It's all about allowing them to create gamebraking, minmaxed combat beasts while you still try to figure if taking Focus Skill Diplomacy will make you a better Captain, because you wanted your human fighter to be this kind of knight commander of local city-watch.
Bottom line is, everyone likes to have a meaningfull impact in gameplay, always, no matter what level. Gamimg is a leisure thing, it's a thing that makes you relax and have fun, Fun should always be prior. When you force yourself to endure something that is not fun, just to get the tiny bit of amusement at some vague distant point, you are doing it wrong. It's like eating three spoons of salt before getting to a chocolate bar.
Now ask yourelf a question, why is balance a bad thing in 4th edition? If you are a melee fighter and you see your friend who plays a wizard have fun, is that a bad thing? If you are a level 25 wizard and see your fighter friend be really good at what he does and having fun just as much as you do... is that a bad thing? It's not like the wizard do any harm to you as a warrior... It's not as good warrior on highl level get's in way of your wizard's awesome performance... Than why you so mad?
The only answer to that is, because you like feeling that everyone else is inferior to you. You don't care for living an awesome epic adventure, you care for the system to treat you like a princess, making it so that others crawl at your feet.
If that's what you want from a role playing social experience...
You're an asshole.
Yet another label 3rd edition fanboys give to oldschool D&D community.

And issue of balance is not uncommon among other games. I woulndn't really have much of an issue with it in this case if not the arguments used were pulled compleetly out of some people's asses. If you have fun, and something that doesn't even affect you is your problem, there is something wrong with you, seriously. It's the same thing as having a cool car that is the fastest ride in your neighbourhood. You have ton of fun with it, you love driving it, it's your favorite car ever. Now one day your neighbour buys himself also a badass ride, fast as yours. All of a sudden you start to hate him and your car for not being the fastest one arround. You envy your neighbour so hard, although in no part he hindered you car's performance and it's till as awesome ride as it used to be... you just can't handle the fact you're not the speciall cherry anymore. You reduced fun to a petty urge to finally feel as someone better.
I guess this unbalance sad aspect of D&D is what reached out to awkward geeks who lacked self esteem and had inferiority complex. You would expect people to grow up. And some did... They are compleetly fine with changes done in 4th edition, cause for them the fun factor of D&D was never about some narrow-minded jealousy.
Another fact I realized about the vocal idiots of 3rd edition fanbase is that, well, they are just humans, with all the flaws. But so far very little pros really shined out.
I am big fan of RPG Circus podcast, I love how grown up guys can share their opinions on the hobby. They are big D&D fans and they really were eager to discuss the issue from various perspectives, leaving with simple yet very elegant statement. "4th edition? It's OK, I understand the changes and why they did them, but it's just not my thing..." Most reasonable opinion I've heard out there. And to those guys I salute.
I know what you might think. "What? Everyone who deos not want balance in system is an asshole? Is that what you say?"
Of course not. I myself love Mutant Chronicles and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, both of those games are very unbalanced, but they are designed about the concept of struggle and survival, for they are much more centered on modifiers than actual stats, and they are much more about what you do with what little you got rather than steamroll everything with your high stats. Now, if you just like unbalanced games, because that's your preffered style, does that means balance is bad? What about other games that are balanced? Are they bad? If you have no problem with balance, but you preffer different gameplay, you'll just say that, like it's a thing of your personal taste. Imagine yourself same example with a car above, but instead, you have an old car. My uncle had Syrena, it was an old ride produced in Poland and I tell you what he loved that car, it was slow, cumbersome, oldfashioned and constantly had some issues, but he wouldn't change it for anything else. If his neighbour bought himself a new Opel, he was compleetly fine with that, cause his little Syrena was his beloved classy ride. No issue at all. I asked my uncle once, why won't he buy a new car, his neighbour got much better and bigger one. Is there something wrong with it? He said no. That Opel Astra was a really fine car, good and solid, he just preffers his old ride.
When you say balance IS BAD you do that on purpose no other than envy, thus... You are an asshole.

4th edition is just a different game that caters to specific demographic and specific audience. D&D 4E knows what it is, it's social group based combat oriented action-adventure RPG. If you want that? If you want to live through epic tales you found in novels and movies, you dreamt about? That's what we have for you. No bullshit, no crossing the generes, no meddling with storytell, cause there are games that do that better, no super-realistic combat simulators or survival games, cause there are other games that do that better. No bullshit. The product is designed to give you action-adventure and it does it well!

I love the fact how honest they are, that 4th edition realized what people in previous incarnations of D&D did anyway: recalculating distance into units of squares, specializing your characters builds to certain roles, figuring out which stats worked best anyway, issue of applying skill points in class skills and many more, they adressed that with straightforward and honest aproach: "We know you guys do this all the time, let's just cut the bullshit and give you more convenient, already recalculated well detailed option." What's wrong about that? Oh, yes, Skills. People hate what happened to them, and here I may understand their arguments, but I'll still defend the idea behind mechanical upgrades.

4) "4th edition is bad because of changes in skills and abilities improvements."
See, not all arguments used against 4th edition are stupid, some are most valid, and I'm here to remind you I stand up against stupidity of 3rd edition fanboys, not constructive criticism, so when such argument's appear I make my judgement according to facts.
I must agree that cutting some of skills may be too harsh if you want to build much specialised or unique character, and I agree with that, more options is always better than less. That's why I adore the concept of giving +1 to two abilities rather than one every four levels. You wan't a Jack Sparrow charismatic warrior? There you go. You want a nimble, intelligent glorious strategist, like from chinese legends, Sun Tzu style, who commanded armies and was a beast on battlefield? You have it! I love this idea! I love it! Damn, just because of that one new character developement mechanic, you should try out 4th edition with your group!

Now we come to our personal differences. I like the idea of how they delt with skills, I've seen those concepts already in many games, keeping it plain and simple, allows you to save your time and a lot of useless stuff.
Picture yourself swimming or... in some games I've seen that - fishing skill. Who ever took those two? When you design your character, you very often think what situations you're gonna face most times and what surroundings you'll be on. What are the odds you're gonna need a fishing skill? And you know your DM knows that too and he won't be such an asshole to put you in a situation whole party is stuck because no one can swim.
On the other hand if you invest your points in skills you won't often use, just because you feel it would be cool for a character concept, you are stuck with lots of wasted skill points. It has been done in Fallout if I remember correctly, where all skills that would serve you outdoors in the wild, were called "survival". When you invested in that, you knew how to build a hut, how to set animal traps, how to hunt, how to make a fire using just wood and dry grass, how to swim. Now, those are various different skills, but if you invested in that general category you actually felt safe and felt this pack of knowledge was really usefull. It kinda made sense, if you were preparing for ventrue into a dangerous dungeon, would you only train how to use rope, search for traps and sneak, excluding the knowledge of the undergrounds, etc? Or other way arround, would you prepare yourself just by reading a book of what is down there, or would you also train in various skills that would help you survive? I know where they went with this, and I understand their point. I don't really have to like it, but I understand. It's just different approach. In Dark Heresy I got shitload of skills and talents, so much I was bearly able to place them all on my character sheet, but Dark Heresy was whole different type of game.

5) "4th edition is bad cause it's just to get your money!"
Realy?! You mean the previous editions and THOUSANDS of supplementary books released for AD&D2 and 3.0/3.5 were given free? Jesus Christ, where was I when TSR released the fascinatind Complete Ninja? Absolutely non-proffit essential book, without which you wouldn't be able to play any adventure!
3.5 was an example of how to sell people same shit errata re-print and whole line of product, but when 4th edition came out, they are mad about new content? New settings, new dieties, new classes, new mechanics, for same prize you recive a book full of something you haven't yet seen, and you are mad you have to pay for it? Oh, sorry, you actually don't cause nobody forces you to buy them.
It's staggering how pompus some people became since last years, maybe because of the crisis, maybe because they are stupid and lately access to internet is easier and easier, thus allowing more morons to type whatever bollocks they can think of and post it anywhere. I don't know.
You never get that in other forms of industry, it's normally accepted, things are sold for a prize, you like it you buy it, you hate it, you don't. If people think prize is too high and won't make a purchace, free market kicks in and forces producers to lower their prizes. Pretty obvious, right?
But somehow, with role playing games, there are people who expect games to be free, and best, delivered to them by a personal herold. Why? No reason, no to mention replayability value and quality of the RPG never expires, and even old editions can be played if one just has the books, basicly forever. What is much better than any other kind of entertainment on the planet! You pay as much for some video games and after couple hours, you're done. Multiplayer can make it little bit longer, and unless you are Korean fanatic, you'll just get bored. With RPGs you don't have that problem, you can always come up with new ideas, and scenarios never seen or played before.
As for now 4th edition actually released very few supplements in comparison to 3rd edition or the second. Somehow people were fine with buying the former ones, and are so pissed about new releases.
I actually have two player handbooks for 4E, gamemasters guide, monster vault, and one adventure. Haven't bought anything else. Why? Cause If i don't need it, I won't buy it. What's the problem here? I have no idea. I got only 3 books of 3rd edition, the absolute basic needed for game, never bought anything else. Though I know quite a lot of suplements, cause they were always bought by my friends and I found them compleetly useless.
Every industry is out there to make money, if they weren't making money they were compleetly stupid in my opinion, risking their financial security, or not valuing their own work. Oh, btw. just looking at Paizo's page, they release another supplement for Pathfinder... cheeky moneymakers, they are just to get our money! They'll take our jobs!

Let me tell you something, releasing the same Star Wars movie for 7th time with just different commentary track and a signed polaroid picture of Lucas' butthole would be putting things out there for money-milking. Releasing a game with on disc DLC is lousy money making.
Making a whole new product with new mechanics, new content, new playstyle, new approach, new setting you haven't seen before, is a work to be valued, because some people actually sat down and designed shit, rather than lurk arround OGL and rehash random bits, toggling some switches here and there.
But some of you lousy fucking scoundrles would rather have your assholes licked by the whole world and even than you wouldn't squeeze out a penny, just because you can feel pompus about it.
Those double standards of approach is staggering, especially that with 3rd edition, people were all happy and jolly for their release plans, giving WotC a big green light, while here... well, of course they had to pull out another argument out their ass just to have something negative to say.
This ignorance goes even further if you think that if the materials from PH 2 and 3 was included into Player's Handbook 1, it would be much more expensive with the quality of the product WotC released AND a NIGHTMARE to navigate.
There is an awesome RPG I used to play and I often think about called Starblazer Adventures. A solid brick of 630 pages (containing everything: player guide, game master tips and rules, monster manual). Finding something in this brick calls for some serious digging, not to mention there is a lot of materials that I've never used. If I had an option I wouldn't buy those parts and if the book was cheeper thanks to that, I'm all for it.
I never thought this might be an issue in case of D&D cause when I read about the content of each supplement, I thought if I like it or not... If I found no use for it, why even bother?
I guess only way money-milking might affect you... if you wish to stick to this argument, is when you just collect D&D books for sake of just having them. But that's your problem.

Why am I deffending this edition, although not being much of a fan of D&D in general? I guess I'm just shocked. My absolute favorite is Wahrammer RPG 2nd edition, and I've seen how people looked upon 3rd edition when it came out. And you know what? I'm not a big fan of it, everything is changed, gameplay is different... But it is still a good game, just not the same. This is more narrative, based on telling a storry rather than gritty survival. It's just another thing. Fanbase of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play gave a critical response, but yet was very mature and gave it an honest try. I did too! I liked the sessions, and probably would play 3rd edition some day once more. I know it represents much more risky storytelling with interresting mechanic of pushing your luck and suffering consequences, an element of randomness. If I ever grow fond of this kind of gameplay and think to myself... "Hmmm, that's what I want to play." I'll be sure to revisit 3rd edition of Warhammer.
But D&D 4th? Is antagonized like it's antichrist and by looking at some things people say, the reason fot their grief is no other than: "4E is bad cause it's not 3E". The amount of insults, invectives, epithets, even death threats... of course they are just for a pose, but still... This all made me change my opinion on 3rd edition fanbase soo much I had to write it. I know there is many of you guys in favor of 3.0 and 3.5 who are just normal and I would love to have a beer with, but know what's happening to your community, cause it's awful. No other RPG fanbase community I know acts like that.
It's up to you to do something about it, or you're gonna loose more and more.

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