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Legends and Lore: What is Mike really saying?!

I find myself becoming increasingly concerned with where my favorite gaming hobby, Dungeons & Dragons, seems to be headed.  I hate to sound like a bit of an alarmist, but the messages coming more and more out of WotC these days make me wonder what fate has in store for D&D 4E.

The Face that Launched a Thousand Games

The Face that Launched a Thousand Games

This week, Mike Mearls posted a Legend and Lore article called Stay Classy that seemed to draw some odd (dare I say forced?) conclusions regarding the increasing complexity of character generation over the various editions of D&D.  Mr. Mearls was able to draw the conclusion that the number of steps to create a basic character, for example a fighter, has increased over the editions from a mere 6 steps in 1st Edition D&D to a whopping 18 steps in D&D 4E!

Frankly, I found the fact interesting, but hardly relevant, as my enjoyment of D&D has also increased over time by the addition of more and more class features all around – particularly for classes like the fighter, which has gone from a boring one-swing-a-round kinda guy to an exciting and dynamic defender of his party.  Fighters in previous editions used to be the class I’d throw at a D&D neophyte to get them started, because it was heavily armored and hard to kill, even if it was a little mind-numbingly boring to play.  It was one class that gave the beginner a chance to make a lot of silly mistakes, and still survive (thank you hit points and AC), but not that were likely to kill their fellow party members – unlike handing a noob a wizard or a cleric as their first character!

But what made me a bit queasy about this whole article was how Mr. Mearls chose to close his commentary on the concern over increasing complexity:

I’d imagine that a non-gamer looking at the above chart would wonder exactly why there are three times as many steps for making a 4th Edition fighter as a 1st Edition one.  As gamers, we know that more work and options can be more engaging and interesting.  However, the bigger question is this: Why did the game change this way?  Chess hasn’t become more complex over time.  Monopoly has remained fairly static year after year.  What gives?

What gives indeed?!  Mike, why are you comparing an epic fantasy role-playing game, where characters portray heroes which grow to legendary proportions, as they fight dragons and demons and even gods to save the universe, to a couple of simple BOARD GAMES like Monopoly and Chess?!  Why would you be even making that sort of comparison?!

Have I been playing chess wrong all these years? Should I be asking myself:  What did make that white queen take that black rook?  Did it offend her in the past and needed to suffer for its impertinence?  What will the pawns say when they see their monarch rampaging around the checkered field in this homicidal rage?!

And then to top it all off, the Stay Classy article closes with a poll that had my eyebrows rising so fast toward my hairline, I got a muscle cramp in my forehead:

Poll Time

Through a strange accident involving the Large Hadron Collider and a Crown Royal bag of d20s, reality is scrambled and D&D is altered forever. Your fighter loses all his or her feats, skills, powers, and non-weapon proficiencies. Yet, your standard swing with a sword/shot with a bow is effective enough that you don’t feel overshadowed by any of the other characters in the group. How do you feel about that?

How would you feel?

  • I’m not concerned about the mechanics or balance, so I don’t care.
  • As long as my character is equivalent in power to the rest of the party, I’m fine.
  • I’d miss the mechanics that made my fighter unique compared to other fighters.
  • I’d be bored doing the same thing over and over again, round after round in a fight.
  • I’d be happy that I can have an effective character without the complexity.

Excuse me, but why in the world, given how much fun I am having with the character classes in D&D 4E, would I ever want to go back to a system where any class, even a fighter, would “lose all his or her feats, skills, powers, and non-weapon proficiencies”?!  My players would probably lynch me if I walked into my next gaming session and asked them to dismantle their characters to that degree – and frankly, I wouldn’t blame them for grabbing the pitchforks and torches!

Does anyone else feel a little nervous about what Mr. Mearls is trying to justify here?

Old Math vs. New Math

Before ye takes tha'treasure, best have yer THAC0 ready, m'boy!

Before ye takes tha'treasure, best have yer THAC0 ready, m'boy!

What I think kinda blows my mind a bit about Mike Mearls whole argument is how misleading it really is when you step back and look at it.  Perhaps misleading is a strong term, but given his statements and the poll, I have to wonder what sort of alterations to my favorite game are being fomented in WotC’s Design and Development department.

Looking at the chart compiled showing the steps required to make a fighter over the editions, no one can argue the numbers for 1st and 2nd Edition.  Let’s face it guys, back in the dim and misty days of those editions, we all sat around poring over piles of source books and Dragon Magazine articles, scribbling little numbers on to our character sheets like “ye olde scribes” in a scriptorium.  Character creation had only a few steps, but filling out a character sheet with the “calculations” Mr. Mearls mentions could easily take up an hour or two.

And with 3rd Edition, 3.5 and then 4E, the number of calculations increased considerably, increasing the number of steps from 6 and 11 to 16 and 18!

But did it really?

You see, I have this distinct recollection about having access to this new fangled contraption during my 3rd edition days called a computer, and with it came access to a myriad of spreadsheets, programs, and other tools that handled all my calculations for me – and even printed out my character sheet!  One of my favorite tools was one called PCGen by a group known as CodeMonkey, and it took all the calculations out of the 3.0 and 3.5 character generation process.  And of course, WotC themselves have produced an app called Character Builder (maybe you’ve heard of it?), which does the same thing for 4E character generation – using a program which takes away all of the calculations while making up a D&D character.

So if you factor in the mystical power of the computer, the number of steps for making 3rd and 4th Edition characters falls to 10 and 9, respectively…

Hold on… doest mine eyes deceive me?!  The number of steps to make a 4th edition character is actually *gasp* LESS than a 2nd and 3rd Edition character?!

Oh sure, there is still a lot of decisions that go into making a 4E character, particularly in the arena of feats, powers, and builds.  Frankly, feats are becoming one of the biggest and most time consuming choices one has to make when building a character, because there are so darned many of the things that it creates an almost blinding case of decision –lock due to overchoice.

In fact, this week’s Letters to the Editor at Dragon Magazine underscored the issue, with two submissions complaining about the overabundance of feats for core classes, but too little support for the more recent classes or for specialized settings like Dark Sun.  Personally, I’d love to see someone at WotC make a command decision and weed out about half the general feat list, and add more class specific feats for recent PHB 3 classes to get them up to par with the core PHB classes.  And I think that better “searchability” of the feat list, perhaps grouping them by function, would tend to reduce the brain-lock that occurs when you have to pick feats for a new character.

Conclusions…?

Honestly, I don’t know what message I am to take from this recent Legends and Lore article, but I don’t like the implications for the future of 4E.  Coupled with their decision to limit the number of D&D 4E releases this year, it makes one wonder if WotC is looking for an excuse to shelve the current version of D&D in favor of some sort of re-born 1st Edition version, dumping all the character options to make things “simple” again.

No brainssss... no brainssss... complexity... baaaadddd...

No brainssss... no brainssss... complexity... baaaadddd...

Well, I played 1st Edition D&D already guys, and I don’t want to go back and play it again, even if it has a shiny new box around it.  I love 4E, and I want to see this new system for D&D evolve into something that gets better and more fun to play.  D&D 4E has a great appeal to the MMO crowd, and I have managed to get more than a few of my fellow online gamers to unplug and sit around a gaming table and have a blast playing it.

Oh, and if you wonder how I voted in the recent Legend and Lore Poll, I voted:

  • I’d miss the mechanics that made my fighter unique compared to other fighters.

But I really wanted to also check:

  • I’d be bored doing the same thing over and over again, round after round in a fight.

But hey, if there are D&D gamers out there that want to return to the “good ole days” of AD&D and 1st edition, all they have to do is go unpack their old books and start rolling characters – or go buy old copies of the old material from any number of gaming collector shops you can find online.  But what we really don’t need is the Design & Development team from Wizards of the Coast taking a time-warp trip into the past, and reanimating some old version Dungeons & Dragons like some hideous zombie and calling it the “new” 5E.  That’s one version I don’t think anyone – 4E, 3.5, or even Pathfinder fans – want to see crawling up to their doorstep.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

So what is your take on all the goings on at Wizards of the Coast this year?  Is D&D 4E days numbered?  Are D&D gamers really that unhappy with the 4E system, or is there some other influence on the change in design philosophy hinted at in recent articles?  As always, your comments and feedback are most welcome!


About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

16 Responses to “Legends and Lore: What is Mike really saying?!”

  1. froth says:

    yeah it was disgusting

  2. Warden says:

    AD&D still all that additional information like System Shock and Bend Bars to track. While I wouldn’t count them as additional steps, doesn’t seem QUITE that simple. Still, total agreement on returning to OSR – there’s already material out there. The trick is how they plan to combine old school mechanics and next generation options. Could be interesting.

  3. Lee says:

    Hi, frequent reader first time commenter; great article and I thought I’f pitch in my thoughts.

    I agree the fact that the number of steps it takes to create a character has increased is irrelevant. The way the original Players Handbook leads you through the process was simple enough, and essentials just made the whole process easier. If there are more steps but they are shorter simpler steps, who cares. There are a lot of options yes, but no matter what race or class you are playing there is little to no increase in the difficulty of the creation process. The whole point of power system is so that no matter what we choose to play everyone is on equal peggings. What’s so difficult about choosing two feats instead of one for example? If the number of options is the problem and not the mechanics themselves then its up to you to simply limit the material you use. I`d rather die a glutton than starve to death.

    Character creation in AD&D is less than an intuitive process; there are more exceptions to the rules than there are general rules. There are a lot of tables/ matrices to cross reference and the simple fact you don’t know what race or class you can play before you even roll your abilities makes the process a little bewildering. If you put the time in there is probably less to remember in AD&D that is true, but as far as just the basic goes I think that is definitely going to take a lot longer to get to grips with than it will with 4E. You can argue the formatting of the book etc are in favour of 4E, but everyone knows we have a genuinely well crafted and intuitive system on our hands. The system is inviting to DM’s to create their own material, we can lovingly craft the fluff to the same degree people always seem to associate with AD&D DM’s but we have the inherent balance built in to the system on our side. Anyone who says the game is to forgiving fudge your dice or ramp up the difficulty on the fly, it’s what the screen is there for.

    I’ve noticed this trend on the wizards site to reference AD&D as well, and I also find it slightly alarming, I don’t think 4E is going anywhere for a long time but the mixed message Wizards is sending about 4E is definitely baffling. They seem to be simultaneously agreeing and disagreeing with the 4E naysayers, very odd. Speaking of mixed messages; they seem to be actively asking for a lot more submission from the community at the moment? What is your take on this Michael?

    Cheers,
    Lee

  4. greywulf says:

    I don’t think Mike is doing anything more than making an observation; I don’t subscribe to the theory that Mike’s posts are all some kind of grand conspiracy theory that is weaning us toward the inevitable birth of Fifth Edition D&D.

    That said, I don’t agree with him either. D&D character generation is, and always has been, as complex as you want to make it. Even back with Classic D&D and early AD&D there were supplements (both from TSR and third parties) that could add no end of complexity to your character. I remember playing Lycanthropes in Karameikos, and rolling for random eye colour (once for each eye) using supplements such as the Arduin Grimoire. I would argue that 2nd Edition AD&D had the most despicable and convoluted character generation ever to come out of the TSR stables, especially if you factored in the various Kit options. Gawds help you if you wanted to play a Priest.

    At the same time, in any edition of D&D (including 4e) you could always build a quick character just by using the core book and picking something simple. Whether it’s a Classic D&D Fighter or a 4e Human Fighter, the generation time is measured in minutes rather than hours – no computer needed.

    The D&D Essentials line takes that further by limiting choice by design. Players (and GMs, who should do this as a matter of course while world-building) seem unable to limit their own choices, so it does it for you. An Essentials class give the player next to no freedom of choice after they’ve selected Race and Class (Class really being an Build of an existing core Class, but that’s semantics) and attributes. That’s a Good Thing, because it gives new players a path to follow, and experienced players know they can switch out the Powers for other things anyhow.

    In short, D&D is the same as what it always has been: whatever you make it to be.

  5. Marlett says:

    It is part of their research for 5e… “we’re bringing THAC0 back!”….

    The gods help us all……

  6. Warden says:

    And all those extra random tables were demanded by us, the players. I still miss rolling percentile dice to see if my tiefling had a tail or not.

    Let’s not forget some of the “issues” with 4e’s launch was the presumption everyone would climb on board the latest version simply because it said D&D on it. Building something to suit player demand is far better, IMO.

  7. I think the answer is in the middle somewhere. There is certainly enough grumbling going on about 4e, and issues of complexity and volume of choices are part of that grumbling. I happen to think that Wizards is concerned not only with long time players (~25 years for me) but they also want to reach new players because that is where the long term growth of the product is going to come from.

    But if the game really is too complicated for new or casual players to get started with then there is no long term growth for DnD, regardless if Hasbro owns it or not. All I think Mike Mearls is doing is asking the question, where is the balance, between minimal choices or too many. Is Essentials an attempt to strike that balance, or did it just muddy the water with yet another edition war?

  8. CJR says:

    My hunch is that another edition of D&D will show up in the next two-to-three years. But it won’t compete with 4e. I think WotC understandably wants to bring in more players. It has a loyal 4e crowd that it intends to keep, primarily by offering DDI content. But it also wants to attract new players who either want more of an ‘old school’ feel to their games or who want to give D&D a spin for the first time, but don’t want a system that’s rather complex. This is why I see WotC developing a new D&D edition, but not one that is meant to replace 4e.

  9. @Warden – it’s funny, but I recall spending alot of time filling out little boxes on the character sheet for all the secondary characteristics that your 6 base stats generated, such as the BB/LG, not to mention all thos little bonuses you had ti figure into your thieving abilities if you were a Rogue. Seems like alot of extra steps to me too.

    @Lee – thanks for reading and your first comment! You bring up some valid points about the character creation process, and I absolutely agree that AD&D’s was not all that intuitive – without another gamer to teach me the ropes, it took alot of reading through the AD&D Players Handbook to finally figure out what was going on! And with 4E tools like Character Builder or the Red Box, I can sit a complete D&D noob down and bang out a character for them in considerably less time than AD&D ever could. So again, which edition was better?

    @Greywulf – Honestly, brother, I hope that in hindsight I do turn out to be one of those crackpot conspiracy nuts rather than Cassandra predicting doom. But I can’t help but feel that Essentials and some of the other messages were getting from WotC Design & Development looks alot like a wooden horse with guys inside (forgive my stretched metaphor!). And it is funny you bring up all those old random tables! I recall how much fun we had with them, like the physical characteristics table for racial types in Greyhawk, where you rolled up skin and eye color, or the article in Dragon Magazine about rolling up a character’s birthdate and zodiac sign. So even then, when we all played a simple stripped down version of D&D, we longed for greater complexity and details, voluntarily adding tons more steps to character generation from “official” sources as well as from even apocryphal sources like White Dwarf Magazine, Role Aides supplements, etc. As you say, it is what we make it…

  10. Lee says:

    I ran a game last week for 4 first time roleplayers, I gave them the pregen characters from Phantom Bridge. They picked up all the combat rules, and what I’d argue to be one of the most complicated mechanics in the game, healing surges, in about 15- 20minutes. When they looked that their powers for example; all I needed to do was confirm some of the terminology, they pretty much guessed the mechanical nature themsleves just needed a bit more clarity. People are always drawing comparisons to the likes of WoW and I think its due to popularity of console games and the like that people are in my oppinion regardless of age able to grasp these sorts of mechanics more easily.

    D&D has penetrated pop culture so deep that most people don’t even realise it, HP for example isn’t an obscure game concept anymore, roleplaying is probably a more surreal idea nowadays and that’s something we’ve been doing since we played as a children. It’s actually one the hardest things to explain to new players really, and rather it’s just something you have to show them.

    Anyway, Essentials has clearly been labeled as a product for beginners, and I think it really does work. Releasing new rule sets or even more product lines is only going to make the game as a whole less accesible. Alsong as those core rule books are identifiaible, new source books dont complicate the game for people that are never likely to buy those products in the first place.

    So if it’s making the game acessible to newcomers that is seen to be his argument I don’t think Mike Mearls has a point. It’s things like the Enounters program they really need to be making a push with, showing people first hand how fun the game is. Hell, most people who got into the game with AD&D used to make things up as they went a long anyway.

    Now I want to make some points with regard to 4E as a business. As so much of the D&D mythos has been brought up to date with modern design sensibilties or what have you, I can’t really see what they will do to make say, Fogotten Realms stand apart next time around. If they go for a simplified rule set that encourages roleplay much of what they have produced will still be ussbale, just like we still use 3E and older source books today. Without the need to release easily intergratable player material the number of porducts they are selling just got dramatically reduced.

    4E is a good game system, and a good business model too. Involve the community more and it could be better. Afterall it us who are already buying their products, adding to the game ourselves and introducing more players to the game than the company could ever hope too.

    Sorry for another rant but something about the way Mike Mearls writes that works me up. I know there are few people who don’t care for Chris Perkins’ style as a DM, someone who is somewhat the face of 4E for Wotc, but alteast he comes across as genuinley enthusiastic about the game.

    Cheers again,
    Lee

  11. Jan van Leyden says:

    I understood Mr. Mearls’ article as a description of the height of the hurdle a player has to overcome to create a basic character. It’s the number of required decision which makes such process time consuming as well as difficult for newcomers.

    Yeah, in older editions you *could* pour over hundreds of pages of books and articles and put that extra effort into your character, but you didn’t *have to*. 4e is quite on the contrary: in order to get your character ready to play, you need to select Powers. Each Power carries in itself rules elements you have to understand.

    Making your twentieth character is easy, but your first one takes comparatively more effort. And this should be a prime concern for one as Mike Mearls who has to make a game which has to appeal to newbies as well as old fans. And in this regard 4e is, I fear, a failure.

    Jan vanLeyden

  12. @Jan – I am afraid I must disagree with your assessment about 4E’s failure. You seem to suggest that the decisions about power selection and understanding powers is an overly difficult process, but I disagree. Anyone who has played a single-player PC RPG, a console game FPS with role-playing elements, or any of the myriad MMOs on the market have been faced with the task of reading and comprehending new powers, and working them into their character play experience. Consider that there are over 5 million WoW players worldwide who have mastered dozens of powers for each class, and usually have multiple characters with multiple classes, and they remain undaunted by the plethora of powers presented to them – and many of these players are atypical gamers that you would probably not find at GenCon or Origins!

    And as Lee pointed out in his latest comment, certain concepts – like Hit Points – are thoroughly ingrained into the gaming sub-culture, regardless of type or genre, that they don’t even need to be explained anymore. Only a devout non-gamer, who somehow never played a console game growing up, would have trouble understanding the basic concepts of D&D 4E. Is this small, odd percentage of the population the group Mearls is marketing to?

    As someone who cut his gaming teeth on 1st Edition and AD&D, teaching oneself, and then later newcomers, to create characters was a daunting process because gaming was not as pervasive, and because many of the gaming concepts in AD&D were not easy to pick up. While there might have been less decisions made for a fighter, consider the massive number of concepts needed to be grasped were one to play a cleric or wizard – there were dozens of 1st level spells, each with widely varied effects, and not all of them easily comprehensible at first glance. I’d happily explain take 4E powers to a neophyte wizard any day, compared with trying to explain earlier edition spells to a “Harry Potter wannabe”.

    Frankly, I think I find Mr. Mearls arguments skewed and even a little insulting, as if trying to seek some sort of justification for 4E character generation being problematical, but without taking all the facts into consideration, such as the complexity of earlier edition spells, and the pervasiveness of gaming and gaming concepts amongst pop culture. You can prove anything with statistics, especially if you choose to ignore those statistics which don’t support your argument, and that’s what the recent Legends and Lore article feels like to me.

  13. Spiralbound says:

    I don’t believe it is an accurate comparison of system complexity across editions if one includes character generators into the evaluation. Those are useful tools to be sure, but they are technically additional player aids that are not integral to the game system itself. If perchance WoTC were to release an update to their Character Builder that walked one through creating a character under the previous editions’ rule sets, THEN an accurate comparison could be made, but until such an event transpires, an accurate system vs. system evaluation must exclude such accessorial advantages.

    Furthermore, I do not believe that character generation is really the penultimate comparative point. Rather, I propose that a cross-system comparison of the complexity in RUNNING a character, both in and out of combat would provide far more illuminating and useful results. Admittedly though, such a comparison would be decidely more involved and open to the personal interpretations of the person conducting the exercise.

    Lastly, it may be possible that the current “old school vs. new school bipolarity” we are seeing isn’t even a change in behaviour since they began developing 4E during the (retail profitability) decline of 3.5. Consider the following scenario: the release of 3rd edition did bring about a blooming of interest in D&D, however much of the profit of this growth ended up in the coffers of the many 3rd party D20 publishers. This wealth distribution was not the expectation of WoTC when they released D20, far from it.

    As the gaming revenues for AD&D fell from their all-time high, new acquirer WoTC were eager to return to the ‘good old days”, thus the release of 3rd edition, but when gamers continued to migrate towards (or worse still start with) online games like WoW instead of flocking towards 3E or 3.5E, they became panicy, especially with Hasbro breathing down their necks. So 4E is released and it delibrately includes some of the tropes of online games. Finally, as a commenter above affirms, WoW players are considering D&D again – NOW the profits will start rolling in!

    Yet it doesn’t – there is too much division among gamers along edition lines, Pathfinder continues interest in the 3E-era rules, the OSR community gains momentum, using the OGL to reverse engineer 1st and 2nd ed rules, and even gains players – all of which translates into lower than hoped for buyin for 4E. What to do? Perhaps some of the OSR crowd can be tempted, thus D&D Essentials is born with it’s box art and “system style” cloned from AD&D. The result? Still more division, some 4E players rebel against it, some love it, some OSR love it, some hate it – no there are even more separate camps within the D&D community. They even take to sniping at each other on blogs and such. Still no fat loot for WoTC/Hasbro.

    Now they are polling the current 4E players and considering even more stylistic aspects from previous editions. What is their objective? I believe they are trying to consolidate the gaming community. One group is their dream, but I doubt they seriously think it to be achievable. 2 or 3 groups of D&D players rather than the dozen or more we currently have would certainly be better for them as they would have a far more easier time of pleasing a larger more profitable group.

  14. Paul Grosse says:

    Just a nitpick, PCGen, the Open Source Project came out well before Code Monkey Publishing (CMP) did. CMP was formed as a response to our discussion with WotC on gaining official access to the supplement books (which we were distributing with PCGen at the time, believing we were covered by “Fair Use” copyright laws).

    They also took the broken eTools that Fluid made and made it a decent program. :)

  15. Networkgnome says:

    LOL
    One thing comes to mind, from a Talk around a table back in the mid 70’s by G.G. , D.A. and other’s. I was there as well. A budding 11 Y.O. DM from Birkley Mich. What i got from two hours of G.G DMing a game was his words. Simply this ” Damn the rules if they get in the way of fun.”

  16. Dave says:

    Howdy all,

    I just came back from the Gama Trade Show where store owners meet we game publishers (and distributors) to discuss the hobby game industry and see what is new. In the past WoTC had a large floor display with expensive fixtures on the show floor. This time they had a little kiosk and ran some seminars about “what’s new”. Which appears to be about four or five titles.

    Feedback we got from store owners is anticodtal, but seems to indicate that around half of them move more Pathfinder product than 4E product. For a good number of stores role play games are not an important factor in their sales. My guess is that whatever internal sales predictions Hasbro had about their D&D intellectial property has not been met by WoTC so the investment in the product line is going down and people are trying to determine what might be done to better the sale level.

    That means, of course, considering re-launching again. Doesn’t mean that this is the main plan or that it is a plan, but it is always something you have to consider. My guess is that some bright boys and girls in a back room are trying to use standard marketing forumals to identify the target audience and shape the product to core expecatations and ease of use. While there is nothing wrong with this in general, treating a game system as a widget to be molded to presumed customer taste is a forumla for a functional but otherwise lifeless game. Why would anyone bother analyzing character creation steps except to meta-design the rules before stuffing the intellectual property characteristics (fantasy world interactions in this case) into the rules ‘mold’.

    Frankly, I think that the amount of time required to make a character is a more important factor than decision steps. And even that is subjective – I probably spent more time making potential characters with Champions back in the day than actually playing the game and had plenty of fun.

    Where will the future lead for D&D ? Couldn’t tell you. But I do know that our major efforts this year will probably be with a rising IP related to a novel series that has serious publisher promotion dollars behind it rather than limping along with the current GSL. Personally I feel that game design and game writing is as much art as technical endeavour. A game has “soul” or it doesn’t. You can feel the designer’s passassion for the game’s subject or theme through the game play – or you don’t.

    I think 4E is technically brilliant, but perhaps somewhere along the way to becoming a commodity in a huge corporation’s portfolio of products the soul has leaked out and we no longer sense the passion inherent in the designers at WoTC for their work for some reason.

    Dave Wainio
    Partner, Three Sages Games

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