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Tizzbin’s Tirades: Dying to play Essentials

Greetings and salutations, and welcome to the first installment of Tizzbin’s Tirades. I know what you’re thinking, “who is this Tizzbin chap and why should I care about his opinion?” Well, first and foremost, don’t use the word ‘chap’ – it’s beneath both of us. Secondly, I’m a fellow gamer, and while I don’t have as elaborate a history as some, there are some gamers out there, of all walks, giving out their two cents who have far LESS experience than me.  And let’s be honest here: their opinions are far less important.

I learned 2nd Edition D&D about three weeks before the GenCon where 3rd Edition was released, and quite honestly, I’m glad we made the switch at the time.  I was originally intimidated and knew nothing of Role-Playing Games, except what growing up with my Nintendo playing Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior over many a summer vacation taught me.  And after getting a single night’s crash course in THAC0 and hit locations, well, I didn’t feel any bit better.  Lucky for me, when folks in my area made the switch to 3rd Edition, we were all somewhat on level ground. They were breaking habits that I had never created, so in some ways, the transition was far less embarrassing.

Since that time, I’ve always been in at least one campaign and sometimes two (like now!), and I’d truly say that for the past 13 years, D&D has played a large part in my social life. I’m also a PC gamer, a photographer and would-be artist, computer tech, and I multitask with the efficiency of a ferret with ADHD – which is to say, not well.

If this was our first date and you asked me what my perfect fantasy world would be, my answer would be quite simple: My fantasy world would have to be a whirling pool of chaos and comedy, laced with intrigue and irony. And also, if this were our first date, I’d be ordering the Lobster and leaving you with the bill, so let’s not make this any more awkward than it needs to be.

So, now it comes to it and we have to bring up the “tirade of the day”, or more aptly, of the week…

Anyways, I had the opportunity to play a game of D&D 4E Essentials, which our dearest Editor-in-chief may have mentioned in a previous article. Now first, it’s worthy of note that I was at GenCon as merely a camera-slinging photographer, keeping my head down and eyes focused on my shoes, knowing full and well my place in the scheme of things.  However, much as when young Arthur was given his chance to pull the sword from the stone, it was bestowed upon me a take a place at the “round table” with the likes of representatives from other blog sites and even Wizards of the Coast.  All I could think to myself is “This is my shot at the big time, baby – don’t blow it! Don’t make a fool of yourself!”

And three failed death saves later, ask me how I’m feelin’…

So, with regards to Essentials, all I knew going into the session was what I read online.  I wasn’t out there doing much research, so all I caught from the web was a face-full of venom from the frothing fan boys who were up on the rooftops crying out for vengeance against WotC for bringing out a new ‘version’.  So fittingly, as our Characters stepped blindly into a great dark hall littered with bones and confusion, so too did the Players step blind and naked into their first Essentials combat.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, considering the 4E system is still the same as it ever was, with some subtle differences when it comes to the Class abilities and powers.  As one of two Rogue (the Essentials Thief) Characters in the party, I had two very basic At-Wills, which both had movement effect abilities! Immediately, I thought to myself, “I am Andur, destroyer of worlds with my amazing ability to shift 2 squares and possibly knock something prone… at will!  Look upon my Halfling visage and tremble!”

And then I died.

No wait, that didn’t happen yet… I’m fast forwarding, what… six rounds?  Anyway…

To honest here, I don’t think that I can really judge the new builds entirely based on the mix of characters we were given: we had two Rogue (Thief) Characters played by myself and Katie from WotC; a Wizard (Mage) controlled ably by Ed from Robot Viking; a Cleric (Battlepriest) helmed by Mike from… well here; and a Fighter (Slayer) with “-5 Hammers of Terrible Range-Attack Luck”, played by Elizabeth from Gaming Angels.  I know that we played the “I’m not the defender” game pretty heavily in the first round until our Battlepriest, in a brave and daring (if not suicidal) display of spirit, charged forward calling for the Fighter to be hot at his heels!  Trouble is, when the Slayer’s initiative is a 5, and the Battlepriest is reduced to 2 HPs at around the 10 initiative mark, well, something in the air started smelling like failure. But really, I don’t think a discussion of smells in the air is appropriate for gaming convention talk. (You were all thinking it!)

Regardless, each and every one of our Characters took turns enjoying dirt-naps (and sometimes FLAMING dirt-naps if we failed our saves against the pyro-skeleton), but in the end, we managed to win the combat. Well, some of us did anyways…

Andur the Thief's Best Pose

Andur the Thief's Best Pose

So, here’s the thing:  If you passionately hate 4E, then Essentials probably isn’t going to be an olive branch to guide you back.  If you’re paranoid that Essentials is still going to be 4.5 despite what WotC and various bloggers from fan-sites who have had a chance to play it say, well, then nothing posted here is going to change your mind.

It’s like a religious fanatic telling you that the flood is coming tomorrow, but the weather reporter says “clear skies”.  If you believe that “WotC is the devil and can’t be trusted”, well, I don’t know why you’d still care about the “edition wars” at this point. Unless it’s in a nostalgic-ex-girlfriend-kind-of-way, where you put pictures of her on a chair across the table from you, and hold pleasant and attentive conversations about the things that SHE wants to talk about, like you didn’t do back when you had her. But then, like every night, it comes to the inevitable end where you’re weeping into your pillow and questioning what your best friend had that YOU didn’t have.  Damn you 3.5, you cheating wh… uh, where was I?

Riiiight.  So, from my experiences, I think there are some folks who will get a lot of out Essentials. The folks that are just starting to play because Wil Wheaton thinks it’s cool or because they post pictures of it on Penny Arcade. That’s the target market, I think.  People like me will keep trucking as we are, and when someone down the road tries to get their spouse into a game so that they don’t get “wife agro”, well then, we’ll roll her up an Essentials Character.

[I should also add here that I’m not sexist - I just assume that women who are gamers are smart enough to find men who are gamers.  On the other hand, men who are gamers are sometimes desperate, and will literally gravitate towards boobs -regardless of the hobbies attached to them.]

But however you slice it, D&D is what we make of it as Players.  And if the people you play with are giving 100%, then I can guarantee you will have a good time, regardless of rules or revisions.  Personally, I like to imagine that there is a circle of Hell for the more abrasive gamers out there who ruin the joy of D&D for everyone else… but that’s another tirade, and will be told another time.

Until then…

[Editor's Note & Disclaimer: Behind 'this Tizzbin chap' is my good friend and graphic artist, who created the logo and other art for the Neuroglyph Games website and products. Most, if not all, of the awesome pics used in the GenCon 2010 blogs were snapped by him, and he wanted a chance to share his own experiences from the convention. The opinions expressed in his blog are not necessarily those of Neuroglyph Games - but Neuroglyph is not necessarily disagreeing with them either.]

About The Author

Tizzbin Fizzlewitz
When not blasting foes with Chaos Bolts and snarky repartee, Tizzbin enjoys roleplaying his favorite Character: a Human Graphic Designer/Computer Technician Hybrid named "Robert". Tizzbin often sends "Robert" questing through crowded coffee houses, armed only with a drawing pad of verve and +5 supremely viscous pencils, and frequently dominating baristas for free mugs of brew.


One Response to “Tizzbin’s Tirades: Dying to play Essentials

  1. Soma_Cruz says:

    Only one word: MARVELOUS post!!! ^^
    I agree with the opinion of Tizzbin, expecially the last part of the post.
    I hope there’ll be more “tirades” in the future! ;D

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