The mixed blessings of nostalgia.

I’ve been thinking more about D&D4 since playing in the demo. Part of it inspired by posts by rob_donoghue and gloomforge. Some of it because I got to play another one-shot of D&D4 this week. Thoughts behind the cut.


I felt a little dumb about my concerns about the over-emphasis on combat in D&D4 after gloomforge highlighed in a post “If you WANT it to play like a board game, either edition is going to feel like one; ‘roleplaying’ is what you make of it.” Which, in addition to being a likely inadvertant but amusing jab at the “system matters” crowd, reminded me that d20 3.X was almost entirely geared towards combat. I did a lot of off-beat stuff with D&D 3.X and the earlier iterations of Star Wars, because I’m the sort of jackass that can’t seem to play a “straight” version of any game for long. I did more than a few games that had nothing to do with dungeon crawls, combat or amassing treasure.

rob_donoghue‘s posts about his experience playing the game has also highlighted some stuff that sounds like strength, especially the fact that they seem to focus the power level on the sweet spot of D&D, where you are competent but not grossly absurd. His and gloomforge‘s commentary on skill challenges makes me feel a bit more interested in that mechanic.

That said, I still throw up a little in my mouth every time someone starts talking about strikers and controllers. They can just go on the truck with Leary, Scorsese and “Actor Stance.”

I had a lot of fun playing in tatterdamelion‘s one-shot this last Tuesday. In addition to being pleased to find that he’s just as good of a GM as I thought he’d be, I found that the experience really resonated with memories of playing AD&D 2e in high school 15+ years ago. (Well, with less teenage boy humor and alpha male posturing. I’m also delighted that our snacking revolved around Wasa crispbread, fruit preserves and havarti, rather than fruit chews and Nutter Butters.) It really emphasized a more classic D&D feel, in both the good and the bad. I mean, we really felt geared up to go in and crawl through some dungeons and bring some hurt to some hobgoblins. On the other hand, our roles felt… narrow. Which I imagine will be remedied in part by a host of sourcebooks, once they roll out druids, barbarians and bards down the road.

I think part of what made the options seem flat was a bit of nostalgia about games from 3.5. tatterdamelion had this really interesting game set in a town that surrounded a necromancer academy. It’s a game that 4e wouldn’t be ready to accomodate because, for starters, there aren’t necromancers. At least not PC necromancers. I imagine they’ll come out in some variation of the Book of Vile Darkness or the like.

While I had fun, and I’m generally inclined to try playing D&D 4 a bit more, it also made me hankering for some 3.X as well. I think my hope for 4e was that it would be more like Star Wars Saga Edition: A cleaned up variation of 3.X, retaining the good parts and fixing the rough edges. Instead it feels like a very different beast. It’s a fun beast, but it’s not what I was looking for.

Ultimately I think I’ll need to buy a copy of the book and have a serious read through. I flipped through it some on Tuesday, but that’s not going to be enough to get a real feel for options. However, the remembrance of playing 2e in high school made me think: I wonder if kits could see new life in 3e. I might suddenly have a new use for all those “Complete [Splat] Handbooks” on my shelf. Huzzah!

My hankering for 3.X also withered a bit once I started to think again about what I didn’t like. I’m just not big on bookkeeping. I might just be building it up too much in my head, though, so I might still give it another whirl in the near future. On the other hand, I may have found a reasonable substitute, though. In looking at some of the Deadlands: Reloaded stuff, I could readily see how it’s kinda primed to be an alternate approach to d20 3.X. Sorely tempting, I say. Sorely tempting, indeed.

4 thoughts on “The mixed blessings of nostalgia.

  1. nuadha_prime

    Deadlands reloaded uses the Savage Worlds system, which is what I have always said is basically D&D as I always wished it could be. It has minimal bookkeeping and no classes. I can’t recommend Savage Worlds enough.

  2. admin Post author

    Yes, sorry! I failed to note that it was Savage Worlds that seemed to be a good D&D substitute. It provides just what you need to recreate the big classes, though. I think all that would be left is to adapt races like gnomes over.

  3. nuadha_prime

    A lot of work translating D&D to SW has been done by SW fans. Check out savageheroes.com. There is also some really good work on Savage Star Wars.

    I love pimpin’ SW.

  4. admin Post author

    *pokes through savageheroes.com*

    Hrm. Some of the stuff there looks really good, especially the Star Wars and Exalted conversions. I’m a little less enthused by the D&D conversion, but I think most of it is just that they are looking to model AD&D 1e very closely. I think straight SW looks like it could handle 3.X pretty readily with little modification… Huh, a bit of googling turns up someone’s extensive conversions of 3.X Forgotten Realms. Hm… Interesting.

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