Tuesday, August 31, 2010

D&D 4E - The Tabletop Video Game?

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been busy. Work, sketching, playing games, going out and to be honest, the drive just hasn't really been there as of late to blog.

What I do want to talk about is, the shift of my view on D&D 4E. I started my venture into tabletop RPGs with 4E. From what I saw skimming through books and hearing about in the previous editions - mostly 3.5 and Pathfinder references - the aspect that I didn't like were the blandness of encounters for non magic users as 90% of the time, it seemed like their only option was "I swing at him with my sword, axe, etc". This is the double edged sword. While mechanically it's boring, the responsibility of keeping one's imagination going is left to the DM and player.

I have never played an MMORPG before. My incline to 4E probably comes from the tabletop wargaming side of things. Now while I do enjoy roleplaying, I realize that the majority of the time, my experience with 4e is that of a narative encounter. And that's cool. 4E does combat really really well. Unfortunately, when I look at the mechanics that they tried to sum up for other things like skill challenges, it generally seems very very clumsy. Once again, it comes down to the story telling abilities of those at the table and imagination along with our own little house rulings in hopes to veer off from what seems sluggish to us game mechanics.

So with that being said, I've been drawing more and more inspiration from video games for Paper Legends. I intend to make it feel like a game. My players know this and have been gung ho about it. I've implemented a power meter that gets racked up as players dish out and take damage. Hand out RP bonus power ups in the form of coins and sometimes crazy stuff happens that doesn't quite make sense but we can do it because it's a GAME. While it can be a cop out for reasoning, it definitely gets the imagination flowing.

So far it's been great and with this particular group it works. All but one of them have played or are playing MMORPG's, tabletop wargames and/or Magic: The Gathering. We come together to collectively play out a story of Die Hard in a fantasy-ish setting.

I'm writing this post because awhile back I felt a bit frustrated with trying to get more story elements into our games and trying to coax a bit more of it out of my players. I got over this after talking with one of my players while going to McDonald's when I realize that I should be playing 4E to its strength and accept that most of our players were not natural actors or storytellers. I'm hoping to play to their quirks and if I put the right hooks out there, maybe they'll pressure me to come up with more plot twists.

I do want heavier roleplaying opportunities to come up and I'll let that grow on its own or I'll search for it in other systems like Mouse Guard or Cartoon Action Hour.


  1. I agree in that sometimes you have to play to your players' strengths. Mouse Guard looks pretty neat!

  2. Picked up Mouse Guard. Looks good so far.