Friday, February 17, 2012

I Cast Sleep

You wanna come up to me and make fun of 4th edition D&D? Well, if your thesis is that D&D3.x was the pinnacle of role-playing games design, then I can one-up you without setting down my coffee...

I play Basic D&D, motherfimir!

Thaaat's right! Now, of course I wasn't alive when the original Red Box came out (I believe my parents were married though, so that's something), but I am alive now, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Basic D&D's third edition (that's right, it's the third Red Box since 1977) This one came out in 1983.
Now, in terms of games design, it's pretty inelegant. Say what you want about 4th edition, it's one hell of an elegant ride. It's the Mercedes-Benz of role-playing games. Everything works. Now, of course Benz' aren't for everyone (I don't mean that patronizingly) so I understand why some would prefer to play older systems. Besides, there's nothing saying that one's game has to be elegant or that even elegance has a place in role-playing games. You have to agree, though, that in terms of playability D&D4 is pretty darn neat.

Basic D&D (we're playing the third/fourth edition of it) is just that; Basic. I stand there, and I swing at a goblin. If I miss, then I wait until our initiative comes up again and I swing at it, hoping beyond hope that the goblin didn't hit me last turn. You see, most starting Hit Points (HP) levels are anywhere from 1d4-1d8 and most weapons do 1d6 damage. Our Dungeon Master (DM) was a kind soul and let us begin 1st level with max HP (so my wizard - er, "magic-user," sorry - has 4 HP instead of a random number from 1-4), he also let us roll our stats with 4d6 and drop the lowest die).

Basic D&D 4th Edition. Not a box, but a hardcover book.
Hilariously, my magic-user has only three spells (the kindly DM also let all magic-users start with "Read Magic" for free... Makes sense), which were chosen not by myself, but by the DM. So Malegaunt the chaotic magic-user has Sleep, Read Magic, and Light. For those of you that remember the old "Vancian" magic system, you'll know that I can only memorize one of those spells at a time, and once I've cast it, that's it until I go to sleep and memorize another one (or re-memorize the spell I cast).

So, in terms of a role-playing experience, it seems legit. I mean, if I was actually a magic-user in Mystara, I could imagine myself being afraid of goblin arrows, and conserving my magical energy. As a game that was borne out of Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and Fritz Lieber-type sword & sorcery, it's a great simulation. In terms of "gameyness" nothing so far can beat 4th edition.

As I might've stated in a previous post, I'm mostly done with the "edition war" bulljunk that can be overheard in the back corners of many fine hobby gaming shops, I'm merely pointing out differences in philosophy (a topic every opinionated gamer should at least have a passing knowledge in, otherwise don't talk to me) of game design that is important to keep in mind when comparing these games.

Anyway, the point is: I'm enjoying the hell out of Basic D&D, and I'm playing again this Sunday. I'm thinking I'll find a miniature and paint 'em up to stick in front of me. Basic D&D does not use miniature combat the way that D&D3.x, Pathfinder, or 4th edition does, but it'd be cool to say "See? I have a red cloak."


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