Qu3stion and 4nswer, Part 2

We have continued with a few more sessions of our adventure, Keep off the Shadowfell.

Our most recent sessions featured Jason, who launched many subterranean fireballs, if you catch the drift; Mark, who strives against insurmountable odds to fashion stuff as blingy as your humble reviewer gets; Chandler, who actually showed up but had to leave early, of course; Chris, whose most notable contribution was asking, in all seriousness, “What are the odds of rolling a 20?”; and Josh, who claims to be a D&D fan, and is such a shizzlin’ tubular hep cat that somehow he entirely missed the 3e bandwagon. And, if Gamer Bling recalls correctly, 2e as well.

But the sad case of Josh having walked into a closet and fumbled for a way out over the last fifteen years—or, as Gamer Bling hopes is not the case, spending the last fifteen years in Guantanamo—gives Gamer Bling the chance to discuss one of the most frequent and inane comments he has oft heard regarding the new 4e D&D, to wit:

It’s not D&D.

Yes, people actually say that, out loud, and intend to be taken seriously. If you are one of these gam3rs, please put down your pitchforks and butane lighters and read this with an open mind.

Gamer Bling says this because many people, once their minds are made up, refuse to assimilate and evaluate any new data. For example, consider this conversation that Gamer Bling had with an actual gaming professional coworker. The name of the innocent and guilty people involved have been changed to protect them.

AGPC: “Wow, that’s a great tie! I love it!”

GB: “Thanks. It’s actually a Charles Manson design.”

AGPC: “Unh. I guess I don’t like it after all.”

So, rather than accept that maybe Charles Manson [note: not actually Charles Manson] might have artistic flair in designing neckwear, and embracing this new knowledge as part of her [note: yes, actually a her] understanding of this person she loathed [note: yes she loathed said person], she instead chose to completely reevaluate her opinion of my neckwear based on what was, for her, irreconcilable data that had no actual bearing on the tie’s artistic merits. In other words, she should have said, “Wow, that’s a great tie unless it’s designed by someone I hate, in which case I shall disavow all knowledge of this statement with all the conviction of a politician!”

Gamer Bling finds the comment of “It’s not D&D” to fall along much the same lines of thought. And it’s even easier to refute.

First of all, let’s look at the cover of the PHB, shall we? What are the largest words on the cover? That’s right: Dungeons & Dragons.

Who owns the copyright? Who owns the property? That’s right, Hasbro, via Wizards of the Coast.

Who has the right to name anything they want, even, say, a new tiddlywinks game Dungeons & Dragons? That’s right, Hasbro, via Wizards of the Coast.

And if they say it’s D&D, they are right. And if you say it isn’t, you’re wrong.

Now you may say that they have ruined the game, but you gam3rs still have your 3e to play, so they haven’t ruined anything.

You can say that you don’t like the direction they took development, and that’s fine, but really it’s only fine if you’ve actually investigated it instead of relying on whiny gam3r hearsay.

And, if they made it a young girls’ collectible save-the-whales social game, then you could say that they had terrible brand management, but since that hasn’t happened, you can’t be right about that. Yet. Cross your fingers.

Okay, given that 4e is defined as being D&D, which makes the “It’s not D&D” declaration patently false, let’s take a deeper look.

Clearly what these gam3rs mean is that 4e does not live up to their internal image of what D&D should be. Are they right, or is their internal image of what D&D 4e should be just 3.75e with more rules powah?

To find out, let’s do a brand analysis: a little side-by-side comparison of 3e and 4e based on categories of what brand elements Gamer Bling deems essential to the D&D property, as well as a hodgepodge of other miscellany. And if anyone thinks this is unfair, or that Your Humble Reviewer has missed a category, leave a comment and Gamer Bling will adjust this table accordingly.

Category White Box, AD&D 3e 4e
Has Dungeons Yes Yes Yes
Has Dragons Yes Yes Yes
Generic Fantasy Setting Yes Yes Yes
Players Play Characters Yes Yes Yes
Character Classes Yes Yes Yes
Character Races Yes Yes Yes
Special Racial Abilities Yes Yes Yes
Six Attributes Yes Yes Yes
Magic Items Yes Yes Yes
The Essential Power Loop: Fight, Kill, Loot, Level Yes Yes Yes
XP per Level Across Classes Is… Uneven Even Even
Race / Class Limits Yes No No
They’re Called… Hobbit Thieves Halfling Rogues Halfling Rogues
Encounters Per Level Up Hundreds 13 10
Multiclassing Is… Complicated A way to power-game Ignored
Basic Combat Concept THAC0 High numbers are good Teamwork is good
Tracking Arrows and Other Ammo Yes Yes No, because it’s not heroic
Options a 1st-Level Melee Character Has In Combat 1 1, Except with certain feats in certain situations 2 at-will, 1 encounter, 1 daily, plus 2 basic attacks
Status Effects 2, if you count “living” and “dead” Sorry; Gamer Bling already sold his 3.5 DMG 16
Life and Death Dead at 0 HP Disabled at 0, Dying at -1, Dead at -10. Because that’s intuitive Dying at 0 HP, make saving rolls to stay alive or perhaps bounce back
Monetary Conversion Variable Decimal Decimal
Monetary Oddities Electrum, because everybody likes bastardized gold Copper… like that’s heroic Astral Diamonds
Alignments 9 9 6
Spellcasters Necessarily Carry Crossbows or Other Weapons Since Their Magic Runs Out Yes Yes No, thankfully (see this post)
Identifying Magic Items Experimentation 100 GP and one of your spell slots for the day to find out the least potent ability, because apparently a wizard can’t identify strong magic Examination for a few minutes, because that’s how knowledgeable wizards do things
Making Magic Items No By spending XP, because Sauron was a total patsy after making 20 hoopty magic rings By spending residuum and/or gold
Females Are Drawn With… Bare breasts Unrealistic clothes Nice hair

So there you have it. Draw your own conclusions.

But, as Billy Joel once sang, “It’s still rock ’n’ roll to me.”

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~ by Gamer Bling on 16 January 2010.

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