It was one of my Gaming Resolutions for 2010 and I am getting to it with just a couple days to spare, but finally it is done. I am talking about playing Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, which I finally got to do last night thanks to Wizards’ D&D Encounters program.
I went down to one of our local game store, Sunshine Adventure Gaming, where I knew the Encounters program was running. There was only one table of Encounters running and they had space for this new player. I used a pre-generated character one of the guys had, a level 2 Dragonborn Cleric named Suntor Robe. I’ve never played a cleric and of the new 4e races, the Dragonborn always called my attention, so it was certainly a night of firsts all around. Dice in hand, Coke at my side, we set off to play the storyarc of The Keep on the Borderlands.
There were three players in addition to myself, including a father and his 7-year-old son; it was just awesome seeing this kid playing alongside the grown-ups and getting right into the game with the aid of his father. Makes me very happy and hopeful for the future of our hobby. The party consisted of my cleric, a knight, a rogue and a ranger; not a bad mix at all. During tonight’s encounter we explored a cave behind a waterfall, battled some pesky little kobolds, investigated what seemed to be some sort of temple, then faced off against more kobolds alongside another dragonborn and a wyrmling dragon. After the second fight, we stopped for the night, the whole thing taking up about 2 1/2 hours, give or take.
So, what did I think of it?
I have to say, I liked it. D&D 4e definitely feels different than all the previous editions I have played, especially after 3.5 to which I grew very accustomed, but I didn’t feel it un-D&D-ish at any time. It has its fair share of fiddly bits still, though, and those took me a bit to get used to. Playing a cleric, my first instinct when it was my turn to act during combat was to go searching for my list of spells to see what I could do, only to run into the powers list my character sheet included. That was the biggest edition shock I had; the powers just did not feel like spells to me, not since everyone else has the same kinds of powers (ok, not the same, but basically). It was the effects my powers had that made it feel a bit more like the spells of old, but I simply had to suspend my disbelief and roll along with it and enjoy it for what it was. Once I got a chance to use a couple of powers that had some extra side effects, I could see how those would be more spell-like. Nothing else during the game stood out as being out of the ordinary; different, yes, but essentially the same idea behind the D&D I’ve been playing for almost 25 years.
Would I play it again? Yeah, sure. In fact, I may go back next Wednesday to play one more encounter. Ultimately it was a fun couple of hours of rolling dice and killing monsters. and I even got a chance to roleplay a little bit, which in a session this short with two combat encounters was a welcomed surprise.
Would I play it long-term? That, I don’t know. The game has a certain amount of complexity that is belied by its veneer of organization (the character sheet is very well laid out and explained, the powers all come in cards, etc) that I’m not sure I’m up for, especially after having played Dragon Age twice in the last week and that being such a simple and intuitive system to use. I wouldn’t be opposed to playing more, though, so that’s pretty cool, I think.
I’m glad I had a chance to play D&D 4e finally, and hey, I got to meet more local gamers, and that’s what it’s all about in the end. Thanks to Chris, Joel & Joey, and Maria for a cool night of D&D.