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June 25, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Using OmniFocus to manage a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. Nerds. Dungeons and Dragons. Obsessive overuse of Mac software.
posted by Artw (87 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Screenshots or it didn't happen.
posted by sveskemus at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


So ... is D&D 4th edition any good? How was that news not posted to the blue.
posted by chunking express at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2008


FOURTH EDITION?!? *froths*
posted by Plutor at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2008


"OmniFocus" is a joke name, right? I mean, it has to be satirical. Omni. Focus. It makes no sense, besides sounding like something you'd buy out of the back of a magazine.
posted by DU at 11:06 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sucks. It's great. I streamlines and improves 3rd edition. It ruins the game and loses it's iconic flavor.

Continue and repeat over and over again and you'll get a good idea of how most "how is fourth edition?" conversations seem to go. Personally I was all prepared to not care about its existence and was certain it would be crap but managed to be pleasantly surprised. For some styles of games it will work great, and overall I think it's neat.

Now off to read the FPP.

Plus, it's not like my first edition books suddenly stopped working when they released it.
posted by Stunt at 11:07 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think its pretty good. Its very simple quick and to the point. It allows you to be a hero much earlier so theirs a fun and a sense of awe to the gameplay I like.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2008


chunking, this link is about as close as we got.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2008


As totally nerdy as whatever they are doing sounds, I can't totally wrap my head around it since I've never seen this bit of software. I got the general idea though. Just enough of one to wish I had an iphone and a mac so that I could be that nerdy too.

Also, I think that was the first time I've ever wished I had an iphone. I don't know what this feeling is, but I'm reasonably certain I don't like it.
posted by Stunt at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2008


4th edition is a good game, however it is not really a 4th edition of D&D, it is rather a 1st edition of a completely new game. Buyer beware.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:15 AM on June 25, 2008


Well, from the penny arcade podcast, it definitely sounds more fun for a magic users . If you're a mage, you aren't limited to lobbing a piddly 2-3 spells a day at 1st level (you basically get unlimited uses of a weak magic missile; weak, because unlike the old one, you have to roll to hit with it although I think it does more starting damage than the old one did) and if you're a cleric you get to smack things and heal with the same action.
posted by juv3nal at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2008


I haven't played D&D in a bajillion years, but every time I read one of these posts I totally want to buy new books and force my friends to play.
posted by chunking express at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2008


There's this from way back.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2008


I've read most of the Player's Handbook (which now seems to be the "main" book, instead of the DM's guide).

I"m of the opinion that it does an unspeakable violence to the game. Mind, lately I've been reading an awful lot of "grognard" forums, in which old D&D guys hang out, people who remember the version before 1st edition AD&D.

The first versions of D&D, now, really didn't explain the game that well. You couldn't actually PLAY D&D unless you had someone show you, or you made up some rules yourself to fill in the blanks. It's amazing how many people now say that was a strength of the game, and damned if I'm not slowly coming to agree with them.

But that's not really why 4E sucks. It sucks partly because it edges much further away than 3E from the iconic, pulp fantasy archetypes, the sense that the game is based off of literature, and embraces the four-role MMORPG character archetypes, you know, tank-defender-controller-area effect. The system that makes ALL MMORPGS INTO THE SAME DAMN GAME. This has been transferred into Dungeons & Dragons, the system that over two decades ago created the very idea of fantasy gaming. A dangerously clueless person was responsible for that decision.

The spell system? Utterly different. No more memorization. Instead spellcasters pick new abilities as they gain levels from a list. The abilities are rated by how often they can be used, as in, at will, once per encounter, once per adventure. And I hope you like that system, because all the other classes use it too! For divine characters they're called "prayers" and for fighting guys they're "exploits," which falls into the same abyss of lexical vagueness as "feats," which are still in the game.

Now mind, taken on its own, 4E is not a bad game. But it is a bad version of Dungeons & Dragons. Nearly the only things remaining that connect the game to its roots is levels, experience points, and the six attributes. The Player's Handbook has a "Dedicated to Gary Gygax" line on one of its first pages. I can't help but think this is just to appease his unquiet, furious shade, so he doesn't come haunt them in the Wizards of the Coasts building, making everyone nervous by loudly rattling 20-sided dice in their attic.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 AM on June 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


because all the other classes use it too!

Which is IMHO the best feature of the new game. (Though I do more or less agree that it is a new game, not really a new version of D&D.) I only ever enjoyed playing magic users before, because they were the only ones who got to do something new and interesting when they gained new levels; in 4/e everybody gets the option to do something more interesting than "I hit him with my sword! Again!"
posted by ook at 11:56 AM on June 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I spent the weekend building a web app to make it easier to play our 4/e campaign on LiveJournal. Which is some sort of nerd trifecta. I'm not sure if it's nerdier than this OmniFocus thing, but it's gotta be close.

Coming soon to a Projects link near you
posted by ook at 12:01 PM on June 25, 2008


Flipped through the core books at a local Barnes & Noble. Meh. It really is a new game, and that game is called "Sorta World of Warcraft."

Why anyone would play 4E (and pay the monthly fee for the on-line content) rather than just play an actual computer MMORPG is beyond me.
posted by bardic at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2008


The Player's Handbook may be rather dry reading (the "lexical vagueness" that JHarris refers to), but it serves an important purpose: it separates the core mechanics of the game, specifically the skill check and combat systems, from any setting-specific material. A "ranger" may be defined as a Martial Striker, but in your campaign this "ranger" may actually less like Aragorn and more like Iron Monkey. This is something that may be difficult for long-time players to grasp, since the "iconic" classes (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue) may be interpreted in new ways. It's very easy, for example, to create a "Jedi Knight" character based on a sword-wielding Wizard, a class-weapon combination that would have been heretical in the original D&D.

4E does not really address the role-playing aspect of the game at all. I expect that this is deliberate, since the "free form" aspect of role-playing is what the players bring to the game. By maintaining a narrow focus on specific systems in the core books, I think 4E does a good job of providing the basics and then getting out of the players' way.
posted by SPrintF at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


What is NRD anyway?
posted by Mister_A at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2008


I can only assume that people who like 3rd Edition more than 4th only ever played spellcasters; while the mage and cleric have been nerfed, every other class is now much, much more interesting and powerful. The age of "I swing my sword. I swing my sword. I swing my sword." is gone, and it's decades later than it should have been.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


The most frequent complaint that I hear is that 4E lost DnD's flavor. For me this doesn't matter because I've never used the default DnD flavor, we've always played in a completely DM fabricated world, in fact that was what made being a DM so cool! Worldcrafting and such.

The second most frequent complaint is about how 4E's too much like an MMORPG. I haven't played many MMORPGs but even I can tell you it is certainly the case that 4E was influenced by MMORPGs. I dislike the roles they've grouped classes into, I think it takes away from the creativity that went into crafting a character. MMORPG's influence was not neccesarily all a bad thing though, 4E combat rocks! People are moving all over the place all the time, even on other people's turns. Tactics actually matter now and that's undeniably good.

I like 4E, it's a step in the right direction, even if it's a step away from the classic formula. Also remember that 1E, 2E, and 3E all still exist and can still be played regardless (a group of friends of mine are still involved in a 2E game that started back in the 90s).
posted by symbollocks at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2008


Strangely, I have spent the past weeks getting reacquainted with Basic (Red Box) D&D along with some gamer friends, and we all enjoy how liberating and open-ended it is.
posted by Shepherd at 12:29 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mister_A: There are six main attributes in D&D, Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS) and Charisma (CHR). We won't get into Unearthed Arcana and Comeliness (COM). Values could be from 3-18, based on the sum of three six-sided dice. Values of 19+ were rare, but usually a DM Option. Anyway, in this context, "NRD" is "Nerd[iness]".
posted by phong3d at 12:33 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Strangely, I have spent the past weeks getting reacquainted with Basic (Red Box) D&D along with some gamer friends, and we all enjoy how liberating and open-ended it is.

Sure, if by "liberating" you mean "incomplete". Not everyone enjoys having to make up most of the rules as we go.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 PM on June 25, 2008


(inevitable "What is good D&D" battle aside, which I'm sure will repeat the same talking points on Enworld, rpg.net or the WOTC forums...)

Anyone know any good Mac friendly map programs I could use to play online with friends (who are scattered up and down the West Coast)?
posted by yeloson at 1:07 PM on June 25, 2008


I've found I quite like the 4th Edition, especially since I haven't played since 1991. It also helped bring my wife into the RPG fold; now she's really gotten into it, double-checking rules and making sure we haven't been screwing up our saving throws. Some will hate the new system for being to much like an MMO; fine, don't play. But don't dismiss it as "shit" if you haven't been playing with a group at a table.

As for the OmniFocus stuff, it looks neat. I doubt I can use it, but still.
posted by grubi at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2008


I only ever enjoyed playing magic users before, because they were the only ones who got to do something new and interesting when they gained new levels; in 4/e everybody gets the option to do something more interesting than "I hit him with my sword! Again!"

Ah, that depends on what you mean by "something more interesting."

What you're talking about is what's called, by RPG enthusiasts, crunch. That is, game mechanics. You search for traps: roll the dice! You swing to hit, that's a d20. Hm, to jump across that chasm is difficulty class 15, do you want to "take 10?"

Throughout the history of D&D, the trend has been towards more crunch. In the original game, there wasn't even a thief class! Players found, and disarmed, traps solely through interacting in what I call "narrative space," listening to the referee's description of the surroundings then saying what their character did to discover its secrets. Kind of like an Infocom adventure, but with a living person, with all the invention and improvisation and vocabulary that implies, taking the place of the parser.

In a game like that, everyone has something interesting to do. It's as important being a person in the room as being a Fighting Man, a Cleric or a Magic User. As the game has progressed towards having a mechanic for everything, as it has become crunchier, class powers have become more and more the focus of the game, until we reach the point where all classes look like wizards, because wizards can "do the most." To that I say, feh.

symbollocks: You should try a real OD&D campaign some time. The proper flavor of that version of D&D is kick-ass pulp fantasy, stuff like in Conan stories. That's why the 1st edition AD&D DM's guide has an entire appendix devoted to literary inspirations. The day D&D abandoned that and started moving towards being Generic Fantasy Role-Playing Game was the day that hell bubbled up and covered the earth.

Oh, SPrintF, when I said "lexical vagueness," I specifically meant regarding the words "exploits" and "feats." Those words refer to individual acts, not something a character can always do, which are more properly termed "skills." This might seem like a minor thing, but this kind of slightly-off terminology is everywhere in D&D Fourth "Unleash the gift of battle!" Edition.
posted by JHarris at 2:12 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The proper flavor of that version of D&D is kick-ass pulp fantasy, stuff like in Conan stories.

And the crapulent, idiotic shallowness of the swords and sorcery genre is why D&D slowly moved away from being Conan Simulator 1.0 to Generic Fantasy World. Sure, it's fun sometimes, but you can only kill Thulsa Doom so many times until you want more.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:16 PM on June 25, 2008


Crom!
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with 4th ed is that it reads, to me, like about halfway between warhammer fantasy and MotG. Both fine games, sure - but not DnD.

Sigh. I read it, and there was just nothing to get a grip on. It was all so ... boring. Except where it was irritating (c'mon, a square grid? this has been fixed for DECADES in other systems, ffs).

And races. Why the heck include tieflings but not aasamir? Seriously, wtf.

At least all my supplement books are cheap right now ...
posted by ysabet at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2008


“Screw you Zelazny! NINE princes in Amber? That’s just grind!”
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


And races. Why the heck include tieflings but not aasamir? Seriously, wtf.

According to the Races and Classes preview book, they felt that the aasamir weren't as interesting as the tieflings. Combine this with the attitude of "fuck meaningless symmetry" from Worlds and Monsters and I'd say you get a pretty good picture of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2008


...embraces the four-role MMORPG character archetypes, you know, tank-defender-controller-area effect. The system that makes ALL MMORPGS INTO THE SAME DAMN GAME.

I thought this too at first, but I've changed my mind.

Originally, the whole categorization of character classes was more of a tactic invented by players as a logical reaction to the game design, than it was the game design itself.

I blame the "aggro" system of creatures that exist only to die, easily distracted by the big guy in armor making rude gestures at them rather than focusing on effective tactics or their own survival.

Then another generation of MMOs came along and catered to that style of play, which cemented it as a standard tactic... though as a player, you could usually still get outside it in many different ways. All-stealth parties, all-nuker parties, drain tanks, etc.


D&D has always been about the classic fighter/cleric/thief/wizard party. It still is, it's just couched in more generic terms.

And actually, once you read beyond the "template" fluff, many classes in 4e are more versatile than they seem to suggest. A party with two clerics and two warlocks could easily cover all the bases.

What I like about 4e is there's always something for every character to do. Your cleric -- unlike in a sterotypical MMORPG party -- is going to be doing melee and/or ranged attacks and/or AOE nukes and debuffs while healing. Your rogue isn't going to go watch TV while the rest of you fight undead stuff. Your wizard isn't going to run out of spells and start plinking listlessly with his stupid little crossbow. Your fighter isn't going to do the exact same thing every single round of combat.
posted by Foosnark at 3:00 PM on June 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I played 4th edition for the first time last weekend and I thought it was a lot of fun. It seemed like battles went by much faster than in 3rd edition, and it was great to heal ourselves effortlessly after battles instead of begging the cleric for one more Cure Light Wounds spell.

I think the evolution of D&D over the years has been a good one, in general. When I look at my 1st edition AD&D books, there is so much stuff that seems crazy and arbitrary (the rules for bards stand out in particular). Of course, there are arbitrary rules in any game, either to balance things or clear up strange situations, but the rules in 1st edition were just strange for no particular reason.

Now, about the article: printing out a sheet of powers for my character was easy enough. I don't need a professional time management system telling me when I can cast Burning Hands.
posted by demiurge at 3:55 PM on June 25, 2008


I got excited 6 months ago and started playing 3.5 after not playing for almost 20 years. We switched to 4E, and while the books read like WoW, it doesn't play like WoW at all. If anything the 3.5 was more MMPORG (ie. very boring for fighters). In 4E, every round means characters are moving around, using the scenery for cover and interacting with the environment (unlike anything I've experienced in WoW) and every level there are ways to tweak, refine and specialize your character. It's way faster, and more fun to play. 3.5 would bog down into something that resembled doing taxes, never in 4E.

I think the mechanics are sound, fun to play, and easier to arbitrate, but they also leave a lot of room for imagination. For our group it's totally unWoW like, but most of that isn't apparent when you flip through it at the bookstore.

And as for "it's not D&D!" or "it's not what Gary wanted", screw that. It's a game you play with your friends, you aren't protecting the magical tome of a long dead elven king. Have fun, play whatever makes you happy.

OP: As my group's DM, and a Omnifocus user, I'm totally stoked about this. I'm going to be cooking up some OmniFocus templates before our Sunday game. It'll make my job even easier than before. Love this post, thanks ArtW
posted by gofargogo at 4:59 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've looked over 4th edition a bit, and while it seems mechanically tight, and has some interesting rules, it overall fails to be a worthy successor of (A)D&D. This is not to mean it might not be a good game outside of it's legacy issues. But the designers seemed hell-bent on fixing the not broken and removing anything that required any thought by the players or DM. While some players Pope Guilty might balk at playing a game where you can do things based on the shared imagination of the players instead of only what the rules permit you, many players do not, and don't need a rules set polished to a chrome-like sheen, with any hint of strangess removed.

Ever since I discoverd that, for example, the Wish spell is being removed, and they're altering Polymorph again, and removing the Apparatus of Kwalish, I relaized that 4th edition is not for me, and, to be uncharitable to certain players here who seem hell-bent on being pissy towards other roleplayers, Pope Guilty it seems more aimed at people who need to be told how to play, can't handle using their imaginations, and need to be spoon-fed victory in order to have a good time.

More seriously, the move towards leveling being the end-all, be-all for PC power, the very specific rules on awarding treasure, magic, and the "proper" amount of encounters neccessary to level, as well as the previously stated removal of things that might make the GM actually have to make a ruling or that don't fit into the 'magic items as base enablers,' concept, not things that can be truly interesting. It seems to have a pretty robust set of mechanics, (so far, 3e seemed to be pretty robust as well early on,) but it seems more like "Ogre Battle-the RPG!" Which is cool, I suppose, but not what I want from D&D.

Shepard, I just recieved a copy of the Red Box in the mail myself, after enjoying my copy of the Rules Cyclopedia (used it long ago, now having fun reading it again,) and I'm amazed at what an excellent introduction it is to roleplaying, as well as being very complete for it's scope. I'm encouraging my girlfriend to run a game, and this set might do the trick.
posted by Snyder at 5:32 PM on June 25, 2008


All I know is I just found out 90 seconds ago that there are no druids in 4E. This is a travesty.

My character is a druid in our 3.5 campaign and I love it (first time gamer). The animal companion thing is more trouble than it's worth, but the druid has saved our group's collective ass so many times by summoning a pack of dire wolves or bears or whatever. We're a physically under-powered group (cleric, wizard/cleric, druid, and rogue/fighter) and the druid is *key*.

And one time our group of 4 got across a river by having 2 jump into a bag of holding held by the 3rd, who rode on the back of druid-turned-crocodile. It was hilarious and awesome.

posted by misskaz at 5:32 PM on June 25, 2008


And the crapulent, idiotic shallowness of the swords and sorcery genre is why D&D slowly moved away from being Conan Simulator 1.0 to Generic Fantasy World.

There's a LOT more to pulp fantasy than Conan, as that appendix I mention makes plain. I didn't give more examples because...

Hell. There is no getting around it. Okay, I didn't want to have to drag it off the shelf, but from, Appendix N, "Inspirational and Educational Reading":

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar, Mars and Venus series. (The OD&D books contains a monster generation table that includes Basoomian/Martian creatures.)
Lord Dunsany. Hell, yes!
H. P. Lovecraft.
Fritz Leiber. Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser seems to be more of an influence on early D&D than Tolkien. (Really, the only Tolkienian aspects of D&D are a few monsters and the demihumans.)
Jack Vance. (Where the magic system came from.)
Phillip Farmer. "World of Tiers"
Not my cup of tea, but Roger Zelazny and the Amber books.
Michael Moorcock & the Elric series. (The traditional Lawful/Chaotic Alignment axis... which I might add has been severely gutted with 4E's five-level system.)

There's a lot more too, but I've tried to limit it to those of which I have at least a slight knowledge. Each of these writers could serve as inspiration for an entire campaign world -- Conan included. "Killing Thulsa Doom" indeed, why I oughtta....

If a game wants to be good literary fantasy instead of pulp, sure, I can see that too. What I can't understand is the D&D adventure that wants to be like "modern" fantasy, which tend to be bloodless, and which the D&D adventure novels tend to be particularly annoying examples of. That style of storytelling, beyond anything else, is what informs MMORPG fantasy writing, and which is why it always seems to be so bland and samey.

If it seems like I have a chip on my shoulder on this matter... well, to be honest, I probably do. This is exactly the kind of stuff that drove me away from fantasy. If it seems like I haven't given 4E a chance, it's probably because it's the kind of stuff I used to like, but have been growing out of for years now. Going back to that seems unappealing to me, but alas, all the new adventures and books are going to be 4E for the next cycle, and I might not care about D&D at all by the time 5E rolls around.
posted by JHarris at 5:42 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm still getting over the fact that we don't have Chaotic Good or Lawful Evil alignments anymore. As a kid, I found those concepts mindblowing and illuminating. I have fond memories of the AD&D Book of Villains having a hand-dandy chart explaining the sorts of villainy each alignment could correspond with. It had seemed like such a weirdly insightful bit of cockeyed philosophy to have those two axes define the ethical and moral character of your elf.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:41 PM on June 25, 2008


I hate "feats". Screw feats. Want more than "I swing my sword"? Toss out hit points and bring in body points and body areas from Top Secret. Bingo. Now you have dueling, if you want it. A crossbow bolt can be lethal. What happens when Robin Hood is surrounded by the Sherrif's men? He certainly doesn't say "I'm 12th level -- I can handle a few arrows." Then keep luck points (call them heroism points) to keep things less than full-on deadly.

I'm still getting over the fact that we don't have Chaotic Good or Lawful Evil alignments anymore.

WTF?!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:19 PM on June 25, 2008


Lawful Evil is now just Evil, and Chaotic Good is now just Good. Also, True Neutral is called "Unaligned" and includes both those who simply don't care about Good and Evil along with those who are all "Rawr, BALANCE!". It's part of the massive revamp of the planes, in which the whole "every idea, alignment, principle, and concept gets its own theme dimension which is probably too hostile or bizarre to use in gameplay" thing has been tossed out on its ass in favor of a smaller number of more useful planes.

Seriously, if you can get ahold of the Races and Classes and Worlds and Monsters preview books without paying cover price ($20 apiece? Come on!), they're well worth a read to get a feel for what's changed and why. It's like without them, you can see the changes, but with them, you can understand the changes, which I think is important.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:01 PM on June 25, 2008


The 4th edition alignment system

Evil = I'm a bit of a shitbag!
Chaotic Evil = I'm even more of a shitbag!
posted by Artw at 10:41 PM on June 25, 2008


Nah, if you're a bit of a shitbag, you're probably unaligned. You've got to be actively Evil to be Evil, not (as in previous editions) just a little selfish and mean.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:51 PM on June 25, 2008


I find it a little lacking in, um, character.
posted by Artw at 10:53 PM on June 25, 2008


Also, come to think of it, if you've got to be actively Evil to be Evil, not just a little selfish and mean, doesn't it basically go something like this...?

Neutral = May be lynched by other characters.
Evil = Almost certainly will be lynched by other characters.
Chaotic Evil = Fuck off out of here right now you crazy nutbag.
posted by Artw at 11:00 PM on June 25, 2008


I'm not sure what you're talking about.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 AM on June 26, 2008


Seems like anything on that side of the spectrum would be too antisocial to fit into a party.
posted by Artw at 1:07 AM on June 26, 2008


People do realize that Wizard doesn't send a lawyer out to make sure you follow there rules to a "T". If your group wants to play Chaotic Good characters, it's not like you and your friends can't do that. When I used to play AD&D 2e the DM used to borrow lots of rules from the original D&D, because he was more familiar with that. (Of course, I can't remember what any of those differences are now.)
posted by chunking express at 4:38 AM on June 26, 2008


The thing is that D&D 4.0 is a fun beer & pretzels type game. Kick in a few doors, kill the ugly people, take their stuff, and enjoy some mindless fun. You want more? Get a different game, cuz' without so many house rules that its an entirely new game, there isn't any more.

I'm mostly a GURPS player these days, but I do find D&D 4.0 to be fun, and a good introduction for younger players who are more interested in killing the ugly people and taking their stuff than getting into more in depth storylines.

I honestly have no idea what the Omni Mouth people are smoking when they say:
Now, one of the things about playing this particular game is that there can be an awful lot of information to remember, and at times it’s darn near impossible to remember it all, so one is perpetually diving into the Player’s Handbook to find information, and if you’re at all familiar with the Player’s Handbook, then you know as well as I do that finding information in that tome can be difficult at best.
The book is quite well laid out, and a few index cards with your powers written on them takes care of well over 95% of any "hard things" to remember. Heck, download some of the PDF power cards from the net and don't bother with the index cards. I dunno what they're thinking, but D&D 4.0 involves pretty much zero to remember, its all on the character sheet except the powers, and that's very easily taken care of.

Character creation takes maybe 10 minutes for new players. A few minutes later you're kicking in the door and killing the ugly people.

Now, GURPS involves a lot to remember. Character creation can take upwards of an hour even for experienced players. Its a better game for role playing, but a worse game for killing monsters while kicking back with beer and pretzels (or root beer and pretzels in the case of the kids I ran a game for last week).
posted by sotonohito at 6:23 AM on June 26, 2008


Character creation takes maybe 10 minutes for new players.

Really? What auto-roller are you using? It takes a while to create new characters -- ESPECIALLY if you've never played before. It took my wife two hours to create her character, with assistance. She's no dummy; in fact, she's a professional bureaucrat, and is quite familiar with complex rules systems as a result. But don't think that it's a "just add water" scenario.

You sound like you haven't played 4E yet.
posted by grubi at 8:02 AM on June 26, 2008


Ummm. I GM'ed a game last week, as it said in my post.

Get your stats, pick your powers, feats, skills [1], grab some gear and bam you've got a character. It ain't rocket science. There's not many powers to choose from at 1st level. Hell, the potentially slowest part of the process is getting stats and they provided a point distribution matrix that shows the scores most players are going to want.

A well prepped GM can help players decide what's best for them fairly quickly, especially if the player has an idea of what kind of character (big bruiser? Wizard?) they want to make.

It isn't as quick as making a character for, say, Ninja Burger, but since that literally involves rolling 3d6 4 times, then 1d6 another 5 times its going to be a bit difficult to beat that.

[1] Such as they are. Pick three options from a small list and put a check mark beside them in your character sheet. Yeesh, "skills" my ass.
posted by sotonohito at 8:40 AM on June 26, 2008


Seems like anything on that side of the spectrum would be too antisocial to fit into a party.

Well, yes, that's why the PHB recommends, as it has since at least second edition, that players be either Good or Neutral. I mean, you can try to hold this against 4th Edition, but not without criticising every other edition.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:47 AM on June 26, 2008


I've totally seen NE and LE characters work. CE maybe not so much.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on June 26, 2008


Pope Guilty I prefer to hold the entire alignment BS against D&D of all versions, the 4.0 revamp doesn't seem particularly good or bad when held up to the abomination that is the alignment system. A better tool to kill good role playing I've not yet encountered. I mean, following the rules as written in 2.0 it actually *PENALIZES* good role playing, doesn't allow for flawed heroes, sympathetic villains, or any of the other interesting things in life.

As a rule I ignore alignment as much as possible in games I DM.

But that's just my general gripe about D&D: its fun for beer and pretzels, but don't try to roleplay with it. It just lacks the granularity and in depth character building of the more nuanced systems. Hell, even World of Darkness (before it went d20) had a better character building system.

Not that there's anything wrong with a good beer and pretzels game, they're fun as a break or a quick pickup game. I really like D&D 4.0 because it has abandoned any pretense of being anything but a beer and pretzels game, and thereby has become a truly excellent beer and pretzels game. All the griping people have about it being MMO-like is missing the point: its genuinely fun to play for a quick kick in the door type game. Its so much better than my system of choice (GURPS) for that sort of game that there's really no comparison.

Naturally the same intense focus on its strong points has made it pretty much worthless for any more general type of game, but so what? It does what it was designed to do better than any other specialized system I've seen.
posted by sotonohito at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2008


I prefer to hold the entire alignment BS against D&D of all versions

And that's completely fair- you aren't making a single argument about Alignment that I haven't made.

But that's just my general gripe about D&D: its fun for beer and pretzels, but don't try to roleplay with it. It just lacks the granularity and in depth character building of the more nuanced systems.

That's a ridiculous and incoherent statement. You can't roleplay with it... why? Is there chapter in your copy that prohibits you from assigning any characteristics or context to a character beyond those that have mechanical rules attached? This criticism makes no sense whatsoever.

Hell, even World of Darkness (before it went d20)

The World of Darkness never went d20.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


My understanding of roleplaying in World of Darkness is that it all goes like this: “I am a innocent wafe/sad clown/small child with a teddybear/anything vaguely emo, but ACTUALLY I am a damaged psychotic and I will stab you now!”
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on June 26, 2008


That was my understanding, and then I... you know... read the books.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2008


And...?
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on June 26, 2008


Pope Guilty As far as D&D and roleplaying goes, of course you can roleplay with it. You have to ignore a few inconvenient rules (alignment penalties back in 2.0, etc) and it works easier if you have a ton of houserules. But why bother? Yes, you can drive a nail with the handle of a screwdriver, but why bother when there's a hammer available?

Interestingly that's the argument I've had (in reverse) with GURPS fanatics who swear that D&D 4.0 is useless and you can do a beer and pretzels type game just fine with GURPS. Yes, you can, but that isn't what its for. Better to use a system that actually specializes in that, no?

Heck, following the rules as written (RAW) for D&D 4.0 you can't even make a non-combat character. And sure, you can houserule it, roleplay it, etc, but if you want to do a non-combat focused game, why not use a system that's better suited for that purpose?

Artw WoD can be quite a bit more than a way for emo types to express repressed anger. Its got elements that can really help for that, and some of the games (Vampire especially) really are pretty emo friendly. OTOH, that's hardly the extent of WoD. I really don't see a lot of emo types getting into Warewolf, fer example, and Mage is such a totally munchkin game its unbelievable.

I'm not a huge fan of either the setting or the system, but it isn't horrible at all.
posted by sotonohito at 11:12 AM on June 26, 2008


You have to ignore a few inconvenient rules (alignment penalties back in 2.0, etc) and it works easier if you have a ton of houserules.

You (or at least I don't) don't 'need' rules to roleplay. What does GURPS do that enables or enhances roleplaying more than (A)D&D, besides increasing the diversity of character types and mechanical backing of concepts because it's a generic game? (I say this being a fan of both GURPS 3rd and 4th editions.)

Heck, following the rules as written (RAW) for D&D 4.0 you can't even make a non-combat character.

It doesn't make it less of a roleplaying game, unless you consider Ars Magica or Pendragon or Paranoia as games you shouldn't roleplay with.
posted by Snyder at 11:35 AM on June 26, 2008


In addition, D&D (including 4th) has always been, ostensibly, a game of fantasy adventure, and usually involving going into a dungeon and perhaps encountering a dragon. Many people have diverted from that ostensible purpose, because while the general game has been about that, D&D has never solely been about that, and one of it's strengths is that while it may not enforce or enable roleplaying per se, the system usually does an excellent job of getting out of the way when a group wants too.

I've played and heard of many D&D games where there was much more than "kill monster, take treasure," (or "avoid/kill monster, take treasure,") and none of them were particularly hampered by a lack of an elaborate and lengthy skill list (like, say, GURPS or Call of Cthulhu) or detailed personality mechanics (like, say, Pendragon or Unknown Armies.)
posted by Snyder at 11:44 AM on June 26, 2008


Pope Guilty As far as D&D and roleplaying goes, of course you can roleplay with it. You have to ignore a few inconvenient rules (alignment penalties back in 2.0, etc) and it works easier if you have a ton of houserules. But why bother? Yes, you can drive a nail with the handle of a screwdriver, but why bother when there's a hammer available?

I don't understand. What rules do you think you need to roleplay? I've been trying very, very hard not to just assume that you're talking about needing detailed rules to define a character's personality traits or whatever, but your continued failure to make any argument other than "Well, you just can't!" is going to force my hand. What is it that makes GURPS better for roleplaying?

Heck, following the rules as written (RAW) for D&D 4.0 you can't even make a non-combat character.

And you can't use Vampire: the Requiem to make Werewolves. Who cares? Non-combatants aren't what D&D is about. It's a roleplaying game about heroes, not about cobblers and haberdashers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:21 PM on June 26, 2008


Unknown Armies is a thing of beauty, but does anyone actually play it? As opposed to reading the manual and saying "wow"?
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have, (admittedly, only once, I wasn't into the GM,) and I'm working on a campaign for it right now.
posted by Snyder at 1:22 PM on June 26, 2008


I'm pretty curious to hear how that ends up. It just seems so... ambitious.
posted by Artw at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2008


List of reviews of D&D 4th edition. There are links there to some reviews, and good discussion, of the new rule set.
posted by chunking express at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2008


For me, the big thing was to learn that I don't need to include everything. I don't mean to say that I have to excise from the world, but you only really need to focus on one or two things. In my case, a conflict between an avatar of the Mystic Hermaphrodite and a True King as the MH tries to eliminate competition. I probably won't have many other avatars, and maybe only one or two adepts in the game, and they'll mostly be wild cards, not directly related to the plot as such. The PCs won't even be dukes, initially. Because adepts and avatars don't outclass normal people (and normal people even have a few advantages over those types,) I don't feel that's it's necessary or desirable to introduce all the supernatural fiddly bits that exist in UA, into one game or campaign.
posted by Snyder at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Get your stats, pick your powers, feats, skills, grab some gear and bam you've got a character. It ain't rocket science.

No, but it is a role-playing game, which is a framework of rules for exercising your imagination. If you've not played in 17 years or you've never played an RPG, it will take you some time to create a character. My wife is stupid to you because she wanted to make sure she understood the game mechanics and why some skills are better for her character than others so she took some extra time to read up on them?

Yes, I know it takes you ten minutes to create a character. But you already understood the game mechanics beforehand. Count in reading all the rules as part of character-creation time or you're distorting the reality.
posted by grubi at 5:02 PM on June 26, 2008


Artw, I've run it twice. Once with experienced gamers, and once with new-to-gaming. I think the latter was more successful than the former, since they didn't just try to power-game the hell out of the system. Unfortunately, with the newbies I made the mistake of not giving them enough info about the world (I basically told them 'it's an x-files sort of modern horror game' and that was it).

They convinced themselves that the good guys were bad guys, the mafia was the group they should trust, and generally were totally confused. It was glorious... for a while. But when the second adventure (talk to guy a, talk to guy b, fight big bad) took six weeks, with several nights where the gm did nothing but listen to the players float and discard various theories about the cosmology, I put the campaign on indefinite hiatus.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 5:15 PM on June 26, 2008


sotonohito, the information design in the players handbook is just absolutely terrible if you're a first time reader. I can't imagine what it would be like for a first-time player.

Examples: there are tons of rules that are referred to in the character powers which aren't actually explained until the combat chapter at the back of the book. Many things don't appear in the index, which is laughably inadequate. "Conditions" appears in the index, but the conditions themselves aren't named. "Shift" appears in the index, but "Push, Pull, and Slide" is one line, in the "P" section.

Rather than have one 'spells' chapter which alphabetizes them all (making it easier to do 10-second mid-game lookups) they're broken out by character class AND by level. So you have to flip to the chapter for classes, then find your class, and then finally remember 'oh, I got this ability at third level'.

I really like the streamlining they've done, but the organization of the PHB feels to me like it was designed to be bad enough to convince you to buy the sets of character power cards that they've announced are coming in a few months...
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 5:47 PM on June 26, 2008


I agree with dvorak_beats_qwerty.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:10 PM on June 26, 2008


Yeah, the organization for the PHB is horrible. I mean, what's [W] mean?
posted by Snyder at 9:05 PM on June 26, 2008


The weapon's damage caused.
posted by grubi at 9:31 PM on June 26, 2008


dvorak_beats_qwerty I'll agree that the index sucks massively, and a consolidated alphabetic power listing would also be nice. OTOH, it really isn't terrible, especially when you compare it with some of the other books on the market. Like, to choose my example of worst book design ever, RIFTS, which has no index (even in their newest edition), has stuff randomly scattered through the entire book in no rational order, splits mechanical augmentation of the human body into two randomly chosen categories: cybernetic and bionic, and puts them in chapters that are widely separated, and in my favorite example of idiocy ever spends pages explaining their metaphysics of magic but doesn't explain the game mechanics of how a player actually casts a spell [1]

Unfortunately the bar for "well laid out" is pretty low when it comes to RPG books. Better production values would be nice throughout the industry. GURPS, in my experience, does better than most, but still has some problems.

grubi ??? Where did I say your wife was stupid?

If she's completely new to roleplaying naturally it'll take her longer. People who are new to D&D, but have played other games, will take less time. I managed an average of 15 minutes per player when I did my game last week with a group of 9-15 year olds.

You seem a mite aggressive here, and I'm not sure what I've done to piss you off. First you claimed I was lying about running a D&D 4.0 game, now you're falsely claiming I said your wife was stupid. Could you at least tell me what I've done to annoy you so much?

Pope Guilty I think you're being a bit pedantic here. I do not and have not claimed that its impossible to do good roleplaying with D&D of any version. I have claimed that the rules don't encourage it and its easier with other systems, and I stand by that claim. D&D, especially 4.0, is optimized for a good hack 'n slash type game, you can do other stuff with it but it takes more work than I think its worth. Like I said, you *can* drive a nail with the handle of a screwdriver, but why would you want to? Right tool for the job and all that, ne?

I know people often get attached to particular game systems, but a degree of flexibility is a good thing. I've run into GURPS fanatics who insist that GURPS can be a good hack 'n slash type game (and it can, if you houserule a few things, go for the cinematic options, jerk around with combat mechanics, character creation mechanics, etc) but I say why do all that when D&D has pretty much perfected tabletop hack 'n slash?

What makes GURPS (or even non-generic systems like Vampire) better for roleplaying is the fact that you have more freedom. Even if we stick with the combat focused type of game, GURPS allows you to design a character who is more your style. Want to play a tough warrior who had wizard parents and therefore learned a few useful spells before deciding to go warrior? No sweat in GURPS, won't work in the RAW of D&D. In Vampire the RAW means all characters are vampires, but the game can be an emo "we are the monsters, oh boo hoo" type game, a game of deadly political infighting where weapons are never drawn, a combat focused game involving hunting down the Inquisition before they expose you, etc. The flexibility makes roleplaying easier. The intense class focus of D&D (especially 4.0) makes hack 'n slash easier, and that's why it's my system of choice for a good rousing hack 'n slash.

Again, I'm not claiming D&D prohibits roleplaying, but it does encourage a focus on game mechanics, min/maxing, and combat over character interaction. A good GM can work around that, as can good players. But a more open system allows for more options and doesn't encourage a stat focused game.

And, as I've said before, there's nothing wrong with D&D, its fun. And, as I've said before, a sufficiently dedicated GM with a good group of players and a willingness to bend rules and houserule, can get some good roleplaying out of it. But I still maintain that it isn't really the best system for roleplaying, that if a person wants to do something more serious than kicking in the door and killing the ugly people they'd be better advised to try a different system.

[1] They did correct the "how the hell do you cast a spell" bit in the newest edition, though they also included a sneering condescending commentary about the idiots who weren't smart enough to figure it out.
posted by sotonohito at 6:37 AM on June 27, 2008


Are you sure these other systems don't just encourage rule-playing? I mean, do you need actually game mechanics to spell out all the funky things your characters can and can not do? Isn't a good chunk of what makes an RPG and RPG using your imagination and making shit up?
posted by chunking express at 6:52 AM on June 27, 2008


(Actually, re-reading your comment, I think we're saying the same thing. I don't think making shit up is as big a deal as you do I guess.)
posted by chunking express at 6:57 AM on June 27, 2008


Making shit up is just fine. The problem is it can lead to something vastly worse than rules lawyering, which is the "well *I* say I can" syndrome. Its nice to have some rules to keep things from getting too chaotic.

And its nice to have a consistent set of rules so you can easily integrate new players. There's also the fact that making everything up yourself can be fun, but it can also be a bit tiring, and that your houserules might not be as balanced as you'd like to think. Essentially you're doing all your own playtesting, which isn't horrible, but it can sometimes lead to balance problems.

As I said, there's nothing preventing roleplaying in D&D, but the focus of the rules on combat will tend to focus the game on combat. All the crunchy bits are for combat, all the special rules are for combat, all the Rules As Written are for combat, all the character classes are for combat, etc. That's going to encourage a min/max, rules oriented mindset in players unless they (and their GM) spend some effort countering that mindset. I figure if you want to do some serious roleplaying why not use a system that is more open, that's less combat focused, and that has rules more designed to push players in a roleplaying direction?
posted by sotonohito at 8:22 AM on June 27, 2008


I think your ideas of what constitutes "role-playing" is on a level with a sixth grader.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:24 PM on June 27, 2008


Care to elaborate on that snide remark, or are you just being an ass?
posted by sotonohito at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2008


If she's completely new to roleplaying naturally it'll take her longer. People who are new to D&D, but have played other games, will take less time. I managed an average of 15 minutes per player when I did my game last week with a group of 9-15 year olds.

Sure. And did they read all of the available powers carefully enough to consider how useful they'd be or did they, like a child would, jump on the first thing that sounded cool?

My wife and I wanted to make sure that we understood the system BEFORE we jumped right into the game. If we chose to forego that, then, sure, we'd have characters rolled out in ten minutes. But they'd be horrid little characters we wouldn't want to play with.

You seem a mite aggressive here, and I'm not sure what I've done to piss you off. First you claimed I was lying about running a D&D 4.0 game, now you're falsely claiming I said your wife was stupid. Could you at least tell me what I've done to annoy you so much?

I didn't claim you were lying about the game. I said it sounded like you hadn't played it.

And you imply that it shouldn't take anyone that long to create a character and to do otherwise is some sort of anomaly. Which it isn't. What you seem to be overlooking -- and I don't know why you would -- is that if you are learning the system for the first time (whether new to RPGs or just it's been a while) and you want to make sure the first character you create fits as close to your intent as possible, and is set up with the powers you want to use, then -- guess what -- it does take some time. Ten-to-one, those kids didn't read the book beforehand. And if they did, you're not counting that as part of setup time. Which is dishonest at best.

What pisses me off is your attitude of "what's YOUR problem?" when someone points out it takes a little effort and time. It's offensive. It also bothers me that your criticisms are dismissive rather than honest critiques.
posted by grubi at 9:47 PM on June 27, 2008


I hope you guys rolled for initiative before you started fighting.
posted by Artw at 10:42 PM on June 27, 2008


Artw Well, lessee, I figure that'd be INT modifier + 1/2 Level + d20, with a modifier for internet connection and browser.... The only real question is, am I a level 5 Nerd or a level 6 Geek?

grubi I didn't think I was projecting a "what's your problem" attitude, I certainly wasn't trying to. My apologies if I was and I assure you it was not intentional.

Obviously people have different styles, etc. OTOH, I do think that D&D 4.0's character creation style is more of a checklist and therefore will take less time than the character creation in pretty much every other RPG, especially once a person is semi-familiar with the way it works, what character classes exist, etc.

I'm just saying that out of all the serious systems I've played [1] D&D 4.0 has one of the quickest character creation systems I've seen. RIFTS comes close, as do most of the other template systems.

[1] That is, not including stuff like Ninja Burger and Kobalds Ate My Baby where character creation is pretty much entirely random and as fast as possible 'cuz your character isn't going to last more than a few minutes.
posted by sotonohito at 4:49 AM on June 28, 2008


I'm just saying that out of all the serious systems I've played [1] D&D 4.0 has one of the quickest character creation systems I've seen. RIFTS comes close, as do most of the other template systems.

That's a different claim from "it only takes ten minutes."
posted by grubi at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2008


It took me and my players roughly 10 minutes on average. Your results may vary, and obviously have, but I strongly suspect that your result is uncommon while mine is closer to the average. I also strongly suspect that the next character your wife makes will take much closer to 10 minutes than 2 hours.
posted by sotonohito at 2:12 PM on June 28, 2008



It took me and my players roughly 10 minutes on average. Your results may vary, and obviously have, but I strongly suspect that your result is uncommon while mine is closer to the average.


I really doubt that. Your proper role-players are going to spend 10 minutes easily just deciding on their character concept/family history/coat of arms/backstory etc. even before looking at the rules. Your roll-players/munchkins/minmaxers will, on average right now, still be new to 4th ed. so they'll want to read the book cover to cover to see what they can exploit that they couldn't in prior editions and what prior edition exploits are no longer effective. Over time, you might get the non role-players down to less than 10 minutes, but the role-players are still going to take just as long.


I'm just saying that out of all the serious systems I've played [1] D&D 4.0 has one of the quickest character creation systems I've seen. RIFTS comes close, as do most of the other template systems.


RIFTS is awful for character creation if you have all the bloody supplements. They add new RCC/OCCs in each one, so that if you want to pick what you're going to be you've got to look in 20 odd books just to see what your options are.
posted by juv3nal at 3:49 PM on June 30, 2008


juv3nal, that is the crux of my argument. It seems like he was misrepresenting the REAL amount of time it takes to create a character from scratch. He did say "ten minutes for new players" -- players, not characters.
posted by grubi at 4:38 PM on June 30, 2008


And we're back to the "my results were different from his, so obviously sotonohito is a liar" line.

I quit. Somehow you find it impossible to accept that my players were able to create characters in the amount of time they did, fine, I give up. Sheesh. I don't even know what grubi's last comment means, unless now he's claiming that I just pulled pregen characters out for my players. When the conversation has reached the point that I literally cannot comprehend what the other person is saying its time for me to leave.
posted by sotonohito at 6:30 AM on July 1, 2008


I'm not disputing how long it took your players. I'm disputing your claim about what is closer to being the average case.
posted by juv3nal at 11:04 AM on July 1, 2008


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