Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 Announced

I didn’t see a thread started on this already, and I figured many Dopers would find this interesting.

Basic info here, here, here.

Better info will presumably be put here when WotC’s server stops crashing.

I’m not a huge D&D guy, but I’ve been getting into it and like the game. Has there been a hankering for a rules update, or is this just a money-grab to sell more books? So far, the information I’ve been able to find is pretty sparse. Does anyone have more details on the precise changes from 3.5 to 4.0?

I vote money grab. Then again I used to play Warhammer 40k, the ultimat money suck, so I really can’t talk :wink:

3rd edition has only been around for 8 years, less than that for 3.5. 2nd edition was around for, what, 15 years or so? Damn WotC buying it from TSR. :mad: These are the people that put out expansions for Magic: The Gathering at a rate of approx. 1 per week. Money grab, indeed. I’ll stick with my 3.5 for years to come.

Money grab.

A good game ought to be a good game. If it has so many faults that you need to re-release editions of all your rule books every <10 years, you’re doing something wrong.

They have to sell a fair number of books just to keep in business. The problem is that they’ve already sold a lot of 3.5 books, and in fact still have 3.5 books coming out later this year, and there’s a fair chance that none of these will be usable with the new system.

Plus, these new books will come with codes required to register for their pay services, which may be nifty, but which may be booby trapped so that you’re missing part of the game without it no matter how much they swear they wouldn’t do that to us. If nothing else, it reduces the value of the used book trade, which I tend to think of as kind of a scam, though I’m sure somebody will come along and defend the practice.

My scum-sense is tingling. Either someone has moved a stagnant pond into the office, or this is a sleazy money-grab by WotC. Given that they built their empire by whispering, “Hey, kid, buy one more pack–this could be the one with the rare in it”, I’m leaning toward the latter explanation. (Also, my feet are still dry.)

I will not be going 4.0 anytime in the foreseeable future.

Ditto on all this.

It’s the planned obsolesence aspect that bothers me. Support for existing customers is thrown out as unprofitable compared to initial startup sales.

I believe GW once stated that they had decided to concentrate on selling the basic box set and initial army units to first-time gamers since that brought a bigger return. So in order to keep the veteran players paying, they force you to have to buy it all again.

Looks like WoTC is following suit. PHB, DMG, MM(s), and initial campaign settings make a nice chunk of profit compared to a return customer just buying the occassional support book or adventure setting. Maybe the “open source” rules has had an effect there. Since people can spend their game money on other companies’ products once they have the basic 3.5 books, WoTC is losing market share after the initial buyer investment.

I’m happier than ever I never bought a 3.0 or 3.5 book. I’m one happy moocher.

Now I have to survey my friends to see how many will switch over to 4.0. I wonder if it’s backwards compatible? That would do a lot to soothe customer relations.

Money grab? I’m perpetually gobsmacked by the expectation RPGers have that game companies who want to have a healthy profit margin are greedy. I encountered similar attitudes while working for a not-for-profit (note: “not-for-profit” is not “no profit”).

With the shining example of TSR at hand, it’s obvious how not to run a game company. RPG history is littered with scads of examples of that (e.g., Chaosium, Palladium, …). WotC has hit upon a sales strategy that works – selling high-end, hardback products. In fact, it’s been emulated by some of the other RPG companies that seem to be doing well now (e.g., White Wolf, Mongoose).

And it is not as though they’re coming out with 4th edition solely for nefarious WotC employees to roll around in $20 bills while twirling their moustaches and cackling. They’re trying to employ people – and WotC employs a lot of people for an RPG company. They’ve got a bottom line they have to meet. Just like any other business.

This is good business, and a good move for WotC, and so a good move for D&D. Gamers who are shocked and offended that they’re expected to pay money for their games still have all their older D&D books (Chainmail, D&D, AD&D, 3.0, 3.5) to use. They’re not shiny-new, but I can vouch that they still work as well as they ever did.

As for the design need for a new version of D&D: yes. As 3.5 continued, it became more and more obvious that there were some serious design flaws that weren’t amenable to quick fixes. The polymorph spells and Wild Shape. The power gap that non-casters suffer at higher levels. “Dead” character levels in classes like the Fighter. Unexpected consequences from mixing options out of different suppliments (e.g., the Pun-Pun problem, Night Stick optimization builds).

Also, from what I’ve heard of Star Wars Saga, everyone is quite happy with the design concepts used therein, and it seems likely that’s the direction 4.0 will be going.

I thought the changes made in 3.0 were pretty good when compared to AD&D 2E. The Feat system offered players a way to make their characters a bit more unique and the skill system was actually integrated into the game far better than non-weapon proficiencies ever were. I was initially enthusiastic about 3.5, mainly because I have no problem with the books being updated every few years, but I found that the majority of changes seemed inconsequential at best. I won’t be rushing out to buy 4E but I’ll keep an open mind and check it out when it’s released.

The biggest change I would like to see is the ability to make a character that more closely resembles the characters from the fantasy novels that I've read or the heroes from Arthurian, Greek, or Germanic traditions.  For example, if I want to make an Arthurian style knight I should be able to pick the Fighter Class and then give him Chivalry skills like poetry, perform, and whatever else might be good for ye old courtly love.  I should also be able to accomplish this without having to resort of multi-classing into a Bard or a Rogue and all the accompanying baggage that comes with each of those classes.  Honestly, I'm ok with niche protection as a concept, but I don't think niche protection should serve as shackles that bind the creativity of the player.  How many warriors from your favorite fantasy books fit into the narrow confines of the Fighter Class?  Darn few I should think.  

A simplification of the skills would also be appreciated.  Why bother having Search and Spot?  Get rid of one and have the other function in both capacities.  Get rid of most of the Knowledge skills and just have "Lore" that covers a wide range of knowledge like they do in the Neverwinter Nights PC game.  Does anyone really find it unbalancing that a potential Lore skill might cover esoteric information on history, geography, and ancient magical empires?  

Finally, let's get rid of our dependence on magical items.  A character should be cool because of who the character is and not because he's packing a +3 long sword, a cloak of the bat, elven boots, elven chain, a +4 ring of protection, a wand of fireball, and a magical pot that produces an endless supply of porridge.  Actually the endless supply of porridge sounds pretty cool.  Anyway, I'm ok with magic items in theory but they should be a little more rare.  Perhaps not as rare as Excaliber or that stupid star thing from Krull, but being laden with magic items should not be the defacto norm for D&D games.  

It’s possible that my taste in gaming is outside of what normal D&D players prefer.


Lightray, saying that something is good business doesn’t make it OK. We’ll just wait and see if the market will bear it. I suspect it will. It’s just that planned obsolesence still leaves a customer feeling like the company sees them as a mark to be scammed instead of a customer to be courted.

Your comment about the 3.5 books still being as good as ever is on target, though. If a person wants to use new campaign material, it’s (usually) not that hard to adapt it to the old rules and settings. I mean, the whole point of an RPG is that it requires imagination and mental effort.

I think people are just irritated by the general level of quality. WotC keeps comng out with new DnD prioducts, which, despite being gigantic, somehow seem to continually make the game smaller. Spells are defined down so they become far less useful. Cool warrior tricks are less and less interesting as they keep adding more of them on. Whole book lines are rendered obsolete with changes which SHOULD have been done in the first place. Boring products are dumped on the market and really fascinating ones avoided. (C’mon - they are still refusing to put out detailed, classic Faerun stuff or any real Oriental Adventures books except when stufed with pointless PrC’s, useless spells (oh look, another 27 ways to do damage which aren’t as good as the basic attack spells!), and feats which make no sense. And a few pages tossed in about culture and history and politics and stuff. (I’d buy the old versions, but they’re hard to come by.)

I’d be happy to shell out for a significant rules upgrade rather than buying fixes and new features piecemeal one splat book at a time. But I already have 3.5. I have invested in it. If I can’t use these materials with the new version of the rules, I’m going to feel a little bit reamed. This is not even to mention the mindspace devoted to understanding the rules as they already are, which now will be irrelevant.

One of the advantages of the planned obsolescence is that it allows a game to evolve in accordance to observed problems and newly worked-out ideas about regulating risk vs. reward balance, for example. d20 is way in advance of other tabletop RPGs in terms of balance, playability and even the excitement-generating degrees of randomness. But they can’t tweak the game overnight the way an online game like World of Warcraft does, so it has to put out books. And major tweaks require buying the books all over again.

True, the fact is that if you don’t want to switch, there will be 3.5 materials enough to keep you busy forever. It’ll be a good while before I’ve managed to exhaust the materials I use in my Star*Drive game, and that system has been out of print for nearly a decade. Still, they kept selling 3.5 materials while lying about how soon they’d be obsolete. You don’t feel a little screwed?

I read this… and it makes no sense.

How is it not “OK”? Good business = WotC staying in business. What is wrong with that idea?

Now, I could see this not being a good business decision if all the D&D customers are of the “oh noes! they expect me to pay $30 several times a year for books that only give unlimited hours of use!!!” mindset. One would hope not, but judging from reported Gencon reactions, and the usual Internet overreactions, that just might be the case.

Which is a bit of a puzzler, since WotC made no bones about that being their marketing strategy since day one. They were even pretty upfront about reducing the initial price of the PHB, DMG, etc. to lure in new addicts, just like any good drug dealer would do.

I will say, though, that from what I’m reading said about D&D Insider (monthly subscription to online play tools, Dragon & Dungeon articles), it’s not looking appealing to me as a customer. I mislike monthly subscriptions for online content that can’t be accessed offline. And although I’d be interested in, say, character creation tools – I’d only be interested if I can download, access, use, and customize those tools offline.

2-pg pdf on D&D Insider here

I wondered when I posted if I should have stuck the word “Morally” in front of “OK.” Obviously, I chose wrong. It makes perfect sense. Your arguments remind me of the tactics used by monopolies to defend their avarice. Is WoTC really going down the tubes if people can continue to use 3.5 books?

Bwah HA hA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ! Oh, man that was a good one.

Seriously, though, uh, no. D20 isn’t even as good as 2nd edition DnD (maybe not even 1st edition these days given the pile of junk they splattered all over 3rd). And it doesn’t hold a candle to many other great games, like Champions/Hero System, Shadowrun, or Traveller. I don’t like Shadowrun 4 very much, but even that’s at least a big, thick cut above D20. D20 is the sole mass-market game I’ve ever encountered where value assigned to most characters based solely on killing. Other editions of DnD weren’t that bad since 1st, and then only because the market was so new.

Bitch, please. I was there, man. I played all those editions. The rules were a mess, a swirling black hole of a kludge from which no light could escape. I’m amazed now that I could once stat out a 2nd Edition character without looking at the charts. If you want to argue that overcomplication, meaningless level caps for different races, initiative changing every round, rolling 1 for hit points, ect, go ahead. But don’t put down 3rd edition. There’s a lot of crap out for it, but I’d take it over the kitbooks and Skills & Powers bullshit all the time.

Lots of systems handle lots of things better than d20, but few of them give the readily-usable toolbox that d20 does. Point systems like Hero or GURPS are great toolbox systems, but the gameplay is considerably less streamlined. Feel free to explain what’s so special about Traveller, but don’t even bother me with CyberYatzee.

In earlier editions, characters were even more reducible to their combat stats.

You’re actually holding up Shadowrun as an example of a robust rules system? Shadowrun?

Fuck, Palladium has a better rule set than Shadowrun.

I’m disappointed. I wanted them to wait two more years, at a minimum, before trying this. I’ll probably buy the new core books, but they’ll have to knock my socks off to get me to switch.

Daaaaaaamn. Oh, snap!
I know you didn’t go there.

I believe that WOTC-officially speaking alone there are a hundred basic classes, thousands of PrC’s, and something around 40,000 feats. And a rule says the GM should allow anyone to play any of them, even if no such thing exists in the game. Seriously.

The problem iwth D20 as a toolbox was that ti was too darn efficient at it: it didn’t have nearly enough stats or junk for what you could actually do with it. They just dumped PrC’s, when it was quite easy to make a point-buy out of it. Which we’ve done and it rocks much better than anything else in D20. But D20tried to be all things to all people and it failed, and that almost always fails.

I know, and it’s ironic. In second edition, your fighter could just get proficiencies and had access to pretty much anything in that regard. Skills mattered if you wanted them to, and IIRC the roll mechanism was both more challenging and more consistent. Unfortunately 3rd edition skills keep breaking down to either not mattering (you have low skill so the D20 check overloads it completely) or being so high the D20 roll doesn’t matter. I know what they meant to do with it, but they just failed so badly.

Rolling 3d6 for skills considerably ups the the fun of them at low level, and a good roll means a lot more, but it still loses out at high levels, when people have lots of magic available anyway. It was a lot easier to have a tightly-focused game of intrigue, stealth, or mystery in 2nd edition. In Third too, the rules VERY strongly suggest that everyon has access to low-grade magic. Something like 20% of the population has magical spells (seriously; check out the village stats in the DMG).