The Decline of Dungeons and Dragons

I had a bit of a tiff with a friend some time back regarding my perceived degeneration of the Dungeons and Dragons game. The argument was essentially that I felt that 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons was less Dungeons and Dragons than 3rd Edition had been, and, arguably, 3rd Edition was even less than 2nd Edition had been. His argument was that 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons contained both more Dungeons and Dragons than the previous edition. This I could not dispute, but instead motioned that 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons did not feel like Dungeons and Dragons at all, instead it felt like a strategic fantasy based roll-playing game. He countered that Wizards of the Coast were the ones who got to decide what Dungeons and Dragons is. Fair enough.

We eventually agreed to disagree.

Then I read this: Hindsight is 20/20.

Now, more than anything, I feel that 4th Edition has eroded the base of what Dungeons and Dragons should be. I realize the arrogance of that statement, who am I to decide what Dungeons and Dragons should be? In all honesty, I have given 4th Edition a bash, and yes, it is phenomenally easy to create content for on a story and rules basis. Yet, it does not feel like Dungeons and Dragons. Regardless of whether it contains more dungeons and more dragons than any previous edition. It just doesn’t seem to matter. It feels… unnatural.

And the Newbie DM post, more than anything, shows that new Dungeon Masters appear to be trending more towards encounter based stories. Or adventures, which apparently aren’t the same thing. In my not so humble opinion, a story is a collection of adventures, and adventures are a collection of scenes that may contain encounters. Not all encounters need be combat orientated, and there exists the argument that 4th Edition holds Skill Challenges, such that not all encounters be combat orientated. I don’t buy it.

When was the last time you heard someone state that they were on a quest? Now they are on adventures, quests are so yesteryear. Yet it was what we used to call adventures, and it sounded so much more important than being on adventure. Being on adventure seems almost as if to suggest that one were on a day’s journey to enjoy some frivolity and be jovial. We seek adventure! We need entertainment. Being on a quest is intrinsicly different, isn’t it. We are on an adventure to save the queen suggests something completely different to stating that you are on a quest to save the queen. Maybe it’s just me.

Returning to the post by NewbieDM, I’m saddened more than anything. Essentially what he suggests is that he would have been better off crafting adventures tailored to his players than creating the world and having his players live in it. There’s the argument that if the players aren’t having fun, then what’s the point. This holds true. However, truly epic storylines require that from time to time the players not have instant gratification “fun”, but instead invest something emotional into the story. I do not believe that one can perform such investment with one shot, possibly disjointed adventures. And more than anything, I think this is where 4th Edition has failed the Dungeons and Dragons theme. There’s no need for epicness, unless you’re 21st level.

I feel that epic story lines are going to die out with this generation and future permutations of Dungeons and Dragons rule sets. There’s something to be said about the response of a player who is acting emotionally about a fabricated story line because the player feels for his character in the circumstance that they are in, as opposed to stating blithely that their character falls to their knees weeping at the death of their ward, only to check up some stats so that they can roll their way to vengeance.

I do not believe that I could ever illicit a response from a character more deeply than I have from a player who I will call Azaezel. Azaezel played a fallen angel that had been cursed with humanity, mortal and weak in flesh, he was once the angel of death, and in the game world he was often visited in dreams by the goddess that he once served. Eventually, after many, many months of gaming, the players came to face off against Hammael, the silver dragon angel of Rhe’a, the Creator. Azaezel saw in the dragon angel his brethren, and understood that they must slay the noble beast in order to gain an artefact that beat within its breast. They had to do this in order to save the divine essence of a deity that held at bay the ultimate evil.

The battle was ferocious, epic as they fought along the fossilized remains of an ancient deity in the astral plane, portals to both heaven and hell swirling above them, angels and demons facing off over the rift. Eventually the players won true and it was Azaezel himself that claimed the final blow. Watching the player tell of how he fell to his knees before the slain dragon and cry out his anguish at having to slay one of his own, the players own emotional attachment to the story – I do not believe that I could have achieved this in 4th Edition.

Namely because I think that 4th Edition lacks the atmosphere of 3rd. Lacks the uniqueness of individual classes. Lacks the ability to craft a truly unique and epic character at all, actually. More so, because I believe that 4th Edition does not cater to progressive story telling, instead forcing the Dungeon Master, and thereby the players to play seemingly disjointed and poorly woven together “adventures” instead of stories. If anything, I think that Dungeons and Dragons has become a beer and pretzels game. And, more than anything, that makes me sad.

Having said all of this, perhaps there is only one thing for me to truly do, in order to test this hypothesis. I need to run an epic 4th Edition campaign and see if I can get that form of emotional investment from players of 4th Edition, or, as I suspect, they will spend more time focusing on their character stats, daily abilities, and how similar the rogue is to the wizard, to the fighter, to the cleric. Fuck sakes, don’t even get me started on the absolute uselessness of magic items in 4th edition.

So yes, I believe that Dungeons and Dragons is in decline. It has become progressively more commercial, of that there is no question, and ultimately this is good for the roleplaying game market. Yet, Wizards’ actual output seems to have been progressively in decline. Three Players Handbooks? Really? Two Dungeon Masters Guides? I felt that when they did this in 3rd Edition is was a bit much. Now it seems to be just ridiculous, unless they plan on doing this for the purpose of not creating splatbooks that focus on specific classes. Who knows. The integration of Dungeon and Dragon magazines into subscription based services, the entire Dungeons and Dragons Insider project, it seems terrible to me. Cutting players off from the content of the game instead of urging them on. I used to visit the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons website daily during the hey day of 3.5. Now I can’t access half the content, as such, I do not think I have been there in more than three months. Why should I pay a subscription to a game for which I have to purchase books? This isn’t World of WarCraft, despite the gameplay now seeming like it is a table top version of that game. I truly think that Wizards of the Coast have let the Dungeons and Dragons community down with the entire 4th Edition plan.

Before you think that I haven’t invested enough into the game, understand that I am a compulsive collector. I have the majority of the 3.5 books that are non Campaign specific, I have a full ruleset for 3rd Edition (including Epic Level Handbook and several others) as well as Players Hanbook 1, 2, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual for 4th Edition. I am even looking for some second hand copies of 2nd Edition books. I love this game. I just don’t love 4th Edition. I used to have complete nerdgasms whenever a new book was coming out, now I feel utter apathy. 4th Edition has left me cold.

To surmise the original reason for this post, before the long diatribe and arbitrary rant that it devolved into, I feel that the game of Dungeons and Dragons has been in steady decline since the advent of 3rd Edition in 2000. There has been a considered aproach to making the rules considerably rules heavier as the game has evolved, and further and further stepping away from the concept of the story being the reason for the game, and allowing rules to be loose and mostly optional, to a game where the rules, and game balance, are of utmost importance, and the story secondary. At that point, that crucial tipping point, where the story became secondary, I think the game of Dungeons and Dragons stopped its decline and leaped into a complete free-fall. Methinks that the game has descended into a roll-playing game. And perhaps this post shows my age. Perhaps it shows that I’m more old school than I thought.

I don’t think there is anything bad in that. And I guess I really just don’t like 4th Edition.



  1. AlphaAnt · May 25, 2010

    I am not sure what part of NewbieDM’s article you think was about the failings of 4e, but you took away the wrong impression from it. If you were to go through the article and replace any mention of “D&D” and “4e” (with the exclusion of the passage on the Dungeon Delve product, of course) with “GURPS”, “Star Wars”, “Pathfinder”, or even any other version of D&D itself, his points are still extremely valid, as the system has little to do with how you develop your story. I could argue that you could switch systems every encounter, and still keep a congruous story. I’ve played in 4e games that have that epic feel that you find so lacking, and I’ve played in 3.x games where the players cared more about their character stats than what was going on in the story, so saying that it’s the system’s fault is just using the system as a crutch.

    I really don’t care if people like 4e or don’t like 4e, but saying that the system eliminates the ability to tell a story is putting the blame in completely the wrong place.

  2. jebbx · May 25, 2010

    Hi AlphaAnt, thanks for commenting.

    I have to disagree with you. His article is about the context of creating adventures in Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, he says as much in the fourth paragraph. He further states quite clearly that in his opinion, crafting adventures is more important than crafting stories. He isn’t in any way saying that 4th Edition is failing at anything – I am saying that it is failing.

    Further, I am not saying that it is impossible to create a congruous story for 4th Edition, what I am saying is that 4th Edition doesn’t lend itself to the creation of epic story lines, rather, it lends itself to beer and pretzel roleplaying. Short, one shot adventures, that may or may not be tied together.

    As for blame, I think you missed the point of my article, which suggests that I didn’t write it very well. The point of my article is that with each new edition of rules for the Dungeons and Dragons game, it becomes less of a story telling tool and more of a board game. I haven’t played that much 4th Edition, I have played a lot more 3rd Edition, more so, I think, than even 2nd Edition, and I find that 4th Edition left a bad taste in my mouth.

    While 4th Edition is an excellent rules system, it just doesn’t feel like Dungeons and Dragons. My article isn’t about story telling, it’s about how I feel that Dungeons and Dragons is on a steady decline.

    • DrOct · May 25, 2010

      Honestly, you say over and over again that you think 4th Edition isn’t good for story-telling but you never really explain why. What is it about 4th Edition that makes it bad for telling large epic stories? Yes, 4th Edition does make it easier to design encounters, but I’m not sure what that has to do with whether you can craft a good story. To me that just makes it easier to run the mechanical aspects of the game and make the individual moments a bit more fun.

      I’ve played every edition of D&D since 2nd Edition and I’ve never once seen a way in which the system itself helped or inhibited story telling, in my experience, that’s always been up to the DM and the group, not the rules. I think NewbieDM was just pointing out that his group is probably a bit more interested in dungeon-crawling than epic story-telling. There’s nothing new to D&D about that.

      As I recall, early D&D tended to actually involve a lot less story than it tends to these days. People tended to just design large dungeons, with illogical combinations of monsters and the thinnest of motivations to get the players into them. Half of the game elements were determined randomly (now if anything about a game is going to inhibit story telling, having most things that happen determined by dice seems like a good candidate, though even there I’d say a good DM and group could roll with it so to speak) That general attitude changed over time, but I don’t think it had anything to do with edition changes, it just had to do with how different people wanted to play, and it never completely disappeared. There have always been, and always will be, people who just want to roll dice and fight monsters. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the edition you’re playing.

      Now, I certainly wouldn’t say that your feeling that 4th Edition doesn’t appeal to you isn’t valid. If you don’t like the system, you don’t like the system, that’s an entirely reasonable position to take, some systems are a good match for some people and not for others. But I honestly don’t see what that has to do with someone’s ability to tell a story.

    • Colmarr · May 26, 2010

      Jebbx: “what I am saying is that 4th Edition doesn’t lend itself to the creation of epic story lines, rather, it lends itself to beer and pretzel roleplaying”

      The 4e campaign I’m playing in, which has been running since Autumn 08, disagrees with you.

      We’ve had party conflict over treatment of prisoners, emotional reunions with family members and mentors, and encounters with Gods. We’re only at the tip of the iceberg (just hit level 10), but there’s been a heavy focus so far on the evil goods Shar and Cyric so it’s not hard to guess where the campaign is headed.

      4e “lends itself” to exactly the sort of campaign the DM and players want to run. In fact, I would suggest that 4e is better at epic storytelling than any previous edition for one simple reason: the PCs are more likely to survive to get there. What’s epic about dying in a pit trap at level 1 (1e and 2e), or dying every second encounter and being resurrected/reincarnated twice a day every day (3e)?

  3. newbiedm · May 25, 2010

    Hey, thought I’d drop by… 🙂

    The context of my story/adventure/encounter can be easily misrepresented, so let me clear it up. I’m arguing that perhaps it is more important to concentrate on the actual adventure/encounters that the pc’s are facing at the moment, rather than the overall plot of the epic storyline. Why? Well, because that’s what ultimately will engage your players or not at the moment. The story can ebb and flow based on your needs, while an encounter is pretty screwed if it’s a bad one from the get go.

    Same applies to adventures. Luke sneaking into Jabba’s palace is an adventure within the context of the larger story of SW. Within that adventure he has several encounters up until Jabba is dead.

    As a DM, I need to fine tune those adventures to engage my players and make the game enjoyable. There’s no use in having an epic story when the adventures and encounters within it are boring. In that case have your players go read a good novel instead and skip the dice rolling.

    I’m not so sure I understand where the emphasis on 4e comes from on your end though. Sure, I was talking about 4e, but remove any references to edition, and I could have been talking about any other D&D. I’ve played all Ad&d’s, and a story is a story regardless of the rules that set the framework for the encounters. Right now I am planning on running a skype based Red Box game and in my opinion the same concepts apply.

    Anyway, thanks for dropping by my blog and igniting debate. I’m sure you’ll get all sorts of different opinions on the subject.

    • jebbx · May 25, 2010

      I feel somewhat honored that I managed to get you to comment, although that was not my intention 😉

      It’s not specifically about 4th Edition that I speak, but a general decline in Dungeons and Dragons over all. Your specific article wasn’t my motivating reason for the post, but more of yet another article I had read that seemed to slide more away from the over arcing story towards short one shotters.

      Understand this: there is nothing wrong with one shot adventures, I myself am currently trying to get a Friday Night Firefight going, whereby the adventure is a once off. Certainly, linking several one off’s can indeed lead to a greater story arc.

      I understand your approach to DM’ing, whereby you would rather focus on the adventure, and the encounters within that adventure. Personally, I don’t like that approach. And what I am saying, is that 4th Edition DND, just like 3.5 Edition DND, lends itself to this style of gaming. I feel that 4th Edition lends itself more than 3.5 Edition did. Much more. It feels more like a board game than a roleplaying game.

      Oddly enough, your comment about sending the players to go and read a novel brought a grin to my face. The objective of my games, especially my campaigns, is the story. I’ve always viewed my campaigns as novels where the players are the lead protagonists. It’s worked well for me and the group that I played with. We had a 3.5 campaign that went on for more than three years, and, sadly, disintegrated due to player issues and attitudes.

      As I said in my original post, however, I intend to design a story for 4th Edition and do my level best to make it as epic as possible. I just think it is going to be a lot more difficult to do so than it was in 3rd Edition.

      Having said that, thank you for coming to this arbitrary blog and commenting, makes me feel kinda chuffed 🙂

  4. Neuroglyph · May 25, 2010

    As someone who has played every version of D&D since 1978, and now is a major proponent for 4E, I think your assertions are WAY off base. Particularly about claiming that 4E “does not cater to progressive story telling” and has become a “beer & pretzel game”. If that happens, it is because that is what the DM and Players CHOOSE to make of the game. I’ve been in D&D 1st Edition games that were entirely beer & pretzel, being nothing more than a series of fights the DM kicks off just to have everyone roll dice. So that sort of play-style has nothing to do with the version, and everything to do with the people sitting at the table.

    As to the assertion that D&D is in decline, I also disagree. The game is EVOLVING. It is moving forward, and becoming something that will capture the hearts and minds of the video game generation, and bring them back to the social gathering of the gaming table. It’s unfortunate that some of the “old timers” like myself view the game as “degenerate”, but that word has branded many new trends and innovations in the past. So get over it, play your old version of D&D if you want to, or change to 4E – I’m just happy to see my hobby of 30+ years still going strong for all kinds of gamers.

  5. DM Samuel · May 25, 2010

    I encourage you to put every effort into running a long 4e campaign. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    The 4e system makes DM prep of the mechanical aspects of the game so quick and easy that I actually have MORE time to devote to the storytelling aspects.

    You will also find that there ARE differences between the classes, and the system by which the players choose their powers makes it so that even 2 characters of the same class and build can be very different.

    The key here is actually your players. 4e lends itself to letting your players describe the awesome effects of some powerful spell they just cast, or the crunching bones in the face of the ogre the fighter just smacked. The 4e powers lend themselves to great elaboration and narration when they are being used – it’s simply a matter of using them. But let’s be honest and admit that this was always the case. If you have a player in your 3.5 game that just says “I roll to hit” and another player that says “I swing my axe at the goblin’s legs as I try to move past him, ducking low so that he might fall over” – which one do you think is more into the game? Which one is most likely to be the one to fall to his knees weeping over the anguish of having to kill one of his own at the end of the campaign? The answer is system independent.

    4e is not for everyone, it’s true. But it allows for just as much role-playing and story-building, just as many epic campaign arcs filled with quests, and just as much character-player connection as any other edition.

    I hope you enjoy it. but if you don’t – hey, play the think that’s fun for you – isn’t that why we all game?

    DM Samuel
    Twitter: @DMSamuel

  6. Pingback: This is NOT an edition war « DM Samuel's RPG Musings
  7. JesterOC · May 25, 2010

    Check out, Thursday Knights ( if you want to listen to actual play from people who enjoy Epic stories using 4e. These guys have epic stories and as you can tell the system does not hinder them at all.


    • Icosahedrophilia · May 26, 2010

      Ditto for Icosahedrophilia. We’ve been podcasting our D&D campaign since August 2008, with a complex, multilayered story. We started in August 2008 with me having a clear vision of how the story should begin (at level 1) and end (at level 30), with some vague ideas about the progression through toward the final boss fight in the last adventure of level 30.

      I took NewbieDM’s post largely to mean that no matter how grand your overarching plot is, though, it doesn’t engage the players unless each scene is as carefully crafted as the whole world. If your individual scenes (encounters) and chapters (adventures) are boring, then your novel (campaign) won’t hold the attention of its readers (players). As one of my former colleagues once said, about the Silmarillion, “I understand why Tolkien needed to write it. I’m not sure we need to read it.” Nobody would be interested in the Silmarillion if The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings hadn’t been such rollicking good stories.

  8. Azaroth42 · May 25, 2010

    As we tend to start off with our qualifications, I’ve played and run D&D and many other RPGs consistently for 25 years, have designed and run my own system for 6 years.

    I both agree (gasp!) and disagree (not so gasp) with your post. Firstly, to contrast the other responses, the agreement: Yes, 4th edition seems to encourage adventures of around 4-5 encounters, which can then be strung together into a loose campaign with no real overarching story. The reason I say “seems to” is because this is how most of the published material is written (Dungeon, and modules). There is no longer any story in the adventures, it’s just one encounter per two page spread with lots of monster stats, tactics and the battle grid. Yawn!

    I disagree with your premise, and agree with all of the other commenters, that this is how the game must (or even should) be played. Also that this is significantly different to equivalent published adventures/modules in previous editions.

    * I very strongly agree with DMSamuel that the preparation in 4th edition is significantly less than 3rd, or any other edition. The CR system is 3.0/3.5 was fundamentally broken compared to the level/xp system for designing a combat in 4th, and prior to that was non-existent. There are some monsters that are a bit out of whack, but not by so much that you’d inadvertently TPK a party like in 3rd while following the construction guidelines.

    * Reducing the randomness in characters (no rolling for HP, stats for example) to me doesn’t reduce their uniqueness — it’s completely possible to build a character with a non optimal stat set for story reasons. The advantage is that players don’t feel cheated for an entire *campaign* when they roll poorly and another player rolls well.

    * The skill challenges and method of handling traps in 4e are a big step up in the evolution of D&D towards story over combat. Of course, this is only starting to catch up with other systems that have never had the focus on kill kill kill that is the trademark of D&D. To progress further, our group has introduced a third type of encounter called a Roleplaying Challenge. There’s no need to roll dice (besides perhaps insight, diplomacy or bluff if necessary) and you get XP if you successfully get to the desired outcome, based on your character’s interaction with NPCs and other PCs during the encounter.

    As always, with any cooperative storytelling environment, the enjoyment comes from the personal interaction. This is where NewbieDM’s novel comment comes from, I believe, in that you cannot interact with a book. This interaction is completely independent of the system. Any system that actively gets in the way of interaction is bad, but in order to have a structured game in which characters can progress over time, a system needs to exist. 4th Ed does, IMHO, a much better job of getting out of the way than previous editions.

    — @azaroth42

  9. jebbx · May 25, 2010

    Greetings gentlepeople,

    Excuse my mirth, but, if you were to take a look at this blogs history you would find that this post has generated more response than anything before.

    Having said that, let’s review: I made statements, apparently not very well formed, about my perception of Dungeons and Dragons and the decline, culminating in 4th Edition and how I felt that the game had descended into a degenerate of the original.

    I maintain this view, that 4th Edition is not Dungeons and Dragons, however, I also feel that I may be wrong, as there seems to be plenty of vociferous support for its superiority. As such, I concede that I need to run a 4th Edition campaign to adjudicate for myself as to whether the system lends itself to epic story telling or not.

    Therefore, I shall do so. I shall being plotting immediately. I just hope that I can find players of sufficient caliber to test the theorems upon.

    @DMSamuel: Thank you for your lucid and poignant post, I shall endeavor to do just as you suggest.

    @JesterOC: Thank you for the link, I have oft considered recording my gaming sessions, but never quite got around to it, now I have the opportunity to listen to how others do it, well, at least I will in 22 minutes (curse this slow Internet in ZA).

    @Neuroglyph: Your post varies from being helpful and commentary to being mildly insulting and dismissive, a pity really. I’ve been DM’ing for seventeen odd years, so I am not without experience in the topic, and I have found that of the three iterations of rules that I have played, being Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition, Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 and 3.0, and Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, that the 3rd Edition, encompassing both 3.0 and 3.5 led to the best mechanism of my story telling style. I have to admit, however, that I have not DM’ed the 4th edition. Perhaps my perception will change, however, I continue to sense that the intrinsic nature of Dungeons and Dragons has changed and that it is no longer the Dungeons and Dragons that I am aware of. Having said that, I will, as said to DMSamuel, attempt a 4th Edition campaign.

    @DrOct: I thank you for your post, and understand this – I have no issue with the 4th Edition System in as much as the rules are well written and translate to fluid play. I do, however, feel that 4th Edition is far less than Dungeons and Dragons should be. It feels almost generic, which is what irks my ire the most. If anything, it is the changes to the wizard class that makes me most froth at the bit, much the same as the 3rd edition bard made me boo and hiss at the authors.

    @Everyone Here: Again, thank you for your posts and your comments and thoughts, it has been an interesting little journey, and I am adamant to give 4th Edition a bash. It looks like I’ll have to blow the dust off of the books on my shelf, as they’ve been standing there looking at me for months now.

    I’ll place the story in my own game world, and hope that you all shall be interested in updates of the story as I progress (you’ll be able to track it here:

    Many thanks, again.

    • mjbrenner · May 25, 2010

      I am really glad that you are giving 4e a fair shake. I was very, very against 4e, even after playing in a casual biweekly game. I did not appreciate 4e until I began running my own campaign. Skill checks, for example, have helped me to provide a structure in which my role-players can flourish but my more mechanically-inclined players still have a framework with which they can process the encounter.

      My Birthright game retains it’s old 3e feel, but all of my players have “neat” things they can do. Each shines in a different type of situation. I hope you will find similar success in your game.

    • DrOct · May 25, 2010

      I very much appreciate your response and the discussion that’s happened here! I do hope you enjoy 4th Edition, I think, if nothing else, you’ll find that prep is much easier (I’ve played every edition since 2nd but this is the first edition I’ve DM’d, but I’ve talked with my DM’s a lot in the past and have seen some of the work they put into prepping for previous editions and I’m not sure I could have done it!).

      Anyway, I look forward to seeing how it goes and I hope you find some good players to give it a spin!

    • onlinedm · May 26, 2010

      I agree with the other commenters – I’m glad you’ve decided to set a quest for yourself! Running an epic-feeling campaign in Fourth Edition should be easy if you have the right DM (yep, you’ve got that) and the right players. I ran into these issues myself just last week, and I concluded that the system doesn’t matter for telling a story – it’s the storytellers (DM and players) that matter (

      I think you’re going to have a good time with the epic 4e campaign, and I look forward to reading about it for inspiration!

  10. DM Samuel · May 26, 2010

    I posted about this on my blog, here:

    I figured I should tell you, in case you didn’t get a trackback notice. I hope you don’t mind.

    I’ve enjoyed the civilized conversation here and appreciate your response – it was very classy, and sometimes that’s hard to find on the internet 🙂

    DM Samuel

    Twitter: @DMSamuel

    • DM Samuel · May 26, 2010

      LOL – I saw the trackback notice as I was hitting submit – oh well 🙂

  11. Colmarr · May 26, 2010

    Blogger doesn’t utilise trackbacks, so I wanted to mention that I addressed the “It’s Just not D&D” aspect on my blog.

  12. wickedmurph · May 26, 2010

    Good on you for being open-minded enough to give a 4e epic campaign a try. I do think you misunderstood newbie’s “Know thy group” comment – some gaming groups are in it for the tactical stuff, more than big-picture. Sounds like your group will be into the big story.

    I’ve been running a fairly epic-scaled 4e game with my old group from college, and here are a couple of “wish I’d known before I started” things from my experience:

    1) Get a 1-month subscription to DDi, and download the Character Builder and Monster Builder. Monster Builder in particular is the single best DMing tool I’ve ever used for DnD, in 20+ years of playing the game. You’ll get all the monsters and player options published up till now, and you can use them even after the subscription expires. No-brainer for amount of content/cost.

    2) Decide how you are going to deal with treasure/magic. I’m not crazy-sauce about 4e’s treatment of treasure, so I use a ritual/upgrades/equipment/gold separation – I still use the parcels, but instead of “gold” I give x worth of ritual components or a spirit stone that can be used to upgrade a magic item. Makes it more interesting, but takes a bit more planning. Also, figure out if you are doing “random” magic items, or taking requests. It’ll make a difference in a few levels.

    3) Decide how you’re dealing with mapping. I use Maptools and a projector, or print out maps and use a gridded clear overlay. Also, gridded whiteboard and dry-erase works well. I use random tokens from my wargames for tokens, when I’m not using Maptools.

    4) Decide what resources you are going to allow players to use when creating characters. Character builder lets you only take materials from certain sources. If you only want to use the stuff you have reference materials for, make sure that’s clear, or you’ll get somebody with options from Monster Manual 2 and Dragon issue 234. Which is easy to deal with if you have DDi, but less so otherwise.

    5) Now you’ve done all the hard work – enjoy all the rest of the time you have to spend making up cool NPC’s, massive plots, BBEG’s and soforth!

  13. boccobsblog · July 13, 2010

    I agree, we are in a slump. I only hope that gamers will make their voices heard and D&D 5th ed. will be different. Until then, im sticking with 3.5e

  14. The Red DM · September 16, 2010

    I think your noting of the meme changing from quest to adventure is both in error and overstated. While the term quest has had some presence in the past, I think its fair to say that the word adventure has been more dominant since at least the mid-80s. Obviously things may be different in your region, but on the internet I haven’t heard the word quest used more than a handful of times in the last 12 years.

  15. eveningfall · September 27, 2010

    While I don’t think the decline of Dungeons & Dragons is any particular rulesets fault, I agree that there seems to be a trend where the stories, the backgrounds of the characters and their lives, and the focus on meaningful encounters seems to take a secondary role.

    I never played any edition before 3.0, but part of the problem I believe boils down to player mentality. In all the groups I have DM’ed, there is always a couple of players focusing on the story, and creating deep and complex characters. And then there is the players saying that “yes, we care about a meaningful story”, and “yes, we will create good and believable characters”, but they often tend to end up not to, and they usually only focus in battle encounters, not paying much attention when it comes to roleplaying.

    When 4th edition came, I DM’ed a campaign that lasted for 6 months. The RP was good, and a couple of new players said it was easier to learn the new rules and they meant that they could focus more on character development and RP when they needed less time to learn the rules. Despite this, we ended up going back to 3.5 (and later Pathfinder) for the most part in future campaigns.

    But I noticed a trend; no matter what ruleset where being used, there came a gradual wish for more action oriented campaigns and less story oriented campaigns the more we played. I resisted, and was keeping my campaigns focused on the story and the world. Still, I saw a drop in interest from the players over time. I also feel that epic story lines are going to die out with this (my) generation, but I truly hope I am wrong!

    Anyways, to connect the dots, I do not believe that any edition of D&D is the reason for the decline of focus on story and characters (although I agree that 4th edition has it’s flaws), but more a change in player mentality. As to what causes this change, I am not sure. Or perhaps my experience was an isolated case and perhaps I will have better luck with a new D&D group? Time will tell, but I hope that D&D, character development and epic stories will survive.

    (P.S: Good blog, I will follow this one)

  16. dovearrow · April 20, 2011

    4E is not my favorite edition by far. However, I don’t think that it has made the art of storytelling more difficult. On the contrary, I think it has made the art of storytelling much easier on the DM. For example, you mentioned skill challenges. I love this mechanic, and I think in the hands of a seasoned DM, it not only encourages good roleplay, but encourages players who normally wouldn’t roleplay to do so. I also think that the changes to things like traps, poison, and disease- mechanics that only worked so-so in 3.5- make it easier for DMs to tell the kinds of stories they want.

    On the other hand, I will agree with you that the character creation process has much to be desired. I won’t go so far as to say that you can’t create a character with a meaningful background like the one you did for 3.5. In fact, I created a 4E character very similar to the one you created, and I have enjoyed playing him immensely. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I can always just pick up the books and create the kind of character I want like I can in 3.5. In fact, I have found that the books often frustrate my attempts to create the kind of character I want. I also agree that it’s very easy to forego roleplaying and focus entirely on min/maxing your character, partly because there is so much to remember.

    As for the other person’s post, I don’t agree with his premise. I still think that, even in 4E, the primary focus needs to be on the story, not on the encounters. In fact, I made a post on his blog stating as much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s