Thursday, 12 May 2016

D&D - Delving Deeper

I said I would get round to finishing talking about my D&D experiences in the first part (which you can read HERE) and damn it I am going to do just that!

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was a massive shift in my mentality of the game, no longer was it hopping between small villages and deep dark dungeons now it felt like worlds were being crafted around me and we would have adventures in the depths of oceans on high mountains and anywhere else the DM would take us. 

Even now my most fond RPG moments are linked to this wonderful rule set (my mighty mage Raymondis Blackheart would be born to this era of gaming and his career would traverse 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition!).

I never ran a game of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons due mostly because a huge amount of my time was absorbed by college and the fact I was deeply invested playing in a regular game, the game was set in the forgotten realms setting. 

As settings go the forgotten realms is extremely varied with just about every type of setting and theme you could imagine contained in its geography. AD&D was very popular and TSR (the owners then of d&d) would over the years swamp the market with adventures, setting and additional (and ever more complicated) rules. 

I think it was this that broke the game, it got too complicated and ultimately put off prospective new players which is a real shame because in my opinion this was the golden age of D&D.

D&D was bought by wizards of the coast and the 3rd edition was released, with an open license and easy to learn (and remarkably comprehensive) rules set it proved to be very popular especially to new players.

3.5 was more of a upgrade to the rules rather than an edition in its own right all in all it felt like a bit of a cash grab but some of the refinements did help make the game run smoother and quicker. 

I enjoyed both playing and running games in 3rd and 3.5 and found the set up for it amazing for putting together adventures and characters. Another important thing about 3rd (and 3.5) edition was the shift in base classes and how those classes worked, barbarians and sorcerers were made into base classes creating a martial and arcane class that approached the roles of fighter and wizard from a completely different angles. 

Fighters were considered highly trained warriors with lots of feats giving them access to special maneuvers (like trip attacks,disarms and spring attacks) while the barbarian has access to increased raw physical prowess (increased speed and the ability to enter psychotic rages granting temporary strength and increased hardiness).

The wizard was considered a student of the arcane, the sorcerers capabilities are carried in his blood granting him less spells but able to cast them more often.

And then came 4th edition, to call 4th ed a failure I feel is unfair. As a combat system it was well balanced and the powers and abilities really work well on a board with miniatures. 

Sadly it does not work well as an RPG when you have a group of players each with a limited number of attacks and abilities they could utilise the classes stop having a unique feel to them and the structured nature of the attacks reduced the roleplay even as the game grinds to a snails pace combined with a poorly put together skill system and monsters that felt more like computer game opponents than D&D monsters.

I did enjoy the concept of skill challenges however, skill challenges requires players to make multiple skill checks to complete a set action be it disabling an arcane trap that is attacking the party during a battle or scaling a mountain while a blizzard swirls around them, skill challenges allows players to work together and often leads to players talking to one another on what skills are best to use and how they can help the party as a whole. 

I ran two short campaigns with the 4th addition rules but the slow pacing of combat killed it for me in the end. 4th edition was a short lived beast (a mere 5 years) but what came next was 5th edition a drastic shift for the game which I love and I will do a full review on next week.

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