Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Game So Far

So enough with the warm fuzzy memories of the past and pointing out influences and everything, Jeff. What do YOU think of the new game?

Well, I like it. I like it a lot.

Stan! points out that the only ones who can do "definitive reviews" right now are early playtesters and designers, but I have to disagree with that. As one of the playtesters (I am Em the Warlord is the game that Steve Winter blogs about) I saw a cavalcade of changes over the months as we fine-tuned the character classes. My first playtest character was a Warlock (I wanted to avoid the standard classes), and I went through a "Warlock of the week" period as class abilities and powers flexed and altered as the result of other playtesting). And I had feedback, but in general relished the Warlock role of striker.

We restarted the campaign and I went with a Eladrin Warlord this time, and at first was less happy, in part because after the freewilled independence of the Warlock, the Warlord (I liked the suggested names of "marshal" and "cavalier", by the way) required much more attention to the tactical situation. Translation - I had to pay attention to the game when it wasn't my turn (oh, the horrors). I mocked the warlock as "Bard 2.0" and as "Combat Bureaucrat" but I really warmed to it over time, and realized that even though the new system had levels the number of abilities across the board for the new classes, how they used those abilities resulted in different play experiences from different classes. And that's a good thing.

Since then I have run a Dwarf Fighter and a Human Wizard in Keep on the Shadowfell(TM). I've already done the Chuck Norris riff on the Fighter abilities, and I have to say the Wizard is pretty fun as well. Despite the much-hullabalooed death of the Vancian magic styem, they kept the idea of the spellbook, though the system of choosing your daily and utility powers feels almost quaint and charming in an old-school way.

And I've been running Shadowfell for some of my co-workers, which range from old-school players to miniature gamers to complete newbiess to tabletop RPGs (of course, these "newbs" spend their days creating next-generation level MMORPGS). And THIS group has been the most 'role-playingish" in that they aren't trying to distill down the mechanics and solve the game. And It has been watching how the players grow both with the knowledge and the comfort of the new system. And I am enheartened.

Now in all this, I never heard anyone say "You know, I really miss counting 1.5 for a diagonal" or "You know, I really miss negative hit points". Yeah, there is some brain-wrapping that goes on with the nature of marking an opponent and the "three rolls to death", but in general, not a lot is missed in the experience. And to my surprise, no one seems to bemoan the lack of auto-hit with the magic missile. So the definition of "what is D&D?" spreads out just a bit more.

So now I'm leisurely digging through the Player's Handbook, coming up with gems. One popped up last night, when the group I was running wondered about subduing an opponent. At first I was resistant, but found the surrender option in the Intimidate skill laid out pretty clearly, and made it available once the target was blooded (they still blew about four attempts before the dwarf got frustrated and decided to take him down).

Oh, and the "Rogue with a splash of Warlock Eyebite" combo I mentioned in the last entry? Make it a half-elf as well, get training in bluff (another gem in the skills section) and spend as much time as you can with combat advantage.

There is more to learn on this system and more to unlearn from previous editions, but I'm enjoying the new system, as well as having the excuse to do way too much gaming.

Its a brand new game. Check it out.

More later,