As you may or may not have heard, there's a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons out -- the fourth. As ever, fans hate and fear change, and the new D&D edition has been the subject of a fair amount of fannish controversy. Some people like the new rules. Some hate 'em. One of the biggest controversies is the lack of Vancian magic -- in the classic rules, as in some of Jack Vance's stuff, your character had to learn a spell anew after every time you used it. You got X number of spells a day, depending on your level, and if you cast everything you had in the first encounter then encounter #2 found you shit out of luck. In the new rules, which seem to be heavily inspired by MMORPGs (and probably would translate really easily to one), you have at-will, encounter, and daily powers/prayers/spells/what have you. The at-will ones you can use over and over again, any time you want; the encounter ones you get one, maybe two uses per encounter (i.e., per roleplaying scene or combat); the daily ones you get to use once per day. You recharge by resting, so if you have a short rest after a battle your powers all pop up again; a long rest, about six hours, gets your daily powers back. This makes intuitive sense, and I actually like it. It certainly makes things more fun at first level, said this dwarf cleric who cast the ever-loving *shit* out of Lance of Faith.
Ash and Denise had started a game previously, and I joined it. I had a great time. My backstory for joining the game was that I was Ash's character's cousin, which mostly meant that I made aggravated noises at his fighter a lot in-character. "Yes, just ignore the smell. My cousin accessorizes by strapping severed kobold heads to his waist. He claims it's the latest fashion, but I wouldn't look to him if you want a trendsetter." Other characters at the table: an eladrin wizard, a human warlock, and a halfling rogue. That last, Denise's character, turned out to be the surprise of the evening. When time came for battle, our fighter and cleric traded blows with annoyingly sturdy kobolds, with Ash's fighter missing most of the time, and our wizard and sorcerer causing minor injuries to the enemy from the periphery. Denise's rogue, meanwhile, would get behind enemies and backstab them, which in game terms played out as if she'd had a chainsaw. Most of our kills were due to her.
I like the new rules so far. They make combat pretty streamlined. The weirdest thing, to me, is the new saving throw system. Used to be you would make a saving throw for reflex, for will, what have you. Not any more. Now the attack roll targets your relevant defense, and if it hits you, you roll a saving throw every round, but your Fortitude or Will or whatever doesn't matter; you're just trying to get a ten or better to throw it off. That seems really odd to me.
I've been wanting to play D&D again for a while. Shamus Young's brilliant DM of the Rings
, along with his accounts of D&D campaigns, got me thinking about it -- and hey, now there's a fresh new edition! If you haven't played D&D in a while, give it a look.