fourth edition (4e)! from below like a land shark, from above like a swooping griffon, the fourth edition (4e) of dungeons & dragons (dnd). we've seen the previews, & the leaked .pdfs, & heard the rumors, & the playtest feedback, but now the thing itself is here, & on saturn's day evening, we opened the cage of our heart, let the little pseudodragon of third edition flutter away, & invited the cunning imp of 4e (fourth edition) in. the first playtest! i was the only one with a hardcopy, since random house sort of drags it's feet sometimes & peter only ordered one copy-- a copy i seized!
it was james' first time as a dungeon master (dm) & he borrowed from peter the campaign pitch that peter had borrowed from me-- then he set the fires of revolution upon it! the basic premise of mine with that the royal lines of the kingdom would be half-elven, due to centuries of wives from the eladrin-- think aragorn & arwen's kid marries an elf, & then so on down the line till the bloodline because a self-perpetuating half-elf clan. james' version was more a "royal eladrin" family, though.
tracey was playing the princess kestreneth, an eladrin rogue, but she successfully bluffed us into thinking she was humble "lady narin," a cousin & body double for the real princess. alicia was playing the other princess, princess galenglin, an eladrin fighter, because it turns out, they were twins! emily played gaverille, a changeling ranger, & an actual body double to the twins! it was a fair bit of shell game over there. peter was playing kall tarmin, a human wizard, the court astrologer. he was my friend! & sam was playing lucan brellis, a half-elf cleric of the raven queen.
i played opera, the tiefling warlock (star-pact)/warlord. my actual name is a spell, a cipher:
because as a pact-maker & sorcerer, it doesn't go to just give out any name to the wretched fiends & faeries of the world. i am on top of my game! i had pearl skin with pink highlights, & a neck-flap filled with wriggling tauntan gut tentacles. i keep that covered up with a polished steel gorget, & wear a bell-shaped tunic/demicoat, a blue kerchief, & herringbone tights. for armor, i slide into mid-thigh length leather boots, high leather gauntlets, & pull on a leather apron & skull-cap. my personality was sort of up for grabs until the opening moments of the game, when it sort of crystalized into a weirdo comic-relief, a guy so smug in his cleverness that the cleverness of others tends to work on him. a huckster, actually, is how i would put it.
so how was it? i'll repeat what everyone i know has been saying: fun! the game play is very fun, especially the fighting. skills as things everyone can try, & skill proficiencies as a plus five (+5) worked very well at first (1st) level. i don't know about after that? i'll have to find out. here is the thing, though: it totally seems, to me at least, to trend towards "the dnd (dungeons & dragons) experience." i don't know how much escape you can get from dungeon crawling & hack & slash. in fact, the scenario peter described as a potential actually happened; rather than having any options like, i don't know, enchanting him, i blew up his brain. i'm not sorry i did it! i don't think the diplomatic solution would have worked. that is neither here nor there! fights are awesome. i want to have a big fray next time: i want to eldritch blast everybody! & i had a LOT of fun with "warlock's curse." man, i'm a witch, i might hex you if you piss me off. on the downside: there seems to be very little variation out of the gate. as far as the main books go, at least. remember how players complained that one monk/ranger/et cetera was the same as the next? now i think that goes for all the classes. my warlock could be slightly different if i picked different pacts, but not that different. the way i see it is like this: these aren't the core books. these are the starter books. as the game goes forward, i expect to see a "warlock's guide" filled with all new pacts, spells, & feats. i expect an "evil player's handbook" filled with new classes like the necromancer. they've already talked about psi, & primal, & ki classes. i don't mind that business model, entirely. though they better publish a "so you want to role-play" book soon, with useful daily & encounter powers you can substitute for melting people's faces off. doing that would soften a lot of complaints.
also, i am running the world of darkness storyteller system for my game's mechanics. so that makes me a lot more open minded. i don't have to worry about house rules, or trying to shoehorn my setting into the rules. if i did, the lack of customization behind the curtain might kill me, but i've also been coming around to the "file off the serial numbers" approach in a big way. for instance, martak wants to have his races be garuda, naga, rakshasa, & vanara. so i think he should just name the doppleganger the rakshasa, for instance, use the githyanki to make the garuda, so forth. & change nothing else but the name. anyhow, i can look at the game as a player, & from a player's viewpoint, the word is: FUN.