Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ghalstaff, Sorcerer of Light!

Okay, take a good look at this in-action picture of yesterday's D&D session and tell me what's different about it...

That's right, those little plastic tactical action figures are being moved around the laminated map of a haunted graveyard using 4th edition D&D rules!

My friendly local game store got a store copy of the first adventure for 4th edition D&D: Keep on the Shadowfell (no, not the Borderlands), which isn't available until June 7th for us regular folk. As I run my weekly game there on Monday nights, the owner offered to let me borrow it and playtest it for my D&D group. We of course took her up on the offer and decided to take the fight to some Kobold Wyrmpriests.

How does it play? Well...its freaking different than 3.5, that's for sure. Let's highlight some glaring differences we encountered:

- Magic missiles are cast at-will, don't automatically hit, and do 2d4+4 points of damage.

- Everybody can basically cast cure light wounds on themselves at least once per combat.

- Halflings are as fast as humans, and a foot taller than they used to be.

- A Kobold 'minion' has 1 hit point, but a lvl 1 Kobold has 36 hit points and can breath fire.

- Miniatures are absolutely essential to play the game, as everything is measured in "squares." (no more "5 foot steps" or "15-ft flaming cone" or distances on anything, but "5-square burst").

- Bards no longer exist and Gnomes are now monsters, but Half-daemons and Dragonpeople are 1st-level playable races alongside Elves and Humans.

- Fighters can cast "Cleave" at-will, but can only "Brute-Strike" once per day, and neither do what you think they do.

All-in-all we were not as impressed as we wanted to be, probably because the combat was so confusing. It was like the first time you play a Fantasy Flight boardgame, where you think you know what's going on, but realize four hours in that you don't know how combat really works (I'm looking at you, WoW and Arkham Horror!).

4th edition D&D might eventually be fun, but we've all decided to continue delving the depths of The Wizard Thraxdar's Hidden Library of Death using the 3.5 rules for now.

Good news, though, Wizard's of the Coast has officially announced they're going to GenCon this year (what a surprise)!