So, it’s been about 2 years now since Dungeons amp; Dragons 4th Edition was released. Now, I played a couple of games when 3.5 was the big thing, but this only amounted to two game sessions. This was while I was in college, about 3 years ago – I forgot everything about how to play. Coming into 4th Edition, then, was as if I had never played. And oddly enough, while it has its fans and plenty of advice on using which class and what race, there is little to no info for new players.
The game is set up around a team of 5 player characters and a Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master, or DM, is in charge of making sure the game stays on track, playing any monsters the players encounter, and settling conflicts whenever possible. Players can volunteer to play as NPC’s (non-player characters), or the DM can play them. The player’s main job, though, is to play the role of their character.
Characters are made by choosing a race and a class. Most of the available races are pretty standard to fantasy – elves, dwarves, gnomes, and so on – while others are more exotic. While there are several classes to choose from, each one fills one or more roles that the team needs to survive. A good team has at least one each of a Leader (really a healer), Controller (magic user), Defender (melee fighter), and Striker (ranged fighter). Leaders are really there to heal the team, and can double as Defenders if they have to, but mostly are there for support. Leaders are also rarely the ones to lead, with Defenders or Controllers more often calling the shots.
The game assumes you use gridded game maps and miniatures or tokens to represent your characters. It’s not completely necessary, but it saves a lot of mental work on how your characters are located on the map. This makes combat a lot easier, and frankly more fun. Having something to look at helps add to the effect, and while it might not be as spectacular of the animated violence of video RPG’s, it’s a fair bit better than just using your imagination.
Speaking of, people who play video RPG’s, and especially the MMO type, will probably settle into the game easier than non-gamers. The game structure is built like one, with abilities having range, area of effect, and recharge times comparable to such games. That’s not to say that people non-gamers won’t find D D; fun, just that it might take longer to get in to. Old school D D; player might need some time to adjust.
This may all seem overwhelming, and there’s far too much material to cover for a complete review. However, Wizards will be releasing an “Essentials” line in late September, with simpler rules that are still compatible with existing product. So for all you Dungeon Masters out there looking for a way to bring in new players, 4th edition might be just what you’re looking for.