D&D Lair Assault: 4e Wallows In Its Own Filth

The description of the new WotC Organized Play program made me throw up in my mouth a little.

I keep hoping 4e might come back from the brink.  Mike Mearls keeps posting “Ah yes, the good things we are starting to remember from older D&D editions” posts on his blog. Maybe D&D isn’t degenerating into a tactical minis game forever after all, I think.

And then they just up and announce it’s a tactical minis game. No really, go read the link.  The new OP is “tailored to groups of players who enjoy solving tactical puzzles, optimizing characters, and using rules to their advantage.” You come and minmax character builds and run them through a tactical simulation. If you die, it’s back to the save point and try again. Again, really, “Adventuring groups will often attempt a challenge several times before solving it.” The “D&D Fortune Cards are a required and integral part” isn’t even in the top 10 disturbing things about this.

Frankly, Organized Play is behind a lot of the bad stuff that started to corrupt 3e. It breeds a certain mindset and playstyle with very tightly constrained encounter difficulties, point buy min maxing, etc. that ends up corrupting the expectations of players. Now they are, as the kids today say, “Sticking it in and breaking it off” as far as that’s concerned.

I wonder how the people that always object to saying that 4e is becoming exactly like a computer game can even begin to continue to say that with a straight face now.

I mean, I don’t mind wargaming. I remember a lively game of Stargrunt II I played at a Gen Con.  But WotC needs to start a separate tactical game line and stop making everyone think that it is a roleplaying game. It just breeds more “It’s only about the kill” goons that inhabit local game tables, Internet forums, and eventually the ranks of adventure and supplement authors.

P.S.  If this is  your first visit here and you just don’t understand WHY…  I’m not gonna bother to link you to the past posts that explain how 4e is different from roleplaying games, etc.; if you can’t type “4e” into the search box above if you really want to find out, then you fall below the minimum INT required to care about whether you understand what’s going on…

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26 responses to “D&D Lair Assault: 4e Wallows In Its Own Filth

  1. Well said. Something has to give soon. The whole 4E thing is unsettling to me. I bought the players handbook, gave it a few tries before Gen-Con last year, and played it at Gen-Con. I felt dirty. Then I played “The Tower of Gygax” (Old school at it’s best) and it was super-fun!

  2. D&D has never really successfully masked its Chainmail roots. Granted, at some points the veneer has been a bit thicker than at others, and now, it’s pretty much been stripped except for the name.

    I think you’ll be much happier when you just start mentally substituting ‘Chainmail 2k10′ whenever you see 4e.

    On the other hand, it would deny us the pleasure of many of your blog postings, so maybe you should just forget I said anything.

    • Well, sure, and “Chainmail 2k10″ is a fair comparison. But in other editions since they had the good grace to have separate “Chainmail” lines so that those who had discovered the actual roleplaying part of the hobby could do that and you could identify when you just wanted to wargame… AD&D 1e and 2e especially bore very little resemblance to Chainmail in any way except for some names and IP, though they had historical roots there.

      It’s like those “religions of the Book” discussions where people try to show how Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all the same. Not so much, they carry some historical IP along with them but are totally different in approach and mindset. So yes, 4e hearkens back to Chainmail, in the same way that crazy little fundamentalist cults often hearken back to Judaism and, you know, adopt dietary laws and wife-swap. (Careful students of historical theology will note that only one of those two things was really part of Judaism, making this an excellent analogy.)

  3. I’m a player who enjoys 4e as well as the limited experiences I’ve had with 1e (I’m still a relative newcomer to D&D). Lair Assault doesn’t appeal to me. But that’s okay – I get to enjoy my own 4e games with actual roleplaying and characters that aren’t min-maxed to the hilt and so on.

    If 4e became nothing but Lair Assault, I wouldn’t enjoy that game. But that’s not the case, thankfully.

      • The post you linked to is excellent. It’s well-reasoned and gives a good rationale for why players who enjoy older editions of D&D but not 4th Edition should care about the direction of the game and why they have a legitimate reason to speak up about things that worry them in 4th Edition.

        However, what makes it excellent and differentiates from this post is the tone. The post you linked to doesn’t describe “wallowing in filth” or making you “throw up in your mouth”. Tone matters.

        Had I only read your linked post, I would have thought, “Wow, this guy has fantastic points and a really useful perspective on the differences between editions.” This post, by contrast, makes me think that the person writing it is just full of excessively strong negative emotion, rather than a person who cares about the direction of the game for legitimate reasons.

        I know it’s the same person – but mxyzplk of 2009 states his case much better than mxyzplk of 2011, in my opinion.

        • Gotta mix it up. If there’s not some “zazz” to it, then the guys on Something Awful who like to show how superior they are by mocking “grognards” won’t link to my stuff! And my old blog post went into all the same channels as this one, but you’re just now reading it, and why? Because it was linked to from here. Nope, all working as planned.

  4. D&D to me is similar to a movie with too many parts now. Any unnecessary continuation of the series is just to profit on its name and water-down the series. The first two were the best, the third is okay with its ups and downs and the fourth has become unwatchable. I wonder if anyone nowadays can execute an adventure without using any maps or minis. The fourth installment has just gotten ridiculous with the last two items.

  5. I understand the frustration and I totally agree. However, please focus on some the great supplements (i.e. Vor Rukuth, Hammerfast, Gloomwrought, and even Monster Vault 2) which are FULL of awesome role-playing opportunities. In my opinion home campaigns are the way to go, and organized play programs are horrible ways to introduce new players to what should be a ROLE-PLAYING game, not a roll-playing game.

    • Isn’t this the way it has always been? If you want good role-play, you stick with home campaigns and don’t touch organized play. Organized play has always been a tactical miniatures game from my experience. You might squeeze a little role-play into it, but be careful how much or the power gamers will start raging at your non-optimal choices and wasting time.

      I’m no apologist of 4E though. The direction it is headed in has me distraught, and I backed out when the Essentials line was created. That’s when the whole thing took a bad turn in my opinion, and when the whole patching process began. I don’t play a tabletop game to have my hard-copy books invalidated and rewritten every few months. On the other hand, as I stick to home campaigns, I can safely ignore any of the “official” changes; a Cleric is a Cleric is a Cleric, not some gimped Templar.

      It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to get me to purchase any forthcoming WotC products though. :/

  6. Once again, I’m going to take an orthogonal approach and object to the PR of all this, specifically in the name:

    “Lair Assault”? Really? Was “Home Invasion” already taken? I breathlessly await the next iteration of this concept, “Dungeons & Dragons: Gangrape Fuckpunch.”

  7. 4th Edition really simplified a lot of things (read as removed a lot of customization). And, yhere seems to be a lot less focus on puzzle solving and more emphasis on combat. While this is a truly sad thing, I have started to enjoy playing 4th Edition.

    It doesn’t feel like D&D to me (I started with AD&D 2nd Edition and the D&D Red Box), but it is much quicker to jump into a game especially for newer players than previous versions have been.

  8. Pingback: A Few (Hopefully) Considered Words About 4E « The Rhetorical Gamer

  9. Pingback: Why does dislike for an edition get so heated? « Online Dungeon Master

  10. Proving again WHY Pathfinder is role-playing with roll-playing.

  11. I’m actually excited about Lair Assualt. The whole “4e isn’t really D&D” debate to me holds no weight. D&D is completely what you make it. Granted, you can play it as a tactical mini game and their may be more crunch than fluff, but you don’t have to stick to it. Just because the game encourages fortune cards or minis, doesn’t mean its required. The lair assualt program is like the other side of the Encounters coin. If encounters is for new players, then Lair Assualt is for the expereinced gamers.

    I would like to see the other side of the 4e debate, and no matter how much I put 4e in the search box, I can’t see anything other than “its now a tactical minis game” debate. Please help.

    • That should tell you something (that you can’t find other viewpoints).

      Either you’re “OK with” D&D becoming just a tactical game, and Lair Assault being the expected evolution of what “experienced gamers” would want, or you’re not OK with it. That’s different from “is it happening.” Clearly, it is happening. You can be OK with it or not OK with it, but being OK with it doesn’t mean it’s not turned into a tactical minis game, right?

  12. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with 2nd Edition AD&D, but have played every “edition” of Dungeons&Dragons from the Chainmail version all the way through 4th edition. I recently came across something interesting, and it made me instanly remember that 4e is practically forcing the use of battle mats. This is NOT from Wizards of the Coast, it is a video created by the Surfacescapes team at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Though it almost feels that this is where D&D will be going.

  13. You people need RULES for roleplaying? You make me giggle. Roelplaying flows naturally. Rules are needed only in the chaos of combat, and 4e does just that. No printed material is better than the stories I put before my players, and no splatbook can give them more power to mess up my plans then their twisted ideas.
    But you silly trolls will just keep regenerating. Stay in your musty basements with your anger and oldthink while I enjoy 4e in the sun!

  14. I am not angry at 4e, and I do not condemn 4e or people who play it, I just prefer a system of roleplaying that doesn’t require the use of battle mats, miniatures, of dungeon tiles. I look at the way I run my own games as using imagination and interactivity to govern the combat. If that make me “oldthink” then I’d rather be oldthink, though I do resent being called a troll. This thread that practically identifies itself as a place where players who are dissatisfied with 4e are likely to congregate, so I fail to see how the people here are trolls.

  15. I just feel like every edition gets to a shark-jumping point. The difference is that 4E only took about 2 years to get there. Most of the stuff they put out up to that point was pretty good, but after… I’m not a fan of Essentials or any of the newer ideas they’ve been putting forward. At least with 3.5, they really did fix some serious issues with the game. With Essentials it just seems like double-dipping to get a Rules Compendium that is updated with all the fixes they’ve made… and which are free to download from their website. This Lair Assault is just another nail in the coffin of the current edition. We’ll see if they put 5E on the shelf until they bring it back as some retro thing to do or if they just keep pounding out the mediocre material.

  16. For me D&D died for me when the grid appeared with 3rd edition. I find it humorous that so many people have been up in arms so long about how “D&D” is just like a computer game. Really … DUH! Yes it is and it has been since they converted the game to a tactical miniatures centric game at the end of 2nd edition. 4e is more constraining in many areas than 3rd was but the role playing largely devolved into roll playing as soon as games were forced to focus so much on tactically moving pieces around on the board. I’ve heard people say “well we don’t use minis” or similar things about 3.0/3.5/pathfinder but its BS and if they do they are not using all the rules of the game … and really if they were intelligent about what they were doing they’d just find another system that didn’t require minis. D&D is at its core a campy hack and slash fest of a game that has groups of fairy tale adventurers banding together to go into dungeons and caverns to battle mythical beasts … the end. That is what Arneson and Gygax came up with. What they played before that was a tactical miniatures game known as chainmail. You all know this (well most of you) so why do people consistently build D&D up so much beyond what it was, has been and always will be? Just pick the version you like (or go find a more serious role playing game if you want deeper RP and less combat, its what I prefer to do anymore).

    • So allow me to distill this. We’re all a bunch of liars and idiots, and nothing can every grow past its origins. Thanks for that well thought out argument.

  17. Why the heck do people need RULES for ROLEPLAYING? I really can’t grasp this, to my players rules were always the biggest hindrance in RP situations, and my group was absolutely overjoyed that 4e mostly contains rules only for combat.

    • Nobody says rules are required for roleplaying. Read the article again.

      You can however construct rules that leave roleplaying out in the cold deliberately, which is what 4e has done.

  18. Pingback: "Who needs rules for roleplaying?" = Missing the Point — The Seven-Sided Die

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