4e D&D Goes Full Retard

Well, I figured it was a matter of time when I saw them in a game of the new Gamma World being run at a local game shop.  D&D 4e now gets collectible cards.  Yep, you buy booster packs with cards of varying rarities, construct a deck, and use them along with your D&D character to give you all kinds of bonuses and whatnot.  It’s a desperate attempt to convert D&D into a Magic: The Gathering kind of revenue stream.

Oh, they’re not “mandatory”, they say (except for D&D Organized Play games of course).  You can show up and not have this super cool character boost.  So of course, the more you spend the better your character is. Perfect.

It’s more gamist dreck.  We shouldn’t be surprised. 4e powers have already given up on trying to have any in-game-world justification.  “I get to reroll this saving throw… Because I have a card that says so!” And they’ve been careful to remove any oversight by DMs as to what rules/powers/etc. are allowed in the game, which is convenient when new rules can be thrown out on cards DMs and other players don’t have access to.

I would never, under any circumstances, allow the use of these in any game I ever ran.  Essentials had somewhat tempted me to consider looking at 4e again, but this confirms to me “never mind, they are intent on running the concept behind a roleplaying game into the ground, then peeing on it, then stomping on it, then running off squealing.”

It’s antithetical to:

  • Simulation
  • DM-led dramatic pacing
  • Fairness

Yay.  Unfortunately this really makes 4e D&D cross the line.  They should have listened to Robert Downey Jr’s advice – you never go full retard.

[Edit: For all those out there saying “Well but the cards, you could use them as DM-given bennies or as a common deck or something and then they’re not bad” – well, no shit, Sherlocks.  But if you would bother to go read the actual Wizards of the Coast link on how the cards are to be used, that’s not their intended use and the use that WotC will be enforcing in Organized Play.  Decks are per-character, player-provided, and constructed, EXACTLY like having a Magic: the Gathering deck as part of your character sheet.  I know you wish that’s not the case, I know I do, and maybe you will be using them differently, but that’s not a reason that WotC’s intended use isn’t a painful distortion of RPGs.]

30 responses to “4e D&D Goes Full Retard

  1. I agree on all counts. Only someone who has never actually played, say, AD&D 2nd Edition, could ever possibly consider this as a viable addition to a traditional role-playing game. If you found a group that *did* play old-school and suggested something like this to them, they would laugh you out of the basement.

    It pretty much goes against anything I ever joined a roleplaying group for, except in the old days with the second iteration of Champions. That was when I was 25, and it was all about power, baby. We burned it out of our systems after a while. It would seem the majority of players out there have not reached that point. With WOW as competition, it’s pretty certain that playing under current 4th Edition standards, none of them ever will.

  2. When I first heard about these cards, I laughed. “Of course they’re adding collectible cards to their game — they’re Wizards of the Coast!”

    The concept of the cards as a way to gain re-rolls, bonuses, etc., is hardly new. Savage Worlds has bennies. Hero System has hero points. Burning Wheel has artha. And lots of people house-rule their games to include something like this.

    Maybe you start out with a few ever session, maybe you *earn* them along the way with good role-playing. That’s all fine and good, and it adds an aspect to the game to allow the PCs to do heroic deeds that are somewhat de-coupled from merciless dice. I get all that.

    My objection is this: in ALL these other systems, these “power ups” or “boosts” are earned. With the DnD4e cards, they’re not earned. Instead, it has to do with how much you are willing to (or can) spend on the game.

    The best role-player in the world, with the most interesting and complicated character, will find himself on the sidelines because he can’t afford to build a good deck.

    It’s antithetical to the concept of RPGs.

    And it deserves a big WTF?


  3. I’m a DM and I will be using them in my game, and looking forward to it. I also will be the one handing out the cards as rewards. The players will not be buying them or building decks. However, these cards will be a wonderful addition to my game. Its simply amazing what can happen when we don’t overreact and realize the DM runs the game.

    Also, “powering up” characters has happened since the first supplement and Dragon article was published. Rich enough to afford the latest Dragon or book? Then you have access to the latest power-up for your character. Its all the same thing, only the format has changed..

    • Except that those rules are “for everyone.” Sure, someone has to buy a book, but then everyone in the group gets the same access. It’s different from a custom card deck.

      Sure, giving them out as the DM would be better. But that’s not how they’re supposed to be used, so that’s not what I’m against. You could use them as coasters too, I’d be supportive of that as well.

  4. Yep this has left the building of Earning your Happy Ending and has now become Screw the Rules I have Money.

    I use Paizo’s Plot Twist cards in my game, I love them but they are controlled by the GM because he hands them out as a reward.

    I have used cards all the way back to Torg but again you earned the cards the GM gave you and it had an in game setting explanation so that there was a maintain suspension of disbelief.

    It certainly does not sound like a game I would enjoy playing and adds yet another hurdle to getting novice players interested, especially in organized play because if you don’t have the good cards you will suck.

    Makes me sad for 4e and glad I play Pathfinder Rpg


  5. Pingback: DnD4e: the CCG | The Douchey DM

  6. Yeah, same here. I’d never ever let any player use those cards on his own account. They are somewhat interesting as DM-given small bonuses for actions of funny roleplay. But even for that I’d never buy these, because I hate the idea behind them (“The more you buy the better your character gets”). The whole thing really really sucks.

  7. What is that I smell….

    Pathfinder Victory and it smells good!

  8. @LPJ
    I couldn’t agree more

  9. What the hell.

    Uh, okay. I went to bed and woke up in wrong time stream, right? This is like, the alternate universe, yes?

    Umm… please?

    No, seriously.

  10. oh yeah, full retard. what is it about that term that is appropriate and not mocking of the disabled? really so wrong.

    • Any deprecating term can be taken to apply to some group. I could call it “stupid” but that mocks the stupid, doesn’t it? Or “perverted” and mock perverts? Or “dumbass” and mock dumbasses? Sorry, I don’t buy into the new “r word” BS.

      I value retards as people but don’t really want them running WotC R&D.

      • Yes it could. But why do you feel the need to use deprecating terms in general? Is your argument about the unsuitability of fortune cards in D&D weakened without using that deprecating term?

        The only thing that you are expressing is that you are associating Wizard’s R&D with the mentally disabled, and that you despise and feel superior to both. It does nothing but paint a very ugly picture of you.

        It is much easier to respect what you write if you show respect to others. It is why codes of honour and etiquette usually depend on it.

  11. Pathfinder Victory and it smells good!

    You realise Pathfinder has Plot Twist Cards, published by Paizo in its GameMastery line? Surely they’re the same thing? Just sold in a different model? Just saying…

    • The problem isn’t that they’re cards. Sure, as long as you don’t use them as they’re intended, they’re fine. But their intent is for players to buy them collectibly and construct decks they use for their characters to have powers. It’s clear from the product page.

      Of course things aren’t objectionable if you use them in ways other than they were intended. Dice would be bad if the game was ‘throw them and whoever tags the DM hardest hits.’ The F.A.T.A.L. rulebook would be good if used for toilet paper. These cards would be fine as DM-doled bennie handouts. That is NOT the WotC model for these cards, and you can change your home game but they are using these as written for Organized Play. Want to play Living City? Guess you’re building decks!

  12. Plot twist cards are not part of organized play.
    Plot twist is one deck and is not collectible.
    Plot twist cards are awards giving to players as an option.
    They are not power creep, they actually deal with the story aspect of the game.

  13. Hey, I was just raising a point that I don’t think was particularly clear. The fact of the matter is I don’t play 4e and probably never will (tried it once, not to my taste), so I really don’t care what WoTC get up to as it will NEVER have an impact on any of my games (unless I let it) 🙂

  14. Actually, I think the model for these decks is that you buy one, then use the random cards in the pack over the course of one session. So I think you are pointing the accusatory finger while saying things in an offensive manner a bit prematurely. I don’t look kindly on anyone who uses the word “retard” for example, so I’d suggest you revise your blog post title if you want respect from your readers with friends and relations who are mentally disabled.

    Now, if I’m wrong and WotC is planning to use these decks to build “extra” options on top of 4e, I don’t think you have much to worry about because it would be doomed to failure. I would imagine they would get banned very quickly, like the Skills and Powers books were banned from most home games back in the mid-90’s. After all, in any gaming group, you aren’t going to have everyone be hardcore enough to want to buy a randomized deck to build “the greatest character”. If half the group doesn’t want to build decks, then nobody will. If no groups buy them, then these cards will fail and WotC will lose money.

    For full disclosure, I like 4e as much as I like any edition of D&D (each edition has its flaws which drive me nuts) and better than I like Pathfinder (which seems to combine most of what I hate about 3e and 4e).

    • Look man, the link explaining exactly how they’re going to be used is there in the blog post. It’s right there. Try reading it. Each player builds their own deck from buying packs, tunes it to thair character, does trading with other players for cards they want, etc. Just like M:tG or whatnot. I understand that’s not the best way to do it. But let’s not all keep pretending we don’t know how they’re going to be used or that they’re going to be used a different way than they are.

      • Hmmm. I always allowed that competitive play at the cons using the AD&D rules was quite a different kettle of fish from the usual campaign-oriented game we were all used to.

        For one thing, you were going for points in a dungeon crawl, with a character provided by the GM. There was no roleplaying involved, nor was any expected. Your team was up against any number of other teams with identical characters in identical dungeons – the prizes were handed out to the best performers at the end of the con.

        Seems to me these cards would work well in *that* environment. Very well indeed. Perhaps the kerfluffle is a bit premature?

        Oh, and that fellow talking about how you’d get more respect from your readers if you don’t use words like ‘retard’? He’s wrong. Use ‘retard’, ‘celebretard’ and all the other clever variations of this word as long and as often as you want, Mxy. The targets have earned the name.

  15. D&D has always had something of the mechanistic gameness to it, due to it’s ancestry, and particularly for RPGA tourney play. This is a point that I’ve had driven home in recent days as I’ve been trawling the early issues of The Dragon in the Archive. Also amusing are the AD&D reviews in the back issues of Ares, though their complaints aren’t with the mechanistic nature of the game, as much as the editorial execution.

    AD&D2e did a reasonable job of executing the RP aspects of the game, as opposed to being Chainmail (what, 2.0? 3.0?), and 3e did a good job of cleaning everything up, and balancing the Chainmail nature against the the RP nature. But yes, 4e is quite clearly Chainmail 5.0, or whatever.

    Contrast with GW, whose primary focus was on the minis side of the scale, while the RPG was, while not a stepchild exactly, certainly not the favored child, but they were maintained as two separate and distinct lines.

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  17. Wow, that’s…wow. I have to admit, it’s almost too silly to be true. Not to mention that 4E combats will likely run even longer now, since it adds a new layer of player options.

    I’ll bet completing a module in Living Greyhawk will now also award the PCs with a free uncommon or two to add to their deck/help out the cheaper players. Which is kinda cool, I miss the certs system and getting a shiny little card, even though it mostly just promoted player greed and ill will.

  18. Okay… now the content of the article didn’t matter. Just reading the title made me ROTF. Such a great quote to merge the two together! And it went that way in June of 2008 ! :p

    @Akal, please Living Greyhawk was a great campaign. And they killed it.


  19. Sorry for reviving comments on an old post, but I wasn’t sure how else to tell you about this. I just saw something that I think is worse than the cards on WotC’s website. They are calling it “Twitter Buffs”:

    “Every week, Dungeons & Dragons® Encounters™ brings new adventure. And every two hours, D&D’s @Wizards_DnD Twitter Channel brings you a new way to interact with your game. Get your D&D Fortune Cards ready and watch for tweets that will bring the two together.

    To get direct access to each week’s Twitter Buffs, follow @Wizards_DnD”

    Here’s an excellent example:

    Seriously? What. The. Fuck.

  20. I don’t. I don’t have a thought that can be expressed in 140 words or less that just effing HAS to go out RIGHT NOW for the world to see. It needs editing. It’s like everyone has been told their internal dialogue is now fit for public consumption. 99% of what I have seen is banal. In the name of making money, it would seem the geeks taking over the earth want to turn everyone into a character in Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’.

    And now, in their desperation, the fools WOTC has left over there in the game department have decided that *monetizing* (God bless verbing!) is the answer. This goes beyond the shenanigans aimed at structured event play. They are taking the storytelling out of the hands of any GM stupid enough to allow it and placing it squarely in the hands of the player. With themselves as the middleman for a small profit, and as Mxy notes, how cool is that? Not very, but every up and coming generation of geeks tries hard to fit in. In this case, it just looks stupid.

  21. As a long time D&D player, I started in 1975 when it was chain mail and was fortunate enough to continue playing the game, I have seen games change and evolve. While the use of the cards is a DM preference in house games, and not in Official games, I don’t have a problem with it. I am a detail oriented player and DM, and I have used these cards with great success and little interference with game play. It is no different than a DM providing players assistance, which I and many other DMs have done, it is just in a new package.
    I comment was made that what if a player doesn’t have cards for a sanctioned game, give him some of your damn cards how hard is that. the decks are adjustable and if you have a ton of cards spread the wealth. There is always going to be those that are for or against things, I hated 3.5 and wasn’t a big fan of 2.
    Finally, don’t forget WoTC and other publishers are businesses, it it generates profits they will continue with it, if it doesn’t they won’t. I hold no grudge against them for trying to make money and applaud them for trying new ideas. Remember they test these concepts before releasing them to the public. For it to make it to market, it means that more people are willing to use them then not use them.
    In the end you will use whatever tools you feel are wanted or needed to enhance your game play, that is your choice. Just enjoy the game for what it is, people gathering to enjoy each others company and commit chaos and mayhem with their characters.

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