Tag Archives: dungeons

4e Excerpt: Archons

The newest excerpt from D&D 4th Edition, “Archons“, is kinda uninspiring. Some ice dudes. And some fire dudes. The thing I find the most humorous is that they brag, “Now that we’ve (thankfully!) separated the word “elemental” in the D&D sense from the classical Greek elements of earth, fire, air, and water, there’s plenty of room for archons of your own design.”

Apparently they haven’t changed it too much – in this excerpt and in Worlds & Monsters they show earth, air, fire, and water archons. Yay to their oft-repeated goal of “moving away from bogus parallelism.” Anyway, it’s hard to take them too much to task because I don’t mind the classical elements, it’s just funny to have such a trivial example of a common problem in 4e – how their design goals sound good but their implementation leaves you going “WTF?”.

Anyway, they have a page of PDF from the Monster Manual with two ice archons. As is usual for the new MM, it goes with their new weird super-trademarkey stat block format and little to no useful fluff. The archons aren’t bad, just “elemental soldiers,” but they’re certainly not groundbreaking. 3/5.

4e Excerpt: Minions

In the newest D&D Fourth Edition excerpt, “Minions,” D&D uptakes the old concept of the “mook”. I’m not sure if Feng Shui, a HK action movie game by Robin Laws, was the first game to use mooks, but it certainly popularized them. A minion, or mook, is an opponent designed to be one of those guys that goes down like tenpins in the movies.

And you know, they did a good job here! I know you’re getting used to me squealing like someone’s poking red hot nails through my nutsack at each of these 4e excerpts, but that’s only when they deserve it.

A minion is of a power level equivalent to any other monster except it has only one hit point. So it can still have a good to hit, a big attack, etc., but one hit takes it out.

Goodman Games has a Wicked Fantasy Factory line of D&D adventures where they had mook rules and “finishing moves” and other cool stuff. But actually these mook rules are better, because the point of mooks is little to no record keeping. In WFF, mooks still had hit points.

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4e Excerpt: The Quest’s the Thing

In the last excerpt for this week, “The Quest’s the Thing,” Wizards talks about questing in the new Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

This is another area in which gamism has been enshrined in the place of a realistic game world, and also where they had a laudable design goal that they then screwed the pooch on in implementation. The two repeated themes of 4e, sadly.

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4e Excerpt: You And Your Magic Items

You and Your Magic Items” discusses the very real problem of how much gear makes the PC in D&D 3e. In earlier editions, you might have a boss magical item or two but the majority of your ability in a given area was from the character, not from magic plusses.  3e/3.5e reverses that to where at high levels the gear is what makes a character effective.

They say that they’ve fixed this in 4e – but that “only three magic items are important for your attacks and defenses to keep up with the escalating power of the monsters you face.” Frankly, I disagree with a design that requires any magic items to be competitive at your level. Anyway, the three are weapon, armor, and neck slot items. (Ah, how did we get along for 20 frickin’ years in D&D without official ‘item slots’?  Oh, that’s right, just fine.) So basically your attack, armor class, and saves (“defenses,” in 4e-speak). In other words, everything except skills – sigh. It’s so frustrating to me that their design goals for 4e are so right, and their implementations are so wrong. It’s not worse than 3e but why squander an opportunity to improve it, especially when you clearly see what needs improving? 3/5.

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Wizards of the Coast Declares War On Open Gaming

Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast shocked the role-playing game industry today with the revelation that anyone wanting to publish material for the new Fourth Edition of D&D, expected out in June of this year, must forgo open licensing entirely as part of their new Game System License.

With the launch of the third edition of the game years ago, Wizards had sponsored an open licensing scheme. This license, called the Open Gaming License, or OGL, was a kind of open source license designed for game publishers. The result was an explosion of third party game companies supporting D&D and also establishing their own separate game lines. Many of these companies became quite large and successful, notably Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin Publishing, and others.  There are open gaming products covering every genre under the sun – science fiction, horror, wild west, and anything else you can think of.

Now, however, Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any current open licensed products and produce no further open products at all – Dungeons & Dragons related or not.  In a phone conversation about 4e licensing with Clark Petersen, president of Necromancer Games, a company representative explained this policy and was adamant that it was not going to change. A number of companies are leveraging the OGL for their independent games, for example the pulp game Spirit of the Century; the gaming community adopted the OGL on good faith and more than 90% of the openly licensed games in existence are using it.  This “poison pill” clause means that in exchange for any further involvement with the Dungeons & Dragons game line, a company must abandon any past OGL products and vow not to produce any more.

In response to questions about this policy, Scott Rouse, D&D Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast, says that “We have invested multiple 7 figures in the development of 4e so can you tell me why we would want publishers to support a system that we have moved away from?”  Linae Foster, Licensing Manager, also notes “We understand the impacts this license will have on the 3pps, fans, community and industry in general. We respect that companies will need to make the decision that is right for them and their supporters.”

It seems to me that this is the equivalent of Microsoft telling people “if you want to make and sell software for Windows, you can’t make any Linux/open source software either!”   Though this move might be legally shaky, especially in the EU, side players in the small RPG industry are often only a couple people strong, and Wizards is owned by Hasbro, making any challenge to these terms doomed from the start.  (The buyout of Wizards by Hasbro is likely the source of this change of heart away from open licensing; events like the Scrabble/Scrabulous lawsuit have Hasbro trying to define and expand their scope of IP control.)   Some of the more well-established game companies are rebelling anyway – Paizo Publishing, which used to publish Dungeon and Dragon magazines under license from Wizards, had already declared their intent to stay with the open prior version and develop it moving forward instead, effectively “forking” the D&D code base.  But even they admit this is effectively a niche play. 

This also appears not to be limited to publishing companies, but also to individuals wanting to put content on their Web site or other venue.  When asked about individual licensors, Scott Rouse replied that yes, individuals would need to fill out a GSL license agreement and send it in to WotC to participate.  Some ten or so years ago, TSR (the original company, which was bought by Wizards and then Wizards by Hasbro in turn) liked to send out “cease and desist” legal threats to people posting D&D-related content on their Web sites.  Will we see a return to that?   By the letter of the law as much as it’s been revealed to us, some guy on their Web site putting up 3.5e related content and 4e related content at the same time is subject to the same limitations…