Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Points of Light, or How I learned to stop worrying and love 4th Edition

Any RPGer who hasn't had their head in the sand has probably heard by now about Fourth Edition DnD, announced at GenCon last year. I have to admit that when I first heard about it, I was very sceptical. Wasn't this just some way for WotC to make a bunch more money by releasing the same sourcebooks over again? After all, 3.5 only hit shops in 2004, and 3.0 was printed in 2000. Surely there was no need for another edition?

Well, perhaps that is part of it, especially on marketing, but everything I've read about fourth edition makes me want it more and more. So what was the turning point? Quite simple, it's summed up on the phrase "Points of Light in a big, dark world." (Article requires a free membership to view)

What does that phrase mean exactly? The site itself explains it quite well:

Most of the world is monster-haunted wilderness. The centers of civilization are few and far between, and the world isn’t carved up between nation-states that jealously enforce their borders. A few difficult and dangerous roads tenuously link neighboring cities together, but if you stray from them you quickly find yourself immersed in goblin-infested forests, haunted barrowfields, desolate hills and marshes, and monster-hunted badlands. Anything could be waiting down that old overgrown dwarf-built road: a den of ogre marauders, a forgotten tower where a lamia awaits careless travelers, a troll’s cave, a lonely human village under the sway of a demonic cult, or a black wood where shadows and ghosts thirst for the blood of the living.

That's quite an interesting way of looking at things, and it does something to distinguish DnD from legions of generic fantasy games. It conjures up images similar to those from authors like Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock. This is taking Sword and Sorcery back to its original, pulp fantasy roots. I really hope that it actually gets rid of the Tolkein feel that DnD has had so far, and makes something slightly fresher. I know it will keep the trappings, Elves, Dwarves and Dark Lords, but those are pretty seminal in fantasy. The feel, however, seems completely different. Characters are more powerful, combat is cooler, and enemies are more numerous. You really could see Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser adventuring in this game, you'd never have seen them in the old Forgotten Realms.

This is a real example of where the feel of the game can really get me excited about something. I had assumed that this was a financial decision to boost WotC, but it really seems like they know what they're doing here. I can't wait!

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