Archive for the ‘Role Playing Games’ Category

I started playing D&D 4.0 every other Friday night. As a long time D&D’er, I wanted to see what the new rules and mechanics brought to the game. Here are my thoughts after two evenings of play.

Pro’s

  • It keeps people involved during all parts of combat. The powers (at will, encounter, daily) make sure that wizards don’t run out of spells or weak melee characters don’t have anything to do.
  • The classes and races have changed, in many ways for the better.
  • Tactical combat is less abstract than previous editions; the grid and rules regulating grid movement have made the action clear
  • There is a ton of variety in character generation and customization

Con’s

  • People, even those who are very familiar with the rules, spend more time looking at their power cards and character sheets than actually role-playing. There is so much variety and capabilities that it can be overwhelming
  • It is definitely a more complex game, at least from a combat perspective. In fact, I think the game is more about the grid encounter, with plot lines simply stitching the grid encounters together
  • Party balance is critical, even more so than in the old versions. While anyone can heal or shoot or fight in 4.0, the “amorphous roles” make things less clear on who needs to be doing what. At least in previous editions, the roles were more clear (clerics heal, wizards cast, fighters are melee, etc.). I think that the character generation and customization is actually too much

My verdict on whether 4.0 is an improvement or not is almost irrelevant. 4.0 is an entirely different game than 3.5 and previous editions. It emphasizes tactical play and combat more than its predecessors. The DM and players I play with are making the story and role-playing work, but its almost in spite of the system, rather than helped along by it. They are all good players and veteran RPG’ers. I fear that without that experience, new players may find it the equivalent of World of Warcraft without the computer.

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Well, after not playing for a number of years, I am actually joining Ken’s D&D 4.0 group tonight (which meets every other Friday night opposite our Ambush Friday nights). It’s been awhile, but having read through the Player’s Handbooks and using the online Character Generation tools, I am looking forward to seeing how the game plays. With the new Powers system, the game really reminds me more of World of Warcraft than old school D&D, but that’s OK. Old school D&D became a game of getting around weird game mechanics and conventions. I’m going to play an Elven bard (I know, I know, surprise on the bard LOL).

Just picked up my copy of Mongoose Publishing’s Hammer’s Slammers RPG book for the Traveller rules system. Most of you who know me understand that I was a big fan of Mongoose, then became very disillusioned with them after their abortive forays into miniatures lines and deteriorating quality of their rulebooks. Fortunately, I am such a fan of David Drake’s novels and the Traveller rules system, I could not resist ordering a copy of this book. Boy am I glad I did.

Hats off to the authors, to Matt and to Mongoose on this one. The rulebook is top notch quality. After reading it in its entirety, I found only a few simple typoes (unlike other books published last year). Sorry to start my comments about such trivial things, but Mongoose really had a quality problem for awhile there.

Let’s get to content. They have done a great job of organizing dozens of short stories, novels, novellas and miscellaneous content published about the Slammer’s over the last two decades into a cohesive timeline. They have lavishly illustrated the rulebook — and unlike other companies who suddenly have a license to material that has been previously published — have resisted changing the look and “canon” ideas of the background. For example, the Slammer tanks have been drawn and modeled by Old Crow Publishing into a fine miniatures line. David Drake helped Old Crow with the designs. Mongoose resisted the temptation to reimagine the vehicles and stuck to the designs, which means all of us who like to use miniatures have a ready-made line that fits seamlessly into the game.

The character generation system is Classic Traveller, but modified for players wanting to be a Slammer or play in a Slammer-like mercenary regiment. Full TO&E is given for the Slammers, including their history, traditions, equipment and leadership structure.

Overall I have to say this is the best product I have seen from Mongoose since the hardbound edition of Starship Troopers. Matt and company have won me back as a fan with this single book.

I’ve been playing Traveller since travhighguard2the late ’70s when the game was first released. I was hooked and have purchased all subsequent editions just to keep up to date. I may break my 30+ year trend after purchasing the latest High Guard supplement from Mongoose.

For those of you who know me, I am not a Mongoose fan. I became disillusioned with them after their foray into Starship Troopers, Babylon 5 and Battlefield Evo miniatures. What were all promising games and miniature lines were mismanaged into oblivion. Promises were made by Mongoose management, only to be broken within weeks. With some trepidation I purchased the core Traveller rules and was somewhat impressed. That being said, the supplements have been major disappointments.

High Guard is so full of typos, misspellings, bad typesetting and proofreading failures that the book is not worth its $25 retail price tag. Even the Table of Contents is wrong; it’s the table from the previous Mercenary supplement. Charts are poorly organized or incomplete, information is presented in illogical order…I could go on, but you get the idea.

Mongoose continues its downward spiral of quality. Spend your money on eBay on older editions of the game.

UPDATE: Matt from Mongoose contacted me directly after I posted on The Miniatures Page about these issues. They have a generous offer to not only replace the book with a corrected one for free and to provide an equal value book for free as compensation. Given the high level of customer service and Matt’s honesty in admitting that Mongoose had missed the boat on this, I am inclined to offer them a second chance.