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RPGaDay 2023 # 27
GAME YOU'D LIKE A NEW EDITION OF
This is my 27th post for RPGaDay 2023, if you’re not sure what that is you can find Autocratik’s blog post about it by clicking here.
Basically a list of prompts is provided to generate discussion around RPG topics, with creators making a blog post, video or podcast each day during the month of August, the list of prompts is included below:
Game you’d like a new EDITION of
Again this is a difficult one for me, as someone who loves OSR games and their retroclones, the game I love the most already has a mountain of different editions, some of which are great, others not so and some which have interesting elements to them but I wouldn’t use as a whole. Even old games like WEG D6 Star Wars which I discussed on a previous post have various fan-made editions and adaptions of them available on the internet.
So instead of talking specifically about a game that I want a new version of, I’m going to focus on the keyword EDITION in this post and talk about some things I love from the oft-maligned 4th Edition of D&D, which came out to a generally poor reception if I remember correctly, although it has undergone something of a re-evaluation as time has passed. I played a few games of it when it came out and still have quite a few of the books for it:
Although I quite enjoyed playing the game when I did, I’m unlikely to run this game “as is” in the future, but there were some things I really enjoyed about it, mostly in the implied setting of the game, as detailed in the original books that came out before the inevitable spectre of rules bloat and lack of ideas caused the book line to dwindle into stale rehashes of stuff that previous editions had done better.
One of my favourite elements of 4E was the notion of a points of light campaign setting, where the vast majority of the world was a dark and dangerous wilderness with just a few cities or safe places existing as these points of light; now of course I’m not saying that 4E invented this idea because it’s pretty much the defacto state for most old-school hex crawls, but it was the first time I had ever seen it spelled out so explicitly in an edition of D&D.
“The current age has no all-encompassing empire. The world is shrouded in a dark age, between the collapse of the last great empire and the rise of the next, which might be centuries away. Minor kingdoms prosper, to be sure: baronies, holdings, city-states. But each settlement appears as a point of light in the widespread darkness, a haven, an island of civilization in the wilderness that covers the world.”
- 4th Edition Players Handbook
As I’ve said a few times on the podcast I love it when the writers of books set out their stall early on, saying this is the type of game I’ve designed and how I would run it, the description of the POL style of setting really got me fired, starting to imagine all sorts of dangerous creatures lurking just beyond the comforting light of civilisation.
I think the other thing I really loved about 4E was the pantheon of gods that was provided in the book:
Avandra: God of change, freedom and trade.
Bahamut: God of justice, protection and metallic dragons.
Corellon: God of spring, beauty and the arts.
Erathis: The god and muse of civilisation.
Ioun: God of knowledge, skill and prophecy.
Kord: The storm god and lord of battle.
Melora: God of the wilderness and the sea.
Moradin: Dwarf god of creation and artisans.
Pelor: God of sun and the summer.
The Raven Queen: God of death.
Sehanine: Good of the moon, autumn, trickery and illusions.
Again I’m not saying that all of these gods were specifically invented for 4E since I certainly recognise more than a few of them, and some elements have since been carried forward into 5E after WOTC decided to back-track and make something that cleaved more traditional to the D&D mould in order to lure back customers who IIRC were deserting in droves and heading Pathfinder-wards at the time (well that’s certainly what it felt like from being involved in a number of online discussions about the whole subject).
However I loved the two page spread we got in the PHB that provided an emblem of each god, a very brief paragraph of description and a few bullet points containing commandments for the clergy of each go, for example the clergy of the Raven Queen are directed to:
✦ Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
✦ Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. As the instrument of the Raven Queen, you must punish hubris where you find it.
✦ Watch for the cults of Orcus and stamp them out whenever they arise. The Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen’s throne.
This was all great stuff and instantly give you a handle on what sort of strictures there were if you were playing a follower or a cleric of a particular god.
I think one of the resounding successes of D&D (regardless of my feelings about recent editions) is that there is a lot of inspiration you can take from the different editions and fold into whatever version of the game you happen to be running, even 4E which—mechanically—was probably the biggest divergence we’ve yet had from the standard D&D rules models, has a great deal of interesting stuff in it to offer if you approach it with an open mind.
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