Retro Recall: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition

March 19, 2019 by dracs

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Put down that pitchfork! Don't try to hide it behind your back, I can still see it. And don't think you're fooling anyone with that torch.

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We never said a game had to be perfect to be the subject of nostalgia. And I owe quite a debt to the game that introduced me to roleplaying.

With that in mind let's talk about the much-maligned D&D 4th Edition.

A Magical Gateway Game

Cast your mind back to the far off days of 2009. I have just left high school (feel old yet?). I have been an avid fan of Warhammer since childhood, and though I'm less involved with it as I used to be, I still retain that fascination with the game. At this point, I was completely unaware of any tabletop miniatures game outside of Games Workshop. There was, however, one notable exception: Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons is ubiquitous, and had a tendency to turn up in all sorts of media, especially when a show wanted to mark a group out as being "nerds". However, whenever I watched those shows I didn't think "haha, look at the uncool geeks." I thought "Where can I play that!?" I finally got my opportunity upon entering university and finding myself surrounded by fellow nerds.

Disney's Recess, Lord of the Nerds

I made a lot of my friends during my time at university playing D&D 4th Ed. Once a week, my friends and I gathered in whoever's kitchen had been volunteered and got adventuring.

4th Ed. had seen a massive overhaul of the classic game since its previous iteration. There was far more of a focus on tabletop strategy and miniatures, making it feel very familiar for someone such as myself whose gaming background was in wargames.

Something else D&D 4th Ed had in its favour was the At-Will, Per-Encounter, and Per-Day abilities each character had access to. Looking back on these, I see them as having been rather limiting. However, to someone new to roleplaying they were really helpful. They provided a reference, a tactic you could aim for, and a cinematic moment that would leave you feeling like a badass.

Having those times where the party was surrounded, or the big bad of the dungeon was facing you, victory was slipping away, only for you to let loose with your epic Daily power. Those were the game making moments that could leave you grinning from ear to ear.

From Skirmishes To Storytelling

Having said all that, the fourth edition did have its flaws. I have heard it described as an excellent skirmish game and a terrible roleplaying game and there is a fair bit of truth to that. Things like the At-Will and Encounter abilities may have helped with tactics, but they did limit you with your creativity. You weren't trying to think up imaginative ways to end a conflict, you just wanted the best moment to set off that sweet Daily.

The second roleplaying game I played was Vampire: The Masquerade and it came as something of a revelation. Where were the miniatures? Where was all the combat? We were actually telling a story and getting into the minds of our characters. Compared to this experience, 4th Ed. did not fare well.

Having said that, I will admit to still feeling a degree of nostalgia for 4th Edition. It may not have been a perfect RPG, but it was the perfect gateway into the genre for me, and a gateway I'm sure many others walked through as well.

Do you have any good memories of Dungeons & Dragons  4th Edition?

"I made a lot of my friends during my time at university playing D&D 4th Ed."

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