Jul 13, 2010

Unessential essentials, and watch me insult Bill Slavicsek

So after months of teasing, we are finally seeing the new face of BASIC Dungeons and dragons.  Complete with n00b friendly choose your own adventure style character creation.  I speak of the essentials line that is soon to descend upon us.  My feelings are a bit...mixed.

Allow me to sidetrack - for just a moment.  I FINALLY got to game this past weekend.  With the wifey off to vegas to play with her girlfriends, I was able to do some serious gaming :)  After rounding up a handful of unlikely suspects, also known as folks that always wanted to - but just never got around to playing, I have a couple of observations that they actually asked me to pass along on the off chance one of the powers-that-be in the design department notices.
  1. This is the most fun I (we've) had in YEARS!
  2. Dude...too many books to look through - why are you even bothering to publish anymore?
  3. I can't afford all this crap - thank the gods the DM used to be loaded!
  4. Make DDI free with purchaseable content modules.
  5. Mini's are expensive.
  6. Why is WotC's digital initiative stuck in 2002?
While I realize that  some of these grievances are old - and I've mentioned before, I'm going to bore you with them again because THEY KEEP COMING UP.

1.) This is the most fun I (we've) had in YEARS!

This is number one for a number of reasons.  My players are all 25+, with two of them around 40.  In all that time, none of them can specifically recall having such an awesome night.  I can attest that it was phenomenal, and a good example of the synergy you get when you have 4 good friends sitting around the table learning to role-play
2.) Dude...too many books to look through - why are they even bothering to publish anymore?

I suspect that this is the model of the planned future, and watching those poor bastards cross-referencing and discovering new options in book after book made me a little nauseous.  Between the BOTCHED release errata - rendering nearly a hundred bucks worth of books quasi-useless, and making me PAY to find it all in one place, this is a serious problem.  It is specifically because of this I will not be buying any more dead tree products from WotC.  It's not a protest so much as a consumer stand - I  will not pay a premium price for shoddy products.

3.) I can't afford all this crap - thank the gods the DM used to be loaded!

This dovetails onto #2.  So we have a sytem that is supposed to be easier to play (it is) and requires less book referencing (if you have a computer and DDI sub handy) and yet we are still focusing entirely on books.  WTF.  I shudder to think how long it took to code those databases DDI uses, and yet all of that potential is being wasted to sell more made in china dead tree books.  Branch that (logically) into a refusal to sell digital copies of said books (with errata corrections), and a hosted community that doesn't appear to be ANY kind of killer app, and you have to wonder how many monkey up ther in Washington have their tails tied together.

4.) Make DDI free with purchaseable content modules.

Steam for D&D - enough said.

5.) Mini's are expensive

I've been using the same .3 cubic foot bin full of minis for 5 years now.  Yes, my skeletons do double duty as orcs and gnolls.  Yes the players are sick to death of them.  But considering I spent just shy of fifty dollars for that 4lb pile, there will be no "new" additions.  They are all older 3E releases because neither I nor my gamers can afford to go out and buy them at will.  Maybe once before, but definitely not now.  Does anyone have that kind of money laying around these days?  Don't get me started on that HAREBRAINED idea to make you BUY digital minis for the likely abandoned virtual tabletop.

6.) Why is WotC's digital initiative stuck in 2002? 

One of my normal gamers is our "tech guy".  He is an off and on military contractor who specializes in Database GUI overlays and query language, yeah, basically a master's certified DBA.  He loathes DDI and adventure tools.  Something about "shoddy code written by caffeinated lemurs with long hours and small paychecks."  Okay, I added the lemur part, but only because I do not wish to use the other term I replaced.  This goes back to my previous post regarding adventure tools - ONE F*CKING YEAR AGO we got the monster builder, a beautiful database with an unstable (STILL!!  A YEAR LATER!!!) GUI that crashes whenever I window out or get a zonealarm popup.  Is this REALLY the best that the premier RPG developer on the planet can do?  Look - either devote some resources to the digital initiative or kill it.  It is really that simple.  The status quo is, well, embarassing.

A side note to end my sidetrack - I'm not the only one to have this question.  Apparently after completely screwing multiple pooches on 4E release, the powers that be have decided that it is best to keep us nasty old customers out of the loop.  When you get egg all over the face, I suppose it is customary to hide said face.

Now, lets come full circle back to the beginning.  So we have the huge release of a whole new line of products for n00bs and such, with yet more buids and powers and all that jazz.  Based on my experience playing with a 48 year old pseudo-homeless greek alcoholic, a cross country drifter who teaches Tai-Chi, and a Sonoma state university economics major.  It took less than two hours to teach them enough about the game for them to realize how it all worked - and crave a new set of characters.  By the second game, they were using teamwork to combo-up.

I guess where I am going, is that IMO, the essentials line is completely redundant and unnecessary to 4E.  Why those resources couldn't have been used to hire a couple of additional programmers is beyond my ken.  I imagine that this is someones baby, and it WILL see the light of day at any cost...market or not.  Gotta love small business politics.

To recap and simplify:

Release finished products please.
Quit wasting our time and limited money on redundant supplements.
Invest in the future, seasonal layoffs?  What are you f*cking Wal-Mart?
Deliver my Gorram adventure tools.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my ranting.  Until next my motivation peaks - I'm forgetting something...oh yeah.  Bill Slavicsek is a cheese weasel. 


Brett said...

Wotc has a problem with D&D, how does it make money? They know how to make money with cards, but for the life of them they struggle with D&D. More books is simple, people buy books. The digital stuff is tougher, do enough people buy digital stuff to pay better programmers? If so they haven't found the right answer yet. I get tired of new books, but I do sympathize with WOTC and want them to succeed. Here is hoping they figure it out before Hasbro cuts them off for good.

Donny_the_DM said...

QFT, my friend. I couldn't agree more.

I feel like I am watching my best friend suffer from addiction. I want to help, but he insists that the best way is to just give him more money to maintain the status quo.

Hopefully the folks up in Washington can see that I am one of their biggest fans, harnessing the power of snark to try and effect change.

They are mired in the old traditional medias that are dying a slow death - time to ditch the chinese publishers and go all digital!!

Kiltedyaksman said...

I think what you are saying is correct. The current version of D&D seems listless to me. Rather than moving in the same direction they just seem to swing back and forth - and the game goes nowhere. I'll stick to older editions.

Matt said...

The Essentials line is suffering from "Dammed no matter what they do" complains, IMO. They get bitched at that the needed to do more to make the game accessible to new people so they are launching the essential line to try and address that... and they get bitched at as being money grubbing or putting out books for books sake.

Now, I'm not saying you don't have some valid complaints but I do think the Essentials line is being aimed at a niche you are not, so you see it as much less useful than it could be.

Kiltedyaksman said...

Ok, but creating a game that wasn't friendly to beginners to begin with brought them to this position. If you follow my meaning.

Donny_the_DM said...

Honestly, there hasn't been a beginner friendly edition of D&D since old basic...remember treasure hunt? Where you started as 0 level nothings and gained a level based on your actions on the island? That was a wicked cool adventure.

As it stands, all editions really kick you in the face with the complexity right out the gate - add that the the ongoing edition elitism and the glaring differences in what you get and/or expect from each game and I can see why something like this is necessary.

Old school boxed sets + 4e = $$$

I'm just of the strong opinion that the digital tools would be a better investment in the long term.

N. Wright said...

I disagree that there hasn't been an easy edition of D&D, by the way. While 4e is a lot easier than 3e, basic D&D and oD&D are simpler by far. Choose a race/class, roll up six stats, and you're off.

I started a guy off on Labyrinth Lord, and we were off in maybe fifteen minutes after I explained the basics. As for 4e, well, significantly longer as I had to help each player with their powers, and equipment, and what the classes do, and the difference between a Striker and Controller and so on.

I don't know that Essentials will make the game more accessible to new people, but at least they're trying to get some new blood.

Donny_the_DM said...

Does everyone konw that asian spammers not only lick MY balls whenever I want - but my dog's too?

In fact, they PREFER my dogs balls...something about the vinegary aroma excites them something fierce.

THAT is why they are always posting here.

Graham said...

Huh. I haven't been around recently, apparently, but had to comment once:

Honestly, there hasn't been a beginner friendly edition of D&D since old basic...remember treasure hunt? Where you started as 0 level nothings and gained a level based on your actions on the island? That was a wicked cool adventure.

FYI, Donny, that's exactly what the Red Box includes. The first bit of that is a solo "choose your own adventure" adventure, based around "You're a guy with a caravan, and the caravan is attacked by goblins. What do you do?"

Your decisions in that solo adventure tell you what class you'll be, what powers you'll have, etc. By the end of the solo adventure, you've made your character.

So, perhaps with essentials 4e now has a "beginner friendly" mode just like you want?

Lil' Gertie said...

thank you for posting this, every other 4e blog seems to just bend over for this crap