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Nerd Watching: Backwards, Forwards and All Around

Written by Nicholas - Published on November 1, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

I’d like to take this opportunity to assess fourth edition and everything around it. The system has been around for over a year now, has expanded into new power sources and now co-exists with Pathfinder. So what does it look like these days? Where is it going in the future?


We last took a look at D&D Insider back in March. Since then the Monster Builder program has released and the service has become more of a platform for expanding options with new races, classes, feats and “class essentials” series. The service has drifted away from some of the original tools that it was supposed to provide, but has developed more content in others ways. It seems like insider has a firm identity now. So my question for 4e players is do you find insider worth it? If not is there some feature they could add to make it worthwhile to you or do you object to the whole idea?

March of the Twos

The first suite of 4e books has largely concluded. All of the power sources from the Player’s Handbooks now have their own power books. The three core books already have sequels and there’s a mass of number 2 books rolling out. For the most part I am not worried it. The three core book sequels showed me that that the designers are constantly blazing new trails and expanding the rules of 4e, so I’m hopeful for that. What scares me is Martial Power 2. The other power source books have new classes to play around with. Martial Power 2 is going to be taking another look at the exact same material as the first Martial Power and trying to coax new life out of it again. I think when Martial Power 2 releases in Feburary it will be an important bellwether for the long term future of 4e. It will indicate what 4e will look like when the rapid expansion slows and we are left developing on old ground.

Mining the Past

4e has borrowed extensively from the past. Campaign settings from past editions like Forgotten Realms, Eberron and the upcoming Dark Sun. There have been some old school throw backs like the Revenge of the Giants adventure. Now, I would love to see Ravenloft and Planescape campaign settings but I’m starting to crave something new. In my opinion Eberron is one of the major characteristics of the 3.x era. I think we’re getting to the point that 4e produces a new campaign setting that is going to progress the hobby.

Book Redundencies

Among the new release schedule are a pair of books called the “Player’s Handbook Races”, one for the Dragonborn and another for the Tieflings. The Tiefling book advertises “exciting new options for their tiefling characters, including unique racial feats, powers, paragon paths, and epic destinies. This book also includes ways to flesh out your tiefling character’s background and personality.” I have to wonder about my motivation for buying these books. All of the mechanical bits are going to go into the Character Builder. Tiefling histories are going to vary with every campaign world so I don’t know that the fluff is going to help much. I like to sit down and read physical copies of books, but even I have to wonder why these Player’s Handbook Races series couldn’t be done solely online.

How do you feel about the state of 4e? Are you insider subscriber? Could anything make you one?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



15 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Backwards, Forwards and All Around”
  1. Softrope says:

    I’ve found that with a ongoing DDI subscription I’ve not really needed to buy many of the books, certainly none of the power books, can’t see that changing for the race books as well.I also didn’t feel the need to go for the PH2.

    All the powers are available in the compendium and the Character Builder. I did buy Manual of the Planes and Dungeon Delve though.

    Also the new Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 looks like a must buy, I’d have it already if a) I wasn’t a PC at the moment and b) My birthday’s just around the corner.

  2. Nicholas says:

    Obviously buying D&D books has always been a luxury for me, but buying physical books has just become opulent one. I like to sit down and read the new power books to get a sense of my new options, but all that stuff is in the character builder now. It makes it an easy budget for me.

  3. Our gaming chapter puts some of our dues toward one DDI account, and each member purchases the books individually that interest him/her. It really works out for everyone involved and each person gets to utilize all the features of fourth edition – though we still all prefer 3.5.

  4. Yax says:

    @Quilt City Ogres: Gaming dues is a good idea if you have a regular group. I wonder if there’s an easy way to get everyone to chip in monthly or every 6 months. It’s the kind of thing I would forget to pay for, but I’d love an easy, automated solution.

  5. Our dues are $5 per person a month paid at the first gaming night of the month. The Host is excluded from having to pay. Of course, if someone forgets or doesn’t have it, we are lenient for a week or so, but with everyone chipping in – it just kind of falls into place and everyone pays because they don’t want to be the “mooch.” If someone honestly didn’t have it – we wouldn’t pester and would love to have them play.

    The money helps fund for a permanent copy of DDI from Wizards, food for groups, new books or equipment, etc. etc.

    We also had in the past volunteer fundraisers from members to get our custom gaming tables made, and that went over so well we’re making two (exactly like the ones seen on the Ultimate Gaming Table website).

    Dues was a very scary subject for us originally with lots of heated debates, but since it actually started, it was really no big deal.

  6. Mike Strand says:

    I’ve been playing D&D longer than Gary Gygax (almost) and I really am thrilled with 4E.

    I find DDI useful, but I really only use the character builder, however I find THAT worth the price. I pay for it because I use it as DM. Since it can be accessed from up to five machines each of my four players can use it.

    As a forty something gamer, I have the money to spend on my hobby and I enjoy getting a physical copy of each book. The fact that I don’t have to is great because some of the books don’t interest me (the racial series, the dragons), I am not a fluff hound so not having to buy the fluff books works well. If they have new feats etc. I will find it on DDI.

    Sure there are things I’d do differently if it were my game company, but there is a lot that is much better than I could have ever come up with. Ultimately, the game is about friends doing something fun together, I find this much more intriguing than playing cards or hanging out in a bar and infinitely more interesting than watching sports. It’s how I hang.

  7. I agree that I would like to see some new campagin material in the 4e books. I personally can not speak to the DDI program as I’ve never used it, but from the description it sounds like it’s worth the money.

    @Quilt City Ogres I like your idea of a gaming fund among your players, I may have to implement such idea to cover food for our games. Thanks.

  8. Yax says:

    @Quilt City Ogres: Thanks for the info

  9. Maddrow says:

    What I don’t understand about 4e is the common opinion of it. Why does everybody I meet think it’s n00by, immature and stupid?
    They’re stupid for sticking with tedious combat rules and bland character options. It think Wizards needs to address this if they want more people to support it (down with 3e, yargh!)
    But yes, I agree that the 2s and the 3s are going to determine how the series progresses and if it wil remain fun or not. I already despise adventurers vault 2 (great! more magic weapons! there is a such thing as too much choice!)
    Wow, sometimes it feels like 4e is on a thin rope… o_O

  10. Nicholas says:

    @Maddrow: I’m on board with you on the magic items. I thought it was overloaded before the release of AV2. Now when I make a higher level character I need to look over hundreds of magic items just to pick the starting three.

  11. Gull2112 says:

    Maddrow and Nicholas – Are you guys being sarcastic? How can you have too many options??? Just don’t use them. I like to see the different ideas that give me inspiration for my own stuff. Same with the 2’s and 3’s. If you don’t like it, don’t get it. All you really need are the three core books. Again, I think it is cool to see where they are going and I can always create a world where the options don’t exist. Finally, we game in fantasy but live in reality and that means the company is only going to be around as long as they keep making money. They do this by profiding goods and services that their fans (consumers) value. I think they are doing it well. If you were being sarcastic, I apologize, but we all know people who really feel this way and it erks me. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy WOtC stuff, now if you want to bitch about the Federal Reserve, I’m all ears, but that is for another forum…

  12. “Why does everybody I meet think it’s n00by, immature and stupid?”

    That’s their opinion Maddrow, let everyone enjoy what they want to enjoy. Me personally I enjoy 4e right at the moment same as you. I’ve enjoyed 3e in the past, not to mention 2e and 1e as well

    Anyway everyone knows the Spectrum is way better than the C64!

  13. I’m with Gull on the power of choice. There is such a thing as too much choice, but with the tools provided by DDI it’s much easier to narrow down your choices, as opposed to just working from a stack of books.

    I don’t see all the new books as things I just “have” to get, as I have done in the past before DDI. They are just things that drop extra crunchiness into the CB and Compendium every month for me, which is cool.

  14. Nicholas says:

    Hey Gull, no, I’m not being sarcastic. You’re right that no one is forcing me to buy the books. That’s not my issue at all. I didn’t buy the AV2, but all the content is in the character builder which I use to make characters. I have nothing against WotC releasing more books and I am not one of those people who faults them for making money. My only problem is that it takes up too much of my time to make an informed decision of magic item purchases. I usually end up grabbing something that sounds pretty good, but might not be the best for my character. It works, but it is slightly unsatisfying.

    I think organizing the items in character builder better could help the problem for me. It manages feats quite nicely. The program only shows you feats you aren’t qualified for. If I could filter out magic weapons to only show things I might actually use (not things I’m not proficient in or that enhance abilities I don’t have) that would be a great help. Even better would be the ability to run an advanced search, like show me all the neck slot items, leather armor and bastard swords of levels 13-6 all on one search result. That would be very handy for making a new character.

  15. Gull2112 says:

    Ah, I see your point. I am in complete agreement with your desired solutions, vis a vis a more organized DDI

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