Halfway to NoWhere

Ranting and Complaints of Life in Taiwan

DnD 4th Ed: Keep on the Shadowfell S-2

The group playing at a local restaurant near NTNU
The group playing at a local restaurant near NTNU

Now, playing at a public restaurant has never been so irritating. I recall playing at a local MacD about ten years ago. You won’t imagine how hellish it can get with curious eyes stabbing about, wondering what the freaks at the table are doing.

Fortunately, this new restaurant one of my players found was actually quite nice. In addition to being located near a major college (which means that most of the customers are young, more tolerant of unusual happenings, and won’t stick their nose in other people’s business), the restaurant also has a room that is out-of-the-way and includes a nice giant table for me to lay out the combat map.

So at the moment, my gaming group has found a solution to finding a place which is easy for the players to get to, has a big enough room/table for the players and the maps + miniatures, and supply food and snacks if you get hungry.

Anyways, as I’ve mentioned before in my previous gaming post, running an official module is probably the best way to familiarize myself with this brand new  system without having to tear my hair out trying to figure out the exact balance between the number of monsters and fire power, so the players would find hard enough challenges w/o being brutalized or find the whole session to be a piece of cake.

Now, there’s one thing that I’m sure after two full sessions of gaming: 4th ed is a game that forces you and the players to remain GLUED to the tactical map. Furthermore, when everyone is being bogged down my the ‘chess rules’ – no matter how simplified they are – you find out that at the end of the day, there’s really not much room for the essence of the game, aka ROLE-PLAYING.

While I could understand the efforts the design team invested in coming up with an RPG systems that does a good job in simplifying the compendiums of 3.5, they did another dis-service for role-players by attaching a significant portion of the game rules to the tactical map. Nearly everything are to be calculated in terms of square, and half the time are wasted on players (and DMs) trying to calculate the distance of their movement or whether a blast attack would catch all the enemies in one shot. Seriously, this sometimes can get REALLY irritating.

Anyways, as for the game itself, we covered three major encounters during the session which lasted from 2 p.m. until about 9 p.m. The battles scenes included the Burial Site battle and the raid on the kobold lair (though I fused the outside battle with the inside one, hoping to save time).

I must say this is the part which irritates me about official modules – there is absolutely no story lines. In fact, 4th ed module successfully won the honor of being the module with the most unappealing story. Simply put, we have a captured academic who has been missing for over a week, still tied up and gagged at the burial site. The culprit and his underlings are still sitting around at the crime site for no better reason, and using a strategy with a complexity that is good for fooling elementary school students in hopes of ambushing the players. That’s really appealing for the DM, right.

As for the climatic raid on the kobold lair, one of my players finally enlightened me to the 4e wisdom of keeping battle separate. Because, w/o time for a short recovery, players cannot regain their encounter-base skills and second winds. So effectively, the 4e system’s mechanism – simply put – is rationing the skills and spells so players cannot use all of them in one encounter. With this mechanism in place, the party members will still have enough fuels to fight the final boss after, say, 3 or 4 encounters.

Cute, very cute.


August 4, 2008 - Posted by | Role Playing Games


  1. My beef with the D&D editions of role-playing rules is that you can tell that 90% of the character abilities and rules are designed with combat in mind. In 4th ed. they simply took that one level further and increased the dependency on the tactical map, which is a poor idea, in my opinion.

    Even during the times that we played in the olden days, D&D characters essentially are battle machines, with very little tangible differentiation when it comes to assisting the player to do role-playing in non-combat situations.

    After so many years, D&D is still striving to reach the balance that GURPS and other lesser-known RPGs got on their first try.

    But then again, most role-playing campaigns are hack-and-slash anyway, so maybe WotC is doing the right thing after all? I mean, the kiddies love the combat and don’t really care much for role-playing, do they? 🙂

    Comment by Jonathan Wong | August 5, 2008 | Reply

  2. Let’s just say after looking at 4th Ed rules, I regret taking my 3.5 Ed books to Half-Price books. Then again, it’s like I’ve actually played at all since 2nd Ed.

    Comment by David Pan | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. Really, I would prefer some house rules that mix 3.5 Ed with 2nd Ed. I never did like 18/00 strength…the new ability scores made more sense.

    Comment by David Pan | August 27, 2008 | Reply

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