Ch-ch-changes… (4th edition) pt. 2Posted: June 11, 2008
(This is the second of a series of posts discussing the recently released 4th edition of Dungeon and Dragons. The first post can be found here.)
The first thing you notice about the newest edition of the Dugeon Master’s Guide (DMG) is how short it is, especially when compared to the Player’s Handbook (PHB). The PHB clocks in at 320 pages while the DMG is only 224 (The Monster Manuel comes in at 228 pages). Of course the price is the same for both books.
The DMG has all of the strengths of the PHB. It is well designed, laid out, and accessible to gamers new and old. But this time out the DMG feels perfunctory and almost unnecessary. There’s very little actual rules in this book, most of it is glorified flavor text. The rules that are included here (such as for traps, diseases, and awarding exp) could have easily been folded into a couple of chapters of the PHB with little lost. Most RPGs these days do that, they have only one (or maybe two) core books but WotC designed to keep to tradition (one of the only D&D traditions they actually seem to have kept) and cashed in by releasing three books.
Since WotC decided to release three seperate books to support 4th edition, they should have kept this book in development a bit longer; to add some meat to its bones. They could have added a lot, from better support for DMs seeking to play evil characters to more options to customizing monster.
Many of the pages in this book are spent “fleshing out” WotC painfully dull “default setting” for D&D. While I see some of the wisdom including some details to allow for new DMs and players a base for creating they own game worlds, I feel that WotC would have been better off leaving most of the world-building stuff out and just pointing players to their previously well developed game worlds (such as the Forgotten Realms). As is they just wasted pages and pages of their core rulebooks on a boring setting that adds nothing to the overall experience of the game. Space is precious in this core books and space could have been better spent.
Despite all of the qualms with these books that I’ve noted above and in my previous post, I don’t feel that I’ll be able to give a full opinion on 4th edition until I get the chance to run a game. From reading the books I think there’s a good chance it might be a fun experience but we’ll just have to wait and see.