Is four a magic number?

Over the weekend I got a chance to run my first actual game of D&D 4th edition since the books came out. The game I ran used the first 4th edition pre-made module, Keep on Shadowfell. We only got through the prologue material since there was a pretty funny improvised diversion (involving murder and mayhem) that ate up a large amount of game time.

(My brief review after having read all of the material of KoS: It’s a playable but predictable adventure. Easily a 13 year old with access to an R.A. Salvatore novel could have thought it up. I probably shouldn’t have wasted my money buying it, but I didn’t want to spend the time to come up with a new 4th edition campaign until the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting update came out.)

Below are some impressions I formed from playing the game this weekend:

  • The new character options (ie. powers, more racial benefits) seemed popular among my players though they made character creation and leveling up take about 100 times longer than in 3.5.
  • The new skill system is infinitely more intuitive than the old one and infinitely easier to run. Streamlined skill checks!
  • The powers do make combat more interesting and the new rules with monsters allow you to throw more enemies at your players more easily.
  • While my players generally did like the powers a lot, they still ended up doing “basic” attack more often than not. Which isn’t actually what the design team wanted, me thinks.
  • Yet with the new powers there is infinitely more shit for the DM to keep track of and I most admit I lost track of it all on more than one occasion.
  • The maps that came with the game were very useful. It made using powers much easier than if I had to draw out a map on my own and make up my own scaling. But they don’t cover much of the actual Keep! So I am going to have to draw maps anyway. Blargh. I paid good money for this adventure!
  • The much-discussed character “roles” work, more or less. The rouge/ranger was good at dealing damage, while the fighter was good at taking damage, etc. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work but actually did.

My current verdict on 4th edition is basically that is it is a fun game to play but more work for me as the DM to keep track of all the shit going on. I still don’t know the rules as well as I did with 3.x but that’ll improve over time. My group had fun, a lot of it actually (that had less to do with 4th edition and more with the improvisation craziness that broke out).

I think my group and I will finish Keep on the Shadowfell but after that I’m not sure if we’ll keep  playing 4th edition or not.

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