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Journal Journal: Confessions of a Part-Time Grognard.

Dungeons and Dragons, Fourth Edition
Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual

Pages: 320, 224 and 288
Publisher: Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast
Rating: 9
Reviewer: Moody Loner
ISBN: 978-0-7869-4867-3, 978-0-7869-4880-2 and 978-0-7869-4852-9
Summary: The latest edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

First, an explanation of my title - a grognard is "a longtime wargamer, particularly one concerned with game mechanics, historical accuracy and realism." In D&D circles, this has been expanded to those who prefer an earlier edition over the newest one. So, yes, I'm going to start reviewing the Fourth Edition by talking about the First.

First Edition, Old AD&D, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Whenever I think of "playing D&D" it is First Edition that I'm thinking about. Going into a hole in the ground that conceals an elaborate underground labyrinth extending halfway to the magma, finding some green people with fangs, killing them, and taking their stuff. Weird, elaborate traps. Gleefully copying spells from captured spellbooks into your own - after nervously rolling percentage dice to see if you learn them. Tracking encumbrance and food. Training costs. Experience points from treasure. Artifacts. Bouncing lightning bolts. Rolling huge handfuls of damage dice while the fighter and thief look on in envy. Save or die. One-hitting the villain in the middle of his exposition. Trembling in fear at first level, and striding like a god at fifteenth.

Fourth Edition is so not that. Not entirely.

First, the Vancian magic system where you memorize/prepare/whatever a certain limited number of spells? Gone. You now have powers - some per encounter, some daily, and some "at will" so when your guard falls asleep at 3 AM and your party is ambushed the wizard isn't hosed. In fact, the slacker wizard can take his turn on watch - no longer does "I have to rest to recover spells" work to keep your spellcasters out of the watch rotation.

Oh, and speaking of powers, the fighters, rangers, warlords, and rogues get them too. Theirs are "exploits" rather than "spells" or "prayers" and deal more with combat tricks instead of the big booms. Nevertheless, everyone has something to do in combat besides swing and miss and swing again.

Wait, warlords? Yes, warlords are a new class that, along with clerics, take the "leader" role. Leaders are able to give their allies extra moves and attacks and slide them around the battlefield, as well as give them extra healing on top of their own.Yes, player characters can heal by themselves during combat. And extra moves are cooler than they sound, mobility and position play a much larger role in combat now.

Your fighter and paladin, the "defenders", can bounce more damage with their higher ACs and can hurt people trying to ignore or get past them, reducing the chance that the Other Team swarms your squishier party members.

"Strikers", rogues, rangers, and warlocks, can do awesome amounts of damage, generally to one target at a time. They tend to have worse AC and hit points, so they serve as the hammer to your fighters' anvil. Usually.

"Controllers", your wizards, do damage to a lot of enemies at once. Their main role, however, is in controlling the battlefield. They have spells that can channel, move, slow, and deny areas to your opponents, making them easier to be hit and damaged by your defenders and strikers.

As far as the books themselves go, previous editions have stated that the Players' Handbook is the only book required for a player at the table. This edition delivers on that, as our group did not once have to dig out a DMG or ask the DM to look something up for their players. The only reason to have a Monster Manual as a player is if you're using one of the monster race templates in the back, and the pertinent info should be on your character sheet anyway.

The thing that impressed me the most was how our first-level characters didn't suck. I will always remember my first AD&D character with fondness. He was the first character I ever played. He was a fighter, his highest ability score was a 14, and he had two hit points.

Let's face it. He sucked.

The elven ranger I built for the Fourth Edition game using the supplied ability score arrays, on the other hand, did not suck. The pregenerated cleric my wife was running - from playtesting - did not suck. The eladrin wizard my seven-year-old daughter made, whose powers were chosen "because I like the ice ones" most emphatically did not suck.

It wasn't a Monty Haul game. There was some casual curiosity among the party as to whether or not we would survive a few of the encounters - particularly when I demonstrated my "minion sweep" maneuver against a line of skeletons that turned out not, in fact, to be minions. Oops.

But we did not suck. Each of us had valuable contributions to make to the party. There wasn't one or two broken builds and the rest of us watching them have all the fun.

Yes, the game is simplified again. Yes, the equipment, weapon, and armor lists are even smaller. Yes, they made alignments generally not worth doing. Yes, it looks a lot like Basic D&D meets World of Warcraft.

But if it can maintain the gameplay that we had at our first game across thirty levels of play, and I have no reason to see why it can't, then Fourth Edition will take its place alongside hallowed First as "Dungeons and Dragons".
User Journal

Journal Journal: Employed!

I make Linux boxes!

Now to start climbing out of the hole...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Haven't done this in a loooong time...

forgot I had this journal.

I have rantspace going at Electronic Darwinism and a monthly webzine at Moody Loner's Hole in the Net.

I'll keep this journal for more personal posts.

So what's been going on with us lately? Well, the little one is four and likes Teen Titans and Justice League. She talks, runs around, and wants to be a superhero. Or maybe Tinkerbell. In short, she isn't a baby or a toddler anymore, she's a kid! She still loves broccoli, though.

I've been jobless since last July. Thanks, President Bush! My wife is starting a home daycare, and we have the license...we just need to hold on 'till we have some kids in.

Other than that, SSDD. We'll see how things go, and good to see you all again.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Been a While... (Allie Updates)

She's talking now...


"I need cheese!"

(climbing into her mother's lap, holding her face and looking into her eyes)

"I NEED C-E-E-E-F-K, umm, G K Q U Z! CHEESE!

"Chocolate milk!" (her term for "good" or "cool")

"Trick or treat! Candy, please!"

"Cool Mommy!" "Cool Allie!" "Cool Allie's Blanket!"

(trying to read to her mommy)

"That's Pooh. That's Piglet. That's Rabbit. umm... Mommy do it."

"Allie wants fries. Daddy wants fries. Elmo wants fries."

"Broccoli? Please? Pleeeease?"

I think that's chocolate milk.

No links today, sorry.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Well, crap.

I was going to do another edition of "We Print the News that Gives you Fits" but I can't find any good links. Oh, well.

Allie News: Allie has decided that she's a Big Helpful Girl. She tries to clean things up and put things away, all the time with an "Aren't I a Big Helpful Girl?" smile on her face. She picks up after other kids at the play place, after herself at home, tries to "clean" random things with socks or wipes or whatever, and when she's "finished", points at it proudly and says "Mommy. Daddy. This."

I'm enjoying this stage while it lasts.

User Journal

Journal Journal: We Print the News that Gives you Fits 3

Okay, here's a few things I found interesting:

In the nothing-to-see-here department, after the FBI apparently warned of massive, large-scale attacks on US web sites and ISPs, nothing happened. Did you hear about this? I sure didn't.

Story, including first paragraph I cribbed description from, here

The mouse genome has been mapped. Story here

Salvage divers raised the turret off the Monitor. Vaguely interested in Civil War history? Read this

In other news, Allie is talking more and more every day.

Allie quotes: "Pop? Ice? Juice? Cracker? Please?" "My Daddy" "Thank you". She also knows body parts, names a few letters and numbers, and can imitate animal sounds, a skill I feel will serve her in good stead throughout her lifetime.

User Journal

Journal Journal: More Bandwidth Wastage

Just an update here...

Apparently my brother has cancer again. I am deeply concerned for him, in the detached, clinical way that is apparently the only way I can show concern for my relatives. My aunt just got out of the hospital for bone cancer. Guess I'd better see a doctor, eh?

My daughter's starting to talk. She's starting to get a temper, too. I find the way she grits her teeth and pulls on her baby leash when she wants to go somewhere endearing.

Otherwise, SSDD. Going to miss the get-together tonight. Some of us have to work.

As Allie would say... "Walk! Walk!"

User Journal

Journal Journal: Going to Baycon 2002!

I will be at Baycon 2002 this weekend, helping to run the Family Friendly Programming.

Nothing like a relaxing weekend chasing toddlers.

User Journal

Journal Journal: More Drivel Because I Haven't Done this in Awhile.

I keep forgetting about this damn journal.

I tell people that I don't keep a journal due to the Nixon Theorem:

"Never write down what can be used against you."

The truth is I just don't remember to do this.

I like to think of it as my lack of ego...but it probably has more to do with the head traumas.

User Journal

Journal Journal: HS Memories (Voices from the Hellmouth in my Head)

I got an email from someone who wasn't actively hostile towards me in high school the other day.

Apparently, a defining moment in her life was when I lent her the first novel in Asimov's Foundation series. She credited me with opening up worlds that she never knew existed.

It's taking me some time to get my head around the concept that I may have been responsible for something positive in high school. This is not a period of my life that I care to think about or dwell on. I moved out of my condo in the valley of the shadow of death some time ago, and I don't want to revisit it.

I may start corresponding with this woman. I'm not sure I want to. She has this idealized memory of me I don't want to disrupt, and I don't want to go back to high school.

The gripping hand is, if I really believe I've broken the grip of the worst times of my life, talking with her should prove it.

I can always talk with my daughter over it:

Me: "What do you think I should do, Allie?"

Allie: "Da! Da!"

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Entry Not About Allie or: WTF with Moderation?

Well, time to spend my moderation points...again.
I get mod points once, two years ago, now twice in as many weeks.

Maybe I'm the only one who didn't clear the "Willing to Moderate" checkbox.

Theoretically, this means I 0wnz /.!

User Journal

Journal Journal: My Daughter's security item.

My daughter has decided on her security item. You know, the bear, blanket, or pacifier that makes the bad things go away? Well, out of all the bears, ducks, cartoon mice, even dragons and unicorns that she has been given in her short life, she has bonded with:

Mighty Cthulhu.

A friend gave her a plush Cthulhu for her birthday. She squeaked with delight when she saw it, grabbed on, and hasn't let go. Now I find myself, in public mind you, saying things like "Cthulhu kisses the baby!" and "Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, and Cthulhu loves you!".

One year old and already messing with my head.

That's my girl.

User Journal

Journal Journal: First Entry, as I Just Found Out I can Do This

Well, what else can I put but the most important thing...

My beautiful daughter Alexandria is one year old! She started walking today. She walks across her baby corral, stands in the middle of it smiling and dancing, and walks back. Given my handle, it's obvious that I never thought I'd be here. I'm still tripping on having a daughter. Hell, I'm still tripping on having a wife!

Stuff That Matters.

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