Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Classic 4e--Will It Fly?

First, hat tip to RetroRoleplaying for bring this story to my attention. I see where Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games is planning a "Classic" version of D&D 4e, a set of alternate rules and elements to bring back the more classic elements of the game. We're talking yanking Dragonborn and Warforged, bringing spell buffs back, an optional alignment realignment, more out-of-combat powers, measurement in feet instead of hexes, and lots more rollbacks to the Way Things Were (or Pretty Close, as it might be).

On the surface, it seems like I'd be in agreement with a lot of these things, as they fit more closely into my personal preferences for what D&D should be (any chance of a more "zero-to-hero" feel, Clark?). And I'm happy they're looking at doing an Alpha/Beta with it, not unlike what Paizo did with Pathfinder. But for those who want those things present or emphasized in D&D, I very largely feel they still have the 3.5 rules, Pathfinder, or any one of a number of free simulacrum games. I believe there's enough of a distinction between previous editions of D&D and 4e that the two have effectively forked; most folks I know who enjoy 4e likely wouldn't enjoy the sort of throwbacks mentioned in that thread. The same holds for the other branch; those gamers have largely made their bed, be it with 3.5, Pathfinder, Basic Fantasy, etc., and are going to lie in it.

Necromancer Games has given us some of the best 3rd-party D&D supplements I've seen, to include Tome of Horrors, and I have a lot of respect for them. But I really don't see a huge demand for this right now. I'd love to be wrong on that count. Also, remember too that Clark is a designer who likes to "think out loud" online--rarely are such thoughts etched in stone. The nice thing is, we'll be able to follow it all through the discussion, on Necromancer's 4e Classic forum.

18 comments:

Hammer said...

I still don't understand the problems with Dargonborn and Warforged. It's like complaining because the artwork is different from AD&D, except it's far easier to add in your own races then it is to add your own art.

I think this will attract a hardcore of D&D fans who are still playing 3.5 or AD&D for a few months before they revert back to their old games, and I'll certainly take a look at it. But the question remains, if people are that unhappy with 4e why don't they just keep playing the older versions and ignore 4e completely?

Bonemaster said...

I have to be honest, this in the meh category for me. I'm sure if it gets produced that some people will buy it. I'm just not going to be one of them.

Bonemaster said...

@Hammer - I don't personally like the concepts of Dragonborn or Warforged period, but that's my preference not that of others. (ie if you like them in your game more power to you) I think you hit on the head, if we don't like 4ed, We ARE playing 3.5,Pathfinder,AD&D, Labyrinth Lords, ORSIC, or the like. This product isn't going to make us want to play 4ed.

Zachary The First said...

My thought was, if people don't like Dragonborn/Warforged, don't use 'em. I'm not a 4e adherent, so I don't use them, but it seemed like a pretty easy fix to me.

Wyatt said...

I think it's a product without a home, except for the die-hards on Necromancer's forums who need NG products like crack. Clark's already said the product isn't for us (4e fans), but I really have no idea who it is FOR. Do these magical people who'd play 4e over their preferred systems if it wasn't anything like 4e, actually exist in enough quantity to justify this?

I did a post on this on T.T. that's really echoing your thoughts, Zachary. Why take this over 3e, Pathfinder, the retroclones, and original old editions of D&D? There seems to be so much choice out there for real old school, why butcher 4e into a fake one?

All I know is I'm not playing it, and I've never purchased Necromancer Games modules before, and don't think I'll miss 'em now. It's just a very curious situation all around.

Zachary The First said...

@Wyatt: It’s funny how we’re pretty close on our reaction to this, despite generally playing different systems. But I agree—I’m really curious to see just how far any audience beyond the Necromancer forums exists for this.

Mad Brew said...

Yeah, this is probably a game without a market. It sound like Clarks like the feel of the older versions, but wants to capitalize off the new edition.

I like 3rd edition mechanics the best (but still love the old modules from OD&D through 2nd Edition too). I've played 4e and had fun, but it just isn't what I am looking for in a game.

Questing GM said...

Someone needs to point Clark Peterson to this.

http://blog.microlite20.net/2009/02/19/why-4e-dd-is-old-school/

Rob Conley said...

The advantage of a exception based rule system is that your can radically alter the feel of the game by the changing the mix of powers.

I think Clark has a good shot at succeeding at this. I feel that what will happen is that the 4e Classic will wind up with it's own fanbase.

I don't have a link to a post but Clark has stated that his preference is to playing an older style with the newest rules. His company's product reflect that philosphy.

As to why he doesn't use any of the retro-clones, he stated more than once that he feels retro-clone carry too much legal baggage for a business to use.

Of course KenzerCo takes the opposite tack and both are run by lawyers. (Throwing hands up in the air)

Mad Brew said...

@Rob: I feel the GSL has too much legal baggage for a business to use.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't assume lawyers always know everything anyways, but I can read. And I think the GSL is far too one-sided to be practical.

Tom said...

If I wanted to play "old school" I wouldn't look to 3.5. I play an actual old version like basic or 1e, or maybe a clone like microlite.

Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions) said...

Zero to Hero'd be pretty easy to do. I sketched out some notes on how to do it this morning... you could probably get there by doing three "pre-levels" before Level 1. I imagine for the diehards it'd make the awesome that you are at level 1 feel more "earned".

Zachary The First said...

@ Fred: I saw at A Butterfly Dreaming an attempt to do so in one level. It felt like too extreme a jump to me. I was thinking 3-4 such jumps may be more in line. I don't see a lot of 4e in my future for a number of preference reasons, but that's one change I'd be curious at seeing.

As always, thanks for the comments, guys!

Johnn Four said...

We've been house ruling our 4E campaign for awhile now, and I'd love to see other design ideas for some of the items on my list of things to change. If the Necromancer product is like an Unearthed Arcana of optional rules, I'm interested.

thasmodious said...

"I very largely feel they still have the 3.5 rules"

I don't see how 3.5 can be grouped in with "old school feel". That's pretty baffling to me since 3e was, to date, the largest departure from old school D&D. Yes, that includes 4e. Many of us who are fans of the game feel this edition already has an old school feel while hosting updated and streamlined mechanics that meld old school philosophy with new school consistency.

I'm not sure about 4e classic, might be an interesting experiment, not so sure there is a solid market for it.

Zachary The First said...

I'll cheerfully disagree on that one. 3/3.5 spawned Castles & Crusades, which fills my old school appetite nicely. :) I lumped 3.5 in with the simulacrum games because its my belief that they're a different fork in the road of D&D, so to speak. When I said old school, it was more a blanket reference to older edition styles of play in general. YMMV.

I've now heard a couple of folks say 4e is old school. Since not even the old school community can agree on a common definition for that term, I'll concede it may feel that way for some. Not me, though.

Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions) said...

Check it out -- I wrote up my Zero To Hero notes as a post on the One Bad Egg Scramble. Come on over and have a look:

http://www.onebadegg.com/egg/2009/03/392/

Zachary The First said...

@ Fred: That's crazy cool, man. I have to share that with some folks.