Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Type IV

As we stand uncomfortably at the windswept gravesite watching the coffin of Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons being slowly lowered into the ground, I feel the desire to toss in a white lily.  The lily is a symbol of innocence that has been restored to a soul once departed.  It expresses purity, majesty, and sympathy.

I owe a lot to Fourth Edition.  It had been years since I had played a role playing game when I heard that a new version of D&D was coming out.  All of the things that had kept me away from the table - moving around from town to town like a refugee, dating, marriage, college, birthin' a baby, being laid off after 9/11 - all of those things had settled to the point of manageability.  I had some time for me again, and here was a fresh new D&D, peeking it's head around the corner.

How could I resist?

Fourth edition finally gave me the impetus to sit down and really read, understand, and implement the entirety of a gaming system.  Before, it was enough to get a gist of a game and then fly be the seat of my pants.  Type IV begged - demanded - to be understood before played - it being so different and all.

I met a lot of people, played a lot of games, and have friends I never would have because of Fourth Edition.  Back in 2007, it was a great rallying point for those of us whom life had whisked away from gaming and were coming back to the fold.

I got to play with minis.  I had always wanted to incorporate  minis in my games, but beyond using them as a marker for marching order, I'd never gotten to use them.  Again, 4th edition demanded their use, and I gladly tossed wads of money to keep myself swimming in little plastic toys.

Fourth Edition was the first role playing game my son ever played, and he loved it.  It introduced him to doing math on the fly, use of spatial thinking and strategy, and cooperating with a group of people to complete a complicated task.  The game also helped us bond together as father and son in the same way that others bond together with baseball or football or some-such thing.

In the end, however, Fourth Edition D&D never gave me the warm fuzzies that Basic or Advanced Dungeons and Dragons had given me in my youth.  At first I thought it was just me, but after a lot of trying and tinkering, it became clear that Type IV wasn't designed to provide what I was looking for.  It took a journey into the OSR for me to remember - and rediscover - what I had been looking for all along.

My long, loud break-up with Fourth Edition is well documented on this blog, including embarrassing rants and name-calling, so I don't feel the need to repeat any of it.  Let's just say I fell out of love and hired a mean and vindictive lawyer.

This column is about inspiration - and inspiring other.  Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons inspired me to get back into role-play.  It inspired me to get out and meet new people.  It has even helped to inspire my son and I to form a closer bond.  It even brought me back to the very roots of my gaming career.  In those regards, Fourth Edition was far from a failure - but a raging success.

The innocence I once came to Fourth Edition with has been restored by it's death.  So yes, I'll gladly toss that lily into the grave.

Fifth Edition is now peeking its head over the horizon.  I wonder - what will it inspire?

- Ark


  1. Thanks Christian. I had to put it to bed, so to speak. :)

    - Ark

  2. Very well-written. I wish more people in the OSR were able to be this rational and eloquent about things, rather than just falling back to, "That game sucks."

    Your feelings about 4th Edition seem pretty close to mine on 3rd edition. I still like the old editions a lot, but 3rd I what brought me back to actually playing RPGs after a long hiatus. The only difference is that I still like 3rd.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. @Martin - Thanks for the compliments. However, please do remember that I'm the guy who wrote the "4E Makes You Stupid" rant. Emotion is a funny thing, eh?

    There are parts of 4e that I still like. I imagine one day, I'l sit down with a bunch of people and play some 4e - to relive the 'good old days.' Objects are always closer than they appear in the rear view mirror.

    - Ark