Warning: I am particularly brutal in my analysis this week about the home campaign we are playing. If you are a player or are associated with the game, I recommend you turn around and go away. I take my D&D very seriously…
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was a great game–but it was not D&D.
Some of you may have already heard me say that over and over again, and others of you might be wondering where I am going with this. Let’s get into this week analysis of Tyranny of Dragons to stop the speculation.
Last time, I spoke about the opening scene and the cast of characters for our Tyranny of Dragons campaign. The session played out really well and our characters advanced to 2nd level based on session-based advancement (DMG 260). The week following that inaugural session the DM was unavailable. So instead, he sent us a board game based loosely on episode 2 and 3 of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen.
A board game.
This board game takes our “character” on a solo quest, adds a cohort which we have no story attachment to for backup, and a random track that pits them against an arbitrary damage mechanic. The only d20 rolls are for trivial skill checks or take arbitrary damage. No attack or damage rolls, no way to play your character, and no correlation to anything in the game. No explanation of mine can properly convey my utter confusion and disappointment about having the game rules butchered so haphazardly. At least 4th Edition tried to emulate D&D. I mentioned before that the DM has a rather tenuous grasp on the rules of D&D, but this is beyond strange.
The closest thing you can get to playing D&D without actually playing D&D is to read a D&D novel, even then your mileage may vary. However, this “board game”–and it is a stretch of game design to even consider it that–is unrecognizable as D&D. Senda and Phil mentioned this on Talking Games: if you want the play experience the author intended–and I assumed we were playing D&D–then use the rules. Am I upset because I am some D&D purist? Probably. But the unwritten social contract I signed did not include derivative hacks in my D&D. House rules that alter the game drastically–like making D&D into a nonsensical and arbitrary board game–should be discussed with everyone. By the way, each run through of the board game representing an episode also leveled up our characters. Effectively, I missed playing 2nd and 3rd level with my cleric.
As for my 4th level character, Velkyn has not changed overly much except for Channel Divinity and 2nd level spell slots. A very overlooked spell, aid, is really useful at lower levels. 5 or more hit point increase to 3 characters’ maximum hit point total for 8 hours without concentration is nothing to scoff at. Equipment and character layout is unchanged since 1st level. Until 5th–or the additional of magic items–the character works as intended, tank and self-heal, I guess. My final decision is between the ability score increase or a feat.
Next time, you can see what a difference one level makes…
But… what do I know…?