Saturday, January 24, 2009


On Thursday we had record turnout for our weekly RPGA event: 25 people at 4 tables.

The new Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms RPGA program has been very successful, as I've mentioned before. They're less restrictive on their format as a way of encouraging people to play D&D on a regular basis.

We used to run Eberron RPGA using 3.5, which was a mess. The adventures were poorly written, character rules were obtuse and the format was rigid. Now adventures are high enough quality to where we're going through lots of toner to print extra copies for the volunteer DMs. Before, we couldn't give away the pre-printed dreck. Also, 4th Edition is better suited for organized play, as there's less ambiguity in how a character is created. I recall downloading a half dozen 3.5 pre-gen characters from the Wizards website and spending an hour correcting them. Looking back, 3.5 almost seems subjective when it comes to character builds, or at least complicated enough to forgive the inevitable errors that would creep onto character sheets.

But do you like 4th Edition?
After six months of playing and running 4th edition, I've become a bit more critical of the system. The best criticism I've heard, which I'm kind of agreeing with, is that it's a fine system, but it's not my D&D. That's just saying it's different really, but there's something to be said for the lost continuity between 4th and previous editions. It still has that 3.x problem of feeling like a role-playing game until combat begins, when it becomes a tactical miniature game. Luckily I like tactical miniature games, but the jarring transition often leaves me cold.

My real problem is it feels a bit sterile for the players, which drains some of their enthusiasm. I'm hoping that aditional accessory books, like Player's Handbook II, will add some variety to their options. But aren't I really just saying I wish it was more like 3.5, with a bigger toolbox?


  1. I think a lot of that "sterility" will disappear as more PHBs and Power books are released.

  2. This topic lets me give voice to a rant I have:

    I found myself in the unusual situation, for me anyways, of defending D&D. The new owner of the local game store here was initially quite enthusiastic about 4th edition, but after running in a short campaign (they didn't get past level 3 or 4), he no longer likes it.

    Now, that's his prerogative, but you can tell he hasn't quite adopted the store owner mentality yet by the way he talks about it in the store. While I was there the other day a couple of customers came in and by the way they were talking they were obviously 3.5 fans. The owner and one of his buddies that were there started agreeing with them and badmouthing 4th. I wanted to grab the owner by the throat slap him around and tell him "3.5 is dead to you as a store owner, it doesn't make you any money, stfu!"

    It's fine if he doesn't personally like 4th, but he needs to forget the gamer mentality of complaining vociferously about everything he doesn't like, and start adopting the owner mentality of 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' (or better yet, lie ;-) ).

    On the plus side, he's done a good job of re-arranging the gaming area so that customers can actually reach the product on the shelves, and he fired his Yu-Gi-Oh players after learning that they were being obnoxious to other customers and that they were the source of much of his shrinkage. Incidentally, the average age of Yu-Gi-Oh players here appears to be in the late twenties to early thirties!

  3. There's something to be said for honesty and the sales technique of "putting down" one product in exchange for juicing up another, but you can't do entire product lines. For example, I might say I find the board game Puerto Rico a little dull, despite it being a highly regarded game, but I love Power Grid, as does everyone I play it with (Tikal is my favorite game but I'm alone in that).

    This little bit of honesty and a slight put down is true and helps me sell that Power Grid. I may never sell that person a Puerto Rico, but so what? I've got 600 other board games.

    However, if I said Power Grid is the only game worth playing, or worse, the 3rd Edition of Settlers of Catan, now out of print, was the only game worth anything, that would be stupid and economically suicidal, as well as showing my ignorance (how I often feel about people who can't seem to find even ONE board game from our huge selection, usually after attempts to help).

    That's what this guy does with his lack of D&D 4 acceptance. Does he like it, no? That's fine, keep it to yourself. Is it legitimately a "bad" game that you should steer your customers away from? Certainly not. What does he suggest his customers should buy if not D&D 4? With D&D owning the majority of the market share, all other RPGs are tiny slivers of the pie. He's likely to lose ALL his RPG customers eventually, since almost everyone seems to return to D&D over time.

  4. Another D&D 4 observation:

    Those that have surprised me in their acceptance and adoption of D&D 4 have been the indy gamers. These folks have drifted away from previous D&D versions due to the complexity of play, setup time, etc. D&D 4 appeals to them because of its simplicity, the same reason that many power gamers, I would go so far as to call them "core" D&D players, actually enjoy it.

    When additional materials come out for D&D 4, will it satisfy the power gamers while simultaneously begin a drift away from the game by the indy, small footprint system gamers?

    Will future D&D 4 options add the needed crunchy complexity that power gamers enjoy, or will it just add more simplified options for play?

  5. Yeah, that's part of what was getting me. Nowhere in the conversation was there any suggestion of an alternative to 4th edition. Unless you count the implied superiority of 3.5, a game that makes the store zero money after the one shelf of old stock that currently exists is gone (the store doesn't deal in used books, so there's not even that minor income to consider).

    Now, he could have talked up the small selection of Pathfinder stuff he has and that could have salvaged things, but no mention of it was ever made. He never even pointed them towards the clearance of old modules that he has in another part of the store.

    In the end he merely badmouthed 4th and agreed with them how great 3.5 is. The end result was that they left the store empty handed after admitting that they hadn't been in the store for a couple of years. They probably won't be back for a couple more now.

    Oh, I almost forgot. The owner only badmouthed 4th, but prior to that his buddy also badmouthed Exalted when they were looking at it. A game which based on the customers' stated preference for high power D&D games would have probably been perfect for them. Now, he did in this case suggest an alternative in Scion, the problem being that the store didn't have any copies of it in stock!

  6. It sounds like they're just having problems with RPGs in general. It's very hard to maintain stock in all the various RPGs out there. I've commented before that it's the most labor intensive part of the store, but both Micheal and I happen to love them.

    Our D&D 4 sales are very strong, by the way. I think this is because we've kept well informed of its development from day one and we play it. The product stands on its own too, of course. I think we're fast approaching its "inevitability", at which time I won't feel like I need to convince the 3.5 players. That has grown tiresome.

    One group is all it takes to keep a game on the shelf for me, or when they switch to something else, doom subsequent releases. It's complex enough that the point-of-sale system manages a lot of it, like planting fifty different crops with different cycles. But hey, it works and it's one of the most profitable areas of the store.

  7. Well, the store owner's buddy isn't an employee. He was just doing what gamers do, but the fact that the store owner hasn't taken him aside yet and gone "hey, do me a favor and don't sell people on product I don't have" is just another sign that the owner hasn't quite shifted from gamer mentality to owner mentality.

    There's other areas where he's doing a great job. Re-arranging the play area so that there's actually room for people to shop. removing some card tables to put up a couple of miniatures tables to support the GW and Battlefront product he just introduced to the store.

    He seems aware of the problems his store layout causes, although there's not a lot he can do about it short of a complete remodel due to the way most of the fixtures are literally built into the walls, and the way the store is currently divided into two sections connected only by a narrow corridor. You'd need to knock down some walls to make the current location more acceptable.

    He also renamed the store in acknowledgment that he actually sells games and not sports cards (the old name was a legacy from when that's what the store did). Renaming is always tricky, but if he's going to do it it's best to do it now rather than later.

    I guess I'd say that as a store manager he's getting it, but as a salesman he still has a lot to learn.

  8. Do not feel alone...

    Tikal is one of my favorite games, too.