Taking the 4e engine forward

I was listening with interest to the That’s How We Roll podcast. In it the guys express some frustration with the lack of ambition shown by WotC in taking the design of their flagship game into other avenues. We do have some board games, which are apparently well received. We have a Facebook game, but that’s just base D&D on a different platform. The last real innovation was Gamma World.

Let’s remind ourselves about what that game really did. It’s got a stripped down 4e engine in it. I thought it was a fantastic basic game system, one that actually shows how simple 4e is at its very core. Crucially it also hints at the flexibility it has, and this is what I’d like to see used more. There’s also the release format which was a big box with sheets cards and maps included. Then there were two supplements that really did supplement the game and stretch it out to encompass a bigger, optional game. The three books also had a complete campaign spread across them. Caveat: there were collectible cards too, which I’m discounting as they appeared to be more a revenue decision than a good game decision.

I think GW went over pretty well with gamers. I don’t have any real evidence to back that up, but certainly the community speaks kindly of it. So I’d like to see more games in this vein. In the podcast they suggest Birthright redone in this manner. A good call. I’d like it to step away even further from fantasy D&D though. In no particular order I’d like to see the following done in the GW format.

  • Superheroes
    Science fiction (Star Frontiers anyone?)
    World War 2 (Captain America: the First Avenger style)
    The Dawn War
    The Dusk War
  • In fact, I reckon Dark Sun would have been a contender too. The thing is, the standard D&D set up is great for standard D&D, in fact it’s awesome. But when I want to play something a bit different I want the best bits of 4e in it, but not the whole thing. And I don’t want a never ending treadmill of supplements, nor do I want a single book. Three is the magic number.

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    4 Comments

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    4 responses to “Taking the 4e engine forward

    1. I too would love to see more done with the stripped down GW engine. Like you, I’d like to see a superhero game (take two random tropes and combine them to make something original), but what I would really like to see is a stripped-down fantasy game where you can choose (or roll) race and occupation, or optionally play as a human and take two classes. Give is a few twists to differentiate it from its D&D parentage (have the occupations be rat-catcher, cobbler, blacksmith, etc rather than D&D classes, for example) and I reckon it would win WoTC an awful lot of love back with gamers who want a faster, lighter, more flexible system.

      • Damn straight. There’s loads of forum chatter about exactly that. Not surprisingly it never really gets beyond the brainstorming stage, but the notion is sound.
        Imagine if it were published under a Basic D&D badge? Swoon.

    2. jhilahd

      I agree with D) all the above.
      Gamma World has a lot of potential in a using the 4e system in a different vein and a lot more slimmed down and still sexy way.
      I think games like Amethyst also bring some unique ideas to the 4e community with more twists on system use. They company that produces that is developing a 4e Modern also, which I can’t wait for.
      But back to WotC, yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes. While I want more DnD products, they really should(or should have) focused in on settings like Dark Sun and Gamma World more instead of making them one-off’s.
      Or in the very least provided more DDI content/support.
      Granted, Dark Sun still gets the occasional article, but not Gamma World. GW almost replaced my regular campaign. My players had so much fun, in our two session one shot they found going back to the heavier rules set difficult. And I had a hard time stopping them from purposely killing themselves just so they could roll up new characters. LOL.

    3. DBV

      Yeah, I think using the GW basic system would be *excellent*. I was working on a L5R port that used various race/class combinations. I think that the simple equipment rules really separate it from 4e. The system seems faster, and less fidgety. Plus, a group can be thrown together regardless of role juggling. I plan on creating simple ‘talent trees’ that provide a few static bonuses and give options to fill the roles of the Alpha mutations. Let’s push it as far as we can!

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