Friday, November 28, 2008

I Used to Roll the Dice, Feel the Fear in My Enemy's Eyes

It's been a long journey since my sword-fellows came down, bloodied and victorious, from White Plume Mountain, back in the heady go-go D&D days of the late 70s. The Keep on the Borderlands was but a humble ale stand in those bygone days. Many of that lost Fellowship of the Flayed Goblin--among them my brother Eric and Hal, and some newer war brothers (10-15 years of campaigning), Barticus and my son Daniel, always a loyal Ranger. Only the Mighty Caveman was truly missed from this noble ensemble as we tackled D&D 4th Edition for the first time and its kickoff module, H1: The Keep on the Shadowfell.

For D&D purists, I have alarming news: the Mighty Empire has finally come under the sway of the online gaming world. Though I shed a tear, let's be honest: it probably had to happen.

For online gamers, I have even more alarming news: you were actually playing D&D all of these years anyway. You laughed at the nerds at the lunch table in high school, but they were all smarter than you and went out and wrote computer games based on their favorite pasttime, D&D, and then you started playing them--EverQuest, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and more. Truly, it must be like finding out that the hot chick you were dating was actually a dude living in his mother's basement in disguise.

So D&D 4E is a super-pimped-up version of our former beloved game, where you can easily take on powers and skills that you used to only dream of attaining in some faraway level. Even our self-proclaimed "chaos gamer" Barticus, who never met a dark elf assassin with quadruple backstab skills using an enchanted double-damage dagger that he didn't like, expressed surprise at the torqued-up characters. You also take "healing surges" an online gaming conceit that make you less killable than ever before.

But guess what, the bad guys are juiced also. We merrily waded into a kobold ambush expecting to bat them aside like a swarm of scaly flies only to find my own dwarf fighter Bridgit Brokefoot (of the glass armor) going down three times in a row and needing the noble healing power of my Dragonborn paladin Leonid (who speaks in a Russian accent, continuing the annoying trend I began with the Jamacian accent of my old-school fighter/magic user/thief Pollux).

I could write more about a lot of the nuances (and probably have written too much already), like missing races and alignments and classes that we used to favor, replaced by things we don't understand and can't pronounce, but your mileage can and will vary.

Suffice to say we played twice over Thanksgiving and the new Fellowship of the Flayed Goblin--Bridgit and Leonid, Frax and Don, and two people whose names I can't pronounce so I called them Jan and Lawndart (two Rangers, two Fighters, a Paladin and a Warlock; I know, not a super-balanced party) liked it well enough and will soldier on and try to solve the secrets of the Shadowfell, over Christmas break. More adventures later.

Until then, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.