Monday, December 27, 2010

What It Is: D&D 4e Red Box

Hope everyone had a happy holiday.  I can't report any gaming finds, but my fiancee DID get me a beer making kit.  In about a month (I have a few more things to pick up before I can begin), I should be trying out my first stout.  I'm very excited.

My biggest complaint? No Bargle or Aleena.
One of the things I got for Mrs. Higgipedia this year was the new D&D 4e Red Box.  While I am realizing my heart is with the older versions of D&D, I do enjoy aspects of 4th Edition.  I've found that it is a more balanced and egalitarian system than previous editions.  All races and classes can generally contribute in equal amounts at all levels.  Still, the home game I am trying to organize (if you are in the Stroudsburg, PA area and interested, drop me a line.  You can reach me by email or through the Facebook page on the right column of the page.) is going to be based on Lamentations of the Flame Princess, with some house rules.  I don't hate 4e the way a lot of OSR aficionados do,

That said, a mutual friend of the future missus and I is starting up a game next month and we're using 4th Edition.  Mrs. Higgipedia hadn't played D&D since 2nd Edition so I knew I had to give her an idea of the differences between the editions.  Looking around the internet, it seemed that Wizards' new Red Box would be a great fit for my needs.  So, it was one of her presents.

We were in a hotel on Long Island over the holidays and we broke out the box and gave it a whirl.  We played through the tutorial once, with Mrs. Higgipedia making for herself a nifty little Human Rogue.  We decided we'd run through the tutorial a few other times, so she could see what other characters she can make (most of my books are still in storage) and get a better idea of the gameplay.  There is a lot to unlearn and relearn when you are making the jump from 2e to 4e after fifteen years of not playing.

The box itself is a great homage to the set that got a lot of us into the hobby.  If you go back to my very first post, you'll see why I love the game so much.  When you open it, there is a lot similar and a lot dissimilar.  The Player's Book, the DM's Book, and dice are what I remember from my old Red Box.  The new one comes with cards, tokens, and maps (all reflections of the much more map-oriented version of the game as it exists now).  One of the things I don't like about the new game is the filler piece that keeps the books at a slightly more aesthetically pleasing angle, but takes up a lot of room.  I'd prefer a smaller box than filler.  It makes me feel like I am getting ripped off.

For the most part, the tutorial in the Player's book gives you the very basic tools you need to understand the game, adding concepts as needed (Just like the Moldvay Red Box).  It's a very simple two part adventure which illustrates the concepts you'll need to understand.  You get to create a human/elf/dwarf/halfling fighter/cleric/rogue/wizard and go to town on some goblins.  Very basic, very simple.  It then encourages you to gather some friends and have them try the tutorial and start a game.  With this, I am convinced that despite Hasbro and WOTC being these large corporate entities, there are still those in the industry on their end who remember what it was like to grab some friends and play a new game in one of the basements.  The Red Box is a throwback to that.

When all is said and done, your opinions of the Red Box are your opinions of the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  If you hate 4e, you'll hate the Red Box.  If you like it, you will appreciate that it is one of the few games out there that is written with the customer who has no preexisting context for table top roleplaying in mind.  The only other game I've bought in a long time that does more than a cursory job at this is Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

I am glad I bought the Red Box for Mrs. Higgipedia and she seems to be glad as well.  As always, I welcome your thoughts on the product.  Just please be a little more constructive than "Fourth Edition Sucks."