Why I Love Nu-Skool D&D

 A few weeks ago I raved about how great Old Skool D&D is.  At first glance, you may infer therefore that I believe Nu Skool (and 4E in particular) sucks.  While it's really easy to make fun of 4E, I don't actually believe that it's bad. The two games are very different and fill completely separate rolls and niches.  I love them both in different ways, like my iPhone and my wife.

The cool thing about old versions of D&D is that's it's simple, random, and open to endless interpretation and tweaking. That's also one of it's greatest flaws.  The reason many people make up their own house rules is because the rules, as written, don't make a heck of a lot of sense.  And they're stupidly unfair.  Sure, having a wizard with 2 hit points who gets killed by a stray cat is funny the first time, but after dying 8 times in two sessions, that shit gets old. Especially when a significant portion of those deaths were caused by the same f***ing cat.

Three attacks per round.  AC 5. This things' a low-level PC grinder.
Similar annoying stupid rules include over-powered demi-human classes with level restrictions (that most people just ignore), fighters who have literally no abilities outside of swording, and first-level monsters and traps with save-or-die attacks. (What, I got killed by mould again?  Ah, man, if I wanted to be exposed to poisonous mould, I would go hang out at my old high school.)  Fourth Edition fixes these issues by introducing a strange and mysterious thing called Game Balance.  Say what you will about WOTC, they at least tried to make the game more fair and sensical.  This is not a bad thing.  That have made it so structured and well-crafted that when a flaw or imbalance does happen to pop up, the trolls rise up from their dark smelly basements with murder in their eyes and Cheetos on their breath screaming "BROKEN! BROKEN!" until WOTC errata's them back down into their caves.

Structure, in many ways, promotes creativity.  Having more rules forces you to think about how to get the most out of those rules, as well as how to get around them. Figuring out cool combinations of feats and powers can be great fun (albeit, by the definition of people who find algebra fun - and I know a lot of gamers that fall into that category).  The mathematical precision is comforting because you can always calculate what will be better for you in a given situation.  Part of the "game" is the puzzle of making the numbers work they way you want them to.

Of course, if you don't like math, you can, also, you know, just play an elf cleric because the picture in the book is sexy. I know players who have picked characters exactly that way.
People love video games.  They love building their characters in just the right way.  Nu Skool lets you do that, too.  You can plan your character's advancement over time, pick the gear and powers you want, and work towards acquiring them.  You are not constrained by the whim of your DM or the fate of random treasure tables.  You make a kick-ass hero to be proud of.

Random treasure can be fun, but really, how many Apparatuses of Kwalish do you really need?

That's something else that's stressed in Nu Skool:  You ARE a hero.  In old versions of the game, you start out as just some dipshit with a sword, or a newb wizard who knows one spell.  In 4E, even at low levels, you wield considerable power.  You can pull off crazy moves called things like "Inevitable Shot" and "Unstoppable Ninja Killing Strike of Super Awesomeness" (I think I made that one up... I think).  You can take huge amounts of punishment and get right back right back up and brush yourself off.  Hell, even dying is only a temporary inconvenience, since get resurrected only imposes what, a -1 penalty to attack rolls?  (I don't even remember, I've never actually had a character die).  Can you imagine, years ago, if someone told you that your D&D fighter could have hundreds of hit points, crazy magical weapons and gear, and could roll FISTFULS of dice for damage? Fourth Edition is the game that hard-ass old schoolers dreamed about.  Until they got it, of course, and then decided that they were too hip to play corporate-made games.

Whatever.  Though it's a very different game, 4E has its own strengths and I love it for its own merits. I love older editions for the same reasons, B/X in particular.  It's okay if you like something different than me.  It's also okay to like both.  There's way too much hate in the OGBloC. Can we all just get along, rather than argue about our games?  Especially since there are enough people outside the hobby who look down upon or make fun of us for what we do?  There's really no need for us to fight amongst ourselves.

We should be focusing our fire on the boss monsters.
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  1. Fair points. I'm really looking forward to the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Seems like it may strike a pretty awesome balance between old skool aesthetics with nu skool mechanics.

  2. People can play whatever game they like in whatever way they want, and be satisfied and have fun. OD&D is an unplayable mess, AD&D has several ludicrous and silly rules, and I love them both dearly. 3e and 4e are both wonderful tactical and character building games and I can completely see the appeal - and even though I have no real interest in them, I think they are very fun if that's your chosen play style.

    As for us all getting along, that's probably not going to happen. As long as there is an internet there will always be people complaining about stuff. I'm fairly certain that the collective power of people complaining is what eventually causes the Internet to become self-aware.

  3. Thaumiel NerubNovember 02, 2011

    I don't have enough experience with O or 4 but I must comment that this post was really entertaining!

  4. I'm not the world's biggest 4E fan, but nor am I a relentless 4E basher. In fact, if all goes according to plan, I'm going to be running a 4E game this weekend. (Damn it, everything had better work out because I haven't run a game in nearly two months!)

    However, though I loved the article, I've got to admit, a lot of the flaws you pointed out with the older editions are exactly the reasons I love them so much. I love the slow, gradual "hero quest" from getting from level 1 to level 5, or dying suddenly and without any fanfare. I love the utter randomness of the older editions. I love picking up 3d6 and hoping for at least one 16 (anything higher would be a pipe dream). I love trying to piece together how my stats reflect my character's past, present, and future.

    But I will admit my players were getting a wee bit tired of being killed by green slime, gelatinous cubes, and the dreaded Yellow Mould That Just Happens to Cover the Only Magic Weapon in the Entire Dungeon.

  5. CDGallant_KingNovember 04, 2011

    At first glance it seems far more "old skool" than "nu," but I haven't
    gone into it in depth.  I will have to look more closely.

    Curious.  At first glance it seems far more "old skool" than "nu," but I haven't gone into it in depth.  I will have to look more closely.

  6. CDGallant_KingNovember 04, 2011

    The first part of that comment was the most positive I've ever heard from you. :-)

    And you're right about the Internet.  Other than this site, I rarely read comments anymore.  They make me too angry and depressed about the future of the entire human race.

  7. CDGallant_KingNovember 04, 2011

    Well, hopefully between these two posts, I have given you a well-balanced objective review of both styles of game. 

    Actually, don't take anything I say seriously.  I actually wrote these columns about "Old" and "New" school rap music, then just switched a few names and references.

  8. CDGallant_KingNovember 04, 2011

    Oh, yeah, all that stuff is fun in moderation, but it can get old fast.  Just like the overly complicated combat grind in 4E gets old, too.  I like to switch it up between both games - no more than a few months of either, to keep my sanity. I like variety in my geeky past times.

    Slimes and molds are without a doubt the worst enemies in this or any game. 

  9. 4E is awful. I've been playing RPG's since the 80's, and 4E has got to be the most boring one I have ever played. Everything is generic, and they butchered most all of the core concepts that defined the setting. If you want a balanced game that isn't hopelessly generic, then play SW SAGA.

    Literally everyone I know hates 4E, and will probably never play it again. We are trying to find a SAGA-style D&D custom game, particularly in the Forgotten Realms setting, where there were tons of possible prestige classes/specialty priests/etc, and this along with multiclassing was how we could mechanically create so many wildly diverse characters. We probably had 50 characters in 3E, and every single one of them was completely unique. The only thing 3E needed was a more balanced mechanic.

    SW SAGA does this brilliantly, allowing you as much (or as little) customization as you prefer for any given character. 4E, on the other hand, is just a ridiculous excuse for a good RPG, limiting the character creation mechanics to a very small number of stupid templates that don't make any sense anyway. So my cleric is a Leader now? WTF? No, my cleric is not a "Leader", nor is my fighter a "Defender".  These weak new templates not only seem extremely cheesy, but they conflict drastically with everything that was ever written regarding the D&D settings. Call it an RPG if you like, but it definitely does not deserve to be called D&D in my book.And Forgotten Realms had been pushed over 100 years into the future? Could they have been more stupid? That negates all of our characters that we have worked on and played with for decades, not to mention all of the NPCs that others have made that make up that world. We were hoping to "convert" our previous characters once the new edition came out, but with the ridiculously boring mechanics and the absolute butchery of the setting, it made any and all conversion impossible.

    Again, SW SAGA is the only real choice now. 4E is so hollow and lifeless that it is a joke.


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