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Party Versus a Group of Folks

I think part of the division in the D&D community between 3.5 and 4e may boil down to this simple preference. Some prefer the idea of a party over a group of individuals, and some prefer it the other way. While many of the rules are annoying to me, they could easily be house ruled and make 4.0 a game that would be worth trying for my group. However, it’s the emphasis that I think gets people fired up. Now, while I’m not a 4e lover by any stretch of the imagination, I think it’s important to understand where it’s coming from and why.

Most D&D is played with a group. Solo and two person campaigns happen all the time, but usually they are secondary to the “big game” for most groups. As such, WotC decided to make the game more about the party. Is this bad? It really depends on your style of play. I read in an interview where one of the developers said that while rogues get all these skill points, they’re expected to blow 2/3rds of them on a specific set of skills (typical thief skills), so they revamped the system so they wouldn’t have to do that. Granted, it still depends on the rogue having these skills, but the cost is less.

On the other hand, my groups have always had a tendency to create each character in a vacuum. No one knows what your character’s skill set is until the game has started. This prevents players being urged to take specific skills to appease the rest of the group. Now, this creates problems. For example, your party’s rogue could be more of a con man than a disable traps kinda guy. This creates a less than ideal situation when you’re in a dark and scary dungeon and need to disable the pit trap before the whole party falls the hundred or so feet to their deaths.

4e is about the party over individuals within a group context. This isn’t necessarily bad either. For example, if the campaign is based on the hook of a military commander selecting a group of people to carry out a mission, he would try to fit together a party that functioned as a party rather than two fighters, a ranger, and a wizard that gets called a “party”. On the other hand, it can also feel a bit contrived when four people who randomly meet in a tavern fit together like cogs in a clock. Sure, it can happen, but after a few times, it feels off to me.

Of course, understanding this principle may make it easier to understand why some people love 4e and some don’t. Perhaps if we all made the effort, some of this animosity would die a horrible death.


July 23, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | Leave a comment