Five good things I learned playing D&D 4th edition (or… How I learned not to care about diagonal movement!)

Some of you might have gotten the idea from a previous post that I don’t like Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. Nothing could be further from the truth. I played the game for the better part of a year and had fun with it. Ultimately my players and I sat down to talk about it and decided to play something else, in this case Pathfinder. But I think 4th edition had many things to teach, lessons I’m applying to my current Pathfinder campaign, and will benefit others systems I play in the future. Let’s look at them…

1. The biggest lesson was to let go of my fear of “breaking” the game and get creative. When D&D 3rd edition came about the system codified so many different elements, everything was so closely interconnected that sometimes I feared eliminating a certain part of the system without worrying about the cascading effect it would have on the game. Thought years of playing I felt pretty comfortable with winging things, but making sweeping changes to the rules was something I was reluctant to do! D&D 4th edition’s simplicity meant I felt free to create modify and wing just about anything I could imagine.  This gave me the confidence to look back at 3rd edition, and now at Pathfinder, and shake off the false sense of strict adherence to the rules and feel freer to create, modify and learn from my mistakes. I now approach games with a more experimental outlook!

2. Reskinning, just taking the math and abilities of one creature and making up a new one from the foundations of that other creature, the whole idea is so simple I am amazed it took me so long to consciously do it. I owned tons of monsters book, a creature for every purpose. Now I can do so much with just one book just by describing a monster differently. I had fiddled with the details of monsters before, but now I just redress them and describe the effect differently, adding an ability here or feat there.

3. Making characters just a little bit tougher… Here is something I have tried to do for a long time, make those first levels more survivable and taking some cues form 4th edition I now make characters a little bit harder to kill allowing them to survive longer and face tougher challenges.

4. Making terrain an integral part of combat! I’ve always drawn detailed maps, and even had an adventure where the party fought in floating pillars above an underground lake, but these instances were the exception not the rule. After playing D&D 4th edition I now plan my combats and challenges with an eye for how terrain can be integral to the situation, hindering or helping combatants as they interact with the terrain. I think this has been the change that has caused the biggest shock to some of my players. It adds another wrinkle to the tactical element of combat that some who are more interested in just getting their character close to the monster and beating it down resent. Still I think it creates a much richer and diverse combat experience.

5. Diagonal movement… Here is something I embraced when they changed the rules from D&D 3.0 to 3.5 but added unnecessary complexity to the game. If I’m willing to forego things like facing or other “realistic” elements why insist on this? Now calculating effects and movement is quicker, true it changes the rules, but hey it’s my game, I learned that lesson!

Theses are just five examples, but there were many little things I learned form playing D&D 4th edition. I still read reviews and rules for the system and talk with friends that play the game so I may learn more and keep growing as a gamer and a Game Master.

What have you learned for playing this or other games? Let us know…