Posted by : David Guyll March 09, 2009

I'd never even heard of Kurt Wiegel until a few weeks ago when Red Jason tossed a link my way that showed someone doing what apparently constitutes a "game review" on YouTube. After a smug and exaggerated introduction, this rant still fails to take off.

While Kurt claims that D&D and himself goes back, he is somehow unable to figure out that the game is in fact Dungeons & Dragons. He thinks that its recognizable as D&D by name alone, but since it contains much of the same mechanics as 3rd Edition in addition to many of the races and classes, its not exactly a huge leap in logic. Not only that, it maintains the exact same theme as previous versions in that its an action-adventure fantasy role-playing game. Same theme + mostly same elements = easily recognizable game.

His rant eventually putters along into a bunch of personal dislikes. Nothing in here addresses concrete game mechanics, or how easy the game is to learn to play, or about actual game design decisions. Its just bitching for the sake of bitching.

He complains about "dragon men", even though they've been in since 2nd Edition and the half-dragon template was retardedly popular in 3rd. Heck, they made dragonborn an official race in Races of the Dragon, also in 3rd Edition. To me this isnt a legitimate complaint about the game as a whole since there are numerous races you can play aside from dragonborn. It feels very nit-picky.

He complains about the consolidation of all the elf sub-races into two races, which is good conceptually and for game design purposes: players can no longer decide to play an elf and just pick the elf-subrace that gives them the best benefits. Again, this is mostly just him picking more nits.

He complains about alleged "pidgeonholing", starting with the ranger's build options. Nevermind that they had the same two decisions to make in 3rd Edition where you got to pick one of two bonus feats at level 1. I think this is a gross exaggeration, but he doesnt actually back up why he hates this so much.
If you want to play a melee-oriented warrior, there are a couple classes that fit the bill depending on your concept. You could argue that when it comes to ranged combat the ranger is really your only choice, but then it wouldnt be hard to play a ranger and just call yourself a fighter. This feels only slightly more legitimate.

His pidgeonholing then moves on to adventure and campaign design concerning page 146 in the Dungeon Master's Guide, Tiers of Play. This solely advisory section provides examples on adventures for each tier. Examples that are close to what you were doing in previous editions of D&D around the same level.
At level 1 you were probably exploring crypts, while at level 11 you might have gone to another plane. Going through my experiences in 2nd and 3rd Edition, we never went to other planes even at 12th- to 14th-level. We dealt with bigger and more dangerous stuff, to be sure, but if you took a big step back it was more of the same. Can you go plane-hopping in 4th Edition early on? YES. The Feywild and Shadowfell are both very ideal locations to go to at very low-levels. Can you assist a king in saving the kingdom? Of course you can, and the books dont pretend that you cant or try to usher you in a different direction. The limitations here are the DM and creativity, not the rules.
Of course, 4th Edition is flawed because, you know, in 2nd and 3rd Edition you could totally go plane-hopping at level 1 (or even 7, as per his own statement). Well, you could in 2nd Edition with Planescape but you still wouldnt go touring the Nine Hells and instead stick to Sigil or one of the outer planes that was basically the Prime Material with Sliders-Syndrome (ie, one major difference).

The second part kicks off with Skill Challenges, and about how it removes "role-playing" from the game, which tells me that Kurt has a very tenuous grasp on what role-playing even means. My thoery is that he doesnt like the game because it imposes mechanical benefits or penalties based on a character's Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.
To me this is good because it prevents some guy that is naturally good at talking from having his barbarian with a Charisma of 8 talk his way out of a tense situation. Likewise, it allows the player who might not be able to come up with a good idea still call upon her character's high Intelligence and/or Wisdom. This is also good because it ends up enhancing role-playing, since you are not limited to the character you want to play by your own personal talents and skills.
Its not like D&D is alone in this: every RPG I've ever played had a dice-mechanic for using those skill points or dots in social skills, so again I chalk up this part of the rant as bullshit.

Moving on to the Monster Manual he sarcastically mentions the crocodile in passing, even though they were there in previous editions, before complaining about how difficult the stat blocks are to figure out. Two people in my group just started DMing with 4th Edition, and they have had no difficulty reading them. I find the layout arranged in a very logical fashion, starting with the most often-required data on the top (Initiative, Perception, defenses, hit points, etc).

I'm not sure how well he actually read the books. I'll excuse the fact that he mistates several classes since he claims to play other games and after awhile I might have trouble remembering precise terms as well, but the rest sounds like he toured a few message boards to exhume dead arguments for rant-fuel.

He complains about how Wizards of the Coast is just trying to push out books to get your money, but since this is a common business practice he excuses this almost immediately afterwards. He accuses Wizards of the Coast of not putting specific content into the original launch, "just so they could put it in another book and charge you later." I'm sure that if they used all the core material from 3rd Edition he would just complain that they are just trying to pawn off a crappily upgraded game on you.

Fighters running into melee and hitting things? No. Way. He very briefly mentions that fighter exploits are just spells with the terms filed off and that you are limited to how and when you can do these, but then doesnt elaborate on this at all. Is this bad? Why is this bad? What other games with similar classes or concepts do better?

The wizard's role is no longer to level the playing field? The controller role mentions area-effect damage, but I guess he just overlooked that along with scorching burst and thunderwave, two of the wizard's level 1 at-will spells. They deal area-effect damage, and scorching burst has a pretty hefty range to boot. Of course, its not like I recall wizards exactly "leveling" the playing field before. Magic missile did a whopping 1d4+1 damage in 3rd Edition...thats not exactly leveling anything except classed humanoid monsters, and that's only if they have an average Consitution score and the wizard rolls fairly well on damage. Burning hands was an area-effect that did similar damage, but the range was so short that the wizard was probably eating swords by then.

Eventually, he wraps things up by claiming that D&D is only for really hard-core, dedicated players that will only play the most current version of D&D no matter what it looks like. My group has mostly players that like D&D, but are by no means devoted to it. Only two of us have a DDI subscription, and only three of us actually own any books for it (the rest just use the books that we have on hand). None of them but myself actually go to the forums for any reason, and they arent interested at all in learning all the rules and trying to optimize their characters.
Personal experience aside, I got a very different reaction reading the books. They felt much more user friendly. It was difficult to get people interested in 3rd Edition because of how the rules worked. Some things (like Craft and grappling) were a pain to figure out and many concepts (like a useful fighter/wizard) were basically impossible to execute.

It really just seems like someone, or some-persons, wanted him to "review" a "bad game", so he pulled Dungeons & Dragons off the shelf and decided to just rant and complain about his personal dislikes and whatever else people were complaining about. Not, you know, actual game design or mechanics.

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