4E: Can I has playaids?June 9, 2008
As a game, 4E looks like it’s got a lot of good things going on. I am surprised, though, at a lack of support for three sorts of play aids which I think are pretty much going to be indispensible to play.
Cards detailing the powers seems to be the most obvious necessity to play. The fact that WOTC guys were using index cards and fans are making their own is kind of disappointing. I’m not even asking for printed cards, I’ll take PDFs and print’em myself.
Second, though there are D&D minis, the random collectibility factor of the minis game is at odds with the needs of the D&D roleplayers. (There is a reason GW doesn’t sell randomized Warhammer figures, and that’s cause it would piss off the player base). Minis in general are an expensive hobby to follow, it’s irritating that I ultimately have to rely on resellers if I want 12 skeletons, or goblins, or orcs or basically any kind of common creature that does show up in D&D.
Does the minis game bring in that much more money than the rpg? I don’t know, maybe. In which case, maybe us roleplayers could get printed pogs or something like John Harper’s Tokens, in which case, you don’t really have crossover with the minis guys.
Or maybe the thought is that the online play will quickly eclipse face to face play? It’s hard to say, especially since us mac-users have no mac friendly map programs to work with… (and 20% of the market doesn’t sound like all that much, until you think about how much of that 80% is business use computers and not personal use…)
Third- tracking conditions! Though the many designer and playtester blogs show them using Alea Tools’ markers it seems strange that WOTC didn’t think about having their own set of markers, especially since their own minis are not metal- why not just have some plastic stackable disks, pack’em in with your power cards and sell it as a kit? (or, more ambitiously, maybe include an adventure, the dungeon tiles to play it, and the minis as well?)
What will be interesting to see is if:
a) the player base is left to flounder and come up with their own solutions (what’s the RPGA doing, anyway?)
b) Some savvy 3rd party company slaps together a bunch of tools and play aids into a single package
c) WOTC produces something, akin to the dungeon tiles, and whether they do so within the next year, before the player base has already established their own solutions and decides to hold onto their money rather than buy another product that came too little too late?
I don’t mind a lack of play aids when I’m playing some small press game that exists as a single print and not a line of products. The fact that WOTC hardcore playtested it, and intends to run D&D as a product line, and isn’t taking advantage of it is strange to me.
Oh well, I bet a year from now we’ll see which way it goes.
ETA 2/2/2010- Noticed a bunch of folks landing on this page- obviously, WOTC has both started selling their own power cards, giving print out options from their builder, and done away with the randomized minis. So, yay. Late, but yay.