D&D Player’s Strategy Guide

June 21, 2010

Having picked this up after seeing good things about it, I have to say this is a great book, and a smart one. It covers the two big issues that crop up in getting in the way of D&D 4E.

4E is not like any other D&D

D&D has the unique problem of competing with it’s previous editions in terms of how people understand roleplaying to work.

That is, if you came to D&D at 4th Edition, you probably wouldn’t take long to figure out that it makes sense to build characters to play off of each other, as a whole, as a party – simply by reading the books. But if you came with 10, 20 years of, “Well, I’ll just make my character, you go make yours and it’ll all work out”, you’re not going to be as successful at this game.

The book covers a ton of these sort of re-orienting ideas for players.

It covers a lot of tactical stuff and highlights what I realize is the love-it-or-hate-it of 4E compared to previous editions- every player has more to do and track now. To really play, you’re usually choosing between something like 5 or 6 possible choices, which is different than the classic “Hit or Run” that pervaded older editions (including 3E despite the extensive Full/Standard/Move options).

The longstanding issues of social contract

The other issue the book tackles is setting smart and clear guidelines for social contract and good practices which have been championed by the indie rpg community for the last decade.

Stuff like, building your character to actually -fit- the campaign setting, building characters as a group, communicating with each other, as in, literally asking and sharing what choices you’re making in builds to what you’d like to see in play. It even covers the first time I’ve seen actual advice about functional Participationism – advising players to look at ways/reasons to take plot hooks and to avoid “My Guy-ism” of “my guy wouldn’t do that” as obstructionist play. There’s a whole section called, “Don’t be a Jerk”.

Overall, this is a very solid book and I recommend it to anyone who is serious about playing some 4E. The sections are short, usually 1-4 pages, so if you want to give someone some spot advice, you can just flip it open and give them a few minutes to read it. There’s something in it for nearly everyone, and it’s probably the most useful book for focusing play so far.

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