Essentials and me…

This weekend I made my one D&D Essentials purchase, the Dungeon Tiles Master Set. I briefly considered buying the Rules Compendium, even had my FLGS pull a copy for me, but when I got there and I looked at it I put it back on the shelf and left the store with my tiles an a copy of the Orcs of Golarion.

Michael wrote his thoughts on the Red Box and the Essentials line here on the blog. I had not read the Disassociated Mechanics post until I found it on Michael’s post and I found it amazing someone had written so eloquently about one of the things that bother me about D&D 4th edition. Mind you this was not the only thing that made me quit the system, and I’ve said it before the system has many good things; it’s just not the system for me and my group.

I recently read The Escapist’s excellent interview with Mike Mearls and I have to applaud some of the things he’s been doing with the D&D 4th edition rule set. I don’t doubt he, like every other designer before him, truly loves the game and want to see it succeed and grow.  I think the Red Box sounds like an excellent idea; a proper introduction to the game like the original Red Box was for me in the 80s. I also believe that the lower price points for many of these books eliminate a major hurdle for the younger generation as well as making them more affordable in these difficult economic times.

I had the Red Box on my hands a couple of weeks ago. I almost purchased it on impulse and nostalgia alone, but after thinking about it I realized I am not a new player, I don’t need to learn how to play D&D 4th edition, I already know how to play. This product is not for me, so I put it back. When I learned the Rules Compendium had arrived I figured I’d like to read it, get and idea of what had changed and see how they present the rules. After all, it was only $20 bucks!

Then when I looked at the book and saw it was just the rules (mind you this was clear from the start in all the promotions for the book, I just did not read up as I should have) and I would have to buy another book for the classes, Heroes of the Fallen Lands, pretty much spending $40 for a slightly modified version of a book I already own, and not even the whole of that book because not all the classes in the Player’s Handbook are in there I opted not to  buy it. I realized that I had tried this system and moved on. I was just going to buy this because it was D&D, not because I really needed it.

At least the tile set I can use. So I put down the Rules Compendium, got the Pathfinder RPG orc book and a box of the Lords of Madness miniature set (which disappointed me to no end but that’ the subject for another post). If you like the Essentials books I am glad for you, enjoy! They are simply not for me.

If you are interested in a different take, make sure you read Youseph’s excellent review on the Red Box and watch the unboxing video, different strokes for different folks! What works for me may not work for you, variety IS the spice of life… Have a good day everybody.

6 thoughts on “Essentials and me…”

  1. I do like the Essentials products a great deal more than I do 4e as it was originally released. Some of what drew me to Essentials was the "because it is D&D" syndrome, the Mearls interview, and some of the good buzz I've heard.

    Once I got the Rules Compendium and Heroes of the Fallen Lands (both for under $25 on Amazon) I have to admit I liked them. Is it as good as Pathfinder? Hell no. But it is way better, IMO, than when 4e first came out. I actually enjoyed reading the books this time.

    4e just can't live up to what us Pathfinder lovers like because it is so different. 3.x had what so many of us wanted in an RPG, so 4e had a black mark from the get go. Then there is the bad feelins between many of us towards WotC.

    When 5e comes out all of this may change, but for now I'm willing to concede that WotC did good with Essentials as far as I'm concerned. Not as good as Paizo did with Pathfinder, but they made a step in the right directionl.

  2. Hi!

    I've run both Heroes of Hesiod (Monster Slayers) and The Twisting Halls (Red Box 4th ed) now for both of my kids, 7 and 11.

    I do agree with what WotC is trying to do with the new line, and as a matter of fact recommend both systems to younger folk and the Red Box 4th ed to NOOBs to D&D. The brand name is a quick association to Tabletop RPGs, I'd say, and D&D is a game that most folk may cut their teeth on.

    Both games facilitate to a next generation of gamers (and possibly gamer parents) and the prices, one being free and the other $20 CAD, make the games accessible. The Red Box 4th ed alone is complete enough to hit the ground running to get into a game.

    But I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiments here. It's just not the system for me or my kids. And with the Dissociated Mechanics article as well.

    I hated running the Twisting Halls for my kids. I felt like I was running a slo-mo video game. We didn't make it past the first half of the _first_ encounter.

    Here's a write-up/thoughts of the Red Box game with my kids: http://www.torontoareagamers.com/messages/boards/

    I've played 4th ed. and I'd do so again but only in the occasional one-shots/Encounters, I don't think I could play in a full on campaign. But I've a new respect for 4th Ed DMs workload, patience, rules knowledge and prep and I know I can't do it anymore.

    And as for my kids and me, we play games like Seven Leagues, modded AQuick20, modded Vignette and a mish-mash game of PDQ/TunnelQuest2/Warrior, Rogue, Mage. I like to focus more on the sense of wonder, adventure and danger rather than focusing on a pure combat engine.

    I don't use a battlegrid when we play, but I must admit, it was fun watching them push the counters together to show that they were talking with each other ;D

  3. @Geek Gazette, I agree that it is a move in the right direction and one I think shows they are willing to listen to their fans. For m y personal taste in games Pathfinder still is my game of choice for fantasy games (although I really want to try running a fantasy Savage Worlds game at some point). I used to buy almost all the books WotC put out, but these days that gaming money is put to good use in other alternatives. It turns out it’s been a blessing.

    @Ronbunxious, I think it’s great that you play with your kids. I don’t have any of my own, but my girlfriend dreads the prospect of me teaching my future progeny to game. I taught some people about rpgs with the old Heroquest board game, even with the, shudder, Dragon strike game. Game on!!!

  4. If not for the cheap price on Essentials, especially through Amazon, I likely would not have touched the books. No matter how positive the reviews were.
    The positive buzz, the digest format and the cheap price were a huge influence on my decision to purchase. I'm glad I did and I plan to run another Essentials game for my daughter this weekend. (Unless my regular group decides they can play this weekend, then it will be Pathfinder.)
    Even though I like what WotC has done with these books, the ERC, and the two Essentials PHBs are likely to be some of the last 4e purchases I make. I might pick up the Heroes of Shadow book next spring, just for the necromancer, but there is nothing else that I want. Anytime I play 4e from here on out, it will be Essentials. My original books will continue to gather dust.
    Now Pathfinder on the other hand, that list of "to buy" items is several pages long. I'm really looking forward to the updated Campaign Setting, Ultimate Magic, Pathfinder Basic and I'm still hoping that they announce "Pathfinder Modern" soon.

  5. @Sunglar: Thanks! I love running the games for them. Interactive stories/playing pretend w/ dice is how I try to describe it to them. They call it: "Roll-Dice Games" :]

    I actually know someone who runs D&D 4th e that runs games for elementary grade students. Another I know runs John Harper's Wyldlings for their little Munchkin. So the next gen. RPGers is hopefully well on its way. I hear rpgKids is doing rather well too.

    @Geek Gazette: Just read your write-up for your Essentials game with your daughter. So happy you had a great session and great time together. I love hearing that your girl did the BG stuff on her own. I love when they do that… even if they do talk about their char.s parents dying horribly.

    In one of our games, my daughter's char.s parents were turned into vampires and locked away in a science lab. Yeah… I wonder about it too. ;D

  6. @Ron
    As a therapist in training I have been fortunate enough to do many presentations and research papers on the benefits of RPG games.
    RPGs are a great therapeutic and educational tool. Social interaction, math, reading comprehension, expressing inner/unconscious feelings as well as being a nurturing environment for developing creativity and problem solving.
    Despite what the media and religious zealots want us to think, most roleplayers are of above average intelligence and mostly well adjusted. In truth parents and schools should be encouraging rpg clubs as much, if not more than sports if they want to encourage kids to succeed.
    I just hope my daughter sticks with it and in 15- 20 years she meets a nice geeky individual to take as a partner/spouse. (After she completes college and is rich enough to support her mother and I.) Then maybe they can run games for me so I don't have to GM all the time.
    ;-)

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