Gaming My Way

10 Oct

On Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and World of Warcraft

To anyone who says that Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition has been made to be just like World of Warcraft, I just have one thing to say. You’re wrong.

Now, I can see why people might think 4e is more like WoW than previous editions of D&D as well as other tabletop rpgs. The crunch has definitely been favored over flavor, and Wizards has attempted to really balance the classes this time, as opposed to letting the disparities between said classes lie. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and is likely in fact quite good, though that’s not really at issue right now. But it could help make it seem as though no class has a true niche. Sure, they’re focused on different roles, but anyone can heal themselves now, and wizards can continue fighting as long as they can stand. In addition, the focus on crunch over fluff can make the game feel less personal to some people. They even want to charge a monthly fee for D&Di, which could be looked at as a way of jumping on the bandwagon of snagging monthly payments just because they can. If that doesn’t scream MMO, I don’t know what does.

Here’s the thing that assures me, and should assure you, that D&D can never become an MMO (well, aside from things like Dungeons and Dragons Online anyway). Since D&D is played at the table, with friends, and with a human GM making rules decisions, tabletop rpgs can go infinitely further in depth and can handle far more situations than any computer game.

-Want to attempt to teleport into the enemy fortress? WoW won’t let you do that.
-Want to have a battle from dragonback, with a wizard flying alongside you for support? In WoW, mounts are only for transportation.
-Want to have meaningful interaction with other characters, both PCs and NPCs alike? Look at chat in WoW sometime and try to find meaningful interaction. The computer controlled NPCs won’t help you out either.
-Want to have a meaningful impact on the world that will effect everyone else in the world as well? WoW can’t do that.
-Want to participate in the creation of a unique, epic story? Oh right, WoW is scripted, and goes where the developers say it goes.
-Want to jump through the glass roof, swing from the chandelier, and kick the sword from the emperor’s hand just before he slays your best friend? WoW can’t even begin to figure out how you might do that. Of course, you might fail that in a D&D game as well, but at least you can try… and you still might succeed too.

The point here isn’t to say WoW is bad. I have plenty of other articles that explain why I don’t like MMORPGs. The point is that you can always do more with a tabletop game because people are flexible, and can make judgement calls on the fly if you want to try something not strictly supported by the rules, or even just not anticipated by the developer. In a computer game, if the rules don’t support it, or a developer didn’t think you might like to try it or couldn’t implement it, you simply can’t do it.

Furthermore, the tabletop rpg doesn’t have to cater to thousands of people just starting everyday who want the same experience as everyone else. The plot moves on, and the world moves on with it in D&D. Saving that village actually has a real effect on the world. Perhaps a small one, but it’s there. If you get a band of adventurers together to slay a dragon that’s terrorizing the countryside, bards will sing songs of your valor in the years to come, and it makes a very real difference in the world. Of course, you could also try to make a deal with the dragon, in which he assists you in world conquest in return for a hefty share of treasure or some other mutually beneficial arrangement. In WoW, when you kill Onyxia, it just spawns again next week… and for other groups who haven’t fought it, it’s still there in another instance. And no, you can’t try to cut a deal with Onyxia either. The plot actually moves in a tabletop rpg, and players can have a real effect on the world, and do things you wouldn’t expect them to while still moving the game along.

Finally, although this is less important than the other arguments, crpgs were created based on tabletop rpgs. So it would be much more fair to say that WoW mimics D&D. However, I know that’s not what people generally mean when they say D&D 4e is like an MMO, but it’s still food for thought.


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18 Responses to “On Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and World of Warcraft”

  1. 1
    On Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and World of Warcraft | Frubb dot com Says:

    [...] from:  On Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and World of Warcraft Author: admin Time: Friday, October 10th, 2008 at 6:40 am Category: General Comments: You [...]

  2. 2
    WoWplayer Says:

    Although i agree with most aspects of your column here and since its impossible to argue opinion i would still like to say that D&D is and will always be a little more of a joke than wow. I have yet to play dnd but i would like to and is this in no way a slight against your hobbies and habits. But i would like to point out that meaningful interatction with NPC’s in dnd is meaningful interaction with the GM. WoW gives you tons of real people to interact with and unlike in dnd, you dont have to rely on the imagination of one guy to improve upon the game and its environment. And as far as having a meaningful impact in game, you impact how the game by interacting with the players. What you can accomplish depends directly on how well you can converse and interact with everyone who plays. Granted sure, you can get to 70 by yourself, but you are only playing a third of the game. More to the point, they are both a game, so you cant really have a meaningful effect on either since neither of them really matter. In the end, we are all just nerds looking for what entertains us more, and i have to say that i would rather be able to login say hey, what are we doing tonight? Spend 2 hours doing it then log out instead of wading through sheafs of regulation and spend hours memorizing books and making sure i interact with everything correctly.

  3. 3
    Eclipse Says:

    WoWplayer, thanks for dropping by and leaving your opinion.

    While I do like to rip on WoW and other MMOs, because really, they just aren’t my thing, I’ll acknowledge that they do have their own benefits over a game like D&D. One of those benefits, as you mentioned, is much less legwork in learning all the rules. You’re also absolutely right that a GM can, and often does, make or break a game of D&D, or any other tabletop rpg for that matter. With a good GM though, the players usually have a fair amount of input into the game as well.

    With this post, I was trying to point out that 4th edition has the same advantages over MMORPGs that any other tabletop rpg has, even if it may apply some of those advantages differently. This is because a common complaint about 4th edition is that “it’s too much like WoW.” So, in this case at least, I wasn’t actually trying to rip on WoW so much as point out the things that can be done with a tabletop rpg.

    As you say, there are also good things about WoW that a tabletop game can’t touch… I’m just writing from a biased position.

    Also, since you say you’d like to try D&D sometime, I hope you get your chance soon. Good luck, and I hope it goes well when you get a chance to try it out.

  4. 4
    Jancarius Says:

    -Want to attempt to teleport into the enemy fortress? WoW won’t let you do that.

    Neither does 4th edition. Unless you know the rune pattern for the enemy fortress, you can’t even attempt a teleport entry until L28.

    -Want to have a battle from dragonback, with a wizard flying alongside you for support? In WoW, mounts are only for transportation.

    Also difficult in 4th edition, the wizard will spend most of his effort maintaining his flight, rather than supporting you. Also, come Wrath of the Lich King, vehicle combat in WoW is implemented.

    -Want to have meaningful interaction with other characters, both PCs and NPCs alike? Look at chat in WoW sometime and try to find meaningful interaction. The computer controlled NPCs won’t help you out either.

    Agreed

    -Want to have a meaningful impact on the world that will effect everyone else in the world as well? WoW can’t do that.

    Agreed

    -Want to participate in the creation of a unique, epic story? Oh right, WoW is scripted, and goes where the developers say it goes.

    Agreed, though some parts of the WoW story, particularly those pertaining to the Ashbringer are pretty epic.

    -Want to jump through the glass roof, swing from the chandelier, and kick the sword from the emperor’s hand just before he slays your best friend? WoW can’t even begin to figure out how you might do that. Of course, you might fail that in a D&D game as well, but at least you can try… and you still might succeed too.

    Agreed,

  5. 5
    Eclipse Says:

    Thanks for stopping by Jancarius.

    You’re quite right about the teleporting thing. Looks like I flubbed that one. I should pay more attention to the specifics on some of those rituals. Though you could always work it into the game somehow if you wanted to.

    As far as flying goes, it only takes a minor action for a wizard to sustain flying, and though that does limit the wizard a little bit since there are some pretty cool spells that can be done with minor actions, it’s not a huge hindrance as minor actions are the least versatile of the three types. Also, very cool that they’re adding mounted combat in WoW.

    Your point on WoW having an epic story at parts is true from what I’ve read, and I certainly won’t dispute it. I know Blizzard does a great job with their games, and I trust they would have a good story to go along with it. I was more trying to play up the fact that it’s a static story that doesn’t change based on player actions. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to, just trying to make the point that having a dynamic story is something that can be done much better in a tabletop RPG, in the case of this post, D&D 4e.

  6. 6
    Gerg Says:

    There is an undeniable appeal in number-crunching. If you look at WoW over the years, it has actually traded in a lot of its personality for more streamlined play. Players know what to look for to make their character the best at its job.

    Before the first expansion, there was a lot of wiggle room in how players geared. After the release of The Burning Crusade, that was thrown out the window. You have to look for the right things to compliment the crunch. There’s an intrinsic value in crunching numbers. People want to be the best at what they do.

    I ask this from an evolutionary perspective: Are the two so different?

  7. 7
    Eclipse Says:

    Glad to see you weigh in Gerg.

    I totally agree that number crunching can be fun too. Sometimes my friends and I will go through a bunch of crunching to see how we can make an uber character of awesome, especially in 3rd edition D&D with all the extra source books.

    One of those friends even joked you have to love math to enjoy WoW because of all the numbers involved.

    I’m not really sure what two things you’re asking about being different though. If you meant crunch vs. roleplaying and story, while they can certainly be intertwined, they are definitely different, though certainly complementary as you said. Otherwise, maybe you could clarify what you were asking?

    As well, what there is to complement number crunching can definitely make or break a game for any given person or group of people. And that’s one of the reasons people look at different games and types of games in different manners.

  8. 8
    Moop Says:

    Wowplayer your wrong about D&D relying on the GM to steer the story into interaction. Yes the GM is the base of the game but the players are the supporting player. Unless it is just you and a gm going at a campaign your teammates makes the game that much more fun. Like when a warrior decided to just rush towards the giant monster instead of sneaking around it or when the wizard kills off the enemy reserved for a later date thats what adds interaction. Imagine playing with Leroy Jenkins, having him screw up badly, then having the option to permantly kill him off? Can Wow do that.

  9. 9
    Kit Kendrick Says:

    The thing is, though, that the folks who are complaining that D&D4 is too much like a MMORPG are already comparing it to other tabletop RPGs. All of the benefits you name here are benefits of tabletop gaming in general and aren’t specific to D&D at all, regardless of edition. Want to teleport into an enemy fortress? Try Fantasy HERO. Want to participate in the creation of a unique, epic story? Try Ars Magica. Want to jump through the glass roof, swing from the chandelier, and kick the sword from the emperor’s hand just before he slays your best friend? How about Seventh Sea?

    The point is that 4th edition moved away from facilitating the sort of roleplaying you praise, which is exactly what the “It’s too much like WoW crowd” are complaining about. Try running a Thieves Guild (all-thief) party with 4th edition. AD&D2 and D&D3.x could do that easily, 4e… not so much.

  10. 10
    Eclipse Says:

    Hey Kit, glad you stopped by.

    I honestly don’t think that 4th edition has moved away from the roleplay that I’ve talked about. They haven’t provided as many concrete rules to use for these kinds of things, but that just leaves it up to the players and GM to resolve it through roleplaying and whatever generic checks are appropriate.

    However, I can see why you and others might see the game as more “WoWified”, given the way they’ve done class powers and tried to pigeonhole each class into a predefined role. I don’t think this is the case though. There are always ways to break out of a role, whether it’s through multiclassing, playing against type, or simply challenging yourself with that Thieves Guild group you mentioned above. It may take more effort with 4e, but I’m willing to bet you could still do it successfully. Whether that effort is worth it or not to you or anyone else is another story entirely.

    Either way, the main point wasn’t to say that 4e is perfect, or even as good as 3.5 or other gaming systems. The main point was that 4e is still a roleplaying game, and comes with the same flexibility other roleplaying games have. As such, it’s still much more at home with tabletop rpg gamers, and perhaps wargamers, than it is with the MMO crowd. I still prefer 3.5 to 4th myself, I just feel like saying 4e is WoW is doing the game an injustice.

  11. 11
    Kitwench Says:

    There’s one major difference between D&D4e and WoW or any other MMO…

    The GM makes, and can change, the rules.

    Every 5yo to ever tackle Monopoly knows that the ‘house rules’ make a big difference.

    I can assemble a campaign using 4e, and then I can tweak the guidelines *offered* by the 4e rulebooks to suit my game, my players and my overall campaign.

    No MMORPG can do that.

  12. 12
    club penguin Says:

    good advice

  13. 13
    kelly Says:

    I am looking for a healer friend to play with and in return, I will tank for them. My friend and I want to 3 man dungeons, 1 tank, 1 healer, and 1 DPS, (which is why we don’t want to use the dungeon finder) but we’re just missing a healer now. It’s been really hard to find a good healer cause they are already in a guild so I am asking on forums for any leads…
    I’ve been searching on the net and i did find a pretty good way of matching up with a healer or tank..

    http://www.yehforgames.com/wow/sidekick.htm

    anybody want to just heal for us? :)

  14. 14
    Ed Says:

    Cool, I enjoyed reading about this. Wow is good but Dungeons and Dragons is the grandfather of everything.

  15. 15
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    i thought about this…

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