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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