Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 7:22 PM
I recently discovered this thread over on Enworld: www.enworld.org/forum/news/321202-jonath...
Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet are teaming up to create a game called '13th' age. With a release date which will hit shelves before the next edition of D&D, will 5th Edition feel some heat? Will this game compete and contend against D&D Durango? What do you think?
Personally, I like what I see in the art. Something about the art style speaks to me. The few short blurbs I've read about the world fluff and story interests me. They've done a good job of making me interested in their game.
Quoted from there:
About Rob Heinsoo
Rob Heinsoo has created dozens of role-playing games, card games, miniatures games and board games. He led the design of the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons® and wrote or led the design of many 4e sourcebooks. Rob has just released the critically acclaimed card game Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre. Other recent game designs include THREE-DRAGON ANTE, THREE-DRAGON ANTE: Emperor's Gambit, Inn-Fighting, Dreamblade, FORGOTTEN REALMS® Campaign Setting, and the first nine sets of D&D Miniatures®. Games he worked on in the 90’s that have aged well include Shadowfist, Feng Shui, and King of Dragon Pass.
About Jonathan Tweet
Jonathan Tweet has been creating games professionally for 25 years. He created or co-created the roleplaying games Ars Magica (1987), Over the Edge (1992), and Everway (1995). He started writing for Dungeons & Dragons in 1992, and in 2000 he became the lead designer of the game's third edition. In addition to roleplaying games, Jonathan has created and contributed to card games, miniatures games, computer games, and fiction. His games have won three Origins Awards, and he is in the Origins Award Hall of Fame.
About Pelgrane Press
Pelgrane Press publishes award-winning tabletop roleplaying games, including Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite, The Dying Earth and Ashen Stars by Robin D. Laws. Pelgrane Press is also the home of the webzine Page XX, the Stone Skin Press fiction imprint, The Birds comic and music for RPGs by James Semple and fellow composers.
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Thursday, February 2, 2012, 12:28 PM
On Wednesday nights, I DM a D&D 4th Edition game. The 4 players I usually have are quite familiar with the game and D&D in general. As such, there are a lot of things I take for granted that they understand -and, typically, they do understand them.
While we are playing, there are also usually a few other people hanging out. Among those who often show interest in the table while the game is going on is a friend of the group (whom I will refer to as 'Bill') and the step-daughter of one of the players (whom I will refer to as 'Steph.')
Bill has sat and watched the group play a few times. He's welcome to join, but -as of yet- has not. Thus far, he's been content to simply watch and listen. He also interacts with various members of the group. He's not disruptive; most of the group can manage side conversations here and there without interupting the game. Bill has often said he has trouble understanding some of the game elements.
Yesterday night, the group did not have dungeons tiles nor the Descent pieces and other such things which we normally use to illustrate the battlefield available to us. Instead, I used a very large tablet -without lines. I simply drew the rooms and what the group saw by hand. I arrived early before any of the other members and had pre-drawn some of the encounters areas I had expected the group would get into. During the game, I would first verbally describe the area, and then follow by turning to the page which had the encounter area they were in. When I say large table, I mean it was large enough to be the size of a Chessex battle mat.
While I was running the game, Bill asked me a few questions about the game. I first explained the story which the group was playing through; he then expressed that he had understood that part so far. He then went on to say that the grid and tiles was what had confused him before. Then he added that he more clearly understood what was going on and what was being represented without the grid being there and just the hand drawing of what the party saw being the map. I'm glad he has come to a clearer understanding of the game (maybe he'll try playing,) but the obstacle which had stood in the way of understanding for him was something I found odd.
I can draw well enough to give a fairly clear idea of what's going on, but I would hardly call myself an artist. As such, I do not believe my drawing skill had anything to do with helping Bill. What he expressed -as I said- was the lack of the grid helping him to more clearly see the picture. While I do prefer to go gridless and measure movement in a manner similar to tabletop wargaming, I typically use the tiles for D&D on Wednesdays for 2 reasons: 1) The players are familiar with playing that way, and 2) some of the players have bought them, and bring them with the expectation of using them.
As I said, tiles were not available this week. This grew from a lack of communication about who was bringing what. So, as I said, we simply used paper, and I drew the scenes and maps by hand. It was strange to me to think that things would be easier for someone to understand without the map. However, that was exactly the case for Bill. It was more than simply him saying he understood it more; there was a genuine look of understanding in his face and eyes when he said so. For some reason, the lack of 1 inch squares -an element of D&D which is typically accepted as a normal part of the game- helped him. Throughout the night -when I wasn't busy interacting with a player- he asked questions and showed interest in the game.
Toward the end of the session, Steph (the step-daughter of one of the players) was hanging out around the table. I needed to roll d4s for a Poison Dart Trap. She asked me how d4s were used. It took some time, but eventually various members of the group explained that you use the number on the corner of the die rather than the number that's on the flat face of the die like you would with a d6.
The lesson I took from this is that I should not assume everything which makes sense to me will make sense to others. When teaching a game, I spend a lot of time explaining powers and skills and feats and things of that nature -the big details. I never really stopped to think that some of the small details such as the lines of the grid or how to read a d4 would be obstacles to learn the game. Those are things that I somewhat took for granted due to how familiar I and the others I typically play with are with the game. I think it's an important lesson to realize, and it is something I will keep in mind when I teach rpgs to others. What makes sense to me might not make sense to somebody else.
Still, the grid thing did throw me for a loop a little bit. Mostly because I've tried to go gridless with some D&D groups in the past, but they had trouble with the concept of measuring distance without squares. In Bill's case, the grid is what stood in the way of him more fully understanding the game; without it, things were clearer.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 12:09 AM
I was surprised to find that my previous blog entry seems to have been modified by someone other than myself. As such, I wanted to briefly touch upon what I had talked about so as to not present the idea that my previous post was nonsense.
A lot has changed since the last time I was a regular here; both personally and in regards to gaming. I'll first touch upon where things have gone for me with gaming.
I've come full circle with 4th Edition. I went through a phase in which I was negative toward the game. I then went through a phase where I felt apathy toward it. Now, I'm back to being able to enjoy it.
It's something which took a lot of time. I did a lot of soul searching and analyzing about the style of game I prefer. I found that there were things which I liked about the game, but things which bugged me as well. Part of this journey involved trying a few other game systems. Lately, it has also involved tweaking the 4E rules. Oddly, the timing of things has worked out in such a way that I'm finally at peace with 4th Edition right as 5th Edition is on the horizon.
I am unsure how I feel about the prospect of 5th Edition. There are some details which excite me, but there are a few which concern me as well. I find myself being mostly where I was with 4th for a while. It interests me, but I'm neutral on buying anything. I'm sure it will be a well put together game, but the new edition now has to compete not only with 2 editions of D&D (3rd and 4th) that I own, but the other games (mostly GURPS 4th Edition) which I regularly play over access to my wallet.
Is it weird that I find the prospect of old editions more exciting than 5th? I think so to an extent; mostly because I never had the opportunity to play pre-3rd Edition D&D. I'm familiar with some of the material because I've picked up a few things with the intent of converting the material into a GURPS game, but I've never played the older editions under the rules they were meant to be played with. Still; somehow, there's something about them which speak to me in a way which the announcement of 5th Edition hasn't yet. I cannot put my finger on why, but that's the way I currently feel.
On the personal front, I noticed that I have Myspace listed as a contact for more information about me. That is extremely out of date; I have not used Myspace in quite a while. As such, I would not recommend using that profile as an accurate portrayal of who I am.
Let's see if the second take of this blog goes more smoothly than the first.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 9:36 PM
There isn't a whole lot of anything important to say.
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Friday, July 1, 2011, 4:44 PM
It's been a while since I used to regularly come here. I was surprised to find that I even remembered my login information. There was a time when the D&D forums were my place to hang out online. That seems like so long ago. A lot has changed.
Since the release of 4th Edition, I've gone through a lot of different phases as a gamer. At first I was highly excited about 4th Edition; I was psyched after reading the 4th Edition preview books. There was then a period of time in which I'd say I may have qualified as a 'h4ter,' and I have my reasons for that, but that's in the past. I'd still say there are a lot of things that I wish the current edition of D&D did differently, but branching out into other rpgs has helped me to come to terms with my differences with D&D. I now realize that 4th does what it's meant to do in the way it's meant to do it; when I want those other things, I'm better off playing something else rather than working against the system.
One thing that has started to bother me lately is that there are times when I find myself unsure of whether or not I still know how to play D&D. A lot of familiar options have been changed to work in unfamiliar ways. Things I thought I knew were not the same. I learned this at SynDCon when I signed up to participate in a game at the event.
I'm not opposed to change. I think evolution of the game is a healthy thing. I was just amazed to find that what I knew and how I had played before seemed to be so different from the current status quo. It was not hard for me to brush up via reading and participate in the game at SynDCon, but it took more effort than I was expecting.
Another thing that surprised me was the weird looks I got when I made a character by hand. Some of the other people there looked at me as though I was some sort of mutant. They seemed to amazed that I didn't require online tools to fill out my character sheet.
Where does this come from? I understand that there are a lot of fiddly bits in 4th Edition with feats and powers and all manner of other things. However, is it really that difficult to make a character? Even considering that I had to catch myself up to speed via some quick reading, I didn't find making a 4th Edition (non Essentials I'll also add) character to be overly difficult.
This makes me wonder if the online tools are a good thing or a bad thing. I think it's good to have help making a character, and I think it's nice to have a speedy online tool to help. However, I'm a little worried that there are people playing who honestly don't know how to play. I worry that what was meant as a crutch to help someone walk has instead turned into an artificial replacement for amputated legs. Maybe I really am a mutant, and my legs are an oddity to behold.
So, I ask you ...
Is it strange that I am capable of making a character by hand?
Is D&D really that complicated, and I'm the odd man out for not finding it so?
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Monday, December 27, 2010, 1:28 AM
It's been a while since I've logged in here. That is because I am playing D&D far less than I had been before. A large portion of why is because my players requested that I convert my existing campaign into a different rpg system.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 1:16 AM
In my last blog, I mentioned that I was starting a campaign. It's been a while since my last post, so this post is going to be a quick attempt to jam a bunch of information into one speedy post.
The group began their quest in the land of the dead. The starting group of PCs consisted of a halfling sorcerer, a dragonborn warlord who was a devout follower of Pelor (MC), a Cleric of Pelor, and a dwarven fighter. They were all chained together by the chains of death, and they were also chained to three NPCs: two halflings and a human.
The PCs quickly deduced they were dead by the description of where they were and some religious knowledge. The human NPC freaked out when the dragonborn warlord -named Doctori- mentioned they were all dead. The human refused to believe he was dead and eventually revealed he was a devout follower of Orcus. This lead to an interesting battle in which the PCs were chained to their foes. Each person could only move a certain distance from who was next to them on each side of the chain. The warlord tried to show mercy to the halflings who had only helped the human due to being influenced to do so via panic; however, the supposedly devout cleric of Pelor felt the need to choke and kill the unconcious and subdued halflings... this would lead to some interparty conflict later.
After downing their foes, the group decided to investigate a shadowy structure in the distance. Getting there required a skill challenge to navigate, overcome the mental effects of the dead plane, and to physically drag the bodies they were still chained to. One failure lead them to a battle with some spirits; during the battle, some of their slain foes revived (they were already in the land of death.) Eventually, this lead to some of the less good members of the party mutilating the remains of them so they would be forced to revive elsewhere; around this time, a new PC arrived.
The new PC was a Deva Invoker. At first I had trouble figuring out how to explain a Deva in the land of the dead due to their alternative birth/death cycle, so, at first, I left it a mystery. The Deva (not chained to the others) ventured inside of the structure with the other PCs. The PCs soon discovered this was a fortress/library of Vecna which had been overrun by followers of Tiamat, Zehir, and a Blizzard Dragon which was working for a primordial. These three groups were not working together and had competing motives for searching this place. To make a long story short, the situation turned strange when the Warlord -a devout follower of Pelor- recieved help from the hand of Vecna.
It was also discovered in the fortress that the Deva was in the land of the dead as a result of the follower of Orcus being killed. Due to not dying the same way other beings do, Orcus argued a technicality with the other gods which in turn deemed Deva to technically be undead. As such, until the matter could be disputed further, Orcus was granted some amount of control over their souls and had started using their souls to empower his followers.
After the fortress, the group finally traversed to an area where Charon could ferry them across to judgement. A visually more appealing option was given with a group of devils manning a yacht, but none of the PCs were interested, and they waited for Charon. Being taken across Styxx, they were taken to stand in line for judgement in front of the Raven Queen's palace. As they made it to the front of the line, they found they happened to be at the right place at the right time.
The three judges of the dead had recieved word that the Raven Queen was missing, and her palace had been overrun by insanity. By law, neither the judges nor judged souls could enter freely into the palace. The PCs -having not yet been judged- were the legal loophole needed to solve the problem. They were offered a second chance at life if they succeeded in returning the palace to normal and figuring out what had happened to the Raven Queen.
Now inside the palace, the PCs learned that the Raven Queen wasn't exactly missing. Part of her was in the palace, but she had been split into three parts when a shard of madness fell into the Shadowfell. This same shard of madness is also what warped the palace, and this lead to the PCs fighting through all manner of ridiculous encounters including a floating encounter which took place on giant floating bubbles, a room filled with exploding cows, and many other things. They are currently still in the palace, but nearing the end.
To explain the shard of madness, I must give some background on the campaign. This campaign takes place not long after this reality and the gods defeated and drove back a massive attack from the forces of the Far Realm. The gods have succeeded in blocking off the Far Realm, but not without casulty.
Pelor died in the struggle to stave off the Far Realm. He fell to an entity known as Cthulu, but not before helping to lock the gates of madness. Currently, Bahamut wears Pelor's mantle. Also, the party has come to discover a new demi-god Deylor which is a perversion of Pelor, and the true god which the previously mentioned Cleric of Pelor worshipped.
Deylor is the lord of filth, disease, and excrement. I wish I could explain how this came to be and do it justice, but it's one of those things you would have had to have been there before. It started as a semi-joke when the Cleric couldn't explain his obviously less than good actions to the Warlord, but it eventually turned into a full fledged part of the story. After the death of the cleric, that player was allowed to play a reoccuring group of antagonists dedicated to Deylor.
Anyway... back to explaining the shard...
During the battle between the gods and the Far Realm, a shard of the Far Realm was broken off and fell into the Shadow Fell. This caused the reality fracture of the Raven Queen. Her fractured power in conjunction with it's reality warping properties has also lead to the veil between life and death being weakened; this means that both mortals and some things long forgotten (possibly old 3.5 gods, demons, etc) have a chance to return. On the plus side, this knowledge has lead to the Warlord follower of Pelor to having hope he can restore Pelor to life somehow.
I think that about sum things up. So far the campaign has been very fun, and the group seems to enjoy it. I plan for them to hit Paragon Level as they return to life. There they will find a world different from what they had left. The most obvious change being the platinum sun which shines upon the world.
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Monday, July 26, 2010, 12:26 AM
I ran the first session of the campaign I had mentioned in my previous blog. It went extremely well, and the players are very excited about continuing the game. I'm glad it went well; I was nervous because it had been a little while since I ran a game.
Even though the gaming session went very well, one thing that struck me as odd was how long it took me to prepare for the game. One of the major selling points of 4th Edition is how quick and easy the system is. Oddly, I found that it seemed to actually take me longer to write up the setting and prepare for my D&D session than it had when I was running a GURPS game. This is something which baffled me a little bit.
It could be that some of the added time was due to how long it had been since I've handled a D&D game, and I do point to that as part of the problem, but I think there's a little more to it. I'm just not sure exactly what. Had I just flipped through books and filled XP quotas, that would have been very quick and very easy. However, since I took the time to consider what type of creatures I wanted to use, and what I felt made sense for the story I had planned, I don't feel that the structure of the system helped me to do that more quickly.
One area which specifically seemed to bog me down was preparing a skill challenge. Even though the system as is is something which works, it doesn't seem to work as well as it should. The numbers in DMG1 are too high, but the numbers in DMG2 are laughably low . To come up with what I thought was reasonable, I had to pretty much sit and rework the DC table from scratch. The skill challenge I ended up running was also very very different from how the advice in both DMGs instruct.
One area where D&D did shine was when the PCs went in a direction I hadn't anticipated. It was rather easy for me to pick out a few pre-canned encounters from the books which I felt fit and slap them into the situation. I know that stating this contradicts myself a little bit, but the pre-canned encounters weren't what I wanted out of the storyline important encounters even though they were good enough to fit into a side quest encounter or a random encounter.
Overall, I'm just a little confused. I feel like I must be doing something wrong when I consider how much time it took me to write up the portion of the story arc which I've written. D&D 4th Edition is supposed to be faster and easier. I do blame part of the issue on my rusted rules knowledge, but there seems to be something else in play as well. I feel as though maybe 4th Edition is easier if you're just looking to meet the bare minimum requirements to be able to run a game (i.e. make some characters, throw some XP appropriate encounters together, and go!), however, I'm not so sure it is faster and easier for someone who wants to take the time to craft more depth and creativity into their game.
Again, I do blame some of the issue on myself for being somewhat rusty on the rules, but it also seems odd that -even considering that- it seemed to take longer to set things up for my D&D game than it did for my GURPS game. I'm not quite sure what to take away from this experience. I enjoy running the game, and the players are highly enjoying it too; it was just an interesting observation. I'll post more details about the game when I game. Right now I'm away from my game notebook.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010, 3:39 AM
It's been a while since I had last even touched my D&D 4th Edition books. I honestly cannot remember when the previous time was. However, I now find myself in the DM chair of an upcoming D&D 4E Campaign. I had to refresh my memory on the rules this morning as I sat down to write up a few encounters; it's been so long that it almost seemed like an alien language to me for a few minutes.
So far, with this campaign, I managed to do something that I did not think was possible - TPK before the game even started. The general idea behind the game is that the party is dead. They will all awake on a beach of ebony sand. Each of them is also shackled around the wrists and ankles with those shackles connecting to a large ghostly gray chain which hands from their limbs and drags across the ground. They also open their hands to find one copper piece placed in each. The more religiously astute PCs will quickly realize they are beyond the veil of death; in the realm of the Raven Queen. That is the general premise of the opening story.
From a mechanical point of view, I am starting the party at level 8. I also granted each party member four level 9 items to start with. Ideally, I plan for them to reach paragon around the same time they find a way to return to life and thus leave the land of the dead. This will return them to a world which is much different than they may have known before their deaths. Though I imagine some of the world information will be revealed to them as they embark on their quest to return to life; exactly what they learn depends upon the road they take to that goal.
Recently, there was a final climactic battle between this reality and the forces of the Far Realm. This reality was maintained, and sanity won the day by restoring the Living Gate, but the victory was not without cost. Pelor is dead. For the time being Bahamut is temporarily wearing the mantle of sun god in addition to his normal domains; this causes the sun to appear with a platinum light instead of the normal golden rays. Being honorable and just, Bahamut claimed the mantle until which time someone worthy to carry it arises; he also claimed the mantle of Pelor to prevent the other god who made a move toward it from doing so - Asmodeus.
Another side effect of the victory which could possibly be viewed negatively is the impact it had upon psionic powers. The players were informed that full fledged psionic classes were not available due to the weaker connection to the far realm; it is possible to multiclass into a psionic class, but not to start as one. Monk is the exception to this; many monks were disciplined enough to draw the power from themselves and passed this discipline along to their students.
In addition, Changlings do not exist in this campaign. They were eradicated after it was revealed that some of them were working to help the forces of the Far Realm; this lead to a witch hunt of sorts. Eventually, they were hunted into extinction.
If I may rewind briefly, during their quest to return to life, they will also come to discover that the Raven Queen is missing. She is not presumed to be dead, but nobody is sure where she is. This has lead to the veil between life and death becoming weaker. As well, a few powerful beings who covet her throne as lord of the dead are putting plans in motion. Due to the weaker veil between life and death, old gods and other powerful beings might find a way to return, and some of those who covet her crown may be those who were either forgotten or thought to be gone forever.
That's what I am working from. I'm interested to see where things go, and where the players take things. So far, only one player has a finished character. He is a Dragonborn Warlord who has multiclassed into Cleric; a believer in Pelor, he seeks a way to restore the fallen sun god.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010, 12:37 AM
It's not very often that I find myself using my blog here, but this morning was one of those times when I had a topic on my mind which I wanted to get out, but it was something that my non-gamer friends wouldn't understand... nor care about. That topic is the new Essentials line for D&D 4E. From reading the product previews, many of the products sounds really good. However, I am not without concern.
First I will come right out and say that I have not always been the most supportive person when it comes to D&D 4E. I have had my fair share of anti-4E rants; many of them were on the WoTC forums. There are still a lot of aspects of the system I don't particularly enjoy, but I wouldn't consider myself a 'H4ter.' I've simply come to realize that WoTC isn't producing products which are geared toward the demographic I am in. I wanted to get this out of the way before continuing so as to diffuse any possible "you're only saying these things because you don't like 4E" comments. I freely admit there are aspects of the system I don't like; however, I am at peace with the system. I've learned that other systems cater to what I want to do, and I don't need to beat my head against the 4E wall in frustration as I try to make it do things it doesn't do well.
Now, my main concern about Essentials is whether or not it's worth it for me to buy any of the current books. It has been said that a lot of errata is coming out now in order to sync up with Essentials. Supposedly, once Essentials hits shelves, the amount of errata will slow down. This leads me to believe that -at least in some aspect- that Essentials is something akin to a 4.5 - even if it's not exactly the same thing. Apparently there are enough rules changes in the works to merit a plethora of errata in order to put the current products on the same level as Essentials. As such, I find myself asking if I should skip the current products until I see what is included with the Essentials line.
My reasoning is thus - if the rules as contained in Essentials are intended to be what the 4E rules look like after the errata is finished, to me that makes me feel like I'm better off buying Essentials products and having rules which are already tweaked to fit the new vision and direction of 4E. I guess -overall- I find myself in a position where I feel as though I either need Essentials or I need DDI if I have any intention of continuing to buy anything D&D 4E related. In turn, this puts me in a position where I feel as though I'm potentially choosing between the lesser of two evils.
Essentials might be something I enjoy, but I'm wary of it. There are already a few areas of 4E which I feel are somewhat shallow at times. Essentials is said to be a version of 4E which is stripped down further. Without having a good idea of what exactly stripping down 4E entails, I can only assume that some of the changes made to make 4E simple will be taken to more of an extreme. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Descent Spoiler: Show
In the case of DDI, I feel like it's something I should love and want, but I don't. To be completely blunt, DDI has the same relationship with me that 4E does at times. I feel like I was shown something great and awesome with the previews and then given something different and something which wasn't quite complete. Often I find myself tempted to get a DDI account, but then I talk myself out of it when I ask myself what I would use it for.
* Character Builder? Not something I need; 4E isn't that complicated. That's not to say I don't occasionally make mistakes; I just don't see the need to use a program to build a D&D character. Not to mention that from everything I hear, the CB makes mistakes far more often than I do.
*Dungeon and Dragon mags? Nice, but they're also starting to introduce options which I don't care for - some of the same options which broke 3E in my opinion- and they are also in a format which isn't very helpful for me. I don't like cluttering the game table with too much technology and too many gadgets; I play table top games because I like to interact with people when I game.
* Game Table? This is one of the previews I would have really enjoyed having. To my knowledge, it is dead. It might be revived in time for the next edition.
* Rules Updates and information all in one place? This is a good selling point, but this still leads me to not needing to buy any of the current books. This is a point for DDI, but another point against buying pre-Essentials books. What stops me from just getting a subscription for a month or two and raiding the database for what I want?
So, in the end, I find myself in same position - the position of sitting and waiting. I'm at a crossroads. I enjoy D&D. It's the rpg which I started with, and I still enjoy it with my friends. I'm just not sure what it will become, and I want to see where things look like they are going after Essentials before I buy anything else. Will I like where D&D is going beyond that point or will I decide that my entertainment budget will be better spent elsewhere? Only time will tell. As I wait, I spend elsewhere; where I have more confidence in the products I'm buying.
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