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AICN TABLETOP: Massawyrm Sits Down With Hardback D&D 4E And Talks About The Magnificent Egos Relaunch!!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. Well, after seven different kinds of hell broke loose with my review/gushing over Dungeons & Dragons 4E, Harry and I sat down over a pair of very delicious gourmet hot cocoas at a friends birthday party and he gave me that sarcastic you’re-so-gay look he’s fond of giving me. Which of course kind of loses its effect when you're sipping hot cocoa with another grown ass man. Looking sidewise at me he said “Look, I don’t want to write about that dorky game shit on my website….so you’ll have to write about that dorky game shit on my website.” Then he smiled. And in that moment, what many people have been asking me to do for years finally came about.

Welcome to AICN Tabletop.

This column should cover all manner of tabletop gaming sins. From D&D to miniatures to board and party games. And it’s a BIG year. D&D has a 4th edition. Warhammer 40K is getting the much lauded 5th edition. Rackham’s Confrontation has rebooted as a PPP (Pre-Painted Plastic) game and AT-43 is getting new races and campaign books to change the nature of the game. So pretty much all my major gaming love affairs are getting facelifts this year. Already my friends at FFG have sent over a case of games to test out, including their much anticipated new Mutant Chronicles miniatures game (that review will be coming shortly.) And they’ve secured a number of big time geek licenses that should blow some folks skirts up. Word has it that there’s a new, radically different expansion for the World of Warcraft Board Game that should be showing up at the Casa de la Wyrm very soon. There have also been a few other companies nosing around wondering if I plan to cover this kind of stuff further – and I can’t wait to see what they have in store, because yes. I do. Speaking of which.

Magnificent Egos resurrected!

Just in time for 4E, Magnificent Egos is back in the fold. After some financial restructuring, the Texas based mini company is back in full swing with a new slant on their product. For those of you unfamiliar with them, Magnificent Egos is one of my longtime favorite unpainted metal miniature companies. When you go to your local hobby store looking for that perfect mini to match your characters every detail, Magnificent Egos isn’t the company you’re looking for. That’s what Reaper does. No, these are the guys you turn to when you’re not sure what to play in your next campaign and you thumb through the stacks until you find something that makes you shout “Cool! I want to play this!” Their designs are always on the unique side – Half Dragon Rangers, Naked Wild Elf barbarians, Egyptian style executioners, Paladins wielding giant mauls, druidic knights, archers firing multiple arrows. All sculpted to look AWESOME on the table. And their monsters are handled the same way. Half-dragon Dire Wolves and Demonic Giant Spiders and Storm Giant Sorcerers and zombies made of stitched together appendages. The kind of thing that a DM looks at and finds instant inspiration. I had never considered slapping a half-dragon template on a dire wolf until I saw Marlyte – but once I did, the whole arc just unfolded in front of me and my players were going to face a new, diabolical villain. Their greatest asset to DMs however is that they’ve made a series of finely sculpted miniatures that represent popular spell effects. Ghostly/flying weapons, elemental walls, portals to Hell, large grasping hands, etc. You know, the stuff you usually represent with dice or pennies. That’s how I got turned on to them to begin with. So Chris over at ME dropped me a line after the 4E piece dropped and told me about the company’s new direction. Unlike many of their competitors, ME isn’t going into the realm of PPP. Instead, they’ve found a way to cast their intricate minis in single pieces, removing the need to assemble them. Now, while I find the assembly of minis a relaxing and rewarding experience (that my wife prefers to describe as an unbearable hour of swearing, screaming and cursing the gods) not everyone wants to deal with it – especially when you consider some of those incredibly small pieces. So very soon they’ll begin producing their existing line and new minis in single pieces. Fan of assembly or not, they’ve relaunched their website and are back in business at

D&D 4E finally in print!

This weekend I sat down with three beautifully bound books that bring about an end to the waiting for me. Finally I have a complete, final ruleset without worrying about what’s going to change this week. No longer do I have to listen to my wife complain about how they nerfed Magic Missile this month or watch magic items in my party’s possession act radically different than it did last week. For months now we’ve been operating with a mechanic we called Fairy Dust - kind of a gamers version of The Lathe of Heaven in which each session bled seamlessly into the next, ignoring the fact that the Dragonborn doesn’t have native critical hit protection anymore or that the dragon they killed last week has twice as many HPs this week. Yes friends, those days are gone and the books (and consistency) are finally coming our way. Thanks to a buddy I got to sit down with them this weekend and spend a goodly amount of time perusing them. The verdict? For the most part, I’m happy.

The Ups.

The Players Handbook is easily the single most organized D&D PHB ever put to print. It is unbelievably easy to use. All of the racial and class STATS are placed in a nice, easy to find block at the beginning of the entry. Everything you will need to know about your characters class - its traits, abilities, and paragon classes – are all located in the same section. Everything that has to do with the warlord is found in the warlord section. The only exception is Rituals (out of combat spellcasting that often requires large amounts of time and or gold to cast) which has its own chapter as anyone can use them as long as they devote the skill and feats necessary to doing so. (In otherwords a DM now has the ability to allow ANY class to be a spellcasting class and tailor it exactly how he likes by limiting the types of spells the caster has access to. But Wizards get the feat and meet the prereqs for free.) The feats are split up according to what tier they become available, which removes some of the frustration my players had during feat selection (every two levels now!) But best of all, every rule you need for skill checks is in the skill chapter, and every rule you need for combat is filed neatly in the combat chapter. There’s no more cross-referencing chapters. It is simple, easy and elegant. The combat section is alphabetical. Turn to C and find CONDITIONS and you get a bullet point list of all the combat conditions and what they do. It’s that simple. There’s an index, but I don’t anticipate needing it much. If at all. The DMG isn’t so simple, but then again of all the books it’s the one that probably doesn’t need to be. I’m really happy to report that the monster stat block generation section remained intact. In fact, it is far more streamlined than it was in even our playtest copies. Stating out original monsters is so damned easy now that it’s criminal. The passage is a two page spread that includes a chart that lets you eyeball all the numbers with a Level + X depending on the monsters role. Likewise Templates have become more of an exact science with each entry giving the necessary stat mods and turning the creature modified into an ELITE (worth double the XP and thus taking the place of two normal creatures in an encounter.) The new perfectly scaled exact science and total lack of Challenge Ratings makes life as a DM so much easier. And the Monster Manual follows the same format that we saw towards the end of 3.5. That is to say that each entry begins and ends on a full page. No half page entries any more. I haven’t found a single split stat block. The new stat block design is quick and easy to read, with all the powers and abilities readily available and organized by type and range of attack (melee, range, area effect, etc.) And of course a lot of the art is incredible. 4E ushers in large spreads of evocative art meant to inspire adventures scenes and settings in a way we haven’t seen since 2nd ed. There are a series of monster I overlooked or ignored in our playtest manuals that just leap off the page and beg to be played once you’ve seen their art. Even classic monster get great new art or redesign – the Tarrasque is sweet as all hell, and the zombie and skeleton sections go hand in hand with their redesign to make you want to run your players against them consistently. The art also does a nice job of bringing together the new unified setting concept. The concept behind 3E was to provide tools for your own fantasy world and Greyhawk was just something of a default setting that they never did much with. The result was a very vanilla system that let you do whatever you wanted. The downside was that the shared experience many of us had in 1E and 2E was lost. Gone was common villains or quests, dungeons that we’d all delved and could discuss together. The biggest name to come out of 3E was Meepo for crissakes. 4E is aiming to return to that shared world, to give names to the leaders of races and to the most notorious among them. The art and book reflects that. The books are sweet. They look great, they’re easy to use and they accentuate everything that is great about 4E.

The Downs

My biggest beef remains the Monster Manual. I get that they focused on the whole ROLE aspect of monster – what fits where and what makes something else redundant. And while I’m certainly happy that they made a real effort to include most of the monsters that have minis (DDM) in print, there are certain CORE monsters that are missing. Thumbing through the book made that even more painfully obvious than before. The Metallics were one thing, but when I noticed the Golem entry it hit me that there were a couple missing. Namely Iron and Clay. That’s more than a little disturbing. I know, I know. They’ll get around to putting the rest of the iconic D&D monsters in later MMs, but that doesn’t stop me from bitching and moaning every time I see the two page Kruthik spread and wonder why I couldn’t get one page for two lousy, classic golems. Hell, they have Shield Guardians, but no Iron golem. Sigh. Sure, some of my personal favorite latecomers made it to the core book – like the Flameskull and Boneclaw – but there’s gonna be a shitton of griping about the Warforged making CORE along with male Medusas. Not to mention the handful of others that are clearly just designer favorites. And for all the great art, there are a couple of duds as well. I’m convinced WotC hates the Nightwalker – the poor thing will never look cool. This time he shows up as if taken right off of an old Iron Maiden or Dakken album cover. He’s even playing air guitar. Swear to Pelor. The Grick has mysteriously changed colors between editions, now becoming bright blue. And I’m still not sold on these elemental Archon thingees. They just look kinda lame. Their background is kind of neat, but their design just chaffs me a little. There’s also a fair amount of recycled art – none of which bothers me a bit, but it will no doubt ruffle some feathers. The only thing missing from playtest that I can honestly complain about is the trap/hazard creation rules. While the monster stat rules survived, the similar trap rules did not. They were pretty swell, so I hope we see them again shortly in one of the upcoming books or as part of the digital initiative.

The Verdict.

4E rocks. We’re finally reaching the end of the fighting, the put up or shut up stage of every new game edition relaunch. The old holdouts will still play their older edition and bitch loudly for a few more months while those on the fence will try the game and no doubt slowly adapt even if they don’t fall as in love with it as I did – remembering both the good and the bad of previous editions. But those anxiously awaiting the release are going to be pleased. Very pleased. Thanks for all the e-mails about the upcoming edition. From the looks of it, old school gamers are coming out of the woodwork to try D&D again. And one high school science teacher wrote to tell me that after reading articles on 4E, he’s preordered a number of sets and is starting an after school D&D program with his gifted students. And that is 100%, Grade A Geek BADASS right there. That dude is my new fucking hero. Where the fuck was that guy when I was in high school? Anyway, only a few more weeks folks guys, only a few more weeks. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm

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