beware the mad hermit of the northlands

So you've listened to the D&D podcasts I did with Scott Kurtz, Gabe, and Tycho

You've read my series of posts about playing 4E with my son and his friends

You've read my post about being a Dungeon Master

You've read my other posts about gaming, especially how much I love D&D, how surprised I was to actually like 4E, and the backstory for my Avenger

You have an appetite for gaming, and the only thing standing between you and actually giving 4E a try is the not-insignificant investment in core books and stuff….

Well you're going to dig this news quite a bit, I think: Wizards of the Coast is making D&D 4E's quickstart rules and its first adventure, The Keep on the Shadowfell, available as a completely free download. They've also thrown in the free version of their 4E Character Builder, because that's just how they roll (up new characters, yo.)

Still not interested in 4E? No problem. This is also a good time to point out that my friends at Green Ronin have had the True20 Quickstart Rules and Death in Freeport online as free downloads for a million years, and my friends at Steve Jackson Games do the same thing with GURPS Lite.

Now go forth, my friends, and hurl many polyhedrons.

74 thoughts on “beware the mad hermit of the northlands”

  1. Wil — I totally started getting back into D&D after reading your posts.
    You’re doing a heck of a job getting people back into it… makes me wonder of WotC is in collusion with you. 😉
    I’m enjoying it either way. I started a group and we’re playing Keep on the Shadowfell now. It really gets my creative juices flowing as I find little hooks and details to incorporate into stories and campaigns. All my fellow players are really enjoying the resurgence as well. It’s a great game!
    I totally recommend buying the hard copy however. It comes with some nice battle maps and a handy folder. All of it is well printed — things an enterprising DM could use even if they skip on the campaign proper.

  2. My current D&D group has switched over to using Maptools exclusively. It’s so incredibly geeky… 6 people sitting in a livingroom staring at their laptops. It’s awesome though, as far as miniature control… It handles vision… i.e. you can’t see around corners, if you go around a corner you can’t see the rest of your party. Totally sweet. Plus there’s all kinds of fancy macro stuff we’ve been toying with. Click a button and it prints to the screen a near snapshot of your 4E power from the book, filling in all the rolls, so you can concentrate on the real role playing, and less on the number crunching. It may not be for everyone, but I like it. Our DM also runs a completely online game using Skype for talking and Maptools for everything else. Awesome to be able to roleplay with our friends who moved out of town!
    It does require some amount of learning curve & work to get set up.

  3. Sadly for me the thing that keeps me from playing is not the investment, but the lack of a group. I don’t know anyone who wants to play. I could probably go to my local gaming shop and find a group there, but I really don’t want to play with strangers.
    I am hopeful that the opportunity will come my way some day, and I’ve vowed not to let it pass this time, like I did back in high school.

  4. Wil,
    I’m interested to know whether you have ever played the Star wars RPG, new or old? I used to play it a lot (in fact, it’s my favourite tabletop RPG evar) back when it was the D6 system, but I am aware that quite a long time ago it moved onto the D20 system, and I am intrigued as to whether this improved the game any?

  5. That’s one setting that I know a lot of people loved in 2E – and
    surprisingly, there isn’t a retroclone of 2E that I know of. There is a lot
    of talk about it. My guess is that as we wind our way through 4E and more
    people want to go back to what they grew up with, you’ll see a retroclone of
    2E become available.

  6. I was introduced to it while it was in Second edition, I believe (I’m going back about 20 years ago, so my memory is kinda fuzzy on the details), and to be completely honest, I wasn’t particularly good at it. The group that I played with were mostly guys, and the Dungeon Master loved to fuck with my character so hardcore, I never accumulated many abilities, and if I did, he would totally screw me by taking them away. That, and the dice seemed to always lead to my character’s doom for some reason. I did enjoy the fun of it, though, because it allowed me to socialize with like-minded peers back then.
    I was kind of a split-minded personality in those days, part geek, part metalhead, and I didn’t realize until my early twenties that it was totally cool to be both. Now I can wave both my geek and metalhead flags for all the world to see and seriously not give a crap what anyone thinks about it. I did, however, enjoy reminiscing about my old D&D days, even if my character (and by that, I really mean me) totally sucked at the game.

  7. I’m kind of in the same predicament. The group I played with back in HS hasn’t really kept in touch as much as I’d like, and the only guy that I’ve consistently kept in touch with is a Dungeon Master, and his group is really hardcore about it. Since I totally sucked back in the day, I’m not even sure if he’d throw me a pity invitation.

  8. I had a DM once who loved to screw with my character. I think he just didn’t like the fact that his wife wasn’t the only female at the table. I just wanted to play, you know, not be in a power struggle for group domination. (Also, they were hardcore hack and slash level grinders – I didn’t enjoy playing with them anyway.)
    Also, metal + geek = \mm/ RAAAAWWWWKKKK!

  9. LOL, that is so coincidental…the DM in my group’s girlfriend was also in our group, and I swore that he messed with my character for the very same reason.
    I also went to Catholic school, which meant that as a metalhead/D&D geek, that I worshiped Satan. I’m pretty sure that being a Trekker fell into this category, as well, because Gene Roddenberry considered himself to be a humanist/agnostic (which are pretty much my own beliefs nowadays).
    I try not to think about the negative aspects of the late 80’s, though, but I do have the urge to reach into old yearbook photos of myself and comb the crap out of my high hair. ::screaming at fifteen-year-old me: “Noooooooo! Put the AquaNet DOWN!”::

  10. Wil,
    4e takes a lot of flak, but I think it has streamlined a lot of things. The campaign I am playing in is a sandbox campaign that is reflects on colonization. We come to the new world and have to make a name for ourselves. My group records their sessions and posts them on “Role-playing Public Radio.” Here is the link:
    One session, as the recorder started, I said, “Tonight, I would like to dedicate my performance to Wil Wheaton.”
    Our DM said, “The Star Trek guy?”
    I replied, “Yes.”
    Everyone kind of chuckled and the DM said, “Why?”
    “I’m listening to his book ‘Just a Geek’ on CD and he is awesome.” Your posts on 4e has proven me right (that, and you are Ted Kord which is the coolest thing ever).
    Give some of the actual plays a listen. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

  11. Thanks, Wil… your podcasts have really been making me nostalgic for role-playing in the same room with others… (have been doing a bit via IRC, but that’s not as good). And I was thinking of checking out 4e, so this is perfect.

  12. Oh, and I meant to say, also to try to convince my wife to try it out … she says all the numbers make role-playing look too much like work (she’s a physicist).

  13. Thanks Wil for the link to the free H1 download. I’m also downloading the new character builder. I’m hoping it has the options from Arcane Power…

  14. Thank you Wil, I bought my first rule book two days ago. I am on a research trip, but as soon as I return to Texas, I will nervously drive to my local fantasy shop, say hello, and try and get into a game!

  15. For myself, D&D has been a life saver in high school and a past time that allows me to enjoy storytelling, character development, and be a way to get to know people through their choices in play. Plus it’s damn fun and role players can be some of the most interesting people I’ve met. Get out there and get a new generation whatever RPG that isn’t electronic you can. It keeps our hobby alive and teaches them things no program ever could or will (at least for the near future.
    Hail the polyhedrons.

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