Digging Into Infinity – Part 2: Taking 4e DnD in New Directions

Last time I explored the breadth of my recent gaming experiences. I expect I’ll be writing a lot in coming days about my terrific experiences lately with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying both for supers and non-supers games. Throughout it all, however, my core group continues our four-year-long game of highly modified 4e DnD, so I’ll focus on that and where it’s heading since it’s on my mind (hint: closure and fantasy Smallville RPG).

Here’s where we’re exploring today:

    • Our Ideal 4e
    • Nothing Lasts Forever
    • From High Epic to Relationship Drama
    • Actively Expanding Appreciation

My Ideal 4e

I’d say our game is in an ideal place for our current tastes.

We’ve honed our 4e experience down to a sleek, narrative-focused game using most of the DM tools I listed in my 0-prep GM’s Toolkit and a few key houserules to taste.

We just leveled up to 21, epic tier after a fun training timeskip. We mostly ignore xp, gp, and NPC hp. I seldom roll d20s at all anymore, and the heroes have been having their fill with plane-hopping and generally being awesome.

Over the last handful of years of play, we’ve developed enough world and history details, and significant supporting characters with ambiguous and shifting loyalties to frame the game without requiring me to prepare anything ahead of time. It’s primarily off-the-cuff at this point, stories begetting stories, guided by my lingering ideas about what factions, supporting characters, and the rest of the world works toward when uninhibited by powerful and invasive adventurers.

The mechanics hum along perfectly well for what we want them to do. I love joining the players in the excitement of discovering afresh where each session takes the story. Finally, the characters have been around long enough that there’s rich interplay between their personalities, goals, and faults, and a fresh focus on relationships and social positioning within a living, breathing world even if such elements aren’t substantially supported by specific game mechanics.

In this group, we enjoy immense trust and awesome creativity, and I’m extremely grateful for the camaraderie and stories we’ve shared together.

Nothing Lasts Forever

That said, we’re losing a player in few months, and she plays a character that has been a  consistent foundation to the campaign. Our friend is moving out-of-state, so for the first time since we began this campaign, I’m considering how on earth to bring many crazy arcs in a gorgeously tangled campaign together into a satisfying climax. Up until now, I’ve simply been adding new threads and reintroducing old ones into a growing tapestry of plot complexity.

Luckily a couple of the campaign’s most significant plot threads from the initial episodes are nearly reaching a conclusion. In addition, I’m all for keeping a handful of trailing edges and lingering mysteries. Since our friend will be back in a year and a half,  at that point we can pick up the now legendary party’s adventures.

In the meantime, the possible outcomes of the upcoming climax all stand a good chance of utterly reshaping the game world and ushering in a new era in the world’s history and socio-political structure.

From High Epic to Relationship Drama

Since we love this rich setting that we’ve built organically through play, and we all prefer fantasy as a genre (and since I’m finally scratching my need for exploring alternate genres and game systems in my other game groups), I’m exploring an exciting new perspective of the same game world, with new characters, a new system, and a new focus: namely relationship drama via MWP’s excellent Smallville RPG.

That’s right. In this series’ next installment, look forward to a host of classic fantasy races (ie, dwarf, half-orc, halfling, wood elf, high elf, etc and a few of my Eberron favorites: shifters and warforged) lovingly crafted by Craig and I into Smallville Heritage Distinctions, complete with triggers, limits, connected abilities, and connected distinctions.

If you’ve ever wanted to play a game of fantasy relationship drama, the Smallville RPG with these heritages just might be your answer.

Actively Expanding Appreciation

Many of my players have recently fostered a new taste for drama in shows they’re watching these days so I think the time might be right to give it a whirl. My Play-by-Post game is whole heaps of fun, always surprising and delighting me. I’m convinced MWP’s Smallville RPG is the best there is at what it does, and what it does is delicious.

When we come back to 4e after the year or so break, I’m confident we’ll appreciate the setting and more epic dynamics much more deeply due to our time invested in exploring a zoomed-in dramatic perspective. It must feel more meaningful to save imaginary worlds when you’ve intimately tasted some of that world’s inhabitants’ heights and depths of struggle, joy, passion, longing, and sorrow. Such heightened appreciation is always something I’ll gladly stand behind, whether in lived or imagined experience.

Yeah, I’m thrilled about it.

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.