Over the last year or so, we’ve been running a lot of Dungeons & Dragons 4. A lot. This means even Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has taken a back seat to the behemoth the is D&D4, and the most startling thing to me is that I am the DM.

Why is this so startling? My perspective is one based on conflicting experiences.

My favourite RPGs are Call of Cthulhu (any edition) and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (v1 and v2, we haven’t tried v3). It’s all great fun.

I primarily run these games for my group, and have a somewhat similar style when doing so. Lots of social interaction, investigation, few combats, abstract battles not using minis, event based plot progression and so on.

The kind of adventures where my group chose not to play D&D. That’s what I do best. I ran Tomb of Horrors, and it sucked. I ran Iron Kingdoms, and it turned into WFRP.

But the allure of D&D is always there. I’ve played D&D since 1984, and have fond memories of the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set opening up outdoor adventuring and exploration on a scale I hadn’t seen before. So I was a player in D&D BECM up to level 26, then in Dragonlance and Ravenloft and other classic stuff. Good stuff and bad stuff.

When D&D4 was released, we decided we wanted to try it. One DM bravely took Keep on the Shadowfell and ran us through it. The resulting experience nearly tore our group apart. We couldn’t agree on how to play the game, I hated it, and the tactical parts of it were uninteresting to me. Counting squares … argh! So I said that I would never play D&D4 again. And some said they’d never play any previous edition again, because they loved the elements I hated in D&D4. So no D&D for us.

It was a strange experience. So we went on to Dark Heresy, with another GM. Then there was a shakeup due to working schedules, and we lost our  GM. So what to do …

I stepped up and ran a WFRP arc that was nigh on perfectly executed both by me and the players. It was loads of fun, and it had everything I love about playing roleplaying games. But it took its toll on me, and when we wrapped up the seven sessions, I was a bit burned out on deep and complex plots. And I wanted to try something different, move out of my comfort zone, to see if I could learn something that made my WFRP games a lot better. Things can always be approved, is my belief.

So I bought Dungeon Delve. We created new PCs. I concocted a flimsy campaign premise, and then we dived into it. Very much focused on tactical combat and character advancement. I was planning on running a few of the delves while we were deciding on what to do next.

Sitting on the DM side of the screen totally changed my opinion of the game. I loved it. And the players loved it. We had had our internal flame war on play styles, expectations and pros and cons and all that, and we emerged with a greater understanding of what we wanted from the game.

The delves segued into Scales of War, and then into Revenge of the Giants. Even though I’m still having trouble adapting my style to that which fits D&D4 best, the players are psyched, and we are chugging along. Before, we would change games every 7 or 8 sessions (we play once a week), but now we soldier on. D&D4 scratches a lot of itches that my players like to have scratched, while still being fun for me to run.

It doesn’t play like CoC or WFRP. And for me it shouldn’t. I just need to learn or even relearn how to make the game more D&D:ish, and drop some conceits I’ve adopted from running other games. To make the experience more like what my group thinks of as D&D. It’s all possible within the rules, I just have to work a bit harder to bring it to the surface, since I’m entrenched in my primary style of game mastering.

So the short of it. I understand and respect the opinions of those who feel D&D4 is not a game for them. I’ve been there myself, and I hated the game. At the same time I think I understand the opinions of those who feel D&D4 is their kind of game. That’s where I am now. At the same time, if someone said “show me your best game running skills” I wouldn’t pick D&D4, instead opting for WFRP.

Strange that, to find conflicting views on the game, all wrapped up in one single gamer.