The lack of roleplaying in 4th Edition

Posted on May 1, 2009 by


“You enter the last room in the crypt, there are 3 sealed coffins, lined up in perfect order.  A large one, flanked by two smaller ones.  The etchings on the wall tell the story of a man who killed his family.  You can safely assume these are them.”  The Rogue says “I want to open them and see what’s inside.  There may be something of interest here.”  “Not so fast,” warns the Cleric of Moradin, “I will not allow you to desecrate the resting place of a mother and her children.”

What followed was a twenty minute argument about the consequences of desecrating the tomb and stealing the magical items guarding the bodies in the afterlife.  This was roleplaying at its purest form, and it happened within the constraints of the 4th ed. ruleset.  I want to understand critic’s arguments about the (apparent) lack of roleplaying capabilities of 4th Ed.

When I played my most recent game of 3.5, we’re talking maybe 2 1/2 years ago, our Dm was running us through “Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil”.  I have not read the module, but the way it was run, it seemed like a big dungeon crawl once you were inside.  As I experienced it, the potential for roleplaying was minimal at best.  I may have had a crappy DM, but that’s what I got from it.  We never finished, so who knows how it played out…  Now, I love roleplaying, and I love crafting a story.  My real life job involves producing, creating, and pleasing audiences, so being creative (or attempting to be) is something I have to do every day to feed my family, so having to do it in my hobby is fairly easy.  I like stories and I like the players to feel involved in it, and for the most part they do. 

I have yet to feel that the system is hindering my ability to craft a good story, or feel that the players  are not able to get into character and get involved in whatever plot I’ve laid out for them.  Rather, it’s the opposite, as sometimes emails fly back and forth between game sessions speculating about what’s happening next. 

So I put it out there to the reader:  convince me that 4th Ed. is keeping my players and I from experiencing role-playing.  I want to know why you feel that is.  Is it because the craft skill is gone?  You can no longer (on paper) be a fisherman?  So what?  “Hey DM, my character fishes for a living, and makes pottery on the side.”  “Ok.”

I don’t understand.  KOTS gets a lot of flack for being all combat and no role-play.  That’s bad DM’ing.  Splug can be role-played, the Hobgoblin Warchief can be role-played, the characters in Winterhaven, Kalarel, all those guys can come to life if the DM cares too.

My take on it?   MMORPGs may have something to do with it I think.  Players have gotten so used to just chatting as themselves on those games, seeing monsters re-spawn 10 minutes later, metagaming the hell out of it, that they’ve forgotten how to create three-dimensional characters.  A digital avatar doesn’t need to be three-dimensional, so neither does the character sheet.   

I argue that the system has nothing to do with it, it’s the way you are playing the system. 

As a group, we’ve role-played plenty in my campaign. 

Why aren’t you?

Posted in: 4e D&D, Gaming