There’s no way to write a post like this without sounding like, or coming across as, a troll looking for cheap traffic. And those are two things I’ve tried never to do in the 2.5 years I’ve been running my blog. Having said that, I feel that it is a topic worth exploring and writing about, and if I’ve already shared every experience I’ve had with 4e up to now, why not share this one? The only thing I ask is that comments stay nice and civilized. I don’t want my site to be used as an edition war outpost. Stay away if that’s your thing.
So, the simple reason I didn’t renew my DDI this year (it just expired last week) is because my 4e home game died and I have no use for it. We were sharing an account between 6 of us, but since we have moved on from 4e gaming as a group, they don’t want to share the cost. Basically they were paying for the character builder, as none of them got anything out of the magazines or other content. For them, the main draw was strictly the builder. So that should be it, right? Well, for me it goes a bit beyond that.
I got quite a few things out of my DDI subscription, and even after my home game went kaput, I got juice out of my subscription. But now, upon further thought and after a few months, I just have to say goodbye to DDI.
There has been so much material published during the last almost three years, that if I were to play a regular (regular according to my schedule) 4e game again, the material that is currently sitting in my hard drive will be enough to last me years. I just don’t need any more than what I have, it’s that simple. The proverbial DDI firehose is churning out content faster, and faster, and faster than I’ll ever be able to use. It’s time to turn it off. Adventures, maps, artwork, npc’s, organizations, hooks, it’s just much more than I’ll ever need or probably use given the amount of time I actually have to game. Lately though, it just feels like content is coming in short spurts, or none at all. The website is posting interviews and new columns to fill the gaps, but it feels like something’s missing. Either way, I have tons of stuff that I’ll never get to, like I said, so that’s that.
You know, I want the online tools to do well, I really do. I’m of the firm belief that if D&D doesn’t adapt itself to a digital model, it will die. And I don’t want D&D to die, I love D&D. I really believe the people working on these tools are trying real hard to both please both their corporate needs and the community. It’s a hard balance, and they are fighting the good fight, but ultimately, those tools alone aren’t enough to keep me around. The character builder moving to an online model didn’t really bother me so much, but the clunkiness of the monster builder did. Its interface really never impressed me too much, and I found myself using the compendium a lot more than the monster builder for grabbing stat blocks and such. I never really used the thing to build too many custom monsters, but when I did the thing just felt slow and clunky. And now that everything is online it feels like it’s all a big beta test, and I don’t want to pay to be a beta tester.
And the much talked about gaming table? Well, that’s kind of cool and all, and yeah, it’s neat that you’ll be able to import monsters and pc’s from both builders, sure. But ultimately, do I want to pay for something that I can basically get from Gametable, or Maptools and Skype for free? I don’t know, it’s a tough sell. Right now, the answer is no.
The one tools I could have used was never implemented. I wanted a campaign organizational tool, with encounter planning and stuff like that. That might have been interesting, but unfortunately it never came to fruition.
Yes, small gripe, but a gripe nonetheless. I have an archive of Dungeon and Dragon magazine pdf’s I’ve acquired through the years, and I enjoy reading them tremendously. When I found out that DDI would stop compiling them as a monthly magazine, I was disappointed to say the least. I don’t care what they say about market research showing nobody downloaded the compiled magazines, I did. And now I can’t.
This is a tricky one, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. The Assassin and the Revenant race were supposed to be exclusive to DDI paying costumers. Offering an exclusive is a way of enticing people to pay for your product. Even Bill Slaviscec said it in an Ampersand column in issue 376:
“This month, we kick off a new rollout of exclusive material for the Dungeons & Dragons game that you can only get as a D&D Insider subscriber. This exclusive material won’t appear in any core rulebooks or supplements, but it will be totally official and ready to use if you’re a D&D Insider subscriber. We start out with the revenant, a new player character race that I predict is going to be all the rage…”
Was it all the rage? I don’t know, that’s debatable, and not important. What’s important is that an offer was made, “here’s exclusive content for you guys” and then without another word, everything he said wouldn’t happen, happened. And that leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Not because I play and Assassin or a Revenant, or really care that much about exclusives via DDI, but because I care about not being told one thing and then be given something else when I spend my money.
So before I get accused of trolling, or being anti-4e or whatever, let me talk about what I’ll miss. Because there are tons of things I’ll miss about DDI, stuff I still use in my games today.
I’ll miss the adventures. Sure, a lot of DDI stuff is typical 3 encounter delve stuff, but there are some really good writers working on D&D right now. Guys like Robert Schwalb and Logan Bonner, for example, have really nailed what 4e can bring to the table mechanically and they crank out quality stuff fairly consistently. And I’m talking both crunch-wise and fluff.
I’ll miss the maps, as I use those quite a bit, no matter the game I’m playing. Dragon Age can use D&D maps just fine, and I do. I’ll still use the stuff in my hard drive for sure, but not having a regular access to maps will be a bummer. Just like the art galleries. I love the DDI art galleries. I print stuff out as handouts quite a bit, to show off NPC’s or locations, weapons, or whatever else I find.
I’ll miss being in the loop as far as what the D&D community is talking about regarding latest releases and such. I love being a part of the community, and being out of the loop a bit will bother me, but it’s not worth me dropping dough on either.
I’ve already decided that my next 4e home game (if it happens) will be limited to Essentials. I have all the boxed sets and books. Characters are fairly simple if you limit it to those sources, which I will. So you know what, I’ll go back to old school D&D style via Essentials. You know, the kind where you make a character by hand?
That type, yeah. I think I’ll manage. It can be done, you know.