Home > Uncategorized > One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

D&D 4th Edition is not WoW in tabletop form, and you’re avoiding it for the wrong reasons.

I think the comparison stems primarily from the “role” aspect that is now a core part of D&D characters, and it’s kind of a bad thing to make a sticking point out of. If you’re going to compare two things, you should compare all of their aspects, and in this case, 4th ed is hardly like WoW at all.

Let’s start with the hardware issue, because it’s fairly obvious. WoW requires a computer with a high-speed internet connection. D&D requires three books, a handful of dice, and paper. This means that D&D tends to be more portable than Blizzard’s little gold mine, and this difference is a fairly simple one, yet very important to establish. Where I can typically only play WoW at home, I can go over to other friends houses and play D&D with them there, or even take it to Cons and libraries, for a totally different experience. On the other hand, it can be quite a hassle to get my laptop set up at some other place, the internet connection of which I’m not in control of at all. I also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line machine to run D&D, nor do I pay a monthly subscription fee for it (though I could.)

On the other hand, the hardware enables another major difference between D&D and WoW: MMORPG means of course that you are online with thousands of other players. Instead of my core group of friends, I interact with hundreds of people in a week, in a myriad of ways. I buy their auctions, debate with them in trade channel, or PuG Naxxramas. While doing that, I’m listening to my favorite tracks on iTunes, following an e-mail conversation going on between a few colleagues, and surfing the web for pr0… I mean helpful tips about how to help people. (C’mon, it’s what the internet’s for.) This creates, by necessity, a different group dynamic. I know the people I play D&D with, and have for years, but in WoW, I might group with someone who I’ll only know for those few minutes when we’re killing some trash together. This creates a server based community, where some figures are heralded, and others reviled. An Alliance Night Elf Rogue on my own server of Quel’Dorei who goes by the name Hood is a particularly good example. The Horde side of the server actively goes insane when he’s mentioned, whereas I’m told he’s actually a fairly cool guy to the Alliance. The culture that surrounds an MMO is impossible to recreate on D&D’s scale, and vice versa. I can play WoW with my best friends, but it’s a very different experience to enjoy D&D with them.

Then there’s the story aspect of WoW. Even though WoW presents itself as a roleplaying game, it’s not. Yes, they have RP servers, and yes, you are expected to develop a character, and yes, if you break character, it’s technically against the Realm’s ToS, and you could be penalized for it, but it’s not a roleplaying game. In a roleplaying game, you can interact with the story and you have a direct impact on it. Indeed, a story may have been created just for your tabletop group, as I’m doing currently with a 4th ed. game I’m running. However rich and deep the lore of WoW is (and it is, trust me), it’s not something you can direclty interact or effect. If a group of Horde rushes up to Darnassus in search of glory, and kills Tyrande, she’ll respawn in 3-5 hours. She’s not going to be permanently affected, and you don’t have the story to tell of how you killed one of the most powerful characters in WoW’s cannon. Well, you do, but when she respawns, what do you tell your guild? How do you justify doing something that can’t actually be done? When you clear out a raid instance, but still need to go in there for the gear, how do you rationalize the fact that all the monsters are back after just over a week? Whereas in D&D, if your group manages to kill the leader of a small community, if the DM pays attention to it, that could be a pretty big change. Even bigger if it’s a not-so-small community. D&D’s world has more flexibility, and is more responsive to change than WoW can ever be, and that’s fine, because it’s a different game.

Don’t get me wrong. I love WoW. Big fan. I love the friends I’ve made with it, and the things I’ve done with it. This blog concerns itself with gaming, and was supposed to be about WoW in particular. It’s kind of drifted from that, but I digress. What’s important is that I’m a big fan of D&D fourth ed. too. I think a lot of people are missing out because they have preconceived notions of what 4th edition is and is not. My best friend doesn’t think it’s WoW per se, but he doesn’t accept it as D&D proper, because it doesn’t have some setting material from older editions. A good friend of mine is upset for the reasons that it feels too much like a MMORPG.

But it’s not. It’s not D&D 3rd edition, or second, or oWoD, or 7th Sea, or any other game.

It’s D&D 4th ed, and it’s a lot of fun. So find a group, and play.

Share Button
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
  1. Rob
    May 14th, 2009 at 22:36 | #1

    Breaking my promise not to respond to you on this forum so I can make a few points of order.

    At their core, the two are extremely similar, beyond the comparison that can be made with any tabletop. As you mentioned, the combat system is very similar in the form of roles, emphasis on teamwork and support, and the system of Encounter and Daily spells, which bring to mind the idea of cooldowns in wow.

    The differences you cite are details.

    Hardware: Though you cannot choose to play WoW without an internet connection, you certainly can play 4E online.

    Interaction: Through rpgnet, you can certainly interact with hundreds or thousands of other D&D gamers. Additionally, though WoW is an MMO, it is quite possible to ignore everyone else and only play with your core group of friends and not interact with anyone else.

    Story: Just like in D&D, what you take from WoW is your option. Both require suspension of disbelief to one degree or another. Playing WoW, you can create a character, get really into the story, and ignore the fact that your defeated enemies are respawning, just as you are ignoring the fact that you are sitting at a table rolling dice in 4E. Similarly, it is a simple matter to set up a D&D game with the focus on questing and extreme amounts of combat with little meaningful social interaction.

    My point is, they -are- similar. You can come up with contrasts, sure, but every one of those contrasts can be mitigated through a particular style of play.

    The similarities, on the other hand, cannot be ignored. You cannot escape the need to have a Tank/Leader, DPS/Striker/Control characters, and Healers. You cannot escape the basic similarities in strategy and tactics. In fact, when it comes down to it, the only way that the two could be more similar is if WoW was turn based.

    No, they are not the same game. No two games are the same. No two situations are the same. No two ANYTHING are the same. But they are similar in very meaningful and very clear ways. More importantly, they FEEL the same. No amount of nitpicking over minutiae will change that.

  2. August 30th, 2009 at 20:21 | #2

    How long have you been blogging…your good at it.

  3. September 4th, 2009 at 12:43 | #3

    Apparently, since March 2009. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. :D

  4. Rob
    January 5th, 2010 at 01:47 | #4

    I am revisiting this post in a misguided and doomed attempt to get my point across without sounding like a douche canoe, primarily because the issue came up at my 4e game.

    The problem here, I think, is in the language.

    “4e is not WoW” is a truism, and not debatable. Of course it’s not WoW. They are two different things. Nobody has ever taken the stance that the two games are exactly the same in every way. One is played on a computer and one is played with dice.

    …but that is not what you said.

    What you said was “D&D 4th Edition is not WoW -in tabletop form.”-

    It may seem that I am picking nits, but this is an extremely important distinction. The moment you said that, you excluded from consideration all differences that stem from one being a computer game and the other being a table top game.

    However, the vast majority of the differences you describe (i.e. the entire third and fourth paragraphs) are, by your own admission, based on just this.

    Secondly, there exists, as you know, a WoW tabletop game. By your argument, even THAT isn’t really “WoW in tabletop form” because you can directly affect story in a way that you rarely can in the computer game.

    So here’s my compromise.

    We humans are lazy and prone to exaggeration. I submit that when people say “4th ed is WoW” they don’t actually mean “these two games are exactly the same in every way.”

    What I believe they mean is “these two games are extremely similar in feel, in mechanics (taking into account the difference in media), and in many relevant details.”

    4th Edition bears many more similarities to WoW than did earlier incarnations of the game, and it is impossible to ignore or deny the obvious direct inspiration.

    I agree with your assessment that potential players should not be dissuaded from giving it a shot. In fact, it is a very good system that very much benefits from the borrowed themes and mechanics.

    However, the similarities are significant and numerous. Enough so that the comparison is both accurate and inevitable.

  5. January 5th, 2010 at 08:28 | #5

    “It may seem that I am picking nits, but this is an extremely important distinction.”

    Seem nothing. ;p

    Alright, if we’re going to agree that mechanically and systematically (and by that I mean the feeling of the mechanics), then let’s talk about the story of WoW, and the ability of players to question to rules of D&D.

    WoW’s lore is very, very rich. It’s over 10 years old, and has gone through iterations and retcons and sorcerers. It has time travel and zaniness and flying magical cities. D&D’s story is whatever you need it to be. There are entire worlds devoted to ideas of war and rebuilding, as surely as there are worlds devoted to comedy and lightheartedness. WoW has one story. D&D has many.

    Similarly, WoW has one arbiter: the computer. There is no equivocating, there is no appealing to a higher authority that the rules don’t work like this… The computer has the final say on whether something hits or misses, whether it interacts with a buff in a certain way, and though you can scream at your computer all you want, it’s not going to do things your way simply because something happened or didn’t. D&D however is based on a system where you can talk to the arbiter of the rules, and try to convince them of a different ruling. You have a lot more flexibility in a system where you can be asked to get up and play out a scene outside of your characters, and the people around you at the table have a different reaction too.

    I’ll accept your compromise, with a couple of reservations.

  6. buddahcjcc
    November 8th, 2010 at 17:31 | #6

    Saying that tyhe game systems are different because one is a computer game and one is a tabletop is plain stupid.

    If you look at the actual SYSTEM of the game, youd have to pretend there arent similarities. My friend was reading the PHB, looking specifically at the new abilities of Rogues (hey wait, didnt those used to be called Thieves before WoW……) and connecting the new 4.0 ability to the WoW equivalent. You cvan make the connection far too easy

  1. No trackbacks yet.