What is it that makes #fourthcore so awesome? #DnD

It’s not really news.  I’m sure most of you have seen the word on your twitter feed or heard it tossed around at least once by one or more of your gaming friends.  But for those of us who are a little slow on the upswing or might have slept through the first part of class, I’ll recap.

The Fourthcore movement was started around 2009 by Save Versus Death, or Sersa Victory based around bringing back the challenge and danger of many 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons games.  Classics such as the ‘Tower of Gygax’ and ‘Tomb of Horrors’ are key examples of the kind of deadly, trap-laden, monster filled doom-dungeons that Fourthcore tries to emulate.  This is NOT about killing characters, it’s about not pulling any punches and making you actually work for your victory.

But what makes it so enthralling to those who play it?  The inherent danger that comes along with these games is enough to balk many would-be adventurers, as the threat of character death is something of a phobia to a lot of gamers.  What most people fail to understand is that even if your character dies halfway into the first room, it’s okay.  You can always make another character.  Not only that, but that death has served a purpose in showing that you made a mistake and forces you to think about what you did and what you are doing next.

Fourthcore challenges not just the character, but the player as well, making you step outside of your comfortable little attack range and pushes you forcefully outside of the box and into the world beyond.  So many traps and tricks in these games have alternative solutions that if you attempt them with conventional means you are doomed to fail again and again.  These kind of challenges train you to think differently about what you’re doing and how you might be able to circumvent the problem altogether with the right actions.

The monsters and denizens of the Fourthcore world are also highly deadly, over-the top fiends from beyond the stars, far overpowering your puny humanoid characters as you feebly attempt to best them.  Again, this is another example of how the playing style challenges you in that you realize that there’s no way to face this creature head-on, there’s got to be something else you can use to hurt it.  Like throwing an adult blue dragon at a group of 1st level adventurers is a slaughter, unless you just so happen to be fighting in an abandoned mineshaft with loose rocks in the ceiling that a well-placed blow to the support beams would bring tumbling free.  Most, if not all of the monsters in Fourthcore games have a weakness or key element that allows the players to have the upper hand.  Perhaps it’s the setting or maybe just a personal weakness, or even a specific item you would manage to get from playing through the game.

Throwing your characters into dangerous situations has been the name of the game since the inception of Dungeons and Dragons.  And while that has remained true for the lifespan of the game, a lot of the gloss has been rubbed away from many of the dangers that our personalized heroes face.  Greater skills and feats and powers and spells have turned once average people into titans of steel and arcane power.  Fourthcore acknowledges this and doesn’t shy away from powerful PC’s,  but lets you know that for all your shinies your character is still mortal and weak compared to the world he lives in.

By not holding back on the thrill of mortal danger and the power of the monsters you face, the victory is that much sweeter when you survive and claim your glory.  Bringing back save-vs-death and save-vs-petrification rolls from 1st and 2nd edition, and limiting the amount of magical items your players receive, Fourthcore feed the grognard in all of us that remembers when games used to be tough and you hooted and hollered for each save and each successful hit.   Even with magic enhancements being rare, each item or enchantment you retrieve is often along the same lines as the monsters you face, over the top and awe-inspiring in its power, almost evening the playing field for your darling PC’s.

No matter which way you cut it, sitting down with a group of friends and chanting “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…” as your level five adventurers face a horde of level eight classed monsters bearing down at you from their stronghold is FUN SHIT.  Nothing like an awesome evening of fear and frantic rolling of dice to bring people together.  The moral of this story is try Fourthcore.  Find a DM online who’s local or willing to run an online game for you and give it a try.  Even one game can completely change the way you see Dungeons and Dragons.

~ by darkpatu on March 14, 2012.

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