>It’s probably about time that D&D got a couple of these, so let’s start with the one with actual field experience.
Setting: The default setting is called ‘Points of Light’, and in theory it isn’t too bad. The adventurers are supposed to be of a rare breed of individuals, heroes of the like that haven’t been seen in quite some time. A cut above the rest – almost medieval super heroes, if you like. There are several settings available as supplements, including Eberron and the Forgotten Realms, but most share this thematic idea. The gods are real forces in the world, and so are the devils; monsters inhabit the untamed wilderness, and sometimes the sewers. Can our heroes push back the darkness and bring a little more light into the world?
Overall, it’s a pretty uplifting idea, though in practice it tends to work out a little more like the ancient equivalent of Grand Theft Auto; kill monsters, take their stuff, sell it for whatever gives the most ‘pluses’, lather, rinse, repeat.
System: d20 based, with a large selection of other dice thrown in to handle things like damage. Even the d3 gets used sometimes, and it isn’t physically possible! But aside from that, resolution of most conflicts still boils down to the core mechanic of d20: Roll the d20, add your modifiers, compare the result to whatever the difficulty is, and you’re good.
Character Creation: 4e builds characters using classes (like Fighter, Ranger, Wizard, Sorcerer, Cleric and Paladin) that fill different roles (Controller, Defender, Leader, Striker), and of course different fantasy races including elves, halflings (“hobbits” if Tolkien’s descendants weren’t picky about copyright), dwarves, and other less standard fare, including the tiefling and the new dragonborn. Newer books have added even more races to the mix, which has both good and bad effects; namely,
- Choice is good,
- Except when it’s confusing.
Oh, and you can also play a human. The real downside of all the race choices is that almost noone does.
Barriers to Entry: Actually, not that bad, if you’re a player and you only buy what a) your DM will let you use, and b) you actually want to play. Books get expensive, as do miniatures, though there are ways to reduce the costs involved with either – painting your own can be rewarding, I’m told, and it costs much less. Books can be borrowed or purchased for discounted prices through online retailers such as Amazon, and that can absorb some of the impact as well. Dice, while necessary, are really cheap, despite how I sometimes gripe about how many you’ll need for some games.
The one advantage to most of these expenses is that, unlike, say, World of Warcraft, there are no server fees; the price of the books are your highest barrier. That, and learning the rules, but they really aren’t that difficult to grasp once you sit down and read them. Recommended reading: Shelly Mazzanoble’s Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the D&D Game. I picked it up awhile ago in the hopes of better explaining things to my girlfriend, and it helped quite a bit. Plus it’s riotously funny.
Who the book would be at your highschool: The nerd who actually fit in pretty well and was well liked by everyone, had solid fashion sense, and even got invited to the parties with all the other cool kids, but let his slacker friends get by occasionally by letting them cheat off his homework. Noone is perfect.