As I have noted before, my current comrades in gaming arms are of the 4e persuasion. This is not, however, a major source of woe for me. Rather, I find 4e a fun game. Engaging, even. But in the end it leaves me with the same ambivalence that playing Champions/Hero System left me with back in the early 90s and 3.x left me just a few years ago. Building characters makes for an interesting game within the game. Combats provide another game. Advancement yet another. Each of those provides a level of payoff and engagement, and rewards certain types of system mastery.
All that said, I miss the elements of RPGs that I have liked most: narrative improvisation, exploration, improvisation, world building and off-the-cuff play. None of this is barred by 4e per se. However, as I found in playing Hero System and in 3.x play, it's harder to get to because of the prominent rewards for mastering increasingly complex systems arising from the rules in play. It would take a fairly strong social contract in play to encourage players to set aside the rule system mastery elements of the rule set and to seek out other rewards. I'm sure that there are lots of examples of tables that run just as I would like to run mine that involve 4e, but I have see that my concerns for running 4e would involve a lot of changes to people's expectations and to the rewards structured into the game.
Not that I have time to run a game right now.
All that said, if my old friend Dean really does move back into the area, I might try to get together a group of players for some old-school gaming with a simpler set of rules (probably Rules Cyclopedia) and a slightly less weird setting than Athanor.
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