Of all the supplements in the immediate future…

December 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm
filed under Roleplaying
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I wrote most of this post before I got my hands on Manual of the Planes, so it’s a little outdated and the language reflects that. Still, I plan to talk more about Manual of the Planes soon, so this’ll make for a good segue. :P

Out of all of the supplements I’ve read, seen, or heard about so far, Manual of the Planes is the one that excites me the most overall. Here’s why.

If you’ve read my last few posts, then you could probably hazard a guess: although I didn’t discover it until 3rd Edition had already come out, Planescape is my favorite of the 2nd Edition settings. (Dark Sun runs a close second, which I guess means I happen to be in tune with the readership of Critical Hits.) And now I see that Sigil gets a treatment in the table of contents for the Manual of the Planes. Dang. Now, I have no illusion that it’s going to be as much as I’d like, but I’ll take what I can freaking get.

Another reason? Ideas. In general I like setting-oriented books because they give me lots of ideas. Story seeds along the lines of what’s in the Mercykillers article are exactly the kinds of things that I like. Even if I don’t use them as written, they provide helpful examples for developing my own story hooks and scenarios.

I’m really curious as to what the multiverse looks like under a 4th Edition regime. It looks like they’ve made provisions for many of the classic settings, including Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and (obviously) Planescape. I think that’s pretty classy. Yet it’s hard to top Planescape, and while I’m aware of this intellectually, I also recognize that there will undoubtedly be changes that I dislike or parts of the new multiverse that I find less interesting.  

On the other hand, the setting folks made some good points in Worlds and Monsters. The Elemental Chaos is much more practical, for lack of a better word, than each of the old elemental planes. The Feywild and Shadowfell are quite clearly the analogues to the Positive and Negative Energy Planes, and each strikes me as quite a bit more playable than its predecessor. You could send heroic tier characters to the Shadowfell or the Feywild for a stint and they won’t explode into radiance or get level drained into oblivion.

I have mixed feelings on ths nixing of the law/chaos continuum. It was neat to see the variety of planes and how each one evoked an alignment. The concept was appealing but some of them weren’t implemented all that well. As much as I like the idea of demons vs. devils— which is of course a concept still present in 4th Edition— I’m not really sure I find the concept of a neutral good or neutral evil plane all that compelling.

Also, all else being equal, I think these kinds of things matter less when it comes to fluff or setting. I’m much less worried about eliminating a plane or altering the cosmology in some way than I am about trying to tweak the accuracy at-wills or the archer ranger class features, to name a couple of my mechanical pain points.

Lastly, this kind of book inspires a feeling of what I’d almost call relief. It’s a DM-oriented book, as far as I can tell, and that makes me happier than a player oriented book that could introduce all kinds of broken powers, builds, or combinations.

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