The last couple of days have been quite interesting to me. I never read a Fourthcore adventure until this weekend, and never ran or played in a Fouthcore adventure until two nights ago. I had every intention of writing a blog post about the experience (cribbed from a massive email with feedback I sent to the designer of the adventure), but then I learned that the very same creator pulled the plug on Fourthcore mere hours after I sent feedback. I do not think I caused Fourthcore to die, but I hope the 3,500 words reacting to only 25% of the module was not the straw that broke the camel’s back! There were aspects of the Fourthcore experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and other aspects that I felt needed some tweaking. But overall, I thought it was a great addition for DMs to play with and learn from.
So I am equal parts sad and confused by the creative team behind Fourthcore moving on to other endeavors. I do not fully understand why the creators of Fourthcore are ending the project. I’m certainly curious, but I realize it’s no business of my own what someone else does with his or her time. I understand the creator is going to be on a future episode of the DM Roundtable Podcast, so I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the decision and all that went into it. I do not begrudge anyone the decision to step away from something that is causing too much stress in their life, whether that is a job, relationship or hobby. For example, I left a job just over three years ago because it was poor for my physical and mental well-being. But the incident leaves me with questions, and I realize that I need help to find those answers.
In the Fourthcore eulogy, it stated:
However, especially lately, I find the culture surrounding D&D to be unbelievably poisonous, and there’s so much tumult and baggage associated with the game and so many expectations on how it should work that I find I’m running into walls more and more often in my design. Instead of having fun being creative and coming up with adventures that excite me, I see each new project as another invitation for criticism, another point of confusion, and another excuse for gamers to tear out each others’ throats over such weighty issues such as whether it’s okay in these enlightened times to kill your friend’s imaginary elf or put diagonal walls in a dungeon.
I honestly do not understand most of this paragraph; I would like to understand it. I’m not saying I do not understand because I “do not agree.” I literally mean I am confused by the concerns expressed. Many active members of the online D&D community reference the negative culture that swirls around the game. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but except for a few topics, I don’t see the negativity that often. I mostly see encouragement, and this site has benefited tremendously because of the supportive environment I’ve encountered from other bloggers, podcasters and designers.
There is something oddly ironic that the advocate and designer of challenging and brutal dungeons, which force players to endure and suffer extreme consequences, stopped creating content partially because of a poisonous culture that became too difficult to handle. I’m sure there was a time when it was exciting and fun for those creating the content; it’s sad that it had to end. If “we” – being the gaming community – somehow contributed to “them” not feeling comfortable proceeding with their efforts, then is that an “us” problem (we’re a bunch of reckless and cruel fools that destroy and pillage anything new and different) or a “them” problem (they need a higher Will defense for feedback)? My initial feeling is that “we” and “them” share some of the responsibility.
While I’m not clear how “the gaming community” contributed to the designers’ decision, I would like to learn. It’s a weird state of affairs when individual designers – who seem to have a great deal of support from the community (just look at the Comments on the eulogy page) still do not feel comfortable moving forward with a project. Why is that? What could “we” have done to keep the designers of Fourthcore going?
I was just getting into the Fourthcore ideas and now the persons responsible for them are stepping down. That is a bummer. I hope the creators find solace and joy in their new project, Wrath, and it continues to inspire them. But I think the concepts presented in Fourthcore are not going anywhere. The fans of the principles will carry the banner regardless of who – if anyone – is giving the marching orders. I know Fourthcore ideas will influence my home games moving forward, and I truly hope Fourthcore continues to evolve in some capacity. In other words, someone do a Heal check and grant Fourthcore a saving throw!
- Fourthcore was a mystery to me before last week; I heard the term and had a vague sense of the concepts, but I only just got on board within the past week.
- I have no relationship with the Fourthcore designers other than playtesting their latest module earlier this week. I do not know any of them well, which brings me to my next point.
- I have no idea what they have dealt with in terms of personal and professional issues as they relate to the development and implementation of Fourthcore. I’m sure the decision to stop the project has many facets. Having done a very small bit of design for a home campaign, I can only imagine the hours and hours that have spent on development for the Fourthcore projects. I respect their work and dedication!
- Finally, I wish nothing but the best to the designers of Fourthcore in their future endeavors. They have obviously touched a nerve with a segment of gamers that want a different experience when playing D&D 4th Edition. I was privileged to have a chance to playtest their latest module, and I hope I can be helpful with their goals in the future.
Edit: Save Versus Death made another post going into greater detail about the decision to move on from Fourthcore. It answers many of the questions I had in my mind. If you are interested in the life (and afterlife?) of Fourthcore – or just the culture of D&D and gaming in general – then it is a must-read.