Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Which The Warlock Has His Head in the Clouds...

So, while traversing the annals of before dinner--and before a massive amount of grading--I stumbled across a post by a regular user, talking about a project that another gamer had embarked on:  the act of analyzing various D&D manuals via 'word clouds'.

Not familiar with 'word clouds'?  Here's the basic premise.  Based on the number of times a word appears in a given text, it's given a size and formatting.  The more frequent the word, the larger and more ostentatious it appears.  Words decrease in size and format until they become statistically insignificant and "disappear" into the cloud.  Essentially, it's a listing of word-frequency, but done in a graphical format, so that it's easily apparent which words are most important.

The author's findings are here: 
The Alexandrian--D&D Word Clouds

What struck me most is his findings between 3rd and 4th editions.  While I do like the streamlined nature of 4th edition, the fundamental ideas in the game definitely show a shift.  Terms like "Attacks", "Powers" and "Damage" take prescedence over terms typically associated with D&D like "Spells", "Magic" and "Levels". 

In fact, the author puts forward a massive, if short, truth in his analysis of the results:

"If, in previous editions, we're looking at the difference between five card draw, Texas Hold 'Em, and seven card stud, then I think with 4th Edition we're looking at the diference between poker and gin."

Let me set the record straight.  I enjoy 4e.  I like the verisimilitude between characters, as well as the complexity that it brought to "typically dumb" classes, like Fighters and Barbarians.  I'm not too keen on the direction that WotC seems to be taking it in the last year or so, particularly with their massive cancellations (See the section labeled D&D RPG Product Release Updates).  But I really hope that, come 5th edition, the designers take a look at the core of the elements that make D&D the game it always has been, then build on the innovations of 4e from there.

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