Let me tell you about the schenanigans my friend and I pulled in the 4E game my wife runs last Sunday:

My wife is huge on custom magic items. Some are just little flavor differences, others are completely whole cloth inventions of hers. That’s how our party ended up with a magic levitating ship.  While neutrally buoyant and able to be pulled with effort, it requires magic residuum (pricey stuff) to fly, and a lot of it, something akin to 1k gold worth for a mile of flight. Never mind how we managed to travel a few hundred miles in it and then end up stranded 200 miles from anywhere. That’s a different story. The crux of our problem last week was: Do we disenchant the ship for magic residuum, destroying it, strand it in the middle of the wilderness and hope we’d be able to come back for it later, split the team so that one half of us could go buy a team of horses and return, or some other option?

We eventually settled on spending a few hours looking for something suitable to pull the ship in the nearby unsettled wilderness then consigning ourselves to fate and disenchanting it and moving on. Good-bye magic flying ship…

As luck and a kind GM would have it, we managed to find something to pull our ship: a basilisk. Then our problem became how to convince a basilisk to drag our flying ship 200 miles. Since knowledge:Nature applies specifically to training only natural beasts, we couldn’t outright use that skill. Nor are there any mind effecting compulsions anymore. Our eventual plan? Have the rogue knock the basilisk unconscious with one of his daily powers and tie it up with a bedroll over its eyes. Once it regains consciousness, beat it with a stick until it learns not to struggle, then slowly untie it, limb by limb using stick beatings to teach it not to fight against it’s bonds. Eventually, we have a relatively docile basilisk with a bedroll over it’s eyes.  Then we tie it to our ship, put a rabbit carcass on a long stick, and off we go.

Naturally, the DM was a bit incredulous.  “Hey,” I said, “There’s no rules for taming basilisks in 4E.  If there were, I’d use em, but there aren’t, so we’re doing this.” She allowed it, but ruled that because the basilisk was blindfolded and we were training it without any knowledge of actual animal training, travel was slow and the basilisk was still hostile. It was just biding it’s time to escape.

I had read A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. the subject of my last post, just before the game and that exchange was a bit of a “Eureka” moment for me. In it’s attempt to simplify, simplify, simplify, 4E tossed out a lot of the rules for things like crafting, animal companions, familiars, spell research, etc… and a lot of people’s complaints (mine included) was that this narrowing of focus removed a lot of actions and playstyles from the realm of possibility. But that’s not really the case. Did I really get so forgetful of my RPG roots that I had taken the position that a lack of rules for owning a dog meant I couldn’t own one? Indeed I had.

But what’s more is that strangely, by focusing on little more than combat and skill checks, and therefor allowing for 1e style open play, 4E is, in a way, the closest spiritual successor to 1e in the history of DnD. Hear that 1e fanatics? Give 4E a try. It’s closer than you thought.