On Saturday, November 13, I’ll embark on a long and arduous journey. At approximately 2.21am, I’ll step on a train to Sydney, arriving at around 6.55. From there, I’ll grab some breakfast and head out to meet friends at Blacktown. I need to leave Blacktown by about 6.45pm to find dinner at Central and board the 8.40 train home; Mim (I hope) will meet me at the station at around 1.07 the next morning.

It’ll be a big day. It may also be the last time I play D&D.

Let me break this down a bit. I live just outside of the rural town of Young. There’s a fair-sized gaming community (by which, I mean, they advertise their existence) in Wagga Wagga, about 2 hours southwest. There’s another one just a little bit further away in Canberra, to the southeast. About 2½ hours to the northeast, another gaming group meets in Orange, and the group in Bathurst is about the same distance in the same direction.

But none of these groups play 4e. For this, I need to trek back to the group with whom I played Living Forgotten Realms when I lived in Sydney: the Blacktown Games Day Association.

As you can imagine, it takes a buttload of time, effort and money to get to these games. In terms of time and money, the rail journey is my cheapest alternative, because I don’t have to pay for accommodation or spend 4½ hours—each way—on the road. As a consequence, I only get to go to BGDA’s monthly game days 3-4 times a year.

Even the BGDA struggles to support 4e, though. They used to run 8-12 tables of LFR across two sessions, but now, most of their experienced GMs are running Pathfinder or Traveller; nowadays, between the lack of GMs and waning player interest, they struggle to run two tables a session. Even with the new rules allowing player characters to start above 1st-level, it’s still hard to find a module I can play, and haven’t played before with a given PC. As it stands, however, LFR offers my only opportunity to play 4e.

Now, regardless of what you may read on other blogs, Character Builder is essential to play LFR. Aside from Character Builder, I have little use for D&D Insider; all the LFR-legal mechanics from Dragon end up in Character Builder anyway, and as I don’t currently GM games, neither Dungeon nor the online tools hold much appeal.

As you may’ve heard, Wizards of the Coast will cease support for their downloadable Character Builder software and move to an online model on November 16. Michael Wolf (of Stargazer’s World) covers the technical problems with the new platform in depth; one of its other downsides is that WotC is tightening up Character Builder against use by non-D&DI subscribers. But the truth is—and I’ll be honest—I use a friend’s D&DI login, one that he very rarely uses himself, as he no longer plays 4e.

In this instance, at least, Cyclopeatron is correct in labelling WotC’s new subscription model the 4e Tax: I simply can’t justify paying an effective $3/hour tariff to play D&D, in addition to everything else.

Although I dread the cost of picking up Pathfinder—by far the most popular incarnation of D&D over here—so late in its product cycle, the official D&D brand and I have to part ways. I started playing D&D in earnest in 1985, and I daresay it’s been a good quarter-century. It saddens me to close off such a significant chapter in my life, but there are always other games out there.

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