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(The New York Times)   Since 4th Edition was such a hit, Wizards of the Coast decide to work on a new edtion   (nytimes.com) divider line 379
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5075 clicks; posted to Geek » on 10 Jan 2012 at 5:44 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-01-10 06:12:32 PM

JammerJim: Tyrone Slothrop: bhcompy: dragonchild: I think people really are waiting for that "perfect" RPG.

[ecx.images-amazon.com image 300x300]

Here you go.

No, seriously.

You talk about deterministic vs creativeness balance, I haven't found a better system for it. The number of skills and the skill descriptions(the degree of ambiguity or allowance in the description, plus the similar skill system) provide infinite variation while not allowing for complete anarchy, while the combat system provides you everything you could want except for targeted strikes(if you want an arrow to the knee you could with the right crit roll). And the character creation provides many laughs and allows for some unique characters(sorry, you rolled poorly, you're a hemophiliac lycanthrope, but do you're also nobility, so you have that).

There are so many charts in Rolemaster I don't see any way of playing it without computer assistance. All the crit tables and stuff are cool, but it's too much to keep track of. On the other hand, if ICE made an iPad/Android app that handled all that stuff, I'd probably buy it.

Rolemaster is a game system for obsessives. I had a buddy who tried to run it in the LoTR universe. Some supplement has a freakin' "Birth Complications Table". Yes, you read that right, a table for birth complications. I'm not kidding. No game that feels a need to stick that in and not have it be a joke is worth playing.


For me, a great game system is one where all (or most) of the information you need to play the game is
contained on the character sheet. Chaosium's BRP, West End's D6 (the original SWRPG system) manage this
nicely; HERO, WFRP do a decent job of it too, as SAVAGE WORLDS (though they a bit more book consultation
for special situations).

The basic D&D 3.x system (and, I will grant, the basic D&D4 system from what little I've seen) comes close to
achieving this; but with so many feats and odd spells and class special abilities running with just a character
sheet just isn't practical for most PCs.
 
2012-01-10 06:25:17 PM
Ultimately, what makes or breaks a campaign are the people in it.

My group has played a lot of different types and versions of rpgs, and they're all about as fun. So long as the mechanics don't get too confusing or two unbalanced, they all have their perks. Quite frankly, if you don't change it up you'll eventually get bored with any system. Remember that feeling when you first found an exploit to build a character around? It becomes harder to get that feeling with the same system time after time. But, if you want to do something that's not built into the system, that's where simple board games end and real role playing begins.

The biggest problem in rpgs are the rules. Every group has a couple people who will stop and correct the game master. It breaks the fourth wall and can leave both parties slightly irritated. This is where systems like changeling really shine. Anyone familiar with the system knows that there aren't a lot of "little rules" to know. It's about story. It's about coping with the world you're in rather that overcoming it. Hell, if you're lucky your character just might come out of it alive and have something to claim as an accomplishment. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, you will never have a character that qualifies as a hero. You'll always be some guy with a niche ability that rarely helps the party when a real threat arrives, like being good at combat.

The best way to make a campaign fun is to make it tough. Really tough. Most GMs/DMs pull punches, nerf crits, and otherwise cheat in the player's favor. This turns dungeons into glorified walks in a park. Stack the deck against them. Roll the damage dice against the players in front of the players instead of behind the screen. If you want, give them a way to avoid death but still make them lose consciousness or get horribly scarred by the reanimation process. Otherwise, kill them. Kill them often. Think about it. You have an immense army of minions at your disposal. You can kill at least one while still being way more than fair. Besides, if you're 20 some odd sessions into a game, you desperately want to change out a bit anyway. If you have the choice, kill them near the end of the session so they're not sitting out (4-8 hour sessions get boring if you die in the first 30 min. and tune out to make a new character).

Anyway, that's my comment on it. Enjoy the fact that you were invited to play and stop biatching about which system you're playing. You're going to have a good time if you do it right anyway.
 
2012-01-10 06:25:21 PM

dragonchild:
And there's the rub. As for playing a different character, that was really a matter of taste even in the early days of D&D. In every game I've ever played PC death was never an expectation; it was a risk. It wasn't really prevented; some adventures explicitly had "perma-death". But don't confuse AD&D with Paranoia; nobody I met wanted their PC to die or shrugged off a premature end. Some of them took it quite personally.


Playing a different character != your old one died. The old school games I played had multiple characters, that would get played depending on who showed up, what people felt like, etc. And I agree on the "risk vs. expectation" point - in many modern games, there is not even a risk.

Not quite in so many words. It's like 4E is a white carpet while AD&D is a mottled brown one. Nothing bad with either, and arguably the white carpet is prettier. But the brown one is much better at hiding spills. 4E is so balanced that unbalancing is "bad" in that it's conspicuous and sets an early, permanent campaign precedent. Unbalancing in AD&D2 wasn't an issue because the inherent imbalances in the core rulebooks gave the DM a baseline to work against when invoking Rule 0. There's an item in the game that gives a single player character an entire KEEP for crissakes; letting a rogue swing from a chandelier is ruled on largely as a matter of taste.

And these types of things are still balanced in part by constant risk of death. Not all characters reach high level. And as far as swinging from the chandelier - so what? If it's a matter of taste, let it be a matter of taste. It's only when you start throwing bonuses in that things get wonky, and that is, again, true in any version. Giving a "free blind" power to anybody, in any edition, is crazy powerful. A moderate bonus, sure. True, you typically won't see things like the Vorpal Sword in 4e, but even that was balanced in 1e by the requirement for a natural 20 (as well as the rarity of it).

So for the chandelier case, I'd do the same thing in 4e as 1e. Is it just fluff with no balance? Fine. Chandelier away. Do you want it to give you some other advantage? Okay, make a roll against something, and if you fail you fall on your face.

It's definitely true that in later editions, things like rarity aren't considered in terms of balance, while they were definitely part of the balance in earlier editions - again, I'd argue that a lot of this gets down to the "narrative vs. world-sim" aspects of how the hobby has changed. In 4e there's pretty much an expectation that you be able to get any wonky item that's listed in any sourcebook.

ARGH!! I'm NOT saying it can't be turned into a reasonable power! The problem is that D&D4 decides for you HOW it should be done EXACTLY this way.

That's one way to look at it. Another way is to look at it as providing a reference point for how strong the ability actually is. At-will one-shot-and-you're-dead? Probably a bit much. At-will CA? Probably okay, there's precedent. Hrm, the other power is ranged and AE and does damage? Well, let's see where we're at. Seriously, if your players can't accept "yeah, I said you could do this, but it looks a little game-breaking in retrospect, let's change it", that's kind of a problem.

That starts the ball rolling. But throwing sand in someone's face is a pretty old trick; after a while people wise up to it. Then what? Do I just nerf the rogue's "power"? What if some PC tries the same countermeasure on the druid power? And this isn't really being obnoxious; the players would be quite fair to ask these questions. And as a DM, the rules aren't helping at this point. The game THINKS it's being deterministic, but in reality it's only being political. I don't have this problem in a game that's inherently unbalanced. I have other problems, but they're handled more easily.

And these same issues would exist in any other version. As far as the druid power, it's totally different anyway - while the end result (granting CA) might be the same, the means are totally different. The defenses against a bag of sand are *totally different* than the defenses against a swarm of freakin' locusts. I'd smack any player that couldn't grasp that with the rulebook.

As far as defending the blindness trick, I don't know of any game that handles that well at all, the idea of a tactic being useful only while it stays unique.

I'm seriously not seeing anything here that makes the situation worse in 4e than any other game. Are the constraints slightly tighter? Maybe. But giving away an ability in any game, if it were generally available and not situational I'd start by taking an existing ability, giving it the extra specialness needed, and then making it weaker in some other area to compensate.
 
2012-01-10 06:26:54 PM

Edymnion: I was a big 3e junkie back in the day. I scoffed at Eberron when it first came out until I picked it up and read it. Holy God, Eberron was awesome. I even ended up writing a fan sourcebook for it, the Unofficial Artificer's Handbook. Heh, I saw that thing get pirated and redistributed all across the internet, including a badly bablefished spanish version. It was really flattering, really.

Then when 4e hit I switched over to Mutants & Masterminds 2e, which is hands down the best system I have ever played. Always wanted to play an Eberron game using those rules, but nothing ever came of it.


What WOTC did with Eberron is, frankly, criminal. I was fully prepared to hate it based on the initial desciptions
(which made it sound like a Steampunk-manque nightmare), but was so completely hooked by the initial source
book that I made it a point to buy every single supplement and adventure. They then proceeded to completely
ignore it once they came out with 4E and turned their back on it in favor of the most half-baked generic fantasy
setting ever.
 
2012-01-10 06:30:07 PM

Dracolich: The best way to make a campaign fun is to make it tough. Really tough. Most GMs/DMs pull punches, nerf crits, and otherwise cheat in the player's favor. This turns dungeons into glorified walks in a park. Stack the deck against them. Roll the damage dice against the players in front of the players instead of behind the screen. If you want, give them a way to avoid death but still make them lose consciousness or get horribly scarred by the reanimation process. Otherwise, kill them. Kill them often. Think about it. You have an immense army of minions at your di ...


I sort of agree, depending on the situation. The challenge is what makes the victories sweet, I agree with that a thousand times over.

On the other hand, failure should be due to character decisions, not GM fiat. If the PCs are kidnapped, tortured, and then thrown into a dragon's lair and eaten by a dragon, they have a reasonable argument for being upset.

If they walk into the dragon's lair on their own, well, sucks to be them.

Fully agree on rolling the dice in the open though. But again, to a great extent this is based on how much agency the players have - if you throw them into preset encounters where the only options are killing everything, or TPK, it's fair to fudge the dice a bit since the players did nothing to put themselves in this situation.

And of course there are better ways to fudge results than to fudge die rolls anyway - play NPCs stupidly, forget abilities, have them skip turns, "forget" penalties to PC actions, etc...
 
2012-01-10 06:46:15 PM

kyoryu: On the other hand, failure should be due to character decisions, not GM fiat. If the PCs are kidnapped, tortured, and then thrown into a dragon's lair and eaten by a dragon, they have a reasonable argument for being upset.

If they walk into the dragon's lair on their own, well, sucks to be them.



Very true. Yeah, tough is good - impossible is not. This can be a problem for some folks. This part is all in game design. If there aren't at least 3 ways to get around something, then you're probable artificially limiting people. That is, your kidnapped, tortured, and eaten players should have that all acted out in each step so they can try their best to get away or turn the situation around. Can they talk to their kidnappers? Did they have a shot at noticing them before it happened? Have they worked their way out of the ropes? Did the mage just cast reduce person on himself to get out of the ropes? Did all of the weapons get taken away or did the rogue hide one well enough to make it on the trip? Countless things just at that stage.

If you can kidnap your players and haul them to another location with enemies of the proper challenge rating, they're not trying. But a bad GM will simply say "you're all knocked unconscious and wake up strapped to a table" which pretty much eliminates an entire series of great role playing moments. Whenever there's something going on in opposition to the players, take your time on it. Let them react. It's why they play. It's why you play. They're bound to come up with something you didn't plan while you were preparing and that's when the fun starts.
 
2012-01-10 06:54:32 PM

Dracolich: kyoryu: On the other hand, failure should be due to character decisions, not GM fiat. If the PCs are kidnapped, tortured, and then thrown into a dragon's lair and eaten by a dragon, they have a reasonable argument for being upset.

If they walk into the dragon's lair on their own, well, sucks to be them.


Very true. Yeah, tough is good - impossible is not. This can be a problem for some folks. This part is all in game design. If there aren't at least 3 ways to get around something, then you're probable artificially limiting people. That is, your kidnapped, tortured, and eaten players should have that all acted out in each step so they can try their best to get away or turn the situation around. Can they talk to their kidnappers? Did they have a shot at noticing them before it happened? Have they worked their way out of the ropes? Did the mage just cast reduce person on himself to get out of the ropes? Did all of the weapons get taken away or did the rogue hide one well enough to make it on the trip? Countless things just at that stage.


Well, that example was more of an extreme of railroading. But I've seen plenty of situations where the DM has a particular encounter in mind, and frustrates any attempts at other solutions, or avoiding it. Typically things like a "sealed evil in a can" situation becoming obvious, but the DM stacking on reasons why we should attack the critter guarding the can, even though it's perfectly happy to leave us alone if we walk away. Sure, we "could" walk away, and so "free choice" is maintained, but sometimes the DM makes it pretty hard to do so.

I look at it more as a function of player agency, which is unfortunately losing favor in gaming. Why are the players fighting a dragon? Is it because they made the choice to? Is it a consequence of earlier choices? Or is it because the DM thought that fighting a dragon tonight would be fun? And of course there's varying levels of agency - certainly sometimes things happen *to* characters beyond their control, but how they react to that situation (and how much ability to react they're given) is key to retaining agency.

As adventures get more-and-more plot oriented, they've become more railroads, and player agency is removed. Which is fine. It's not the style of game that I prefer, but it's a valid style nonetheless. But, if that's the case, you can't make players responsibility for decisions that they did not make.

Note that random encounter tables don't inherently break this rule - a) the players made a choice to journey somewhere (and the encounter tables are location-specific, right??), b) generally a halfway decent DM will give the players multiple ways of dealing with said encounter. An "encounter with a red dragon" doesn't necessarily mean you fight it - it could mean that you see one in the distance, and scramble for cover to avoid being eaten.
 
2012-01-10 07:10:04 PM

Dracolich: They're bound to come up with something you didn't plan while you were preparing and that's when the fun starts.


And this is kind of the core of my point of player agency - for some DMs and groups, this is *not* where the fun starts. The fun is in going through the carefully designed story, and carefully planned encounters that the DM has laid out. The ability of the players to change this disrupts the story/encounters that have been so lovingly crafted.

It's a valid way of playing, just one that I personally hate.
 
2012-01-10 07:18:33 PM

kyoryu: As adventures get more-and-more plot oriented, they've become more railroads, and player agency is removed. Which is fine.


Nah, it's probably worse than that. The big advantage of role playing with friends over a video game is that your options are limitless. You have more than three options for dialog. You can climb that tree, hang on with one hand, and then fight with the other. You can light the town on fire by accident. You can start a minor religious war with the paladin in your party over the fact that you put good before law while he puts law before good. You can con npcs with a trick of your own making. You can build your own damn castle dab smack where the druid grove used to be.

Railroading makes role playing into a video game-like experience. Letting your pcs do their own thing is much more interesting especially as the game master, unfortunately it's pretty tough to keep that going smoothly after 5 players (I usually have 6-8). Sandbox style games rely on every player having a voice.
 
2012-01-10 07:29:26 PM

kyoryu: The fun is in going through the carefully designed story, and carefully planned encounters that the DM has laid out. The ability of the players to change this disrupts the story/encounters that have been so lovingly crafted.


Yeah, that.

A while ago I came to the conclusion that I needed to keep a bunch of appropriately leveled crap on hand. Spares. Things to grab. Each new level I add to it so that they have a change to meet some of the old staples too. Hell, the monster manual is right there if you're stuck. Wing it. You don't need to have organization to do this, just confidence. Know your tools, make the tools you need, and don't try to pull off novel concepts on the fly.

You know what PCs really like? Rolling the random loot right there on the spot. It's like gambling. Let each player roll for one piece of loot starting from the very top level of variability (whether it's a weapon, potion, ref book, etc) True, the creature can't use it in combat this way but it's great for a locked chest or an unused scroll or potion. If you want to keep it leveled, bring your own list of acceptable rewards and let them salivate on it.
 
2012-01-10 07:52:50 PM

Dracolich: kyoryu: As adventures get more-and-more plot oriented, they've become more railroads, and player agency is removed. Which is fine.

Nah, it's probably worse than that. The big advantage of role playing with friends over a video game is that your options are limitless. You have more than three options for dialog. You can climb that tree, hang on with one hand, and then fight with the other. You can light the town on fire by accident. You can start a minor religious war with the paladin in your party over the fact that you put good before law while he puts law before good. You can con npcs with a trick of your own making. You can build your own damn castle dab smack where the druid grove used to be.


I agree, and I have little interest in railroad games. OTOH, I know a lot of people that love them. I'm not quite arrogant enough to tell them that they're doing it wrong, even if in my heart of hearts I believe it.

At any rate, my point is more that as that's become the de facto standard, game design has to change to be appropriate for that play style.

Dracolich: A while ago I came to the conclusion that I needed to keep a bunch of appropriately leveled crap on hand. Spares. Things to grab. Each new level I add to it so that they have a change to meet some of the old staples too. Hell, the monster manual is right there if you're stuck. Wing it. You don't need to have organization to do this, just confidence. Know your tools, make the tools you need, and don't try to pull off novel concepts on the fly.


We used to call that "DMing". :D

Seriously, part of the fun of old-school D&D is in not knowing what's going to happen, as the DM doesn't even necessarily know. (He knows what *might* happen in an area, but not necessarily what *will* happen).
 
2012-01-10 08:00:56 PM
So, any farkers running an online tabletop rpg and need an extra player? Any system?
 
2012-01-10 08:19:28 PM

Dracolich: GM will simply say "you're all knocked unconscious and wake up strapped to a table"


Although that can be a great way to start a campaign.

kyoryu: And this is kind of the core of my point of player agency - for some DMs and groups, this is *not* where the fun starts.


I'm gonna go ahead and say it: the players have as much power (and as much responsibility) for creating a fun gaming experience as the DM. I always trot back to Fiasco for this, but Fiasco proves that you don't need a DM to create a fun, story-driven game.

It's all about setting expectations, though. The last campaign I played in, the DM tried to give us a sandbox environment where we could wander around and do anything, but it wasn't clear that was his goal- there were also distinct plot points that we would encounter too. The DM's job is to restrict liberty so that the players can violate those restrictions.
 
2012-01-10 09:54:38 PM

mongbiohazard: They also had Autoduel Quarterly magazine, just for Car Wars for a while. There were also rules for boats, trucks, aircraft...

I miss Car Wars.


Car Wars ranks up there with my all-time favorite tabletop games. I still have almost every issue of ADQ and all of my books, counters and maps. Man, I miss the days of playing that for hours on end.
 
2012-01-10 10:10:47 PM

t3knomanser: Dracolich: GM will simply say "you're all knocked unconscious and wake up strapped to a table"

Although that can be a great way to start a campaign.


Indeed it can. In the few fantasy campaigns I've run (usually WFRP 1st Edition) I've tried to avoid the tavern cliche, and gone for other, slightly less worn out cliches:

"You are all aligned on the gallows, with a black-hooded executioner preparing to slip a noose around [Random Player]'s neck" was the start of a Usual Suspects influenced adventure.

Waking up in prison is another good one. Last time I did that, I had them decide what crime they were in for, why they had done it (none of them were allowed to be wrongfully imprisoned that time) and how someone benefited from getting them there. Great way to get adventure hooks and instant recurring villain ideas.

Will have to try strapped to a table next time. Maybe tat came my first foray into the current World of Darkness/Vampire setting
 
2012-01-10 10:25:31 PM
WFRP. It'll be a cold day in hell before GW gets any of my money.
 
2012-01-10 11:31:23 PM

lotofsnow: "This isn't fair!" Beautiful. Our Friend The Computer would be proud.


IIRC, someone shoved him against the door to dampen the explosion, which worked, resulting in only minor injuries to the party, but complete and temporary deafness. I made them stop talking and write me notes as to what they were doing, then carried out all the actions simultaneously. Chaos and hilarity.
 
2012-01-10 11:35:24 PM
Just yesterday I GMed my kid using the Azamar RPG, an OpenD6 variant system. He was so happy when his mace took out all the HPs of an attacking Orc at the third strike.

img.photobucket.com
 
2012-01-11 01:10:59 AM

LucklessWonder: Indeed it can [...] Will have to try strapped to a table next time.


I'm late to the thread it seems, but I gotta get my two cents in.

My current gaming group has been gaming together for about eight years now and have our interpersonal dynamics well worked out, and are all bang-up RP'ers to boot. To that end, unless I have a particular tone or theme to play up I completely skip the "you all meet..." angles and start the PC's out already knowing each other. I'm running a drow campaign right now under Pathfinder rules and in a stylized Forgotten Realms setting, and just had the PC's all part of a raiding party that had been training as a single unit since childhood with the first game being their blooding. In the Vampire game before that, three of my PC's were all members of the same Sabbat pack and the other three were Camarilla members who, while not part of a coterie knew each other from just living in the same city.
 
2012-01-11 02:06:16 AM

that bosnian sniper: LucklessWonder: Indeed it can [...] Will have to try strapped to a table next time.

I'm late to the thread it seems, but I gotta get my two cents in.

My current gaming group has been gaming together for about eight years now and have our interpersonal dynamics well worked out, and are all bang-up RP'ers to boot. To that end, unless I have a particular tone or theme to play up I completely skip the "you all meet..." angles and start the PC's out already knowing each other. I'm running a drow campaign right now under Pathfinder rules and in a stylized Forgotten Realms setting, and just had the PC's all part of a raiding party that had been training as a single unit since childhood with the first game being their blooding. In the Vampire game before that, three of my PC's were all members of the same Sabbat pack and the other three were Camarilla members who, while not part of a coterie knew each other from just living in the same city.


i've been known to have each player roll a couple of dice, say d6s. They know the other characters who's players they match numbers with. Starting in a small geographical area makes this pretty simple. of course, since a lot of my groups tend towards smaller sizes, knowing all of each other (or being related in a few cases) works pretty well, too.
 
2012-01-11 06:41:22 AM

kyoryu: As far as the druid power, it's totally different anyway - while the end result (granting CA) might be the same, the means are totally different. The defenses against a bag of sand are *totally different* than the defenses against a swarm of freakin' locusts. I'd smack any player that couldn't grasp that with the rulebook.


OK, I admit I'm not familiar with this druid power and I don't have my rulebook on me, so let's not get caught up in the details of the specific example. My point is baseline margin of error for Rule 0 calls. In AD&D this was very high. In D&D3 it narrowed considerably. In D&D4 it's downright constricting.

kyoryu: Another way is to look at it as providing a reference point for how strong the ability actually is. At-will one-shot-and-you're-dead? Probably a bit much. At-will CA? Probably okay, there's precedent.


This is how any reasonable DM makes decisions. My point is that 4E is so balanced that you're walking on eggshells because there will always be some at-will power to compare to, and a lot of the at-wills really aren't all that powerful and can get overwhelmed by a little creativity -- at which point, what's the point in having them?

Throwing sand in someone's eyes is effective. It's a very old trick because it works. And in prior editions of D&D, I could rule the effects based on causality even if it wound up being more powerful than certain spells (because, let's be honest, some AD&D spells were shiat). If I DM'ed a session of D&D4 I'd. . . do the same thing, really. The difference is in the reaction of the players. They could dig into the book to compare it to certain at-will powers and frankly they'd have a case. "Well, this at-will power does this; why is this improvised attack more powerful?" My point is not that the mistake of accidentally making "sand in the face" too powerful can't be avoided. Of course it can be avoided, in just the way you explained. It's also easy to fix -- just say, "OK, we're not doing it that way anymore." These are not counterarguments to my point! My point is that no DM is perfect, but in AD&D as long as "sand in the face" is not so convenient that everyone uses it, I have a fair amount of wiggle room to guess how effective it is. Basically it's about whether mood breaks down or not; a bunch of adventurers all carrying bags of sand is rather unheroic. In D&D4, though, there's another problem -- I have to make sure this improvised ability does not render any at-will power obsolete or I upset game balance. It's possible to make the right call on the first try, and I can always revise my ruling later, but the chances of making a mistake are greatly increased.

Oh, problem easily avoided -- make every DM ruling perfect on the first try. Except after 20 years of DMing I still can't do that. Make fun of my intelligence all you want; that's my headache. This just my opinion, but a game system only needs to hold the suspension of disbelief while expediting judgement calls. A game that forces corrections to preserve balance is unnecessarily fragile and that just gets in my way.

kyoryu: I'm seriously not seeing anything here that makes the situation worse in 4e than any other game. Are the constraints slightly tighter? Maybe.


I'd argue they're a LOT tighter, but whatever -- I'm glad we're getting somewhere.

Liking a game is a matter of opinion so I try to refrain from calling one game "better" than another (not saying I've never done that, but I shouldn't). My foray into this thread is to help clarify, for myself and others, WHY some people prefer older editions. The 4E fans think it's purely due to familiarity and nostalgia, and that's the myth I'm busting. No system is perfect -- I've said numerous times AD&D is flawed & clunky -- but it seems 4E fans are stubbornly reluctant to even consider that D&D4 is flawed. I'm not trying to stop anyone from playing it; I'm just airing out my impressions of it. I can take a "well that's not a problem for me" but it seems a lot of effort was spent disagreeing these characteristics exist at all when it's part of the core design.

D&D4 was explicitly designed to be as balanced as possible. This will solve some problems but lead to others, and to old-schoolers the compromise wasn't worth it. What's the problem? Why get so defensive about game mechanics? I'm not picking any fights; it's the insistence that the compromise doesn't exist at all that rankles -- especially when old-schoolers (not necessarily in this thread) are being accused of clinging to old systems by confusing nostalgia for superiority. There are REASONS why AD&D CAN be more fun, and -- in the hopes we all learn something -- I wanted to discuss that.
 
2012-01-11 07:01:55 AM

t3knomanser: I'm gonna go ahead and say it: the players have as much power (and as much responsibility) for creating a fun gaming experience as the DM.


Oh hell yes. I've been flat-out abused by players on occasion, and DMing is usually a thankless job as it is. It's awesome when the players police themselves, though.

I liken it to field sports. OK, it's fun when you casually play some pick-up soccer, and ha-ha, yeah, that was funny when you kicked the ball into your own net. Then there's kicking the ball backwards constantly, on purpose, thinking it's funny every time. There's only so much fun to be had, and eventually it gets annoying and boring. Anyone with a nickel's worth of maturity gets hungry with a desire to elevate the game. Messing around is fun, but it just can't beat the thrill of playing to the best of your potential -- but that takes practice, communication, cooperation and discipline.

t3knomanser: The DM's job is to restrict liberty so that the players can violate those restrictions.


I dunno; I've had players basically troll me by seeing the obvious plot hook and then passing on it because they felt too "confined". . . then whine that I didn't give them anything to do. Or did I misunderstand?

Maybe I disagree with the word; the DM has to provide structure -- a setting, some characters, some plot hooks. Beyond that the players can either get hooked or just bust through the wall -- ideally. But in practice it's harsh. Sure, I can wing it if the players decide to skip out on that 8-level dungeon I prepared with more hooks than a tackle box and layers of intrigue to just shoot the shiat at the brothel, but invariably the quality of play isn't going to be as good and I'm not going to be motivated to make it any better.
 
2012-01-11 07:33:10 AM

LucklessWonder: Maybe tat came my first foray into the current World of Darkness/Vampire setting


We still prefer old World of Darkness.

dragonchild: D&D4 was explicitly designed to be as balanced as possible.


Older editions were balanced in the sense that a level 1 fighter can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 1 mage, but a level 20 mage can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 20 fighter. That was true in every edition, at least through 3.5. Sure, a level 1 mage might get lucky and hit the fighter with sleep, but chances are the mage lost initiative and got sliced in half by 1d8 + X points of damage. Sorcerers were great in 3E because they added flexibility for arcane casters, with the side-effect of arguably being slightly less powerful in the long-run than wizards.

I picked up the 4th ed. PHB when it released. I was so disappointed I never bothered looking at 4th ed. at all. It didn't even feel like D&D anymore. 3E at least felt like D&D while seeming like an improvement on the rules.
 
2012-01-11 07:34:56 AM

dragonchild: I dunno; I've had players basically troll me by seeing the obvious plot hook and then passing on it because they felt too "confined". . . then whine that I didn't give them anything to do. Or did I misunderstand?

Maybe I disagree with the word; the DM has to provide structure -- a setting, some characters, some plot hooks. Beyond that the players can either get hooked or just bust through the wall -- ideally. But in practice it's harsh. Sure, I can wing it if the players decide to skip out on that 8-level dungeon I prepared with more hooks than a tackle box and layers of intrigue to just shoot the shiat at the brothel, but invariably the quality of play isn't going to be as good and I'm not going to be motivated to make it any better.


Just remember this principle when designing your campaign:

No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
 
2012-01-11 07:54:42 AM
Only first edition for me
farm8.staticflickr.com
 
2012-01-11 08:27:03 AM

dragonchild: Maybe I disagree with the word; the DM has to provide structure


That's more what I was meaning. "Here's a world, populated with interesting stuff and a few clear objectives. Feel free to shake it and see what breaks." Sometimes, the shooting-the-shiat sessions are some of the best. I once played with a group that used robbing banks as its go to activity. I'd give them a plot, and then they'd say, "Where's the nearest bank?" and ignore the plot completely. One of those sessions, though, was the most hilarious affair I had ever run- the players spent hours- hours planning their heist only to finally decide the best thing to do was walk in, shoot anyone who resisted, and take the money.

Some examples of their earlier plans:
P1: "Okay, we get some explosives, and we blow the roof off the bank. Then we use a helicopter and lower ourselves into the vault from above."
P2: "Would that work?"
P1: "Sure- why would they armor the top of the vault. There's a roof there!"
P2: "Well, where will we get the explosives."
P3: "We can steal them from the military outpost!"
-- after five more minutes of them spiraling through this heist, I break in
DM: YOU'RE ON A SPACE STATION.
P1: "So?"
 
2012-01-11 08:34:24 AM

Sid_6.7: Older editions were balanced in the sense that a level 1 fighter can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 1 mage, but a level 20 mage can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 20 fighter.

Balance wasn't a priority!

The vorpal sword is utterly broken; Gygax cared far more about things like, well, adventure.

If you wanted to enjoy combat, you were a FIGHTER. There was no sense of balance to this; fighters FIGHT. You played a mage for different reasons, namely the flexibility. Playing a mage and then whining because there isn't anything to do in an armored brawl was being a spoiled brat. The purpose of AD&D was adventure, not combat or balance; otherwise TSR never would've left the miniatures game (and I find it ironic that the game is going back to that). Combat was fun, but it was only one part of a four-course meal*. A character could have nothing to do in combat and still have a lot of fun; in fact a lot of characters thrived this way. In some of the most memorable D&D sessions, no player so much as rolled for initiative.

It was the DM's responsibility to make sure everyone was entertained, not given something to do in combat. The thief was darn near useless in combat; s/he exceled at recon, burglary, ambush and traps. You played a thief to do those things. Combat was the fighter's moment to shine. If you sat at the gaming table to paint the world with blood, common sense said play a damn fighter.

D&D4 was designed on the assumption that combat is the most important aspect of the game to balance. Hell, they classify classes and monsters by combat role. The rest of the stuff is tucked away in the back like an afterthought. Here's where it stops looking like an RPG and more like a video game on paper.

Sid_6.7: Just remember this principle when designing your campaign: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.


Sure they do; I just had to change the plan. I really don't mess with dungeons too much anymore because it seems the players I get stuck with value autonomy over adventure. If the PCs ignore my NPCs then I just have the NPCs do their thing. Eventually they pay the price for their lack of vision. For example, I might give the PCs a chance to overthrow the local power-hungry noble as a plot hook. Knowing the PCs' tendencies I can decide the noble is a paranoid prude. If they fart around at the brothel too long, they miss their chance. Next thing you know, the noble declares martial law, confiscates all weapons and arranges to have all brothels burned and prostitutes publicly executed (if only a hero was brave enough to stop him. . .). The town's problem is now their problem. If they just don't get it, if the PCs refuse to participate and just use D&D as a sadistic means of wasting my time, I walk.**

*Combat, exploring, character development and story. Spells, classes and even an ability score were devoted to the non-combat facets of the game.
**Aside from serious social issues, I don't know why players did this. Honestly, it's like going to a restaurant and ordering the most expensive dish on the menu just for the smug joy of refusing to eat or pay for it. OK you're an asshole, point proved, but where the hell is the fun in that? Weren't you hungry? I came to game; let's game!
 
2012-01-11 09:53:47 AM
I loved 4e. It's what got me and my friends back into table top rpgs after 10+ years. I never understood people who need rules and mechanics for role-playing. 4e offered skills and skill challenges (which granted, were horribly explained in the core books) and there was no more insta death BS. At lvl 1 PCs felt unique and a cut above the plebeians.

I LOVED the balance between classes and roles. Wizards weren't the end all, be all class. That was always the worst for me when I played older editions of D&D. Once you got around lvl 7-8 and up your Fighter, Ranger, Barbarian was just there for his skills and strength checks, and thats only if the party Wizard hadn't prepared a spell to completely negate the need for any other class besides "the healer". With roles they allowed playing a Leader without feeling like a healbot.

But that's just the combat aspect of it. We never had troubles with the role-playing. We've had epic stories, characters, and quests that have simply made it hard for us to top. I never understood people who seemed to think that 4e killed role-playing, your character sheet doesn't prevent you from playing your character how you want to play them. We had entire sessions were no combat took place and we still had loads of fun.

4e was the first time I had fun both as a player and as a DM. I remember old Monster Manual were some of the lowliest creatures still took over a page just for stats, meanwhile 4e was able to fit 4 kinds of kobolds on one page. And the whole thing was so easily modifiable. Players burning through your encounter? Drop in a trap or hazard on the fly. Shaking things up and making your players feel like their on the verge of death was never easier without making them feel like 1 bad role was all it took to go from live and kicking to rolling a new pc.

4e has its issues, don't get me wrong. Math problems for one, and the game bogs down in higher tiers due to too many options for players. That's expected though. In older editions Mages had a whole spellbook to contend with and now everyone shares a bit of that load. Limiting magic items and using inherent bonuses worked for us, but I've heard other means of handling it.

Personally I think if you wrote off 4e it was either because you had a bad DM and first time experience with it, or you were just too close minded and caught up in old tropes/sacred cows to actually give it a shot. Hopefully 5e won't kill off the good things 4e brought to the table.
 
2012-01-11 11:22:49 AM

awesomologist: I never understood people who need rules and mechanics for role-playing.


We don't "need". We never NEED; that's a straw man that needs to be burned already, as if 20-year veteran gamers helplessly curl up into weeping balls of fail without role-playing mechanics. It's an RoI issue. In 4E, sure, I CAN create all the substance I need to make an in-depth role-playing experience, but when it comes to role-playing, I do all the work. There's literally almost nothing to work with, and no one has really disputed this. Instead, complaints about the required effort are mocked. AD&D practically forces role-playing what with alignment systems, utility and combat spells sharing the same slots, and finding stuff for the non-combat classes to do. And this was the earlier version! People whined about it, but I think this is a case of be careful what you wish for.

Can I make 4E work? Sure. I'm an experienced gamer; fark, I can make Tetris a role-playing experience. But 4E is more suited for a tabletop version of Diablo than a rich role-playing experience. So. . . why use it? Don't tell me 4E can be epic or can be role-played. How does it facilitate role-playing? The answer is, it doesn't. Whether or not it can work is secondary to the fact that, with other options available, some people will use systems that work better for them. That's not evidence they're incapable; they're just making a sensible choice.
 
2012-01-11 11:35:23 AM

awesomologist: I loved 4e. It's what got me and my friends back into table top rpgs after 10+ years. I never understood people who need rules and mechanics for role-playing. 4e offered skills and skill challenges (which granted, were horribly explained in the core books) and there was no more insta death BS. At lvl 1 PCs felt unique and a cut above the plebeians.


The arguement, as I understand it, is that it is unfair for players who are naturally more charismatic and/or used to social interaction to have the ability to tank their character's social stats in favor of combat stats...and still use their natural eloquence to out-perform the person playing a "social" character who has sacrificed his combat stats for social ones.

I disagree with it for two reasons. One, it supposes a 100% disconnect between the player and their character - which is impossible. No matter what you're playing, YOU control the character; the character doesn't make their own decisions. The Player is ultimately responsible for what the character does. Two, the player with a CHA 6 who is a better natural speaker than the player with a CHA 18 bard and uses that natural ability to have his character be more charismatic than the bard is a bad roleplayer. He's not playing his character; while you can't separate the PC from the player, you CAN expect players to limit their own ability to better represent that character.

The player with the CHA 6 PC there is analogous to an actor. If the character whose part the actor is to play is explicitly supposed to have a limp (say, Richard II) and the actor doesn't portray that, we say that the actor is a bad actor.

But because we can't trust players to be good actors and accurately portray their characters, and because modern gaming theory has done its level best to remove the power of the GM over the players (so he can't smack them with a metaphorical - and occasionally literal - bat and tell them they're playing wrong), we turn to the only thing that DOES have the "power" to make players play in a certain way. Thus, rule governing roleplay and social interaction.

More's the pity.
 
2012-01-11 11:35:35 AM

awesomologist: Personally I think if you wrote off 4e it was either because you had a bad DM and first time experience with it, or you were just too close minded and caught up in old tropes/sacred cows to actually give it a shot.


Actually it was because after careful deliberation and several games, I found the game systems to be shoddy, unwieldy, impractical, and overly time-consuming, focused far too heavily on over-the-top combat, generally poor for constructing a noncartoonish setting, and, above all, such a vast departure from the 30 year cornerstone of tabletop roleplaying that to call it Dungeons and Dragons is an insult to basement-dwellers everywhere.
 
2012-01-11 11:36:30 AM

dragonchild: awesomologist: I never understood people who need rules and mechanics for role-playing.

We don't "need". We never NEED; that's a straw man that needs to be burned already, as if 20-year veteran gamers helplessly curl up into weeping balls of fail without role-playing mechanics. It's an RoI issue. In 4E, sure, I CAN create all the substance I need to make an in-depth role-playing experience, but when it comes to role-playing, I do all the work. There's literally almost nothing to work with, and no one has really disputed this. Instead, complaints about the required effort are mocked. AD&D practically forces role-playing what with alignment systems, utility and combat spells sharing the same slots, and finding stuff for the non-combat classes to do. And this was the earlier version! People whined about it, but I think this is a case of be careful what you wish for.

Can I make 4E work? Sure. I'm an experienced gamer; fark, I can make Tetris a role-playing experience. But 4E is more suited for a tabletop version of Diablo than a rich role-playing experience. So. . . why use it? Don't tell me 4E can be epic or can be role-played. How does it facilitate role-playing? The answer is, it doesn't. Whether or not it can work is secondary to the fact that, with other options available, some people will use systems that work better for them. That's not evidence they're incapable; they're just making a sensible choice.


Need more details...
 
2012-01-11 12:11:09 PM

FightDirector: the player with a CHA 6 who is a better natural speaker than the player with a CHA 18 bard and uses that natural ability to have his character be more charismatic than the bard is a bad roleplayer. He's not playing his character; while you can't separate the PC from the player, you CAN expect players to limit their own ability to better represent that character.


Good point, bad example. Playing down is easy. It matters, but the rules are largely for playing UP. For example, I may be horrible at negotiating IRL (and I am), whereas another gamer is naturally a smooth-talker with a PC of Cha 6. You're saying the smooth-talker should still play his PC as socially inept, and that's correct. But as you say, that's really just a matter of restricting the player. I, however, should NOT be expected to smooth-talk like a bard with Cha 18 any more than I should have to bench-press 150kg with my skinny arms because my PC is making a Strength check. I can't do it, and I play D&D to escape from that. If I'm trying to haggle with a merchant and not making a convincing case verbally, I should be able to say, "Look, eff it, my bard has 18 Charisma and I don't; I wanna roll the dice to see if I succeed." And I want to be more likely to succeed than the Cha 6 guy, because I paid a damn high price for that 18 Charisma.

That Cha 18 represents both investment and expected payoff. This is where AD&D seamlessly integrates roll-playing with role-playing. You wanna play a smooth talker, and a lot of players had fun doing that, then odds are you're giving up that precious 18 which would be more useful in combat in, say, Strength. It SHOULD nerf your combat abilities; that's the point. If it didn't, then the fighter would just have both -- sure, the 18 Strength is more important, but if social skills are free, why not have them too? Because maybe I want to play that Cha 18 bard that makes the fighter look as socially inept as he really is. "Real role-players" aren't gluttons for punishment so much as players who enjoy the other facets of the game MORE, yet D&D4 won't let them invest in them. A meaningful investment needs a trade-off, but D&D4 believes that no aspect of role-playing should lead to compromise, so they did everything they could to isolate one aspect of the game from the other. I know why they did that, but it basically shut entire categories of players out of the game. D&D4 tried to force them into a structure they're not interested in, no better than anyone else at the non-combat aspects and necessarily part of the combat. Faced with that non-choice, they just walk away from the system.
 
2012-01-11 12:17:42 PM

dragonchild: I, however, should NOT be expected to smooth-talk like a bard with Cha 18 any more than I should have to bench-press 150kg with my skinny arms because my PC is making a Strength check.


"Sorry dude, you're just not smart enough to play a wizard with 18 Int."
 
2012-01-11 12:26:36 PM

SuperChuck: Need more details...


Well, if you're putting me on the spot, I'd imagine I'm a foreman for a quarantine structure. There's a bio-weapon spreading plague through the city, which is also being shelled. I'm using an innovative software program to find gaps or damage and remotely direct my crew to them (using simple left, right and down commands); as a layer or hole is sealed, it vanishes, the software makes my job easier. I can repair up to four layers at once and it's typically more efficient to do so (multiple lines = higher scores), but a badly patched section requires more work (which is represented by older gaps being buried under newer ones). Unfortunately I'm dealing with overwhelmed buyers and inept distributors, so while I'm constantly getting parts I have no control over what they are or what order they arrive in. As the plague spreads and shelling intensifies we're forced to work faster and faster -- the software's pace is dictated by CDC info indicating how fast the walls must be repaired. Too many leaks would undermine the integrity -- and we lose quarantine. Lives are at stake; if I fail, we all fail, and we all die. Takes quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but there you go -- Tetris is now an RPG.

/ I don't like D&D4 so I must not be creative
 
2012-01-11 12:44:54 PM

dragonchild: SuperChuck: Need more details...

Well, if you're putting me on the spot, I'd imagine I'm a foreman for a quarantine structure. There's a bio-weapon spreading plague through the city, which is also being shelled. I'm using an innovative software program to find gaps or damage and remotely direct my crew to them (using simple left, right and down commands); as a layer or hole is sealed, it vanishes, the software makes my job easier. I can repair up to four layers at once and it's typically more efficient to do so (multiple lines = higher scores), but a badly patched section requires more work (which is represented by older gaps being buried under newer ones). Unfortunately I'm dealing with overwhelmed buyers and inept distributors, so while I'm constantly getting parts I have no control over what they are or what order they arrive in. As the plague spreads and shelling intensifies we're forced to work faster and faster -- the software's pace is dictated by CDC info indicating how fast the walls must be repaired. Too many leaks would undermine the integrity -- and we lose quarantine. Lives are at stake; if I fail, we all fail, and we all die. Takes quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but there you go -- Tetris is now an RPG.

/ I don't like D&D4 so I must not be creative


Err.... I was kidding but OK. Still not really an RPG. Now it's a puzzle game with a silly story. Of course, you put all of about 30 seconds effort into it which is more than I expected (and far more than it deserves).

Anyway, you're totally right about ability scores. It's playing outside your own strengths that's hard. And that's why rules for social skills exist.
 
2012-01-11 01:14:39 PM

SuperChuck: Still not really an RPG. Now it's a puzzle game with a silly story.


I'm just having fun. That's about all the role-playing you're gonna squeeze out of a puzzle game, anyway. But if you take the silly story seriously, in your mind you are playing a role, not just moving blocks around. There isn't really anything different to do with the mechanics of the game.

And there's the rub. 4E defenders say it's easy to just pile on all the role-playing on top of the combat rules, and if you can't do that you probably suck at role-playing. But how is this any different from "a combat game with a silly story"?

4E is about as good for role-playing as Tetris.
 
2012-01-11 02:20:41 PM

dragonchild: kyoryu: Another way is to look at it as providing a reference point for how strong the ability actually is. At-will one-shot-and-you're-dead? Probably a bit much. At-will CA? Probably okay, there's precedent.

This is how any reasonable DM makes decisions. My point is that 4E is so balanced that you're walking on eggshells because there will always be some at-will power to compare to, and a lot of the at-wills really aren't all that powerful and can get overwhelmed by a little creativity -- at which point, what's the point in having them?


Well, the way I'd typically do it in 4e is to look at a basic attack that the players are throwing around, give it the situational usefulness (as I said, I'd go with granting CA rather than blindness), and then make sure that it's less useful as a round-to-round thing than, say, an MBA. So my bag of sand would probably be a standard action, dex vs. reflex, that caused the target to grant CA (save ends, probably) on a hit.

That's pretty much it. Losing your standard to do this is pretty major, and CA isn't a huge thing. It's probably a little weak, but situationally useful, which would explain why it's not used all the time.

And this is pretty much the first take I had on the "bag of sand" power when it was first brought up. Again, my tendency with things like this is to start them weak and them bump them up, rather than making them awesome out of the gate. That's pretty much how I do it in every version.

the chances of making a mistake are greatly increased.

Oh, problem easily avoided -- make every DM ruling perfect on the first try. Except after 20 years of DMing I still can't do that. Make fun of my intelligence all you want; that's my headache. This just my opinion, but a game system only needs to hold the suspension of disbelief while expediting judgement calls. A game that forces corrections to preserve balance is unnecessarily fragile and that just gets in my way.


Apparently I'm dumber than you, I presume that I'll always screw it up on the first try. So the question I try to answer (not just in D&D) is, *which way do I want to err?* For granting the equivalent of an at-will power, I'm going to go weak. Mostly because opening every fight with a "bag of sand trick" is pretty dull. For something that's highly situational and really awesome, I'll err on the side of awesome, just because they probably won't be in the situation to pull it off again for a long time, if ever, and I want to encourage people to come up with those sorts of things, and to think about using the environment.

If you make the new additional power deliberately weaker than the existing power level, you avoid it being overpowered. Doesn't mean that it still won't be situationally useful, though.

My foray into this thread is to help clarify, for myself and others, WHY some people prefer older editions. The 4E fans think it's purely due to familiarity and nostalgia, and that's the myth I'm busting. No system is perfect -- I've said numerous times AD&D is flawed & clunky -- but it seems 4E fans are stubbornly reluctant to even consider that D&D4 is flawed.

Of course it's flawed. It's a complex system developed by humans. More than that, it serves a specific set of needs and desires, and does not serve other sets. So flawed or not, some people won't like it simply because it's not what they're looking for - even filet mignon isn't going to be a good meal for a vegetarian.

And, FWIW, I made a post earlier in the thread detailing a large number of (from my perspective) 4e's flaws. Fanboi I am not.

Also unfortunately, I think you're making your post in the vein of "4e sucks because of" vs. "here's awesome things that you can do in 1/2e". I'll agree that 1e/2e had a very different, more "open", kind of "anything can happen" feel. But with modern players wanting more strictly controlled stories, less random chance of something bad happening (can you imagine the reaction to a girdle of gender change today, or even a mundane cursed item???), and 4e meets that.

I'll also argue, again, that this is part of the big paradigm shift - there were tons of rules in 1/2e that were about, effectively, retiring characters. All of the keep-building stuff was really to give characters a place to retire *to* apart from being a bartender. All the aging rules, lowered stats on resurrection, all of these things were a very real part of old-school games. The association rules for paladins are another example of something that works well when you have multiple characters, and not at all well when you have a single character in a single party that will go through the single plot. Hell, look at some of the Arnesonian message boards (just search for "arnesonian"), and you'll see references to "retiring" characters. That just doesn't happen any more!

So no, I'm not a 4e fanboi. I acknowledge the awesomeness of 1/2e. (3e, not so much). I also acknowledge the things that 4e does well.

dragonchild: There are REASONS why AD&D CAN be more fun, and -- in the hopes we all learn something -- I wanted to discuss that.


Then discuss that, rather than "this is why 4e sucks" using relatively easily debunked strawmen. You'll find that I don't have any issue at all with '1/2e are awesome', as it's a position I generally hold myself.

dragonchild: I liken it to field sports. OK, it's fun when you casually play some pick-up soccer, and ha-ha, yeah, that was funny when you kicked the ball into your own net.


Amusingly enough, this has actually happened in the World Cup, and deliberately. Apparently the team that did it needed to tie the other team, because otherwise they'd have been knocked out, and the team that would have been in their place had a better head-to-head record against them than the team they were playing.

So by deliberately tying, the comparison came down to Team A and B, where A had the advantage. If they had won cleanly, it would have been A and C, and C had the advantage. Or something, I forget the details.

I don't know if it's really relevant though.

Sid_6.7: Older editions were balanced in the sense that a level 1 fighter can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 1 mage, but a level 20 mage can almost always kick the sh*t out of a level 20 fighter. That was true in every edition, at least through 3.5.


And this was balanced by several facts:

1) The roles were often reversed with other sets of characters in the same campaign.
2) There was a real chance of character mortality - so playing a wizard wasn't guaranteed AWESOME POWER, but rather something that was a reward for surviving the early stages.
3) The party wanted to keep the wizard alive so that he'd be able to be awesome for them later on.

This is really only true in old-school games (like, the original grognard games). But these design decisions persisted. 4e (wisely, IMHO) got rid of them. While I didn't really mind the original balance, when you removed points 1 and 2, it kind of crumbled. Any issues I have with this kind of "enforced balance" is really an issue I have with the shifting of the metagame.

dragonchild: In some of the most memorable D&D sessions, no player so much as rolled for initiative.


Same here. And I've even had that happen in 4e. But there's a difference between "can have fun out of combat" and "has nothing to do during a long combat except watch others."

Again, I think there's the fact that the dominant playstyle in RPGs has shifted to a style close to what 4e encourages - give modern players 1e, and they'll play it, in many ways, like 4e. I'm certainly *not* saying that this is a good thing. In fact, when I run 4e, it tends to be closer to 1e in feel.

dragonchild: For example, I might give the PCs a chance to overthrow the local power-hungry noble as a plot hook. Knowing the PCs' tendencies I can decide the noble is a paranoid prude. If they fart around at the brothel too long, they miss their chance. Next thing you know, the noble declares martial law, confiscates all weapons and arranges to have all brothels burned and prostitutes publicly executed (if only a hero was brave enough to stop him. . .). The town's problem is now their problem.


So, "follow the plot hooks or the plot hooks will follow you?" Not the way I'd run it.

Epicedion: generally poor for constructing a noncartoonish setting, and, above all, such a vast departure from the 30 year cornerstone of tabletop roleplaying that to call it Dungeons and Dragons is an insult to basement-dwellers everywhere.


I'd actually agree with a lot of the above. I despise 4e fluff. When a warforged, a tiefling, a deva, and a revenant githyanki are the party, how do you make anything else seem strange and unusual? You lose the magic. Stupid Drizz't.

dragonchild: I know why they did that, but it basically shut entire categories of players out of the game. D&D4 tried to force them into a structure they're not interested in, no better than anyone else at the non-combat aspects and necessarily part of the combat.


I'd hardly call "being an effective non-combatant" one of the strengths of 1/2e. If I want to run a heavily social game, and one not based on crawling through DUNGEONS and killing DRAGONS, I'll probably play something that's more conducive to that.

Saying that 1/2e were awesome at that kind of stuff is a stretch. 3e, maybe a bit more, but then again, my issue with 3e is that it drifted too far into the "universal system" area. Which ain't why I play D&D.

dragonchild: I do all the work. There's literally almost nothing to work with, and no one has really disputed this.


1/2e has ability scores, making classes useless in certain scenarios, and alignment.

4e has ability scores, a weaker alignment system, themes, and backgrounds.

I'll call it a draw.

dragonchild: That Cha 18 represents both investment and expected payoff. This is where AD&D seamlessly integrates roll-playing with role-playing. You wanna play a smooth talker, and a lot of players had fun doing that, then odds are you're giving up that precious 18 which would be more useful in combat in, say, Strength. It SHOULD nerf your combat abilities; that's the point. If it didn't, then the fighter would just have both -- sure, the 18 Strength is more important, but if social skills are free, why not have them too?


Well, generally classes in 4e that don't use strength suck with weapons, unless they pay for the ability to use them effectively via feats.

A wizard or a bard has little use for strength in combat, though, as their abilities tend to key off of intelligence (wizard) or charisma (bard). Which makes sense.

It's relatively hard for a fighter to get good *social skills*, while they have non-combat skills that make sense for them. Similarly, you don't tend to see wizards that are particularly athletic.

dragonchild: 4E is about as good for role-playing as Tetris.


At this point I'm pretty convinced you're trolling. If you want to tell people about the cool stuff you can do in 1/2e, I'd really suggest focusing on that, rather than '4e sucks'.
 
2012-01-11 03:00:23 PM

kyoryu: And this is pretty much the first take I had on the "bag of sand" power when it was first brought up. Again, my tendency with things like this is to start them weak and them bump them up, rather than making them awesome out of the gate. That's pretty much how I do it in every version.


The "bag of sand" bit was mine. It was just an example, and not a very serious one. The real problem with adjudicating stuff like this on the fly is that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of power cards, and the likelihood of stepping on some class's power set is high.

kyoryu: If you make the new additional power deliberately weaker than the existing power level, you avoid it being overpowered. Doesn't mean that it still won't be situationally useful, though.


The problem with this is that 4E powers are very optimized. Throwing additional stuff haphazardly into the works is going to unbalance things, and there are simply too many set-in-stone powers to go through every time you want to make a ruling.

kyoryu: I'd actually agree with a lot of the above. I despise 4e fluff. When a warforged, a tiefling, a deva, and a revenant githyanki are the party, how do you make anything else seem strange and unusual? You lose the magic. Stupid Drizz't.


Worse yet is all of the backfitting they had to do to get literally every class and race acceptable across all of their licensed products, leading to Faerunian Warforged.

kyoryu: At this point I'm pretty convinced you're trolling. If you want to tell people about the cool stuff you can do in 1/2e, I'd really suggest focusing on that, rather than '4e sucks'.


I think the overall theme here is "4E sucks and you shouldn't trust WotC to turn out a decent 5E." If they had released 4E as some sort of D&D-based tactical dungeon-crawling board game a la Warhammer (or Hero) Quest, we wouldn't be having any conversations about the suckitude of the game. WotC however packaged a D&D-based tactical dungeon-crawling board game as the new D&D edition, which is like pooping in a lot of people's pools.
 
2012-01-11 03:28:43 PM

dragonchild: AD&D practically forces role-playing what with alignment systems, utility and combat spells sharing the same slots, and finding stuff for the non-combat classes to do. And this was the earlier version! People whined about it, but I think this is a case of be careful what you wish for.

4e still uses alignment, it's just no longer a straight jacket. Good people do bad things, bad guys sometimes have soft spots. You can still role-play a lawful evil character. On your sheet just write "lawful" in front of evil if you absolutely need to see it written somewhere. Done.

Utility spells were relegated to Rituals (although they had issues of their own such as cost and casting time). The skill system was simplified and scaled with level. The whole creation of the skill challenge system allows for player creativity in solving non-combat situations. For the non-role player or newbie they could simply rely on rolls for their successes while the established player could try and wow the DM.

Did WotC do a poor job of explaining these mechanics? Yeah, they did. PHB 1 didn't explain these concepts well to the player, and it wasn't until DMG 2 and through DDI that skill challenges and how to adjudicate them where explained well. But anyone who took the time to explore it could easily figure it out and make it work for their table. If you don't like it you can always throw your own system on top and use 4e rules just for the balanced combat system.

In the end nerds don't like change. 4e had a lot of change.
 
2012-01-11 03:42:30 PM

awesomologist: The skill system was simplified and scaled with level.


Hated this. The skill system was what let you represent the general sum of a character's knowledge and experience, interests, and expertise, and what let you break out of the mold of a character class. Dumbing down the skill system shattered the concept of character diversity.
 
2012-01-11 03:59:37 PM

awesomologist: I loved 4e. It's what got me and my friends back into table top rpgs after 10+ years. I never understood people who need rules and mechanics for role-playing. 4e offered skills and skill challenges (which granted, were horribly explained in the core books) and there was no more insta death BS. At lvl 1 PCs felt unique and a cut above the plebeians.

I never understood people who seemed to think that 4e killed role-playing, your character sheet doesn't prevent you from playing your character how you want to play them.


You summarized my points exactly. :) Especially as a caster, 3.5 was a pain in the ass at low levels. I soooooo glad that they got rid of prepared spells and one-a-day system. Also, I like how sorcerers and wizards differentiated themselves.

But I don't like the way WOTC handled 4E, the purposeful cutting up of books was just a cash grab (3 player's guides?). Also, the no cross-classing/hybrid rules (at the beginning) and "you can't do that" alienated a lot of players.

Does a wizard that can duel-wield great-swords* make any sense? NOPE! But players love creating off-the-wall characters, the DM can always say no.

They need to give equal weight to combat and RP. While the lack of rules for RP didn't slow my group down, it seems like it would help a lot of people.

The biggest business FAIL of 4e was the lack of OGL, they really should come up with a Amazon Kindle or iTunes like system for releasing 3rd party content. Just take a cut of the price of any posted item. Users could release everything from maps, adventures, new worlds, etc.

Other tips:
-Fix the character creator, I preferred the old one were I didn't have to be online 24/7. Yes, a game group will probably split the price of one membership. BUT they will then go on to buy more products, it's going to be a loss leader. Option: make it free w/o dragon mag, etc material. Sell adspace on free version, etc.

-Stop the cash grab, have all the basic rules ready at launch (Includes all the baseline classes, races, cross-classing/hybrid rules, RP, etc). You alienated a lot of people because their fav class/race (which used to be baseline) wasn't available at launch

-PDF is your friend, release the books on itunes, kindle, etc The PDF of all the books somehow makes it online anyway, might has well make money off it.

-New editions every 5 years wastes a lot of money. Use the itunes/kindle method and extend the life of your product to 10 - 15 years.

/*Yes, you can create this character in 3.5 legally. In fact, this is the reason why a friend of mine refuses to play 4e. He loves his magical lawnmower of doom.
 
2012-01-11 04:05:03 PM

kyoryu: 3) The party wanted to keep the wizard alive so that he'd be able to be awesome for them later on.


I can't dispute this, as this is how parties behaved. But in reality, the mage wasn't much more likely to die than a fighter at 1st level. The fighters, actually, were in grave danger because they were expected from the beginning to absorb hits, but only had enough hit points to absorb one or two bad ones (strategy for survival: equip splint mail + shield and pray the DM doesn't get "lucky"). Mages might be only one hit away from death, but they started out with the same THAC0 and often put their second-highest score in Dex to A) be harder to hit and B) get some bonuses for attacking with a ranged weapon. The "I only have one magic missile" complaint was a fallacy because mages were almost as productive at ranged weaponry as anyone else.*

kyoryu: Of course it's flawed. . . Also unfortunately, I think you're making your post in the vein of "4e sucks because of" vs. "here's awesome things that you can do in 1/2e".


I'll admit I could choose my words better, but what you're asking for isn't an argument; it's a circle-jerk. It's OK to think something is bad, and argue it is. It's not personal and I think you're doing a fine job defending D&D4. Gave me plenty of food for thought, for what it's worth. There's some personal offense taken to the argument that D&D4 isn't good for role-playing, which I find baffling because neither of us claim to be fanbois of either system. Hell, why not just take that as a compliment that you're that good at role-playing or something? I'm just not sold on D&D4; the defenses either have little to do with the system itself (which render it obsolete, really) or are veiled ad hominem attacks -- I must be uncreative, or bad at role-playing, or resistant to change. There isn't a single example yet of how the system actually facilitates role-playing, and I don't consider my cases de-bunked so much as misinterpreted. For example, "it's hard/annoying to do this" is often countered with "BS, you can". Well, duh. "Annoying" is miles away from "impossible"; my point is I'll take "easy" over "annoying" when it's available. Argument not de-bunked, though I admit this may be a case where we're stuck in disagreement, as "annoying" is just opinion. But then, don't take offense.

kyoryu: I'd hardly call "being an effective non-combatant" one of the strengths of 1/2e.


It's not. We could do a lot better. I just think D&D4 is even worse by comparison because if 1E was clunky, 4E downright neutered whatever it inherited.

Personally, I liked 3E the best because it was by far the most expansive in terms of non-combat mechanics. Probably too expansive; I thought the magic item creation rules were too comprehensive and it's hard to un-ring that bell. But I may be the only person who thought that skill system rawked.

kyoryu: If I want to run a heavily social game, and one not based on crawling through DUNGEONS and killing DRAGONS, I'll probably play something that's more conducive to that.


This is a fallacy, the "D&D was based on a tactical miniatures game" all over again. The name is beside the point. If it was all about combat, they wouldn't have added Charisma a core ability, a decision which predates any 1st edition print I've ever seen. D&D is (IMHO, and in hindsight) a hybrid system where the combat and social abilities are drawn from the same common pool of resources (namely, the ability scores and choice of class). This was the design. You may disagree with me, but I think seeing this design as a flaw to correct was a huge mistake.

kyoryu: So, "follow the plot hooks or the plot hooks will follow you?" Not the way I'd run it.


Nor I, if possible. In context, I'm referring to gamers who basically sat around and didn't interact with the world, then had the gall to complain they're bored. I'd only do this as a last-ditch effort before I quit the group entirely. Proactive players never need a kick in the pants.

kyoryu: At this point I'm pretty convinced you're trolling.


SuperChuck made me do it, I swear! Seriously, my bad, but as long as I'm not hurling personal insults I'm surprised to be labeled a troll. In your direction, it was more intended as a dare to prove me wrong.

*Also, everyone HAD to chip in because cooperation was essential to survival. I would call this a bona fide strength of AD&D that new school gamers don't understand -- nothing builds team cohesion like necessity. A bunch of characters spoiled with the expectation of survival really don't need each other, which can make for awkward "let's pretend we care about each other" moments. In AD&D, a 1st-level fighter and 1st-level mage could be opposite alignments; the threat of death forced them to work together. This actually happens in Baldur's Gate.
 
2012-01-11 04:33:49 PM

Epicedion: If they had released 4E as some sort of D&D-based tactical dungeon-crawling board game a la Warhammer (or Hero) Quest, we wouldn't be having any conversations about the suckitude of the game. WotC however packaged a D&D-based tactical dungeon-crawling board game as the new D&D edition, which is like pooping in a lot of people's pools.


I wouldn't call it "pooping", but I agree with the impression. If D&D4 was introduced to the market as a tactical game I wouldn't even be in this thread. It's a great fantasy combat simulator; possibly the best ever made. In that sense, the balance is wonderful. It'd make a great spec for the next Diablo or WoW engine. If that was the goal, I'd hail it a smashing success. WotC and its defenders are calling it a bona fide RPG but the evidence for that is downright flimsy.

awesomologist: 4e still uses alignment, it's just no longer a straight jacket. . . Utility spells were relegated to Rituals (although they had issues of their own such as cost and casting time). The skill system was simplified and scaled with level.


Are you reading what you're typing? I'm saying that D&D4 neutered the non-combat mechanics and you're proving the case, plain as day. You may LIKE the changes, but you're making an excellent case that D&D4's developers cared fark all about role-playing.

awesomologist: In the end nerds don't like change.


Again with the "nerds don't like change" bit. Someone, please, explain to me how people who made pages and pages of house rules, by their own admission, are hostile to change.

Epicedion: Hated this. The skill system was what let you represent the general sum of a character's knowledge and experience, interests, and expertise, and what let you break out of the mold of a character class. Dumbing down the skill system shattered the concept of character diversity.


This. This this THIS. I thought it was the culmination of 30 years of progress in role-playing mechanics. Now, not only could the mage try to sneak, the mage could actually learn to sneak without being a rogue -- never being even half as good, sure, but maybe good enough in a pinch. If you're the child of a baker, you can pick up a few points in Profession: Baker and even use that in a role-playing situation!

It made character creation cumbersome, but that work was done between sessions, by players. For monsters they were superfluous enough to be ignored. In-game, the execution of these skills was lightning-quick because they were all pre-calculated. So there weren't any real issues to fix. The only reason to dumb them down was to expedite character creation for lazy players at the expense of character diversity. Which is a sure sign one doesn't care about developing the character outside of combat.
 
2012-01-11 05:09:25 PM
I really enjoy the Paizo love in this thread.

Pathfinder for the WIN!
 
2012-01-11 05:21:36 PM

dragonchild: Proactive players never need a kick in the pants.


Hell, proactive players can almost write the poltlines (well, maybe just the hooks) for you...

CNichols: I really enjoy the Paizo love in this thread.

Pathfinder for the WIN!


This. I just got into it, but I was very happy to find the Advanced Player's Guide I ordered arrived yesterday.
 
2012-01-11 05:29:20 PM

dragonchild: It'd make a great spec for the next Diablo or WoW engine.


No it wouldn't, and I've been in that industry.

dragonchild: Again with the "nerds don't like change" bit


In general, people don't like change. That doesn't mean that all criticism of 4e is unwarranted - again, I've made a bunch of it myself.

dragonchild: If that was the goal, I'd hail it a smashing success. WotC and its defenders are calling it a bona fide RPG but the evidence for that is downright flimsy.


It offers less character/build/non-combat flexibility than 3.x, but more than 1e, and probably 2e. And other games provide more character/build/non-combat flexibility than 3.x. So it's on a spectrum. Saying that it's not an RPG because 3.x is more flexible is no more valid than saying 3.x isn't an RPG because GURPS is more flexible.

You don't like it. It doesn't meet your needs, that's cool. That doesn't mean it's a bad system, or "not an RPG".

dragonchild: Are you reading what you're typing? I'm saying that D&D4 neutered the non-combat mechanics and you're proving the case, plain as day


Compared to 3.x, yes, "neutered". Compared to other versions, especially 1e, not so much.

dragonchild: Now, not only could the mage try to sneak, the mage could actually learn to sneak without being a rogue -- never being even half as good, sure, but maybe good enough in a pinch.


This is easily done in 4e. Feat: Skill Training (Stealth), available at 1st level. And heck, anybody can *try* stealth, they just might not be good at it.

And yes, a mage can wield a greatsword. They just won't get the proficiency bonus, which is pretty significant. I don't know if there's rules about wielding a greatsword in one hand though, but that really gets into physics issues. There might be some way to do it, I haven't looked that up recently.

dragonchild: you can pick up a few points in Profession: Baker and even use that in a role-playing situation!


Why? If one of my players wants to have a baking background, fine, you're a baker. Yay. I'll assume you can do basic baking stuff that anybody with a small amount of training can do. That's well within the realm of DM fiat to me. I really only need rules where the outcome of a scenario really is complex and needs a guidelines, especially one where it's likely to come up frequently.

And if a bake-off is really likely to happen, again, I'll probably run GURPS anyway.

dragonchild: It made character creation cumbersome, but that work was done between sessions, by players.


And? Reasonable character creation in 3.x required a large number of materials, and often using strange multi-class combos to get a result. I'm almost 40. I don't have time to do that kind of research. I assume my players don't, either. I'm not going to suggest that to them when I can get basically the same results from GURPS with about a quarter of the accidental complexity. You want to wield a greatsword? Buy the skill.

GURPS even wins on the RP front, between quirks, advantages, disadvantages, etc.

dragonchild: The only reason to dumb them down was to expedite character creation for lazy players at the expense of character diversity.


It's a cost/benefit analysis. The cost of learning the character creation mechanics sufficiently well to put together an effective character (hint: Straight Fighter is a trap), vs. the benefit of that flexibility.

4e occupies a spot on that continuum. So does 1e and 2e. 4e has more complexity in character creation than 1e, but reasonable flexibility (of the level I've seen players actually use in my experience). 3.x has more flexibility, and more complexity. If I don't need/want that flexibility for my campaign, then it's just a cost. And, again, it's just a point on a continuum. Other games have even more flexibility than 3.x. Greater flexibility isn't the be-all end-all of a system, otherwise you'd be playing a system with more flexibility than 3.x.

Again, 3.x is a fine system. It's just not what I'm looking for. And calling things that aren't what you like "dumbed down" isn't a very compelling argument. It is, in fact, an ad-hominem.
 
2012-01-11 05:33:33 PM
Just so I don't get misinterpreted - my general stance on 3.x is that I'll play it, but won't run it.
 
2012-01-11 05:54:05 PM

Epicedion: awesomologist: The skill system was simplified and scaled with level.

Hated this. The skill system was what let you represent the general sum of a character's knowledge and experience, interests, and expertise, and what let you break out of the mold of a character class. Dumbing down the skill system shattered the concept of character diversity.


I agree completely, but the dumbing down of the skill system was a symptom, not a cause.

The cause was the decision to focus almost all PC class abilities on combat.

/Just got one of the HOLLOW EARTH EXPEDITION supplements I ordered; the system looks meh, but the
setting more than makes up for it.
 
2012-01-11 06:48:46 PM

kyoryu: If one of my players wants to have a baking background, fine, you're a baker. Yay. I'll assume you can do basic baking stuff that anybody with a small amount of training can do. . . And if a bake-off is really likely to happen, again, I'll probably run GURPS anyway.


Sarcasm aside, that's not how I intended this example to be used. Take, for example, the "fallen son of a noble" background. It's a staple of fantasy. The DM can at least explicitly establish that the PC was separated from the family fortune without much dispute, but the potential for abuse was pretty obvious. Without any sort of system, being the son of a peasant was just nerfing yourself. The player thus begs the question, just how much of a fop is this character? Sure, you can rely on the honor system or Rule 0, which is what I guess 4E players do, but I'll address that later.

So let's say the party is in a situation where a history of the PC's noble family would help. Here's where the PC invariably pipes up, "I have a background!" This will happen. Problem? No investment in the skill. None. In 2E and 3E, you actually had to spend points, points that could otherwise be used for skills like Search. So it was rare. If you had zero points in History (nobility) but claimed you had the background, the DM would turn right around and say, "So? You didn't learn shiat. Obviously you hated it enough to become an adventurer, fine, but this tells me you hated it so much you weren't paying attention during your lessons and forgot everything as quickly as you could. You have ZERO points in the skill. And now that it's suddenly useful, you want to pretend your character gave a rat's ass about all that family history blah-blah all those years ago?"

Here's where the skill system shines. Zero points is evidence the character hated nobility, regardless of whatever the hell the player's whining now that it's suddenly useful. It even blows up any case the player makes about wanting to "restore the family's honor" in a later adventure (hint hint). Kind of hard to restore something you didn't give a shiat about. A couple points means the player maybe didn't hate it, but pretty much prefers adventuring -- or maybe liked being a noble but didn't care for the responsibility. Enough to be useful on occasion, but re-claiming the family fortune is a stretch. A high skill score indicates the character embraced his family history and being disowned was the worst thing to happen to him -- so if you're putting that in your background in hopes of re-claiming the family's fame and fortune, you damn well better spend the points! And this was a fine compromise. Burning points in nobility meant you were serious about that background and not asking to have it for free. The 4E alternative is purely honor system or Rule 0 -- you have to either trust the PCs to not abuse their backgrounds (which in certain situations is very hard to resist), or universally rule all backgrounds irrelevant at the expense of genuinely interesting campaign development. In 4E, there's no way for a player to actually invest in a background to show they're really, really serious about this "taking back the family honor" thing. And this is just one example.

So, AD&D2 and D&D3 forced the choice. It wasn't just an alternative to the honor/Rule0 system of players NOT making their backgrounds a campaign issue. "Background" wasn't a wall of text tacked onto the back of a PC sheet; it was something you integrated into your stats that indicated, better than anything else, how important this or that was to the PC. This is why "min/maxing" and "munchkins" were so detested; it was easy to make an adventuring machine, but you wound up with a PC that lacked substance -- just a silly story padding unrelated stats, a mockery of the role-playing aspect of the game. D&D4 removed the problem entirely by basically embracing the powergamer method. If the character knows a non-combat skill, s/he knows it -- end of story. That, more than anything else, got the "WTF is this I don't even" reaction out of me.

kyoryu: 4e has more complexity in character creation than 1e, but reasonable flexibility (of the level I've seen players actually use in my experience). 3.x has more flexibility, and more complexity. If I don't need/want that flexibility for my campaign, then it's just a cost.


OK, point taken. I can live with this.
 
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