Archive for October, 2017

D&D 4th Edition

I was on another forum, and some benighted soul started spouting the nonsense that 4e was only “an MMO on paper”. I searched out a thread I started on enworld.org, (http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?522610-Speculation-about-quot-the-feelz-quot-of-D-amp-D-4th-Edition) to read some of the counter-arguments from people who are more eloquent defenders of the rules than I.


Here, for example, is a post from one “Manbearcat”:

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighter-CricketView Post

    Well, they produced a game edition where the combats are tactically engaging and can take too long for certain people. I wouldn’t call that “onetrueway-ism”. I can’t see anyone who is saying “Why can’t I play grid based and tactical combat in Vampire? Clearly White Wolf suffers from onetrueway-ism.” 

    There are different games for different audiences. I am quite happy that the D&D scene is so divided that D&D can’t really be seen as a “game for all tastes” anymore. It doesn’t have to be imo. There are so many great games for everyone: story driven handwavy things, games for the grid crowd, boardgamey rpgs, games building up on a vast lore background, just plain silly ones, and even some where you die of blood poisoning because you have been stabbed by a rusty blade and you ran out of dried fruit to eat (I’m looking at you “Torchbearer”). There is no WotC monopoly anymore that forces a gamer to play the newest edition of D&D or any edition.

    Great post. I’m going to elaborate a bit on the “feelz” of AD&D1e vs Basic vs 2e vs 3.x vs 4e vs 5e in a future post. I’m sorry, but this idea that each system doesn’t have a distinct, systemitized (either due to tightness in design or incoherency) play experience is not true. While 5e harkens back to AD&D2e with a mash-up of some 3.x/Castle and Crusades (and a smidgen of 13th Age indie tech), they’re all pretty different.

    I think there are a lot of people that use a WHOLE LOT of GM Force and Illusionism to impose metaplot and/or maintain genre coherency (because the system produces a lot of genre incoherency when deployed naturally) and bridge the gaps of rule absence or wonky interactions. Because of this they feel “system doesn’t matter.” Well of course you’re going to feel that system doesn’t matter if you’re just going to (typically covertly) override the system by disregarding the resolution mechanics outright or by disregarding their outputs!

    The amusing irony here is…system still matters even when “its not mattering!” (1) If the system “just worked”, you wouldn’t have to apply (covert or above board) Force and (2) while your Force is almost assuredly an arbitrary process which is arbitrary applied…it is still shakily erected scaffolding/bubble gum/paper clips to stand-in for system architecture (albeit rife with incoherency)!

    Quote Originally Posted by MwaO View Post
    I think that’s a hindsight 20/20 kind of view, but not actually correct. 4e had the following unforgivable problems in marketing:
    No SRD for 4e+restrictive OGL. That made it extremely difficult to write 3rd party material. That’s extending even now, making it complex to clone 4e and run a Pathfinder equivalent.Told off Paizo without giving them a revenue stream.

    Bad initial adventures. Particularly Living Forgotten Realms with a huge oversupply of substandard material.

    Promised the moon on digital, something WotC’s always bad at and should never do. Even if the murder-suicide by head of digital hadn’t happened, probably would have gone wrong somehow.


    Basically, WotC placed Paizo in what they thought was a box – give up Dragon/Dungeon and sell 4e products. But instead, they gave them a ton of incentives to do 3.5 material. Even though companies could see the need for good 4e adventures, they were afraid to write them. And there was Paizo putting out 3.5 compatible material.

    Maybe they still end up going to 5e at some point. But they forced a competitor into existence who would have been happily writing adventures and crunch for them otherwise. Cut off that air supply for 3.5 and very few people leave 4e to go back.

    Great post. I know the narratives of “4e failed (at all)” and “4e failed because (not D&D, not an RPG, not other reasons” is very important to people who dislike the edition. Its important to keep context (and this isn’t even all of it…the groundswell of immature, many of them 50+ so no excuse…I know some, fruit loops endlessly unleashing their jilted lover ire such that their teapot tempests seemed a great noise indeed) front and center…even in the absence of all kinds of legitimate quarterly report numbers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrivener of DoomView Post

    And as I pointed out in another thread, that’s patently false.

    I can make an interesting, tactically-rich short encounter using only minions. If I want to make it difficult, I use minion artillery. If I want to make it last a bit longer, I use over-level minion soldiers. But, basically, I can mix and match the level and role of minions to create short 4E encounters that run as quickly as any encounter in a Four Yorkshiremen edition but are still interesting.

    Great point. The moment I saw that “4e can’t do smaller combats”, this is exactly what came to mind.

    4e’s encounter budgeting system is extraordinarily robust to all manner of budget load-out. You can trivially reduce the HP proliferation of the bad guys while retaining the encounter threat level.

    Fill out the encounter budget with things like:

    1) Large number of up-leveled Minions.
    2) Minion Soldiers + blocking terrain + hindering terrain + Y axis protected Minion Artillery.
    3) You can give some of the Minions an Encounter Utility Power that turns them into “2-hit Minions” (Imm Int + 4 defenses).
    4) Give the bad guys a single down-leveled Leader Standard that force-multiples (who is also protected, perhaps by a punitive aura).
    5) Fill the encounter budget out with one or more Hazards/Traps that either block, control, just do damage, or interestingly change the situation somehow when they’re triggered/interacted with.
    6) Give the PCs terrain/battlefield effects to stunt/interact with that will give them an advantage but can also hurt them.
    7) Lesser enemies flee (Skill Challenge ensues) or surrender at Bloodied.

    Its trivial to have small, quick combats in 4e (ones where HP ablation and status effect induction don’t have primacy). The system has so many tools to facilitate it.

    What 4e doesn’t have…what it doesn’t support…is Rocket Tag. That is because (a) Save or Suck basically doesn’t exist, (b) NPC capacity is front-loaded, and (c) PCs have so many abilities to “come off the ropes/get off the canvas.” This is by design. I’m calling that a FEATURE all day…not a bug. I’m not interested in anticlimactic rocket tag which only exists because of the artificial system architecture of turn based combat governed by initiative (with squishy particompany on both side or encounter ending save or suck)


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