L&L: The Challenges of High Level Play - Page 6
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  1. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    Here are the elements that I feel combine to create the "wahoo" effect at high levels:

    1. An explosion of save-or-die effects (rocket tag) combined with easy resurrection. Death is a revolving door.
    Fixable by putting the resurrection survival roll back in - sooner or later the revolving door gets jammed.
    2. Widespread ability to fly at will. This completely changes the nature of the battlefield.
    This one's never been a problem for me.
    3. Freely usable, precisely targeted long-range teleportation. Geography is now irrelevant. Dungeons that are not teleport-warded might as well not exist.
    Fixable by putting the chance-for-error back in, with errors potentially being deadly i.e. teleport into solid rock.
    Freely usable divination that is both specific and reliable. The fog of war is irrelevant. Secrets that are not divination-warded might as well not exist.
    Fixing this depends on what divinations might be available. 1e Commune is easy to fix by limiting answers to about 5 words maximum and limiting it to once per week from each caster. Lower divinations e.g. Augury, Locate Object, etc., haven't really ever posed me any trouble.

    All they need to do is put the risks and limits back in that were, to begin with, already there.

    EDIT: Overall, my experience with 1e is that it falls apart somewhere in the 9th-12th level range.

    Lanefan
    Last edited by Lanefan; Tuesday, 21st February, 2012 at 07:08 AM.

  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by davethegame View Post
    BELONG IN CORE

    Critical Hits 4698
    Skills 4322
    Feats 4044
    Saving Throws 3744
    Non-Vancian Magic 2930
    Ability for Characters to Create Magic Items 2828
    Action Points 2781
    Rituals 2774
    Powers 2631
    Themes 2589
    Second Wind 2432
    Exotic Weapons 2411
    Healing Surges 2364
    Vancian Magic 2283
    Prestige Classes 2166
    Critical Fumbles 2134
    Paragon Paths 1823
    Epic Destinies 1756
    Kits 1408
    Morale Rules 1287
    Weapon Speed Factors 1072
    Weapons Versus Armor Table 900

    BELONG IN SUPPLEMENTS

    Ability for Characters to Create Magic Items 2061
    Epic Destinies 1863
    Morale Rules 1799
    Critical Fumbles 1786
    Prestige Classes 1695
    Exotic Weapons 1678
    Weapon Speed Factors 1653
    Themes 1647
    Weapons Versus Armor Table 1618
    Paragon Paths 1616
    Kits 1580
    Rituals 1540
    Action Points 1518
    Vancian Magic 1295
    Non-Vancian Magic 1271
    Powers 1193
    Feats 1155
    Healing Surges 1066
    Critical Hits 1061
    Second Wind 1015
    Skills 994
    Saving Throws 698
    What this doesn't tell us without some math is how many people don't want each of these things in the game at all (i.e. did not vote for them either as core or as tack-on). So, let's do some math:

    NOTE: For some reason, Saving Throws is not listed in the tack-on results

    NOTE: I am assuming that if someone voted for element x in core they would not also have voted for it as a supplement.

    5759 Critical Hits 4698 + 1061
    5216 Skills 4322 + 994
    5199 Feats 4044 + 1155
    4201 Non-Vancian Magic 2930 + 1271
    4889 Ability for Characters to Create Magic Items 2828 + 2061
    4299 Action Points 2781 + 1518
    4314 Rituals 2774 + 1540
    3824 Powers 2631 + 1193
    4236 Themes 2589 + 1647
    3447 Second Wind 2432 + 1015
    4089 Exotic Weapons 2411 + 1678
    3430 Healing Surges 2364 + 1066
    3578 Vancian Magic 2283 + 1295
    3861 Prestige Classes 2166 + 1695
    3920 Critical Fumbles 2134 + 1786
    3439 Paragon Paths 1823 + 1616
    3619 Epic Destinies 1756 + 1863
    3988 Kits 1408 + 1580
    3086 Morale Rules 1287 + 1799
    2725 Weapon Speed Factors 1072 + 1653
    2518 Weapons Versus Armor Table 900 + 1618

    3744 Saving Throws 3744 (see note above)

    This shows Magic Item Creation, Exotic Weapons, and Kits punching well above their weight, while Non-Vancian Magic and Second Wind aren't as strong as they look at first glance. And, bye-bye to Weapon Speed and Weapon-vs.-Armour.

    I'll leave it up to others to interpret all this.

    Lanefan

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
    Fixable by putting the resurrection survival roll back in - sooner or later the revolving door gets jammed.
    This one's never been a problem for me.
    Fixable by putting the chance-for-error back in, with errors potentially being deadly i.e. teleport into solid rock.
    Fixing this depends on what divinations might be available. 1e Commune is easy to fix by limiting answers to about 5 words maximum and limiting it to once per week from each caster. Lower divinations e.g. Augury, Locate Object, etc., haven't really ever posed me any trouble.

    All they need to do is put the risks and limits back in that were, to begin with, already there.
    Well, what they need to do depends on what they're trying to accomplish, doesn't it? I mean, part of the point of this column is that some people like the wahoo; it's like playing comic book superheroes, complete with an endless supply of "Get Out Of Death Free" cards. Myself, I think that stuff gets old pretty fast, but whatever. The goal should be to let the wahoo level be dialed up or down as desired.

    As far as the old-school, "small random chance of screw-you" approach goes, I'm not too fond of it myself. It does prevent the wahoo, but the side effects are nasty enough to pose a problem in themselves (e.g., randomly terminating a wizard every so often due to a botched teleport). I prefer a system that limits access rather than inflicting unpredictable and arbitrary punishment for using your class abilities.

  4. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by JoeGKushner View Post
    With a massive lack of support, and what's worse, advancement to higher levels moving through exactly the same mechanics as it did before, the game play will proceded exactly as it did before because that's how the characters are going to advance in level.
    I don't think that keeping the action resolution mechanics and the PC advancement mechanics the same means that the play has to be the same. It depends, in part, on what those mechanics are.

    For example, suppose that advancement at all tiers comes primarily from Quests (4e DMG) and time spent actively roleplaying (4e DMG2). Assuming that Quests, and the focus of roleplaying, are both quite different at Epic compared to Heroic tier, then the focus of the game might be quite different, with quite a different feel, even though advancement uses the same mechanics.

    Likewise with action resolution. If action resolution is based primarily on achieving successes in various categories of checks then the mechanics might stay the same even though the game changes dramatically, because the checks are situated in different fictional contexts, with different fictional consequences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    An epic tier needs:
    - To support different options (like mass combat, running a country, becoming immortal, etc.)
    - To have its own enemies that 'make sense' for that tier.

    <snip>

    Running a stronghold, running a country, leading an army, becoming immortal. All of those things have been systematically stripped from the last few editions of the game. What remains is dungeon crawling. Therefore the tiers just mean the same thing with higher math for the epic tier.

    <snip>

    Different levels of play need to have distinct options of play. Epic tier groups may still want to do some 'dungeon crawling' but the game also needs to accomodate mass combat, running a country, becoming a deity etc.

    <snip>

    If the higher tiers deliver a different playing experience then gamers won't mind a bit more complexity. Its when the game is fundamentally the same dungeon crawl at Level 30 as it was at Level 1 that people are disillusioned by the same thing with more math.
    I don't agree that 4e strips out all the things you mention. It has paragon paths like Knight Commander, and epic destinies like Legendary Sovereign and Demigod. What it is lacking is an adequate set of guidelines on how to incorporate those elements of PC build into the situations that the players (via the PCs) confront. For example, in all the material on running skill challenges and designing combat encounters, I have never seen any discussion from WotC of how paragon paths and epic destinies should be factored in.

    As far as mass combat and domain management are concerned, I think it's unrealistic to expect that people who are playing D&D want, at a certain point, to have the game turn into a tabletop wargame or Railway Tycoon part way through. Mechanics need to be found that make these things part of the action resolution mechanics that the players engage via the ordinary features of their PCs builds.

    One way to do this is through a high level of abstraction in PC build and action resolution (see eg HeroWars/Quest). Another way, which 4e can approximate to, is to tolerate a high level of abstraction in monster building. In my last 4e session, for example, the 15th level paladin fought a phalanx of hobgoblins that I had statted up as a Huge 13th level swarm with the ability to heal itself by absorbing stray hobgoblin minions.

    Dungeon crawling isn't mostly about mechanics. It's mostly about story. You can change the story without having to change the mechanics. D&D designers have recognised this at least since AD&D's Oriental Adventures, which keeps much of the PC build and action resolution mechanics unchanged, but clearly presents a very different story from the then typical dungeon crawl.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    While I think most people agree that high-level play should be different, there's a question of how it should be different.

    <snip>

    The BD&D model holds that the activities of the PCs should change as they advance, from dungeon crawling to wilderness adventuring to domain rulership to seeking immortality. A high-level PC in the BD&D model spends much less time as a footloose adventurer without responsibilities, and much more leading armies and conducting diplomacy and intrigues.
    Again, I think this is about story rather than mechanics. 4e aspires to provide the elements that will change the story as the tiers progress. There is even some sign of this in some of the modules, but on the whole they are a disappointment. But I don't think different mechanics are the answer. Better attention to story, and how a given set of mechanics can be used to support different and changing stories, is the key. It may be true that the game should change at higher levels, but it should still be the same game, with the PCs and the things they do as the central focus.
    Last edited by pemerton; Tuesday, 21st February, 2012 at 09:25 AM.

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    For example, suppose that advancement at all tiers comes primarily from Quests (4e DMG) and time spent actively roleplaying (4e DMG2). Assuming that Quests, and the focus of roleplaying, are both quite different at Epic compared to Heroic tier, then the focus of the game might be quite different, with quite a different feel, even though advancement uses the same mechanics.
    The Kingmaker AP (man, I'm using it as an example a lot) is a good example of this:

    Spoiler:
    In the beginning a nice part of your XP comes from exploration. Later you also get XP from expanding your kingdom. Then from mass army combat.

    All the while there are short and long term quests that give you XP, in addition to normal encounter XP.

  6. #56
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    Advancement doesn't HAVE to be the same but currently it IS the same and this is assumed in all the adventurers and support material so if you want to have that 'epic' game with prewritten material you're still going to the dungeon even if it's a demi-god's hall of horrors.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by hollowleg View Post
    The trouble with trying to create a supplement that adds complexity, but not power, is that any sufficiently complex system has loopholes, or interactions that the designers did not foresee.

    Even worse, when you start adding multiple supplements (or even modular sub-supplements), the number of interactions between the options in those modules grows exponentially, while playtest time stays more or less constant during the lifecycle of an edition
    Indeed. Perfect balance in such a system would be impossible. But then, perfect balance is a mirage anyway; the better target is to go for "reasonable balance", and I don't think that's impossible at all.

    The counter-intuitive thing that makes it possible is to build the game backwards - build the most complex version first, then build the simpler version from that, and sell the simpler version first.

    The way to do this:

    First, silo "things you can do" from "the numbers you use to do it". If you don't do this, the powergamers will immediately latch on to the strategy of building one-trick ponies - pick one power, then throw everything else at the numbers to make that work. Anyway, I'm going to call "things you can do" powers, and "the numbers you use" feats.

    In the complex version of the game, then, players just get a budget for powers and a budget for feats, and build their character from those atomic building blocks. (And, when they gain a level, they get bigger budgets.)

    Under this model, the game doesn't care whether your character gets a "racial hate" bonus vs orcs and goblins because he's a Dwarf, because he's a Ranger, or because his magic sword was quenched in the blood of giants. You get the bonus, and that's enough.

    Perhaps incidentally, Mutants & Masterminds has basically done this already.

    To build the simpler versions of the game, then, you start bundling the powers and feats together into various combinations. The "dwarf" bundle combines the "darkvision" and "stonecutting" powers with the "racial hate" feat, for example.

    And, because there's a loss of efficiency inherent in using a bundle, you give a price break on the cost. (It's the same idea as a "pre-theatre menu" - pick one starter and one main from this cut down list; no substitutions, additions or alterations allowed.) And, obviously, you get different bundle sizes: themes, races, classes... some of these may include advancement options, some may not.

    For the Starter Set, then, you bundle everything up into two piles: race and class (or even race-as-class). Players pick one of each, and get playing - at every level they just add the pre-calculated numbers on and add the pre-selected powers. Nice and simple.

    For the Core Rulebook, you get to be a bit more flexible. Perhaps you take the 3e model, and have races as before, give the classes a slightly smaller set of 'goodies', and let the player choose a feat every 3 levels.

    And then the Advanced Players Guide can present a more 4e-like class structure: classes get very little, but the player gets to choose feats and powers to customise his character as he goes.

    Finally, you may or may not present the final level of abstraction, showing off the feats and powers system in all its glory.

    ---

    Players can then progress through the levels of complexity as they wish. They probably start with the Starter Set, with the big bundles of pre-built stuff. At some point, they're likely to want to customise more... and that's fine - they just switch to the Core Rulebook class progression, and start picking up feats as well. (There's no problem with this, since the SS Fighter bundle is a bit bigger than the CR Fighter bundle, with the cost difference being enough to pay for the additional feats. The character remains legal.)

    Then, if and when the character wants more control over his feats, that's fine too - rather than taking the next level of the CR Fighter bundle, he instead switches to the APG Fighter bundle and starts picking feats and powers.

    For the next campaign, of course, he doesn't have to go back to the Starter Set for his character - he can just build his character at his preferred level of abstraction, and it will work.

    But one crucial thing needs to be noted: the game must explicitly forbid substitutions. No, you can't take a SS Fighter but swap Cleave for Weapon Focus. This is important, because the SS Fighter includes a "price break" because it's not ultra-optimised. If you want to swap things out, you can certainly do so, but you need to start paying the higher costs. You're picking off the full menu now, not the "pre-theatre" options!

    ---

    Expanding such a system then becomes just a matter of adding a bunch of new feats and powers into the game (each of which is hopefully small enough that it can be balanced reasonably easily), and then bundling these up into new races, classes, themes, etc. Whether the books then actually present all the feats and powers, or only present the completed bundles, is perhaps a discussion for another day.

  8. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by delericho View Post
    And, because there's a loss of efficiency inherent in using a bundle, you give a price break on the cost.
    I don't see D&D going point-buy, so I don't think a price-break is the right way to go about it.

    Instead, I think it'd be better as an "option set bonus": like the Item Set Bonuses from 4e.

    Otherwise, great post. Just nitpicking.

  9. #59
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    Hey there pemerton!

    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton
    I don't agree that 4e strips out all the things you mention. It has paragon paths like Knight Commander, and epic destinies like Legendary Sovereign and Demigod. What it is lacking is an adequate set of guidelines on how to incorporate those elements of PC build into the situations that the players (via the PCs) confront. For example, in all the material on running skill challenges and designing combat encounters, I have never seen any discussion from WotC of how paragon paths and epic destinies should be factored in.
    But thats exactly my point. The game doesn't stop you from running your own stronghold, it just doesn't support you with guidelines and rules.

    As far as mass combat and domain management are concerned, I think it's unrealistic to expect that people who are playing D&D want, at a certain point, to have the game turn into a tabletop wargame or Railway Tycoon part way through.
    I strongly disagree with this.

    Firstly, without those rules supported in game, players won't know whether they would enjoy mass combat or not. The game doesn't even give them the option!

    Secondly, without those differing playstyles all you are doing is the same dungeon crawling over and over with bigger math.

    Thirdly, epic games without mass combat (amongst other features) are not really embracing their epic potential.

    Mechanics need to be found that make these things part of the action resolution mechanics that the players engage via the ordinary features of their PCs builds.
    Mass combat should be a rules sub-set, not a paragon path that needs to be taken. But the bulk of it can easily be folded into the monster stat-block.

    One way to do this is through a high level of abstraction in PC build and action resolution (see eg HeroWars/Quest). Another way, which 4e can approximate to, is to tolerate a high level of abstraction in monster building. In my last 4e session, for example, the 15th level paladin fought a phalanx of hobgoblins that I had statted up as a Huge 13th level swarm with the ability to heal itself by absorbing stray hobgoblin minions.
    Thats exactly how I advocate mass combat should be handled by creating Units of creatures akin to swarms.

    Dungeon crawling isn't mostly about mechanics. It's mostly about story. You can change the story without having to change the mechanics. D&D designers have recognised this at least since AD&D's Oriental Adventures, which keeps much of the PC build and action resolution mechanics unchanged, but clearly presents a very different story from the then typical dungeon crawl.
    Epic gaming is about upping the scale. The 4E epic tier NEVER attempts to up the scale, it just gives you more of the same.

  10. #60
    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    Thats exactly how I advocate mass combat should be handled by creating Units of creatures akin to swarms.
    Yes, but with actual rules, so that you know what a unit of 100 human level 1 fighters looks like, and don't need to invent numbers out of thin air.

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