L&L: The Challenges of High Level Play - Page 8
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  1. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by hollowleg View Post
    Fields of Blood does this for 3.5, but with a much higher degree of detail than you (or I, admittedly) want, since battles between armies are fought on a wargame-like degree of detail. There is an optional abstract combat system, though, where you could provide modifiers for PC actions in 'heroic mode' without having to drill all the way down detail-wise.
    Fair point - I should have said no official WotC support.

    Another reason to resurrect the OGL, or at least a vastly opened-up GSL...

  2. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    without those differing playstyles all you are doing is the same dungeon crawling over and over with bigger math.

    <snip>

    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.
    I think we agree on some things - such as that Epic should feel different, and that monster building can be used to handle a good chunk of (all of?) mass combat. But I think we may differ on other things. Part of the issue is I'm not sure what you mean by "dungeon crawling". In the literal sense of "dungeon crawl" - the PCs enter a fairly narrow and enclosed environment and go hunting for treasure and McGuffins - I don't do much at any tier. I run a more social/political/mythological oriented game (the reference to AD&D Oriental Adventuers was quite deliberate in this respect).

    I think 4e Paragon and Epic Tier up the scale in story terms - encounters have a different story significance, perhaps occuring in different locations (other planes, etc). It doesn't up the scale so much in tactical geographic terms - there is no jumping from mountain top to mountain top in the course of a fight, for example, and if that's you have in mind as your criticism then I agree. I try to handle this sort of thing by linking fights into skill challenges - for example, in my last session I used a skill challenge setup to handle a fight/chase between a PC on a flying carpet and the hobgoblin wyvern-riders pursuing him. When the PC failed the skill challenge, it meant that he crash landed 50 squares or so from the other PCs rather than making it back to them.

    I think it would be helpful to have more guidelines and examples from the designers on how to handle this sort of thing. Which would also include guidelines on how best to handle cutaways in fights - because large scale tactical geography in combination with party play means cutaways are inevitable.

  3. #73
    I'm a lot more accepting of the idea that play changes with power level, when the thresholds are not, "when the wizard gets 3rd, 5th, and 6th level spells."

    Or rather, in BECMI or AD&D 1E, that was still ok in some ways, because it was difficult for that wizard to get to 9th and 11th level, and you could spend a whole heck of a lot of time naturally around 7th. And if 3rd and 4th level was a bit short for what you did, it wasn't as if 5th level was all that game breaking. There were holes in places, but the spells largely fit the rest of the model--and you were going to need to balance the whole thing with magic items to fit your plan, too. Then, when the game did change radically, you went to a different XP and power progression to go along with that.

    What I'm substantially less accepting of is the notion that for certain playstyles, there is this little wedge between "chump" and "game changer". Don't blink; you might miss it.

  4. #74
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    Howdy pemerton!

    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton
    I think we agree on some things - such as that Epic should feel different, and that monster building can be used to handle a good chunk of (all of?) mass combat. But I think we may differ on other things. Part of the issue is I'm not sure what you mean by "dungeon crawling". In the literal sense of "dungeon crawl" - the PCs enter a fairly narrow and enclosed environment and go hunting for treasure and McGuffins - I don't do much at any tier. I run a more social/political/mythological oriented game (the reference to AD&D Oriental Adventuers was quite deliberate in this respect).
    The best example of what I mean in terms of "dungeon crawling" would be to read over the E-series modules by WotC. These modules don't up the scale at all and its fairly clear that to the designers, epic gaming means taking on the same monsters in the same small groups as you were in previous tiers.

    I think 4e Paragon and Epic Tier up the scale in story terms - encounters have a different story significance, perhaps occuring in different locations (other planes, etc).
    In my opinion you cannot up the scale in story terms without upping the scale in other terms.

    It doesn't up the scale so much in tactical geographic terms - there is no jumping from mountain top to mountain top in the course of a fight, for example, and if that's you have in mind as your criticism then I agree.
    That might be one possible way of upping the scale. Mass combat would be another. Far larger than Gargantuan sized monsters would be another. etc.

    I try to handle this sort of thing by linking fights into skill challenges - for example, in my last session I used a skill challenge setup to handle a fight/chase between a PC on a flying carpet and the hobgoblin wyvern-riders pursuing him. When the PC failed the skill challenge, it meant that he crash landed 50 squares or so from the other PCs rather than making it back to them.
    That sounds incredibly cool, although I am not sure its a good example of using scale to make things more epic. I like it though.

    I think it would be helpful to have more guidelines and examples from the designers on how to handle this sort of thing. Which would also include guidelines on how best to handle cutaways in fights - because large scale tactical geography in combination with party play means cutaways are inevitable.
    Did you read my Ten Commandments of Epic Article?

  5. #75
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    This has probably been pointed out, but:

    "In every single edition, when you start talking about high-level play, someone invariably says that the game breaks down after about 12th level. (Sometimes they say 10th, sometimes 8th, sometimes 15th, and so onthe point is the same.) This "truism" of D&D is so ingrained that it doesn't matter what edition you are talking about. So, despite the fact that high-level 4th Edition play is quite different than high-level 1st Edition play, the general commentary about how high-level play breaks down remains the same."

    Once again, in his haste to throw 4e under the bus, Monte is mis-representing it. 4e, alone among the extant versions of the game, does not break down, mechanically at high levels. It has a kluge or two in place to make 'The Math' work out, but it chugs right along at all levels. Classes remain balanced, encounters remain balanced, the game remains playable. No one claims that high-level play breaks down in 4e. Even the 'h4ters' don't bother trying a whopper like that, prefering to claim that the game doesn't change apreciably with tier (also false, but not nearly as far from the truth).


    Getting back to the rest of the game's history - the only part that matters, clearly - you'd have to be in full-on ostritch mode to pretend that it hasn't always run into serious balance issues beyond fairly low levels. Sure, early D&D may have had serious balance issues at all levels, but they got a lot worse as you went to higher levels. 3.x was actually pretty fair at low levels, but failed as casters exploded in power as level increased. It's a very legitimate criticism, hiding behind 'sytle' (a badly-broken game is just our 'style!') isn't helping.

  6. #76
    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    I do want mechanics for mass combat and domain management. Not a full-fledged wargame, but I want enough support that I can, as a player, assemble and command an army and not feel like the DM is just making the whole thing up on the fly.

    <snip>

    My vision for such a system would be highly abstracted and play out as a backdrop to the battlefield deeds of the player characters. The armies clash, you roll a few dice and mark down the results.
    The question is - why can't this be handled as a particular instantiation of whatever general technique is used to resolve conflicts/encounters in the system? Of course you need the relevant aspects of PC build to feed into it, and also guidelines on how to apply the general mechanics in this particular situation - which underpins my complaint about 4e, because in 4e this should be a skill challenge (that's the only salient resolution system) but there (i) are no guidelines for what skills a Knight Commander uses, (ii) no guidelines for how being a Knight Commander differes here from being (sY) a Demonskin Adept, and (iii) no guidelines for what difference it might make to the resolution if I have X troops or Y terrain or whatever else.

    I could be wrong, but I'm guessing the number of players who used War Machine or Battlesystem or Spells and Swords or Birthright was low, or we would see that market still being tapped.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    Then you go to "heroic mode" and focus on the PCs performing some important action, like fighting an enemy commander, breaching a key fortification, etc. Once this deed is complete, you zoom back out and roll another clash for the armies, with the PCs' actions influencing the result.
    Again, this needs guidelines to handle it. And other possible situations - say, negotiating a treaty - need similar guidelines too (what is the effect of one of the PCs successfully bribing a negotiating NPC, for example?). I'm sceptical about the utility and viability of producing a whole new subsystem for each sort of situation - it puts too big a demand on the development of both action resolution and PC build mechanics.

  7. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    The question is - why can't this be handled as a particular instantiation of whatever general technique is used to resolve conflicts/encounters in the system? Of course you need the relevant aspects of PC build to feed into it, and also guidelines on how to apply the general mechanics in this particular situation - which underpins my complaint about 4e, because in 4e this should be a skill challenge (that's the only salient resolution system) but there (i) are no guidelines for what skills a Knight Commander uses, (ii) no guidelines for how being a Knight Commander differes here from being (sY) a Demonskin Adept, and (iii) no guidelines for what difference it might make to the resolution if I have X troops or Y terrain or whatever else.
    It seems like your "guidelines on how to apply the general mechanics in this situation" are the same as what I'm asking for: A rules framework for resolving mass combat. If it uses PC skills as a basis, that's fine by me. It certainly doesn't have to look like the BD&D War Machine, which was kind of a mess. All I ask is that there be a coherent, functional system for PCs commanding armies and governing dominions. If it can be built out of the existing rules, all the better.

    (Although I see 4E's skill challenge "rules" as a way of saying, "If you want to build your own mechanics to handle a social encounter or some such, here's a starting point." A straight-up, by-the-book skill challenge is one of the most boring and pointless subsystems I've ever met in an RPG; so much so that I refuse to believe that was how it was meant to be used.)

  8. #78
    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    The best example of what I mean in terms of "dungeon crawling" would be to read over the E-series modules by WotC. These modules don't up the scale at all and its fairly clear that to the designers, epic gaming means taking on the same monsters in the same small groups as you were in previous tiers.
    The only one I have is E1, because it was on special at my local games shop. I'm unlikely to run it as printed, but will probably use the maps, and some of the encounters (the one with the Vecna angels will work well in my game, I think). I agree with you in being critical of that sort of play - I personally don't like it even for Heroic. I like something a bit more dynamic and story-focused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    Far larger than Gargantuan sized monsters would be another.
    One thing in E1 I quite like is the idea of Timesus the primordial. I am thinking of using the stats for the Far Realm star in MM2/3 as Timesus - but want to up the size closer to planetary than 4x4. I haven't yet worked out how I would run that, but probably have two years to plan before my game gets there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    That sounds incredibly cool, although I am not sure its a good example of using scale to make things more epic. I like it though.
    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Upper_Krust View Post
    Did you read my Ten Commandments of Epic Article?
    I've read it before and just reread it. It's good stuff, but doesn't deal with my particular issue, I don't think - 4e relies heavily on party synergy, but in a tactically massive battle the PCs will be geographically separate, and so I need new techniques to handle the cutaways and make the synergies happen. I understand that Ron Edwards' Sorcerer has ideas for this, but (i) I don't own Sorcerer, and (ii) the rules are very likely to have a significant metagame component, and while I've got nothing against metagame 4e has particular ways of handling it, especially in its combat rules (I would expect the ideas in Sorcerer to be better suited to a 4e skill challenge involving cutaways).

  9. #79
    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    It seems like your "guidelines on how to apply the general mechanics in this situation" are the same as what I'm asking for: A rules framework for resolving mass combat. If it uses PC skills as a basis, that's fine by me.

    <snip>

    If it can be built out of the existing rules, all the better.
    To get more specific about what I have in mind: the 4e DMG2 has guidelines on using money in a skill challenge. The suggestion is that expenditure equal to 10% of a magic item of the PC's level should be roughly equivalent to a successful secondary check (eg +2 to a primary check).

    Now I personally don't think this is very well thought out - a consumable magic item of a PC's level costs 1/25 (=4%) of what a magic item of that level would cost, and frequently will contribute quite a bit more than the rough equivalence of a successful check; and rituals will also be closer in expense to those consumables and are suggested to be treated as automatic primary successes.

    But anyway, by combinining this guideline with the rules for hirelings in MME, I can start to work out what sorts of contributions hiring an army should make to a skill challenge, in principle at least. The problem is I'm pretty sure that 10% figure wasn't thought through systematically (for the reasons I've stated) and I'm pretty sure no one thought about it when the set the costs for hirelings. Good guidelines would at a minimum (i) link this stuff together so that it all coheres well, and (ii) join the dots clearly rather than leave it as an exercise for the reader.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    Although I see 4E's skill challenge "rules" as a way of saying, "If you want to build your own mechanics to handle a social encounter or some such, here's a starting point." A straight-up, by-the-book skill challenge is one of the most boring and pointless subsystems I've ever met in an RPG; so much so that I refuse to believe that was how it was meant to be used.
    I'm close to certain that skill challenges, as a mechanic, were inspired by comparable mechanics in HeroWars/Quest and Maelstrom Storytelling (and probably other indie games that I don't know). The guidelines published by WotC are close to hopeless, but when you read the guidelines from the other games (i) you can see hints of them in what WotC said in the DMG, and (ii) you can (in my experience at least) get good results out of skill challenges.

    I think the biggest failure of skill challenge presentation is in how samples are statted out, which appear to violate the stated rules. The rules for skill challenges state that the GM describes the fictional situation, the player describes how his/her PC engages that situation, the GM then specifies a skill check, the player then rolls it, and the GM then adjudicates that result in terms of its impact on the fiction. Rinse and repeat until either N successes or 3 failures and you have a skill challenge.

    But the published skill challenges give the impression that the GM is to get the players just to roll checks, and the fiction is to be narrated entirely by the GM as an afterthought. There is a suggestion of no engagement with the fiction at all by the players! - which directly contradicts how the DMG says they are to be run.

    (This ties into another issue with skill checks in 3E and 4e: I am becoming more and more persuaded that one function they are meant to serve is not as action resolution mechanics at all, but as techniques to allow the players to reframe the fictional situation rather than engage it. For example, a player who doesn't want to play through a social scene says instead "I roll Diplomacy" and if they succeed gets a new scene framed, in which there are no obstreporous NPCs to deal with. I'm a bit dubiuos about this sort of mechanic, but if it's going to be in the game I'd like it to be properly explained. Using skill challenges as this sort of mechanic - which I gather is how at least some groups use them - strikes me as completely pointless, because it just drags out the process of reframing the scene.)

  10. #80
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    Re: possible deadly errors using teleport:
    Quote Originally Posted by pauljathome View Post
    I don't see how this really fixes the problem.

    Lets say the PCs need to get somewhere quickly. They dither for a long time on the relative risks and needs. Eventually, they decide to either teleport or not.

    As a GM, I either have to force them to make the decision at the end of a session, I have to prepare for both scenarios, or I wing it when they go overland. I'm generally fairly happy at winging things so I'd choose that alternative but winging a long voyage tends to yield moderately boring results
    Perhaps; and is thus relatively easy to hand-wave if you like.

    BUT: the time they spent on the voyage is time the plot spent developing, and this is the trade-off.

    Teleport: high risk (slight chance you could die), high reward (you can stop the BBEG before his plans really get started)
    Overland: low risk (perhaps a wandering monster or two), low reward (the BBEG's plans are well underway by the time you can interfere)

    And, if that's not your style there's two other rather obvious ways to limit teleport:

    1. Area of effect becomes self only. You can't take another living being with you. (nice side effect: any fleas you may have had are gone)

    or

    2. You can take only what you are physically carrying. (meaning that if the rest of the party make themselves small enough for you to carry in such a way as to allow you to cast the spell they'll still be pretty small on arrival at destination...)

    Lanefan

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