D&D 4th Edition Prose, Terminology, Fluff, & Presentation: Spreadsheets or Haiku? - Page 10


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  1. #91
    Quote Originally Posted by am181d View Post
    And I'll point out that (at least in the case of the sleep spell), 4e actually has specific, evocative flavor text ("You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical slumber."), where as 3e just has a series of relatively flavorless rules and exceptions listed.

    4e seems to have it basically right to me: Stat block, flavorful description of spell off-set in italics (rules free), additional rules.
    Well, this has been one area where my confusion was generated from that I questioned about, because I looked at it in the example the same way that you did. People talk about mechanics and flavor text not mixing in 4E like in previous editions, and not wanting the flavor text "fenced in" but when I looked at the two OP post example in 4E I saw a flavor text followed by mechanics, and in the 3.5 example I saw Mechanics followed by Flavor Text. So, it's like what is the complaint? The text and mechanics were not interwoven in eitiher example.

    Yes, the flavor text was longer for the Sleep spell in 3.5 but then I raised the question of length and it's like I get questioned and called scary because I am asking is length issue and how long does he want the spell descriptions to be since per the opening example the two really follow similar format.

    I will also agree with you that Warunsun gave a very good example of combining 4E/3.5 style descriptions and if I saw Warunsun's example in a DnD Next book I would be satisifed and not put off by it the same with the example Klaus gave earlier (So, I have shown how I am willing to compromise and what I think good example of combining "prose" vs mechanics can look like), but I don't at this point what the opposition wants besides spell/power/ability stat blocks to read somewhere between a little and a lot depending on the nature of the subject

    You know, people talk (jokingly) about cliffnotes version for people who like stat blocks, but my actual B.A. is in English with a focus in Poetry, so I consider myself a pretty creative person, but when playing or running a game I just don't want the game to have to come to a grinding halt (like it did in 3.5) whenever the DM had to do a random in encounter because he had to cross-reference so many things due the way abilities were described and cross-referenced in 3.5. I as a player don't want combats to come to a halt for lengthy periods of time to look up how certain rules work like in 3.5. In 4E the few times we have had to look up something it was quick concise and took a minimal amount of time out of the game, and from a DM perspective running 4E has been a God send compared to prior editions, even with random encounters having everything a monster does right there in a singleblock and not having to look up anything makes it a breeze.

    In an earlier post someone mentioned sleep needing to be longer because it doesn't explain why on the initial save you are slowed vs being dazed, etc and I am like gee when I get sleepy I get tired, which means I slow down and thems seem to be moving almost in slow motion. I don't need the spell to tell me why I am tired vs being dazed. The description: A wave of magical weariness washes over you" basically sums up what is happening and through natural correlation my mind can equate the rest: weary=slow, not overcoming weariness=unconscious. People complain about 4E talking "down" to the audience, but after reading some grips I have to wonder is it that 4E is talking down to the audience or is that DnD 4E is talking "up" to the audience by assuming that as gamers we are smart people who have a average level of correlative ability?
    Last edited by Fallstorm; Sunday, 6th May, 2012 at 06:07 PM.

 

  • #92
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    I think Grell makes a very very good point. If I look at page after page of nothing but mechanics and rules my brain shuts off. It sparks my imagination about as much as an algebra textbook: not at all.

    My other concern about 4E legalese is this:
    It has to be precisely edited, because the slightest punctuation error or misspelling or layout mistake can completely muddle or even completely change intent.

    Instead of "stop clubbing baby seals" you get "stop clubbing, baby seals"

    And as we all know, gaming rulebooks are almost never precisely edited.
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    Quote Originally Posted by am181d View Post
    You're arguing two different things. The fact that 4e wasn't as successful as it could have been doesn't mean that any individual decision made in the implementation of 4e was wrong.

    If the rules were exactly the rules for 3.5, but presented in the style of 4e, we have no idea how it would have sold.

    And I'll point out that (at least in the case of the sleep spell), 4e actually has specific, evocative flavor text ("You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical slumber."), where as 3e just has a series of relatively flavorless rules and exceptions listed.

    4e seems to have it basically right to me: Stat block, flavorful description of spell off-set in italics (rules free), additional rules.
    Sure there are lots of unknowns......except one of the major criticisms people make about 4E is its prose. I think it is a safe assumption 4E made some key changes that didn't go over well. Time to go back to the winning formula.
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  • #94
    Quote Originally Posted by Grell View Post
    Whitespace. As a web developer I deal with whitespace a lot; its the spacing around and between elements on a website that is _not_ part of the content of the site. Also called negative-space, the proper balance of whitespace in a website can help increase clarity of focus for the website, make it easier to read, and draw your eyes to certain information. On ENWorld examples are the spacing between the blocks of the website (the black background areas), the spacing before and after paragraphs, and even the line spacing between lines of text. Although this article references "macrotypography" the techniques used are for balancing white space, as an example. But, this is the key thing, the most important aspect of white space is that it helps to prevent an overwhelm of information. We could VERY easily put all information on a website into one long stream-of-consciousness paragraph, but no one would be able to read it.

    What does this have to do with anything? Look at the spell count per page in 3rd Ed vs the powers per page in 4e; your specific millage will very, but across 6 pages I found an average of 4.83 spells in he 3rd Ed book and 8.6 for 4th Edition. Why is this important? Because as a web developer I also know that people only remember about 4 things reliably; that is menus on websites and things like that are often pared down to around 4 items. Its not to say people can't remember more, just that they don't do it reliably.

    So again you're asking yourself what any of this has to do with each other? My argument is this; the "fluff" and prose actually work as whitespace to make the rules and the spells themselves easier to read and remember. Condensing it so that we can fit more rules actually makes the book harder to read. This might not be true if you're using the book purely as a reference, but you really have to ask yourself... how much time have I spent playing the gave vs reading the books? I know I skew far towards time spent reading than playing.

    So, as a web developer, I'm stating that you need a balance, like the Pathfinder/3E of a crunch block for some information and paragraphs for the others. In the course of writing this I've also realized about a dozen different web design ideas that 4th breaks as well... one could argue those are web, not print design ideas, but really... which do you read more of any more?

    Well, I do know there a difference in page presentation and how people view things on screen vs. on paper. One thought, that just occurred to me...I am not as familiar with this site a some other people, but I know when 4E was announced adn this page starting giving rumors and updates about 4E the way it is now doing with 5E, one of the 4th edition developers talked about the actual layout of the 4E books and mentioned something along the lines of market analysis effecting how they would present the 4E books. The WOTC representative mentioned that the 4E books would be in larger print (the words), as well as have more space and pictures in them to read almost magazine like, and that they had learned from marketing and from their customer base that the small print and dense text found in previous editions (in specifically they were referencing 3rd edition/3.5) made the book very intimidating to potential new players.

    I am 95% certain I read this somewhere and it was also mentioned on this website. Does anyone know if there is an archive of all the 4E rumors collected prior to the actual release of 4E on this site (again I am not as familiar with it as some others), because if so this would be a fairly easy thing to look up I would think. It would be good to know just for me, because in my experience this has definately been true of when I tried to bring newer players into 3rd edition. Even with Pathfinder, I don't begrudge the success of the game (as I already stated I am happy when any rpg does well as the industry as a whole benefits), but PF does mainly appeal to older players and players who were already very familiar with the mechanics of DnD 3.5 it is not welcoming to newer players and even in some of the positive reviews I have read of the game the reviewers did mention the volume of the tome like book can be intimidating to some.
    Last edited by Fallstorm; Sunday, 6th May, 2012 at 06:02 PM.

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    Well, clearly the next edition needs to have haikus and abstract art in the cells of a spreadsheet.

    I must politely disagree. I prefer the prose of 4E, though hopefully some compromise may be reached.

    I absolutely prefer the graphic design and composition of 4E in terms of its presentation of the material, which is still a different issue than writing. And internal hyperlinks are a must, assuming some form of PDFs.

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    I think some identifying characteristics between 1e and 4e are these things.

    In 1e...
    1. The text was written as if someone in the D&D setting was reading it. At least to a degree I realize dice of damage is imperfect but I see that as more an effect rating.
    2. There were lots of exceptions and qualifications on many spells. 4e was very clear what it did and it did it with few if any exceptions.
    3. Encouraged DM's making judgment calls about spell effects. This was because the rules themselves were sometimes unclear at the boundaries. 4e due to clarity almost made judgment calls a page 42 exception.

  • #97
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fallstorm
    At any rate, I guess it is a matter of each persons opinion but I do see this being problematic for DnD Next because they will have to decide how to present their text.
    Yup. They can't win. If you like it, I won't; and vice versa. They'll lose one of us, whatever they do.
    We all know that you can't please everyone. What a lot of folks tend to forget is that trying to please everyone generally leads to disaster. I'm afraid that WotC has kind of forgotten that and tries to please everyone, but in the process looses everyone. They can either go with the folks who's attention they already hold with 4E, that way they don't directly compete with Pathfinder. They can try to attract the Pathfinder crowd, but that most probably loose them the 4E crowd. If they try to create something that has aspects of both they might attract from both camps, but at the risk of loosing more then that they gain...

    Personally I think 4E is mechanically strong, but is horrible in presentation (as I've said for a long time), I've read technical manuals that were more attractive to read then the 4E PHB.

    Honestly the 2E PHB was very attractive to read, possibly more so then the 3(.5)E PHB, but that might just be the nostalgia talking.

    3(.5)E is effectively dead from a publishers point of view, because no one actually publishes material for it (besides the odd d20 pdf publication), no one makes money from it. It's either Pathfinder or D&D 4E, sure there are others but those have tiny markets. Pathfinder has become it's own game, it's own edition of 'D&D' imho. PF has 'fixed' some of the glaring defects in 3.5E and has not become as heavily laden with PRCs, Feats, and Spells as both 3.5E and 4E. PFs main strength besides a good presentation is the amount of fluff available.

    1E isn't my kettle of tea, never played it. D&D red box was always D&D light for me, it served me and mine well as a starting point for our imagination, but eventually we wanted more options, AD&D 2E gave us that, 3(.5)E gave us to much, 4E gave it us uninspired and boring. If 5E gave us a strong presentation (imho that is not like 4E), a mechanical sound system like 4E, fluff like 2E, but not bury us in options like 3(.5)E, it could be great. On the other hand it could be horrible.

    As a DM I like my Monster Manuals from 2E better then 3(.5)E, more fluff with each entry, 4E is really bare bones and almost no fluff. Although a lot of the 3(.5E) art is better, even some of the 4E art, the 2E art had it's own attractiveness.

    Honestly D&D isn't buy sight unseen anymore for me, even the 5E core books would be reviewed before buying and even then I suspect that unless it's amazingly inspiring I won't buy all that much beyond a few hardcover core rule book(s).
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    Regarding the original point - the printed book will only be formatted one way. This is true.

    However the information can be accessed in multiple ways - even now 4e stats can be found in both the printed medium AND the online tools.

    My point is, wizards can produce dry, boring but "quick to reference" indexed information by using online tools such as the compendium.

    They can also present the exact same information in a deep immersive readable form in the printed books.

  • #99
    Quote Originally Posted by am181d View Post
    YAnd I'll point out that (at least in the case of the sleep spell), 4e actually has specific, evocative flavor text ("You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them with a tide of magical slumber."), where as 3e just has a series of relatively flavorless rules and exceptions listed.
    I'm not loving the 4E description of Sleep. I've always pictured the wizard doing his little bit of hocus pocus, and everyone in the target area suddenly falls asleep. "You exert your will" makes it sound like something involving active mental exertion, like some form of psychic attack.

    I never played either 3E or 4E, so I don't have personal experience on how easy it is to reference spells in those editions during actual gameplay. What I do remember is having 2E games bog down as we tried to figure out how spells with complicated effects (e.g. Evard's Black Tentacles) worked, then arguing about what to do when it turned out we were playing the spells wrong in the previous round. So I would definitely favor spell descriptions that were more concise and to the point than 1E or 2E.

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    My communities:

    HAIKU !!!!

    Though I'll settle for classic XIXe century poetry.
    Could we get Lewis Caroll to write the books ?
    PAIZO ! PAIZO ! PATHFINDER !!!!

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