D&D 4th Edition Prose, Terminology, Fluff, & Presentation: Spreadsheets or Haiku? - Page 9




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  1. #81
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    I think we can learn a lot from, believe it or not, textbooks. The aim of the textbook is to teach you the material within, to act as a reference and to engage the reader.

    The first thing that I think is favoured by the descriptive form, as opposed to the concise form, is cross-referencing. If you have a spell that creates visual and audible effects, it is worth placing a reference to whatever the rules are for perception, and perhaps for lighting. This encourages learning of the rules and spell effects that work logically within rules subsystems.

    Secondly, one of the reasons that 4th edition powers became so bland wasn't that they were in concise-form, because they had short descriptions, it was that they never justified their effects. In a game with many damage types and many similar ongoing effects, there was often no justification. For instance, with Sleep, targets become slowed before they go to sleep. Why slowed? Why not dazed? Why not immobilised? When powers were subject to errata, effects became balance adjusters, rather than logical choices for descriptive effects. This make immersion difficult.

    Third, descriptive effects have often led to exploitation of spells. We all remember the old Rope Trick super ambush trick. 4th Edition overcompensated for this, to the extent that even rituals became single specific effects. This discourages intelligent use of character abilities and (from a recent column) makes it more difficult for a player to say 'I have telekinesis, I want to do X' and leaves them frustrated that their abilities are so limited. Somewhere in between, giving spells a wider scope but making clear what they can't do would suit me.

    I also don't think there's any point in saying there should be X paragraphs per spell, or even X maximum. Give them the space they need, but don't go crazy!
    Everyone is weird, but those who are weird in the same way call themselves normal.

 

  • #82
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    Ignore kenttaylor
    Quote Originally Posted by Andalusian View Post
    They need to make two versions of the D&D rules, the Shakespeare version for people who want evocative purple prose, and the Cliff Notes version for Fallstorm.
    Actually this isn't a bad idea (although I'm not sure but it may have been meant sarcastically). Anyway, how about a Rules compendium, perhaps in combination with DDI to easily look up snippets of crunch such as spell effects but then have the rule books read somewhere on the scale between 2nd and 3rd edition.
    On a perhaps, related note, even if they decide to only do one book as a PDF it should be that rules compendium, stuffed with all the dry rules (including monster stat blocks and spell or powers game effects) with no fluff to take up space. That way people can easily get the rules they need to play in a concise format and give them one reason (hopefully along with many more but I'm not holding my breath *cough* virtual table) to join DDI and then the handbooks done a glory of flavor prose, beautiful art, and great advice for players and DMs so that we want to buy them, even though they would probably take 3 or 4 books to go through the rules the compendium does in 1.

  • #83
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    To be clear is the issue you are against the conditions? You haven't mentioned this but I am trying to divine what you are getting at with the two examples.

    I think the art direction of this edition should be different. Therefore the colored boxed sections need to be gone. Flavor text is included with every spell in fourth edition but that is not the case in third edition. I like flavor text. I like the conditions. The conditions may be bland but are very useful in making rules clear and entries shorter. WotC can keep the conditions but also include a more classic format.

    I will provide an example and try to use mechanics neither exactly 3.5e or 4e to not show a heavy bias either way:

    For Example:

    Sleep
    Enchantment (Compulsion) [Mind-Affecting]
    Level: Brd 1, Sor/Wiz 1
    You exert your will against your foes, seeking to overwhelm them
    with a tide of magical slumber.

    Components: V, S, M
    Casting Time: 1 standard action
    Range: Medium (within 20 squares)
    Area: One or more living creatures within an area burst 2
    Saving Throw: Wisdom negates
    Spell Resistance: Yes
    If the target of the sleep spell fails its initial saving throw then the target becomes unconscious (Wisdom save ends). Sleep does not target elves, unconscious creatures, constructs, or undead creatures.
    Material Component: A pinch of fine sand, rose petals, or a live cricket.

  • #84
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    To me the key is- are the books interesting to read even if you are not playing (or preparing to play) the game?

    There used to be a lot of people (including myself at times) who just liked to read D&D books and modules, but didn't have an active game. Old modules and some of the rule books from 1st and 2nd edition were almost like reading fantasy novels, but sometimes better because you could imagine your own characters going through the Tomb of Horrors or The Temple of Elemental Evil.

    My 1st ed. ADD Dungeon Masters Guide was interesting back when I was 10 years old in 1983, and it still is. Heck, even the appendices are more imaginative, descriptive, and entertaining than anything in 4th edition (e.g. harlot subtable anyone?).

    I quit buying modules just to read around the time they got rid of the print editions of Dungeon and Dragon. To me around this point, modules were no longer fun or interesting. The majority of 4th edition modules are simply unreadable - they are skirmish scenarios, not works of fantasy. There is no way that I would read anything from 4th ed. unless I was prepping for a game.

    D&D Next has to complete with not just ODD, 1st. ed., 2nd ed., 3rd., 4th, and Pathfinder, and every other RPG out there today. They have to distinguish it from all those other editions by being ground breaking & entertaining. Another re-iteration of 3rd or 4th is not going to cut it. People like me are not going to shell out $100+ for rule books that are going to sit on the shelf. And for new gamers, they have to distinguish tabletop play from MMOs. The only way to do this is harkening back to something closer to 1st ed.

    To me this is why Wizards had better create not just a rule book, but an entertaining and evocative book simple to read for the fantasy genre itself.

  • #85
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    Ignore Zireael
    I am with those who want AD&D language. Preferably fitted with statblocks somewhere between 3e and 4e.

    However, Minigiant's example is brilliant, and so is another mockup on an earlier page of this thread.
    A fan of D&D (especially the Fair Folk) from Poland.

  • #86
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    If DDN's MM is something similar to 4E's, in therms of writing, I'm out.

    It's my only real deal breaker.
    F I G H T E R

  • #87
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    I'm split on opinion here - when I first picked up the 4E books, I struggled to get a handle on the world. I had played the 40k RPGs, and knew the background for that world, and found it easy to sit down and get into making a character.

    When I first picked up 4E D&D, the lack of setting information really threw me - you get about 1 page of flavour/background on each of the races, and 1 page on each of the classes and... that's about your lot. I struggled to get a character idea in my head, because I had nothing to really ground it on. More flavour in the descriptions of things, rather than dry statblocks, might have helped me here, I don't know.

    But now that I've been playing 4E for a good while, all I want is the information - I love the way monster stat blocks are done becuase they tell me what I need without clutter. I love the power cards that the character builder gives the players - if there's any doubt about how something works, they read out the card and it (nearly always) removes ambiguity.

    So if there's a box to tick for flavourful main book descriptions with an easy to use, comprehensive summary using condensed stat blocks that I can reference at the table, then sign me up for that one

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    Ignore Grell
    One of the comments on the first page (the first one that disagreed) stated that he'd rather see smaller rules blocks like 4th so that space could be saved for more rules like new classes and powers.... and I immediately figured out one of the reasons I can't connect with the 4e power lists.

    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?

  • #89
    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    I certainly believe your girlfriend held that opinion. However, the 4E approach did not work; this is evidenced by the fact that Pathfinder now rivals - maybe exceeds - D&D in sales, and that a new edition has been announced far earlier than one would normally expect. At this point, it's pretty hard to argue that 4E worked commercially.
    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.
    Drew Melbourne,
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  • #90
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    Ignore Blackbrrd
    What I don't like with 4e is that there is so much of everything. I don't think that any 4e item is worth remembering. In earlier editions, especially before 3e every item was memorable. Getting a flame tongue sword was huge! In 4e getting a magic item is something expected of the game system. In earlier editions it was something magical!

    If a game is presented as a excel spreadsheet it's going to with clear precise rules for many specific situations you aren't going to look at the game going: "What can I do?", but more "What can I do within the rules?".

    Moving items from the DMG to the PHB takes the game even further into this direction. Now it feels like items are something you can demand and you are expected to have them.

    I really liked how 4e took away the pure randomness of pre 4e combat where anything could happen in any combat, with save-or-die spells, crits that did 100 damage or traps that could crush you.

    The cost of 4e's combat came at the expense of a very clear set of rules and mechanics that made the game feel like a tactical boardgame. It's a good tactical boardgame, but it doesn't feel like a role-playing game.
    One-page auto calculating 4th edition character sheet
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    4e fighter.xls(example)

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