Friday, 27th July, 2012, 07:37 AM #141
Or, to pick up on your reference to "fluff" limiting options: I don't object to a game in which oozes can't be tripped. But if this is going to be anything other than the most corner of corner cases, write the mechanics to support it (eg make creatures with the "ooze" keyword immune to tripping, just as, in 4e, creatures with the "swarm" keyword are immune to forced movement from melee and ranged attacks).
If I had to reduce everything to a single dichotomy, for me it would be about the relationship between mechanics and fiction - is the main basis for experiencing the fiction, as a player, by experiencing the mechanics? or are the two independent? (I think 4e goes the first way, 2nd ed AD&D the second way; I think many of those who complain about caster dominance reject the response "just don't have your wizard memorise those spells" because that approach requires separating the fiction from the mechanics in a way at odds with the first playstyle.) But in fact this dichotomy doesn't capture all the differences, even if captures one of the more salient to which many others are related.
For me, it's about GMing a certain sort of game without having to juggle a conflict of interest: I want to be able to frame a scene, have the PCs start to engage with it, and then play my NPCs, monsters, traps etc to the hilt, witout having to hold back on the action resolution side. Of course many aspects of action resolution require me to exercise judgement (who attacks whom?, should I narrate the failed Diplomacy check as the beginning of a thunderstorm?, etc) but I want to be able to do this confident in the knowledge that there is a robust mechanical underpinning which will tell me whether things are running for or against the PCs without me having to make that up myself.
I think I'm a fairly good GM, but that doesn't mean that I don't need the game to have the right tools to support the GMing techniques I want to use.
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Defender (Lvl 8)
The best metaphor I've heard for this involves cars, with car manufacturers keeping the crux of a model the same for years. The basics of the Ford F-series have constant for 60 years. That doesn't mean an innovation doesn't deserve notice.
The rule exists to remind me that the past cannot be easily dismissed and must be respectd.
For example, classes like the paladin, ranger, bard, and assassin. Do they need to exist? Nope. Not with a decent multiclassing system. Most a hybrids and the assassin in especially redundant. However, all have been classes in more than 2 editions and so should be core classes in 5e.
Err on the side of more rules and examples.
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Simply decoupling skills from class is a fairly basic move (altough with potentially interesting consequences on its own), but building up backgrounds to be a richer feature of the PC and the PC's embedding in the gameworld seems a good development. Where I'm a bit dissapointed at the moment is that the designers aren't giving any indication of how they might leverage this into a rich and rewarding non-combat resolution system. (Though @Crazy Jerome has pointed to hints of this in the DM Guidelines document: on p1, RHS at the bottom of the column they talk about the importance of intents and stakes. So at least they are using the right vocabulary, even if, to date, they're not doing much with it.)
I also came into 4e looking for certain things, based on my growing dissatisfaction with Rolemaster and especially its lack of conflict resolution mechanics outside combat. One clear example of frustration, for me, was GMing Bastion of Broken Souls (having converted it to Rolemaster, and tweaked it to fit it into the cosmology and thematic flavour of my campaign, which was roughly "mortal freedom vs heavenly-mandated karma"). In that module, there is a scene where the PCs wish to meet with an exiled god, and the gate to that god's prison plane is not only guarded by, but actually takes the form of, an angel. To open the gate you have to kill the angel.
Now the module says that the angel won't talk, and has to be killed. (The module, as written, is annoying like that in several places.) I naturally disregarded that, and one of the PCs - nicely played by his player - tried to persuade the angel that the only way to stop massive suffering in the mortal world was to let herself be killed, even if this meant going against the decree of heaven that she was carrying out.
Resovling this involved an impassioned performance by the player (at least impassioned by my table's standards! we're not taking out any drama awards), mediated via skill checks (I can't remember now what the relevant skills were, but maybe Leadership, Etiquette and Conciliation). The problem was, I had no real basis as a GM for deciding when they PC (and player) had said enough. Allow the first roll to be adequate, and the scene is cut short and its dramatic potential undermined. Keep insisting on more rolls, though, and I'm making success here impossible (and pushing the players to default to combat, which has more objective adjudication procedures). The whole situation is getting very close to "mother may I" and an ultimately arbitrary choice by me to let the player suceed or not.
For me, the skill challenge framework (or anything similar) solves this problem by establishing boundaries, and a pacing dynamic within that, that let's me play my NPC and evolve the situation in interesting ways without having to decide, essentially arbitrarily (as it seems to me) when enough skill checks, or a high enough skill roll, do the job.
If I hadn't come to 4e with these sorts of dissatisfactions in mind, and with a conscious desire for a different sort of game more indie-ish in the sorts of ways I've described (but still gonzo fantasy in its underlying tropes and themes), I might have had a pretty different experience.
Now I think there is probably more combat in my 4e game than in my Rolemaster game, just because 4e PCs are so primed for combat when you look down a character sheet, and the combat mechanics beckon! For 4e (as, in my view, for other versions of D&D as well) I think that combat is the primary site of conflict resolution.
But I haven't felt I've had to push against the game to introduce the non-combat stuff that has been part of my campaign. I don't know if this is because of my own experiences and preconceptions as a GM, or something about my players, or the fact that I have mostly ignored the WotC modules, or some combination or influence of other factors I'm not thinking of.
And even within combat, my players have done creative stuff from very early on - like the player of the paladin using his religion skill to say prayers when in combat with undead in a very early session. (I allowed a check for combat advantage staked against a modest amount of damage from the undead's backlash against an ineffective prayer.) And as we've got more familiar with the system, the players continue to try more interesting stuff, especially using their attack powers out of combat. The page 42 framework, and other things I've extrapolated from that (like the importance of keywords), plus a freedom to rely on "genre logic" and metagame/narrative "causation", have been key here.
If we changed to GURPS or back to RM or whatever, the issue for me wouldn't be a squelching of player creativity, but rather a lack of GM tools to adjudicate non-combat resolution in the ways I've become used to. And hence, I think, less unexpectedness in resolution than what we've been experiencing in 4e.
A final comment: from other posts of yours, it seems that your 4e game got bitten badly by scaling problems which undermined both the narrative and the mechanical integrity of play. Whether through good luck, good management or maybe just not having pushed so hard against the fragile areas (like destruction of objects, say) my group hasn't had that experience.
But I can see how it is a real problem inherent in the system. I think bounded accuracy is one of the better things being suggested for D&Dnext.
Magsman (Lvl 14)
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ø Ignore Tony Vargas
It seems to me that the feel, nostalgia, the soul of the game (and the actual legally defensible IP for that matter), isn't in the mechanics. If you're fighting Beholders and Illithids in the Underdark, and casting Mordenkainen's Sword, you're playing D&D in some sense, even if you've lifted mechanics from some other system to do it with. I know the actual IP's a little thin, but it carries a lot of currency with us older fans, too, I think. So, sure, a monster or a magic item new to one edition that isn't adding much can go and classic ones can stay - but the mechanics that model them should be open to improvement.
Given that, yes, bad, fixable mechanics will still sell, but good mechanics would be, well, /good/.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'crux.' But I think I see the point. The Beetle, for instance, has it's unique styling that's been brought back twice, it's still a small economy car - but under the hood, it's not the same (there's an engine there, now). Keeping it familiar didn't mean leaving the technology alone.The best metaphor I've heard for this involves cars, with car manufacturers keeping the crux of a model the same for years.
OK. I see your point.Ignoring the AoO/OA system would be a colossal pain. But, having to create your own OA system would be worse.
Err on the side of more rules and examples.
Last edited by Tony Vargas; Friday, 27th July, 2012 at 08:54 AM.
Lama (Lvl 13)
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ø Ignore Johnny3D3D
I think maybe one of the reasons I haven't had the same problem with GURPS that you had with RQ could be because GURPS does have 'contests' which allow for something similar to a skill challenge to be possible. (Note: I have no familiarity at all with RQ or Rolemaster; I'm only going off of other posts of yours I have read.)
The basic idea is that success is not as binary as it is in D&D; it's not simply a yes/no thing. In your angel example, let's say I try some sort of mind control spell which is resisted by the will of the angel. In D&D I would roll against the angel's will defense and I would either succeed or fail. In GURPS I would compare how well I rolled versus how well the angel rolled and different degrees of success (or failure) might mean different things.
In the last few 4E games I DMed, I ported that idea into D&D and had what I feel were very good results. So good in fact that skill challenges became something very different for me than what they were said to be by the book. I very rarely run a skill challenge as X successes before Y failure; instead, I might set a number of rolls as being the limit to how many rolls are allowed during a skill challenge. For a quick arbitrary example, let's say I set the limit at 10 rolls. 10 successes out of 10 would lead to the best result possible; 0 out of 10 would be the worst result and then there would be a very different levels of success/failure in between. Alternatively I've also had the listed number of failures be how many failures are possible before no more rolling is allowed.
4E was not without lessons to teach me though. There are quite a few things which I learned from D&D 4E which I feel have made me a better DM. In particular, I think I have a better idea of how to organize my prep time. If I can stick with the topic of skill challenges, I'll also point out that I tried to bring part of them back into my GURPS games as well. I highly value the 'contest' idea which GURPS uses, but there have been a few instances in which I've started to use something somewhat inspired by skill challenges. Explaining it is something probably best reserved for PMs or a different thread though -simply because it would require explaining in more detail how some GURPS mechanics work and this doesn't seem to be the place for that.
In general, I think D&D 4th edition has a lot of really good ideas. I am just not always a fan of the implementation of the ideas. That makes me somewhat wary of how 5th Edition will turn out because I am afraid that the designers will take my dislike of parts of 4th edition as meaning I preferred an older edition's mentality and not understand that it was the implementation (and often mechanics) involved in bringing the idea to life which bugged. That being said, I would also say that one of my biggest hurdles with 4th edition was feeling as though the system was built around gaming & storytelling ideals which directly conflicted with my own ideals. In time, I learned to adjust my style, and I had fun after doing so (a lot of fun in many cases,) but -at the end of the day- I felt as though I never really got to run the kind of game I wanted to run.
edit: This is unrelated, but it's a thought which has been nagging at me lately as I've been considering my experiences with 4E more and trying to put a finger on what exactly about it bothered me at times. From the player side of the table I think I had a hard time buying into the game sometimes because I feel as though 4E is structured in a way (and has a playstyle) that rewards what I feel are bad tactics. There was something about playing a fighter and realizing that doing a suicide charge into a room and sucking all the enemies to me in a position which meant I was surrounded was a good thing which was somewhat jarring to me. I never really gave the idea much conscious thought until a few days ago, but I think it's been something that was rattling around in my subconscious. I do not expect hardcore realism from battlefield tactics when playing a game -especially a fantasy game in which magic and weapons which are not available in real life are available, but I think what I just said is a pretty good example of what I mean when I say that 4E was built around some ideals which conflict with my own ideals. This is something which translated over to the DM side of the table in such a way that it took me a really long time to get the hang of how a 4E fight would go by looking at the elements and pieces involved in the encounter.
Last edited by Johnny3D3D; Friday, 27th July, 2012 at 09:00 AM. Reason: edit
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Thought that was clear/obvious...I was, apparently, wrong.
But thank you, though, for proving the point...better than I would have thought possible, that we can't even discuss the why we won't be able to unite the base...without finding fault and picking at misunderstanding.
Unbelievable....actually...unfortunately...no, it's not. Quite believable, really.
Johnny3D3D, thanks for the interesting and thoughtful reply.
When I talk about "gonzo fantasy", this is just the sort of thing I mean. And I can see how it could be jarring if you don't buy into those tropes. (And I think they're fairly deeply embedded in 4e's class and power design.)
I think that also helps me see what you would like about GURPS, which would play pretty differently in this sort of respect, I imagine.
For example, your range assumes a "fluff vs crunch" contrast. And in the post I replied to you assumed that liking "crunch" is closely linked to wanting to win. But there is a playstyle which has nothing particularly to do within winning, and in which the "fluff vs crunch" contrat makes no sense. Almost by definition, that playstyle doesn't fit on your spectrum - but given that it is (in my view) one of the most natural playstyles to pursue using 4e, it is something that I think WotC needs to be looking at in the design of D&Dnext.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Yes pemerton...ya got me. Obviously my entire point was to include all possible attitudes and approaches/preferences to the game...except for yours...
How could I have been so unclear?! My apologies.
As you were...I'm going for another hamburger.
Lama (Lvl 13)
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ø Ignore Johnny3D3D
I'd say that was true of 3rd Edition as well to an extent, but I was new to rpgs when playing 3rd, so I didn't notice, and I also feel as though 3rd was presented in a way which tossed a curtain over some of the same issues. They were still there, but I never really noticed they were. Though, now; as I try to play 3rd (or Pathfinder), I notice that there are many things 4th did 'fix.' Unfortunately, 4th also embraced some things I didn't like, so it turned out to be a mixed bag for me.
You mentioned 'gonzo fantasy.' One of the games which I had the most fun running was one in which I completely embraced the 4E outlook. It turned out in a manner which I would personally describe as some sort of gonzo blend of fantasy and sci-fi, but it was a lot of fun. Many of the players were upset when the game ended. One of the things I noticed during that game was that the 4E fiction doesn't fit the 4E mechanics very well. I built the image of the world I had with 4E's style in mind. I loved the 'Points of Light' concept showcased in the early 4E books, but -for me personally- I did not feel it was very well supported by 4E's mechanics. There are many who feel system does not matter and/or that crunch & fluff do not have a relationship; personally, I strongly disagree with that.
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