Wednesday, 25th July, 2012, 02:33 PM #51
Magsman (Lvl 14)
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Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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ø Ignore Ahnehnois
Actually, I'm not "conflating" the in-game world with the game rules. I'm "assuming" that the two are connected. Thus...
Both.That depends on what you mean by "equivalent". Do you mean producing similar effects? Or do you mean having a similar degree of importance to how the game progresses? One is in-game, one is meta-game.
No, it certainly doesn't. Thankfully, a mechanical revolution is not needed to achieve this. All editions of D&D have been successful at it, partially because the game is robust and tolerates imbalance, and particularly because the contribution of a character is more reflective of the person who plays it than of that character's mechanical properties.That does not have to translate to the players of magic-using characters having more influence over the game world than players of non-magic using characters.
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Think of it this way - this very site would not exist if D&D were not the biggest game around. Having lots of folks playing the same thing creates those "network externalities" they used to talk about, that are as valuable to you as to WotC.
You ever order pizza along with others, and have the discussion about what toppings to get, and have the other person not want exactly the same thing as you? So, you compromise a bit, and come to an agreement that is nobody's dream, but is good enough, and allows you to enjoy pizza more economically, and with friends?
Gaming is like that. Every campaign is pizza. And, the gaming community as a whole is pizza - eventually, you get to points where it makes sense for you to place separate orders, yes. But if you're a bit flexible you can get more pizza more cheaply and enjoy it with more people if you aren't so darned stubborn about your requirements. While you should play what you like, being too demanding and picky has its own drawbacks.
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
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ø Ignore Crazy Jerome
There's also the question of complexity, and where it is needful. It will naturally vary by player and preference and playstyle. Or, you can look at it from the other end, where a game is too simple--this also varies by player and preference and playstyle.
For example, I like a game that does a lot of different things, maybe not all at once but that I can tweak to get different playstyles. However, I mainly like heroic fantasy and some close cousins to it. Then from my perspective, the generic, movable bits of d20 are exactly wrong. They are all about playing a bunch of different genres in pretty much the same playstyle, when what I want it to play a tight group of genres in different playstyles. Obviously, a single game can only do so much.
If you think about variants and popularity in D&D, this divide between what d20 is aiming at versus what I like has always been with us. Some people want to play D&D "in space" or "as horror" or such. Other people want to play D&D as focused on dungeon crawl or epic treks or such. (And that's only the tip of the iceberg, and probably not even the best examples of what I mean, when you get into different focuses on characterization, roleplaying, etc.) The tools for one group's variants are not the tools for the other group's variants.
This hits hard right at Einstein's dictum, make things as simple as possible but no simpler. Added complexity is in your way--at the very least bloat that you must ignore. Missing complexity is a big hole you must navigate around. Well, as soon as you start appealing to a big audience, you've got a lot of big holes to fill that for other people do not even exist as holes. Why you piling all that system stuff up over there in that empty field?
Where I think any reasonable person can agree on design is that we'd like for a game to do what it sets out to do, and communicate that clearly to us--both the heart of the goal and its boundaries. If the design team has decided that niche X won't work very well because that will compromise A, B, and C too much--so be it. But don't be fuzzy about it. Either exclude X as much as necessary, or if that is unacceptable, revisit the wider design to make it work. Don't throw in a sop to X and pretend that it fits in, when you know darn well it doesn't. No illusionism in the design!
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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ø Ignore Mallus
I've been thinking about things like the mythic fighter and the options imbalance for a while. Here's a simple suggestion for addressing it (hmmm, this may be the wrong thread... oh well).
Start with the assumption any sufficiently advanced skill is indistinguishable from magic (it's very Hellenic, or Tolkien-esque, or whatever).
Allow sufficiently-skilled 'non-magical' PC to duplicate spell effects, within reason, ie on a successful Stealth check, a thief gains the benefit of an Invisibility or Improved Invisibility spell, or even something as epic as a fighter gaining Raise/Lower Water on a successful STR check --to represent Herculean river-wrestling.
The rules would be nothing more than lists of examples of skill or ability checks and the possible spell effects they could duplicate. And what DC (or character level) is required.
You'd need some way of limiting this -- once per day/session/adventure/whatever -- but those are details. And certain feats, like knocking mountain tops off, might have additional requirements, like 'PC must wield an epic weapon w/cool name'. But, again, details.
(A caveat. I'd like the see hard PC level restrictions on this, something like 4e Tiers, rather than escalating DCs -- I have no faith WotC will avoid bonus bloat)
No feats, no extra class abilities, just basic skill and ability checks combined with level.
And if you don't want to use something like this? Great. You can use the traditional, DM-based way of addressing the Option Gap, ie magic items.
Last edited by Mallus; Wednesday, 25th July, 2012 at 04:39 PM.
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And if you thought it was insulting before, you should have read the first draft where I brought in the Brady Bunch in relation to the new middle child and said "Marsha Marsha Marsha!"
Which is why I'm cranky about this. Unwavering stubbornness and slamming old editions will just mean 5e will fail and D&D will go away.
Your books will continue to exist on your shelf but it will only get harder for you to find people to game with when the best selling RPGs on the market are Pathfinder, Marvel,DragonAge, Dark Heresy, and likely some of the World of Darkness books.
The first problem is that Skill Challenges don't work. They're a fantastic idea but the skill system in 4e is broken, and thus Skill Challenges are unable to work properly. They've errated the DC by level chart twice and it's still problematic.
I've written whole blogs on this so I'll try and keep it short.
The problem is bad math. 4e encourages one high stat for your to-hit stat and skill training gives too high of a bonus and it is far, far too easy to stack bonuses from backgrounds, races, feats, and magic items. So there is an incredible disparity from someone who is good at a skill to someone who is bad, and it only gets wider as levels increase. Very quickly the DM has to throw out DCs that either challenge the adept but are impossible for the amateur or challenge the amateur but are automatic for the adept. I've joked that 4e fixed the "clumsy expert/ lucky amateur" problem in this regard.
So Skill Challenges almost always become "PCs try and sell their best or second best skill".
Which brings us to Stealth. Now, typically this means the entire party rolling stealth. But the stealth experts are so high as to be on another level. So the DCs and challenge applies to the rest of the party. The person who built their character around stealth doesn't get to play, they can sit out, because they roll so high. They "win" stealth and stop playing, which is like telling the person who maxed out their character for combat that they autohit and deal max damage.
Now, other non-combat resolution. The problem here lies in the lack of other character support for non-combat options other than skill challenges. You pick skills at first level which is your only non-combat choice and after that, the remaining 29 levels, every choice reflects combat.
Playing a non-combat game becomes tricky because all the character's powers, all the tools in their toolbox, involve combat. They can't swap out attack powers for more Utilities and even then most Utilities relate to combat. And even seemingly non-offensive powers always deal damage. Illusionists are blaster wizards in 4e, with all their powers dishing the pain. I played a psion for a while, with the telepath build, and I didn't have a single power that let me read minds. None. All of them related to mind raping my opponents.
What incentive is there to level up? If the change of succeeding at a skill is static anyway, why not just stay at first level?
And are you really playing 4th Edition at that point? If you're ignoring 90% of the rules and options and content, is that really the best game for you?
4e doesn't discourage alternate types of play. There's nothing to prevent stealth or intrigue or Game of Thrones style power plays. But there's nothing that encourages it, there's nothing that rewards it or prompts it or enables it.
And, yes, magic being powerful and special is also tricky.
But, as argued above, there's little in 4e to really encourage heist or stealthy play.
And just because earlier editions didn't do a style of play better than 4e, doesn't mean 4e does it well, it just means 4e does it least badly. And that right there is something new 5e can bring to the table.
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Of course the irony here is that 4e already has powerful and fairly flexible magic with a drawback. The drawback is that it costs money (rituals). And although it is imbalanced (and just one of the reasons I retired my mid-heroic 4e wizard for giving the DM too much of a headache) it's widely accepted by 4e players. What isn't is cost-free magic. If the cost is a risk of blowing yourself up (and not just singeing your eyebrows) that's an actual cost - if it's "Sleep alongside everyone else, and read a book while the non-casters strike camp" that doesn't work as a drawback.
Possible, yes. Easier? Tactical play revolves around the details - and nailing the position of PCs to a grid allows the large details such as macro-scale physical objects, and relative positions to be shared far more easily than any other system I'm familiar with. So no, it isn't easier.A lot of people don't like that. Tactical play is possible (and probably easier) without painted detailed figures, and probably without a grid,
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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ø Ignore Ahnehnois
It's still not perfect, granted. But it's far and away better than the systems any other edition of D&D has had.The first problem is that Skill Challenges don't work. They're a fantastic idea but the skill system in 4e is broken, and thus Skill Challenges are unable to work properly. They've errated the DC by level chart twice and it's still problematic.
Say outstanding to bad. But yes you can get pretty outstanding.So there is an incredible disparity from someone who is good at a skill to someone who is bad, and it only gets wider as levels increase.
Or just impose a penalty for repeat skill use by the same PC or make it less desirable in the fiction.Very quickly the DM has to throw out DCs that either challenge the adept but are impossible for the amateur or challenge the amateur but are automatic for the adept.
This I've never found a problem as long as I treat the skill challenge as a DM-side tool and make the players engage with the fiction.So Skill Challenges almost always become "PCs try and sell their best or second best skill".
Having a smart player of a stealthy PC in my group, no. That's not how it works. They provide one success from stealth. And then what? If they want to help the team succeed they start distracting the guards. Their first roll was against a hard stealth check not a medium one because they got as close to the guards as they thought possible while staying in cover. And their second roll was nature or bluff to sound like an animal near the guards, providing noise to distract them.The person who built their character around stealth doesn't get to play, they can sit out, because they roll so high.
If they can think how to leverage their awesome rather than just use it passively they aren't out of play.
You mean their only non-combat choice other than some of their 17 feats and however many utility powers? (nine?) Oh, and depending on their class, their tricks, stances, and features? And even some attack powers? (And yes, I do take non-combat feats and mixed feats).Now, other non-combat resolution. The problem here lies in the lack of other character support for non-combat options other than skill challenges. You pick skills at first level which is your only non-combat choice and after that, the remaining 29 levels, every choice reflects combat.
Strictly false. About half the illusion school doesn't do damage, and neither does about two thirds of enchantment (although it does normally make the monsters wack each other which might count).And even seemingly non-offensive powers always deal damage.
Common misinterpretation of 4e. The DC by level challenges are based on the challenge level you are attempting, not the level of the PC attempting them. The vault door to the duke's treasure room is level 10 hard to pick whether you are level 1 or level 20.What incentive is there to level up? If the change of succeeding at a skill is static anyway, why not just stay at first level?
There's more to encourage it IMO than in any other edition.4e doesn't discourage alternate types of play. There's nothing to prevent stealth or intrigue or Game of Thrones style power plays. But there's nothing that encourages it, there's nothing that rewards it or prompts it or enables it.
If you want a no-magic game 4e beats the pants off literally any other edition of D&D there has ever been. I'm playing in a Middle Earth game now - and the only magic the party is capable of is rituals (and we've not cast one yet). The party is still flexible and versatile and even covers all four roles (rohirrim skald, variag slayer, dwarf knight, elf hunter). We aren't even crippled by the lack of a healer.Gritty doesn't work, but neither does the only semi-related low-magic style. If you want a no-magic game or non-fantastic game then 4e isn't great.
For no-magic you'd just have to swap the skald out with a warlord. Or even not bother.
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