Legends & Lore 09/03 - RPG design philosophy - Page 12




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  1. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by DEFCON 1 View Post
    4E is actually built to give the PCs probably like a 90% success rate against a standard encounter build

    <snip>

    And when the PCs in a 4E game don't... it usually will be due to the DM purposely putting them up against an encounter built specifically to be more of a threat (one meant for a party like 4 levels higher or so).
    Quote Originally Posted by DEFCON 1 View Post
    And whereas the unpredictability in pre-4E usually was because of swinginess... the unpredictability in 4E usually is because of DM encounter building. And it appears as though some people just prefer that the dice fall where they may, as opposed to leaving it up to the DM to dictate that unpredictablility.
    This is an interesting line of thought.

    For me, the unpredicatability in 4e is primarily in the way an encounter unfolds, and the things that are done (by both PCs and NPCs/monsters) on the way through. The outcome is, in a sense, simply the sum of those things.

    By scaling the difficulty up or down I (as GM) can influence how things will unfold, and I can certainly increase the pressure, and hence the urgency and care with which the players make decisions. But ultimately the unpredictability comes from their decisions, as mediated via the action resolution rules (including dice rolls) and that is independent of the degree of difficulty.

    A simple example from my session on the weekend is forced movement + cliffs: the unpredictability here results from the saving throw to fall prone at the edge of the cliff, and then - if a PC does fall - how s/he responds to that. And that is not really a function of encounter difficulty.

 

  • #112
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    For me, the unpredicatability in 4e is primarily in the way an encounter unfolds, and the things that are done (by both PCs and NPCs/monsters) on the way through. The outcome is, in a sense, simply the sum of those things.

    By scaling the difficulty up or down I (as GM) can influence how things will unfold, and I can certainly increase the pressure, and hence the urgency and care with which the players make decisions. But ultimately the unpredictability comes from their decisions, as mediated via the action resolution rules (including dice rolls) and that is independent of the degree of difficulty.
    This is my experience as well. Further, this is one of the components of the system I value the most as it lets me compose encounters with a high level of predictability from my end of the table. I know what to expect from my antagonists (monsters, NPCs, hazards, terrain features) individually and I can pin down within a reasonable margin-of-error how they will likely behave as a unit. With those things pinned down, I can perturb the system up or down to add difficulty (up to an inevitable TPK) or subtract difficulty (down to a genre-relevant flavor combat or something that shouldn't give the PCs trouble but will allow them to flex their protagonist muscles) and get further predictable results.

    Where I want unpredictability is how the PCs approach the conflict strategically and tactically and the resultant fiction that emerges by way of their choices and my reaction to those choices.

    With the well balanced encounter system I can create compelling, dynamic, mobile combats...scale them up or down as needed...and I can go full bore with no restraint whereas if the system wasn't well balanced, I would have less confidence in the predicted potency of what I'M PRODUCING (where I want predictability of potency) and therefore my climactic, campaign arc-spanning battle could be a dud...or my mere genre-relevant, flavor encounter that is supposed to be protagonists "flexing their muscle" could turn into the worthless death of a character (which has certainly happened in the past). If that happens because of player choices...ok! If that happens due to the high margin-of-error embedded in the system (which I'm responsible for eyeballing and constraining)...not so good!

  • #113
    Agree with @Manbearcat . The unpredictability in any version of D&D (or Fantasy Hero or GURPS or Runequest or any number of games) when I run it is nearly always in the way I run it and/or set up the encounters. 4E is notable in that I got to that point sooner than I did with some of the other systems. With any fantasy game, I'm either going to learn the system well enough to get it to that point eventually, or failing that, house rule it.

  • #114
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    Let me try putting it this way. Imagine you have a game that is essentially tabletop Gauntlet. All the characters have basically the same output, with the same healing skills, all just fluffed differently. This would be Mearls' hypothetical truly perfectly balanced game from a D&D perspective, and I imagine many people might find that rather boring.

    Now, 4e is not that game. The roles create situational imbalances. There are certain encounter configurations that favor strikers more than controllers, certain enemies that bring out the best in the defender, and so on. Mearls' comment, as I read it, is not a swipe at 4e, but rather a defense of their design philosophy, i.e., yes, these rules will create imbalance in certain situations, but that's a feature, not a bug.

    Some folks who don't like 4e may indeed see it as a Gauntlet-type game: everyone gets their at-wills that do X range of damage, everyone gets their encounter powers that do Y range of damage, and everyone gets their daily powers that do Z range of damage. I don't agree, but I see that as more of a function of individual taste in interfaces. The AEDU system gets in the way of their belief in the Secondary World, as Tolkien would put it.

    My hope with 5e is that they can bake in a lot of 4e philosophy of balance while presenting it in a way that lets interface with the rules without breaking that belief. To head off a common reductio ad absurdum, that doesn't mean "obfuscating" the rules.

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