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Thread: More reflections on 4e and 5e.
Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 05:01 PM #1
More reflections on 4e and 5e.
I ditched that last junk game I was in and played with a new group. Currently, I am playing a halfling warpriest, who is working out much better than I anticipated. The rest of the party is a human gloom pact hexblade, an elf druid (yawn), an elf rogue, and a dragonborn warlord.
Two leaders, two strikers, and one controller. We could use a defender but we're managing right now. We had a shorter session last night, but here are my observations based on the single combat encounter.
The background: we're a mercenary party in the service of a kingdom, and there's this other kingdom nearby, and they don't really like each other, and the uneasy peace is getting uneasier. RIght now, we're headed out with supplies to garrison a guard tower.
Naturally, we are attacked on the way by soldiers of the other kingdom. There are a handful of them, all are standard monsters (no minions / elites). This is, as before, a group of relatively new players, so I'm the player who knows the 4e system best. (Possibly better than the DM.) What I took from this session is that:
(a) At-will powers are junk.
(b) The striker role should not exist.
(c) Round-by-round tracking sucks.
(d) Forced movement is awesome.
I'll go through these bit by bit.
(a) At-will powers are junk.
Nobody understood these. I did, of course, and the gloomblade's player is smart enough to get the rules, but everyone else was very, very confused. Now, not to toot my own horn too much here, but I'm usually the smartest guy at the table. I have a head for numbers and rules. I "get" the 4e rules. In comparison to 3e, it's very easy to play. Unfortunately, it's not easy enough.
Lots of players are not very smart. And that's not to say they're dumb, but they've exceptionally average. This is fine and dandy, but the rules need to be written for them, not for the above-average population who can.
The rogue in particular had difficulty with his at-wills. He wanted to use his Sly Flourish ability, so he rolled a melee basic attack. I explained that he used Dexterity on this roll because it was Dexterity vs. AC. He did that and rolled 1d4 + Strength damage. I explained that he added Dexterity + Charisma damage on this, and we got things sorted out. Next round, we had a similar problem--he was insistent on rolling that 1d4 + Strength basic attack.
The warlord also had some trouble with his at-wills. He didn't really "get" how to use them effectively--he wanted to make a basic attack instead of using his special attacks. (He didn't even use his breath weapon, which is the dragonborn's big thing.)
The druid was just a mess. He got the basic idea of at-wills (and used his flame seed power to some effect), but he was really lost when it came to wild shaping and using his at-will attacks, especially when he could use them on AOOs as a basic attack.
As a side note, the gloomlock and I were the only ones to understand encounter / daily powers. Everyone wanted to use their at-will powers, but the rules were too confusing for them.
In summary: there need to not be at-will special attack powers. As it says in the Bible: "Let your basic attack be a basic attack." If you want to attack with your dagger, then attack with your dagger. Don't throw a bunch of math changes into the system. Having a bunch of separate special attacks is too difficult to track for new players.
(b)The striker role should not exist.
In the combat, the strikers did the majority of the work. My warpriest hit a few times, doing a paltry 1d6 + 3 damage. The gloomblade, on the other hand, was doing 1d10 + 7 damage, and the rogue (when he finally managed a sneak attack) was doing 1d4 + 2d6 + 6 damage. There wasn't much in the way of healing needed in the battle, so I felt somewhat useless. Also, the druid's flame seed did pitiful damage.
My proposal is simple: every class should be a "striker"; that is, every class should be capable of doing decent damage.
(c) Round-by-round tracking sucks.
There needs to be a set duration for powers. Either they last until the end of your next turn or the beginning of your next turn or the end of the enemy's next turn or the beginning of his next turn. Trying to figure out when powers ended was a huge pain and caused more page-flipping than the actual powers themselves.
(d) Forced movement is awesome.
Originally, I was skeptical of forced movement and the over-reliance on the battlemat. I recant immediately. I like a good tactical challenge, and there were some really neat moments that forced movement provided in the game. My personal favorite was when the last remaining soldier fled and the druid used one of his at-wills (that couns as an MBA) to slide him back into position to provoke another attack of opportunity.
Thus, what I want to see from 5e:
(a) Few, if any, at-wills. Special encounter / daily powers are fine, but hitting with a sword should just be hitting with a sword.
(b) Nobody gets shafted with damage.
(c) Better duration mechanics and few intra-round tracking abilities.
(d) Forced movement.
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Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 06:08 PM #2
Lama (Lvl 13)
I, on the other hand, hate forced movement with the fire of a thousand suns.
Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 08:25 PM #3
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I think I disagree on your assessment that everyone should do good damage. One of the frustrations I have with prior editions now that I've played 4e is that there is a strong emphasis, no matter what class you pick, to build a character that minimizes damage in, and maximizes damage out.
While I don't miss much about 4e, I do miss the fact that it emphasized teamwork. I liked the fact that people worked together to achieve a common goal by different means.
I think you can avoid the "useless" feeling by simply being very good at a certain role. As my wife put it, she didn't like anything but strikers until she played a pacifist cleric. As a pacifist cleric she could roll really high numbers on the dice and it didn't really matter to her that it wasn't damage.
So I think using roles can work, as long as you allow for high dice roles at what they do. 5e is an absolute disaster on this front, since they've kept classes doing varying damage, but haven't put in any mechanics that force players to work together or give them compensation for less damage. I'm particularly looking at the warlock and sorcerer here.
Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 08:30 PM #4
Novice (Lvl 1)
A. First of all I'd say if you think it requires above average intelligence to understand at wills you are over estimating your group's intellect or they are just so used to another system the change over is a bit jarring, I would say they will get used to this quick enough though. I started with 4e so didn't have other system rules confusing me but personally I have come to dislike martial encounters and dailies somewhat, I understood them and could justify them but I couldn't justify how you could use encounter power a and b once each and not encounter power a. I think the combat superiority mechanic do a great job of allowing fighters do some special things but also feel more built towards being a constant threat rather than coming in bursts.
B. Your striker argument I can understand but 4e is very much a team game the striker needs to work with everyone to ensure that damage output, defenders usually have other ways of dishing out damage and prevent damage done to others, leaders heal damage done and can often use their striker to do damage(I really disliked this aspect though there was talk that a warlord doing this in Next would require the recipient to use their reaction which is what I would like to see) and controllers tended to be more about effects and spreading their damage around.
C. Your interpretation of round by round tracking is probably a bit off, this is pretty common and I can't remember exactly where in the PHB it's spelled out when something can only be done once per round it's basically short hand for "you can't do this again until your next turn" so maybe they need to make this more clear in next.
D. Forced movement is good but I think sliding should be limited or perhaps even scrapped, maybe if it was only some melee characters and you have to keep the enemy within reach (I loved my monk's centred flurry of blows in 4e for example and monks manipulating their opponents movement to their advantage makes sense to me) ranged sliding is a bit too powerful IMO. Pushing and pulling is pretty clear and simple. Also for your reference forced movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks in 4e.
Overall the combat part of 4e is very in depth and because of this quite slow, I enjoy it a lot but I also love the speed that Next combat has has. I think Next can learn a lot from 4e so long as it takes the good aspects and removes the bad.
Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 08:35 PM #5
So first off, the fact that some people don't want to focus an immense amount of concentration on figuring out how to optimize the mechanics for stabbing someone with a knife in an RPG is not a sign of their mental inferiority.(a) At-will powers are junk.
Second, the problem here isn't necessarily at-will powers: it's the overly convoluted and exception-based powers that were so present in 4e. A wizard player can figure out just fine whether he wants to telekinetically flip a switch across the room or grab his opponent and jolt him with magical lightning or punch someone in the face (all "at-will powers" in 5e). The problem is something like the 4e rogue, who has a half-dozen different powers that are subtle mechanical variations on "stab a guy with your knife (and maybe move around a bit)."
The good news is that while 5e retains lots of at-will powers and abilities (in fact, that's all the 5e fighter and rogue get), so far they're all very clear in purpose. The fighter, for example, gets to choose each round whether he wants to hit harder, block incoming damage, and so on.
I think you're overstating this. Obviously there should still be a place for the guy whose focus in combat is dishing out pain, just as there's room for a guy who focuses more on protecting his allies or healing or controlling the battlefield. I take your point that the gap in damage outpoint shouldn't be a chasm, and so far in 5e I don't think it is.(b) The striker role should not exist.
Yup.(c) Round-by-round tracking sucks.
This is a pure playstyle thing. I've played in groups with battlemats where forced movement powers would be very fun, but I've also played in groups with no battlemats where they would just be frustrating to track. So far, 5e seems to be allowing for a small amount of forced movement (such as the fighter's push maneuver) but cutting down on the fiddly 5-foot shifts and pushes and pulls of 4e.(d) Forced movement is awesome.
Saturday, 29th September, 2012, 11:19 PM #6
I can't really agree with your conclusions on at-will powers. All it takes is a very quick read of the power to understand what it does--I still can't see why the rogue was so insistent on using a Strength-based basic attack when that basically shouldn't be listed anywhere on the sheet, much less anywhere near the Sly Flourish power. I understand your experience is different, but I just can't see what's so hard to deal with on these powers. The formatting is clear and clean. I don't get it. I don't mind Next's approach though, except possibly in the case of the rogue, which just strikes me as boring (in combat, at least) in its current iteration.
I also can't really agree with your assessment that the striker role shouldn't exist. It seems to stem from a conclusion that damage is everything, but it's really not. Ideally a leader should not just be healing, but also boosting allies' attacks and damage. If a druid can't do their job that's a playstyle thing, but they are very potent as disabling and action denial (flame seed is not a very good power). In fact at higher levels of optimization the "striker" features are often the least valued, characters achieve high damage via multiple attacks and static bonuses (throw charging in there for good measure).
Sunday, 30th September, 2012, 12:09 AM #7
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Some interesting points, I really agree when it comes to duration effects. Just staying with ONE type should have been plenty. Why should I have to remember what EOYNT stands for?
When it comes to at-will powers I do agree and disagree at the same time. None in my group had any problems with it - or more so than any of the other changes that 4e brought. What I think is a good point is that having powers ends up making combat about selecting which power works best, instead of coming up with cool ideas. It's really easy to get into the "I am going to use my cool power X" state of mind, instead of coming up with a plan or alternative solution to the problem.
I do disagree about the different roles doing different amounts of damage. It's completely fine by me. If you have to do the highest amount of damage, just play a striker or build your character like a striker (at least for 4e there are so many options, that making just about any class a striker shouldn't be a problem. You will be worse at the class's original role though).
Sunday, 30th September, 2012, 01:11 AM #8
Guide (Lvl 11)
In playtesting my hybrid rules (the main change is monsters have 1/3 hp and replace surges with 1 HD per level), the cleric and fighter stood in a corridor and readied at-will attacks to attack any enemy that came in reach. Then they were charged by 4 lvl 2 hyenas and 8 lvl 3 minions. By the time it was done, there were three hyena bodies and both the cleric and fighter had taken some damage...several of the minions were standing back with charges readied for when their allies fell. For a 6th lvl fighter to ready an attack and then us it to attack a pack of hyenas charging him, it is intuitive that if he manages to hit the first hyena, it will drop and then the others will get through. In 4e, even using power strike to do 4d6+11, even a crit will not kill a 37 hp hyena...no matter how you slice it, that stinks like the stuff that comes out of the nether end of a bull.
We playtested a fight with 4 6th level characters vs a young red dragon tonight...it was a great fight...In the opening round, the fighter readied a throwing hammer and the cleric readied her long bow to shoot when the dragon came near. The fighter scored a crit for 13 damage and the elf hit for 6...with a standard 4e dragon, that would amount to a whopping 1/20th of it's hp...effectively meaningless damage for what could only be called smart play and a great roll. How unsatisfying. Instead, with the dragon only having 111 hp, 19 damage is getting close to 20%...the dragon noticed.
Again, this is as expected that a 7th level solo should sit up and take notice when a 6th level fighter hits him in the mouth with a throwing hammer and an elf hits him with an arrow from a long bow.
The dragon breathed on them, doing substantial damage to each. Then the wizard emerged and used vision of Avarice to force the dragon (who was flying at a height of 25') to the ground and immobilized him with an illusion of a pile of gold and gems.
The fighter charged and got smacked with the tail...used power strike and rolled a second crit! This time with a maul for 4d6+11 or 35 damage...the dragon noticed that for sure! The elf hit with Levy of Judgement (bloodying the dragon, so he breathed again) and the scout (who was sneaking around the back) snuck into range for his hand crossbow and got a sneak attack (Multi-classed rogue), doing good damage (again with a basic attack!).
The fight lasted one more round or so...the fighter came very close to death twice. The elf once and the scout finally finished it off with a power strike (he missed but used levy to reroll). The dragon almost got back in the air which might have changed things but the wizard locked him up again with Maze of Mirrors.
This was a very fun fight and every power the PCs used from the 5th level daily down to basic attacks with very poor bonuses felt impactful (the elf with her bow gets +6 attack and d10+1 damage).
To me...4e, in it's attempt to focus on PCs and monsters feeling powerful with encounters and dailies, at-wills and basics got so watered down as to make things counter intuitive.
In my players' first game they encountered a group of dire rats...when they hit one and it didn't die and then it hit one of them for 8 damage they were taken aback...I didn't think much of it at the time, but in hindsight, their instincts were correct.
"A tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny." -Aesop
Sunday, 30th September, 2012, 03:30 AM #9
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
The main thing I noticed from your writeup is that newish players struggled with the complexity even at first level. I suspect this has more to do with learning new concepts than with innate intelligence. I think this is a good argument for making the first few levels mechanically simple. Experienced groups who would be bored with this can start a few levels higher.
"Enough screwing around. It's time to kill."
Sunday, 30th September, 2012, 03:58 AM #10
Defender (Lvl 8)
I don't agree 100% with your dislike of at-wills.
Your specific example was apt. The rogue player had in mind a description of the action he wanted to take. He wanted to stab something with a knife.
"I stab it with my knife," he says, and proceeds to follow the instruction given on his sheet to stab something with a knife. There it is, melee basic, dagger. He rolls it up.
"No," you say, "it's better if you use sly flourish."
But he doesn't want to flourish his dagger, he wants to stab something. It doesn't matter to him that, mechanically speaking, sly flourish is strictly superior. He doesn't "get" the game at that level yet, he just has an image of how he wants his action to resolve and wants to use the simplest option on his character sheet to achieve it. He wants to play the game, not study the rules.
Now I have to say that I have never met someone who had that much trouble understanding and using at-wills in 4E, but your point is still well taken. When designing the game for newbies, don't burden them with too many moving parts and don't overcomplicate what should be quite simple. If you want to stab the bad guy, push the "stab the bad guy" button and carry on.
But I disagree that this is fundamentally a problem with all at-wills. At-will powers that don't overlap conceptually with "basic attacking" are a lot easier to keep straight and to know when to use. Indeed they allow for archetypes that would simply be unavailable in a system where the only at-will option involves swinging a weapon or pulling back on a bowstring. My example is magical at-will spells.
I doubt that even the player of the rogue would have had trouble, if he were playing a warlock, when deciding whether to attack with a dagger or let loose with an eldritch blast. They have little to no conceptual overlap, and in fact the eldritch blast at-will power is exactly what a magic-using character should be doing: magic. A new player might not understand the subtle differences between various techniques of swinging your sword, but it takes a special kind of clueless not to understand the difference between poking it with a knife and blasting away with a bolt of congealed arcane power.
TL;DR - At-wills work better when they are obviously different from a simple weapon attack, and magic-users are a prime example. Don't overcomplicate things, but don't ignore instances where at-wills (and any other previously overused mechanic) might be used sparingly but to good effect.