4E Speculation about "the feelz" of D&D 4th Edition
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  1. #1

    Speculation about "the feelz" of D&D 4th Edition

    D&D was originally a game about exploration and resource management with combat elements (sort of a Tolkienian Oregon Trail game). It quickly developed elements of heroic narrative, due to the nature of the setting. Based on my understanding of the rules, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and now 5th Edition all attempt to maintain this tension between the "how many arrows the PC can recover post-battle" part of play versus the "hitting the Dragon in the heart with the PC's last arrow" part, but the 4th Edition rules seemed to have abandoned (or made irrelevant) the resource management part of the game. The rules have sections on equipment, the effect of weight,on movement, and such, but the allowances are so large that they have little effect, RAW, in how the characters interact with the game world. This accounts, I think, for the complaint that 4e "didn't feel like D&D".

    In other words, I don't think it's a "grittiness" factor, in itself, that is the source of the complaint. One can,pump up the danger of a 4e game quite easily. It is, rather, the idea that the characters can effectively ignore mundane matters like "do we want fried rat or fungus sandwiches for dinner?" and "Drat it all! We didn't bring enough sacks, again. Get all the gold coins and as many of the silver ones as we can. Leave the copper coins. Do you have the map? Good, let's get out of here."

    4e is still my favored edition.
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  2. #2
    I don't think it really gets all that complex. If you don't live in certain high-density gamer parts of the world, you have the following people to deal with:
    The guy who wants his PC to be as simple as possible - do the same attack every single round no matter what. And have the class name Fighter probably.

    The guy who wants his PC to appear as complex as possible, but use some subset of it. Also wants to destroy non-combat scenarios by casting spells. Most of which is accomplished by build, not by actual smart tactical play. i.e. the player wants to appear smart to other players simply by the complexity and usefulness of his build. Not because the player is actually smart.

    -----

    If you live in a low-density gamer part of the world, that's a problem in initial 4e. The simple guy is kind of a Ranger, but even then, not *that* simple. The complex guy is actually relatively complex, but not in a fire and forget way, but rather you have to carefully think about your choices - in a way that non-controllers don't have to think about. And for traditional Wizard players, they don't look smart.

    Toss in that initial 4e adventures were awful and a competing source of good adventures showed up(Pathfinder), that was really all it needed to take. If you notice, 5e's focus is almost entirely on good adventure content, not additional crunch. You live in a low-density area, you end up playing Pathfinder because otherwise you have two sullen players in your group.
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    I agree that 4e as written in the initial books had less attention to practical matters than other editions and I am in two minds about it. On one level I dont have enough time IRL to when I do play to detail every minutiae - lets get straight to the action. I dont want count arrows or how many sheets of toilet paper I have left. On the other I think heroic tier should have more a survival feel to it and rituals that avoid resources should be higher level etc. I do think that 4e started off a bit too heroic.

    That said, I have started to play a 4e Dark Sun campaign and we are counting water bottles! So like many things in 4e you can deviate from the tone of the initial 4e books

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    Eh, its easy enough to do fairly detailed resource games with heroic 4e. Toss the 'sun rod' which obviates all considerations of lighting or running out of light, and the rest of the equipment rules are pretty similar to earlier editions of D&D, though the equipment list is a little lean it has the most important stuff.

    The DMG has rules for what happens when you've got no light, exposure to the elements, and starvation, which pretty well covers the "got the wrong equipment for this, boss" end of things. Hirelings are missing (though added in MME, and easy enough to work in otherwise).

    What's missing is the exploration focus of the game itself, you're supposed to pretty much just go from interesting location to interesting fantastic location and do cool stuff, not draw a map of every bloody passage in between. Yet the mechanical basis of doing so is there, mapping is even discussed at one point. The lack of things like random encounters is a bit of an issue, though.

    Its true, 4e wasn't focused on exploration resource game, crawl play. OTOH a LOT of 1e adventures aren't that either, but they're stuck with rules that assume it. I was just considering the various OA modules that are being read over on RPG.net right now, and ALL of them work far better as 4e modules than as 1e modules. Maybe not in every detail, but in terms of general theme.
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  5. #5
    I do not know if I agree on this. I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc. In previous edition you as a fighter almost only had to care about Hit Points, that was it. Then you had to fiddle with potions, and other finite resources, which 4th Edition tried to limit but brought back in later books. The complexity hit everybody, not only spell casters. Some players did not like that.

    Then you can always play the game differently, but 4th edition in its "tone of communication" from WotC was very much "play it this way or the highway". WotC learnt this the hard way and in 5e they were much more humble and provides great options for DMs that want to have another style of play, pre-built into the rules - thereby pleasing a much larger crowd of players and DMs.

    I also think that some of the "d&d feeling" got lost in the ambitions to make descriptions simple, small things like a bag of holding exploding if put into an extra dimensional space. These were small things that helped in creating the "magic" feeling of D&D. I am putting these text snippets back into my magic item descriptions before handing them out these days.
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    You want to talk about feel?
    Was I really supposed to take an edition where the designers tried to tell me that magic arrows didn't exist seriously?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
    You want to talk about feel?
    Was I really supposed to take an edition where the designers tried to tell me that magic arrows didn't exist seriously?
    Thank you for your trolling; please move along now. You might consider using the time constructively to actually learn the rules of a game you didn't take seriously. Like, for example, how 4E does indeed include magic ammunition as well as magic bows, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Myrhdraak View Post
    I do not know if I agree on this. I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc. In previous edition you as a fighter almost only had to care about Hit Points, that was it. Then you had to fiddle with potions, and other finite resources, which 4th Edition tried to limit but brought back in later books. The complexity hit everybody, not only spell casters. Some players did not like that.

    Then you can always play the game differently, but 4th edition in its "tone of communication" from WotC was very much "play it this way or the highway". WotC learnt this the hard way and in 5e they were much more humble and provides great options for DMs that want to have another style of play, pre-built into the rules - thereby pleasing a much larger crowd of players and DMs.

    I never got the feeling they wanted you to 'hit the highway' if you didn't play the way the playtesters imagined the game being played. It was a new game, and they explained its play style, they didn't spend a lot of time talking about how to tweak that. I don't recall that 1e, 2e, or really even 3e or 3.5e did either, though they accumulated a lot of traditions and materials that (because these systems are largely conceptually analogous and can support similar techniques) remained a part of the corpus of D&D, until 4e changed all the rules. I can see why 5e went to such pains to explicitly talk about this. Really though, IMHO each edition pretty well plays a specific style well and none of them is exceptionally more flexible than the others.

    I also think that some of the "d&d feeling" got lost in the ambitions to make descriptions simple, small things like a bag of holding exploding if put into an extra dimensional space. These were small things that helped in creating the "magic" feeling of D&D. I am putting these text snippets back into my magic item descriptions before handing them out these days.
    I think it is a bit more general than that even. All those little quirky things were definitely part of the color of the game, but so were all the oddities of each spell, and even particular rules. I think 4e could have cultivated some of this color a lot better too. It has its own equivalents, but that doesn't mollify tradition very well.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Myrhdraak View Post
    I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc.
    Exactly so; the character's resources in 4E were "within himself", as it were, while in other editions the resources were what the character has in his knapsack.

    If you haven't watched Matthew Colville's excellent series "How to make a fighter in every edition of D&D, I recommend you do so. In one of the episodes, he rolls a low ability score, then comments that it's a problem soon remedied by equipment scoured from the dungeons (i.e. Belt of Ogre's Strength, etc.)

    In 4e, there isn't the fear of the character losing what makes him effective as an adventurer, since he has an array of powers that are always accessible.
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  10. #10
    It's weird, I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the "feel" of 4e vs. Pathfinder and he found it unbelievable that no matter what version of D&D my group plays, it always ends up having the same "feel." Because as a group of people we always focus on the things we enjoy the most, regardless of whether the system has fully fleshed out support for that aspect. I think it makes me appreciate or (or not) the particular system for its own particular game engine/rules engine and game elements and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the "tone" it sets because in my mind, the "tone" is what you bring to the table, not what you get from the books.

    In our case, it's about big heroism, dramatic moments, trash talk, lots of action and humor and not as much about resource management or exploration. But we've always played that way from Basic D&D through 1e, 2e, 3e, (and a very long Neverwinter Nights campaign) PF, 4e, 13A and 5e. (Yes, I do play with some of the same folks I started with almost 35 years ago - really!)
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