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  1. #51
    Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
    So, what exactly caused this brokenness in the epic tier? The epic destiny abilities?
    Likely a combinaion of option creep and power creep synergizing with a group that had spent 20+ levels working out how to work together.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
    I also have a suspicion that most groups that made it into epic tier were 'early adopters' and only faced encounters with MM1 / MM2 monsters that didn't yet use the proper math.
    Which is a problem, if two thirds of the monsters in the game don't work and the monsters aren't challenging enough for the first couple years of the edition.
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  2. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    It is not about memorizing rules. There aren't rules for these keywords, aside one very brief section in the PHB that is about half a page (and which really doesn't say much that is important). It is about being able to see plainly from the description of your Frost Blade that it does indeed add the COLD keyword and damage type to your MBA and thus interacts with your Lasting Frost feat. This is something that in 5e requires parsing dense text of 2 different game elements and then hoping that it isn't worded so vaguely that you still have to consult the DM.
    It's very much about memorizing rules.
    Looking at Pathfinder 2 here, rather than keeping this about 4e (because discussing that in terms even remotely non-positive will automatically induce an edition war)


    CLOAK OF ELVENKIND ITEM 10+
    Illusion, Invested, Magical
    Method of Use worn, cloak; Bulk L
    Activation [[A]] Focus Activation, [[A]] Operate Activation

    This cloak is deep green with a voluminous hood, and is embroidered with gold trim and symbols of significance to the elves. The cloak allows you to cast the ghost sound cantrip as an innate arcane spell. When you draw the hood up over your head (an Interact action), the cloak transforms to match the environment around you and muffles your sounds, giving you an item bonus to Stealth checks. If you activate the cloak, you pull the hood up and are affected by invisibility for 1 minute or until you pull the hood back down, whichever comes first.
    Type standard; Level 10; Price 1,000 gp
    The cloak grants a +3 bonus.
    Type greater; Level 18; Price 24,000 gp
    The cloak grants a +5 bonus, and invisibility is 4th level. If you're also wearing greater boots of elvenkind, the greater cloak of elvenkind allows you to Sneak in forest environments even when creatures are currently observing you.

    Looking at it, the activation uses two keywords and a couple symbol, plus Bulk and the various tags (illusion, invested, magical). There's references to the "Interact" action in the text as well. There's a lot of stuff that is just gobbledygook to new players.
    But my favourite bit is at the end where the cloak says it allows you to "Sneak in forest environments". It reads like a plain sentence but the capitalization denotes it's actually some special term. What does it mean? I'm uncertain. It's basically hidden rules.

    Or another example, 13th Age.
    I was working on making a 5e warlord type class for a while. And looked at the Commande for inspiration. And found its powers awkward to parse.
    Buck Up!
    Quick action Recharge 16+ after battle
    Targets: You and 1d4 nearby allies
    Effect: Each target gains temporary hit points equal to the average number of hit points it gains when it heals using a recovery.
    Champion Feat Add twice your Charisma modifier to the temporary hit points each target gains.
    Epic Feat One of the targets can also heal using a recovery.

    I can guess at some of the purposes but so much of how the power works or what it does is hidden in other rules.
    That's a barrier to entry and requires system mastery to know what powers do, let alone if they're good or bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    This is patently untrue. Higher level monsters almost universally have better ACs. Particularly in 2e where monsters with more than 6-8 hit dice are MUCH more powerful, and the 1e quirk of repeating 20 5 times on the attack matrix doesn't translate to THAC0 (meaning that negative ACs are MUCH more effective than in the older edition). I've done the math, even 1e has pretty much the same overall rate of advance in bonus and defenses that 4e has. Albeit things start off a bit worse for the PCs, usually needing a 14 or so to hit, and slowly progress to where they can often hit on a 10 or maybe even an 8 if they're not taking on a top-rung enemy (but forget it if you run into demons or something like that).
    You SAY you've done the math and then don't provide it Proof doesn't work like that.

    Do higher level monsters have a lower AC. Okay. Probably. That's going to happen. But the key phrase of my claim was that "the AC of enemies goes up at a matching rate".

    Let's actually go to a book. I have the 2e Monstrous Manual handy on my PC so I'll use that.
    (Man, I had forgotten how low monster hit points were in 2e. There's some high level critters here that might only have 40hp...)

    For low level monsters Goblin is AC 6; kobold is AC 7; orc is AC 6; ogre is AC 5
    The hill giant is AC 3. Stone is AC 0. Storm is AC -6. A pit fiend is -5 while the balor is -8. Will o'wisps are -8 for some reason. And the tarrasque is only -3.
    But dragon is the big one, with it's AC having a base number that varies by it's age, from -6 for a hatchling to +8 for a great old wyrm. 11
    So the difference between a kobold you fight at level 1 and the great wyrm red dragon you fight at level 20 is. 17.
    And that's the most extreme example I can find, with most high level dangerous foes typically only having an AC in the -5 range. If even that.

    The fighter's bonus to attack rolls from just THAC0 exceeds the increases to AC. Their accuracy increases.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    You don't 'always encounter' such things in 4e either. You are just very much likely to adventure in areas that are thematically, and thus level, appropriate to your characters. In those places most things are possible to overcome with modest luck and a little ingenuity. Its perfectly possible and entirely appropriate and within the rules, for a 4e DM to stick a 20th level lock in front of your level 6 party. They won't get past it, at least not by picking it. Maybe that's the point! The beauty of this kind of setup is, it puts things clearly in the adventure designer's court. Its clear what everything will mean and do within the adventure when its played.
    Emphasis added. "It's not against the rules to."
    Yeah no. That's a theoretical argument. We're not discussing hypotheticals or corner case situations where you throw a great wyrm blue dragon against a level 5 party.
    In the overwhelming majority of cases, groups are going to regularly and continually encounter threats and challenges at their level. That's the assumption, and in that case the increased bonuses you have match the increasing DC.
    That's how it works in 3e, 4e, Pathfinder, and very likely Pathfinder 2. Where you go from a +5 on a check and a DC 15 to a +25 on a check and a DC 35.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    Well, now you have talked to one who has the opposite experience! I'm far from alone, there are dozens of posters on EnWorld who will happily tell you the same thing. Not to mention at least 3 groups of players I ran through campaigns during my 4e GMing.
    I think I'll continue to rely on: http://slyflourish.com/epic/

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    No bog standard of templatized encounter design is going to counteract that. You have to read more into things. Epic scenarios need to be cast in epic terms.
    So do the encounter building rules in the DMG work?
    Are five level 25 monsters an moderate challenge for five level 25 PCs?
    Is Orcus in the Monster Manual a decent challenge?

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    There aren't 5 standard monsters worth of opponents in a level 30 encounter, designed to the 'Commander and Troops' template. Instead its Orcus demon prince of the undead with 100 level 30 minion ghouls, a level 29 elite lieutenant, and a bunch of nasty terrain/traps to make the PCs lives hell, combined with some sort of nasty time constraint, plot twist, etc. to turn things INTERESTING!
    Well, that answers my above questions, and you admit I was right. That the rules broke down. You could no longer uses the assumed challenges in the book or the rules for encounter building that came with the game.
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  3. #53
    I'm going to take a slightly different tack here. I don't disagree that all of the elements under discussion here were part of the 4E design/intended experience, and I agree that 4E set out to, and did, solve a lot of problems inherent to the design structure of 3E.

    But, since the first release of the OGL, we've heard something akin to a truism: adventures are important, but they don't sell. Even in 5E, it seems that WotC wants to off-load adventure publication to third parties (see DMs Guild).

    So why has a slight majority of 5E game books published by WotC actually been adventure books? (Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat, Princes of the Apocalypse, Out of the Abyss, Curse of Strahd, Storm King's Thunder, Tales from the Yawning Portal, Tomb of Annihilation vs, PH, DMG, MM, SCAG, Volo's Guide, Xanathar's Guide) Even if you count the Elemental Evil Player's Guide as a game book, despite being released in PDF only, there's still a slight majority of adventures over 'crunch' books.

    Someone might argue that the adventure books are also serving as campaign books, examining locations in the Realms and expanding them, but that's a very recent phenomenon, if it's true at all -- Tomb of Annihilation contains some setting details regarding Chult, but SCAG has way more info on specific locations in the Sword Coast than all the adventure books combined.

    I believe that WotC is focusing on adventures even more than sourcebooks or other 'crunch', because the actual essence of 4E, as derived from design experience, is that people had a very difficult time taking the 4E rules and turning them into compelling adventures.

    The beginning of the 4E era featured adventures written by folks who seemed to presume that 4E adventures would work just like 3E adventures, and ended up with wildly unbalanced series of encounters that led to overwhelming final battles that, often as not, would leave the group unsatisfied. (I'm looking at you, Keep on the Shadowfell, but this was not the only early 4E adventure that suffered from this problem.) Phase 2 of 4E adventure design occurred once adventure writers fully got their brains wrapped around 4E's encounter design rules, but still hadn't figured out how to combine those encounters into coherent adventures, leading to adventures with a series of interesting set-piece encounters, but no real narrative cohesion. Living Forgotten Realms features a lot of these adventures, but the apotheosis of this style of adventure is probably Madness in Gardmore Abbey, which uses the gimmick of the Deck of Many Things to feature a series of wild battles. (You can even track the transition of 4E adventure design from Phase 1 to Phase 2 by going through the Scales of War Adventure Path, which began firmly in Phase 1 design mode, but slowly transitioned to Phase 2 just prior to the change from Heroic to Paragon tier with the adventure "The Temple Between".)

    Somewhere during Phase 2, somebody got the idea to solve the narrative problem by adapting older adventures with already-understood narratives. In this way, the adventure wouldn't need to deal so much with the underlying narrative, since players familiar with the original adventure would provide their own narrative superstructure for the action. You could see the beginnings of this style with Demon Queen's Enclave, the WotC-published mid-Paragon Points of Light adventure; it wasn't D3 Vault of the Drow, not really, but you could see the connections if you squinted hard enough. This was followed by explicit reflavorings of old adventures, including Revenge of the Giants (the G-series), Tomb of Horrors, and finally, the Keep on the Borderlands, which launched alongside the nostalgia-fueled Red Box whose earlier analog had hosted the original Keep for the previous generation of D&D grognards.

    Did anybody get 4E adventure design right? I'd argue one group finally did -- the Living Forgotten Realms folks mentioned above. Only a handful of Season One LFR adventures were really memorable, as their designers figured out the design of 4E encounter building ahead of the curve (my nominees for best Season One LFR adventures would be BALD 1-2, The Night I Called the Undead Out, and DALE 1-1, The Prospect, each of which I ran repeatedly for new players), but by the time Season 3 rolled around and regions were getting reshuffled, the narrative portion of the TTRPG experience had managed to make a solid return to the table. Some of the best 4E gaming experiences I've ever had occurred at GenCon 2012 at the LFR tables, especially WATE 4-3, which our group resolved not with a massive combat, but with a hastily-prepared theatrical production attempting to goad the adventure's villain into revealing himself, an event that would have warmed the heart of any streaming 5E DM. Unfortunately, by that time, WotC had already announced 'D&D Next', and the experience of adventure writers who finally could figure out how to marry narrative and combat in 4E's highly-structured system was no longer required as the much less structured 5E rules system seemed to allow narrative more room to breathe.

    The lesson that WotC seemed to take from the 4E experience was not to leave adventure design in the hands of those who don't understand your system -- which became reinforced when the in-house Lost Mine of Phandelver proved a far superior 5E adventure to the outsourced Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Though WotC still has the DMs Guild to provide an outlet for third-parties to supply 5E adventures, the marquee adventures are all either released from in-house resources (the hardcover adventures) or from hand-picked third parties of known quality (the Adepts that publish on DMs Guild).

    I honestly believe that, if adventures like WATE 4-3, EPIC 4-2, and Shards of Selune had been available in 2009 rather than in 2012, the story of 4E would look very different.

    --
    Pauper
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  4. #54
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    Just checked back on this briefly. That is a great and extremely insightful post @Pauper . Just a couple of thoughts on those lines:

    1) An appropriate analog to your dont leave adventure design in the hands of those that dont know your system for this thread (and every other one dating back to 2008) on the essence of 4e would be...

    Dont let people who

    - dont/didnt play your system in any meangful way
    - who dont know your system
    - and who actively hate your system...

    incorrectly (as theyve done over...and over...and over for many years) depict it!

    2) As Ive said many times on these boards, its no coincidence that the folks who enjoyed 4e the most and who had the most success with it are GMs who have extensively run indie games that feature emergent story driven play via (closed) conflict-charged scenes as the exclusive locus of play. Those sorts of games dont rely upon, or particularly play nice with, Adventure Path play. They require improvisational GMing that cuts to the thematic meat/action and stays there relentlessly, letting one scene evolve to the next. That is what 4es machinery was built to do (and it does extremely well).
    Last edited by Manbearcat; Wednesday, 27th June, 2018 at 02:05 AM.

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by Ancalagon View Post
    ... you are familiar with bounded accuracy yes?



    I was very dubious about bounded accuracy when I started playing 5e... and now I love it. As a GM it's fantastic. There is no DC treadmill, a crazy race to increase your AC (or become hugely vulnerable) etc etc
    Bounded Accuracy is just a much slower treadmill.

    It's not just the monsters or the DC it's also your buddies. Every class advancing in lock-step as they level up their 5e 'Proficiency' is no different from 4e doing away with BAB.

  6. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    As I interpreted it, you were expected to heal up to full between encounters, and healing surges limited how many encounters you could go through in a day. Generally speaking, you wouldn't keep going, if you were low an HP and you had no surges left.

    Whether they didn't want you to run easy encounters because it would have been a waste of time at the table in exchange for very little attrition, or because they would be boring from a narrative perspective and they wanted you to focus on the "important" parts, doesn't seem all that important of a distinction. In practice, they would tend to reinforce each other.
    Maybe it's just because I was coming out of AD&D, where healing and magic items were practically non-existent, but we never hit upon the "magic wand" solution. When I first saw it in action, many years later, it seemed more like an exploit than anything that was ever intended; especially given that the game worked perfectly fine - arguably even better - when we didn't heal to full after every fight. After all, it meant we could have serious battles against weaker enemies, which became meaningful because of the attrition involved.

    I'm willing to buy that healing surges were their solution to prevent that exploit, but it seems like a stretch to ever assume that easy healing was the intent of third edition. Honestly, at least half of the emergent play in third edition seems unintended.
    It could be said that the essence of 4th was adaption to all the emergent elements of 3rd that were exploitive.
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  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
    Well, our 4e campaigns never got that far. Our longest campaign ended in the middle of Paragon tier. But at that point we ran into the opposite problem: even standard monsters could apply nasty conditions that we really weren't prepared for. Thanks to retraining we managed to adapt a bit, but many encounters became really tough for our group, especially if our main striker was taken out.

    So, what exactly caused this brokenness in the epic tier? The epic destiny abilities?

    I also have a suspicion that most groups that made it into epic tier were 'early adopters' and only faced encounters with MM1 / MM2 monsters that didn't yet use the proper math.
    Also, in many reports about epic encounters being too easy, the PCs were apparently able to 'go nova', i.e. use all of their daily powers in every encounter. In our games we usually had at least 3 or 4 encounters before being able to take an extended rest, so on average we only had 1 or 2 daily powers available in each. We were always quite reluctant to use our daily powers because we never knew how many more encounters we'd have to face.
    There are a few things which lead 'stock' encounters to become easier at high levels. There is much more scope by then to have constructed the most effective builds. Depending on the vintage of your playing experience that could be a 'frost cheese' based setup, a 'radiant mafia' (hospitaler plus lots of radiant), charge builds, super teleporting warlock cheese, etc. Even if you avoid all of those (and many others, this is not a catalog of them all) just going through your feats, powers, and items with the rest of the party and looking for synergies and then reinforcing them will get you a LONG ways. Paragon introduces things like AP bonuses, some of which can be exceedingly strong. There are also things that let you re-use powers (cut back on by errata over time, but even late game there are some). Many EDs include "come back from the dead" options (at least one of which can famously make the character utterly unkillable) which are a nice addition. Another major dimension of this is 'frontloading', the selection of powers and feats which allows multiple attacks to be made in rapid succession. The most obvious practitioner is the ranger, and I've seen Epic rangers unleash as much as 8 attacks in round 1, each one of which is a REALLY deadly striker shot.

    At the same time, monsters don't gain MUCH. Yes, they can get stuns and dominates now and then, but your average monster is either dusted completely or reduced to ineffectiveness by conditions by round 2 in epic. The move to more elite and solo monsters only makes this WORSE as the same condition that is barely worth applying to the standard that will go down before its next turn anyway is a HUGE windfall when it cripples the 'good as 4 monsters' solo. MM1/2 solos are just fodder for this, lacking almost any usable condition shedding.

    However, even quintessential MM3 monsters, such as Lolth (which completely regenerates itself and sheds all condition at bloodied ON TOP OF having a couple other ways to shed them) are not going to cut it against a party without a lot of support. Even Demogorgon can't handle a level 30 capstone encounter without a bunch of supporting cast.

    Honestly, Epic powers are the LEAST factor in all of this. There are some nasty ones, no arguments, but even without those it wouldn't be significantly different. 4e is a game that features a lot of cool powers and such, but no one thing makes the game. Its not like AD&D where you had a few really crazy spells that just paved your opponents whenever you got to roll them out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    As I interpreted it, you were expected to heal up to full between encounters, and healing surges limited how many encounters you could go through in a day. Generally speaking, you wouldn't keep going, if you were low an HP and you had no surges left.
    Sure, but you have to spend HS to do that, so even a weak encounter, if it costs you HS, is significant attrition. Every HS in a hard 4e workday is precious! Especially if its Mr Fighter that just had to spend his (transferring them is a problem, though not impossible).

    Whether they didn't want you to run easy encounters because it would have been a waste of time at the table in exchange for very little attrition, or because they would be boring from a narrative perspective and they wanted you to focus on the "important" parts, doesn't seem all that important of a distinction. In practice, they would tend to reinforce each other.
    Eh, I'm not sure I miss them anyway. My point was just that there's nothing mechanically which makes such encounters 'worthless', assuming they are part of a series of encounters during a day.

    Maybe it's just because I was coming out of AD&D, where healing and magic items were practically non-existent, but we never hit upon the "magic wand" solution. When I first saw it in action, many years later, it seemed more like an exploit than anything that was ever intended; especially given that the game worked perfectly fine - arguably even better - when we didn't heal to full after every fight. After all, it meant we could have serious battles against weaker enemies, which became meaningful because of the attrition involved.
    It is far beyond me to guess what was in the minds of the 3.x designers when they wrote those rules. I will say this much. 3/3.5e are poorly thought out. There are VAST numbers of things in them which clearly don't work in a way which fosters a better play experience. A lot of it I just can't even fathom why anyone would have designed a D&D that way, its obvious from just an initial reading that a lot of stuff is borked.

    I think its quite possible to read 4e as MOSTLY a reaction to this poor design that riddled 3.x. Where 3.x tended to focus on trying to make each mechanic this great thing in and of itself, 4e focuses far more on the big picture of the whole system. This is a huge strong point of the game. You can see it in many details, like how Teleportation (the strategic kind) works in 4e. It provides all the potential plot hooks that the 3.x version does, but none of the narrative pitfalls and exploits.

    I'm willing to buy that healing surges were their solution to prevent that exploit, but it seems like a stretch to ever assume that easy healing was the intent of third edition. Honestly, at least half of the emergent play in third edition seems unintended.
    I don't think it matters what the intent was, the RESULT is what matters. 4e is a reaction to the actual in the world pitfalls of 3.x design.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
    Likely a combinaion of option creep and power creep synergizing with a group that had spent 20+ levels working out how to work together.


    Which is a problem, if two thirds of the monsters in the game don't work and the monsters aren't challenging enough for the first couple years of the edition.
    There really isn't power creep in 4e per-se. In fact the stuff released in PHB1 is often the strongest stuff in the game. Option creep OTOH always does happen. 4e started with a pretty broad swath of options, and tended to add new areas at a bit lower power level than the initial 'core' stuff (IE summoning is a weaker option than other wizard build options, though druids then get a slightly tweaked version that is pretty solid for them).

    I don't know where you get this idea that "2/3 of the monsters don't work". There are some specific monsters which don't work in situations where they are commonly employed by GMs. There are a very few that I would call 'broken' in some fashion in MM1, the Dracolich, the Wraith, the Needlefang Drake, the Halfling Slinger, and the Purple Worm all come to mind. In all but the last case the monster is actually TOO GOOD at what it does. Epic monsters make up maybe 1/8th of all MM1 monsters. Most of them work fine, you could even argue they ALL work fine if the GM is willing to create the right situation to make them a real threat.

    I do think that MM3 monsters work out better, both because they tend to have higher basic damage output, but also because they have a refined design technique and WotC invented additional types of features to give them where it made sense. So MM3 Epic solos, STILL won't stand alone in a vacuum against an Epic party, but you don't have to engineer encounters using them quite as much. I'd note that 3e and 5e have similar 'issues', you won't simply drop an 'epic' monster from those games onto a really strong party and expect it to go well. Maybe in 3e the monster could luck out and win on round 1, but that's not a design strength of 3e...
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  10. #60
    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    There really isn't power creep in 4e per-se. In fact the stuff released in PHB1 is often the strongest stuff in the game. Option creep OTOH always does happen. 4e started with a pretty broad swath of options, and tended to add new areas at a bit lower power level than the initial 'core' stuff (IE summoning is a weaker option than other wizard build options, though druids then get a slightly tweaked version that is pretty solid for them).
    Option creep = power creep.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    I don't know where you get this idea that "2/3 of the monsters don't work". There are some specific monsters which don't work in situations where they are commonly employed by GMs. There are a very few that I would call 'broken' in some fashion in MM1, the Dracolich, the Wraith, the Needlefang Drake, the Halfling Slinger, and the Purple Worm all come to mind. In all but the last case the monster is actually TOO GOOD at what it does. Epic monsters make up maybe 1/8th of all MM1 monsters. Most of them work fine, you could even argue they ALL work fine if the GM is willing to create the right situation to make them a real threat.
    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    I do think that MM3 monsters work out better, both because they tend to have higher basic damage output, but also because they have a refined design technique and WotC invented additional types of features to give them where it made sense. So MM3 Epic solos, STILL won't stand alone in a vacuum against an Epic party, but you don't have to engineer encounters using them quite as much.
    As you say, the math changed for the Monster Manual 3. Which means that all prior monsters were imperfectly designed.

    Looking at the update from July 2010: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/files/UpdateJuly2010.pdf
    You'll notice the damage is increased dramatically at all levels. The defences for the brute, soldier, and artillery changed. So every single one was being hit 10% too often.
    Early monsters were significantly too weak to even match baseline PCs, let alone optimised ones after two years of regular crunch.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    I'd note that 3e and 5e have similar 'issues', you won't simply drop an 'epic' monster from those games onto a really strong party and expect it to go well. Maybe in 3e the monster could luck out and win on round 1, but that's not a design strength of 3e...
    Whataboutism.
    3e and 5e having similar issues does not excuse 4e of having encounter design problems.
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