D&D 4E [4E Players, mainly] Ever thought of defecting to Pathfinder?

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
This is one of the reasons I consider WotC to be the industry leader, not just barely, but by miles. They're the ones innovating. What WotC gambles on today as a new rules system, or new way of integrating their online presence, will tomorrow be seen as the industry standard, something gamers will expect of their game of choice.

Right. As a web developer, I saw right away the power behind the uniformity of the original 4e design scheme -- everyone gets powers, everyone gets them at the same time... it's the sort of programming challenge that a programmer won't mind taking on.

The new essentials builds (and, really, going back to Phb3, when the psionic classes started to break the standard pattern of development) create a nightmare situation, by comparison -- each class's advancement system will have to be coded separately, which means a lot more work for the coders -- and more delays for the digital side of the offering. I'm sure that the WOTC developers have ulcers with "essentials" classes peeking out of them.

Still, I wouldn't have it any other way -- I think game design decisions should come first, even though it's nice when they're made with an eye towards the digital tool development. And I love the way the essentials classes help new players play their characters "right" -- they really capture the flavor of the class for new folks, and that's what they're meant to do. So, in the programmer's shoes, I'd make faces and bitch, but that's the job. I could be writing code for tax accounting software instead......

With those factors in mind, it makes it a lot easier to understand the changes in the programming department's stuff over the past 9 months or so. They had some pretty steep challenges:

1. Develop Web-based tools to replace the downloadable ones (this is a business necessity for WOTC)
2. Develop tools to handle the new, varied and inconsistent class structures in essentials products
3. Develop new tools, including the VTT offering.
4. Keep up development on the old, downloadable tools.

Given the challenges they face, and understanding that they're working with limited resources, it's not hard to see why they would decide to make the jump to the new character builder early -- before it was quite ready for release. Not releasing it would have meant either more months of not having the essentials in the character builder, or spending programming resources developing the essentials classes in the soon-to-be-deprecated downloadable builder -- a vast waste of programming time.

So, they stalled a little to get it as ready as they could be, then released it. I'm sure they lost a lot of sleep over the decision, and they're taking it on the chin from all us angry grognards, but in the end it was the only responsible decision they could make -- the best of several bad options.

They love the game as much as we do, and they want it to succeed. They're in a really tough spot right now -- and they're just starting to turn it around and come back up. They've got a lot of stuff to figure out about the future, both the game development future and the digital development.

Oh... and one more thought as we keep making comparisons between Paizo and WOTC: They're developing products that target different audiences. That has a profound effect on the products they're producing.

Paizo doesn't need to grow the market in the same way WOTC does. They're doing okay focusing on experienced, mature gamers. You can see this in the truly magnificent adventure paths and products they produce for Pathfinder and 3.5. I never want to play 3.5 again -- and the only thing that keeps me casting a glance back over my shoulder is those Paizo adventures.

And, as a DM and player, I often wish that WOTC would produce the same sort of smart, grown-up adventure paths for 4e. But it's important to understand that the decision not to produce those products is not a lack of ability - read the posts about the various campaigns the D&D developers are running -- they've got the skills, no question about it. It's not that they don't have the skills. It's because the audience they need to reach to meet their organizational needs is different.

Because of their position in the marketplace, WOTC must recruit and serve new players. And that recruitment serves everyone else in the industry (those recruits, like the rest of us, will develop into fans that check out other game systems, too). The rest of the industry can do pretty well picking away at the edges of the big D&D herd for players and DMs interested in finding something a little different. But WOTC has to create their new audience out of thin air, and that's a whole lot harder.

So, anyway, cut them some slack. 4e is still my favorite game. I still have towering respect for the guys that produce it. They've got a tough job to do, one that isn't just about coming up with cool ways to kill orcs and take pies.

-rg
 

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Votan

Explorer
Right. As a web developer, I saw right away the power behind the uniformity of the original 4e design scheme -- everyone gets powers, everyone gets them at the same time... it's the sort of programming challenge that a programmer won't mind taking on.

I thought Bioware did a very good job of implementing a very faithful adaption of 2nd edition AD&D in the Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 games (well, with the possible exception of Throne of Bhaal). So a class based system seemed to doable.

That said, 3rd edition dungeons and dragons was significantly more complicated than 2nd edition AD&D so perhaps it wasn't as suited for development?
 

Serphet

First Post
I thought Bioware did a very good job of implementing a very faithful adaption of 2nd edition AD&D in the Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 games (well, with the possible exception of Throne of Bhaal). So a class based system seemed to doable.

That said, 3rd edition dungeons and dragons was significantly more complicated than 2nd edition AD&D so perhaps it wasn't as suited for development?

eh... they're both equally do-able from a programming stand-point. The only technical difference is a skill system, vs an abstract 'reaction' and 'morale' system. In the end it's largely the same (look at Icewind Dale 1-2 for a more obvious window into this, DDO is an excellent adaption of 3.5 to a computer game). Thing is, the games didn't cover every possible action in game.

also: [MENTION=150]Radiating Gnome[/MENTION] I agree completly! I've always had the mindset that 'it looks like some CS majors tackled this edition', and I loved them for it.

On the other side of the valley, paizo is hammering out 'alternate classes'. The first round seemed to rub everyone the wrong way (myself included), I personally think they need at least one code-guy in the dev process, because the creation of these systems is so very akin to backend systems design.
 

DracoSuave

First Post
I'll be honest, if you need a computer to sort out your character creation in a table-top rpg, something is inherently wrong with your table-top rpg.

In 4e, the tools are nice, but hardly necessary.
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
I'll be honest, if you need a computer to sort out your character creation in a table-top rpg, something is inherently wrong with your table-top rpg.

In 4e, the tools are nice, but hardly necessary.

I don't really agree with you, Drac. This is just my opinion and experience, but I'm able to spend a lot more time being creative as I prepare my campaign because creating new monsters and variations on monsters for the game is a task of a few minutes in the electronic tools, rather than a task of hours with pen and paper and a stack of books.

So, for me, the tools have changed the way I prepare for games in a way that has made them essentially indispensable.

Another "chore" I no longer have to deal with as a DM is the time we used to spend reviewing player character sheets. In the 3e days, the DMs in our group regularly had to spend time between sessions examining PC sheet (created in excel) for error -- and the rules were complex enough that they were almost always there. Now that we have the CB, it's a lot easier to pop open a player's exported character and give it a quick look just to make sure you know what the PCs can do, and trust the CB to take care of the errors (temporary bugs aside).

So, both of those (monsters and characters) can be handled without the online tools, but personally, It'll be damn hard to get me to run a game like D&D without them. Maybe a much looser game like Dresden Files or savage worlds, but not D&D. No way. You can pry my digital aids out of my cold dead hands, gringo. ;)

-rg
 

Dannager

First Post
I'll be honest, if you need a computer to sort out your character creation in a table-top rpg, something is inherently wrong with your table-top rpg.

In 4e, the tools are nice, but hardly necessary.
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a table-top RPG that uses a computer to help you generate a character. That's the way things are going. Whether or not the system "requires" the use of a computer to generate a character, within a generation or two (and by generation here, I mean edition life cycle) creating a character by hand will very much be a rarity. Among 4e players, I daresay that using the Character Builder to create a character is fast becoming more common than the "old school" method. When we get to the point where everyone is using digital aids anyway, what is there inherently wrong about creating a system that builds their use into its design?
 

SkullThrone

First Post
I'm pretty much running 5e, to be honest having played 4e since the first materials hit the web, I've patched most of the holes I've seen before WotC did, but I think they have done most of my changes in their core books now, at least to some degree.

I have to be honest, I've considered switching to PathFinder...I too really enjoy 4e, but mostly as a DM I find the system sort of flawed and time consuming at the core. Every battle (if its level appropriate) takes 60 to 90 minutes, especially if you throw in terrain effects and a good mix of roles on the baddies...most of the time is spent tracking effects and I've known many people that have out-right switched to Ravenloft or Descent (their argument is 4e is so close to a board game they may as well skip the contrived delays and just play a board game).

I think 4e is still fun, but it largely (like previous editions) falls onto the DM to make it so. The problem with 4e is all the rules give the players ground to stand on, and much time is spend arguing rules (mostly afterwards) about calls I made for the sake of play during the session.

At Con of the North, I got to play Pathfinder for the first time, and I did witness a lot of the improvements from 3.5. on top of this every combat was deadly and the DM didn't need to inflate the battles to make them so, they simply were scary. I did like this.

I'm currently running a 4e Campaign and the party is 5th to 6th, the battles seem to drag on at the end, healing surges are consumed at a good clip, but the same sense of fear as the Pathfinder game had simply does not exist.

Plus a lot of things WotC has done just frustrates me...there own writers don't seem to understand what Darksun means, their Encounters series seem to continually be 12 encounters written by different people tossed together at the last minute and called an adventure...on top of it I haven't really seen many good 4e adventures that I could use out of the box...most require heavy modifications to avoid obvious questions from the party, or even to make the module make sense, I often piecemeal encounters or write my own to get them to even work as a cohesive module.

I plan to stick with 4e for the time being, but I have to admit my recent Pathfinder experience has me missing a lot of the items that 2nd and 3rd editions of the game had. I did play a 1st edition game at the con as well, and that reminded me of a lot of the things that I definitely am happy later editions "fixed".

I think on top of all this Paizo just seems to be more fan focused than WotC, and programmer friendly on top of it. Like some of the people have stated, to send a message to WotC it may be time to start voting with my wallet. Honestly, I think I've been loyal to the D&D name for namesake, but I'm not so sure I'll remain this way for long unless they get more fan focused.
 

Fedifensor

Explorer
I switched to 4E due to burnout on 3E. Pathfinder is cool, and I own the core rulebook...but every time I look at the magic item system I cringe. Spending 6 hours cataloging magic items and preparing a level 20 character sheet for Living Arcanis completely burned me out on the system, which I had played for nearly a decade. Pathfinder is an improvement from 3.5, but the backwards compatibility means the broken mess of magic items and high level spellcasters remains.

I've been playing 4E since it came out, and I plan to continue playing 4E for the short-term. However, I don't see any new products on the horizon that I'm interested in, and I don't plan to renew my DDI subscription when it expires. Which means WotC is done getting income from my purchases.

There has been talk in this thread about whether you should stop purchasing a system because of the decisions of the company. My take on it is that when the company's business decisions is harming the line, then you have to think about whether it's worthwhile to keep investing in new products, or just stay with what you have and don't buy new supplements. In my opinion, the original design goals of 4E have been abandoned due to financial decisions, which is why I'm reluctant to buy anything else from WotC.

4E had some good goals. No "must-have" feats. A reduction in magic items, so that you only really needed three items to be competitive (armor, weapon/implement, and neck slot). Limitations on how a person could increase their attack bonus. It wasn't perfect, but the PHB did a decent job of meeting those goals.

Then, the problems arose, and WotC fixed them not with errata, but with a calculated scheme to provide fixes via new product. Armor Class didn't scale in the upper levels, so Masterwork Armor was introduced in Adventurer's Vault. Instead of instituting a "math fix" for the reduced chance to hit in the upper tiers, they introduced Expertise feats and Paragon/Robust Defenses in PHB2. Suddenly, the game had must-have feats and equipment that was only in non-core books, making PHB-only characters inferior in comparison. This only got worse with Essentials, making those must-have Expertise feats and Defense feats (Superior Fortitude/Reflex/Will) even better, and giving each of them a secondary benefit that is worth a feat by itself. For all the people that railed against introducing a flat math fix via errata (+1 to hit per tier, for example), how is this better for the system?

Of course, we also had power creep in other ways. New supplements introduced Wizard powers that were superior to most powers in the PHB (and the few powers that were must-haves from the PHB were toned down via errata). Entire new slots for magic items were created (tattoos) and more powerful items were introduced, taking a step back towards the 3.5 philosophy that "clothes make the man". Even mundane equipment became more powerful...who takes a greatsword now that a fullblade is only one feat away?

There is no point to buying a PHB anymore - it's as outdated as a 3.0 book was for 3.5. This has happened for one primary reason - WotC wanted to maximize the sale of new books. I don't begrudge a company the right to seek profit, but I think the short-term profits from using new books as stealth errata has damaged the overall brand. This is why Pathfinder is catching up to 4E. Consumers aren't stupid - Essentials is a way to make WotC's customers repurchase the rules they already own.

Then, there's DDI. A good idea that has gone horribly wrong. When you replace the shining star of DDI with a replacement product that is inferior to what was previously offered, you're going to turn away customers. When your offerings in Dragon and Dungeon and magazine are significantly less than before (and by many accounts, inferior), you're going to turn away customers. When those magazines take much more work from a paying customer to acquire than they did in previous months (requiring individual downloads instead of a single PDF file), you're going to turn away customers. When you encourage piracy by providing no legal way to get PDF copies of your books (a stance that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the RPG industry), you're going to turn away customers.

All of these reasons are why WotC is on a downward spiral. So far, they've been saved by brand loyalty, and customer who feel locked into new purchases because they don't want to abandon something they've invested a lot of time and effort into (Living Forgotten Realms playes are an example of this).

I don't have exact counts from the convention that ran locally over President's Day weekend, but Pathfinder tables seemed as numerous as LFR tables...despite the presence of an all-day LFR Battle Interactive that was run for the first time in the midwest. If this is similar to what is happening in the rest of the country, WotC should be very, very worried.
 
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SkullThrone

First Post
Then, there's DDI. A good idea that has gone horribly wrong. When you replace the shining star of DDI with a replacement product that is inferior to what was previously offered, you're going to turn away customers. When your offerings in Dragon and Dungeon and magazine are significantly less than before (and by many accounts, inferior), you're going to turn away customers. When those magazines take much more work from a paying customer to acquire than they did in previous months (requiring individual downloads instead of a single PDF file), you're going to turn away customers. When you encourage piracy by providing no legal way to get PDF copies of your books (a stance that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the RPG industry), you're going to turn away customers.

Very good point I completely ignored DDI in my post, but when they said one thing and completely bait and switched the whole DDI application on people, then never delivered on most of the items they said...on top of this they had the nerve to completely redo an app that was already working...Character Generator as a desktop app worked fine, but rather than spend R&D doing something new (or something they had previously promised), they completely re-wrote this app, which maybe better for new users, but it slow and somewhat painful to use compared to even the old version.
 

As a die hard 4e fan, I have considered it because of the group of friends and family that I play with. We have all played hundreds of game systems in our day, and while I like 4e best of all, ultimately it doesn't matter what I play. I like telling stories with my friends. Stories that we all enjoy. Stories told in blood and spells. Doesn't matter if i am making a full attack and a 5' step, or blowing a daily power and shifting 1. It's all the same in the end. Fun killing things and taking their stuff.

If we did go back to 3.x, pathfinder would definately be it. A vast improvement over the last gen. Better Melee, Spellcasters that get some at-wills and enough tricks to essentially make encounter powers out of domains and school powers. Yeah the balance of the classes is still ridiculously off, but so long as you know that going in who cares. Playing a knight style fighter is great fun. at 18th level, i will be murderous. Maybe not as murderous as the wizard dropping time stop and meteor swarm, but does it really matter. Having fun is what it is all about.
 

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