D&D 4E Ben Riggs' "What the Heck Happened with 4th Edition?" seminar at Gen Con 2023

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
So I used the Search function to find these posts of mine, about skill challenges and some related 4e-isms, from the first half of 2008:




It's good to see that nothing has changed in the intervening 15 years!
I've never argued anything other than preference regarding 4e (as far as I remember anyway), so I guess I still fall in the same side of the fence now as I did 15 years ago too!
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Could work in a simulasionist game, but in a heroic fantasy one, I personally prefer HP to be an abstraction and not spend too much time recovering. Personally, I loved the introduction of short and long rest and not have the character forced to spend a month in bed to recover if there is no way to heal magically.
I can't deal with full combat effectiveness or dead, with nothing inbetween.
 


Red Castle

Adventurer
I can't deal with full combat effectiveness or dead, with nothing inbetween.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall it has always been the case in DnD, at least since 2nd ed... except for 4e that introduced the Bloodied mechanic but even then, it didn't really affect combat effectiveness, more like gives a bonus once in a while depending on powers and races, or trigger some special actions from monsters.

A good system that deal with that is Trudvang Chronicles. In this system, the Body Points are clearly only physical damage and the more damage you get, the less effective you'll be (-1 once you lose a quarter of your BP, -3 when you're at half BP and -7 once you lose three quarters... then you're dead). Also, you never really get more BP as you gain experience, what you start with is what you get for your entire adventure life until you die a horrible death... to counter that cruelty, you can try to parry each attack that hit you, but you need to keep points available for that and it's no guarantee. Also, weapons and armors also have body point and can potentially break if you're not careful. If I want to play a more simulationist gritty survival game, that's my system of choice. But if you want my opinion, while it is nice to try to simulate real life and getting hurt, what I feel like it does is just slow down combats, since the longer you fight and get hurt, the less effective you get so it becomes harder and harder to hit the enemy, and the same things happen for the enemies that have more and more trouble hitting you... so honestly, I think I prefer the full combat effectiveness of DnD over the more real cruel rules of Trudvang... still a wonderful game!
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
The intent that it "be played in a very specific way" - while great for a niche game - doesn't square very well with the big-tent game-for-everyone approach that, 3e notwithstanding, D&D had largely taken up until that point. The people at WotC clearly learned this lesson well, went back to the big-tent model with 5e, and have been rewarded with a very successful ten-year run.
Yes, I agree, from a buisness perspective, it's better to offer a more generic system that will satisfy the most people instead of just focusing on one particular group and turn off the rest, and the popularity of 5e is a good proof of that. Ultimately, they made the good move from a buisness perspective. Game is nice and doesn't push too much in any particular style, you can make what you want from it.

Now, from my personal point of view, I prefer systems that are more specialise, that decide a style and go head on with it. I feel it has more personality and rules that will support what it wants to be. When you play Call of Cthulhu, you know it will be an horror game and rules will support it, Legend of the Five Rings have mechanics that makes honor impactful and make you feel like you're in a samurai setting, Trudvang Chronicles go full on in the survival aspect with extensive rules for hunting and the importance of taking care of your equipment, Star Wars games includes mechanics that represents the influence of the Force and blasters to go pew pew, etc.

So what makes DnD unique? That's a personal answer and everyone will have their own, but for me, DnD is about being big time heroes in a high fantasy setting where everything can happen... and in that sense, I think that 4e is the edition that best capture this style. If I want to play a more simulationist gritty game, I'll just play another game that I think will be more suited for it.

But again, the popularity of 5e and backlash of 4e show that I'm in a minority and that ultimately, WotC made the right call. Going with more generic rules that doesn't fully endorse any style while touching a little bit of everything paid off. And that's okay, as long as I still have all my 4e books and people to play with, I'm fine with what I have.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Heh, I think that regardless of how it’s named it would have get the same reception. Its a kind of concept/mecanic that you either love or hate, no matter how its called. It could have just been called stamina points, or endurance points. I know that’s how I interpret them since I like to make a player lose one after they fail an endurance check.

I can take it or leave it, but admittedly that's more in games with weird D&D style hit points.
 

I can't deal with full combat effectiveness or dead, with nothing inbetween.

The last Wizards game besides 4E that really did something with this design space I think was probably Star Wars: Saga Edition. The concept of the damage threshold and condition track were things that could still work in today's game and could really add something to the concept of "Big hits mean more than just big damage".
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
The last Wizards game besides 4E that really did something with this design space I think was probably Star Wars: Saga Edition. The concept of the damage threshold and condition track were things that could still work in today's game and could really add something to the concept of "Big hits mean more than just big damage".

Alternity, maybe.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I recall it has always been the case in DnD, at least since 2nd ed... except for 4e that introduced the Bloodied mechanic but even then, it didn't really affect combat effectiveness, more like gives a bonus once in a while depending on powers and races, or trigger some special actions from monsters.

A good system that deal with that is Trudvang Chronicles. In this system, the Body Points are clearly only physical damage and the more damage you get, the less effective you'll be (-1 once you lose a quarter of your BP, -3 when you're at half BP and -7 once you lose three quarters... then you're dead). Also, you never really get more BP as you gain experience, what you start with is what you get for your entire adventure life until you die a horrible death... to counter that cruelty, you can try to parry each attack that hit you, but you need to keep points available for that and it's no guarantee. Also, weapons and armors also have body point and can potentially break if you're not careful. If I want to play a more simulationist gritty survival game, that's my system of choice. But if you want my opinion, while it is nice to try to simulate real life and getting hurt, what I feel like it does is just slow down combats, since the longer you fight and get hurt, the less effective you get so it becomes harder and harder to hit the enemy, and the same things happen for the enemies that have more and more trouble hitting you... so honestly, I think I prefer the full combat effectiveness of DnD over the more real cruel rules of Trudvang... still a wonderful game!
I've become less tolerant of the concept over the years. I really want being brought to zero to mean something, other than the possibility of death. Injury and rest that last longer than 8 hours should be in the mix.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
So, like....

"When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as –3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious. In each of the next succeeding rounds 1 additional (negative) point will be lost until –10 is reached and the creature dies. Such loss and death are caused from bleeding, shock, convulsions, non-respiration, and similar causes. It ceases immediately on any round a friendly creature administers aid to the unconscious one. Aid consists of binding wounds, starting respiration, administering a draught (spirits, healing potion, etc.), or otherwise doing whatever is necessary to restore life.

Any character brought to 0 (or fewer) hit points and then revived will remain in a coma for 1-6 turns. Thereafter, he or she must rest for a full week, minimum. He or she will be incapable of any activity other than that necessary to move slowly to a place of rest and eat and sleep when there. The character cannot attack, defend, cast spells, use magic devices, carry burdens, run, study, research, or do anything else. This is true even if cure spells and/or healing potions are given to him or her, although if a heal spell is bestowed the prohibition no longer applies.

If any creature reaches a state of –6 or greater negative points before being revived, this could indicate scarring or the loss of some member, if you so choose. For example, a character struck by a fireball and then treated when at –9 might have horrible scar tissue on exposed areas of flesh — hands, arms, neck, face." -AD&D 1e — DMG, p. 82
 

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