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

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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
Something like that, yeah.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Yes - the fully-functional/dead divide has been a problem in D&D since day one. 1e (optional) and 2e vaguely waved at fixing it with death at -10 and 0 to -9 meaning unconscious, but that's it.

I see 4e's Bloodied mechanic as being something different, though still a good idea (Bloodied is one 4e-ism that 5e would have done well to adopt outright).
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Something like that, yeah.
Apparently you want a much deadlier game than 5e. I mean, let's be fair- going to 0 hit points is an arbitrary and random event that most of the time, you can't really prevent. Most characters have no control over when an enemy will hit your AC in combat, or how much damage they do. Saying "well, don't fight monsters" is completely contrary to the point of the game. You're a Fighter and you enter melee combat, because that's what your class tends to do is going to result in you going to 0.

If the consequence of this is that you are in a coma for 1-6 turns, as Gary suggest (I think a turn is 10 minutes in AD&D) basically means you're not only out of the combat, you're not doing anything until the party can find a way to short rest.

Going to 0 hit points is already a really bad thing. Barring a massive stroke of luck, you are left to slowly bleed out until another character can use an action or a resource to get you back into the fight.

I realize you prefer the game to make narrative sense, but let's be real. Going on adventures and fighting deadly monsters in small groups doesn't make the most sense to begin with. It's this exact lethality in AD&D that led Robert Kuntz to hire a large force of hirelings to clear the way ahead for his party in a dungeon, much to Gary Gygax's chagrin.

If that sounds like the game for you, have at it, but it's certainly not the way most groups play the game.
 

Hussar

Legend
One of the most surprising, to me anyway things that came out of the whole 4e thing was this notion that D&D in any edition has ever supported simulationist play. Before 4e was announced, you never heard anyone talking about how they play D&D because it's a good simulationist game. And, frankly, people who DO play sim games would giggle at the suggestion. The whole point of sim games, very often, is a reaction to the almost complete lack of anything remotely resembling simulation in D&D (any edition).

Yet, it became this huge rallying cry. And, bizarrely, it still is. I mean, if you don't like Full to Zero HP mechanics, why on earth would you play any edition of D&D? D&D has never had anything remotely resembling a sim based combat system. It's entirely abstract and it's effectively old Final Fantasy 1 combat. One side wiggles slightly and a negative number appears over the sprite on the other side. Repeat until one side or the other falls down.

It constantly baffles me that anyone would seriously think that D&D is a sim game. :erm:
 

One of the most surprising, to me anyway things that came out of the whole 4e thing was this notion that D&D in any edition has ever supported simulationist play.
I think that came about because 3e was many a baby's first DnD and it had a lot of rules. Whether or not the end result made sense was immaterial, the important thing was having a lot of rules, which gives the impression that it's trying to simulate something.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
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

Unfortunately, this verbiage has been repeatedly misunderstood over the years.

 

Red Castle

Adventurer
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.
Then I highly recommend you take a look at Trudvang Chronicles, it’s the most simulasionist game that I know of and is very brutal. Don’t expect any kind of balance or guideline, it’s very old school in that regard. And there is not a lot of way to heal oneself except with time, naturally. I’m not even sure there is healing magic. But, the system is more complicated And the game is out of print so I’m not sure you can find a copy except in pdf.

If you want to stay in DnD, I know they released a 5e companion system named Trudvang Adventures. I know they brought back the injury threshold system so it might be to your liking. They also brought back the fear system that you might also like.

As for DnD, since it seems I recalled correctly, it never really was in its DNA. From my personnal opinion, since the system is trying to please everyone, long term injury is better left out of the game, because it doesn’t really work with the superheroic high fantasy that some people love (me included). But luckily, it’s the kind of rule that is easy to include, just a little talk at the start of the campaign to be sure everyone is onboard.
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
Yes - the fully-functional/dead divide has been a problem in D&D since day one. 1e (optional) and 2e vaguely waved at fixing it with death at -10 and 0 to -9 meaning unconscious, but that's it.

I see 4e's Bloodied mechanic as being something different, though still a good idea (Bloodied is one 4e-ism that 5e would have done well to adopt outright).
To be fair, that is a problem only if that is what you expect from DnD. Like I said earlier, for me DnD is a superheroic high fantasy system, so I have absolutely no problem with no injuries until 0, short rest and long rest. As a DM, I even think it’s a feature of the system, not a flaw (in 4e at least).

But this is what happens when you want to create a game that please everyone and every style and not give it a particular vibe. There will be rules, or lack of rules, that will create divisions depending, on the expectations of the players. By pleasing a group, you leave the other out.

And that’s why I prefer systems that choose a style, a specific way of playing and go with it. When I start a new campaign, I’ll choose the system that fits the kind of story/game I want to play, I won’t try to fit a style in a game that is not meant for it. That’s the reason 4e, for DnD, is the best fit for me, it knew exactly what it wanted to do.
 

pemerton

Legend
If you strip them of their narrative context, skill challenges are a terrible game; select your highest skill and try to roll well.
If you strip the roll to find a secret door of it's narrative context, it's a terrible game: try and roll a 1 on a 1d6.

But skill challenges have no meaning outside of their narrative context. The 4e DMG even says as much (p 72):

More so than perhaps any other kind of encounter, a skill challenge is defined by its context in an adventure.​

It goes on:

Define the goal of the challenge and what obstacles the characters face to accomplish that goal. The goal has everything to do with the overall story of the adventure. . . .

Give as much attention to the setting of the skill challenge as you do to the setting of the rest of the adventure. You might not need a detailed map full of interesting terrain for a skill challenge, but an interesting setting helps set the tone for the encounter.

If the challenge involves any kind of interaction with nonplayer characters or monsters, detail those characters as well. In a complex social encounter, have a clear picture of the motivations, goals, and interests of the NPCs involved so you can tie them to character skill checks.​

I have never seen a compelling argument for what benefit this serves over a specified action system
Here's an account of the difference between HeroWars (an early version of a closed scene resolution framework) and RuneQuest.

And here is an argument in favour of conflict over task resolution:


In task resolution, what's at stake is the task itself. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you crack the safe?

In conflict resolution, what's at stake is why you're doing the task. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you get the dirt on the supervillain?

Which is important to the resolution rules: opening the safe, or getting the dirt? That's how you tell whether it's task resolution or conflict resolution.

Task resolution is succeed/fail. Conflict resolution is win/lose. You can succeed but lose, fail but win.

In conventional rpgs, success=winning and failure=losing only provided the GM constantly maintains that relationship - by (eg) making the safe contain the relevant piece of information after you've cracked it. It's possible and common for a GM to break the relationship instead, turning a string of successes into a loss, or a failure at a key moment into a win anyway.

Let's assume that we haven't yet established what's in the safe.

"I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!"
It's task resolution. Roll: Success!
"You crack the safe, but there's no dirt in there, just a bunch of in-order papers."

"I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!"
It's task resolution. Roll: Failure!
"The safe's too tough, but as you're turning away from it, you see a piece of paper in the wastebasket..."

(Those examples show how, using task resolution, the GM can break success=winning, failure=losing.)

That's, if you ask me, the big problem with task resolution: whether you succeed or fail, the GM's the one who actually resolves the conflict. The dice don't, the rules don't; you're depending on the GM's mood and your relationship and all those unreliable social things the rules are supposed to even out.

Task resolution, in short, puts the GM in a position of priviledged authorship. Task resolution will undermine your collaboration.

Whether you roll for each flash of the blade or only for the whole fight is a whole nother issue: scale, not task vs. conflict. This is sometimes confusing for people; you say "conflict resolution" and they think you mean "resolve the whole scene with one roll." No, actually you can conflict-resolve a single blow, or task-resolve the whole fight in one roll:

"I slash at his face, like ha!" "Why?" "To force him off-balance!"
Conflict Resolution: do you force him off-balance?
Roll: Loss!
"He ducks side to side, like fwip fwip! He keeps his feet and grins."

"I fight him!" "Why?" "To get past him to the ship before it sails!"
Task Resolution: do you win the fight (that is, do you fight him successfully)?
Roll: Success!
"You beat him! You disarm him and kick his butt!"
(Unresolved, left up to the GM: do you get to the ship before it sails?)

(Those examples show small-scale conflict resolution vs. large-scale task resolution.)

Something I haven't examined: in a conventional rpg, does task resolution + consequence mechanics = conflict resolution? "Roll to hit" is task resolution, but is "Roll to hit, roll damage" conflict resolution?​

Whether or not you find that argument compelling is probably a matter of your taste.
 

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