D&D 5E Blow Torch Vs Scalpel: Neogrognardism 101.

fjw70

Adventurer
Kind of what I meant by splats. Reprint the core books every few ears assuming they can sell them and print an official adventure or whatever. A new official AD&D adventure would be sweet.


Yes I would like to see new adventures from older adventures from time to time.
 

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Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Note: this post is a bit convoluted. I'm sitting at work and don't have the time to thoroughly edit it; so it's more a stream of thoughts than a decent article. But as my schedule would allow me to work it out tomorrow evening, I post it anyway.

Your favoured approach - the scalpel - has its merits, but only if the thing you want to fix is pretty close to your ideal.

I was pretty much done with AD&D around 1999-2000, having shifted to other games and running the traditional group without much energy. A scalpel approach wouldn't have saved it for me. The 3e blowtorch was needed.

The concept of a continually supported version with an ongoing supply of material but with the core remaining intact and unchanged sounds nice. Yet even if they'd try to retain a (mechanical) constant version, WotC would have to update it stylistically.

What would today's teens think of the Easley covers of 2nd edition? Probably something like I think about stitched cushion sleeves: "Oh my...(shudder)"

The representation of rules in text has changed as well. The older versions had more or less isolated elements in spell and magic item descriptions. 3e started a trend of spearation of elements; feats, skills, prestige classes, they are all separate building blocks, each defined on its own. 4e continued the trend with the powers model. While those rules read terribly, the model has a distinct advantage: searchability. In the computer age you want to be able to find the definition of and rules for such an element easily and you want it to be presented comprehensively. A big contrast to old class or race descriptions, whihc didn't even have headings to organize the information.

From this follows, IMHO, that a constant corpus of a game can't be maintained indefinitely.

Another aspect you can't very well do with a scalpel is a change of focus. Let's look at the focus change from 3e to 4e. 3e used the model of an open construction tool and focusing on the possibility to add elements without limits to each part of the game. It didn't focus on balance and manageability of the resulting constructs. Balance could have been introduced by re-designing classes (scalpel approach), but manageability not.

Let's look at high-level buffing, e.g. Multiple buff sources with differing approaches to duration, keyworded stacking rules, and conditions made running such a combat a hell - for this humble DM at least.

4e introduced a focus change to the tactical combat encounter. (Likely) Actions became modeled in a rather rigid structure, durations were (more or less) unified, conditions were well defined on a very abstract level. This made the management of high-level combats much easier at the cost of introducing some "boardgame-think".

I don't think such a shift could have been introduced to 3e with the scalpel approach. The changes to the duration model alone would have forced WotC to re-write or even re-design an enormous amount of game elements.

NB1: Yes, I know, 4e combats aren't a breeze. Still, low-level fights with MM3 maths aren't as time consuming as many people seem to think.

NB2: The situation became worse with more and more interrupt actions.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
A scalpel approach to me with 3rd ed would have been tweaking the classes, buffing saves/lowering spell DCs, rewriting or removing the problem spells, tweaking the feat and toning down the stacking abuses. Mostly focusing on the math I suppose.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
A scalpel approach to me with 3rd ed would have been tweaking the classes, buffing saves/lowering spell DCs, rewriting or removing the problem spells, tweaking the feat and toning down the stacking abuses. Mostly focusing on the math I suppose.

With all the elements already published, this would have been a major task. Would there have been any book not affected by this? How happy would you have been when WotC told you: "Hey Zardnaar, nice that you've bought all our books! We have changed every single one, so please buy them again."
 

delericho

Legend
With all the elements already published, this would have been a major task. Would there have been any book not affected by this? How happy would you have been when WotC told you: "Hey Zardnaar, nice that you've bought all our books! We have changed every single one, so please buy them again."

Indeed. Prior to DDI, that was the huge problem with the scalpel approach - to justify a new edition, they had to change enough to persuade people to rebuy what they already had.

With the DDI available, that changes somewhat - once you've established the database of elements, you can progressively apply the scalpel as you go, making the updates as time permits. And, because it's paid for with an ongoing subscription, you don't need to persuade people to re-buy everything - you just need to not provoke them into cancelling their subscriptions.

Problem is that WotC were convinced (rightly or wrongly) that people didn't want the scalpel applied to 4e (the option supported by the DDI). And going back to 3e isn't really an option either, since the OGL means there's probably no money to be made by offering a subscription to a database (anything they offer can, and will, be undercut by a free option that's "good enough").

So, it pretty much had to be 5e, and it pretty much had to take a blowtorch to 4e.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
With all the elements already published, this would have been a major task. Would there have been any book not affected by this? How happy would you have been when WotC told you: "Hey Zardnaar, nice that you've bought all our books! We have changed every single one, so please buy them again."

Since I bought Pathfinder if they fixed the problem 3.5 had I would have been happy enough as long as the game was clearly a 3.5 descendant. It would not be backwards compatible but neither was 4E.
 

MJS

First Post
The blowtorch blows. I have no interest in 4E , but why should it be torched? Is it not a good game that people are having a blast with? And spend money on?
I think 3E, 4E, and one day 5E, are eventually victims of being named D&D (which none of them are).
All of these systems are perennially popular. They are all different and appeal to different folks. Every time the blow torch is used, the publisher loses large amounts of fans.
Even 2E, though I don't think it qualifies as a blowtorch, lost half the initial audience, at least according to some -
 

ThirdWizard

First Post
I'm all for the blowtorch, to a degree. Change things up. Try crazy things. As long as it sells, I don't care if I want it or not. I'm not worried about me. I'm also not worried about some perceived slight by WotC toward me by making a D&D that I don't want to play. I don't have this idea that D&D should be <thus>, and I wouldn't care if 5e was a Wuxia hack or a spanking new simulation-craft universal system. If that's what WotC wants to write and thinks will sell, then I say go for it!
 

MJS

First Post
The blowtorch blows. I have no interest in 4E , but why should it be torched? Is it not a good game that people are having a blast with? And spend money on?
I think 3E, 4E, and one day 5E, are eventually victims of being named D&D (which none of them are).
All of these systems are perennially popular. They are all different and appeal to different folks. Every time the blow torch is used, the publisher loses large amounts of fans.
Even 2E, though I don't think it qualifies as a blowtorch, lost half the initial audience, at least according to some -
 

Stormonu

Legend
D&Ds early editions have been seriously long-lived compared to most other RPGs, which I seem to recall being reworked after 2-3 years in print.

I prefer my editions to have scalpel updates that I can skip over if I don't feel ready to implement them. I think it should be fine for some folks to skip a revision or two until they feel like the changes have become significant enough to switch. I mean, its pretty much how apple and microsoft have worked.

Blowtorching, or dynamiting the game is not something I really want to see. Mucking with the fringes of the game I don't mind, but you've really got to be careful when you start messing with core elements of the game.

Overall, I think the D&D brand has put itself in a bad position in their descision on the products they have focused on. Rather than spitting out a new core system every few years, I think they should have focused their sales on products like adventures and possibly one-off campaign worlds, rather than rewriting game rules every few years.
 

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