D&D 4E Bridging the cognitive gap between how the game rules work and what they tell us about the setting

Is someone here bad-mouthing Dungeon World? Why do you feel the need to trash other games?
Nobody is badmouthing anything Micah, get over it. Go back and read the OP, will you? First of all, my commentary is very much in line with addressing the sort of discussion that arose out of that (I think it has drifted a bit from the OP but not much). Secondly, the OP itself is AT LEAST as opinionated and critical as anything I've posted. You aren't calling him out! Neither am I, because I don't think some reasoned criticism of game texts and play is out of bounds! I won't comment further, except to say that I don't post to please or displease you or any other specific poster.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

4e powers(and D&D in general)were designed with ease of use and usefulness in mind.

If your highest priority is realism, that's fine. 4E (and to an extent D&D) isn't for you then.

If you want to fiat and house rule D&D until it's realistic enough for you, fine. That's probably more feasible than finding players for the realistic game you actually want.

Though if you do go for realism, that will present other issues. But they may not matter to you personally. Some people have no problem jumping through a dozen hoops to get what they want.
 
Last edited:

This is what you call "realism"? Because for me, this is overcomplicated as f, and honestly unfunny, to boot. Is one of those things I'll never bother to use in a game just because it adds a level of complexity to a game that should be about having fun and not stressing out.

If you like that kind of "realism", more power to you, I guess. I'll take an unrealistic game over this all the time, thank you very much.
Honestly it's not that bad. Just fundamentally deeply silly on a structural level. The text gets in the way of making sense of the ability. But what leaps out to me is that it is an ability only relevant to out and out munchkins who have had their character power levelled.

The effects of Gae Bolga aren't that fiddly. OP, yes. Spammy in the sense that that's almost the only thing you ever do after getting the ability, yes. Fiddly, no.
  • Make a spear attack and multiply the damage by your level
  • Give up your action on your next round
  • Take a fixed AC penalty (at least -3) when doing it
There's nothing there you couldn't easily put into a 4e power block. And tweaking slightly it would read something like

Gae Bolga
Ranged Weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding a spear
Attack: Weapon vs AC
Hit: (1[w]+Dex)*your level
Effect: You are stunned until the end of your next turn

I've seen worse. Much worse. And I think it comes from an edition that gave weapon vs armour type modifiers.

The prerequisites aren't too complex either. Just something only a power levelled munchkin will ever do.

Prerequisites:
  1. Dex 17 (easy to check)
  2. Spear Proficiency (easy to check)
  3. Spend six weapon proficiency slots on the technique
And it's that last one that makes me think that no human in the history of ever has legitimately acquired the ability in play.

The reason is that you just didn't have that many weapon proficiencies, needing a minimum of seven to qualify (one for the spear and a further six for the technique)
  • Fighters only gained four weapon proficiencies plus one every three levels. So you already need level 9 to qualify.
  • Much of the point of being a fighter was Weapon Specialisation for +1 to hit, +2 damage, and an extra attack every other round. This cost a proficiency and I don't believe in any fighting type that doesn't take it. We're up to level 12
  • If we're going outside the PHB (as we are) there's also shield specialisation for extra AC (a nearly as obvious pick) and weapon mastery for extra to hit and damage with your spear, both of which cost proficiencies. Hard to pass up for anyone actively fighting for their lives.
  • The spear in AD&D was just an objectively bad weapon, doing less damage than the longsword while being far worse at being thrown than darts. And the magic items tables were deliberately heavily rigged towards longswords.
So basically you had to both have a 17 Dex and put up with a dozen or so levels of sucking in order to become a ludicrously broken one trick pony that only acted one turn in two. This sort of ability is only really of interest while reading or to munchkins playing games that start at ultra high level.

And, to be honest, these abilities with waterfall development over such an absurd level range shatter any feeling of realism I have. Cuchulain was powerful - but he was anything but the one trick pony a technique that costs six weapon proficiencies would make him. Bad detail makes the world less real.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Honestly it's not that bad. Just fundamentally deeply silly on a structural level. The text gets in the way of making sense of the ability. But what leaps out to me is that it is an ability only relevant to out and out munchkins who have had their character power levelled.

The effects of Gae Bolga aren't that fiddly. OP, yes. Spammy in the sense that that's almost the only thing you ever do after getting the ability, yes. Fiddly, no.
  • Make a spear attack and multiply the damage by your level
  • Give up your action on your next round
  • Take a fixed AC penalty (at least -3) when doing it
There's nothing there you couldn't easily put into a 4e power block. And tweaking slightly it would read something like

Gae Bolga
Ranged Weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding a spear
Attack: Weapon vs AC
Hit: (1[w]+Dex)*your level
Effect: You are stunned until the end of your next turn

I've seen worse. Much worse. And I think it comes from an edition that gave weapon vs armour type modifiers.

The prerequisites aren't too complex either. Just something only a power levelled munchkin will ever do.

Prerequisites:
  1. Dex 17 (easy to check)
  2. Spear Proficiency (easy to check)
  3. Spend six weapon proficiency slots on the technique
And it's that last one that makes me think that no human in the history of ever has legitimately acquired the ability in play.

The reason is that you just didn't have that many weapon proficiencies, needing a minimum of seven to qualify (one for the spear and a further six for the technique)
  • Fighters only gained four weapon proficiencies plus one every three levels. So you already need level 9 to qualify.
  • Much of the point of being a fighter was Weapon Specialisation for +1 to hit, +2 damage, and an extra attack every other round. This cost a proficiency and I don't believe in any fighting type that doesn't take it. We're up to level 12
  • If we're going outside the PHB (as we are) there's also shield specialisation for extra AC (a nearly as obvious pick) and weapon mastery for extra to hit and damage with your spear, both of which cost proficiencies. Hard to pass up for anyone actively fighting for their lives.
  • The spear in AD&D was just an objectively bad weapon, doing less damage than the longsword while being far worse at being thrown than darts. And the magic items tables were deliberately heavily rigged towards longswords.
So basically you had to both have a 17 Dex and put up with a dozen or so levels of sucking in order to become a ludicrously broken one trick pony that only acted one turn in two. This sort of ability is only really of interest while reading or to munchkins playing games that start at ultra high level.

And, to be honest, these abilities with waterfall development over such an absurd level range shatter any feeling of realism I have. Cuchulain was powerful - but he was anything but the one trick pony a technique that costs six weapon proficiencies would make him. Bad detail makes the world less real.
In 2e, instead of learning extra languages from Intelligence, you can use those to gain extra proficiencies- the Complete Fighter's Handbook clarifies that these can be used to gain additional Weapon Proficiencies, so you could get Gae Bolg online much earlier. You could also take a Kit like Myrmidon to gain a free Weapon Specialization.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Taking a closer look at the Celts book, I also found this charming ability, much easier to take, and which could be equally obnoxious in the hands of melee characters.
Sharp.jpg

So by taking a -4 to hit (eventually trivial for a Fighter), you can:
ReallySharp.jpg

Remove the limbs of many foes on a roll of 18-20, no matter what edged weapon you happen to be wielding!
 

pemerton

Legend
I own a copy of the DSG and the WSG for 1e AD&D, but I am not even sure we ever read much of them let alone actually used them. This is typical awkward largely unplaytested post-Gygax TSR stuff. It sounded good in the days of 'realism will make your game better', but the fact is, it doesn't, and that was becoming quite apparent in that time frame.

I mean, consider that whole WSG 'shelter and fire' chapter. What advantage is there to using some arbitrary %-based tables, which certainly are just filled with numbers pulled out of thin air by some gamer geek in a 4th floor TSR office. I mean, I don't think I have better numbers, but anyone can make up a number out of thin air, why do I need a book and a bunch of tables for that?
I have those books. And never used that stuff either. I think your explanation in this thread as to why they're not helpful is a good one. It certainly makes sense of my play experience.

Rolemaster - which I played a lot of (thousands of hours) - can also suffer from this problem, if its tendencies are not reined in.

The Torchbearer approach - Survivalist tests against obstacles based on terrain and weather - seems just as effective to me. Putting it in a chart with a % chance, rather than making it part of a skill check, is an aesthetic difference but not a fundamental game play difference.
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
Honestly it's not that bad

Is not bad, it's just overcomplicated, in the sense that basically you need to devote to this build entirely, as you pointed out. Your whole character and play style will be centered around gae bolga.

And depends a lot on the DM going along with you. For me, who have had adversarial DMs most of the time (DMs that actively try to shank their players), this kind of build is also huge stressor, lol Specially since I have the impression that having the DM vs players is something that is encouraged by the rules of AD&D. I love the fact that 3e onwards removed that stuff.
 

I have those books. And never used that stuff either. I think your explanation in this thread as to why they're not helpful is a good one. It certainly makes sense of my play experience.

Rolemaster - which I played a lot of (thousands of hours) - can also suffer from this problem, if its tendencies are not reined in.

The Torchbearer approach - Survivalist tests against obstacles based on terrain and weather - seems just as effective to me. Putting it in a chart with a % chance, rather than making it part of a skill check, is an aesthetic difference but not a fundamental game play difference.
Honestly the TB2 tests seem both thematic and possess a good level of verisimilitude as well, plus they can tie into the more Narrativist aspects of TB2 play. I recall when our characters found themselves exposed on a high mountain slope in freezing rain and high wind after dark. It was BAD in exactly the way you would expect. We ended up tired, hungry, and sick/exhausted, all things which that game models pretty well!

Worse it forced us to make some ugly choices which IIRC had serious long-term consequences for the characters. We did survive, barely!
 

I have those books. And never used that stuff either. I think your explanation in this thread as to why they're not helpful is a good one. It certainly makes sense of my play experience.

Rolemaster - which I played a lot of (thousands of hours) - can also suffer from this problem, if its tendencies are not reined in.

The Torchbearer approach - Survivalist tests against obstacles based on terrain and weather - seems just as effective to me. Putting it in a chart with a % chance, rather than making it part of a skill check, is an aesthetic difference but not a fundamental game play difference.
The worst problem is WSG itself is not only just rules pulled from thin air, but it is utterly unplayable. If you actually ran an overland wilderness adventure using those rules it would require 100 dice rolls for each day of travel. Chances are something would go terribly wrong by day 2.

I mean, clearly, at most these rules would only ever be applied in some especially dire situation, or simply to establish color, like using the shelter rules to describe someone camping out, but not actually applying the rules as such. Do we need a 150 page book to tell us what a tent is like or that your campfire can get out of control?
 

Is not bad, it's just overcomplicated, in the sense that basically you need to devote to this build entirely, as you pointed out. Your whole character and play style will be centered around gae bolga.

And depends a lot on the DM going along with you. For me, who have had adversarial DMs most of the time (DMs that actively try to shank their players), this kind of build is also huge stressor, lol Specially since I have the impression that having the DM vs players is something that is encouraged by the rules of AD&D. I love the fact that 3e onwards removed that stuff.
I'd argue about whether the Expertise-Dodge-Mobility-Spring Attack-Whirlwind Attack editions actually did remove that stuff. I mean that's four prerequisite feats just to get one PHB feat; we're not throwing in the Spiked Chain Tripper or other build nonsense here. And paladins falling was certainly part of 3.X But it did ease back on it a lot from late 2e.
 

Remove ads

Top