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

For me, most of the disconnect for 4E didn't come from HP.

It came from realizing that most of the "official" advice was bad advice. For example, trying to engage in a Disarm the Trap Skill Challenge during a fight (what is suggested) does not particularly work well, especially once you realize that your PC can smash/break/kill most things without much effort.
The thing is what you're saying here is to me not so much a 4e thing as a D&D thing. I mean the same thing goes for 3.0, 3.5, and 5e here - and 2e was its own mess.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
For me, most of the disconnect for 4E didn't come from HP.

It came from realizing that most of the "official" advice was bad advice.
Or more accurately.

4e was an attempt to rejigger the rules to how it was played. But redesigning D&D from the ground up, especially with its combat system and lore, takes a long time and the designers ran out of that time.

So 4e was released with only 80% of its combat design finished and a lot of it core and fundamentally aspects not fleshed out enough. And they didn't get to playtest it enough.

Were 4e a videogame, they could go back an patch it. But it as a TTRPG. The best you could do was errata and errata has limits.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Or more accurately.

4e was an attempt to rejigger the rules to how it was played. But redesigning D&D from the ground up, especially with its combat system and lore, takes a long time and the designers ran out of that time.

So 4e was released with only 80% of its combat design finished and a lot of it core and fundamentally aspects not fleshed out enough. And they didn't get to playtest it enough.

Were 4e a videogame, they could go back an patch it. But it as a TTRPG. The best you could do was errata and errata has limits.

I'll give a more specific example: Skill Challenges

Even ignoring the math, I found that how they were advised to be used didn't work as well as how I started building Skill Challenges.

Part of the concept was to avoid 1 roll from making a situation binary. Why then were they still defined in a binary pass/fail way?

I got away from the idea of X successes before Y failures. Instead, I had better results by having a set number of rolls. The results would then depend upon margin of success or margin of failure and include several possible outcomes.

For sake of a generic example, let's use the cliche "Trying to Convince The Duke" challenge that was mentioned upthread. The PCs are trying to convince Duke Doe to let them borrow a magic weapon to use against a demon being summoned by a cult in a nearby swamp cave. In this challenge, there are 5 possible rolls.

Instead of Pass/Fail from X before Y, the results might be something like the following:

•More than 5 successes (possible with critical success): The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation and pledges the service of some of his men (squad of Minion allies) in addition to allowing you to borrow the weapon.
•5 successes: The Duke allows you to borrow the magic weapon.
•4 successes: The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation, but is hesitant to hand out such a powerful item. He agrees to send the item, but only if it is carried by one of his trusted retainers, who will accompany you.
•3 successes: The Duke listens intently and nods his head, as he takes in your story. Finally, he raises a hand to signal that he has something to say. He believes that the threat of the demon is a real and serious thing, but such a threat means his duty is to protect his people first. He offers supplies for your journey, the use of a lesser item from his treasury, and rooms to stay for the night, but he will not allow you to borrow the item.
•1-2 successes: The Duke is either unconvinced by the PCs or has some other reason for not aiding the PCs. You are politely asked to leave.
•0 successes: You have in some way managed to insult the Duke (or he has some other reason to be against helping the PCs). You are asked to leave.
•More than 5 failures (possible with critical failures): You have gravely insulting the Duke in some way (or he has some reason to be actively against helping the PCs): You are escorted to the city gates and told to leave the settlement.

Depending on the situation, there may still be times when I would still use the the X before Y way of doing things, but I preferred a range of possible results.

In some situations, the amount of rolls might be open ended. For example, I had a fight take place within an enchanted room that functioned a little bit like a tesseract and a little bit like versions of Bowser's Castle from Super Mario. To leave the room(s) and advance to the next area required choosing doors in the correct order.

I vaguely remember that the skills involved were Insight (to correctly guess or surmise which door should be next), Arcana (to pick up on mystical energies and deduce which way was correct -kinda like magical footprints), and a Wisdom Ability Check to pick up on some sort of pattern. The PCs also had to choose Endurance or Wisdom after a certain number of rounds to physically/psychically withstand constant exposure to the disorienting magic involved.

This also took place as various traps and encounters were able to be activated in the room. There was no set amount of failure because the consequences for failure involved the room becoming more dangerous as more traps activated and more creatures joined the room.

That last example is a bit complex and likely not the type of thing that could be easily suggested in a DMG. However, it stands out as a positive experience because I successfully combined combat encounters with an ongoing Skill Challenge without the clunkiness that trying to combine them via some of the DMG examples produced.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Is the mismatch coming from the lore or the rules? Are the rules not representing the lore or is the lore failing to provide context to the rules???
It's the rules and lore being created separately but pretending they aren't.

The mismatch of D&D is that it's Game A's lore and Game B's rules.

Traditionally when the official or major unofficial designers attempt to make the rules and lore match, a large section of the community grumble loudly because of the unexpected consequences. A D&D with Game A's lore and rules or Game B's lore and rules is always first treated and reacted as A/B.

Edit Continuation: It requires the will or desire to match the lore and rules or the belief that the mismatch is worth addressing for the slots to connect.

Like with HP, there could have been 5 different HP restoring spells, one for each element of HP. Or the spell could have being made generic and have casters roleplay what they restored. Or you could just pick better names. Or just come to a gentleman's agreement. But still all takes the will, desire, or belief that the mismatch exists and should be fixed.
 
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I'll give a more specific example: Skill Challenges

Even ignoring the math, I found that how they were advised to be used didn't work as well as how I started building Skill Challenges.

Part of the concept was to avoid 1 roll from making a situation binary. Why then were they still defined in a binary pass/fail way?

I got away from the idea of X successes before Y failures. Instead, I had better results by having a set number of rolls. The results would then depend upon margin of success or margin of failure and include several possible outcomes.

For sake of a generic example, let's use the cliche "Trying to Convince The Duke" challenge that was mentioned upthread. The PCs are trying to convince Duke Doe to let them borrow a magic weapon to use against a demon being summoned by a cult in a nearby swamp cave. In this challenge, there are 5 possible rolls.

Instead of Pass/Fail from X before Y, the results might be something like the following:

•More than 5 successes (possible with critical success): The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation and pledges the service of some of his men (squad of Minion allies) in addition to allowing you to borrow the weapon.
•5 successes: The Duke allows you to borrow the magic weapon.
•4 successes: The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation, but is hesitant to hand out such a powerful item. He agrees to send the item, but only if it is carried by one of his trusted retainers, who will accompany you.
•3 successes: The Duke listens intently and nods his head, as he takes in your story. Finally, he raises a hand to signal that he has something to say. He believes that the threat of the demon is a real and serious thing, but such a threat means his duty is to protect his people first. He offers supplies for your journey, the use of a lesser item from his treasury, and rooms to stay for the night, but he will not allow you to borrow the item.
•1-2 successes: The Duke is either unconvinced by the PCs or has some other reason for not aiding the PCs. You are politely asked to leave.
•0 successes: You have in some way managed to insult the Duke (or he has some other reason to be against helping the PCs). You are asked to leave.
•More than 5 failures (possible with critical failures): You have gravely insulting the Duke in some way (or he has some reason to be actively against helping the PCs): You are escorted to the city gates and told to leave the settlement.

Depending on the situation, there may still be times when I would still use the the X before Y way of doing things, but I preferred a range of possible results.

In some situations, the amount of rolls might be open ended. For example, I had a fight take place within an enchanted room that functioned a little bit like a tesseract and a little bit like versions of Bowser's Castle from Super Mario. To leave the room(s) and advance to the next area required choosing doors in the correct order.

I vaguely remember that the skills involved were Insight (to correctly guess or surmise which door should be next), Arcana (to pick up on mystical energies and deduce which way was correct -kinda like magical footprints), and a Wisdom Ability Check to pick up on some sort of pattern. The PCs also had to choose Endurance or Wisdom after a certain number of rounds to physically/psychically withstand constant exposure to the disorienting magic involved.

This also took place as various traps and encounters were able to be activated in the room. There was no set amount of failure because the consequences for failure involved the room becoming more dangerous as more traps activated and more creatures joined the room.

That last example is a bit complex and likely not the type of thing that could be easily suggested in a DMG. However, it stands out as a positive experience because I successfully combined combat encounters with an ongoing Skill Challenge without the clunkiness that trying to combine them via some of the DMG examples produced.
My problem with the SC presentation was a bit different. The rules (at least the updated ones printed in DMG2) are fine, in general. The issue is again well illustrated by the Convince the Duke turkey of an SC example. In the DMG1 example the situation is TOTALLY STATIC! Each 'round' the PCs do something, chat up the Duke, impress him with their prowess, whatever. Nothing actually happens! The fictional situation after each check is identical. This shouldn't even be an SC, its crap.

Lets illustrate by rewriting the challenge to make it INTERESTING. Now, not only is there the Duke, but there's the High Priest, the Councillor, and the Princess. Each of these characters has their own agenda. The Duke is hard up for cash, so he's both reluctant to spend and amenable to anything that might enrich his treasury. The High Priest is basically OK, but opposes the PC Cleric of Kord, being a priest of Erathis. The Councillor lusts after the Princess and thus is hostile to the Fighter, whom the Princess has a crush on (and of course this in and of itself can prove dangerous, as Dad may not be impressed). Add some plot elements, the Councillor trying to frame the Fighter for something, the High Priest trying to force the Duke to expel the Cleric of Kord (maybe using some legalistic move priestly move). The Princess setting up an assignation with the Fighter. Maybe the Rogue has a chance to protect him from the Councillor's spies, etc.

At this point we have a pretty good SC! Now the 12 successes before 3 failures of a complexity 5 SC is worthy of this situation. It can go a lot of ways, there can be ups and downs, etc. The number of failures encountered can be used to modulate the overall level of success, etc. This gets pretty close to something like the TB2 conflict system with its different grades of outcome resulting in varying costs for success, or varying degrees of pain in the case of failure.

The system is quite solid, the advice in DMG1 (and even to an extent DMG2, though I would say in that book it is more that they didn't really take the explication to the limit) is just somewhat bad. It is maybe what you would expect from a GM that has never done something like this before. What I found odd is, the 4e team HAD people on it that should have known better. Mearls did plenty of posting at The Forge in the day, but I guess either the time wasn't sufficient, or he just wasn't interested.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'll give a more specific example: Skill Challenges

Even ignoring the math, I found that how they were advised to be used didn't work as well as how I started building Skill Challenges.

Part of the concept was to avoid 1 roll from making a situation binary. Why then were they still defined in a binary pass/fail way?

I got away from the idea of X successes before Y failures. Instead, I had better results by having a set number of rolls. The results would then depend upon margin of success or margin of failure and include several possible outcomes.

For sake of a generic example, let's use the cliche "Trying to Convince The Duke" challenge that was mentioned upthread. The PCs are trying to convince Duke Doe to let them borrow a magic weapon to use against a demon being summoned by a cult in a nearby swamp cave. In this challenge, there are 5 possible rolls.

Instead of Pass/Fail from X before Y, the results might be something like the following:

•More than 5 successes (possible with critical success): The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation and pledges the service of some of his men (squad of Minion allies) in addition to allowing you to borrow the weapon.
•5 successes: The Duke allows you to borrow the magic weapon.
•4 successes: The Duke is convinced of the seriousness of the situation, but is hesitant to hand out such a powerful item. He agrees to send the item, but only if it is carried by one of his trusted retainers, who will accompany you.
•3 successes: The Duke listens intently and nods his head, as he takes in your story. Finally, he raises a hand to signal that he has something to say. He believes that the threat of the demon is a real and serious thing, but such a threat means his duty is to protect his people first. He offers supplies for your journey, the use of a lesser item from his treasury, and rooms to stay for the night, but he will not allow you to borrow the item.
•1-2 successes: The Duke is either unconvinced by the PCs or has some other reason for not aiding the PCs. You are politely asked to leave.
•0 successes: You have in some way managed to insult the Duke (or he has some other reason to be against helping the PCs). You are asked to leave.
•More than 5 failures (possible with critical failures): You have gravely insulting the Duke in some way (or he has some reason to be actively against helping the PCs): You are escorted to the city gates and told to leave the settlement.

Depending on the situation, there may still be times when I would still use the the X before Y way of doing things, but I preferred a range of possible results.

In some situations, the amount of rolls might be open ended. For example, I had a fight take place within an enchanted room that functioned a little bit like a tesseract and a little bit like versions of Bowser's Castle from Super Mario. To leave the room(s) and advance to the next area required choosing doors in the correct order.

I vaguely remember that the skills involved were Insight (to correctly guess or surmise which door should be next), Arcana (to pick up on mystical energies and deduce which way was correct -kinda like magical footprints), and a Wisdom Ability Check to pick up on some sort of pattern. The PCs also had to choose Endurance or Wisdom after a certain number of rounds to physically/psychically withstand constant exposure to the disorienting magic involved.

This also took place as various traps and encounters were able to be activated in the room. There was no set amount of failure because the consequences for failure involved the room becoming more dangerous as more traps activated and more creatures joined the room.

That last example is a bit complex and likely not the type of thing that could be easily suggested in a DMG. However, it stands out as a positive experience because I successfully combined combat encounters with an ongoing Skill Challenge without the clunkiness that trying to combine them via some of the DMG examples produced.
That's uhh.. because... 4e's 1st core books were printed unfinished.

The designers changed a lot, slew multiple sacred cows, and didn't test the Final product enough.

Same happened with 3e except with the sacred cows.

Also 4e's layout was bad so you could easily miss stuff. Some of the examples SC's offed variable rewards depending on how many successes. But it wasn't highlighted until DMG2.
 
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That's uhh.. because... 4e's 1st core books were printed unfinished.

The designers changed a lot, slew multiple sacred cows, and didn't test the Final product enough.

Same happened with 3e except with the sacred cows.

Also 4e's layout was bad so you could easily miss stuff. Some of the examples SC's offed variable rewards depending on how many successes. But it wasn't highlighted until DMG2.
I think this notion has been overworked. There may be SOME truth to it, the game designers reach exceeded their grasp to an extent. IMHO though a big factor, probably the biggest, is they never had consensus within the team on what they were building. Half of them CLEARLY were writing a modern Narrativist spin on D&D, and the other half were trying to do something else, maybe just clean up 3e? Frankly, 4e as a Narrativist FRPG came out kind of brilliant, though not always explicated well. It's almost like that half of the team kind of pretended to go along, but underneath was the real game, a different game, one that was not easy for a lot of very trad minded people to see.

I really only saw it myself because I'd stepped away from D&D for a good long while, and then certain people explained things and it connected with ideas and frustrations I'd had with trad D&D in the past, and then, not all at once, I got it. Half on my own, and half shown.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think this notion has been overworked. There may be SOME truth to it, the game designers reach exceeded their grasp to an extent. IMHO though a big factor, probably the biggest, is they never had consensus within the team on what they were building. Half of them CLEARLY were writing a modern Narrativist spin on D&D, and the other half were trying to do something else, maybe just clean up 3e? Frankly, 4e as a Narrativist FRPG came out kind of brilliant, though not always explicated well. It's almost like that half of the team kind of pretended to go along, but underneath was the real game, a different game, one that was not easy for a lot of very trad minded people to see.

I really only saw it myself because I'd stepped away from D&D for a good long while, and then certain people explained things and it connected with ideas and frustrations I'd had with trad D&D in the past, and then, not all at once, I got it. Half on my own, and half shown.
Well that is mostly why it was published unfinished. Half the team wasn't on board. So the half that was really into the completely new stuff didn't have enough support in the timeframe.

This is also why some of the more community-wide-beloved parts of 4e and the parts with little mismatch were the parts the the "3e Cleanup" half and the "Modern Narrativist" half were both excited over like cantrip magic and ritual magic. In those instances, the lore and rules matched nearly perfectly therefore disagreements on those elements could be only made on personal taste of tone, image, and style.
 


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