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D&D General D&D Combat is fictionless

Lyxen

Great Old One
All true.

Still, power source is more of a descriptive than a mechanically import thing in that edition. It helps classifying things, of course. For instance, Divine classes are usually good at healing even if it's not a Leader. Primal classes get more HP per level than their counterparts of the same role. Arcane classes have elements of battlefield control even when they aren't controllers, and so forth.

I think it really depends as to how you read the rules. I'm not a huge proponent of the RAW in general, but I'm a great proponent of the "fluff", because for me it's the intent that is important, the spirit of the game rather than the exact words. Because, even more than the exact words, the spirit permeates the rules and allows one to understand what type of game it was designed for. For example, I was not surprised that 3e was designed to be "competitive" even if it is never stated in the rules themselves (and for me that was a huge mistake, corrected in every edition since).

Other than that, it's most fluff. Seriously. Just read the Dispel Magic power in the PHB and you'll understand my point.

I don't see why, it even ties in properly with the description of the Detect Magic that I posted, it only works on a conjuration or zone, which is consistent with the first section of Detect Magic. After that, in every edition, Dispel Magic has been fairly specific about its targets, and I must say that the 5e version is not the best one ever either.
 

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Nefermandias

Adventurer
I think it really depends as to how you read the rules. I'm not a huge proponent of the RAW in general, but I'm a great proponent of the "fluff", because for me it's the intent that is important, the spirit of the game rather than the exact words. Because, even more than the exact words, the spirit permeates the rules and allows one to understand what type of game it was designed for. For example, I was not surprised that 3e was designed to be "competitive" even if it is never stated in the rules themselves (and for me that was a huge mistake, corrected in every edition since).



I don't see why, it even ties in properly with the description of the Detect Magic that I posted, it only works on a conjuration or zone, which is consistent with the first section of Detect Magic. After that, in every edition, Dispel Magic has been fairly specific about its targets, and I must say that the 5e version is not the best one ever either.
It works on conjurations and zones regardless of power source.
 


Nefermandias

Adventurer
And at the same time, the only types of those (at least in the PH, but it seems logical) are Arcane or Divine, so magical... ;)
Yes, the logic is sound. You could also mention that there are no Implement Martial powers and that any Arcane Power is called a "spell" and Divine ones are called "prayers" I get that.
I'm only pointing out that the word "magic" doesn't really have much weight in 4e. They deliberately made so that all power sources could be capable of filling every role.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
Yes, the logic is sound. You could also mention that there are no Implement Martial powers and that any Arcane Power is called a "spell" and Divine ones are called "prayers" I get that.

I actually did a few posts back. ;)

I'm only pointing out that the word "magic" doesn't really have much weight in 4e. They deliberately made so that all power sources could be capable of filling every role.

Yes, but for me that is not something that I find positive in particular in a class (and role) game like D&D (and in particular 4e). On the other hand, what I used to like where the power sources themselves, because the tags associated with them made it clear the visualisation that you could get out of the associated powers, including the later Power Sources of Primal, Psionic and Shadow.

So I would agree that "magic" in itself was not important, but the power source really was important. And that included the fact that I really found myself in the Martial power source, to emulate the incredibly cool blademasters of literature, in particular those of the Wheel of Time.

The side effect of that was that I really took to heart the fact that it was not magic (although it could be slightly mystical, like chi or the void / oneness), hence a delineation that meant that mish-mashing did not look pleasing to me.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
That to me is a pretty serious flaw in any game system. You shouldn't have to be dying to be unconscious.
I think someone misspoke/mistyped any attack reducing an adversary below zero hit points can be declared to be not deadly but rather instead knocking them unconcious.

In real life that is actually very difficult to not cause some marked trauma and potentially very dangerous knocking someone out ... it is honoring a trope making it otherwise.

edit: I go a step further and allow defeated in a not-deadly to mean any of a number of things beyond just unconscious, like disarmed and demoralized. Or even in some cases the dead condition might be stoned or perma transmogrified.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I'm only pointing out that the word "magic" doesn't really have much weight in 4e. They deliberately made so that all power sources could be capable of filling every role.
In classic Celtic Mythology I have read mention a concept of "Warrior Magic". Smith Magic was also considered a thing too. I kind of think its assuming we have significant, "what modern people call not magical" people in a highly magical universe is perhaps an issue. It's not just Chi/Qi that evokes the martial source.
 

pemerton

Legend
That to me is a pretty serious flaw in any game system. You shouldn't have to be dying to be unconscious.
When reducing a character/creature to zero hp you can always choose for them to be unconscious instead of dying (similar to 5e D&D but without being confined to melee attacks). But that is not applicable to the Orc chieftain who stabs Frodo - he is trying to kill, not capture!

In this respect 4e D&D is no different from AD&D, 3E or 5e - in all of these games, the default consequence of being dropped to zero hp is death or dying.

It contrasts with (say) Rolemaster, Classic Traveller or Burning Wheel, where is is very common for character/creatures to be unconscious but not dying not because anyone wanted to capture rather than kill them, but because those systems have rules that result in a wider range of debuff conditions resulting from suffering injury.

EDIT:
I think someone misspoke/mistyped any attack reducing an adversary below zero hit points can be declared to be not deadly but rather instead knocking them unconcious.
No one misspoke. I was in a conversation in which I took it for granted that my interlocutor (@Lyxen) was familiar with the 4e rules. And my point was that in 4e there is almost no way to inflict the unconsciousness condition as a byproduct of trying to kill someone, other than imposing the dying condition by dropping them to zero hp.

This contrasts with many (non-D&D) RPGs that have more gritty or "realistic" systems for injurises.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
In real life that is actually very difficult to not cause some marked trauma and potentially very dangerous knocking someone out ... it is honoring a trope making it otherwise.

I agree there, in real life it's hard not to be life-threatening and knock someone unconscious, but it's such a trope of the genre that in that case verisimilitude is to me more important than realism.

edit: I go a step further and allow defeated in a not-deadly to mean any of a number of things beyond just unconscious, like disarmed and demoralized. Or even in some cases the dead condition might be stoned or perma transmogrified.

And indeed this is what the game is about, creativity and allowing cool things.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
In 4e there is no magical/non-magical distinction in this mechanical sense. This is part of what pushes the fiction of 4e D&D in a more romantic/mythic direction (I mean, no one in The Iliad thinks that the way to kill Achilles is to get him into an anti-magic shield).
I was thinking more of 3rd and 5th edition. 4th edition is kind of exceptional. Power source keywords are used in rare instances I think - such as the lich's feature that cares if its target is an arcane power user. As soon as one defines a keyword, that whole class of meta-mechanics suggests itself!
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
And my point was that in 4e there is almost no way to inflict the unconsciousness condition as a byproduct of trying to kill someone, other than imposing the dying condition by dropping them to zero hp.
Ah I do not consider dropping to zero "dying" normally ( for npcs it is dead or unconscious or an alternative defeat).
I guess I think of dying as a player facing rule related to making death saving throws.

Though now that you have me thinking about it yes if I wanted the npc to use a non-deadly finishing move using a the same death save mechanic might feel right, and I might let the player know it was obvious from their injury the attack was not meant to kill.
 

pemerton

Legend
I was thinking more of 3rd and 5th edition. 4th edition is kind of exceptional. Power source keywords are used in rare instances I think - such as the lich's feature that cares if its target is an arcane power user. As soon as one defines a keyword, that whole class of meta-mechanics suggests itself!
There are also epic destinies and similar player-side PC build stuff that cares about power source.

But as you say it is very rare for it to matter to action resolution.

And at a certain point - and this is something that has come up in another recent thread (the Evil Gods one) - we have to ask: are we trying to reconstruct this game and its fiction on the model of an axiomatic system? Or are we trying to make sense of it as an aesthetically significant artefact, similarly to how a literary critic might?

If the former, then maybe we're obliged to factor in that one lich power as part of our reconstruction. But that's not what I'm doing. I'm asking if I play this game, using a typical range of the published story elements (PC build elements, MM entries, etc) will the game require me to come up with a mechanical notion of magic vs non-magic. And the answer is no.

By way of contrast, the game will make us have to think about characters in the fiction who are ready to go all-out and who are exhausted or otherwise far from the peak of their game. And so eg whereas a beholder's central eye is traditionally an anti-magic cone, in 4e - where (at least for the one I used) it stops the use of encounter and daily powers - it is a ray that debilitates the character or suppresses their skill. Some people probably think this is a crappy change that wrecks the play and story of beholders. I thought it was fine - in play it doesn't stop the affected PC(s) participating (they still have their at-wills, unlike an AD&D wizard who can't do anything useful in an anti-magic zone), but it does suggest that the aberrant beholder is distorting reality via its gaze so that those PCs' normal skill and prowess are severely limited.

But whether or not one likes it, it's pretty clear what is happening in the fiction, and how the mechanics support this. Insisting that it's incoherent by importing, unargued, the premise that 4e must preserve distinctions that mattered in other editions of D&D just seems silly to me.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
But whether or not one likes it, it's pretty clear what is happening in the fiction, and how the mechanics support this. Insisting that it's incoherent by importing, unargued, the premise that 4e must preserve distinctions that mattered in other editions of D&D just seems silly to me.
While it's not incoherent - what you are explaining seems a very good and legitimate reason for D&D fans to dislike 4e.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
And at a certain point - and this is something that has come up in another recent thread (the Evil Gods one) - we have to ask: are we trying to reconstruct this game and its fiction on the model of an axiomatic system? Or are we trying to make sense of it as an aesthetically significant artefact, similarly to how a literary critic might?

If the former, then maybe we're obliged to factor in that one lich power as part of our reconstruction. But that's not what I'm doing. I'm asking if I play this game, using a typical range of the published story elements (PC build elements, MM entries, etc) will the game require me to come up with a mechanical notion of magic vs non-magic. And the answer is no.
I can agree and disagree with your thought here. I agree that 4th invited players to think differently about character powers than the traditional framing. That might have been in some sense a continuation of 3rd edition's concern with supernatural (magical), spell-like (magical) and extraordinary (non-magical) abilities. The 4th edition framing doesn't require a notion of magic versus non-magic, although to my reading it does tolerate and suggest it.

Where I disagree is that there is any necessary dichotomy between axiomatic system and aesthetically significant artifact. An axiomatic system can be an aesthetically significant artifact! (And of course, an axiomatic system can be an essential part of an aesthetically significant artifact, such that the significance would be lessened or lost were it absent.)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
There are also epic destinies and similar player-side PC build stuff that cares about power source.

Indeed, which is a good thing, as I liked Power Sources.

But as you say it is very rare for it to matter to action resolution.

But since this is a thread about narrativism and fiction, on the other hand, I just wanted to point out that they mattered a lot.

And at a certain point - and this is something that has come up in another recent thread (the Evil Gods one) - we have to ask: are we trying to reconstruct this game and its fiction on the model of an axiomatic system? Or are we trying to make sense of it as an aesthetically significant artefact, similarly to how a literary critic might?

If the former, then maybe we're obliged to factor in that one lich power as part of our reconstruction. But that's not what I'm doing. I'm asking if I play this game, using a typical range of the published story elements (PC build elements, MM entries, etc) will the game require me to come up with a mechanical notion of magic vs non-magic. And the answer is no.

By way of contrast, the game will make us have to think about characters in the fiction who are ready to go all-out and who are exhausted or otherwise far from the peak of their game. And so eg whereas a beholder's central eye is traditionally an anti-magic cone, in 4e - where (at least for the one I used) it stops the use of encounter and daily powers - it is a ray that debilitates the character or suppresses their skill. Some people probably think this is a crappy change that wrecks the play and story of beholders. I thought it was fine - in play it doesn't stop the affected PC(s) participating (they still have their at-wills, unlike an AD&D wizard who can't do anything useful in an anti-magic zone), but it does suggest that the aberrant beholder is distorting reality via its gaze so that those PCs' normal skill and prowess are severely limited.

First, thanks for this discussion, it's really interesting now that we have moved away from edition wars and back into the very topic of the thread. And thanks for bringing up controversial elements like this in a completely open manner, it shows real care about biases and their negative effect in discussion.

On the one hand, I agree with you, if we judge the 4e implementation of the Eye Ray purely on its effects, not looking at the past, I might get some traction about the concept that this is an aberration coming from the far realm, and that it distorts reality rather than suppressing magic, why not.

Where it bugs me is that the distinction between at-will, encounter and daily power is a purely technical one, nothing in the rules explains why an aberration would disrupt some rather than others, especially since the source of these powers is very different.

As we used to say when creating our LARPs, it was hard to balance between powerful spells and sword blows, because the last ones are "at will", but in 4e, both sword blows and "damaging cantrips" from spellcasters are at-will, which is a good thing in terms of balance, but I wonder what kind of fiction you wove around explaining the limits of the beholder's gaze ?

But whether or not one likes it, it's pretty clear what is happening in the fiction, and how the mechanics support this.

The problem is that, for me, and as demonstrated in multiple examples now, the 4e answer is not in the fiction, it is extremely mechanistic, and it is up to the fiction to run after and try to explain it. In the beholder's example above, I'm still not sure what kind of fiction you actually wove to explain that some sword blows could be dealt and not others, and some magic could be woven and not other, for example.

Insisting that it's incoherent by importing, unargued, the premise that 4e must preserve distinctions that mattered in other editions of D&D just seems silly to me.

I agree, an edition should be judged on its own merit, but I hope that you see, thanks to another excellent example of yours, that it's not about keeping the distinctions from the past, that some of us have real trouble making the narrative fit the way 4e was built in terms of mechanics.

That being said, as mentioned multiple times now, I really liked the narrative that 4e wove around a number of things, whether it was about the multiverse (taking the planes and weaving them in a more harmonious manner, it did not make the cut for me because I love Planescape too much, but it was well done, and the Feywild and Shadowfell - who thankfully were kept in 5e - were brilliant additions), about the type of campaign (give me the points of lights any time to start a campaign that can be built around the PCs as they grow in power rather than the hideous bloat of the many-time-retconned FR), and about Power Sources, which I thought really renewed the concept of magic.

That being said, on that last point, I really like magic that is "explainable" - and this is also why I love Brandon Sanderson as an author, his magic systems are always inventive, well built, with all the hallmarks of brilliance around them, extremely powerful when mastered but with clear limitations that prevent abuse and create dramatic rebounds. And therefore, I would have liked to see the interplay between schools of magic and the power sources.

Playing any other edition than 4e, I love the fact that detect magic gives you hints about the schools, because a bit of clever investigation of the environment, the type of adversary and the schools of magic used in a ritual, item, or trap can give you the feel that you are living in the world and pulling it apart string by string to discover the hidden truth beneath.

So when I regret the lack of clear "magic" in 4e, don't think that it is because of nostalgia, please understand that there are other things hidden behind it, both technical but also extremely narrativist, and some wealth of gameplay linked to it.
While it's not incoherent - what you are explaining seems a very good and legitimate reason for D&D fans to dislike 4e.

And that is certainly a truth, but in my case, it was really not the profound reason. The fact is that when we are playing, we are oscillating between three different modes:
  • Technical, and your long post with examples of play that I still need to answer to shows that even when shooting for epic/story there is a core of that in the game.
  • Narrativist in the sense of reference novels/movies/shows, because we love those and it gives us cool descriptions and situations that we try to emulate.
  • Narrativist in the sense of D&D feel, because it's clear that D&D, through the ages, has woven its own mythology, and its own set of situations and narrative style.
And while some of us loved the technical side of 4e (for me, it's too formal and boardgamy, but to each his own and I could go with that), the real problem was that I could not really get my footing for the D&D narrativist feel because so many of the paradigms were broken by 4e. It's not the fault of the edition in itself, it was brilliantly designed, but I could not narrate "D&D stories" like I used to, I had lost a lot of my bearings.

And in turn, I did not get enough grips on the specific 4e elements to be able to envision novels/movies/shows in the light of 4e mechanics. I could do that from the standard D&D paradigms, but not from the very much modified 4e ones.

I can agree and disagree with your thought here. I agree that 4th invited players to think differently about character powers than the traditional framing. That might have been in some sense a continuation of 3rd edition's concern with supernatural (magical), spell-like (magical) and extraordinary (non-magical) abilities. The 4th edition framing doesn't require a notion of magic versus non-magic, although to my reading it does tolerate and suggest it.

It does for me too, honestly, although it's not all over the rules, but it's in enough places to more than suggest it, and it was actually not a problem for us.

Where I disagree is that there is any necessary dichotomy between axiomatic system and aesthetically significant artifact. An axiomatic system can be an aesthetically significant artifact! (And of course, an axiomatic system can be an essential part of an aesthetically significant artifact, such that the significance would be lessened or lost were it absent.)

And there I agree that, taken on its own and in its entirety, 4e was both axiomatic and pleasant. It was mechanically really well done (too formal and limited to me, but tastes vary and some of my friends loved it), and all he environment had been redone around its concepts, so I think, on its own, it succeeded in meeting both criteria.

Unfortunately, and back to the subject of this thread, it did not match with my expectations in terms of narration and fiction, but it was because of MY expectations, not because of inherent faults in 4e.

Are we good ?
 

pemerton

Legend
While it's not incoherent - what you are explaining seems a very good and legitimate reason for D&D fans to dislike 4e.
Maybe. I think I count as a D&D fan, in the sense that I first played D&D in 1982 and have around 3 metres of shelf of D&D stuff. And I liked 4e. The nature of a beholder's central eye beam is - for me - not at the core of what I enjoy about D&D as a RPG.
 

pemerton

Legend
Where it bugs me is that the distinction between at-will, encounter and daily power is a purely technical one, nothing in the rules explains why an aberration would disrupt some rather than others
I already suggested this upthread: encounter and daily powers represent pushing harder. A beholder's ray means that the hardest a character can push themself is to their base level of performance. I could imagine a distorting haze in the air, like a reality distorting effect in a Dr Strange film.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Maybe. I think I count as a D&D fan, in the sense that I first played D&D in 1982 and have around 3 metres of shelf of D&D stuff. And I liked 4e. The nature of a beholder's central eye beam is - for me - not at the core of what I enjoy about D&D as a RPG.
Sure, but I didn't say all D&D fans dislike 4e. ;)

Just that for those that do, reasons like you cited seem to me to be legitimate places to have issues.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Sure, but I didn't say all D&D fans dislike 4e. ;)
You didnt limit it with a word like "some" either... .

Example "changing the game to no longer have simultaneous resolution of movement is a legitimate reason for D&D fans to dislike 3e through 5e."
Which is atleast more on-topic for this thread even.
 
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