D&D General How would you redo 4e?

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
What did 3.X even had outside combat aside from free wins for Casters? What does 5e even have that 4e doesn't when it comes to out of combat stuff?
In theory, a comprehensive and detailed skill system that was meant to meld naturalistic development (growing in those areas which the character had invested their effort) with meaningful and diverse applications. In practice:
  • no one but a handful of classes (and all but Rogue being at least part-caster) had enough skill points to do much, as most only had 2 or 4 skill points per level,
  • the skills were less "comprehensive" and more "massively over-specialized,"* and
  • naturalistic growth meant consigning yourself to both poor current performance and stunted future growth, because dabbling in skills never gets you enough bonus to do remotely well, and the game's incentive structures like PrCs and feats had narrow, specific requirements.
And even then, most of the things skills could do could be completely trounced with a 1st or 2nd level spell; some things could be trounced with a cantrip. Some of the "trounce a thing skills do" spells were even actually good spells worth taking on most characters, like invisibility or fly (both 3rd level, to be clear) while some first-level spells were useful enough to justify a wand or scroll kept in the backpack after (say) 6th level just to pull out to deal with the issue when it came up. (A first-level CL1 spell is 750 gp for a 50 charge wand; characters have a WBL of 19,000 gp at level 7; a scroll is less efficient per casting, but if you only use the spell very rarely, it may be more efficient, being only 25 gp per scroll, 12.5 gp+1.25 XP to craft.) It even gets worse in PF, since you can craft items with spells you don't know simply by upping the DC for the crafting check!

Similar arguments apply to feats, where most feats were trash and the powerful ones usually disproportionately (or even exclusively) benefited casters. The idea was for feats to be awesome, hence why Fighters got so many of them, but they were designed so conservatively and with such an emphasis on the idea of only getting the good stuff after 2, 3, 4, or even more feats already sunk in, that it undercut any chance it could have had to accomplish that goal. As is the case with much of 3e's design, it has wonderful goals and terribad, constantly-sabotaging-itself execution from nearly the ground up.

*With such greats as Use Rope, Decipher Script, Forgery, and one from 3.0 that was so useless even 3.5e dropped it, Innuendo.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Now that I think about, I think the vibe of 4E is a completely different subject from the rules of 4E.
It has exactly the inverse problem 3e did.

3e has excellent presentation and great meta-aesthetics. The rules appear naturalistic, but built on commonsense ideas. The books are, as was referenced earlier, particularly conscious about presenting themselves as tomes, grimoires of esoteric knowledge to be pored over. The various classes boldly assert their differences, and seeing all the parts leaves you wondering how exactly they could all fit together, and you're left with an impression of a vast but flexible system. Except...they don't, aren't, often can't. At numerous levels, the parts don't fit together. The design falls short of almost all of its goals, and frequently, even when it succeeds, it does so in ways entirely opposite the designers' intent. For God's sake, one of the design goals of 3e was to reduce caster/non-caster disparity, and we all saw how THAT turned out! The system ends up being incredibly inflexible in many ways, enforcing draconian and even counter-intuitive actions on the player because that's what actually produces the best performance.

By comparison, 4e is an extremely functional game. It has its wrinkles, to be sure, but by and large, when it sets out do to something...it works. If the designers wanted something to be a core part of play, such as teamwork, they actually did a really good job of making teamwork the best choice. Etc. But its presentation is...lacking, to put it mildly. Even I found it pretty bland, and I'm a big 4e fan who was converted by finally reading the dang PHB. I get it! It looks and reads like a technical manual. Instead of having your head full of imagined vistas and awesome adventures, when you read the rules, you...think about rules. 4e is actually really good at a lot of the things people say it sucks at, but they never gave it a chance to show its performance because it didn't look like it could perform.

3e is a barely-functional jalopy with a sporty red body. 4e is a precisely-engineered multipurpose vehicle...with an exterior designed purely for functionality, by those very engineers. Aesthetics matter, and 4e screwed them up, badly. But, unfortunately, that means a lot of people pass judgment on its performance in a way that is simply not accurate, because all they ever saw WAS that ugly, pure-function exterior.
 

What about skill challenges? And rituals?

The vast majority of spells are for combat, not for non-combat, in every other edition of D&D. Skills are a couple of pages. It's always been the case that the bulk of D&D's rules refer to combat stuff. 4e was no different in this regard.

Yeah, I never got this perspective at all. What makes the other editions more roleplaying focused?

If you want free form roleplaying or single skill checks with DM decides ultimate resolution, you can do that just as easily in 4e. 4e also gives you a structured non-arbitrary non-combat resolution engine (SCs) as an alternative which no other addition of D&D does.

By the end of 4e almost all the "creative utility magic" was put back in through rituals.

p.42 gave the DM great guidance on how to make improvision worth it during combat. I used to give players 2 extra "powers" -- "do something cool" (encounter level) and "do something awesome" (daily level) so they wouldn't forget to improvise. The powers had the prerequisite of needing to use some circumstantial or enviromental thing to "trigger" but I was pretty loose with that. Definitely added to what I would consider good roleplaying.

It is true that 4e combat is somewhat more limited in mechanical resolution -- all PCs play under the same rules and there are no "super creative spells" that basically let you bypass the resolution mechanic. So perhaps this is what is meant by "less roleplaying"? Really don't get it.
 

It's an amazing tactical skirmish ruleset...but not so much an amazing roleplaying game. Id be surprised if more than 10% of the crunch in 4e was non-combat related.

This is partly because it streamlined a lot of non-combat resolution into skill challenges which are pretty abstract so it didn't need a lot of crunch for non-combat.

I do think this is one valid criticism in that I think 4e does have 2 very different resolution systems and it wasn't explained well enough --

1) detailed tactical combat, single skill use, ritual use
2) and very abstract SCs.

A skill check (or use of power, ritual, etc) means a different think in a SC than in other use. In a SC, success means progress toward the goal (through that means). Outside of the SC, it is some specific effect.

Even if spelled out better, some people would not like this "switching" between levels of mechanical meaning.

I have no problem with it as I think the benefits of abstract non combat resolution system actually adds to easier roleplaying than not. Have high strength and althetics? Do something cool appropriate to your character and Tier of play and roll the dice. No need to have a specific set of feats, abililities, etc.
 

Kannik

Hero
Your bottom bullet point is my overall thought about 4e.

It's an amazing tactical skirmish ruleset...but not so much an amazing roleplaying game. Id be surprised if more than 10% of the crunch in 4e was non-combat related.
Adding to all that was noted above by to all noted above (Skill challenges! Rituals! Utility Powers! Page 42!), the only thing potentially missing was no explicit Crafting, Profession (Appraise included), or Perform skills. Pretty much all the social skills remain (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate). So in the rare case that someone from 3.X wanted to spend their 2 skill points on a Profession skill, I suppose that is a missing.*

But, at the risk of being a "get off my lawn" type here, none of those skills, or utilities, were available in 1e or had much of a role in 2e even if Non-Weapon Proficiencies were being used. Do you consider D&D, AD&D, and AD&D 2e not roleplaying games? I'm not being flippant here, I honestly do want to know if you believe that and that I wasn't playing an RPG back then? Because if you do, I'd be interested to know where you draw the line, what explicit things need to be in an RPG for you to consider it to be a roleplaying game.

* FWIW, I thought it was a missing and wrote and sold a supplement for it, but I never considered that without then you couldn't RP in 4e. (Wait, am I just noticing now that that rhymes?)
 

Kannik

Hero
In theory, a comprehensive and detailed skill system that was meant to meld naturalistic development (growing in those areas which the character had invested their effort) with meaningful and diverse applications. In practice: (....)
  • *With such greats as Use Rope, Decipher Script, Forgery, and one from 3.0 that was so useless even 3.5e dropped it, Innuendo.
My favorite has always been the split between Hide and Move Silently. The number of characters who could find a reason to invest in one and not the other is miniscule. Nearly everyone who wanted to be stealthy had to take both and therefore had to spend 2 of their limited skill points into those skills... again leaving few for anything else.
p.42 gave the DM great guidance on how to make improvision worth it during combat. I used to give players 2 extra "powers" -- "do something cool" (encounter level) and "do something awesome" (daily level) so they wouldn't forget to improvise. The powers had the prerequisite of needing to use some circumstantial or enviromental thing to "trigger" but I was pretty loose with that. Definitely added to what I would consider good roleplaying.
Hilariously, I also gave my players a similar power! I made it an At-Will named "Do something Creative!" that simply reminded them to use their other powers and abilities in creative ways, plus to never forget to "1e" it with strategy, tactics, and guile...
I do think this is one valid criticism in that I think 4e does have 2 very different resolution systems and it wasn't explained well enough --

1) detailed tactical combat, single skill use, ritual use
2) and very abstract SCs.
Interesting that you put single skill use close to tactical combat vs including it as part of the realm of SCs. For 3e (and 5e) the two would be single (potentially gatekeeping) skill use, and full blown combat. For me 4e's skill challenge fits in the middle of those, primarily in the world of skill use but with the encounter framework of multiple actions leading to the outcome.

Regardless, whether it was explained well enough in the original DMG, well it seems not since still to this day misconceptions about them seem common. :/
 

Of course, lots of mine suggestion would need rework lots of the game moving parts, specially to keep math working both in combat and outside it. But the above would be my initial blueprint. Now, curious to know how you would redo it.

Many of things that I would want others have mentioned:

  • Change abilities to match the power source; no Dailies for Martial, no at wills for Arcane, whatever.
  • Not every power source needs one of each style.
  • Themed feats. There were literally > 2,000 feats near the end of the 4e cycle, and most of them were pretty much the same. Have something that says "spend a feat to gain one [type of ability] of your level or lower of another class." "Spend a feat to gain this [type of basic ability] of another class", &c.
  • 2-4 types of bonuses, no more.
  • A "better" Monster Manual. Unfortunately, I can't really remember the exact problems I have with it, other than with earlier editions I could make a pretty good encounter on-the-fly and with 4e I struggled.

So, not a whole lot, actually. I came to feel the same with 4e as I did with my MtG collection. I have all the stuff and I don't know what to do with it all. I liked playing it just fine at lower levels.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Themed feats. There were literally > 2,000 feats near the end of the 4e cycle, and most of them were pretty much the same. Have something that says "spend a feat to gain one [type of ability] of your level or lower of another class." "Spend a feat to gain this [type of basic ability] of another class", &c.
According to my sources, there were 3,271 feats in 4e. Of them, only 154 refer to multiclassing at all, and 16 of those refer to Paragon multiclassing. While you could get some savings from condensing things down a bit (e.g., compacting every <class> multiclass feat into "choose one of the following benefits" style), you could not reduce it down to one single uber-multiclass feat for all classes, because the precise benefits given by different MC feats are...well, different. That single feat would end up taking pages and pages of text, it would be utterly ridiculous.

So, collapse it down to 1 "Paragon Multiclass" feat, 25+N class-specific MC feats (with various options) where N is all those weird obscure MC feat things they made*, and you've saved...what, maybe 100, 120 feats? The actual bloat of 4e's feats comes from reams of crappy useless feats, not from MC feats. Those MC feats, for example? A good quarter of them are simply worse than alternative feats that still get you access to that class. But to do that, you'd have to actually collect information from a lot of sources or do an awful lot of by-hand evaluation, which would take ages.

There is no quick fix to the absolute pile of weak feats for exactly the same reason there is no quick fix to the absolute pile of weak powers: the issue isn't the sheer number, because there should be a lot of feats and powers, but rather that a lot of them just aren't really any good and could be axed. IMO, once you've done that, then you can start talking about saving ten feats here, thirty feats there by collapsing "thematic" categories together.

*Like "Bravo" and "Haunting Shade." Never really understood those feats. There's like a dozen options, I don't know the precise number and I'm not particularly inclined to track them down.
 


Remove ads

Top