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D&D 4E In Defense of 4E - a New Campaign Perspective

If they aren't talking about the fighter's basic attack with a longbow, then they aren't addressing the issue I'd raised. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.
You're not saying anything new here. A high-level minion will die the first time it's impacted by a single arrow, and a lower-level standard enemy will not. A fighter at level 12 (or 22, or 30) can kill a level 16 ogre bludgeoneer by shooting it with an arrow, but can't kill a level 8 ogre savage with the same shot. So, what's the truth? How grievous an injury can this ogre actually sustain, before it collapses? Or are you honestly claiming that one damage from a level 16 fighter is the equivalent of 111 damage from a level 8 fighter?
Again, your quantum ogre is being very inconsistent with its abilities. Can it reliably hit the fighter, or not? The difference between an ogre hitting you, and an ogre not hitting you, is significant. Those narratives are not equivalent at all.

If the ogre swings its club, how likely is it to injure the fighter? Does it hit on a 12, or does it need a 20? Can the fighter approach this ogre with a reasonable expectation of avoiding injury, or is it a gamble? You can't have it both ways.

The difference isn't so big. The level 1 goblin MIGHT survive the first 'hit', but it gets hit automatically! So it WILL DIE at the 2nd blow (assuming the first is only an at-will). The minion has a 50/50 chance to also survive the first attack, roughly. The difference really isn't that great here.

Yes, some higher level goblin minion could hit a bit more, and probably on average will do a bit more damage overall, but the difference is pretty negligible when you're talking maybe at most 10% of a PC's hit points, not to mention surges and such.

The fiction sure appears to be the same to me. I disagree about your "narratives are not equivalent at all", Gygax has already long since explained this. 'hit' and 'miss' in D&D are simply not what the words would seem to imply, and again, you cannot paper over that (except again at really low levels, sort of). 4e leverages that fact a LITTLE more than, say, 2e, but not really that much.

So, yeah, the minion manages to do some damage, which might simply be "he fights desperately and he's pretty tough, you exert yourself a bit before he goes down" and the non-minion's miss could be "his spear simply bounces off your +4 adamantine plate armor".

Again, AD&D narratives would likely be the same in similar scenarios.
 

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Options like that go way back. I mean, 3e had 'fighting defensively,' sure, but back in the day DMs would assign all sorts of modifiers. Before there even was a barbarian, one DM I played with would let you 'rage' (I don't think he called it that) getting an attack bonus & taking an AC penalty - something my Druid in his game did on a number of occasions, because Celtic warriors, though not the notorious berserkers, were known for such things, and I was trying to break the hippie stereotype too many players had of the class back then.


In 4e, I pulled a trick like we're talking about doing with monsters, but with NPCs, once. In a adventure-within-an-adventure scenario, the regular PCs were trying to obtain the aid of guest-PC wizard, who was semi-retired, running a school, the city's rulers really liked having her around, so they kept adventurers away as much as possible. So there was a whole skill challenge of political maneuvering involved, and, in the middle of it, the guest PC takes some of her students on a dungeon expedition to clear out some Dire Corbies (not even in 4e, AFAIK - they were 2hd monsters back in the day), but it turns out the scouts got it very wrong, and they were Hook Horrors (paragon monsters in 4e).
So I wanted this combat where the PCs rescue the guest star and her proteges from this case of deadly mistaken identity. A 10-level gap is prettymuch untenable in any - well, any game that uses levels, really, unless it uses hundreds of 'em. But statted as minions (with a trait that allowed they were Dying at 0 hps, so could be saved with timely healing), though, they participated, and the PCs had to make an effort to protect them, but it wasn't a futile effort, because the monsters /could/ actually miss them, and because of all the marking, forced movement, and other forms of control in 4e.

From that (see I get to my points eventually, you just have to bear with me), I got the idea that it'd be cool to have options for actual to PCs do that sort of thing, stretch to contribute when wildly outclassed, since it's an heroic sorta thing to do. I never more than mused on it, though, but (starting with the premise that PCs are ~equiv to elites), it might look something like:

Over Your Head: In desperate straights against superior foes, you guard yourself with extra care and don't dare riskier attacks

  • Your attack bonus and all defenses & other level-based checks increase by 5.
  • The first time you are hit, regardless of damage inflicted, you are reduced to your bloodied value, you cannot heal up above bloodied for the rest of the encounter.
  • You cannot use Daily powers.

Out of Your League: A battle rages beyond your ken, you desperately try to avoid destruction, and put the utmost effort into your most dependable attacks... you have no chance, but you might be able to tilt the balance, just a little, if you're lucky...

  • Your attack bonus and all defenses & other level-based checks increase by 10.
  • When you are hit, regardless of damage inflicted, you are reduced to 0 hps. (Effects that do not take attack rolls damage you normally, and you can be healed.)
  • You cannot use Encounter, Daily or Utility powers, you cannot spend Action Points.


And, hey, why not go the other way:

Toying With Them: "I am going to duel him left-handed, otherwise … is over too quick." Faced with contemptable foes, you decide to make it interesting, striding unconcerned about the field, and trying showy tricks you wouldn't risk against a real threat.

  • You take a -5 penalty to attacks and all defenses & other level-based checks, but gain a +5 bonus to Saving Throws.
  • You gain temporary hps equal to your maximum hps. The first time you spend a healing surge, you gain temporary hps equal to your surge value, as well.
  • You can use any of your standard-action Encounter Power attacks as a Minor Action, if you choose to use one as a standard action, instead, it is not expended until you use it as a Minor action; your encounter powers that are not standard actions are not expended when used, but can only be used 1/round. When you spend an Action Point, you gain the use of a second, bonus Action Point that you must expend before the end of the Encounter. At the End of the Encounter, you can regain one Daily that you used in it.
  • … I can't think of anything right now, but some enhancement to p42 improvised actions might be fun …

I think this would all be more interesting/successful if utilized in an engine that would purpose built to cater to it. Shouldn't really be hard...
 

The fiction sure appears to be the same to me. I disagree about your "narratives are not equivalent at all", Gygax has already long since explained this. 'hit' and 'miss' in D&D are simply not what the words would seem to imply, and again, you cannot paper over that (except again at really low levels, sort of). 4e leverages that fact a LITTLE more than, say, 2e, but not really that much.
Gygax hasn't been relevant to the industry in thirty years. His opinions are meaningless.

I'm glad that you found some happiness, by buying into his transparent rhetoric, but most players have higher standards than you do. Most players aren't willing to accept that a hit on the die could be a miss within the narrative, and that's why 4E fared as poorly as it did. Appealing to Gygaxian rhetoric is not a winning strategy with players who know better.

I've said it before, but 4E is the edition which actually delivers on Gygax's promise; and very few people actually wanted that sort of thing, in practice.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
And, hey, why not go the other way:

Toying With Them: "I am going to duel him left-handed, otherwise … is over too quick." Faced with contemptible foes, you decide to make it interesting, striding unconcerned about the field, and trying showy tricks you wouldn't risk against a real threat.

For some reason this reminded me of Runequest where they track closely "how" you advance perhaps the above tricks might allow one to gain experience fighting foes which are significantly beneath your capability when otherwise the DM wouldn't grant them.
 

For some reason this reminded me of Runequest where they track closely "how" you advance perhaps the above tricks might allow one to gain experience fighting foes which are significantly beneath your capability when otherwise the DM wouldn't grant them.
Oh, that's an idea! It might also work for *ahem* 'solo' play ...
 

TheWayofPie

Explorer
Gygax hasn't been relevant to the industry in thirty years. His opinions are meaningless.


I'm glad that you found some happiness, by buying into his transparent rhetoric, but most players have higher standards than you do. Most players aren't willing to accept that a hit on the die could be a miss within the narrative, and that's why 4E fared as poorly as it did. Appealing to Gygaxian rhetoric is not a winning strategy with players who know better.


I've said it before, but 4E is the edition which actually delivers on Gygax's promise; and very few people actually wanted that sort of thing, in practice.

Just going to hop into the conversation here.

I don't really understand how people not liking such feature translates to them having a higher standard for their tabletop experience.
 


I don't really understand how people not liking such feature translates to them having a higher standard for their tabletop experience.
It's a really weird, really old issue.

When D&D was naught but a misfiring neuron in Dave Arneson's brain, there was a not too popular wargaming hobby, and, since it was essentially historical reenactment on sand tables using tin soldiers, "realism" was a highly coveted - and very elusive - quality.

So, when various innovations passed through the minds of Gygax & Arneson - in what order, thanks to legal battles, we'll never know for sure -and emerged first as Chainmail, then D&D, there was a harsh line of criticism of hit point gain with level as profoundly unrealistic. If hit point damage represented the destructive force imparted by a weapon on it's target - as the weapon tables, with bigger weapons doing more damage, and STR mods would seem to indicate (and as the prior use of hit points in the Ironclads wargame would also imply) - then the only way a character could gain hps would be to become larger, or change it's material composition.
So D&D characters either grew to giant size, or went from glass to flesh, to wood, to stone to iron to vibranium or something - both of which would be ludicrous.

EGG defended his court-awarded-full-custody brain child with an exhaustive treatise, in the 1e DMG.
It seemed to quiet the critics, or maybe they just died of lead poisoning or old age.

For about 30 years it stood as the sole official explanation of what hps represented. It still does, actually: no other has been officially offered, nor has anything official contradicted it.

Yet, c2008, it became fashionable to criticise D&D for /no longer/ modeling hps solely as destructive force vs material strength, "as it had always done before."
When confronted with EGG's 30yo old treatise, they reacted - and are still reacting - as you see here.

Even out of all this wackiness, though some interesting developments have come. My favorite is the Highlander explanation of hps: adventurers are a supernatural race apart, with the power to absorb the life force of their slain foes (as XP) to increase their own power (levels) & life force (hp).
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Just going to hop into the conversation here.

I don't really understand how people not liking such feature translates to them having a higher standard for their tabletop experience.

"Higher Standard" -->Because of blatant disgusting arrogance of course. The edition wars made it acceptable AND since 4e lost those well it somehow still is.
 
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"Higher Standard" -->Because of blatant disgusting arrogance of course. The edition wars made it acceptable AND since 4e lost those well it somehow still is.

Meh, there's always the ignore list if one is so inclined. Personally I find that there's always something people will end up saying that is annoying, and then again they'll say something interesting or insightful so best to let it all pass. I will happily play 4e or some variation thereof as long as I can still roll dice :)
 

TheWayofPie

Explorer
It's a really weird, really old issue.

When D&D was naught but a misfiring neuron in Dave Arneson's brain, there was a not too popular wargaming hobby, and, since it was essentially historical reenactment on sand tables using tin soldiers, "realism" was a highly coveted - and very elusive - quality.

So, when various innovations passed through the minds of Gygax & Arneson - in what order, thanks to legal battles, we'll never know for sure -and emerged first as Chainmail, then D&D, there was a harsh line of criticism of hit point gain with level as profoundly unrealistic. If hit point damage represented the destructive force imparted by a weapon on it's target - as the weapon tables, with bigger weapons doing more damage, and STR mods would seem to indicate (and as the prior use of hit points in the Ironclads wargame would also imply) - then the only way a character could gain hps would be to become larger, or change it's material composition.
So D&D characters either grew to giant size, or went from glass to flesh, to wood, to stone to iron to vibranium or something - both of which would be ludicrous.

EGG defended his court-awarded-full-custody brain child with an exhaustive treatise, in the 1e DMG.
It seemed to quiet the critics, or maybe they just died of lead poisoning or old age.

For about 30 years it stood as the sole official explanation of what hps represented. It still does, actually: no other has been officially offered, nor has anything official contradicted it.

Yet, c2008, it became fashionable to criticise D&D for /no longer/ modeling hps solely as destructive force vs material strength, "as it had always done before."
When confronted with EGG's 30yo old treatise, they reacted - and are still reacting - as you see here.

Even out of all this wackiness, though some interesting developments have come. My favorite is the Highlander explanation of hps: adventurers are a supernatural race apart, with the power to absorb the life force of their slain foes (as XP) to increase their own power (levels) & life force (hp).

This is a very educational post.

I can honestly say I'm very interested in slowly evolving a character into a full bodied vibranium based hero, transcending their mortal limits.
 

I can honestly say I'm very interested in slowly evolving a character into a full bodied vibranium based hero, transcending their mortal limits.
I'm sorry that so many of the game's other sub-systems fail to deliver on that for you. But, hey, at least you have a 70s strawman criticism of D&D hps to hang that (super?)hero's journey on.

Sneak Attack/backstab, for instance: if a thief's sword can't make much of an impression(pi) on a high-level Marvel-Asgardian-style PC's supernaturally dense flesh when swung at full force, slipping it between his ribs when he's not looking shouldn't do any better, but it /does/ inflict a lot more hp damage according to the system. Works fine with EGGs explanation - the character, less-able to defend himself, uses up more of his 'luck/skill/favor/etc' in escaping from a precisely-targeted, unseen strike than from an ordinary one.

I feel the 'Highlander' unofficial alternative fits the rest of the game - magic powers &c, but not too-superhuman stats w/o item enhancements, living without a vital organ by dint of sheer inhuman life-force after the knife in the back skewers it - a bit better than the force-vs-material model of Ironclads.
And it's flashier. ;P
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Sneak Attack/backstab, for instance: if a thief's sword can't make much of an impression(pi) on a high-level Marvel-Asgardian-style PC's supernaturally dense flesh when swung at full force, slipping it between his ribs when he's not looking shouldn't do any better, but it /does/ inflict a lot more hp damage according to the system. Works fine with EGGs explanation - the character, less-able to defend himself, uses up more of his 'luck/skill/favor/etc' in escaping from a precisely-targeted, unseen strike than from an ordinary one.

Right. I think one of the things that 4e implicitly does and almost veers into explicit, is the idea that the 'dying' state in D&D is a Schrodinger's Cat kind of scenario. In other words, someone who is dying, we don't actually know if they're dying or not. We can only know if they're really dying afterwards when they end up dead. They're on the ground. They seem to be doing badly, maybe some weird twitching that could be dying? There's some red stuff scattered around, but given the battle happening all around us, who has time to make sure it is actually theirs?

And in that scenario, if it isn't their blood, they're just temporarily twitching and on the ground because they got the wind knocked out of them? Well, a martial-based healer can heal them and then that's what must have happened — it wasn't their blood and they had the wind knocked out of them. Something 5 minutes of rest will probably fix nearly as good as new. They then die? Well, it was their blood and they were dying and oops that we couldn't get closer to them faster.
 

Right. I think one of the things that 4e implicitly does and almost veers into explicit, is the idea that the 'dying' state in D&D is a Schrodinger's Cat kind of scenario. In other words, someone who is dying, we don't actually know if they're dying or not.
Yep. Particularly if you're delving deep into what hps might be 'modeling,' you determine that they're, well, non-deterministic. Because, /really/ RPGs don't model the imagined world - 'realistic' ones /try/ to, of course, but it's futile. Because the imagined world isn't real, it can't be modeled, there's no way to check your model's accuracy or use it to make predictions. Instead, it'd be closer to the truth to say that, if modeling anything, RPGs model stories in their genre.

A 'main' (or ensemble or even supporting or 'name' villain) character is hit and goes down. There's a moment (or few) of tension for the viewer, as we go "yeah, there's no way they're killing him off... oh, well, maybe they're going for a GoT thing... nah... maybe... nah... Oh, he's fine!" Death at 0 and negative hps didn't model that (unless the DM tracked them secretly, even then, you /knew/ there was a clock ticking). Adding stabilization helped. Death saves definitely do the trick pretty well.

Thing is, a character dropping is FAR from the only time good (and even cliché or hackneyed - and RPGs should be so lucky as to rise to the level of hackneyed) stories leave the audience in suspense or hit them up with a twist like that. Schrodinger's Mechanics can model that kind of thing, pretty easily, and not necessarily in a complicated way. Simply delaying a check until it 'matters,' for instance, can do it. This came up in a thread that touched on 'knowledge checks' - if you make a knowledge check, determine success/failure, and give the character information (or don't, or give him false information), especially info the player likely already has, it's not very satisfying, doesn't model the flow of an actual story, and may not even work if the player has meta-knowledge of his own (like, he read the MM or he saw the result of the check and can make a good guess whether it succeeded). But, if you make the knowledge check as the resultant plans/preparations come to fruition in play, you get something that plays out with some genre fidelity.


To use the tiredest example, the party finds out they'll be fighting trolls. Yawn, everyone knows fire, and most know acid works too, but the characters, the DM decides, don't necessarily, though the resident smart-guy (Lore Bard, Wizard, Taclord, whatever) might. So smarty thinks about it, goes to the local adventurers' supply shopppe, and comes back with a sack of vials he hands out to toss at the trolls.

Once the vials start flying at trolls, he rolls his knowledge check. On a success, it's acid or Greek fire or at least flammable oil. On a failure, it's lilac-smelling 'troll repellent.'
 
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I don't really understand how people not liking such feature translates to them having a higher standard for their tabletop experience.
Everyone has standards. For everyone on these boards, there exists a game which is so distasteful that they aren't willing to play it, because it doesn't meet their standards. Maybe it's FATAL. Maybe it's Rifts. Maybe it's even GURPS. Everyone has a line somewhere, that a game has to meet before they are willing to play it; or a line that a game can't cross, or else they won't be willing to play it.

Quality isn't an objective measure, so standards are very much a personal thing. Personally, 4E doesn't meet my standards for playability. Any game where you roll to hit, and the dice confirm that you hit, and the narration is that you didn't actually hit, has failed that test. I can't play that game. My standards for straightforwardness are higher than that. My tolerance for abstraction is lower than that. And I know there are a lot of other people who share my opinion, which is why they abandoned 4E in droves.

It doesn't mean someone else can't have fun with it. I'm sure there are some people who don't even care about that particular issue. Maybe their personal standards reflect a low tolerance for game imbalance and a high tolerance for abstraction. They don't consider the hitting discrepancy to be a make-or-break issue, because their standards for straightforwardness are lower than mine.
 


TheWayofPie

Explorer
Everyone has standards. For everyone on these boards, there exists a game which is so distasteful that they aren't willing to play it, because it doesn't meet their standards. Maybe it's FATAL. Maybe it's Rifts. Maybe it's even GURPS. Everyone has a line somewhere, that a game has to meet before they are willing to play it; or a line that a game can't cross, or else they won't be willing to play it.

Quality isn't an objective measure, so standards are very much a personal thing. Personally, 4E doesn't meet my standards for playability. Any game where you roll to hit, and the dice confirm that you hit, and the narration is that you didn't actually hit, has failed that test. I can't play that game. My standards for straightforwardness are higher than that. My tolerance for abstraction is lower than that. And I know there are a lot of other people who share my opinion, which is why they abandoned 4E in droves.

It doesn't mean someone else can't have fun with it. I'm sure there are some people who don't even care about that particular issue. Maybe their personal standards reflect a low tolerance for game imbalance and a high tolerance for abstraction. They don't consider the hitting discrepancy to be a make-or-break issue, because their standards for straightforwardness are lower than mine.

Ok, fair enough. However, no D&D variation I've seen has used HP as purely meat to my knowledge. And many DMs still treat it mostly as such, with low HP damage attacks just being grazes the let out very little blood. Even in 4e.

Is it because it's easier to ignore in other editions because of martial healing not being an actual thing?
 

HJFudge

Explorer
Pretending that HP has been modeled realistically in any system of D&D is, well, amusing to me. All it takes, realistically, is one good shot with an arrow or strike with a sword and you're done. That is it. So the narration has always been more or less left to the DM in order to properly execute a 'realistic feel' of how the combat takes place. Also, total realism is probably not even desirable from a narration sense for many.

But as Saelorn said, people have different tastes. Some want as close to the feel of real as possible. Others are more forgiving.

However, this isnt an issue with the system...any system can have you 'roll to hit, hit, but not actually hit narratively'. I cannot think of a single system this is not the case. Its a table issue and a DM issue. Even in 4E you can 'realistically narrate' damage. Its possible. I've seen it done. Minions and such are likewise very easy to narrate...and in fact are perhaps some of the more realistic creatures narrative wise. Because in the end, *realistically*, we are all minions. All it takes is one good, solid hit and you're out of the fight :)
 

Ok, fair enough. However, no D&D variation I've seen has used HP as purely meat to my knowledge. And many DMs still treat it mostly as such, with low HP damage attacks just being grazes the let out very little blood. Even in 4e.
Many players in 2E and 3E treated damage as physical because it was faster and easier, regardless of what the books claimed.
Is it because it's easier to ignore in other editions because of martial healing not being an actual thing?
That's part of it. Psychic damage is another part of it - the only way to deal damage with psychic powers in 2E was to set someone on fire. The biggest issue is probably Healing Surges, and overnight full healing, which prevent any amount of damage from persisting for more than a day. It's hard to be a hair's breadth from unconsciousness, and then have all of that damage removed overnight, if damage is primarily physical.
 

Pretending that HP has been modeled realistically in any system of D&D is, well, amusing to me. All it takes, realistically, is one good shot with an arrow or strike with a sword and you're done. That is it. So the narration has always been more or less left to the DM in order to properly execute a 'realistic feel' of how the combat takes place. Also, total realism is probably not even desirable from a narration sense for many.
That's a good point, and one which I hadn't brought up, but you could easily say that 4E fans have higher standards for realism than I do. I'm sure that some people like the 4E model for HP, specifically because it's easier to narrate weapon strikes as being obviously fatal, where repeated hits for negligible damage might feel unrealistic. (I'm not sure if you could tell, but I was struggling to present the standards of a 4E-enthusiast in a positive light, because my own priorities are so vastly different.)

However, this isnt an issue with the system...any system can have you 'roll to hit, hit, but not actually hit narratively'. I cannot think of a single system this is not the case. Its a table issue and a DM issue. Even in 4E you can 'realistically narrate' damage. Its possible. I've seen it done. Minions and such are likewise very easy to narrate...and in fact are perhaps some of the more realistic creatures narrative wise. Because in the end, *realistically*, we are all minions. All it takes is one good, solid hit and you're out of the fight :)
Most D&D-type games can have mechanical hits that aren't narrative hits, but some editions force the issue more than others. While you can apply that rationale easily to 1E or 3E or 4E, the reverse option - all mechanical hits are also narrative hits - is much easier to hold in 2E or 3E than in 4E. That was the issue with 4E, is that it stopped supporting an option which was already in wide use, whether or not it had ever been officially endorsed.

Of course, there are also games which apply large mechanical penalties whenever you take damage, and it's harder to argue that those hits didn't actually connect, but that's getting off topic.
 
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