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

Teflonknight

Villager
It was the DM’s choice to make the miners minions. Also there is nothing in 4e’s rules that ever required the use of minions. The DMG had a conversion guide so that you could convert to regular monsters. The use of minions in 4e, as with many rules in other versions, is completely optional.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Well, then don't.
Don't what? Ever remove those NPCs from the one specific context where their stats make sense? Because that's easier said than done. It's not like I have any control over who the players fight, befriend, or engage in friendly sparring with.

This is all very good and corner-casey and all, but you essentially have two extremely niche examples here, one of which can be summed up as "This one time we did a thing and it didn't turn out like I expected and I didn't like it."
I strongly disagree. It may seem like a corner case, but it's extremely indicative of typical play. It's important to have stats that work well in different contexts, because you never know when those stats will come up. It's the same reason why published modules will give entire stat blocks for shopkeepers who probably won't ever get in a fight.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I think the no RP thing is more due to the combat length. For example in a four hour session we might do three or four combats plus rp explore etc.

In 4E those 3 or 4 encounters would eat up the whole session leaving no time for anything else. So you either had to reduce the encounters or split the adventuring day over 2 or more sessions IRL.

Alot of that was due to hit point bloat, debuffs and a relative lack of nukes to speed up combat.

I don't think it was intended kind of like the testers played 3.0 like 2E vs how it was percieved to be used. It's not that you can't RP in 4E but depending on hoow you run the combats/structure the game you might not have time.

If you spread what you could do in an older edition in one session over 2or 3 I don't see why 4E would be to different in regards to what you could do. If that doesn't work for you though that's a problem. Could even come down to how frequent your sessions are.
Yeah was just about to post something very similar to this about the roleplaying issues some had with 4e. It took me a while and some time reflecting on why my group and I weren't fans but I think alot of 4e's issues (at least for my group at the time) seem to stem from it's combat system. It really is a great system if you really enjoy intricate tactical grid-based miniature combat... if not 4e will probably leave you kind of cold.

The combat system really requires a level of engagement that I don't think any other edition requires...and combat takes so long that if you don't particularly enjoy intricate tactical grid-based miniature combat (or don't necessarily enjoy it as the main focus of your game) I don't really see how you can enjoy 4e. For my group I had a couple of bad experiences that are related to 4e's combat...

1. I had a player who traditionally played fighters in 3e/3.5e that transitioned to 4e and absolutely hated playing a fighter in that edition. Granted I will readily admit he was the type of player who enjoyed keeping his choices simple and doing as much damage as possible... Great guy to game with and genuinely funny and enjoyable as a plyaer but not one who found enjoyment from constant engagement with the rules of the game. The problem was that 4e required him to make constant decisions in combat, something he didn't find particularly enjoyable. Eventually he ended up leaving our group and kind of drifting away from D&D.

2. How slow our game moved when we switched to 4e. We tried to get in 3-4 combats per game session as well as exploration and social interaction and we just found ourselves slogging through combat for the vast majority of our time. Now this could have been my fault as the DM for not realizing that I couldn;t run 4e as I had previous editions but in all honesty the game wasn't transparent about this change at all and so I tried to run games as I had previously since supposedly..."Ze game remained ze same."

3. D&D Encounters... worst experience I and some of my players had as an introduction/maybe we're not doing it right so we should check out an official game experience. It was a couple combats strung together with minimal interaction, little to no exploration and often new players struggling with the powers on their pre-gen. Just not a good experience.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Every time I see people complain about combat taking forever, part of me says "that's what I liked about 4E". Combat should be meaningful.
It's odd that you'd mention that, because 4E combat is rarely meaningful. No matter how badly a fight goes, you're going to be back near full HP for the next fight, and good as new by the next day. It would have been my biggest complaint about 4E, except for all of the other stuff, and the fact that combat is equally meaningless in 5E.
 

bert1000

Villager
Not really, no. The only thing a low-level NPC has in common with a minion is that they can die from one attack. In almost every way that matters, a low-level NPC is different. For one thing, even if they have 4hp, they can survive the little bumps and bruises that we pick up in our daily lives. For another thing, their relative durability is based on factors that actually exist within the game world, rather than a meta-game descriptor of their relative importance to the narrative.

Minions work fairly well, in the context where many of them are facing off against the PCs in combat. The further you take them away from that context, the less sense they make.
As I said, the weakest possible PC has like 13hp, and a level 1 goblin has 25. The way these miners were described, they should have been tougher than that. They may even have been dwarves. Even if they were level 1 standard NPCs, their numbers should have been enough to turn the tide of combat; but since they had an invisible 'minion' flag, they all died meaningless deaths.

There was absolutely no way, whatsoever, for our characters to know that they were minions. If they were minions, it's improbable that they would have survived so long in an open mine. They would have stubbed a toe, or been stung by a bee, or fallen victim to any of a million other things that deal the minimum possible damage. The fact that they were still alive should have been proof enough that they weren't minions.

Of course, the same could be said of any minion. A level 21 giant minion could not feasibly have survived to adulthood without taking a point of damage at some point along the way. Treating minions as an objective aspect of a persistent reality is an exercise in futility.

I don't think you are playing 4e in good faith here. I think your original point was that you prefer simulationist rules because it 's easier for you to understand what's possible and not possible from the ruleset. Fair enough.

However, 4e rules help create play that emulates genre fiction. Period. They are not designed for you to intuit likelihood of dying from toe stubbing, and of course using them that way is futile.

There is no such thing as a "minion" outside the context of fighting heroic characters and monsters in encounters. The rules don't try to simulate accidentally hitting your head on a mine ceiling or stubbing your toe. When the miner is going about his daily business, he just is, governed by the abstract "rules" of the setting norms. Do miners survive toe stubbing in this universe, then yes they do.

This doesn't mean you can't have any clue about how the world works or work up cool plans. In this world, could you expect a group of miners to take on drow and be anything more than redshirts? You could ask the DM about this from your character's perspective. The DM should make the call based on the parameters of the fictional universe. DM: "The miners might help if in enough numbers but you know the drow are powerful and would probably cut them down easily. You might be leading them to their deaths." [make them minions] Or not, maybe they can help substantially as the drow of this world aren't that strong. Then the DM shouldn't make them minions.

Minions work fairly well, in the context where many of them are facing off against the PCs in combat.
There is no other context. Minion status is just the underlying mechanic to emulate outclassed foes that get mowed down easily by superior opposition in tactical combat encounters. It means nothing else and shouldn't be used for anything else.

If you approach the game under it's own umbrella it works much smoother.
 

Teemu

Explorer
It's odd that you'd mention that, because 4E combat is rarely meaningful. No matter how badly a fight goes, you're going to be back near full HP for the next fight, and good as new by the next day. It would have been my biggest complaint about 4E, except for all of the other stuff, and the fact that combat is equally meaningless in 5E.
But what happens when you're down to 0-1 surges, and the party has yet to make their way out of the enemy territory to safety?
 

pemerton

Legend
On minions: AD&D and Moldvay Basic are full of characters (mostly NPCs, kobolds, etc, but maybe some PCs depending on what rule is being used for 1st level hp rolls) who have 1 hp. Yet have survived to adulthood, don't die from stubbing their toes, etc. I don't see why a minion ogre or whatever is a special case in this respect.

(Also, upthread [MENTION=29013]bert1000[/MENTION] and I think [MENTION=83242]dave2008[/MENTION] gave good accounts of the "relativistic" nature of minion stats.)

On combat and roleplaying: here are two links to actual play reports about how combat and roleplaying were intertwined! Woah - minds blown! (More seriously: Stan Lee noticed this possibility, ie of combining fisticuffs with character conflict and development, 50-something years ago.)
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I don't think you are playing 4e in good faith here. I think your original point was that you prefer simulationist rules because it 's easier for you to understand what's possible and not possible from the ruleset. Fair enough.

However, 4e rules help create play that emulates genre fiction. Period. They are not designed for you to intuit likelihood of dying from toe stubbing, and of course using them that way is futile.
There's a difference between playing in good faith, and playing to design intent. You can't blame anyone for not playing in good faith, when they bought the books and spent a year of their life trying to make sense of rules that seemed to defy all logic.

For many people, 4E represented an entirely new type of game, which they'd never seen before. Previous editions all worked by process simulation. Even competitors, like Palladium Fantasy and GURPS, were much the same. How would anyone even know to treat 4E as a genre-emulation engine, if they'd never encountered one before?
This doesn't mean you can't have any clue about how the world works or work up cool plans. In this world, could you expect a group of miners to take on drow and be anything more than redshirts? You could ask the DM about this from your character's perspective. The DM should make the call based on the parameters of the fictional universe.
Based on everything I'd seen of the world, the dwarves should have been able to hold their own, for at least a few rounds, with the PCs as a deciding factor that let them prevail. I guess I should have stopped and explicitly asked the DM whether or not they were minions? That's not something I would ever have considered. In any other game, that would be meta-gaming.
If you approach the game under it's own umbrella it works much smoother.
It would have been more helpful if that umbrella had been labelled, so I'd known what to expect. Labelling it as D&D was mis-leading, since that label was already well-established for a series of process-sim RPGs.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
On minions: AD&D and Moldvay Basic are full of characters (mostly NPCs, kobolds, etc, but maybe some PCs depending on what rule is being used for 1st level hp rolls) who have 1 hp. Yet have survived to adulthood, don't die from stubbing their toes, etc. I don't see why a minion ogre or whatever is a special case in this respect.

(Also, upthread [MENTION=29013]bert1000[/MENTION] and I think [MENTION=83242]dave2008[/MENTION] gave good accounts of the "relativistic" nature of minion stats.)

On combat and roleplaying: here are two links to actual play reports about how combat and roleplaying were intertwined! Woah - minds blown! (More seriously: Stan Lee noticed this possibility, ie of combining fisticuffs with character conflict and development, 50-something years ago.)
Its more things like Ogres and other higher levelthings. an AD&D Ogre would have 4 hp minimum and that Ogre would be 1 in 4000 odd Ogres.

I don't expect D&D to be a hard core simulationist game but it can't be a hard core whatever 4E was trying either. Minions didn't overly bother me but I only used them in things like Goblins and Kobolds at low level.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
On combat and roleplaying: here are two links to actual play reports about how combat and roleplaying were intertwined! Woah - minds blown! (More seriously: Stan Lee noticed this possibility, ie of combining fisticuffs with character conflict and development, 50-something years ago.)
Only read one but I don't see any roleplaying and combat intertwined... I see roleplaying (negotiations with Kas and Jenna) and then combat. Now I'd love to hear exactly how much real time each took up...

On your second point, I guess if I was running a superhero game (or if that had been communicated clearly by the designers I would have looked to comic books for inspiration but that wasn't what I figured I was running at the time.)
 
I worked through 10 pages of thread just to express here my deepest satisfaction with the reverence with which 4E can be treated nowadays. After ten dire years of steadily defending 4E my soul is finally at ease. :)

Now I have to find a way to run my new 5E campaign more like a 4E one without my players noticing...
 

bert1000

Villager
There's a difference between playing in good faith, and playing to design intent. You can't blame anyone for not playing in good faith, when they bought the books and spent a year of their life trying to make sense of rules that seemed to defy all logic.

For many people, 4E represented an entirely new type of game, which they'd never seen before. Previous editions all worked by process simulation. Even competitors, like Palladium Fantasy and GURPS, were much the same. How would anyone even know to treat 4E as a genre-emulation engine, if they'd never encountered one before?

Fair enough on good faith from a historical standpoint. I agree with you that the umbrella moved and WotC wasn't great about explicitly laying this out. That said, internet forums were talking about this shift and pretty much did lay it out explicitly within the first year (or less?).

The minion issue was one of many that is solved by embracing the paradigm shift/design intent shift. I'm not saying everyone should like this shift (different strokes...) but I don't like the arguments that "4e mechanics don't make sense if I come at it from angle A and I refuse to use angle B". There's some debate about whether WotC actually even knew how 4e was best used at release, as many of the staff seemed to be stuck on prior edition norms too. But it doesn't matter to me-- once you do know an interpretation of intent that makes sense then not playing the game under that umbrella is not playing with good faith.

It's like the martial healing "shouting wounds closed" debates.

"I don't think shouting should close wounds"
"HP in 4e are very abstract -- it represents a combination of luck, heroic spotlight, will, resilience, ability to avoid the killing blow, etc. Think of martial healing as trying to emulate the moment in fiction when someone is encouraged by their allies and finds a reserve of will to go on. Or here's 4 other ways to think about it..."
"Nah, I like HP as flesh points. It just doesn't make sense."

Based on everything I'd seen of the world, the dwarves should have been able to hold their own, for at least a few rounds, with the PCs as a deciding factor that let them prevail. I guess I should have stopped and explicitly asked the DM whether or not they were minions? That's not something I would ever have considered. In any other game, that would be meta-gaming.
Not knowing the full context, but this seems like a DM mistake then. 4e is nice in that it gives the DM an easy toolkit to emulate fictional tropes. If there was direct evidence that the dwarves could hold their own for a few rounds, then the DM shouldn't have made them minions.

Again, minions is not an "in world" thing. It's simply a gamist mechanic to emulate something that is true in the world, namely "these are redshirts that compared to this particular competition in tactical encounter combat are outclassed and will die with any meaningful attack".

For planning purposes you should be able to tell by the infiction evidence or by asking the DM, because characters often have better knowledge than players.

I guess you could ask "are these miners going to be treated as minions?" But it doesn't really have to be that meta. "What do I know about Drow? Will these dwarf miners stand a chance?"

Again, if your DM showed you the dwarves were more powerful earlier than she should remain consistent. But unless the characters saw these dwarves fight these particular drow then how would the characters even know how long they would last? Because miners are tough and can survive hard labor? In most genre fiction that doesn't tell you a whole lot about surviving magical attacks, sword chops, arrows, etc.
 

pemerton

Legend
Only read one but I don't see any roleplaying and combat intertwined... I see roleplaying (negotiations with Kas and Jenna) and then combat.
From the first of the two linked posts:

Because of the division among the PCs I made the players write down initial action declarations[/B] - or at least general approaches to the situation - blind, before rolling initiative.

The result of that was that the drow sorcerer and elf ranger-cleric launched their attacks upon the flying Jenna, while the dwarf fighter found himself solo-ing Kas, and then the death knight and the two hordes as they closed the distance.

Some unity then emerged as the PCs' focus turned to Kas, and Jenna - after getting in a few good blasts against the PCs who had attacked here - held her fire.
 
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Retreater

Adventurer
New 4e Campaign in Practice

My original point of starting this thread was to share the experience of starting a new 4E campaign with players new to the system in 2019. It's kinda jumped off the rails with people discussing the verisimilitude of minions and the design paradigms of AEDU powers. So I wanted to let everyone know that it went amazingly well.

We began with table expectations and then I gave a primer on a white board I have posted in my gaming cave. I explained 4E mechanics in terms of 5E (as that was the common system for all players). I explained the action economy, the four defenses, healing surges, measurement (blasts vs. bursts, etc). Then we jumped into the game.

Like any other first session, I let the players describe their characters. I showed the regional map and discussed some of the basic politics of the area. Had some good role-playing to kick off the first quest (find a kidnapped boy who could be marked by Bahumat for greatness).

We had a five hour session that included roleplaying, urban investigation, and one combat with a thieves' guild that went pretty fast (it was honestly underpowered). But all of the players seemed to have a great time and are excited about the next game.
 

Marshall

Villager
There was absolutely no way, whatsoever, for our characters to know that they were minions. If they were minions, it's improbable that they would have survived so long in an open mine. They would have stubbed a toe, or been stung by a bee, or fallen victim to any of a million other things that deal the minimum possible damage. The fact that they were still alive should have been proof enough that they weren't minions.

Of course, the same could be said of any minion. A level 21 giant minion could not feasibly have survived to adulthood without taking a point of damage at some point along the way. Treating minions as an objective aspect of a persistent reality is an exercise in futility.
There are two things here that demolish this argument.
1. Your DM was an Ass. Giving your party a bunch of minions and then immediately hitting them with a minion clearing ability is a waste of time, resources and player investment.

2. You are pedantic and flatly choosing to ignore everything but "1 hp". Minions dont take "incidental" damage, they dont take "miss" damage. They are only affected by hits, directed auto-damage and damaging zones/auras by the rules. So no, your miners arent going to die from a stubbed toe or a bee sting just like you dont roll random damage every morning from your PCs use of cutlery or nightly mosquitos. So if you want to rule that every Ogre minion is the glass-jawed runt that went down with one punch in every middle school yard brawl, go ahead, but dont even try to pretend thats any different than the deathly fear of housecats that every Thief, Wizard and NPC had in any other edition.
 
I really enjoyed 4E, I would say the only issues I really had were:

Properly creating a sense of threat for the player characters.

The PCs became so good at what they did, both in use of their stats, equipments, abilities, and tactics that became very hard to put the fear of God into them. I often felt like I had to go completely overboard to make a threat real.

"Forty guardsmen surround the party and another twenty with crossbows aim down from the rooftops. 'Surrender or face immediate execution!' shouts Port Town's bailiff."

"Eh, we can take 'em." says the party.

Well, I know this is a bit of hyperbole of course, but 60 level 1 monsters is a LEVEL 15 encounter! Even if the PCs totally have the jump on the opposition, get surprise, are at full strength and totally nova, happen to represent the ideal 100% optimized group for this situation, and have a massive terrain advantage, they ARE DEAD. It isn't even worth bothering with the encounter, its 100% lethal. So clearly a 4e DM has little problem mustering the forces required to kill the party. I mean, even TEN level 1 monsters would be a level + 5 encounter for 5 level 1 PCs, barely survivable (maybe only 'hard' with above advantages in place).

In a more abstract sense, the idea of 'not challenging', given that the basic structure of 4e is still D&D-like, isn't really sustainable. I mean, mechanics still govern what happens in mechanical terms, so even just sticking strictly inside the hard and fast rules the DM can issue a beatdown in a combat by simply making it tough enough (yes, level + 5 is the RECOMMENDED toughest encounter, but that isn't an inviolable hard rule like how many actions you get in a combat round is). Anyway, the DM could simply issue 3 level + 5 combats in a row for that matter.

The point is, its really up to the participants to define a lethality level. I think it is reasonable to say that 4e was designed with the idea in mind that the heroic PCs would face danger, sometimes enough to kill them with bad luck or poor play, but that they wouldn't face no-win situations and insta-ganks, which can easily come up just by rolling for wandering monsters in AD&D (for example).


Ability Bloat

4E, once you got up to level six or so started to get really heavy with the sheer amount of options open to a player at any one point in time. There were many times I found myself or other players hung up during combat because we still aren't sure what we should do. Good old decision paralysis. I'm not sure of a good way to fix this besides simply ignoring most of your abilities.
What I saw more was the sheer volume of detail that was required to be integrated into the character build. Where in 5e you pick a class, and then a 'build' (later on usually) and make SOME other choices (background and race mainly) and then just a few simply choices from then on (spells would be the big one if you are a caster) in 4e your build was the holistic result of dozens, and eventually 100s of choices. Understanding exactly what your PC was, and how it worked could be challenging for many. It was possible to create many builds which were not actually difficult in terms of number of choices in play, but they ALL had a lot of choices in build time.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
There are two things here that demolish this argument.
1. Your DM was an Ass. Giving your party a bunch of minions and then immediately hitting them with a minion clearing ability is a waste of time, resources and player investment.
I can't hold it against him. I think he was running a module, so he may not have had a say in whether or not they were minions. And in any case, he was being impartial, as decades of D&D experience had taught him.
2. You are pedantic and flatly choosing to ignore everything but "1 hp". Minions dont take "incidental" damage, they dont take "miss" damage. They are only affected by hits, directed auto-damage and damaging zones/auras by the rules.
Honestly, that only raises further questions. The whole concept of minions would be weird enough, if it was just the HP thing. Bringing up all of the other exceptions would only further highlight the oddity. And in any case, if minions were supposed to be immune to bee stings or stubbed toes, then they really needed to have spelled that out in the rules. The designers should have spelled out every single one of the bizarre assumptions they were putting behind this meta-game construct. It's not like they didn't know who their audience was.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
I can't hold it against him. I think he was running a module, so he may not have had a say in whether or not they were minions. And in any case, he was being impartial, as decades of D&D experience had taught him.
Honestly, that only raises further questions. The whole concept of minions would be weird enough, if it was just the HP thing. Bringing up all of the other exceptions would only further highlight the oddity. And in any case, if minions were supposed to be immune to bee stings or stubbed toes, then they really needed to have spelled that out in the rules. The designers should have spelled out every single one of the bizarre assumptions they were putting behind this meta-game construct. It's not like they didn't know who their audience was.

The moment the minion rule was announced, I used it in my last hurrah 20th level 3.5E game. My players loved cutting through swaths of opponents and I loved that I could still challenge them because they could be hit. Clearly there were people who understood that HP are a game element.
 

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