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

Teemu

Adventurer
Good skill challenges have interesting consequences for failure — either way, you got to talk to the duke, but now the stronger noble is your enemy instead of the currently weaker one. And if you plan that twist out in advance, you'll get a lot of great ideas for where the campaign can go.

Basically, it is more of a social problem than anything else. You have to make your players understand that failing a skill challenge can be a really good thing and make them excited to see what happens if they win or fail it. And figure out if your players want more roleplaying or more combat and get honest answers from them.

I think this is spot on and sometimes missed when discussing skill challenges. Interesting failures are incredibly important when implementing skill challenges.
 

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The tipping point for me was in a game where we rescued some miners from a group of drow, and we equipped the miners so that they could help us fight back against the drow; but the very first fight had the drow cast some sort of AoE that did like 3 damage with no attack roll required, and all of the miners instantly died. For a system where a level 1 goblin has 25 hp, the disparity between minions and non-minions is just too significant. I can't suspend disbelief that far.

I think the 4e-esque answer to this is 'you used them in a narratively inappropriate way'. That is, the miners were clearly significant to the story, but you used a mechanic to represent them which is designed to make narratively insignificant characters into mechanically insignificant ones. The mismatch between these two facts is what lead to the problem.

I'm guessing that the notion that the rules are a 'physics engine' betrayed the DM into thinking that it was somehow forbidden or 'bad' to reimplement the miners when they transitioned to being significant. They started out as a trivial element, minions, and then became important because the PCs focused on them.

I personally would have framed the sequence where they became important as having miners with more fleshed-out stats. Maybe only some, or maybe only a couple of them would stick around, or etc. That is, you don't way to have a whole slew of 'companion characters' because they will get in the way of running a fight, but 2 would suffice, while the other miners either disperse or hang back and then once in a while get threatened.

I'd also note that it isn't necessary to model NPC-on-NPC action with strict mechanics. The game's mechanics are there to allow the players to rely on the interactions between the world and their characters to be adjudicated in a known way. There is no reason to extend that to NPCs, all they need is narrative consistency.
 

darkbard

Hero
That is, you don't way to have a whole slew of 'companion characters' because they will get in the way of running a fight, but 2 would suffice, while the other miners either disperse or hang back and then once in a while get threatened.

Or convert them to a swarm in this scenario.
 

I'm guessing that the notion that the rules are a 'physics engine' betrayed the DM into thinking that it was somehow forbidden or 'bad' to reimplement the miners when they transitioned to being significant. They started out as a trivial element, minions, and then became important because the PCs focused on them.
[...]
I'd also note that it isn't necessary to model NPC-on-NPC action with strict mechanics. The game's mechanics are there to allow the players to rely on the interactions between the world and their characters to be adjudicated in a known way. There is no reason to extend that to NPCs, all they need is narrative consistency.
It's been a while since I've read it, but I don't recall the DMG being particularly clear on the concept of re-statting monsters. I know it's a common example in this thread, but I don't think the DMG actually says that you should re-implement a level 8 elite as a level 18 minion (or whatever). Nor is it particularly clear on the idea that stats only exist for the sake of the players, with NPC interaction falling to narration.

I can't fault the DM for giving the game a shot, and filling in the gaps with what they understood from previous editions, even if (in retrospect) the game would work better if you filled those gaps with ideas from other games.
 

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.

Now, see, oddly, minions IME were even MORE interesting in higher level play. Low heroic PCs aren't really the guys I want to depict mowing through dozens of foes. High level ones ARE!
 

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.

I just want to reiterate, there is NO REASON to treat NPC-on-NPC narrative as part of the mechanics of the game. I mean, I can see reasons to do so in some situations, but in most cases the dwarves should just have a set effect. The drow beat on them for N rounds and then they scatter/die/surrender/whatever. You could even make up an SC where the PCs can try to have them 'hold the line' with healing, inspiration, leadership, threats, etc.

I can see where you might use stats for them, if there's a situation where miners can engage in tactics in direct coordination with specific PCs and directing/interacting with them engages the player's tactical skills. Even then that doesn't mandate that every miner have stats or that every interaction with the drow has to be adjudicated by use of the rules. The rules should be engaged in order to provide arbitration, to decide an outcome where it isn't dictated by narrative logic and some element of player skill and luck is in play.
 

4e made the point that it was supporting "epic" adventuring beyond level 20. However, as your example illustrates, they didn't do that - they simply stretched 20 levels out to 30 levels. If a balor in 1e was a level 15 threat, that is what it should have been (IMO) in 4e (I actually made them level 18 elite threat). The clearest example are the spells: Meteor swarm is a level 29 daily spell in 4e. When do you get 9th level spells (meteor swarm) in 1e again? They didn't add epic - they just stretched standard D&D out to 30 levels.

IMO, Balors should have be level 18 elites and demon lords would be mostly level 18-25 solos and princes level 26-30+ solos.

Well, I don't think 'stretching it out' was REALLY the initial intent. I think that WotC figured most games would be like older games, the players would slog their way up through the heroic levels, and then maybe struggle along if they were really dedicated and playing a long-running campaign until they got well into paragon, but that the epic levels would be almost like a 'whole other game'. Something that the bulk of players wouldn't get to. Most players don't kill gods and unique god-like named beings and such.

TBH, IME, AD&D was a lot like this too. There were a few times, mostly early on, when the players ventured into the high teens of levels, but most campaigns only slowly evolved up to touch the edges of 'epic' play. So, for instance, the highest level PC I ever ran outside of games I played before the age of 15, was a 14th level Human Magic User. Given the nature of AD&D we COULD take on demon lords, it was just a VERY high risk endeavor that required vast preparation. At those 'beyond name' levels we WERE epic, and the rules of the game didn't even really work that well at those levels either.

I think 4e's epic was at least intended to work like that. Our epic play, and I think what I have read of [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION]'s and others who played similar games, was that epic 4e was 'gonzo'. It wasn't really played 'by the book'. Sure, the book acted as a framework, but the rules were more a starting point than where epic lived. Ours was filled with crazy stuff, one off rituals, stupidly powerful consumables created with crazy stuff, etc. In that sense I do identify a pretty close comparison with earlier D&D, and I don't think levels 21-30 were just 'stretched' into existence.

That being said, I think MECHANICALLY they were redundant. I wrote my own 4e-like with 20 levels, 4 of which (17-20) act as a sort of epic tier.
 

Or convert them to a swarm in this scenario.

Right.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I don't recall the DMG being particularly clear on the concept of re-statting monsters. I know it's a common example in this thread, but I don't think the DMG actually says that you should re-implement a level 8 elite as a level 18 minion (or whatever). Nor is it particularly clear on the idea that stats only exist for the sake of the players, with NPC interaction falling to narration.

I can't fault the DM for giving the game a shot, and filling in the gaps with what they understood from previous editions, even if (in retrospect) the game would work better if you filled those gaps with ideas from other games.

Well, TBH, it simply doesn't address this sort of aspect of running a game at all. The 'classic D&D' approach was that the game was at heart a sort of 'wargame' and once the DM laid his pieces out on the table, so to speak, then it was bad practice to start fudging the numbers. OTOH 4e is very encounter-based, so it only really engages in 'balance' or any kind of 'accounting' at that level. Thus what happens BETWEEN encounters, and the linkage between mechanical 'entities' in the game (IE creatures with statblocks and whatnot) and NARRATIVE elements (IE characters of whatever ilk) is less hard and fast.

What I'm getting at is, it would be perfectly acceptable, IMHO, in 4e for a DM to utilize different statblocks for the same NPC in different encounters. In fact each encounter is authored out of whole cloth and thus an encounter budget is generated by deciding what stat blocks to put into it in relation to the PCs to create an encounter between level -1 and level + 5.

Now, that doesn't mean I necessarily think that DMs should be ARBITRARY. The story should have narrative coherency. It would be a poor choice, IMHO, to suddenly restat the miners as minions after they just fought heroically against a similar opponent and the players have every reason to think the same outcome will arise again. They should be able to reason about things and make sense of them in story. They don't have to be totally mechanically consistent though, just plausible and 'genre consistent'. If the miners suddenly face some dire enemy, then maybe they ARE minions, their mojo is just not sufficient to make them a significant factor in a capstone showdown with the BBEG. If it feels more consistent, their dispatch can be narrated as being scattered to the four winds and running in fear, while the bad guy laughs evilly.
 

pemerton

Legend
I just want to reiterate, there is NO REASON to treat NPC-on-NPC narrative as part of the mechanics of the game.

<snip>

I can see where you might use stats for them, if there's a situation where miners can engage in tactics in direct coordination with specific PCs and directing/interacting with them engages the player's tactical skills. Even then that doesn't mandate that every miner have stats or that every interaction with the drow has to be adjudicated by use of the rules.
I remember one time one of the PCs in my game took command of a platoon of drow soldiers. We modelled it as a minor action, 1x/round area burst attack (ie the PC commanded them to shoot something with their hand crossbows). Nothing more was needed.
 

What I'm getting at is, it would be perfectly acceptable, IMHO, in 4e for a DM to utilize different statblocks for the same NPC in different encounters.
Right, and I'll accept that the game probably works better if you buy into that line of thinking. I just don't know how the writers expected anyone with a background in D&D to figure that out.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
One thing that would probably have been an immense boon to 4e would have been differently "statused" monsters as a more "standard approach".

We get some of that with some creatures having a regular (standard) version, and then a higher-level minion version, but it could have been so much better.

Imagine a Monster Manual with this approach to many creatures. This could have been the ogre entry
Ogre level 2 Solo
Ogre level 4 Elite
Ogre level 8 standard, Ogre-variant level 10 (better armour and weapons)
Ogre level 14 minion

It would have really explained the idea behind the [solo/elite/standard/minion] tags. It could also, very easily have come with some sidebars for special case monsters such as dragons or beholders explaining that using them as [standard] creatures, while possible, is probably going to result in a disservice to the fiction - unless thought has been put into it.

It also has the added benefit of allowing the used model of different versions for many creatures - at various power-levels : no need to stat all 4 states for each version. Just a few sidebars with designer intent and suggestions : don't create minions with super strong action-denial. Give the Elite version cooler powers than a standard version, how to preserve the identity of a creature when changing it's status, etc, etc.
 

MwaO

Explorer
Right, and I'll accept that the game probably works better if you buy into that line of thinking. I just don't know how the writers expected anyone with a background in D&D to figure that out.

There were a variety of monsters where that was the clear intent in MM. Ogre Bludgeoneer/Savage, Angel of Valor Veteran/Angel of Valor, Horde Ghoul/Ghoul each being worth the same XP, just one is a minion, the other a standard.

Suggested encounters had the standards as the primary threat of the encounter and minions as the side part that would make the encounter work. Ogre Savages leading a group of Orc Minions and then in Paragon, Ogre Bludgeoneers being led by Earth Giants.
 

Or convert them to a swarm in this scenario.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I don't recall the DMG being particularly clear on the concept of re-statting monsters. I know it's a common example in this thread, but I don't think the DMG actually says that you should re-implement a level 8 elite as a level 18 minion (or whatever). Nor is it particularly clear on the idea that stats only exist for the sake of the players, with NPC interaction falling to narration.

I can't fault the DM for giving the game a shot, and filling in the gaps with what they understood from previous editions, even if (in retrospect) the game would work better if you filled those gaps with ideas from other games.

Right, and I'll accept that the game probably works better if you buy into that line of thinking. I just don't know how the writers expected anyone with a background in D&D to figure that out.

TBH I don't think they DID think of it. I mean, it was certainly implicit in the ethos of the game, and the possibility was latent in the way there are many variations of stat block for any given type of monster, as well as the division into minion/standard/elite/solo. Still, 4e NEVER EVER comes right out and has even a paragraph where it actually spells out a stand on this. It could be that the designers literally never made the mental leap all the way to "one narrative character, many statblocks" or it could be they thought it was a 'bridge too far' to actually spell it out. Or maybe they just didn't think it needed spelling out.

Given that WotC largely issued standard location-based type adventure modules it seems to me they never really grappled with the implications of 4e as a story-centered narrative RPG. So they simply weren't thinking in the terms we do now. More is the shame, I think they could have done a lot more with the game if they'd understood it well.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I just want to point out, there is a lot of useful advice and information on a lot of these topics contained in one book that many of us have failed to even mention:

dd4edmg2.jpg
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
Combats Take Forever
I only found this when we started playing 4E. As we got to know the rules, and players got to know what their characters can do, things sped up. I'd add that , as a DM you have know how to finish combat early to avoid grind.

You Can't Roleplay
I found that the combat is too sugary to resist. Your character sheet is covered in awesome thing you can do in combat, but no awesome thing s you can do out of combat. It doesn't mean you can't can't.
I think that is something to consider.

Personally, I love fiddling with game mechanics, and making tactical decisions in combat and so on. D&D 4 devliered almost perfectly in that regard. I have no fundamental problems here.
But I also like the story part, and others in my group also do it (and they might not be so onto tactical decisions and game mechanics as I am), and they feel somethnig is missing in that regard.

For my group, I made my own Star Wars game loosely based on 4E D&D rules. New classes, new power sets, different multiclassing rules. But one of the most important differences might be that I gave every class also "talents" that are purely non-combat stuff. You can have things like titles, wealth, anti-grav training, equipment modifactions, cover identiies, trailblazing abiltiies and what not. Simply stuff that gives your character a role outside of combat as well. It is not super-elaborate or complex, really.
A lot of the talents are bascially a title for the ability to gain rerolls for certain skills under certain circumstances. A real game design team could probably achieve more here. But I feel it added just more on the roleplaying side. If you're a Padawan, you might have a Jedi Master contact that you can call in for advice or aid. If you're a Scout, you might be better at finding faster hyperspace routes. If you're a Scoundrel, you might develop a better talent for hacking.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
One thing that would probably have been an immense boon to 4e would have been differently "statused" monsters as a more "standard approach".

We get some of that with some creatures having a regular (standard) version, and then a higher-level minion version, but it could have been so much better.

Imagine a Monster Manual with this approach to many creatures. This could have been the ogre entry
Ogre level 2 Solo
Ogre level 4 Elite
Ogre level 8 standard, Ogre-variant level 10 (better armour and weapons)
Ogre level 14 minion

It would have really explained the idea behind the [solo/elite/standard/minion] tags. It could also, very easily have come with some sidebars for special case monsters such as dragons or beholders explaining that using them as [standard] creatures, while possible, is probably going to result in a disservice to the fiction - unless thought has been put into it.

It also has the added benefit of allowing the used model of different versions for many creatures - at various power-levels : no need to stat all 4 states for each version. Just a few sidebars with designer intent and suggestions : don't create minions with super strong action-denial. Give the Elite version cooler powers than a standard version, how to preserve the identity of a creature when changing it's status, etc, etc.

I had that thought with minions and swarms
 




Retreater

Legend
On Sunday I was running the second session of my "new 4E" campaign, and one of the players commented that "we finally got the Skill Challenge right." This brought a smile to my face, as he has always been a critic of Skill Challenges.

Basically, the party was needing to sneak from one district of town to the next. One player had to use a Charisma skill to find a guide, the party had to succeed on a group Stealth to avoid the guards, and each had to make a physical check (Endurance, Acrobatics, or Athletics) to cross the gulf on a rope (with several failures risking breaking the rope and alerting the guards). It flowed very naturally and avoided a nasty fight.

So the session had roleplaying, 3 skill challenges, a puzzle, and 2 combats. Not a bad mix for those who argue 4E is "all about fighting."
 

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