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D&D 4E Is there a "Cliffs Notes" summary of the entire 4E experience?

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Raith5

Adventurer
When I first read about skill challenges I was like "What an incredible amount of potential this has!!! Now I just need to completely rework how they're doing it."

For many people in the 4e playing community, SCs got the wheels turning, not so much as a finished idea that was teh awesomes but more as a seed that seemed like it could become something amazing.

Rituals were similar, but there was less to build on. The idea that there are spells that are lots more powerful than normal spells but that can't be cast in combat is great. The execution though was... here are some spells? and they cost gold to cast?

Wasted.

Agree on both counts. Isnt 5e taking basically the same approach to rituals? I like to see an option that some rituals as requiring quite particular components or something else.
 

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Samurai

Explorer
Agree on both counts. Isnt 5e taking basically the same approach to rituals? I like to see an option that some rituals as requiring quite particular components or something else.

No, rituals are very different in 5e. First, you can prepare it as a spell in order to cast it in a round or so if you want. Or you can cast it as a ritual, taking longer but not using a spell slot for the day. Also, not every ritual necessarily costs money to cast. In effect, all the old rituals are back to being spells again, but may also be cast slowly as a ritual for free if desired.
 

pemerton

Legend
Speaking for myself, 4e is when D&D finally fulfilled the promises it had been making to me since 1982.
This is true for me too.

The Foreword to Moldvay Basic, with the slaying of the dragon tyrant with a sword gifted by a mysterious cleric, was what I was looking for.

Oriental Adventures, in 1986, was the first version of D&D where I started to work out, as a GM, how to achieve it (eg focused PC design, rules for backgrounds, a default backstory that integrated those PC backgrounds, etc). But for me 4e took D&D to new levels.

if you follow the progress of D&D, 4e sticks out. It alone will be a special snowflake in terms of world, mechanics, tone, and design.
I tend to think that this is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps depends on what parts of D&D's progress have been most salient to any given player.

For me, 4e emphasises and really develops parts of D&D mechanics that were always there - classes, levels, hit points, non-simulationist saving throws, etc - whereas 3E seems that it's trying to turn D&D into something it's not (a would-be process simulation still saddled with classes, levels and hit point).

The first set of books give very little cogent advice or direction on how to effectively use the mechanics beyond setting up AWESOME! encounters. I personally didn't even see it as all that much of a mechanical evolution and totally whiffed on running it "indie" style.

<snip>

When I came here after the 5e announcement, I was flabbergasted by the way folks like you and pemerton described your games. (Still am, to some extent.)
My suspicion is Manbearcat and pemerton fell into a mode of play the designers didn't understand existed in their game. I certainly never saw strong indie advice or any offerings of that sort of play in any published material produced by WotC
I'm always happy to be a crazed and daring trailblazer, but on this occasion I feel I was just following the lead of the designers.

Worlds & Monsters, for instance, talked about re-presenting and in some cases "re-concepting" D&D monsters, D&D gods and similar story elements to make them speak more to actual play. That is, to me, a very "indie" sentiment. And when skill challenges were first previewed on the WotC site, they were clearly an attempt at a scene-resolution mechanic of the sort found in games like Maelstrom Storytelling or HeroWars/Quest. (And, with their back-and-forth between GM framing and players rolling all the dice I think they have strengths that not all forms of such mechanic have, even if they have weaknesses as well.)

Contrary to what's being said in this thread, there were plenty of other comments and previews in the period leading up to release (see for instance this index on the WotC site). And to me, at least, they made it clear that the game aimed to use the mechanics in classic indie fashion - rather than ignoring the dice to tell a story (which is the classic 2nd ed AD&D/White Wolf "golden rule" approach), the game was being designed so that using the mechanics would produce classic D&D stories. This was what Worlds & Monsters spoke about, and what those previews spoke about too.

And Rob Heinsoo himself, in a pre-release interview, made the comparison to indie games:

There might not be anyone else out there who would publish this kind of game. They usually get entrenched in the simulation aspect.

Indie games are similar in that they emphasize the gameplay aspect, but they’re super-focused, like a narrow laser. D&D has to be more general to accommodate a wide range of play.​

That interview was given on March 5 2008. Between it, and Worlds & Monsters (I didn't look much at Races & Classes which seems a lot less interesting), plus the previews on their website, I wasn't surprised at all by how 4e turned out - except that it was even better than I had hoped!

I think those who were shocked, upon release, perhaps hadn't really taken the designers at their word, or hadn't fully appreciated that they really were setting out to build an RPG where using the action resolution mechanics is not some sort of supplement to playing the game, but is playing the game.
 

pemerton

Legend
No, rituals are very different in 5e. First, you can prepare it as a spell in order to cast it in a round or so if you want. Or you can cast it as a ritual, taking longer but not using a spell slot for the day. Also, not every ritual necessarily costs money to cast. In effect, all the old rituals are back to being spells again, but may also be cast slowly as a ritual for free if desired.
I'm not seeing how this is different from 4e in ways that are relevant to [MENTION=91777]Dungeoneer[/MENTION]'s comment. They still take the form of spells that can be cast more-or-less at will outside of the combat action economy, and that have gp cost as their principal limiting factor.

I don't see how they do a better job than 4e rituals of "being the seeds of something amazing", which was what Dungeoneer was talking about. (I'm guessing that Dungeoneer is a fan of the way 13th Age handles rituals.)
 

My suspicion is Manbearcat and pemerton fell into a mode of play the designers didn't understand existed in their game.

I think that Rob Heinsoo understood it - and left early. I'm absolutely sure that Mike Mearls did not - and it was only presented in places even if it's how I've always run the game (to the point of my almost incomprehension that others didn't see [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION]'s style as normal).

<My final thoughts on this, I promise>

I maintain a theory (and if there is proof to substantiate it, I'd love to see it) that 4e was released "half-baked". For whatever reason, it was rushed out the door without enough time to fix the issues it had.

We have an actual timeline as to what happened. 4E was allocated two years for development starting in June 2005. In April 2007 it was turned in to time. In about February 2006 they discarded most of Orcus 1 for being needlessly fiddly and complicated, giving every class a separate recharge mechanic and where the highlight of the system was, according to Heinsoo the following exchange:

"The liquification track. Aboleths: be very worried when they bring out the straw."

"No, we don't have a liquification track because it's part of the swallow-whole track."


They basically scrapped the system 10 months in to a 24 month development cycle and still hit the deadline on the nail. A few months later Rich Baker and Mike Meals came up with AEDU rather than each class having a separate Bo9S style recharge mechanic (and there not being strategic play) - the Bo9S was made up of all the good parts of Orcus.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think that Rob Heinsoo understood it - and left early. I'm absolutely sure that Mike Mearls did not

I, once, had occasion to play a game run by Mearls (Dying Earth, not D&D), and got to hear about some of the games he played during the house-con we were attending. I would not be quick to claim he doesn't understand any particular style of play, if I were you. The gent may not be perfect, but he has quite a breadth of style at his command.

It is easy to claim that a system not doing what you want it to do is some personal flaw of some designer - it isn't there because, in some sense the *person* was lacking. It is somewhat less easy to accept that what you want to do was not included for some reason or reasons, because you then have to address the question of whether maybe they were actually pretty good reasons.
 

I, once, had occasion to play a game run by Mearls (Dying Earth, not D&D), and got to hear about some of the games he played during the house-con we were attending. I would not be quick to claim he doesn't understand any particular style of play, if I were you. The gent may not be perfect, but he has quite a breadth of style at his command.

It is easy to claim that a system not doing what you want it to do is some personal flaw of some designer - it isn't there because, in some sense the *person* was lacking. It is somewhat less easy to accept that what you want to do was not included for some reason or reasons, because you then have to address the question of whether maybe they were actually pretty good reasons.

I am not talking about Mearls' work in 5E. I'm talking about his 4E work, starting with the excrable Keep on the Shadowfell. And his subsequent statements about shouting wounds closed and the like. If Mearls doesn't make 5E like 4E that's one thing. If he can't play to 4E's strengths when writing for 4E that's something else entirely.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
I'm not seeing how this is different from 4e in ways that are relevant to @Dungeoneer's comment. They still take the form of spells that can be cast more-or-less at will outside of the combat action economy, and that have gp cost as their principal limiting factor.

I don't see how they do a better job than 4e rituals of "being the seeds of something amazing", which was what Dungeoneer was talking about. (I'm guessing that Dungeoneer is a fan of the way 13th Age handles rituals.)
13th Age is a definite improvement, although I could still imagine an even more interesting approach. I would like to see something that features really big, epic spells that require components to cast. Of course, it's possible I'm just wishing that someone would graft Ars Magica onto my game!

I feel like rituals could be a way to solve the perpetual superiority of magic users. How do you have a high level wizard whose spells can break reality not be ridiculously overpowered in combat? Well with rituals you could theoretically tune his combat spells for balance and leave the game-breaking stuff outside of combat. 13th Age does at least offer this possibility.
 

I am not talking about Mearls' work in 5E. I'm talking about his 4E work, starting with the excrable Keep on the Shadowfell. And his subsequent statements about shouting wounds closed and the like. If Mearls doesn't make 5E like 4E that's one thing. If he can't play to 4E's strengths when writing for 4E that's something else entirely.

Indeed. When I heard Mearls was on the 4E team, I was excited, I have to say, based on his 3.XE/d20 work, which whilst very much imperfect, was bursting with interesting ideas (imho).

But the 4E adventures attributed to him really made me re-think that. H1-H3 are bad adventures. H2 significantly less bad, but they are all bad both mechanically and conceptually (and are particularly internally logically incoherent/inconsistent, which is very problematic when you run adventures NOT as a succession of combat encounters, but actual y'know, adventures), and particularly weak as 4E designs.

And as you say, his later comments are, frankly, strange. How the heck did he design for 4E if he thinks Warlords are "shouting wounds closed". Either he didn't think that, and was playing to the 4E-hating crowd (nasty move, imo, if so), or he did think that, and was annoyed with the design throughout 4E, but kept it to himself before suddenly revealing it when convenient for him. Bizarre either way. I'd love to hear him explain that one.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
I'm always happy to be a crazed and daring trailblazer, but on this occasion I feel I was just following the lead of the designers.

Worlds & Monsters, for instance, talked about re-presenting and in some cases "re-concepting" D&D monsters, D&D gods and similar story elements to make them speak more to actual play. That is, to me, a very "indie" sentiment. And when skill challenges were first previewed on the WotC site, they were clearly an attempt at a scene-resolution mechanic of the sort found in games like Maelstrom Storytelling or HeroWars/Quest. (And, with their back-and-forth between GM framing and players rolling all the dice I think they have strengths that not all forms of such mechanic have, even if they have weaknesses as well.)

Contrary to what's being said in this thread, there were plenty of other comments and previews in the period leading up to release (see for instance this index on the WotC site). And to me, at least, they made it clear that the game aimed to use the mechanics in classic indie fashion - rather than ignoring the dice to tell a story (which is the classic 2nd ed AD&D/White Wolf "golden rule" approach), the game was being designed so that using the mechanics would produce classic D&D stories. This was what Worlds & Monsters spoke about, and what those previews spoke about too.

And Rob Heinsoo himself, in a pre-release interview, made the comparison to indie games:
There might not be anyone else out there who would publish this kind of game. They usually get entrenched in the simulation aspect.

Indie games are similar in that they emphasize the gameplay aspect, but they’re super-focused, like a narrow laser. D&D has to be more general to accommodate a wide range of play.​

Given that Rob Heinsoo went on to work on 13th Age which basically picks up all these ideas and runs with them, I would say that he absolutely 'knew what he was doing' when he was working on 4e. Although 13A certainly benefits from the 'test bed' that was 4e (for instance, having classes that work very differently while still being relatively balanced).

I agree 100% that one of the revolutionary things about 4e was the fact that they put storytelling right into the mechanics. They made sure that fighters had abilities that made them FEEL like a fighter every time they were used. Same with, say, tieflings. If you are playing a tiefling fighter and you step up to the front line in battle and follow up TIDE OF IRON with INFERNAL REBUKE you are already immersing yourself in your character without having to come up with so much as an ounce of backstory.

I personally felt this also very much applied to 4e monsters. The early monsters were knocked for just being stat-blocks, but what stat blocks! To me those stat blocks told a story about that monster. Get too close to a swarm of insects? Suffer damage from their tiny biting attacks! Fighting a giant? Wait until he picks up one of the PCs and throws them at another one! Going toe-to-toe with a dragon? Tail slap! Zombie? Crit them with a 'head shot' and they are insta-dead.

These are SUPER flavorful mechanics that will give players on the battlemat no doubt about what they are fighting. I loved them.
 

BryonD

Hero
Indeed. When I heard Mearls was on the 4E team, I was excited, I have to say, based on his 3.XE/d20 work, which whilst very much imperfect, was bursting with interesting ideas (imho).
IMHO, Mearls is the second best designer out there.

I put Kenson at #1.

I don't go listing things by my #1 and #2 favorites. But in this case it is almost reflexive. I couldn't even begin to tell you who #3 is. But the quality of product that I've seen over the years makes these two ranking self-evident within my own mind.

I think 4E is an awesome game if you are in a specific narrow preference. For that target he nailed it. Obviously I know nothing about the internal elements of leading up to 4E. But I'm not going to "blame" Mearls for painting the bulls eye of the target that was put in front of him. Regardless of my personal opinion on the target overall.
 

Indeed. When I heard Mearls was on the 4E team, I was excited, I have to say, based on his 3.XE/d20 work, which whilst very much imperfect, was bursting with interesting ideas (imho).

But the 4E adventures attributed to him really made me re-think that. H1-H3 are bad adventures. H2 significantly less bad, but they are all bad both mechanically and conceptually (and are particularly internally logically incoherent/inconsistent, which is very problematic when you run adventures NOT as a succession of combat encounters, but actual y'know, adventures), and particularly weak as 4E designs.

And H2 was co-written with Richard Baker who generally does very good adventures. Also I'm distinctly unimpressed by the non-adventures that have Mearls' name as lead author. Primal Power lists him as the sole author on the cover, and unlike MP, AP, DP, and MPII I found nothing in there to get excited about (in fact the only thing I remember from it was the Swarm Druid). (Psionic Power had some nice stuff as well - but was psionic). He was also the lead designer of Heroes of Shadow, which gets a lot of disdain from 4E fans for reasons that have nothing to do with his name being on the cover.

Given that Rob Heinsoo went on to work on 13th Age which basically picks up all these ideas and runs with them, I would say that he absolutely 'knew what he was doing' when he was working on 4e. Although 13A certainly benefits from the 'test bed' that was 4e (for instance, having classes that work very differently while still being relatively balanced).

13th Age misses out a huge part of 4E - tactical combat and forced movement.

I agree 100% that one of the revolutionary things about 4e was the fact that they put storytelling right into the mechanics.

Yup :D

I personally felt this also very much applied to 4e monsters. The early monsters were knocked for just being stat-blocks, but what stat blocks! To me those stat blocks told a story about that monster.

This too. I'll put up the much maligned 4e Monster Manual 1 as having fluff on a par with the much praised 2e Monstrous Manual - and every single subsequent monster book 4e produced raised the bar after that.

IMHO, Mearls is the second best designer out there.

I put Kenson at #1.

I really don't see that at all. Mearls, as I've said, has done a lot of at best mediocre work on 4E - indeed the only book I can think of with his name on for 4E that I wouldn't rate as among the very worst 4E books in its category is Heroes of the Fallen Lands (HoFK has three out of five classes people get warned off for good reason in the Cavalier, the Druid, and the Hunter, and unlike the PHB3 it's neither a consistent mistake (Psionics) nor is there a real gem in there (the Monk)).

Kenson's pretty good I'll grant. (I can think of a good half dozen names I think are better - but both M&M and Icons is a pretty impressive breadth).
 



IMHO, Mearls is the second best designer out there.

I put Kenson at #1.

I don't go listing things by my #1 and #2 favorites. But in this case it is almost reflexive. I couldn't even begin to tell you who #3 is. But the quality of product that I've seen over the years makes these two ranking self-evident within my own mind.

I think 4E is an awesome game if you are in a specific narrow preference. For that target he nailed it. Obviously I know nothing about the internal elements of leading up to 4E. But I'm not going to "blame" Mearls for painting the bulls eye of the target that was put in front of him. Regardless of my personal opinion on the target overall.

The thing is, ByronD, I don't think he's the one who fired the arrow, let alone painted the bullseye.

He wasn't initially 4E's main designer (indeed, was he at any point? I thought so but I may misremember). I am particularly sure of this because I WHINGED about him not being the designer and thought that he should be (it was actually Bill Slaviscek or someone, no?)! Haha!

So I kind of suspect most of the more impressive elements of 4E's design were not him.
 

The thing is, ByronD, I don't think he's the one who fired the arrow, let alone painted the bullseye.

He wasn't initially 4E's main designer (indeed, was he at any point? I thought so but I may misremember). I am particularly sure of this because I WHINGED about him not being the designer and thought that he should be (it was actually Bill Slaviscek or someone, no?)! Haha!

So I kind of suspect most of the more impressive elements of 4E's design were not him.

We do know that the AEDU structure was a mix of Mearls and Richard Baker. But other than AEDU and possibly the Thief (which might very well have been Mearls and was certainly on a book he was lead author for when Slavisceck was in charge) his name isn't associated with good stuff for 4E. For the record Rob Heinsoo was the lead designer of 4E at launch.
 

Contrary to what's being said in this thread, there were plenty of other comments and previews in the period leading up to release (see for instance this index on the WotC site). And to me, at least, they made it clear that the game aimed to use the mechanics in classic indie fashion - rather than ignoring the dice to tell a story (which is the classic 2nd ed AD&D/White Wolf "golden rule" approach), the game was being designed so that using the mechanics would produce classic D&D stories. This was what Worlds & Monsters spoke about, and what those previews spoke about too.

And Rob Heinsoo himself, in a pre-release interview, made the comparison to indie games:
There might not be anyone else out there who would publish this kind of game. They usually get entrenched in the simulation aspect.

Indie games are similar in that they emphasize the gameplay aspect, but they’re super-focused, like a narrow laser. D&D has to be more general to accommodate a wide range of play.​

That interview was given on March 5 2008. Between it, and Worlds & Monsters (I didn't look much at Races & Classes which seems a lot less interesting), plus the previews on their website, I wasn't surprised at all by how 4e turned out - except that it was even better than I had hoped!

I think you're understating this a bit. ☺To me, this is one of the great tragedies of the whole 4e saga. The first set of books give very little cogent advice or direction on how to effectively use the mechanics beyond setting up AWESOME! encounters. I personally didn't even see it as all that much of a mechanical evolution and totally whiffed on running it "indie" style. I was out of 4e before DMG2 even came out (why buy if no one is playing it?). And Fate is my system of choice! So you'd think I'd be catching that. When I came here after the 5e announcement, I was flabbergasted by the way folks like you and @pemerton described your games. (Still am, to some extent.)

I'd never seen those lead-up statements by Heinsoo so thank you very much for posting them pemerton. That is as insightful a glance into the mental framework for Heinsoo's D&D as you will find. That has been my exact surmise all these years. They intentionally embedded driftability/wobbliness because D&D has to be more general. Nonetheless, the indie influence in design and GMing principles are there (and I know we've been through this several times @Ratskinner so I apoligize for redredging...but hey, why not :p ):

- Noncombat conflict resolution such as several games from Dogs to Sorcerer (with narrative and mechanical fallout) designed to create dramatic outcomes. They didn't unify it with the entirety of the system because D&D has to have crunchy combat.

- Subjective DCs for the conflict resolution that are tied to stakes and creating dramatic outcomes rather than objective DCs tied to an attempt to (incoherently as they virtually always do) simulate fantasy world physics.

- Extremely Broad Skills to facilitate broad base competency to facilitate the dramatic impetus inherent to the conflict resolution system. They intentionally eschewed narrowly-defined and tightly coupled, pseue-process-sim skills, and their rigid application, as in 3.x.

- Themes, backgrounds, and a formalized quest XP system (that the player is expected to be involved in - elaborated on in DMG2 and NWCS for the Themes especially) that does much of the work in propelling play. This stuff is peripherally related to BW and Mouseguard Beliefs and are embedded in lots of Indie systems. Mouseguards Goals and Dungeon World's xp for resolved bonds and alignment statements is pretty much exactly the same as these are basically player-driven minor quests. They're meant to be a primary driver of play. I know you've compared the latter to the bolted on, solely GM side quest stuff in AD&D2e but I just don't see it in either the advice or the execution.

- Scene based mechanics that refresh on a scene by scene basis which have that metagame impetus to them (to push play toward the scene) and a narrative trigger for the refresh (short rest). You see this in games like Dogs and The Shadow of Yesterday. I know they're called Encounter Powers rather than "Scene". I'm pretty sure this can be tied directly to Heinsoo's statement above. They had to be bold, and were, but they also had to defer now and again. It may seem that they arbitrarily agitated the "This doesn't feel like D&D (!)" base, and they may have. There may be no rhyme or reason why they slaughtered certain sacred cows but did others. I don't really know. However, I can easily intuit that if they subbed Scene for Encounter, the feather ruffling would have been immense.

- Healing Surges are pretty much open descriptor.

- Keywords you see in games like Heroquest and Dungeon World. They have both their metagame aspect but they are meant to be tools that lead the fiction.

- Action Points are obviously a narrative device that have their roots in several systems.

- A powers system that provides every PC (not just spellcasters) with packaged, discrete fiat power that are typically deployed outside of actor stance.

I know that you feel that the premise and the supporting evidence isn't there. Same for @Nagol . I don't know. Maybe its because you guys are comparing it to Fate and its Fate Point Economy (or MHRP/Savage Worlds plot/bennie economies). Those economies and system interactions aren't specifically there but perhaps poor man derivatives in another fashion (but there is a healing surge economy that manifests in certain ways - spend a healing surge for a success in an SC or for Rituals/MPs - this could have been central but they didn't go that route). Those economies are certainly major parts of some games whose function is to propel narrative. However, those aren't the only devices out there for it. Several (the majority) "Story Now" indie games don't possess them (or at least not in the same form).

Pemerton's quote below is central to the point of indie design and this was absolutely core to 4e (if nothing else) which intentionally pushed play out of the hands of GM rulings and GM fiat and into conflict-charge scenes framed (primarily - there is guidance in the DMG2 for player-authored bangs) and action resolution determining the propulsion of story:

I think those who were shocked, upon release, perhaps hadn't really taken the designers at their word, or hadn't fully appreciated that they really were setting out to build an RPG where using the action resolution mechanics is not some sort of supplement to playing the game, but is playing the game.

I wish that DMG2 (which was released inside a year of the system's release) would have been the initial DMG (with several other bits of fantastic advice in DMG1), but it wasn't. I wish themes were released before Dark Sun and then NCS's great instruction and centralizing of them to play, but they weren't. All I know is that in now way did I or do I feel like I've drifted the system from its default intent of the proper usage and interpretation of its system components and from several GMing principles (which include the D&D derivative of Vincent Baker's "every moment drive play towards conflict" not conflict-neutral setting exploration - eg - "skip the guards and get to the fun"). I feel like Heinsoo knew exactly what he was creating but they waffled a bit and intentionally put means in the system so that elements of classic D&D attrition/exploratory play were available (if you knew the elements you should be using as they differed in certain ways from prior D&D).

I don't know what kind of failure it is (writing, editing, design, marketing...), but honestly (between the DMG2 and various articles online) I sometimes feel like WotC didn't know what they had or how to play it when they released 4e.

Water under the bridge, now, I guess.

Indeed water under the bridge. I think it was some of the things you mentioned and intentional incoherency/system drift due to what Heinsoo outlines above. And I absolutely agree that several people under Heinsoo didn't know what they had. You look at the early adventures by Mearls et al and they are a cluster. They should have been presented as Dungeon World's Fronts. Instead you get this godawful dungeon delving format and this impossible formalizing of abstract conflict resolution. I would never try to formalize abstract conflict resolution but there are tons of people on this very board who have done a thousand times better job at it than those awful initial goes by the very folks who were supposed to have the best handle on things.

I think that Rob Heinsoo understood it - and left early. I'm absolutely sure that Mike Mearls did not - and it was only presented in places even if it's how I've always run the game (to the point of my almost incomprehension that others didn't see @pemerton 's style as normal).

100 % agree.
 
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Dungeoneer

First Post
13th Age misses out a huge part of 4E - tactical combat and forced movement. ]
It has both. You never heard of 'interceptions' or 'pop free'?

Obviously 13A abstracts its combat a little more than 4E, but it does still very much allow for thoughtful, tactical combat played out on a map. And holy cow, those combats go so much faster!!!
 

BryonD

Hero
The thing is, ByronD, I don't think he's the one who fired the arrow, let alone painted the bullseye.

He wasn't initially 4E's main designer (indeed, was he at any point? I thought so but I may misremember). I am particularly sure of this because I WHINGED about him not being the designer and thought that he should be (it was actually Bill Slaviscek or someone, no?)! Haha!

So I kind of suspect most of the more impressive elements of 4E's design were not him.

OK, I'll accept that. I see his name at the top of 4E, I see fans liking it and I know I see good stuff in his pre-4E era.

If you say that doesn't apply to 4E, I won't dispute your assessment.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I feel like rituals could be a way to solve the perpetual superiority of magic users. How do you have a high level wizard whose spells can break reality not be ridiculously overpowered in combat? Well with rituals you could theoretically tune his combat spells for balance and leave the game-breaking stuff outside of combat. 13th Age does at least offer this possibility.
And, to be honest, this possibility was certainly open to 4e as well. The overall power level of rituals wasn't well defined. In my own 4e game, I put in several rituals that were quite powerful, but required certain (narratively-limited) reagents, like the heart of a dragon.

I think the issue, at least for pre-4e caster players, is that these rituals are limited by narrative constraint, and not necessarily open to rules mastery by the player. But I think that speaks to the general preference of non-4e D&D players for explorative consequence play (I have a decanter of endless water, what can I do with this?) over narrative-driven play.
 

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