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D&D 4E Keith Baker on 4E! (The Hellcow responds!)

TerraDave

5ever
The Raise Dead scoop got a lot of deserved attention. But in that same post, Mr. Baker has a lot to say, as he does in some of the previous posts. For example, he strongly implies, well basically says, that NPC classes are gone. A few posts down, he has an informed comparison of the real similarities and differences between 4E and WoW.

In any case here is the link, followed by the full text of his last post. And I am not just putting this here 'cause he mentions me a few posts down. I really think what he has to say is interesting. Really.

Note, this is just one post, there are more on the blog.
Hey all. I've been holding off on posting in the hopes that more information about 4E would come out; some of the topics I'd like to address are still under the table, and so I can't talk about them yet. Still, I'll just deal with it as best I can.

In the past, I've talked about whether you'll be able to convert your Eberron campaign to 4E prior to the release of a 4E ECS in 2009. For those you who missed it, my answer is yes. Between coverage of Eberron races in the MM and DDI support, you won't have EVERYTHING you'll get in the 4E ECS (otherwise, why would you need it?), but I'm confident that you'll have enough to run a basic Eberron game, even if there may be a few gaps you have to work around.

With that said... why would you? Eberron was a campaign setting designed for 3E, right? So doesn't it stand to reason that 3E should be the best system for running Eberron? Is there any compelling reason to rush to switch your game to 4E... or to ever run a 4E Eberron campaign?

Your mileage may vary. I'm not going to say 4E is going to be all games to all people. But the fact of the matter is that I not only prefer it as a system, I feel that it's a BETTER system for the Eberron setting than 3E - that it plays to things that I consider fundamental themes of the Eberron Campaign Setting. Like what? Well, let's take a look.

Player characters are heroes. In Eberron, we pushed for this. We gave PCs action points. We suggested that most NPCs use NPC classes. But there was still an underlying philosophy that NPCs followed the same rules as PCs. Not so in 4E.

To begin with, action points are now part of the core rules. They aren't the same APs you're familiar with; the core effect is that you can spend an action point once per encounter to take an extra standard action, which is great for performing that vital heroic deed at the critical moment (or letting the rogue feint and strike in one rogue to get in the final blow). In the long run, action point effects are tied into every class, giving each character unique ways to use his action points. Beyond this, action points are no longer "You only get them when you go up a level". The system actually encourages you NOT to hoard them - and again, this means that PCs are heroes capable of performing amazing deeds when the stakes are high. When you just NEED to do that triple move to get across the collapsing bridge, use that action point!

Beyond this, characters are strong and capable straight from first level. In 3E D&D, a first level character stands a decent chance of being rendered unconscious by one successful attack. A first level wizard stands a decent chance of being rendered unconscious if someone sneezes on him. And that wizard can cast one, maybe two magic missiles per day before he needs to go rest. It's hard to start like this and feel like you're Indiana Jones, or a hardened war veteran. Especially when after you kill a few goblins, your hit points and BAB double. If that's all it took, why didn't your war experience get you to that point?

By comparison, 4E characters begin tougher and progress a little more slowly. By the time you're fifth level, you may have doubled your hit points as opposed to quintupling them. But at first level you can take a few hits, and as that wizard you can always throw a magic missile (even if you need to catch your breath for a few minutes between casting your really impressive spells). You've got more options and abilities... it's easier to imagine that you are Indiana Jones, or Daine, early on - as opposed to feeling like an apprentice waiting to kill a goblin or to to get that "Ding".

And while player characters are tougher, NPCs are just as tough as the DM wants them to be. If I want to make an NPC who's a 7th-level rogue, I will. But if I want to make a healer who simply has a +12 Heal check and 10 hit points... I'll do exactly that. I don't need to say "OK, to have a +12 heal check he'll need to be a 6th level expert... hmm, and that means he'll also have 6d6 hit points and 5 other skills at +9 as well..." (though OK, he could get Skill Focus to reduce his level... but then he needs Skill Focus, and while we're at it, what are his other feats?) Even though NPC classes were generally inferior to PC classes, they still followed the same rules. One skill rank per level. One hit die per level. High skill ranks means high hit dice, multiple feats, and potentially a decent BAB. Here, if I want the bartender to have a great Insight skill and that's all, that's what he's got.

The "PCs are special" comes out in other ways. I don't know if this has been mentioned, but I don't imagine it's a vital thing, and it's one of my favorite points: Raise Dead. In 4E, it's specifically called out that you can't raise most people from the dead. By and large, when the fates cut your thread, it's over - you are sent to whatever your final fate may be. You can only be raised if you still have an unfulfilled destiny - and as it turns out, that's something most PCs (and presumably, many major villains) happen to have. This is a HUGE thing for me in terms of dealing with the logical impact of raise dead on a civilization. I've always been bothered by the basic issue of "If raise dead exists, how do wealthy people ever die of anything except old age?" 4E gives the answer: raise dead is a divine gift that can only call back those touched by destiny; while when King Jarot is assassinated, that IS destiny. Bringing him back simply isn't an option. (Bear in mind: I'm paraphrasing, and nothing here is a direct quote from the rules!)

So to summarize, PCs feel heroic from the very begining; you'll get tougher and cooler as you advance, but right from the start you've got a range of interesting options and the ability to go a few rounds without worrying about being knocked out by a single punch. Action points are incorporated into the core system and allow for more dramatic action than they do by the 3E ECS. And PCs and NPCs don't have to play by the same rules, which further allows PCs to stand out.

Now, this is just ONE reason I like Eberron in 4E. I've got a list, and my original plan was to squeeze it all into one post. However, given how long this has run, I'm going to break it into multiple posts - look for part two later this week!

And just to head off this sort of comment before it comes up: I'm sure there are going to people out there who hear my positive tone and say "Keith's just being a shill for WotC." Perhaps you think I'm afraid to speak my mind in case they won't hire me if I do. If you believe this, I don't know that anything I say will change your mind. But I'll just say this again: 4E isn't perfect. I'm sure there will be people who prefer 3E, or 2E, or GURPS. I'm not trying to say "4E is the holy grail of gaming! Never before has there been such a wondrous system, and never will we see it's like again!" But the fact of the matter is that I am enjoying the heck out of it. If I sound enthusiastic, it's because I AM enthusiastic. I just ran a game last night and I am already impatient to get the next session going. I'm not a WotC employee, I don't have a financial stake in 4E, and I have absolutely no reason to lie to help WotC sell 4E books. And if people want to keep running Eberron in 3.5, that doesn't hurt me in any way. I just want to share my personal experience of running Eberron in 4E. And so far, that experience is that I'm having a blast.

Anyhow, more to come soon!
 
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Klaus

First Post
I'm a big Keith fan, but he says something here that I've heard before, and I could never wrap my head around it:

But if I want to make a healer who simply has a +12 Heal check and 10 hit points... I'll do exactly that. I don't need to say "OK, to have a +12 heal check he'll need to be a 6th level expert... hmm, and that means he'll also have 6d6 hit points and 5 other skills at +9 as well..." (though OK, he could get Skill Focus to reduce his level... but then he needs Skill Focus, and while we're at it, what are his other feats?) Even though NPC classes were generally inferior to PC classes, they still followed the same rules. One skill rank per level. One hit die per level. High skill ranks means high hit dice, multiple feats, and potentially a decent BAB. Here, if I want the bartender to have a great Insight skill and that's all, that's what he's got.

Why do NPCs need to be fully statted? So, the healer with Heal +12. Would it matter if his stats in a 3.5 adventure read:

"Healer: AC 10; HD 1d6; hp 6; Melee scalpel -1 (1d4-1, 19-20);
Important Skills: Heal +12, Knowledge (any two) +6, Sense Motive +8.
S 8 D 10 Co 11 I 15 W 17 Ch 10
Possessions: Masterwork healing kit, 30sp."

He still follows the basic rules, but I only wrote up what I need for him. If an NPC warrants full stats, he's probably important to the adventure.
 

Jack99

Adventurer
Hi TerraDave.

I just want to commend you on finding the absolutely most annoying color to post those blogs in. ;)

Cheers,
 

lkj

Adventurer
Klaus said:
I'm a big Keith fan, but he says something here that I've heard before, and I could never wrap my head around it:



Why do NPCs need to be fully statted? So, the healer with Heal +12. Would it matter if his stats in a 3.5 adventure read:

"Healer: AC 10; HD 1d6; hp 6; Melee scalpel -1 (1d4-1, 19-20);
Important Skills: Heal +12, Knowledge (any two) +6, Sense Motive +8.
S 8 D 10 Co 11 I 15 W 17 Ch 10
Possessions: Masterwork healing kit, 30sp."

He still follows the basic rules, but I only wrote up what I need for him. If an NPC warrants full stats, he's probably important to the adventure.


I think that the problem is that if you want to have a strictly accurate 3rd edition stat block, you need to figure out how the Healer has enough skill points and bonuses to get to +12 in the heal check. If you strictly follow NPC rules from the DMG, I don't think you can create the character you have above (i.e., a '1st level' character with a heal check of +12).

Now if you're asking why anyone would bother to follow the rules so strictly, that's a different question.

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IanB

First Post
Klaus said:
I'm a big Keith fan, but he says something here that I've heard before, and I could never wrap my head around it:



Why do NPCs need to be fully statted? So, the healer with Heal +12. Would it matter if his stats in a 3.5 adventure read:

"Healer: AC 10; HD 1d6; hp 6; Melee scalpel -1 (1d4-1, 19-20);
Important Skills: Heal +12, Knowledge (any two) +6, Sense Motive +8.
S 8 D 10 Co 11 I 15 W 17 Ch 10
Possessions: Masterwork healing kit, 30sp."

He still follows the basic rules, but I only wrote up what I need for him. If an NPC warrants full stats, he's probably important to the adventure.

That's just it though. He doesn't follow the basic rules. How is a 1 HD humanoid getting a +12 modifier on his heal skill?
 

Fifth Element

First Post
Klaus said:
Why do NPCs need to be fully statted?
Because in 3.5, the same rules explicitly apply to both PCs and NPCs. Sure you can wing it, but technically, in order to have +12 Heal you need to have the ranks, bonuses etc figured out. In 4E, apparently they're explicit that NPCs do not need to be fully statted.
 

Bold or Stupid

First Post
IanB said:
That's just it though. He doesn't follow the basic rules. How is a 1 HD humanoid getting a +12 modifier on his heal skill?

Human, 4 ranks in heal, Skill focus, some sort of homebrew +2/+2 Feat gives 9, +3 Wisdom Bonus. There you go +12 Healing, hell I can drop wisdom to +1 if he has a healing kit (+2 circumstance). But that is pushing the system.

For the record I agree with Mr Baker, the system saying "Just give the NPCs what they need to fulfill their story role." is a great thing to put in a system.
 

Michele Carter

First Post
Bold or Stupid said:
For the record I agree with Mr Baker, the system saying "Just give the NPCs what they need to fulfill their story role." is a great thing to put in a system.

And it doesn't make the editors cry!

THIS IS IMPORTANT.
 

Klaus

First Post
IanB said:
That's just it though. He doesn't follow the basic rules. How is a 1 HD humanoid getting a +12 modifier on his heal skill?
You're kidding, right?

4 ranks +3 Wis mod +3 Skill Focus +2 masterwork healing kit.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
Klaus said:
Why do NPCs need to be fully statted? So, the healer with Heal +12. Would it matter if his stats in a 3.5 adventure read:

"Healer: AC 10; HD 1d6; hp 6; Melee scalpel -1 (1d4-1, 19-20);
Important Skills: Heal +12, Knowledge (any two) +6, Sense Motive +8.
S 8 D 10 Co 11 I 15 W 17 Ch 10
Possessions: Masterwork healing kit, 30sp."

He still follows the basic rules, but I only wrote up what I need for him. If an NPC warrants full stats, he's probably important to the adventure.

Why are you buying a book full of rules, if you're not going to use those rules?
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
TerraDave said:
In the long run, action point effects are tied into every class, giving each character unique ways to use his action points.

This is an interesting part of Keiths statement which everyone glosses over.

Action points for extra actions is groovy, but i wonder what 'tied into class' and 'giving each character unique ways to use his action points' will look like?

Cheers
 

IanB

First Post
Klaus said:
You're kidding, right?

4 ranks +3 Wis mod +3 Skill Focus +2 masterwork healing kit.

I missed the healing kit in the possessions. But that illustrates the point pretty well; in 3E you in theory have to figure out exactly what a particular NPC can get with this stat and this many ranks and these items, to get your desired result; in 4e you can just say 'he's got a +12' and ignore all that stuff. And that really does save time.
 

VannATLC

First Post
An NPC with Wisdom 18 and a a toolkit worth what, 250g? (Honestly, I can't remember, but its not cheap) is hardly an improvement over a level 4 npc.

WRT to the OP, I picked on the Action Points thing, but I don't think Keith is the first to mention it.

Buggered if I can remember where I saw it, though.
 

pukunui

Legend
Plane Sailing said:
This is an interesting part of Keiths statement which everyone glosses over.

Action points for extra actions is groovy, but i wonder what 'tied into class' and 'giving each character unique ways to use his action points' will look like?

Cheers
I find that to be a very intriguing statement, too. I had a feeling that they wouldn't be just for granting extra actions ... I wonder if it'll be like "gain an extra use of a /encounter or /day" ability or something. Maybe the cleric will be able to spend an action point to use Healing Word beyond his normal limit. Something like that.
 

Klaus

First Post
IanB said:
I missed the healing kit in the possessions. But that illustrates the point pretty well; in 3E you in theory have to figure out exactly what a particular NPC can get with this stat and this many ranks and these items, to get your desired result; in 4e you can just say 'he's got a +12' and ignore all that stuff. And that really does save time.
If Dm Fiat a valid answer, then why not:

"Healer: hp 6, Heal +12"

And then you ask "where is he getting that skill from?", to which I reply "+8 circumstance bonus from doing that daily, instead of adventuring".

VannATLC: IIRC, it's 50 gp. But the point is, already in 3.x you can make a low-level NPC with pretty much any skill modifier. I don't see why it has to be a big selling point for 4E.
 

Caedrus

Explorer
hong said:
Why are you buying a book full of rules, if you're not going to use those rules?

Because ALL the rules don't apply ALL the time. Sometimes you only need the NPC to have certain abilities. Why not just give them what they need? This is one of the aspects that turned me on to Savage Worlds. They specifically tell you in the rulebook "Don't follow character creation for NPC's. Just give them what you want them to have." Is it really going to affect the game if the healer who never does anything outside his shop has a +12 heal skill at first level or at 6th?
 

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