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Mike Mearls on how D&D 4E could have looked

OK on this "I would’ve much preferred the ability to adopt any role within the core 4 by giving players a big choice at level 1, an option that placed an overlay on every power you used or that gave you a new way to use them."
Basically have Source Specific Powers and less class powers. But I think combining that with having BIG differing stances to dynamically switch role might be a better idea so that your hero can adjust role to circumstance. I have to defend this NPC right now vs I have to take down the big bad right now vs I have to do minion cleaning right now, I am inspiring allies in my interesting way, who need it right now.

and the obligatory
Argghhhh on this. " I wanted classes to have different power acquisition schedules"

And thematic differences seemed to have been carried fine.
 
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Comments

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
But their resources don't deplete. They can keep swinging the sword (magic or not) and making skill checks all the live long day. .
Right because hit points don't create a "day" limit for everyone... and often moreso for the
classes who melee more.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Spell caster were the ones back in the day who got to call for a stop
usually

From a party perspective if the wizard lucked out and had a sleep spell
"who would push on very long without their big guns armed with ammo."
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
It was mentioned earlier that Mearles had twitched about using skill challenges to manage simplified battle situations does anyone have a link they could share. My google fu has failed me.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Right because hit points don't create a "day" limit for everyone... and often moreso for the
classes who melee more.
Hit dice, short rests, healing potions (assumed in the PHB) Cleric spell slots...did you notice the part where at Level 18 the Champion becomes Wolverine and will never be below half HP in a day, before considering Hit Dice...?
 

cbwjm

Explorer
It was mentioned earlier that Mearles had twitched about using skill challenges to manage simplified battle situations does anyone have a link they could share. My google fu has failed me.
Look up the Mike Mearls happy fun hour on YouTube. It is probably one of the last three since I still have 3 to watch and I don't recall him mentioning anything about skill challenges in anything previous.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
But their resources don't deplete. They can keep swinging the sword (magic or not) and making skill checks all the live long day.

The game is designed around "punishing," yes. Anything less can obviously be perfectly fun, folks do it all the time. But if a group doesn't care about resource attrition, then they are unlikely to be concerned with relative resource use.
Right because hit points don't create a "day" limit for everyone... and often moreso for the
classes who melee more.
And again, the problem is:

(1) 5e's balance is centered around a workday of 6-8 encounters. Let us assume 8 encounters; 5 Combat and some combination of 3 that is broken out into Exploration and Social.

(2) Given 1 (which is already a fair chunk of meaningful encounters), you're going to have how many truly weighty decision-points worth of attrition that wear-out a spellcaster's loadout? Regardless what that number is, its going to be roughly the same value n for the level 9 wizard (let's use the Diviner) who has:

- only 5th level spell slots (and the related ability to up-level lower spells to there)
- 14 spell slots
- 4 Cantrips
- 2 uses of Portent
- 1 use of Divination refresh up to level 5
- Rituals up to level 5

...as it is for the 18th level Diviner who has:

- up to 9th level spell slot (and the related ability to up-level lower spells to there)
- 20 spell slots
- 5 Cantrips
- 3 uses of Portent
- Divination refresh up to level 9
- Rituals up to max level
- An At-Will level 1 spell and an At-Will level 2 spell (that they can switch out on Long Rest)


If you can't see how the intersection of (1) and (2) pushes back hard against the idea of "martial at-wills balance things out", then its virtually impossible to have this conversation. In order for it to 5e's attrition model to work, you would probably need roughly n * 2 minimum weighty decision-points worth of Diviner attrition for the scaling of resource breadth, potency (MANY more "win condition" spells = less total decision-points required to resolve a conflict), and proliferation from the level 9 Diviner to the level 18. That means a HUGE (nonsensical) workday of something like 14-16 encounters (minimum probably).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Hit dice, short rests, healing potions (assumed in the PHB) Cleric spell slots...
Not entirely sure what the point is 4e FIGHTERS had obnoxious amounts of hit points and healing surges and were still often the ones with the fewest HS at the end of it all.

Indefinite healing was a 3e thing if you had the cash for potions it's typically presented as a bad thing. I know it makes my 1e sensibilities "as old as they are" cringe and it was possible even in 1e to over load with potions it was seen as tacky by most.

4e put limits on that magic that were not easy to overcome even though in some ways I would say that with everyone having other resources there were still real reasons to stop if they had popped the lid off (and let money be cashed for hit points) . There was however a ritual at high level that also let you get a full days rest for a healthy bit of money. And a King Arthur type using one of my martial practices does similarly too. So it could be overcome. I think we can safely say Epic has some things which are ummm weird and I think harder to predict. A DM might well put a fountain of youth type pool in a Dungeon or a fairy glade with a time synch to enable that Refreshing of party resources in a way that fit the story pace.

The hit point limit is quite real generally speaking it's only because of it they can compute even ballpark combat balance for 5e.

did you notice the part where at Level 18 the Champion becomes Wolverine and will never be below half HP in a day, before considering Hit Dice...
The level 26 character in 4e ie analogous level to the Champion might be coming back from the dead of their own volition and someone casts that ritual I mentioned earlier its only paragon level but scales so its not so cheap at level 26 (but does take an hour which you might get reduced to 1/2 hour by a feat or something similar) half an hour break and the party is at full not bad for preparing for a finale (paragon or epic).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight

Lanefan

Hero
GYGAX was adamant about the fighters job being to protect that squishy and without a bloody tight tunnel to do it... he really had no ability to do so which is what that comment was about the inadequacy of the fighter

Then why do you complain when we suggest spell failure OH right eh suck it up cupcake the description for spell casting should reek with failures whether it matches any other fiction at all but you got used to being handed on a silver platter, what a wimp ;)
Oh do pay attention, 007 - I'm not complaining about the idea of spell failure. In fact I've been suggesting it as an option all along...
 

Lanefan

Hero
And again, the problem is:

(1) 5e's balance is centered around a workday of 6-8 encounters. Let us assume 8 encounters; 5 Combat and some combination of 3 that is broken out into Exploration and Social.

(2) Given 1 (which is already a fair chunk of meaningful encounters), you're going to have how many truly weighty decision-points worth of attrition that wear-out a spellcaster's loadout? Regardless what that number is, its going to be roughly the same value n for the level 9 wizard (let's use the Diviner) who has:

- only 5th level spell slots (and the related ability to up-level lower spells to there)
- 14 spell slots
- 4 Cantrips
- 2 uses of Portent
- 1 use of Divination refresh up to level 5
- Rituals up to level 5

...as it is for the 18th level Diviner who has:

- up to 9th level spell slot (and the related ability to up-level lower spells to there)
- 20 spell slots
- 5 Cantrips
- 3 uses of Portent
- Divination refresh up to level 9
- Rituals up to max level
- An At-Will level 1 spell and an At-Will level 2 spell (that they can switch out on Long Rest)


If you can't see how the intersection of (1) and (2) pushes back hard against the idea of "martial at-wills balance things out", then its virtually impossible to have this conversation. In order for it to 5e's attrition model to work, you would probably need roughly n * 2 minimum weighty decision-points worth of Diviner attrition for the scaling of resource breadth, potency (MANY more "win condition" spells = less total decision-points required to resolve a conflict), and proliferation from the level 9 Diviner to the level 18. That means a HUGE (nonsensical) workday of something like 14-16 encounters (minimum probably).
So what you're saying here boils down to "the Diviner is too powerful", is that it?

'Cause if so, I agree. :)
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
That one has him discussing designing environmental hazards a bit like immobile creatures.

Just reminds me of environmental powers (which I think he has mentioned too)



Talks about paladin heavily which I was asking about.
The discussion about the skill checks is in amidst the Paladin stuff, IIRC. Also, some stuff on Twitter.
 

Hussar

Hero
But their resources don't deplete. They can keep swinging the sword (magic or not) and making skill checks all the live long day.

The game is designed around "punishing," yes. Anything less can obviously be perfectly fun, folks do it all the time. But if a group doesn't care about resource attrition, then they are unlikely to be concerned with relative resource use.
They have HP do they not? That's their resources. And, unlike other classes, they have virtually no way to replenish their own resources outside of resting. And, since the skill checks they can make "all the live long day" are limited by what the DM considers "realistic", they have virtually no control over what they can actually accomplish through skill checks.

Never minding that the casting classes get just as many skills in addition to having multiple ways of using resources to bypass the DM's "realism" wall.
 

Hussar

Hero
Hit dice, short rests, healing potions (assumed in the PHB) Cleric spell slots...did you notice the part where at Level 18 the Champion becomes Wolverine and will never be below half HP in a day, before considering Hit Dice...?
Hit Dice are limited resources in 5e. You only replenish half on a long rest. Which means that after the first adventuring day, you're down resources. Cleric spell slots? Umm, so, you're adventuring day rests on the cleric's ability to recharge your resources? And, hey, 18th level, congratulations, you finally get to do half of what a caster has been able to do since about 4th level. :erm:

Let's compare shall we [MENTION=6780330]Parmandur[/MENTION], since you've repeatedly talked about how epic it is for a 17th level fighter to shoot 12 arrows in 2 rounds. Let's not forget though, that it took you 12 levels just to catch up to the monk who has been getting 8 attacks over 2 rounds (12 over three, which equals a 16th level fighter) since 5th level. And, at the same time you get to shoot 12 arrows, that monk can instantly kill 5 opponents per short rest. How come your Hawkeye or Green Arrow cannot so much as slow down a monster with an arrow (something that the characters do in the comics all the time) yet our monk is instantly killing dragons?

And you consider this to be equal?

Or, let's wander over to the Ranger. At 11th level, the archer ranger has up to 25 attacks in a single round (every target within 5 feet of your original target builds a nice 5x5 square, you don't include the original target in the area of effect). Granted that's extremely rare, but, 5 or 6 attacks in a single round isn't. Congratulations, it only took you 6 levels to catch up to the Ranger, who, in addition to being just as epic a fighter as you, also has spells and a shopping list of special abilities.

Now, just to jump on the other side of the fence for a bit, 5e is nowhere near as bad as 3e or earlier editions were for casters dominating. Spells no longer go up in power by character level and that's a HUGE difference. And Save DC's, by and large, don't change a whole lot over the course of the character's career, unlike in earlier editions where you could jack them into the stratosphere. So, I'd argue that the gap is much smaller in 5e.

But, I've never quite understood why my monk can instantly kill 5 cloud giants between short rests, but, my fighter can never, ever, shoot that giant through the eye and instantly kill it.
 
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There is still a resource game, just symmetrical and same-y between Classes and as much focused on short-term as long-term resources (which was continued into 5E with short rest mechanics and Classes). The lack of a dynamic resource game was unfortunate.
That resource game doesn't depend on tracking time as Gygax describes it. It depends on knowing when an encounter ends; and knowing when the PCs take a long rest.

You can amp it up if you want to - nothing in 4e stops you from tracking rations, for instance, or tracking travel time across the wastelands - but the game doesn't require it. For instance, a trip across the wastelands can be framed as a skill challenge, and thus a single encounter and so no reuse of encounter powers, and the game will work fine - in fact, I would argue, better than it would if you actually tracked the time Gygax-style.

In that sort of play, the passage of time becomes simply colour. (There also needs to be colour to explain why the PCs can't get a proper extended rest. At heroic the colour I used was swamps, irritating insects, rain, etc; at paragon and epic the awful life-sapping environment, and chaotic forces, of the Underdark or Abyss or whatever horrible place the PCs found themselves in.)

And seeing as how the resource game was up until then a pretty significant and important part of the overall game, it's small wonder 4e with its removal of this aspect of play got the less-than-enthusiastic reception it did...
I'm not really that interested in 4e's reception. I've participated in endless threads about that, and have expressed my own view - namely, that there is only limited market demand for a RPG that combines the indie sensibilities of Maelstrom Storytelling or HeroWars/Quest with the mechanical heaviness of Runequest or Rolemaster - but ultimately I don't pick what RPGs I play based on how many other people like them. I pick them based on my own view of what they have to offer me in terms of play experience.

But this is one of those respects where either 4e is the same, or different, but can't be both at the same time. If I'm in fact correct that 4e doesn't have a resource game like AD&D does, then I'm also correct that Gygax's injunction that you can't have a meaningful campaign without tracking time doesn't apply.

Of the seven systems for which I currently have active campaigns, or have run relatively recently, three require tracking time because it is an important resource and four treat time in the sense Gygax cared about it as simply colour.

Time is part of resolution
AD&D: healing, travel, wandering monsters, rations, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting, are all related to the passage of ingame time, and just as Gygax says managing time is an aspect of skilled play.

Burning Wheel: healing, training, and maintenance checks, plus some other less crucial stuff like crafting, all have costs in time, and so players have to make trade-offs (eg spending a lot of time on training will leave you not earning money, which then leaves you vulnerable to Resources depletion when it comes time to make a maintenance check). The GN also has an informal liberty in scene framing that follows from the passage of time: the more time the players spend having their PCs do stuff that doesn't thwart their nemeses, the more the GM can reframe the background situation adversely to the PCs without being unfair in doing so.

Classic Traveller: consumption of fuel by starships, healing, training, living expenses, saving throws to avoid the decrepitude that comes with age - all this is based on the passage of time. Given that living expenses probably won't be a big deal for most PCs, the main part of the game that makes time a resource is trying to earn enough money to meet repayments on the starship loan. Other than this, the passage of time isn't so much a resource as a bakcground thing that triggers these other happenings. (Of the systems I run, Traveller is the most simulationist.)

Time is really just colour and perhaps a bit of pacing
4e: recovery rates matter, but that can treated purely in terms of GM-mediated game play ("OK, now you get a short rest"; "OK, now you can take a long rest if you like" - at least at my table the GM-mediation often bleeds into straightforward group consensus). The connection of these rests to the passage of ingame time is pure colour, and not itself an input into resolution.

MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic: everything is measured in Action Scenes and Transition Scenes, and time is purely colour. We've had transition scenes that correpsond to1 taking a rest in a dungeon room and transition scenes that correspond to spending days or weeks just hanging out. In mechanical terms those are identical.

Prince Valiant: time is just an element of colour that can alsoe be used for framing by the GM - eg as GM I'm within my rights to say "OK, you've been travelling through the forest for a while and are feeling hungry - let's have some Hunting checks to see what game you're able to catch" and if they fail the checks then I can impose Brawn penalties. But I'm equally entitled just to narrate "OK, after a week or so of riding you're back in Warwick." It's all GM-side management of pacing, colour, a fair sequence of challenges that evoke knightly adventure, etc.

Cthulhu Dark: when we played a session of this system, I had initially thought about using an old CoC module I have (the Vanishing Sorcerer) but a quick read of it suggested it was pretty bad and we could probably come up with something better spontaneously, and so we just made up the fiction as we went along. The passage of time was simply a matter of colour: I think our adventure spanned about 3 days, and at least one night passed without incident ("OK, it's tomorrow, who's doing what?") while one night invovled fitful dreams and then the PC waking up with her house on fire (which triggered some action declarations and checks). We didn't get to the point where the recovery of sanity rules kick in (at 5 pips on the sanity die, and we only got to 4), but they depend not on spending time as a resource but on performing certain actions.​

There is no general rule that time has to matter in RPGing; and no general rule that it has to matter in RPG systems that involve player-side resource management: 4e and MHRP/Cortex+ are both systems where the players have to manage resources, but the management is locked into the former's recovery structure and the latter's scene structure, neither of which depends upon tracking the passage of ingame time or treating it as a player-side resource. (Prinve Valiant does have player-side resources, but equipment and money are completely time-independent and closer to GM largesse, and Storyteller Certificates are also time-independent and utterly GM largesse.)

Finally, here's my least favourite way of handling time in a RPG: treating it as a player side resource while in fact everything that it matters to is managed by the GM offstage. In my personal experience, traditional FRPG asymmetric resource suites are especially prone to push play in this direction if the game has any sort of story/pacing dynamic to it (ie it's closer in tone to Dragonlance than Tomb of Horrors). My own personal experience with this is mostly from Rolemaster: the AD&D games I've run with that sort of dynamic have involved all "martial" parties and so haven't raised the asymmetry issue. In my first long RM campaign the group hit upon it's own solution - over time everyone played a spellcaster. In my second long RM campaign we changed various system aspects and play conventions to produce the result that, basically, a "martial" PC was pretty much as effective as a nova-ing caster.

But my subsequent experience with 4e and other systems without this headache mean that I would personally never go back to such a system. (The few times in the past few years when I've run a session of AD&D have been pure dungeon-crawl, which doesn't have the problem because there is no pacing to manage in such a game.)
 

Sadras

Explorer
I had hoped that it was obvious that I was talking (i) about the process for setting a DC, and (ii) the process for determining how many successes are required to succeed in a scene.

FOr the past 500+ posts these are the two featurs of 4e (DC-by-level, skill challenges) I have been pointing to as different from 5e. Do you agree that they're different?
Yes I agree they are different. And I think their incorporation into 5e would be welcomed for two reasons.

(1) 5e claims to be an edition for all versions of the game so a modular option that involves the above two would only be more inclusive. To be clear, the DC by level runs against the inherent easy, medium, difficult DC mechanic of 5e, however 5e's strength is its malleability.

(2) IMO the skill challenge mechanic is a great but it never translated well in any of the official material and provide enough examples to really assist/teach in its execution.

My claim was and is that the above-mentioned features explain why, in 4e, non-spell-casting characters can match casters in non-combat.
I'm not convinced the difficultly by level table had anything to do with that, it was more the balanced system and the class powers.

To reiterate, because (a) feasibiity is determined in a fiction-first way, and then (b) a DC is set which - in mechanical/mathematical terms - underpins feasibility, and (c) the skill challenge framework tells us when things are over.
(c) is just odd. It is like you're saying that people who ran skill checks before the invention of the skill challenge didn't know when things were over.
 
Are these Martial Practices? If so which ones are being used and at what level are they gained?
They're just action declarations. I don't use Martial Practices in my 4e game. (A difference between me and [MENTION=82504]Garthanos[/MENTION].)

My point is that if simpe action declarations resolved as skill checks can do things "comprable to raising the dead" or "opening portals to other planes" then Martial Practices can hardly make martial PCs less capable.

As to your other post: I don't know on what basis you say that I said, in another post, that "ritual caster alone makes casters more effective than martial PC's in 4e." I didn't say that, and don't agree with it. I've posted multiple actual play examples in this thread that show why I don't agree with it. What post are you referring to? And is your view based on your own play experience?

As to thinking that the invoker/wizard caster in my game doesn't leverage the rules well, please read these two actual play reports and then tell me what the weakness of play consists in.

The explanation for why ritual casting doesn't dominate play in 4e as I experience it is fairly straightforward. Domination in play can take two main forms: providing mechanical solutions to challenges; and shaping the context of play itself, determining what will count and what won't.

When resolution is taking place in the context of a skill challenge, a ritual is just another input from one player - even if it succeeds, it grants an automatic success and no more. The player of the martial PC also gets to declare actions. And if those actions are the key ones, that actually shape the outcome, then it is the martial PC who has driven things.

The first of the two actual play experiences shows the invoker/wizard taking the lead. He uses rituals as part of that, but not all of it. The second of the two actual play experiences shows the dwarf fighter/cleric taking the lead. He uses Intimidation and fighting to do that.

This is another illustration of the significance of closed scene resolution.

Imaro said:
The fact that 4e has skill challenges which have DC's set without concern for fiction but in a purely gamist manner

<snip>

The procedure is the same the only difference is that one list is from a more granular, level based list of DC's and the other is a much broader list encompassing all levels.
So is the procedure for setting DCs in 4e and 5e the same, or not? Are the DCs in 5e set "in a purely gamist manner"?

I don't really know what "gamist" means here - it seems to mean more than "by the rules" but I"m not sure what that more is - but in any event I think that the systems are quite different. In 4e the fiction tells you whether or not something is feasible - eg we know that the fighter/cleric can sway Yan-C-Bin, or the maruts, by intimidating them because we know that, in the fiction, he is an Eternal Defender who, following Torog's death, has taken on the mantle of god of pain and imprisonment. We then set a DC for that by looking at the chart.

In 5e there is no chart but I otherwise have no idea, even after reading all the posts in this thread, how the DC is set. No doubt the GM intuits how hard it is for someone to intimdate Yan-C-Bin and goes from there, but I personally have no intuition about such a thing. All I know is that if the DC is set at 25 or 30 on the basis that Yan-C-Bin is hard or near-impossible to scare then even a high level fighter seems unlikely to have much of a shot at it.
 
Within the framework of the game being played, it's coherent; and for some that's enough. But as soon as you look beyond the at-the-table game and try to figure out how any of it would consistently fit into the greater game world, it kinda falls apart.
Nonsense. This goes back to fiction first as a feature of 4e compared to other D&D editions.

I don't need game mechanics to tell me that an ogre is a huge bruiser that can kill most ordinary people with a single swing of its club. That's the fiction. I only need game mechanics if something happens at the table - eg a player declares that his/her PC tries to beat the ogre in a fight. And then I can adapt whatever mechanics will give voice to this fiction. If the PC is low heroid, I will probably stat the ogre as a solo or an elite - which, mechanically, gives voice to the fiction that a low heroic tier PC probably can't best an ogre on his/her own. If the PC is upper heroic, then I can use a standard ogre straight out of the MM. If the PC is on the way through paragon tier, then I will probabl use one of the ogre minions from the MM - Lancelot cuts down anything less than a full-fledged giant with a single blow from his sword!

As I was discussing upthread with [MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION], this is all about fiction first, mechanics second and in direct response to that prior fiction.

My question is whether doing so was worth the sacrifices made in terms of class differentiation.
I've never played or GMed a campaign where the most interesting thing that distinguished PCs was how quickly they got their juice back. I'm surprised that it's such a recurring refrain in this thread.
 
But if a group doesn't care about resource attrition, then they are unlikely to be concerned with relative resource use.
This seems a complete non-sequitur. I don't care about resource attrition, in the sense that I think it is one of the least interesting features of RPG play. But I certainly care about action declarations, and the capacity of players to impact the fiction by declaring actions for their PCs.

Hence I try to avoid games where some players get more resources than others unless the GM plays (what I regard as) a tedious game of resource attrition.
 

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