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D&D 4E My Least Favourite Thing About 4e is Forced Balance

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Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
FYI, the reason fire elementals have limited or no resistance to fire was that WOTC didn't want to restrict ideas for characters. And the "Fire Mage" is an archtypical one(The character who took nothing but fire powers). And they didn't want to run into a circumstance where one member of the party felt like they had to sit in a corner and do nothing for a combat(one of the design goals was to eliminate that from every happening, therefore no spells that paralyze people for 10 rounds, no save or dies, no removing people's major class defining features like sneak attack against a large class of enemies and so on). And if the party is fighting Fire Immune Fire Elementals, the Fire Mage has to sit there and watch the combat.

The other reason they gave was that they envisioned wars between armies of fire elementals controlled by different masters. And realized that the war would be kind of pointless, they'd all be completely immune to all the attacks of the other creatures.

The same thing applied to creatures in a cold environment. You'd have Yetis that have resistance to cold because they need to be able to survive in the arctic. But you'd have them hunting other creatures on a regular basis that also had resistance to cold(because they also lived in an arctic climate) meaning that most cold creatures couldn't actually hunt their likely prey. Plus, add to this the archtypical "Cold Wizard" who uses spells that manipulate the forces around him, picking up snow balls and throwing the, forming icicles on people and such. And realize that being an ice mage in the arctic was about the worst thing you could be.

So they settled on the fact that even though an attack was cold or fire or whatever, that it was still magic. And the magic part was more important than what form the magic took. Sure, a fire elemental could be immune to any normal fire. But a Fireball did more than just create a ball of fire, it created a shockwave of magic force that propelled the fire and damaged the "soul" of the creature as well.
 

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Jiggawatts

Explorer
Balance is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
Magic shall free me.
 

Tymophil

Explorer
If a rogue goes up behind a skeleton and sneak attacks them, they get to do extra damage. This makes me mad. The Sneak Attack power represents stabbing vital bits. The skeleton has no vital bits.
Nothing stops you from creating your own skeleton with such an immunity. This is what is so good about D&D4 : you can really design monsters the way you want. So add this trait to your skeletons and play... You could also add another traits that would make the skeleton vulnerable to some power of the rogue to balance things out if you want. You don't have to though... You don't have to balance things out if you don't want to.

On the other hand, a system that would not allow to balance fun between players would not be nice. I prefer a balanced system that can be umbalanced, than a umbalanced system that cannot be balanced.

If a wizard wants to blast a fire elemental with a fireball, it works just fine. Fire elemental have no fire resistance. I think I remember a developer saying this was intentional.
Just add it as a trait. Creating monsters was painful and unrewarding in D&D3.+, it is quick and easy in D&D4.
 

Destil

Explorer
If a rogue goes up behind a skeleton and sneak attacks them, they get to do extra damage. This makes me mad. The Sneak Attack power represents stabbing vital bits. The skeleton has no vital bits.

Blanket immunity to precision based damage for entire (popular) classes of monster is a stupid rule that couldn't have died soon enough. You're telling me a skeleton, which has basic human anatomy, has no weak points? And that you can't hit a critical gear in some sort of clockwork monstrosity that leaves it a shambling and ineffective mass of uncoiled springs and scattered gears? Sure, I'll buy that for a ghost or an animated dresser, but those rules were over reaching in general. I have no problem with individual monsters that can't be sneak attacked and I could even possibly buy it for oozes and swarms in general. But not 'all undead and constructs.'
 

Felon

First Post
FYI, the reason fire elementals have limited or no resistance to fire was that WOTC didn't want to restrict ideas for characters. And the "Fire Mage" is an archtypical one(The character who took nothing but fire powers). And they didn't want to run into a circumstance where one member of the party felt like they had to sit in a corner and do nothing for a combat(one of the design goals was to eliminate that from every happening, therefore no spells that paralyze people for 10 rounds, no save or dies, no removing people's major class defining features like sneak attack against a large class of enemies and so on). And if the party is fighting Fire Immune Fire Elementals, the Fire Mage has to sit there and watch the combat.

The other reason they gave was that they envisioned wars between armies of fire elementals controlled by different masters. And realized that the war would be kind of pointless, they'd all be completely immune to all the attacks of the other creatures.

The same thing applied to creatures in a cold environment. You'd have Yetis that have resistance to cold because they need to be able to survive in the arctic. But you'd have them hunting other creatures on a regular basis that also had resistance to cold(because they also lived in an arctic climate) meaning that most cold creatures couldn't actually hunt their likely prey. Plus, add to this the archtypical "Cold Wizard" who uses spells that manipulate the forces around him, picking up snow balls and throwing the, forming icicles on people and such. And realize that being an ice mage in the arctic was about the worst thing you could be.
Can't the yetis just use their teeth and for regular damage? Don't the fire elementals have access to weapons, or just slam attacks? :)

The big problem in 4e is that casters have a very small, prescribed "deck" of spells. You can't just memorize non-fire spells even if you know you'll be fighting fire elementals. Your repetoire is too small not to close off the use of an encounter or daily spell just because it does the wrong damage type.

Likewise, both the 3e and 4e rogue have little going for them without sneak attack.
 

ChainSawHobbit

First Post
If the Wizard knows they are going to be fighting fire creatures, they should prepare non-fire spells or suffer. Not every player needs to contribute equally to fixing every problematic situation. Sometimes, characters are better in some kinds of situations than others.
 

Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
Re: Forced Balance

Overall balance in a game system makes for a good game, forced balance at a micro-level causes homogenization of the elements of the game which is not a good thing, IMO. This is why I think the mechanics of the game need to follow the narrative elements introduced by the GM and other players.


If the Wizard knows they are going to be fighting fire creatures, they should prepare non-fire spells or suffer. Not every player needs to contribute equally to fixing every problematic situation. Sometimes, characters are better in some kinds of situations than others.


To follow up on what I just posted, I think a simpler solution is to have something on the order of an energy spell that the player can craft in the moment as dealing fire damage (or cold, etc.).
 


Aw, just drop the flavor.

What kind of Wizard are you?

I'm a Damage wizard.

What's that?

A Damage wizard. I do damage. Not fire, not water, not cold, just ... damage.
 

DonTadow

First Post
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a 4e hater. I like 4e enough that I am a D&D Insider subscriber. There is just one thing about the game that I really, really hate.

Forced balance.

If a rogue goes up behind a skeleton and sneak attacks them, they get to do extra damage. This makes me mad. The Sneak Attack power represents stabbing vital bits. The skeleton has no vital bits.
Sneak attack powers actually represents the rogues keen eye to see weaknesses. Skeletons have brittal bones, cracks.
However i do think still, that some things should be immune to all critical damage like oozes or things with no dicernable parts.
If a wizard wants to blast a fire elemental with a fireball, it works just fine. Fire elemental have no fire resistance. I think I remember a developer saying this was intentional.
That's just dumb design, noy to do with balance. Balance should be attack based but creatures should have weakenesses that others can exploit more easily.

When i cry for balance, i mean reasonably, that a 10th level fighter and 10th level wqizsard should be equal importance in a battle of average humans. And that there should be character build options to make some people better at killing some things than others.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I'm in broad agreement about the "forced balance" or "microbalance." I'm in favor of DMs being the ones micro-managing the balance for their own games. ;)

But this convo thread I've gotta tease out more:
Majoru Oakheart said:
FYI, the reason fire elementals have limited or no resistance to fire was that WOTC didn't want to restrict ideas for characters. And the "Fire Mage" is an archtypical one(The character who took nothing but fire powers).

This ain't exactly the case. The 4e "fire mage" -- the pryomancer -- has an ability to ignore fire immunity built right into it.

IMO, it's a bit of a conflict between "general" and "specific." Generally, fire elementals don't take fire damage. Specifically, the pyromancer has an ability that ignores fire immunity, in order to make it playable in a fire-themed dungeon (or whatever). This is pretty Good Design, IMO. Everyone BUT the fire mage still has to deal with fire-immune elementals, but the fire mage can trump that immunity. Awesome possum.

The other side of the coin: fire elementals that are not immune to fire damage -- is a little silly. This is pretty Poor Design IMO. Fire is a reasonably effective strategy to use against things made of fire? No. Not in my games.

It was part of the "essentials-ization" of 4e that lead to fire elementals loosing their fire immunity (and gaining big resists instead), which is sort of a pointless non-change. Actually immune and functionally immune is immune as far as the party fighting the things is concerned.

I'll join the general chorus of folks who see undead with a weak point, but I also want to point out that the real question is how important is Sneak Attack? Is it a core class feature that should always be available to the rogue, or is it a situational side-ability that they may or may not be able to apply -- a narrow bonus, rather than a broad-based strategy?

If it's a situational side-ability, then, sure, whatever, make whatever you want "immune to Sneak Attack."

If it's a core part of your character class's design, then, no, basically nothing should be "immune to Sneak Attack."

It's the same question that applies to fire attacks.

If it's a situational ability, then anything you want can be immune to fire attacks.

If it's a core part of your character's design, then nothing should be immune to (your) fire attacks.

The question isn't about what the monsters should have, it's about what the character's abilities are. Are they specific, or general? Are they one option among many, or are they the ONLY option?
 


There is just one thing about the game that I really, really hate.

Forced balance.

If a rogue goes up behind a skeleton and sneak attacks them, they get to do extra damage. This makes me mad. The Sneak Attack power represents stabbing vital bits. The skeleton has no vital bits.
It has a spine. ;)

Seriously, though, in an imagined world where articulated skeletons can be animated and go about attacking people, it's hardly difficult to imagine preternaturally oportunistic or lucky individuals dismantling one with a well-placed attack.

Well, unless you've set you heart on certain classes being strictly inferior to others, of course...

If a wizard wants to blast a fire elemental with a fireball, it works just fine. Fire elemental have no fire resistance. I think I remember a developer saying this was intentional.
It really has nothing to do with balance, though. Lots of critters have fire resistance - they wouldn't if monsters with fire resistance were a balance problem. It was a 'realism' or 'verisimilitude' choice. Fire elementals are fire, they live in fire. You are mostly water, you live around water all the time, you drink the stuff, you can probably swim in it safely - you can still drown, though and if someone hits you over the head with a 10 lb block of ice, it'll hurt. Fire elementals are aparently just the same way. That's the logic, it holds together. I agree that it's lame, but it's got nothing much to do with balance.
 

Incenjucar

Adventurer
I feel that a fire elemental with absolutely no fire resistance is a bit... questionable. Humans certainly have a measure of water resistance, else our cells would burst. But there's no need for outright immunity. However, they could simply have something Endure Primordial Elements - ambient effects don't do anything to them, so they can hang out in superheated caves, but they could still take some small damage from insanely hot psionic flames or lava jets.
 

Number48

First Post
I stopped playing 4E a couple years back, so I have to ask, how do they describe a fire elemental? Is it living pure fire? Then it should be fire-immune. Is it a type of creature closely associated with fire, but physical? Then it should have fire resistance.

At least fire damage matches up with elemental fire. The torture of logic to force each energy to an element hurt, a lot.
 

Incenjucar

Adventurer
An elemental, by living and having form does not function as an actual section of burning material. The presence of a life force gives it shape and form that can be disrupted, just as our cells do to us. It's not even insubstantial like a creature using mist form would be. You can't simply walk into a fire elemental, either.
 
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I like the alternative "resitances/vulnerabilities". But I also believe, they should be immune to non-magical fire at least.

Burning it with a fireball... ok... burning it with a torch. *facepalm*
 

Incenjucar

Adventurer
I'd be fine with them being immune to fire hazards and ambient heat.

Basically, I consider fire elementals vs. fire attacks to be a test of wills, or at least pressure. The fire elemental is trying to keep its living flame from being corrupted by external, inert flame.

I'd also be cool with a much more complex type of fire elemental that fed on flame, was insubstantial due to not being made of anything solid, could change shape and grow with fuel, and so forth. But that's waaaay too many rules for the average fire elemental in any edition.
 

Aenghus

Explorer
I intensely dislike "all or nothing" mechanics and think they are bad design for keynote abilities. If a PC is dependent on a particular mechanic for his usefulness and it doesn't work half the time, should he retire the PC for one who isn't so handicapped? If he doesn't enjoy the depowered play experience, which isn't the one he signed on for, why should he endure it?

These sorts of resistance should be more nuanced than all or nothing, as if it happens more frequently than very rarely it punishes some players for their character concept and others not at all.

And themed adventures tend to have lots of the same type of monster with similar properties, making entire classes non-viable for entire adventures. I hate telling people enthusiastic about their character concept that it doesn't suit the campaign, because their abilties won't work on the monsters or NPCs encountered.

For me 4e meant I didn't have to do that, players could play what they wanted and were much less likely to be marginalised or overpowered from their choices.
 


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