4E Points of Light, Dawn War, and Magic Item Economy (4e)

Well... I think this is an area where we may not totally agree. I think, on the face of it, the simplest way to color the way things work in AD&D is a bit more like what you often see in legends. You really DO NOT see some sort of progression commonly spelled out. Not a steady one for sure.
What I think works with 4e is that you are very free to interpret a LOT of the mechanics in various ways, narratively, so if you are clever and focused on creating a specific sort of story, you can probably do it very well. Some sort of something will fall out of a sufficiently well-run AD&D campaign, but its definitely less easy to just naturally make it happen in a reliable way.
So, maybe 4e demands a good bit of understanding of how to use it to get exactly what you want (think how @pemerton narrative comes out of the games he has described). AD&D will sometimes generate some fairly cool narrative, kind of just by dint of how it works, but it also produces a lot of crap.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Well... I think this is an area where we may not totally agree. I think, on the face of it, the simplest way to color the way things work in AD&D is a bit more like what you often see in legends. You really DO NOT see some sort of progression commonly spelled out. Not a steady one for sure.
Trick is legends and myths arent normally a team game *(having a singular hero jump into the next tier is ok) and face it playing the incompetent thief hobbit alongside the paragon Aragorn works really crappy in every version of D&D if it were Fate and you can give the hobbit real luck bonuses and can make Meek and overlooked and sought after by Ring Lord even more powerful than the awesome of the Returning King it is different.
 

pemerton

Legend
For what it's worth, I don't agree that level in AD&D is meaningless. But it's clear that it's not a measure of total power. A PC's power comes from three main "pools" in AD&D: the ability scores pool; the class/level pool; and the items/gear pool. They are largely though not completely independent of one another. This is why methods for generating ability scores, and advice and admonitions around how to place treasure, are such big components of the AD&D play experience and GM advice. Whereas in 4e neither is really a big deal at all (the rules make them bigger deals than they need to be simply for legacy reasons, I think - those familiar with D&D expect the game to make a big deal of these matters).

3E can be seen as a point of transition, because it gestures towards 4e-style control over ability scores, and uses wealth-by-level as a (in my view) very cumbersome and (for well-known reasons) at best partly successful device for linking item load-out to level. 4e goes all the way. 5e seems to have back-pedalled on the gear side of things.

In my 4e game I never had trouble having "cool" or "mysterious" items if I wanted to and had correctly anticipated the players' moods - the Rod of 7 Parts, the Sword of Kas, Whelm reforged as Overwhelm, and more prosaically but still memorably a Safewing Amulet, a Flying Carpet (both signature items for the cleric/ranger unitl the carpet got stolen by a fleeing lich), even a Floating Shield (or whatever the low-level surfboard shield is called).

I haven't fully digested @AbdulAlhazred's HoML but I can see, in abstract terms, how you could drop or at least downplay the items-linked-to-level-as-output aspect of 4e while keeping the items-as-quantifiable-elements-of-PC-build aspect, and then building on that to use them as an input-to-level. Obviously there's a lot of technical (and hack) work required to make this happen, but at the level of principle it's a problem relative to AD&D only if you want the total AD&D disconnect which means that the GM, or the luck of the treasure dice, can make one PC somewhat arbitrarily better than all the rest.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I haven't fully digested @AbdulAlhazred's HoML but I can see, in abstract terms, how you could drop or at least downplay the items-linked-to-level-as-output aspect of 4e while keeping the items-as-quantifiable-elements-of-PC-build aspect, and then building on that to use them as an input-to-level.
Homl just made the connection in reverse gain a magic item gain a level... gain a feat causes gain a level. It is very 4e like. If in Homl you make a magic item an uber powerful thing but only gain 1 level and your companions are trudging along pretty sure you get bad juju of Arthur suddenly being massively more powerful than lancelot because Excaliber needed to be a varian +5 holy avenger Sword which blinded enemies every fight and you pretty much had to give it to him at level 1 since he didnt do D&D like adventures before he had it.
 

pemerton

Legend
If in Homl you make a magic item an uber powerful thing but only gain 1 level and your companions are trudging along pretty sure you get bad juju of Arthur suddenly being massively more powerful than lancelot because Excaliber needed to be a varian +5 holy avenger Sword which blinded enemies every fight and you pretty much had to give it to him at level 1 since he didnt do D&D like adventures before he had it.
@AbudlAlhazrd obviously knows how his system works in detail. In principle I assume there can be tier-gated items just as there are tier-gated feats and tier-gated powers. But if Excalibur is super-powered then the issue of how to balance Arthur against the rest of the party is no different from standard issues of balance in 4e. (That is, pretty easily dealt with provided that those other players are also having their PCs go out and do stuff to earn boons etc.)

I don't quite see what the problem is that you're seeing.

(Whether Arthur is best done in 4e, or Cortex+ Heroic, or Fate, or Prince Valiant - my bid! - or Pendragon is a different quesetion I put to one side.)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
(That is, pretty easily dealt with provided that those other players are also having their PCs go out and do stuff to earn boons etc.)
Assuming Homl could theoretically have super powerful magic items worth X boons and as you say the other heros ... gain boons similarly. Question really is at this point if you did give him that holy avenger and call him level 8 with a party of level 1s which is not really great in D&D.

OR did you start the group also at level 8. Or do you give him Excaliburs toned down powers where he unlocks the boons as he goes... either is 4e styled.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
There is a direct connection between HoML level and the boons you have gathered its not probemative wrt level not meaning over all power or there not being a good way to estimate power because of nebulosity.

The issue of items being "sudden" uber power is really the discussion since Abdul Identified it as the part of the magic item economy that makes items impressive. And I do not think its about HoML

I am still on team story making items more interesting and in general unlocking their power and in HomL gaining the boons gradually makes the super items much cooler than huge "sudden" number burst. Or going a mass of time while others are leveling up gaining boons and your arthur waits his big boost.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
A PC's power comes from three main "pools" in AD&D: the ability scores pool; the class/level pool; and the items/gear pool.
And you cannot simply figure out the interaction of those pools.
A single item in the gear pool could almost completely override the entirety of the actual impact for your ability score pool... shudders. And not getting the gear could massively undermine or conversely multiply the class benefits. Frack ... this is the chaos people are bemoaning the loss of.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
(Whether Arthur is best done in 4e, or Cortex+ Heroic, or Fate, or Prince Valiant - my bid! - or Pendragon is a different quesetion I put to one side.)
I bring up Arthur more as an example of a magic item empowered character(or one assumed to be such ) directly from myth and legend who is alongside hero class companions who are very much neither over shadowed nor empowered by magic items. Gawaine had bloodline magics which empowered him. Lancelot had extremity of Discipline and binding/conflicting oaths/passions (which unlike many of the same archetype did not end in his death) - magic/heirloom items of Lancelot and Gawaine are almost unknown and presented as unimportant to the story usually.

Oh and because I like Arthurian Legend.

I pick Fate for doing Lord of the Rings tbh an adventure with characters of highly divergent "obvious potency" but with massively coordinated story potency under the hood. Where is level in those???

And I am less certain about the game for Arthurian Legend (Pendragon really gives it an interesting shot) and I am unfamiliar with Prince Valiant. Could it be done in 4e or even 5e maybe but the worlds magic isnt really served by D&D magic
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Oh and I thought it was obvious that I was being hyperbolic. I mean the most common direct uses of level was determining what adventures and what adversaries you could match up against your players characters (it was very poor at this and a significant part of that was because of how erratically it interacted with the magic items but nevertheless it was still presented like hey look "this adventure appropriate for level N to X characters"
 
Trick is legends and myths arent normally a team game *(having a singular hero jump into the next tier is ok) and face it playing the incompetent thief hobbit alongside the paragon Aragorn works really crappy in every version of D&D if it were Fate and you can give the hobbit real luck bonuses and can make Meek and overlooked and sought after by Ring Lord even more powerful than the awesome of the Returning King it is different.
None of that is in dispute...

However, I would like to say that any use of LotR as a commentary on disparity of power between characters drastically misses the point of that piece of fiction. Aragorn, the supremely equipped and endowed by fate heir to the throne of Gondor (and by extension is descended from at least one demi-god depending on how you parse such things) has no more impact on the STORY than Samwise Gamgee, an itinerant gardener and 'Man Friday' halfling with no pedigree or experience at all. The other characters, regardless of overt power, appear to manifest equal story impact. Every single one of the Fellowship plays a pivotal role in events (well, Gimli and Legolas perhaps less so than the others, and Boromir's part is somewhat inadvertent, though he does act as a catalyst.

My point is, really if you look at it, if you want a system that is more amenable to the various types of legends and myths you find, and even basic folklore, you would probably want to use a more distinctly story-oriented system where things like 'great fighting prowess' are just attributes on a par with other ones like 'incredible loyalty and determination' etc. Some sort of, perhaps FATE-like system would handle LotR for example. In such a game the choices of the players would be about applying their character's attributes to the various situations to see what happens, and not so much in a morass of technical details which basically say "no, your weak halfling cannot defeat a giant spider demon in battle, even with a magic sword."

I would say a lot of the canon of German Folklore and legend would quite happily fit within the same sort of paradigm.

With D&D (and 4e maybe even in particular) you cannot expect that. The game is very prevalent, and it says you have to work your way up to 25th level before you really have any chance at all to gank Demogorgon. It also mandates, logically, that all the PCs go through basically the same development process and they are granted basically the same mechanical heft in terms of combat ability, etc. AD&D is a good bit looser there, but it isn't REALLY trying to be radically different in that respect. It was just designed to allow more for 'troupe play' and envisages situations where some PCs will be 'primary' and others might be more 'hangers-on' at that point in time. This does sometimes let it emulate literature/legend a bit better, but not always, and the game aspect does suffer at times, depending on how you WANT the game to work.
 
@AbudlAlhazrd obviously knows how his system works in detail. In principle I assume there can be tier-gated items just as there are tier-gated feats and tier-gated powers. But if Excalibur is super-powered then the issue of how to balance Arthur against the rest of the party is no different from standard issues of balance in 4e. (That is, pretty easily dealt with provided that those other players are also having their PCs go out and do stuff to earn boons etc.)

I don't quite see what the problem is that you're seeing.

(Whether Arthur is best done in 4e, or Cortex+ Heroic, or Fate, or Prince Valiant - my bid! - or Pendragon is a different quesetion I put to one side.)
Yeah, Boons (of which items are simply a manifestation) are given a level. I don't have 'rules' which say you have to get things in only a specific level range, but it usually makes more sense in terms of the play of the game if you give a level 4 PC a boon that is at least in the 'heroic' range. I would generally prefer to manifest an artifact in the game if I was desiring to have something radically out of the normal power scale. Excalibur certainly seems like a prime candidate to be such. Another option would be to simply assign boons to the item over time, so it essentially becomes this incredibly built-up focus of the PC's power, but is technically just a normal item of expected levels (though obviously loosing it would suck a LOT).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
It also mandates, logically, that all the PCs go through basically the same development process and they are granted basically the same mechanical heft in terms of combat ability, etc. AD&D is a good bit looser there, but it isn't REALLY trying to be radically different in that respect. It was just designed to allow more for 'troupe play' and envisages situations where some PCs will be 'primary' and others might be more 'hangers-on' at that point in time.
Yeh I played the 9th level sidekick to casters and the level 1 magic user who pretty much just watched because he didnt win the spell lotto, both...

I will say this wrt to magic item economy.... I really really felt a cheer rising when i heard that 3e had an expected wealth by level. Because I thought Monty and Stingy now have something clear like a big old mirror ;)
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
but is technically just a normal item of expected levels (though obviously loosing it would suck a LOT).
AND in most heroic fantasy only a short temporary state where you do a kind of a one on one adventure where the hero becomes obsessed with doing it himself and most of the obstacles he discovers he can indeed tackle without the device or maybe it danger steps up his hero allies save his ass at the last second and he either re-aquires the item or discovers some awesome replacement encapsulating the same number of boons!!!!!! OR perhaps ONE more.

Basically its tuning the story to the Hero and I think that is part of the point of D&D and yes HoML
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
With D&D (and 4e maybe even in particular) you cannot expect that.
When I took a shot at building Frodo in 4e I made him half lazylord and half rogue where I picked control and stealth abilities minimizing the striker part of rogue as much as possible with lazylord inspiring allies combine some flavoring of combat effectiveness as bald faced luck... it kind of works but yes an actual "storyteller" game is going to take it to its actual function
 
There is a direct connection between HoML level and the boons you have gathered its not probemative wrt level not meaning over all power or there not being a good way to estimate power because of nebulosity.

The issue of items being "sudden" uber power is really the discussion since Abdul Identified it as the part of the magic item economy that makes items impressive. And I do not think its about HoML

I am still on team story making items more interesting and in general unlocking their power and in HomL gaining the boons gradually makes the super items much cooler than huge "sudden" number burst. Or going a mass of time while others are leveling up gaining boons and your arthur waits his big boost.
Right, level cannot really be subverted in HoML, unless of course a PC was somehow built in a hyper-optimized fashion which allowed for a vastly greater effectiveness. I don't think that's really possible, as it is still effectively a 4e-like AEDU type of system. I guess some boons are better than others to an extent, but then you'd really have to push the 'narrative focus' part of boon acquisition in order to thoroughly min/max.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
None of that is in dispute...

However, I would like to say that any use of LotR as a commentary on disparity of power between characters drastically misses the point of that piece of fiction.
I definitely feel I wasn't missing the point there can be power that isnt the same obvious stuff normally modeled by D&D and fiction of whatever kind models that in a way D&D is generally not great at doing.

I made the Princess Build Warlord and part of the point of it was that even in combat inspiring the "powerful" and sticking with them in spite of all the danger persevering through it winning against that demon spider on your own by luck (Of course with fate we can do something harder or bigger like taking out a tower of Goblins/Orcs via fate points turning them against each other) is kind of being another style of hero its the hero in over their head and I think it ought to be a planned thing. It wasn't about creating an NPC.

Wrecan built a whole Luck Power Source which is indeed not the same as that story power but it seems like something not entirely divergent from what a game where hit points represent nebulous things can do.
 

pemerton

Legend
I would like to say that any use of LotR as a commentary on disparity of power between characters drastically misses the point of that piece of fiction. Aragorn, the supremely equipped and endowed by fate heir to the throne of Gondor (and by extension is descended from at least one demi-god depending on how you parse such things) has no more impact on the STORY than Samwise Gamgee, an itinerant gardener and 'Man Friday' halfling with no pedigree or experience at all. The other characters, regardless of overt power, appear to manifest equal story impact. Every single one of the Fellowship plays a pivotal role in events (well, Gimli and Legolas perhaps less so than the others, and Boromir's part is somewhat inadvertent, though he does act as a catalyst.

My point is, really if you look at it, if you want a system that is more amenable to the various types of legends and myths you find, and even basic folklore, you would probably want to use a more distinctly story-oriented system where things like 'great fighting prowess' are just attributes on a par with other ones like 'incredible loyalty and determination' etc. Some sort of, perhaps FATE-like system would handle LotR for example. In such a game the choices of the players would be about applying their character's attributes to the various situations to see what happens, and not so much in a morass of technical details which basically say "no, your weak halfling cannot defeat a giant spider demon in battle, even with a magic sword."
For LotR, I think a version of Cortex+ Heroic could do it - the mechanics would work well, but you'd need to do some redesign around PC building. Fate I assume would have no trouble. HeroQuest Revised none. And I reckon Prince Valiant might give it a red-hot go.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I definitely feel I wasn't missing the point there can be power that isnt the same obvious stuff normally modeled by D&D and fiction of whatever kind models that in a way D&D is generally not great at doing.

I made the Princess Build Warlord and part of the point of it was that even in combat inspiring the "powerful" and sticking with them in spite of all the danger persevering through it winning against that demon spider on your own by luck (Of course with fate we can do something harder or bigger like taking out a tower of Goblins/Orcs via fate points turning them against each other) is kind of being another style of hero its the hero in over their head and I think it ought to be a planned thing. It wasn't about creating an NPC.

Wrecan built a whole Luck Power Source which is indeed not the same as that story power but it seems like something not entirely divergent from what a game where hit points represent nebulous things can do.
Perhaps we need ahem luck practices and allow an effect which turns a swarm of enemies of tier appropriate size against themselves disabling them long enough for one to escape;)
 
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