4E Speculation about "the feelz" of D&D 4th Edition

cavalier973

Visitor
D&D was originally a game about exploration and resource management with combat elements (sort of a Tolkienian Oregon Trail game). It quickly developed elements of heroic narrative, due to the nature of the setting. Based on my understanding of the rules, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and now 5th Edition all attempt to maintain this tension between the "how many arrows the PC can recover post-battle" part of play versus the "hitting the Dragon in the heart with the PC's last arrow" part, but the 4th Edition rules seemed to have abandoned (or made irrelevant) the resource management part of the game. The rules have sections on equipment, the effect of weight,on movement, and such, but the allowances are so large that they have little effect, RAW, in how the characters interact with the game world. This accounts, I think, for the complaint that 4e "didn't feel like D&D".

In other words, I don't think it's a "grittiness" factor, in itself, that is the source of the complaint. One can,pump up the danger of a 4e game quite easily. It is, rather, the idea that the characters can effectively ignore mundane matters like "do we want fried rat or fungus sandwiches for dinner?" and "Drat it all! We didn't bring enough sacks, again. Get all the gold coins and as many of the silver ones as we can. Leave the copper coins. Do you have the map? Good, let's get out of here."

4e is still my favored edition.
 

MwaO

Explorer
I don't think it really gets all that complex. If you don't live in certain high-density gamer parts of the world, you have the following people to deal with:
The guy who wants his PC to be as simple as possible - do the same attack every single round no matter what. And have the class name Fighter probably.

The guy who wants his PC to appear as complex as possible, but use some subset of it. Also wants to destroy non-combat scenarios by casting spells. Most of which is accomplished by build, not by actual smart tactical play. i.e. the player wants to appear smart to other players simply by the complexity and usefulness of his build. Not because the player is actually smart.

-----

If you live in a low-density gamer part of the world, that's a problem in initial 4e. The simple guy is kind of a Ranger, but even then, not *that* simple. The complex guy is actually relatively complex, but not in a fire and forget way, but rather you have to carefully think about your choices - in a way that non-controllers don't have to think about. And for traditional Wizard players, they don't look smart.

Toss in that initial 4e adventures were awful and a competing source of good adventures showed up(Pathfinder), that was really all it needed to take. If you notice, 5e's focus is almost entirely on good adventure content, not additional crunch. You live in a low-density area, you end up playing Pathfinder because otherwise you have two sullen players in your group.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
I agree that 4e as written in the initial books had less attention to practical matters than other editions and I am in two minds about it. On one level I dont have enough time IRL to when I do play to detail every minutiae - lets get straight to the action. I dont want count arrows or how many sheets of toilet paper I have left. On the other I think heroic tier should have more a survival feel to it and rituals that avoid resources should be higher level etc. I do think that 4e started off a bit too heroic.

That said, I have started to play a 4e Dark Sun campaign and we are counting water bottles! So like many things in 4e you can deviate from the tone of the initial 4e books
 
Eh, its easy enough to do fairly detailed resource games with heroic 4e. Toss the 'sun rod' which obviates all considerations of lighting or running out of light, and the rest of the equipment rules are pretty similar to earlier editions of D&D, though the equipment list is a little lean it has the most important stuff.

The DMG has rules for what happens when you've got no light, exposure to the elements, and starvation, which pretty well covers the "got the wrong equipment for this, boss" end of things. Hirelings are missing (though added in MME, and easy enough to work in otherwise).

What's missing is the exploration focus of the game itself, you're supposed to pretty much just go from interesting location to interesting fantastic location and do cool stuff, not draw a map of every bloody passage in between. Yet the mechanical basis of doing so is there, mapping is even discussed at one point. The lack of things like random encounters is a bit of an issue, though.

Its true, 4e wasn't focused on exploration resource game, crawl play. OTOH a LOT of 1e adventures aren't that either, but they're stuck with rules that assume it. I was just considering the various OA modules that are being read over on RPG.net right now, and ALL of them work far better as 4e modules than as 1e modules. Maybe not in every detail, but in terms of general theme.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
I do not know if I agree on this. I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc. In previous edition you as a fighter almost only had to care about Hit Points, that was it. Then you had to fiddle with potions, and other finite resources, which 4th Edition tried to limit but brought back in later books. The complexity hit everybody, not only spell casters. Some players did not like that.

Then you can always play the game differently, but 4th edition in its "tone of communication" from WotC was very much "play it this way or the highway". WotC learnt this the hard way and in 5e they were much more humble and provides great options for DMs that want to have another style of play, pre-built into the rules - thereby pleasing a much larger crowd of players and DMs.

I also think that some of the "d&d feeling" got lost in the ambitions to make descriptions simple, small things like a bag of holding exploding if put into an extra dimensional space. These were small things that helped in creating the "magic" feeling of D&D. I am putting these text snippets back into my magic item descriptions before handing them out these days.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
You want to talk about feel?
Was I really supposed to take an edition where the designers tried to tell me that magic arrows didn't exist seriously?
 

darkbard

Explorer
You want to talk about feel?
Was I really supposed to take an edition where the designers tried to tell me that magic arrows didn't exist seriously?
Thank you for your trolling; please move along now. You might consider using the time constructively to actually learn the rules of a game you didn't take seriously. Like, for example, how 4E does indeed include magic ammunition as well as magic bows, etc.
 
I do not know if I agree on this. I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc. In previous edition you as a fighter almost only had to care about Hit Points, that was it. Then you had to fiddle with potions, and other finite resources, which 4th Edition tried to limit but brought back in later books. The complexity hit everybody, not only spell casters. Some players did not like that.

Then you can always play the game differently, but 4th edition in its "tone of communication" from WotC was very much "play it this way or the highway". WotC learnt this the hard way and in 5e they were much more humble and provides great options for DMs that want to have another style of play, pre-built into the rules - thereby pleasing a much larger crowd of players and DMs.

I never got the feeling they wanted you to 'hit the highway' if you didn't play the way the playtesters imagined the game being played. It was a new game, and they explained its play style, they didn't spend a lot of time talking about how to tweak that. I don't recall that 1e, 2e, or really even 3e or 3.5e did either, though they accumulated a lot of traditions and materials that (because these systems are largely conceptually analogous and can support similar techniques) remained a part of the corpus of D&D, until 4e changed all the rules. I can see why 5e went to such pains to explicitly talk about this. Really though, IMHO each edition pretty well plays a specific style well and none of them is exceptionally more flexible than the others.

I also think that some of the "d&d feeling" got lost in the ambitions to make descriptions simple, small things like a bag of holding exploding if put into an extra dimensional space. These were small things that helped in creating the "magic" feeling of D&D. I am putting these text snippets back into my magic item descriptions before handing them out these days.
I think it is a bit more general than that even. All those little quirky things were definitely part of the color of the game, but so were all the oddities of each spell, and even particular rules. I think 4e could have cultivated some of this color a lot better too. It has its own equivalents, but that doesn't mollify tradition very well.
 

cavalier973

Visitor
I think 4th edition rather made every character have to care about resources - healing surges left, action points left, second winds left, encounter powers left, daily powers left, etc.
Exactly so; the character's resources in 4E were "within himself", as it were, while in other editions the resources were what the character has in his knapsack.

If you haven't watched Matthew Colville's excellent series "How to make a fighter in every edition of D&D, I recommend you do so. In one of the episodes, he rolls a low ability score, then comments that it's a problem soon remedied by equipment scoured from the dungeons (i.e. Belt of Ogre's Strength, etc.)

In 4e, there isn't the fear of the character losing what makes him effective as an adventurer, since he has an array of powers that are always accessible.
 

RedSiegfried

Visitor
It's weird, I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the "feel" of 4e vs. Pathfinder and he found it unbelievable that no matter what version of D&D my group plays, it always ends up having the same "feel." Because as a group of people we always focus on the things we enjoy the most, regardless of whether the system has fully fleshed out support for that aspect. I think it makes me appreciate or (or not) the particular system for its own particular game engine/rules engine and game elements and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the "tone" it sets because in my mind, the "tone" is what you bring to the table, not what you get from the books.

In our case, it's about big heroism, dramatic moments, trash talk, lots of action and humor and not as much about resource management or exploration. But we've always played that way from Basic D&D through 1e, 2e, 3e, (and a very long Neverwinter Nights campaign) PF, 4e, 13A and 5e. (Yes, I do play with some of the same folks I started with almost 35 years ago - really!)
 
Exactly so; the character's resources in 4E were "within himself", as it were, while in other editions the resources were what the character has in his knapsack.

If you haven't watched Matthew Colville's excellent series "How to make a fighter in every edition of D&D, I recommend you do so. In one of the episodes, he rolls a low ability score, then comments that it's a problem soon remedied by equipment scoured from the dungeons (i.e. Belt of Ogre's Strength, etc.)

In 4e, there isn't the fear of the character losing what makes him effective as an adventurer, since he has an array of powers that are always accessible.
Well, 'classic' D&D was about testing the player. Characters were almost like units in a wargame back in the day. I'm not saying it wasn't RP, but the mindset came out of games, and it was primarily about the player, with characters being fairly secondary. So what the character's attributes were was relatively less important. Every character was pretty equal (in the original OD&D rules there were no attribute bonuses at all for instance) and it was about what you accumulated and what you DID with the character. If you had a certain character ability it was basically static and universal (all dwarves could detect sloping passages, it didn't matter what your WIS or INT was, nor was there an option to have some other ability instead).

Now, 2e started to diverge from that pattern to SOME extent, there were kits and a few build options, NWPs, etc and by then the emphasis of the game had shifted more onto what the characters were doing, what their story was, RPing them, etc. Still, aside from some random differences due to ability scores, a fighter was pretty much a fighter, etc.

4e certainly didn't invent the 'new way' here though, 3e definitely did that! By introducing feats if nothing else (though I would say ala-carte MCing and PrCs are at least as indicative of this) 3e made each character unique, though ironically the 'standard array' and point systems actually removed variations in ability scores.

Anyway, 4e definitely does internalize a lot more of what makes a character what he is, as part of its "all characters are heroes" ethos. Oddly the game didn't quite follow through on that mechanically, as items are pretty vital to all characters, at least until PHB3/DS introduced inherent bonuses (admittedly we used them as early as 2008 though). One of those interesting aspects of 4e where it promised and then stepped back a bit from fully delivering.
 
It's weird, I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the "feel" of 4e vs. Pathfinder and he found it unbelievable that no matter what version of D&D my group plays, it always ends up having the same "feel." Because as a group of people we always focus on the things we enjoy the most, regardless of whether the system has fully fleshed out support for that aspect. I think it makes me appreciate or (or not) the particular system for its own particular game engine/rules engine and game elements and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the "tone" it sets because in my mind, the "tone" is what you bring to the table, not what you get from the books.

In our case, it's about big heroism, dramatic moments, trash talk, lots of action and humor and not as much about resource management or exploration. But we've always played that way from Basic D&D through 1e, 2e, 3e, (and a very long Neverwinter Nights campaign) PF, 4e, 13A and 5e. (Yes, I do play with some of the same folks I started with almost 35 years ago - really!)
Yeah, mostly I feel pretty similar. I've been a real 4e advocate, but in terms of playing D&D we really always played kind of the same game. 4e made it a bit easier for us to do what we always did, so we latched onto it, but all versions were fun and the feel was largely coming from us, not from the rules. I've continued to set my D&D adventures in the same world going all the way back to when I drew the first map in maybe 1976, lol. The basic premise of high adventure and heroic action has held throughout.

But, you know, this is something that should feel pretty familiar to anyone that has played for a long time. I mean FR is still around, and it was a 1e setting, probably Greenwood even played it with earlier rules than that. Its all D&D, with chromatic dragons, dungeons filled with goblins, weird half-sci-fi monsters, fetch-quests, etc. Still populated with fighters, clerics, wizards, and rogues, same as ever! hehe.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
You want to talk about feel?
Was I really supposed to take an edition where the designers tried to tell me that magic arrows didn't exist seriously?
Jilted lover attitude coupled with utter misunderstanding/lack of comprehension of the thing you're jilted lovering over? No way. How original.

But this is an obscure one to be wrong about; deep, deep in the well. Huhumm....

Firestorm ArrowLevel 3+ Uncommon
The charred wood of this arrow seems to shimmer with heat.
Lvl 3 +1 30 gp Lvl 18 +4 3,400 gp
Lvl 8 +2 125 gp Lvl 23 +5 17,000 gp
Lvl 13 +3 650 gp Lvl 28 +6 85,000 gp
Ammunition: Arrow
Enhancement Bonus: attack rolls and damage rolls
Property
When you hit an enemy using this ammunition, that enemy and each creature adjacent to it take 1d6 extra fire damage per plus.
Why didn't you just choose to be wrong about old saws like:

1) FIRE KEYWORD EFFECTS CAN'T SET THINGS ON FIRE BECAUSE TARGET CREATURES!
2) THE SITUATION SHOULDN'T CHANGE AND THE FICTION DOESN'T MATTER TO SKILL CHALLENGES SO JUST KEEP ROLLING ATHLETICS TO PRESS THAT KING'S THRONE UNTIL HE IS IMPRESSED DAMNITALL!
3) MARTIAL MIND CONTROL!
4) SHOUTING ARMS BACK ON!
5) FIGHTERS CASTING SPELLS!

I mean that doesn't even qualify as off the top of my head. Stick with those 5. You'll have an enormous group of GRARG D&D4E STOLE MY GIRLFRIEND shallowly wrong about nearly every thing group-thinkers to keep you company. You guys can burn your books and grave-dance together while live Facebooking the whole thing! Many likes will ensue!
 
D&D was originally a game about exploration and resource management with combat elements
I know dungeon crawling and running out of hps & CLW spells was a big deal and all, but D&D was still a Wargame. Said so right on the cover, y'know.

Based on my understanding of the rules, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and now 5th Edition all attempt to maintain this tension between the "how many arrows the PC can recover post-battle" part of play versus the "hitting the Dragon in the heart with the PC's last arrow" part
Meh. The game evolved little in the first 25 years. Resource management has always been part of it, for good reasons (hps, IMHO) and bad (Vancian casting, ditto). The bigger changes in the WotC years have been in focuse. 3e & 4e were very player focused, 5e is very DM focused.

the 4th Edition rules seemed to have abandoned (or made irrelevant) the resource management part of the game.
I have two, small, issues with this idea.

1) Who cares? It's dead.

2) Resource management was very much a thing in 4e, it just wasn't instrumental in wrecking class balance, only in wrecking encounter balance.

The rules havsections on equipment, the effect of weight,on movement, and such, but the allowances are so large that they have little effect, RAW, in how the characters interact with the game world. This accounts, I think, for the complaint that 4e "didn't feel like D&D".
Trivial. Maybe some folks did love the minutia of tracking every gp of weight (and where you kept each item, and how much each container weighed based on the obscure chart that came with the character sheets... I think I've said too much). But, ahem, maybe 'they' got over it as they got much, much older. ;)

But, seriously, you were closer to the mark with resource management. The thing that made 4e not feel like D&D was that casters had far fewer, far lower-impact spells, and non-casters had their own tricks that were comparable in both number and effectiveness. The resource management game was open to all PCs. That didn't feel like D&D. It felt like game balance. ;P

In other words, I don't think it's a "grittiness" factor, in itself, that is the source of the complaint. One can,pump up the danger of a 4e game quite easily.
That, I'll agree with.

It is, rather, the idea that the characters can effectively ignore mundane matters
Not so much, no. I mean, with the right spell choices you can quite easily start ignoring a lot of mundane matters in any edition. You can actually have a more crushingly mundane (but still playable) campaign in 4e, if you limit PCs to martial classes, use inherent bonuses instead of items, and ban rituals.

4e is still my favored edition.
I definitely appreciate 4e. I love some of the player options, and that they're not automatically inferior to others. I like what I can do with a build, without wrecking the game for everyone else. It's also terribly easy to run (I'm finishing off a 4e campaign, about 2-3 hrs a week devoted to it, and it's really not that much effort... even though the highest level PC just hit 22nd, It'd be a full-time job to run for 22nd-level 3.5 PCs.

OTOH, my first love will always be 1e AD&D. I'll play or run it once in a blue moon for the sheer nostalgia of it. I know how bad the system is, but it doesn't matter. Love is like that.

But there's two editions that have a special place: it's called the market. 3.5 (as PF) and 5e are /in print/. New stuff comes out for them. You can't beat that. And, between the two of them, they're a great gaming experience for me. Playing 3.5 is loads of fun, I can customize and trick out a build that neatly hits some concept on the nose - doesn't matter if it's a little over or under powered, it's playing exactly the character you envision that's awesome. Conversely, 5e is a blast to run. It's like 1e, except it's easy to find new players to torture I mean nurture. Yeah.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
I started in 1981 and went to a "heroic adventure" model from pretty much the first adventure that I ran. The Four Yorkshireman-style of play that a lot of old schoolers prefer just never grabbed me. I wanted something that felt like fantasy fiction or even fantasy cinema, not that there was much of each to choose from at the time.

The reason I took to 4E was that it delivered on that original vision that I had in a way that other editions, especially the Four Yorkshiremen editions, did not. So, for me, 4E felt right and felt like what I had always wanted D&D to be.

So, while I can understand why people choose not to like 4E, I have never understood the argument that it didn't "feel" like D&D. Au contraire; IME, it's the only edition that does! :) (YMMV. IMO. All other standard disclaimers apply.)
 

JeffB

Hero
(in the original OD&D rules there were no attribute bonuses at all for instance)
This is simply not true. There are attribute based bonuses for missle fire, additonal languages, xp, loyalty and henchmen, hit points and resurrection/system shock, in Men & Magic.

Taking into account Prime Requisite bonus for XP (strength for fighting men and wisdom for clerics), All attributes provide some sort of bonus or penalty. That xp bonus was pretty key BITD, and is given far less weight today by theorists than by those of us who played with those rules.
 
This is simply not true. There are attribute based bonuses for missle fire, additonal languages, xp, loyalty and henchmen, hit points and resurrection/system shock, in Men & Magic.

Taking into account Prime Requisite bonus for XP (strength for fighting men and wisdom for clerics), All attributes provide some sort of bonus or penalty. That xp bonus was pretty key BITD, and is given far less weight today by theorists than by those of us who played with those rules.
Meh, I played, I'm no 'theorist', OK? You're right though, I'd forgotten that DEX could actually give you a combat bonus. None of the other minor advantages of a higher stat were, at least IMHO or that of people I remember playing with, really notable. Sure, it was nice to have an XP bonus, but it was almost a rounding error. The extra hit point from CON was a pretty decent perk, especially if you were an M.U. but it hardly elevated your character to a new plane of capability, etc. Having high stats was interesting and desirable, it just wasn't something earth-shattering. You hoped your hight-stat guy lived, but characters WERE essentially pretty much disposable until they got to 3rd or 4th level. One of the beefs I remember we had with the 'new rules' (1e) was how it took at least 5-10 minutes to look up all the various benefits of having higher stats plus your class options and racial stuff, which interfered with getting back into the fight quick (after you died again).

So, at least for us, the feel of early D&D was pure meatgrinder with characters that usually didn't even earn a name until third level.
 

Igwilly

Visitor
Not trying to start a flame war here, but at some time ago, I figured out a big difference between D&D 4e and “classic” D&D:
You know when people told about how 4e was an MMORPG? Well, 4e is, by no means, a video-game. However, if you start to compare electronic RPG genres with D&D editions, you see that 4e has a significant familiarity with another electronic RPG genre: Tactical RPG.
This doesn’t mean that 4e is a video-game, but rather that D&D 4e is to classic D&D as Final Fantasy Tactics subseries are to the main series.
Due to tactical combat nature, the very adventuring structure changed. Encounters were no more numerous and quick, but fewer and more important. Terrain, area effects, distances, all of that matter much more here. Strategy was no longer the king: tactics was sovereign with it – strategy and tactics are different things. That’s a fundamental change in how encounters are made.
I already did a research about the Tactical RPG genre: once you realize the difference between them and traditional Western/Eastern RPGs, you will see that it’s more or less the same difference between D&D 4e and classic D&D.
This obviously has nothing to do with fluff, story or roleplay.
4e, despite the problems I stacked when I was playing, remains one of my favorite RPG systems; the nature of combat is still very appealing to me.
 

JeffB

Hero
Meh, I played, I'm no 'theorist', OK? You're right though, I'd forgotten that DEX could actually give you a combat bonus. None of the other minor advantages of a higher stat were, at least IMHO or that of people I remember playing with, really notable. Sure, it was nice to have an XP bonus, but it was almost a rounding error. The extra hit point from CON was a pretty decent perk, especially if you were an M.U. but it hardly elevated your character to a new plane of capability, etc. Having high stats was interesting and desirable, it just wasn't something earth-shattering. You hoped your hight-stat guy lived, but characters WERE essentially pretty much disposable until they got to 3rd or 4th level. One of the beefs I remember we had with the 'new rules' (1e) was how it took at least 5-10 minutes to look up all the various benefits of having higher stats plus your class options and racial stuff, which interfered with getting back into the fight quick (after you died again).

So, at least for us, the feel of early D&D was pure meatgrinder with characters that usually didn't even earn a name until third level.
Sorry. Posting while under the influence of Benadryl. The theorist comment was not personal. I meant to phrase in a general "osr theorists" way.

All good points and of course Greyhawk and beyond, stats became more meaningful. As a player of fighter types, the XP bonus and especially missle fire came in handy when we used Chainmail's man to man rules. +1 on 2d6 vs. 1d20. Extra attacks against the hordes as well. I often was 1 to 2 levels above the MUs in the party.
 
Not trying to start a flame war here, but at some time ago, I figured out a big difference between D&D 4e and “classic” D&D:
You know when people told about how 4e was an MMORPG? Well, 4e is, by no means, a video-game...
I have to admire the fortitude you display in taking on such a fraught subject....

However, if you start to compare electronic RPG genres with D&D editions, you see that 4e has a significant familiarity with another electronic RPG genre: Tactical RPG.
This doesn’t mean that 4e is a video-game, but rather that D&D 4e is to classic D&D as Final Fantasy Tactics subseries are to the main series.
Due to tactical combat nature, the very adventuring structure changed. Encounters were no more numerous and quick, but fewer and more important. Terrain, area effects, distances, all of that matter much more here. Strategy was no longer the king: tactics was sovereign with it – strategy and tactics are different things. That’s a fundamental change in how encounters are made.
I don't dispute that if you use say 2e (which was getting very storytellerish in some ways), ignoring C&T, as the baseline, 4e is radically more 'tactical' (as well as better balanced, clearer, and more player-oriented, etc). But, IMHO, the tactical aspect was very much there in 1e (and I suspect 0D&D, wargame that it professed to be), area and positioning mattered /a lot/ in 1e, when spell AEs were tightly defined and dangerous to allies, for instance. Furthermore, that difference was one of evolutionary change. 2e pulled away from wargaming and dungeoncrawling roots and hedged a bit towards storytelling and setting-first. In spite of that 2e C&T brought in and re-emphasized tactics. 3e went 'back to the dungeon' and gave us more & better tactical aspects in combat, building on C&T. 4e further built on that.

Also, 4e wasn't more focused on combat (tactical or otherwise) than past editions, in fact, it was the first edition to try to handle non-combat in a more whole-party-involvement, complex/interesting way.

Finally, strategy could come into 4e, it just didn't consist of winning chargen or presciently choosing the to memorize the right 'I win button' that morning.


I already did a research about the Tactical RPG genre: once you realize the difference between them and traditional Western/Eastern RPGs, you will see that it’s more or less the same difference between D&D 4e and classic D&D.
This obviously has nothing to do with fluff, story or roleplay.
That is an interesting insight, though.
 

Advertisement

Top