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D&D 4E SRD5 Yet another chance to clone 4e?

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
I just had this strange thought process, the SRD5 has a lot of key words form 4e open, these include Second Wind, Channel divinity, Warlock, Dragonborn, Healing word, cutting words, action surge...

So cloning 4e would be even more viable now. What do you think?
 

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Nagol

Unimportant
The biggest issue with cloning 4e was and remains the rewrite (and by necessity the renaming) of all the class powers.

Even if a someone sits down to clone 4e, current characters would need to map their original powers to the new powers -- not a hard process, but an annoying one that would reduce interest in the switch.

SRD5 does nothing to reduce that load.
 

MwaO

Explorer
I don't think it is as bad as it sounds - just make a point buy for powers - 1w is worth X, +1w is worth Y, various conditions are worth A, B, etc...
 


MwaO

Explorer
I think a set of generic powers for 4e could go a long way. Might be a start anyway.

Let's say I have a hypothetical power where a 1w+stat damage attack that stuns. And the cost of the system is that you can get it with the Rogue class at 13th level.

There just so happens to be such a power for the Rogue in 4e. Which means that if we have that power and it can be pointed out, then that also means every Rogue 13 power in theory can be slotted into that same slot.

i.e. you don't have to duplicate powers, you simply need to leave a really big trail of breadcrumbs that anyone can figure out...
 

darjr

I crit!
Also maybe have powers that are more flexible? That the player could have options on, either during play or during character leveling/creation. That way you could get away with fewer powers.
 

MwaO

Explorer
Also maybe have powers that are more flexible? That the player could have options on, either during play or during character leveling/creation. That way you could get away with fewer powers.

Another thing you can do is give specific classes ways of modifying powers. Wizard finds it cheap to add close blast or area burst while Invoker adds multiple target or close burst easily. Not to say that they can't do what the other class does, just that Invoker is better at multi-target/close burst than Wizard.

In general, I think it is a good idea to have set powers - it lowers complexity during play, which is often helpful for about a third of the table.
 

darjr

I crit!
Weren't there classes that didn't have powers? Couldn't that be tried? Or is the lack of powers a deal breaker?
 

MwaO

Explorer
Weren't there classes that didn't have powers? Couldn't that be tried? Or is the lack of powers a deal breaker?

Sure. The general problem with lack of powers(i.e. most of the melee classes in 5e) for 4e players is that they're not usually looking for such low complexity characters.

Essentials in a nutshell was a bunch of things that 4e players wouldn't use and people playing Pathfinder or 3.5 still wouldn't look at it. While making the system less interesting at the same time because it heavily emphasized feat taxes instead of just fixing the math - "Hey, everybody, get +1/2/3 to all defenses and to-hit rolls at 5/15/25. This does not stack with either feat or item bonuses."

Yes, a bunch of choices turn mostly useless unless you take both the feat and the item - but at least then, they're not boring choices...
 

D'karr

Adventurer
I never had much of a problem with Essentials classes because in effect they fit right in with the more complex classes with mostly no issues. My son, for example, prefers the Slayer to the Fighter specifically because of the simplicity and being able to effectively switch from melee to range. Should they have fixed the math at Essentials time? Probably, but then you would have had some incompatibility within printed product lines and a lot more nerdrage. The math fixes you mention are exactly what we implemented and had no issue with leaving the feats if someone wanted to further have better accuracy. The core of 4e is very robust and a bonus here and there are not really going to "break" the system.

The main issue with the OP is that you really don't need an OGL, at all, to clone 4e. Game mechanics themselves are not copyrightable and anyone with the time, inclination and effort could put out a system completely compatible with 4e. But that is the issue you have to spend the time, and effort to not infringe on those things that actually are copyright. Most people that want to go the clone route simply want to copy verbatim from document A and paste to document B and call it a day. You can absolutely do that for personal use, but can't do at all in any form for distribution.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
The main issue with the OP is that you really don't need an OGL, at all, to clone 4e. Game mechanics themselves are not copyrightable and anyone with the time, inclination and effort could put out a system completely compatible with 4e. But that is the issue you have to spend the time, and effort to not infringe on those things that actually are copyright. Most people that want to go the clone route simply want to copy verbatim from document A and paste to document B and call it a day. You can absolutely do that for personal use, but can't do at all in any form for distribution.

Well, of course you must be careful not to infringe, but at least now we can call Action surge, Action surge, second wind, second wind, and Warlock, Warlock. So now we can keep the mechanics the same and recognizable, I've seen some attempts to clone 4e that are basically full of new jargon to learn and can't be used alongside existing material because it gets confusing.
 

D'karr

Adventurer
You could have done that already, the name of a mechanic is no more copyrighted than the mechanic itself, which was my point. But you have to have your own presentation and wording for the mechanic, which is where the real level of effort comes in. Compatibility even though very time consuming is not that complicated. You can call a mechanic that restores hit points on a standard action, by using healing surges - second wind. But you can't use the exact same wording that WotC used in their books. Some try to do that by introducing different jargon, and that sometimes is easier, but not always necessary.

The reason a viable clone has not appeared is simply because it is very time consuming and requires effort, and for what? 4e already has most all of the rules it needs and is a, mostly, complete product. All that work should pay off in some way to whoever decides to pursue that endeavor, and nobody has the advantage Paizo had.

The reason pathfinder rules exist in the form that they do is because Paizo was saavy and saw an opportunity to continue publishing and making money on the bandwagon they already had, and the loyal subscribers they had made during their tenure on Dragon and Dungeon magazine. They used the SRD to keep a lot of things the same, and the OGL so they could easily use the IP. Then they modified their own mechanics to "expand" 3.x in the ways that they saw better benefited what they wanted.
 
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ccs

41st lv DM
The biggest issue with cloning 4e was and remains the rewrite (and by necessity the renaming) of all the class powers.

I'd think the biggest issue(s) would be:
1) cloning the digital tools so many 4e fans relied upon.
2) Lack of demand.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
I'd think the biggest issue(s) would be:
1) cloning the digital tools so many 4e fans relied upon.
2) Lack of demand.

I agree.

If I hadn't found cloned tools to replace the online tools (which will eventually be turned off) I don't think we would be continuing with 4E as much as I personally love it (it remains my favourite edition from the 35 years I've been DMing and playing). You could probably argue that they are intrinsic to the 4E experience.

But the other fact remains: 4E is simply not as popular.
 

SRD5 Yet another chance to clone 4e?
No & No.

No, it could not possibly be 'another' chance to clone 4e, since there were no previous chances to clone 4e. 4e is governed by the extremely restrictive and unfavorable-to-3pps GSL, it is not possible to 'clone' anything under the GSL, only use references back to the original. Cloning 4e would be illegal. It's the only past edition of D&D that absolutely can't be cloned.

And, no, the 5e does not open up that possiblity. The 5e SRD, though a lot better than what 4e had, leaves out enough to prevent an outright Pathfinder-style 'clone' of 5e. You could create a fairly 5e-compatible game with 5e SRD, that has the same classes, but mostly different sub-classes, which falls shy of an actual clone. But it doesn't come close to allowing cloning, or even supporting, 4e. A few similar terms notswithstanding.
 


Raith5

Adventurer
I agree.

If I hadn't found cloned tools to replace the online tools (which will eventually be turned off) I don't think we would be continuing with 4E as much as I personally love it (it remains my favourite edition from the 35 years I've been DMing and playing). You could probably argue that they are intrinsic to the 4E experience.

But the other fact remains: 4E is simply not as popular.

I have always seen the need to have online tools as a problem of 4e. If the game is so complex that it needs a computer program to set up your character - well, for me that is sign of a problem.

While it is hard to disagree with the latter point, I still think there are particular elements of 4e that could have broader appeal to some segments of the 5e community. I am sure there are some that would like the option of more complex melee classes for instance.

But this leads to me to think that the SRD may be a chance for someone to create 4e inspired modules for 5e, rather than revamping 4e itself.
 

I already have a working streamlined 4e Retroclone? Which at some point I must develop more.

Yeah...it's the sixth word of that sentence that sets my teeth on edge. "Streamlined" is possibly the most political word one can use in the context of game design, because nobody wants whatever the opposite of "streamlined" is (probably "clunky," though Thesaurus.com recommends "rough," "coarse," and "inefficient"), but not everybody wants whatever "streamlined" does mean. It's a beautiful paradox, where one can claim to be pursuing an unequivocal good--because nobody wants its opposite--while creating something that isn't unequivocally good.

I have always seen the need to have online tools as a problem of 4e. If the game is so complex that it needs a computer program to set up your character - well, for me that is sign of a problem.

While it is hard to disagree with the latter point, I still think there are particular elements of 4e that could have broader appeal to some segments of the 5e community. I am sure there are some that would like the option of more complex melee classes for instance.

But this leads to me to think that the SRD may be a chance for someone to create 4e inspired modules for 5e, rather than revamping 4e itself.

First: Do not conflate need with desire. It is, was, and always will be completely possible to create a character with just a book or two (typically, the book where the class was first published, plus whatever *Power book is appropriate). The only thing the tools do for you is make it super duper ultra incredibly easy to do it, and give you super duper ultra convenient access to all the various and sundry additional sources (setting books, mag articles, little bonus books like the PHB Races stuff, etc.) all at once.

You don't need a computer--to say nothing of an internet connection--to create a 4e character any more than you needed one to create a late-era 3.5e character, nor to create a current-day Pathfinder character. But if you want to make optimal use of all possible resources for creating a character, then some kind of electronic aid makes things easier. Alternatively, you could just do what I've always done (even when I *had* a DDI sub): Check out the 4e class guides, now transferred from the WotC forums to ENworld. They're harder to use, now that they've undergone a double format shift (first the total trashing of WotC's old format stuff, and then dropping the forums entirely), but TBH they're even faster than using the digital tools was.

Second: Yes, god yes, please give me classes with more levers and switches that aren't spellcasting.

Third: The appearance of several previously-copyright-locked terms in the SRD is certainly useful for anyone pursuing a clone. I agree that it's still about the same task it was before, this has just done away with an inconvenience that would have affected both the writer (coming up with, and consistently using, "copyright-safe" terms) and the reader (making sure to dislodge those connections held in the head). Most people who have enough interest to clone 4e are also aware of its flaws, and thus interested in tinkering with it anyway. (See the previous reply :p)

Also, [MENTION=336]D'karr[/MENTION]: The name of a mechanic may actually be copyrightable. It's a bit of a legal grey area, as I understand it (standard disclaimer, IANAL, etc.) Words like "card" and "dice," which refer to implements, cannot be copyrighted. And certain terms that have been in use by too many other companies (like "HP," "experience," "level," etc.) can't either. But something pretty specific, e.g. "Healing Surge," may be copyrightable...and given the toeing-the-legal-limits nature of most "cloning" projects, it's usually considered unwise to do anything that even might be a problem.

I mean, remember that the color and shape of the Tetris blocks--which, incidentally, are merely the mathematical set of "one-sided" tetrominoes, that is, ones that can be rotated but not reflected, plus particular associated colors--is considered something that can be protected by copyright, at least in conjunction with enough other similarities (the precedent set by the Xio/Tetris case is...a bit fraught, I'm afraid). Now, the name of one specific mechanic might not meet such a critical-aesthetic-component-of-the-game standard, but freely "stealing" such terms without care and without a license can be invitation for a C&D or a threat of suit...which, given that it would be Hasbro's legal team on the case, would bankrupt any potential "cloner." So the threat is usually enough to end any aspirations.
 
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Yeah...it's the sixth word of that sentence that sets my teeth on edge. "Streamlined" is possibly the most political word one can use in the context of game design, because nobody wants whatever the opposite of "streamlined" is (probably "clunky," though Thesaurus.com recommends "rough," "coarse," and "inefficient"), but not everybody wants whatever "streamlined" does mean. It's a beautiful paradox, where one can claim to be pursuing an unequivocal good--because nobody wants its opposite--while creating something that isn't unequivocally good.

In game design terms the opposite of streamlined is "detailed". Or sometimes "realistic". And both of those are used as positives.

Streamlining a system means taking out bits you don't normally use. In this case ability scores and piles of feats and powers (each heroic tier class fits on a double sided trifold).

A big part of the purpose of this is, of course, to break away from the need for the character builder.
 

In game design terms the opposite of streamlined is "detailed". Or sometimes "realistic". And both of those are used as positives.

Streamlining a system means taking out bits you don't normally use. In this case ability scores and piles of feats and powers (each heroic tier class fits on a double sided trifold).

A big part of the purpose of this is, of course, to break away from the need for the character builder.

Ah, yes, I remember reading about Trifold 4e on another forum, particularly when I noted that your Paladin/Cleric had the option to use a torch. (You may recognize the first part of my username.)

Though the cost of streamlining is fairly well-indicated by the advice a similar game--Dungeon World--gives for its players. Avoid letting two people play the same class, because they'll end up too similar for most of the game. Your trifolds are a little different, in that each usually provided three flavors for whatever the class was (albeit sometimes getting those flavors by cannibalizing another class or three), but I still suspect there would be some...issues with having overlapping classes. Particularly since that cannibalization results in fewer classes available to play.

Edit:
I will say, though, that having seen some of the alternate playbooks made for DW, that "streamlined" doesn't have to necessitate fewer bits and bobs and levers on the player side of things. You have to be more economical with what you put in the player's hands, but that isn't the same as not providing deep strategic possibilities. The Grim World Battlemaster--which, sadly, I have not yet played--was the real eye-opener for me on that front. It's a nearly perfect translation of the 4e Warlord--despite the *World system having no initiative, being purely theater-of-the-mind, and featuring no meaningful forced movement and very minimal in-combat healing. In other words, it's a translation which captures the ethos of the Warlord without needing any of the specific mechanics thereof.
 
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