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The MAYA Design Principle, or Why D&D's Future is Probably Going to Look Mostly Like Its Past

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Oh, my apologies. I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying Mike Mearls actively sabotaged the game. I didn't realize you were talking about others.
I may have felt that way when I saw Essentials, but, no, in retrospect it seems pretty clear he's been trying to do what's best for the game, at each turn, based on the position he's in at the time. Have to respect that.

Yeah, it sounds to me like you caught someone doing exactly that. I've not seen it in person but that disappoints me even while it doesn't surprise me.
It surprised the heck outta me at the time (Feb '09).
 
Actively sabotaged by Mike Mearls, too.

If 4e had had one quarter of the management backing and marketing resources that 5e has, we'd all still be playing it.
If by "we" you mean the niche subset of gamers that 4E specifically catered to their game style, then yes, sure. I played a ton of 4E and ultimately burned out on it badly due to the fact that the game was a lighting-strike perfect replica of a single, highly specific way to play D&D that by coincidence was not at all close to how I had been playing D&D since 1980 prior to that point.
 
4e had two problems:

1. The math didn't work out. The treadmill regarding monster stats vs PC stats meant that PCs became less likely to hit monsters at higher levels, and monsters generally took a bit too long to kill. This aspect was exacerbated by the game wanting to be focused around interesting "bossy" fights, while players and designers were still doing attrition-based adventures. This made the game tedious, at least when played as people were used to playing.

2. Too many radical changes. Adding tieflings (but now with a homogeneous look to make art direction and making miniatures easy) and dragonborn as core races (while dropping half-orcs and gnomes), dropping druids, sorcerers, monks, and bards as core classes (while adding warlords and warlocks), making the ranger non-magical, creating an implied setting based around a conflict between primordials/elementals and gods, mucking around with the planes, and so on. And FR made it even worse, pushing its timeline about a hundred years ahead and replacing Maztica with a different continent and changing all sorts of stuff. These made the game feel like just one more of the gazillion of games that are sort of like D&D but not quite.
And those are just the minor changes. The top problem for many (myself for sure) with 4E was that it fundamentally changed how I could play D&D. From 1980 to 2003 D&D was a game I played without minis. I did not own nor would I ever own minis until D&D 3.5 edition, when I did reluctantly get in to using them with one group (and hated it), primarily because they were necessary to the mechanics as written. By 4E even the possibility of Theater of the Mind as a thing you could manage with good mental imaging of the battlefield was suddenly gone. Diseases and poisons (that weren't a tiny speed bump) were gone. The ability to pretend like hit points were a measure of actual physical health was gone. In fact, the entire concept of any imaginary nod toward verisimilitude was gone in favor of a mechanical implementation that didn't pretend to be anything other than a board game...gone.

Yikes, gonna stop! Don't need to derail this into a legacy 4E edition war again.

(FYI taken for what it was - a minis skirmish game with some RPG rules bolted on - it was quite enjoyable. But after two years of running it the cracks in the seams of 4E were growing thick and scary and virtually everyone who played D&D in my area had jumped ship by 2010-2011 and Pathfinder's arrival was practically an instant death knell, at least locally).
 
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Staffan

Explorer
(FYI taken for what it was - a minis skirmish game with some RPG rules bolted on - it was quite enjoyable. But after two years of running it the cracks in the seams of 4E were growing thick and scary and virtually everyone who played D&D in my area had jumped ship by 2010-2011 and Pathfinder's arrival was practically an instant death knell, at least locally).
Yeah, I think I could have found it quite enjoyable (with fixed math), had it been Just Another Fantasy RPG rather than D&D.

Then again, I guess there's 13th Age to scratch that itch.
 

HJFudge

Villager
Man some of ya'll got some PTSD about 4th edition heh. Where on the doll did the bad system touch you? :angel:

On a more 'on-topic' note, Familiarity and Exposure are comforting to people...especially if they remind them of better times. Nostalgia is a real force and its a force that the movie industry, television industry and the gaming industry have all been cashing in on hard of late. I do not expect this to change in the near future. So we'll all get to watch Avengers 10850 and see season 127849 of 'insert popular show here'
 
Yeah, I think I could have found it quite enjoyable (with fixed math), had it been Just Another Fantasy RPG rather than D&D.

Then again, I guess there's 13th Age to scratch that itch.
Not only that, but 13th Age managed to "bring back" varied playstyles while still retaining the core innovations of 4E...I love 13th Age, such a great game.
 

innerdude

Adventurer
Using @Umbran's evolution analogy, it feels like the RPG landscape is somewhat solidifying around five or six fairly distinct "genetic pools" in terms of rules systems. These are the ones where when we compare them to games we'll be playing 25 years from now, we'll look back and be able to trace their heritage to a common starting point.

1. D&D 5e is obviously far and away (85%+) the largest genetic pool. If individual players are "species members," at this point I don't think it's hyperbolic in any way to say that D&D 5e is the largest tabletop RPG "gene pool" / ecosystem in the hobby's history. And despite it now being a full 5 years following its release, it still doesn't feel like it's peaked in terms of popularity and economic viability. 5e isn't just a home run, it's a bases-loaded grand slam, followed by a triple, two walks, and another grand slam.

Clearly there's going to be some "genus" of the 5e genetic pool in the hobby for 20 years or more. It hasn't fully killed off 1e/OSR, or 3e/Pathfinder, but with each passing year, the holdovers from the prior editions shrink a little farther. I think 5e is now clearly established as its own baseline "core," related to but very much separate and distinct from everything that came before it.

What's interesting about this is that the drop off from the #1 to #2 "gene pool" is so massively precipitous, I can't really think of a valid analogy for an actual natural ecosystem. In the natural world, is there a species that dominates 85%+ of its ecosystem while still leaving viable space for other similar forms of life to exist?

The one that comes to mind is pigeons in large urban areas. There's no other bird species that has managed to thrive in modern urban conditions quite the same way. The other thought I had was alligators in Florida and the American South. They are the undisputed, peerless kings of their ecosystem (other than humans, of course). Yes, there's still a few "wild predators" that can coexist in the Florida swamps (bobcats, Florida panthers, etc.), but they are no threat to the alligator's place in the chain.

2. Fate --- Love it or hate it, it can't be denied that it's firmly established itself as a viable alternative to the more "traditional" kinds of play grounded in D&D.

3. Powered by the Apocalypse --- I don't know that I would have put this one up this high if it weren't for Blades in the Dark, but BitD is legitimately a groundbreaking "take" on the PbtA core that showed just how much design space there is left for this style of play.

4. Savage Worlds --- The Savage Worlds Adventurer's Edition and RIFTS for Savage Worlds Kickstarters showed that the Savage Worlds core is going to be around for some time to come. I have no hesitation believing that there will be some recognizable form of this rules system still around in 2045.

5. Genesys / Star Wars Narrative Dice System --- There's a fairly clear "gene pool" around this one, but I also happen to think that this particular system may be prone to falling by the wayside. I think an enterprising game developer could take this core and extend it much farther than where it is right now. But I do think that even if it's likely to get significantly refined over the next few years, I think we'll still see some variants/remnants of this in 25 years.

6. Other "non-D&D" brands that systematically align to prior D&D editions. From an evolution standpoint, I'd compare these to maybe something like, the ferret/weasel family. While no single species holds a dominant ecological position, as a group they collectively maintain a successful ecological niche (badgers, wolverines, ferrets, weasels, and otters).



Stuff that's going to die out:

1. GURPS --- GURPS 4e is now officially 15 years old. Every possible setting and situational rulebook under the sun exists for it. Yet despite a small blip on the radar with the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter two years ago, there's almost nothing to suggest that this is the gaming product people really want anymore. There hasn't been a printing of the core rulebooks in seven or eight years, and there's rumors around various Internet cloakrooms that Steve Jackson Games isn't really champing at the bit to issue re-prints.

Of course, there's always going to be that tiny, fractional percentage of die-hards that swear GURPS is the greatest gaming system ever made, but even what little audience GURPS had has shrunk significantly in the past 4-5 years.

I think GURPS is essentially at its "evergreen" phase now. Anyone who really wants to get into it can always buy the PDFs or hunt down the books second-hand, but a single 5,000 unit print run of the core books in 2020 or 2021 will be more than enough to satisfy the market over the next decade.

2. White Wolf --- "Man, I had so much fun playing Vampire back in the day. I'll never play it again, but man, it was fun while it lasted." <<<< common refrain shared with me from gaming peers regarding White Wolf / Storyteller. I'm sure there's a small niche out there that are still totally committed to the White Wolf campaign setting / universe, but history has (rightly) not been kind to the actual game system it uses. This may be personal bias on my part---White Wolf games have never been on my radar, even in the '90s at their height of popularity---but there's just no "buzz" in the industry right now for it.

The unfortunate handling of some recent source material in Russia has only added to the malaise, and the fact that the IP has bounced between no less than four different companies in the past seven years says something about it.

3. Fantasy AGE --- Beyond being the centerpiece of Wil Wheaton's streaming Valkana series on Tabletop, the system has never really gained any meaningful traction in terms of audience. It's going to be the classic victim of being too similar conceptually to D&D, while simultaneously being too different from D&D. It's in a pretty rough spot in the "MAYA" product chain.

4. Pathfinder --- This is probably a controversial take, but to me there's a very, very clear narrative of how this would happen in the next decade. Unless Pathfinder 2e manages to become a runaway hit that none of us expected, the real meat-and-potatoes of this brand is going to remain with the first edition and the veritable mountain of material available for it. Will anyone be shocked if two years from now Paizo basically accepts reality and just starts churning out its massive backstock of adventure paths for 5e, makes a mountain of money in the process, and doesn't seem bothered in the least that its original rule system is now basically "evergreen"? I honestly think Paizo would also be well served to partner with one of the other up-and-coming "species" and diversify the market for its IP.

If they released Rise of the Runelords, Crimson Throne, Kingmaker, et. al, for Savage Worlds? OH man . . . I'd be in heaven. That said, because of Pathfinder's roots in the OGL, it's probably going to remain on the market pretty much indefinitely, I just think that much like GURPS, it's going to be increasingly marginalized.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
If by "we" you mean the niche subset of gamers that 4E specifically catered to their game style, then yes, sure.
Its easy to forget that 4e was, in fact D&D, and, though it was challenged successfully by PF (which, only technically wasn't D&D) in some calendar quarters, was far too popular to be called 'niche' in the RPG context (though, to be fair, the entire RPG industry was a pretty small niche between the end of the success of 1e in the 80s and 5e, today).

So thus myth that 4e only catered to one play style isn't credible. 4e was as close to reasonably balanced as D&D has yet come, balance is conducive to /wider range of styles/, without resorting to rules-tinkering.

Of course, it didn't over-reward system mastery to nearly the degree 3.x did, didn't make specific strategies like scry/buff/teleport supreme or anything like that, so if a style hinged on something like that, it was no longer "supported" in the sense of achieving markedly better results than others.

Contrarily, classic D&D could be played in virtually any style the DM cared to encourage through variants or DM 'force,' or even just with the simple ultimatum "you run something, then." 4e was so easy to run that, well O.K., they will.

5e though compromised. It's not nearly so balanced or easy to run as 4e was, it does over-reward system mastery some, and does return most of the imaginary power of the play dynamic to the DM side of the screen.

And, it has AL.

So DMs can run it prettymuch however they want, but there is a consistent rule set, in AL, to be mastered. The biggest complaint, on that end, is that it's just too easy.

The top problem for myself with 4E was that it fundamentally changed how I could play D&D.
So, you didn't find yourself playing in a /familiar/ way.

From 1980 to 2003 D&D was a game I played without minis. I did not own nor would I ever own minis until D&D 3.5 edition, when I did reluctantly get in to using them with one group (and hated it), primarily because they were necessary to the mechanics as written. By 4E even the possibility of Theater of the Mind as a thing you could manage with good mental imaging of the battlefield was suddenly gone.
I found 4e easier to manage by visualizing the battlefield than 3e. Mainly because cubes are pretty easy, that way. As a consequence of counting diagonal as 1 as, circles and blasts became squares. (cubes in 3D)

That's a major simplification from from spreads and cones and spheres and 180 degree fans and whatnot - each of which, at each possible size, had a specific template to match it to the grid.
Gah.
But, because enough of that was /familiar/ from late-2e C&T, maybe it was OK, while the simpler, easier to visualize, but unfamiliar, squares were not.


Diseases and poisons (that weren't a tiny speed bump) were gone. The ability to pretend like hit points were a measure of actual physical health was gone.
None of those were gone, just, different (arguably, more consistently) implemented.
Disease got it's own sub-system that spanned across the usual daily cycle, so actually quite a bit more than a speed bump (also a pretty flexible little sub-system that could have been adapted to curses, long-term injuries or the like, but was under-utilized) - but compared to make a save or you need Cure Disease, maybe a little /unfamiliar/.
Poison was simply a damage type - very often ongoing damage, and could definitely kill you. Just not with a failed save - nor could Slow or Nuetralize Poison retroactively cure you from instant death. Another simplification, and while arguably intuitive, certainly /unfamiliar/.
As far as "Actual Physical Health," hps, alone, may have been a /familiar/ model to you, but 4e's was just a little different, bringing surges into it. If you're used to thinking of a full-hp PC as being in perfect "Actual Physical Health," then one being at full hp after a 5min break may seem the same - but, it's not, he's down surges, which you can also pretend represent Actual Physical Health - If you can handle that /unfamiliar/ act of make believe.


Yikes, gonna stop! Don't need to derail this into a legacy 4E edition war again.
Don't sweat it - you were actually very much on-topic, in an illustrative-example sort of way.
 
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LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
D&D and the RPGs are entertainment industry and they can't work like tech and hardware companies. Like the rest of blockbuster franchises of speculative fiction it has to sell something new but not too different. D&D is fantasy, and then most ideologically neutral, you can kiss-ass a lot of fictional humanoid races and this is more politically correct than facing Ottoman pirates, for example. And now the new generations are used to this, thanks videogames like Warcraft. RPGs are for geeks/fanboys who want to create their own amateur fan-fiction. When it starts nobody knows how is going to end the adventure, players don't know what they are going to find and DM can't be sure about PCs' reactions.

And now the open licence allow third company to risk and create new lines, showing new ideas.

And the pdf and internet also is changing this industry. To earn money we haven't to spend paper to print only, to wait. And pdfs can be updated if it is necessary.
 

The Monster

Explorer
Interesting thoughts around familiarity versus change (dare I call it innovation?).
My experience ran thus: I started with the three little booklets (plus Greyhawk, etc.) back the '70's. By the time they came out with any further edition, I had already branched out to other games (Traveller, Fantasy Trip, etc.). I never played much of any actual D&D (other than a few con events or one-shots by friends) until 4e.
4e gave me the familiar tropes of the D&D I remembered: levels, classes, d20, magic items, and the like. What 4e really drew me in with was that it tapped into another 'familiarity' which had been long-neglected: I'd been into wargames (SPI, AH) for years before D&D arrived. 4e, with its emphasis on positional tactics, grabbed me and a couple of others in my regular group - and our group still runs it regularly, which we never did with earlier D&D, and we have no enthusiasm to move into 5.
I can't help but think that, in view of this discussion, that our receptivity to 4e was enhanced by our general neglect of D&D's earlier editions.
 
For the record, I'm the one who stated that Mike Mearls actively sabotaged 4e. And I stand by that assertion.

I played a ton of [insert edition here] and ultimately burned out on it badly due to the fact that the game was a lighting-strike perfect replica of a single, highly specific way to play [game] that by coincidence was not at all close to [my specific preferences which I am going to ascribe to "everyone" in order to undercut other arguments].
Fixed your quote for you - now you can use it in any edition war, for any game.

Man some of ya'll got some PTSD about 4th edition heh. Where on the doll did the bad system touch you?
Well said.

Its easy to forget that 4e was, in fact D&D, and, though it was challenged successfully by PF (which, only technically wasn't D&D) in some calendar quarters, was far too popular to be called 'niche' in the RPG context
Now now. We're not allowed to speculate on 4e's sales and how it might have made money for Wizards. Don't you know you need a forensic accounting degree and 20 years of game designer cred to be allowed to talk about games and money in the same thread?

So thus myth that 4e only catered to one play style isn't credible. 4e was as close to reasonably balanced as D&D has yet come, balance is conducive to /wider range of styles/, without resorting to rules-tinkering.
Well said... wait, you're not allowed to say anything nice about 4e! Begone, heathen!!!

Of course, it didn't over-reward system mastery to nearly the degree 3.x did, didn't make specific strategies like scry/buff/teleport supreme or anything like that, so if a style hinged on something like that, it was no longer "supported" in the sense of achieving markedly better results than others.
But system mastery is the one true way to play... except when we're talking about anything where system mastery would make 4e look bad, in which case system mastery is terrible and wrong and only the worst most munchkiny people in the world care about, everyone else is enjoying the pure narrativist delights of 5e and Pathfinder.

"you run something, then." 4e was so easy to run that, well O.K., they will.
No way, man. It requires decades of apprenticeship to a Dungeon Master who himself sat at the feet of Gary Guru -- err, I mean, Gary Gygax -- to be allowed to run a game. Any system like 4e that would let just any shmuck be a DM is clearly an inferior system that caters to poseurs and wannabees.

What 4e really drew me in with was that it tapped into another 'familiarity' which had been long-neglected: I'd been into wargames (SPI, AH) for years before D&D arrived. 4e, with its emphasis on positional tactics, grabbed me and a couple of others in my regular group - and our group still runs it regularly, which we never did with earlier D&D, and we have no enthusiasm to move into 5.
Sorry, but you are not allowed to mention how D&D grew out of wargames, which of their nature depend upon positioning, tactics, and a goddamned map (measured in inches, just like 4e's squares). D&D has always been purely theater of the mind, and thankfully, after the dreadful aberration that was 4e, we have been returned to a map-less state of grace with the glorious 5e.
 

evileeyore

Murrph
If 4e had had one quarter of the management backing and marketing resources that 5e has, we'd all still be playing it.
You, not me.

But I don't play D&D much.




Nothing like 'sabotage.'
No of course not, deciding to radically attempt a direction change mid-course is nothing like sabotaging the expedition...

But if we want to talk active sabotage, we're remiss if no one mentions Skip Williams 3e Sage Advice columns.
 
For the record, I'm the one who stated that Mike Mearls actively sabotaged 4e. And I stand by that assertion.

Fixed your quote for you - now you can use it in any edition war, for any game.

Well said.

Now now. We're not allowed to speculate on 4e's sales and how it might have made money for Wizards. Don't you know you need a forensic accounting degree and 20 years of game designer cred to be allowed to talk about games and money in the same thread?

Well said... wait, you're not allowed to say anything nice about 4e! Begone, heathen!!!

But system mastery is the one true way to play... except when we're talking about anything where system mastery would make 4e look bad, in which case system mastery is terrible and wrong and only the worst most munchkiny people in the world care about, everyone else is enjoying the pure narrativist delights of 5e and Pathfinder.

No way, man. It requires decades of apprenticeship to a Dungeon Master who himself sat at the feet of Gary Guru -- err, I mean, Gary Gygax -- to be allowed to run a game. Any system like 4e that would let just any shmuck be a DM is clearly an inferior system that caters to poseurs and wannabees.

Sorry, but you are not allowed to mention how D&D grew out of wargames, which of their nature depend upon positioning, tactics, and a goddamned map (measured in inches, just like 4e's squares). D&D has always been purely theater of the mind, and thankfully, after the dreadful aberration that was 4e, we have been returned to a map-less state of grace with the glorious 5e.
There's nothing like sarcastic snark to quell the fire.

I enjoyed 4E, for what it did well, and I get the idea of being pissed at people who couldn't just leave it alone, but I also realize that the game as it stands failed if it created this much overall discontent. And I'm speaking as someone who was Really Effin Pissed in 2010 when my cohort players decided they were tired of 4E and hated it. I do not have time to monologue about the entire sordid affair in some random blog post however, and originally only wanted to point out that the comment about 4E being alive and well today "if only this or that" might be a bit off. If 5E hadn't come around, we'd all be playing Pathfinder and wonder if WotC would ever get back in to publishing RPGs, maybe one called "Magic" to complement their only successful game line.

YMMV and all that.
 
Its easy to forget that 4e was, in fact D&D, and, though it was challenged successfully by PF (which, only technically wasn't D&D) in some calendar quarters, was far too popular to be called 'niche' in the RPG context (though, to be fair, the entire RPG industry was a pretty small niche between the end of the success of 1e in the 80s and 5e, today).

So thus myth that 4e only catered to one play style isn't credible. 4e was as close to reasonably balanced as D&D has yet come, balance is conducive to /wider range of styles/, without resorting to rules-tinkering.
You're telling me this but you aren't substantiating it. For example: you assume a more balanced mechanical implementation meant the game was better at catering to all styles and ranges of play, but I don't think what you mean when you type that is what I mean when I consider the narrow range of play styles 4E worked with.

Of course, it didn't over-reward system mastery to nearly the degree 3.x did, didn't make specific strategies like scry/buff/teleport supreme or anything like that, so if a style hinged on something like that, it was no longer "supported" in the sense of achieving markedly better results than others.
It also didn't make it possible to narrate a coherent story with applied risk and reward that felt thematic and appropriate to the fantasy genre. What it did do well was dungeons, filled with dragons, and the extremely archetypal type of D&D that WotC had honed in on, lightning-rod style.


Contrarily, classic D&D could be played in virtually any style the DM cared to encourage through variants or DM 'force,' or even just with the simple ultimatum "you run something, then." 4e was so easy to run that, well O.K., they will.
I feel like maybe you were a player a lot more than a DM? I was a DM only, and my handful of player experiences were some of the worst, most narratively shallow gaming experiences I'd ever been subjected to.

5e though compromised. It's not nearly so balanced or easy to run as 4e was, it does over-reward system mastery some, and does return most of the imaginary power of the play dynamic to the DM side of the screen.
Ironic, then, that it is more friendly to my style of gaming. Maybe, just maybe 4E wasn't really as universal as you suggest? Note that I am not suggesting 5E is any more universal....it also has its limits.

And, it has AL.

So DMs can run it prettymuch however they want, but there is a consistent rule set, in AL, to be mastered. The biggest complaint, on that end, is that it's just too easy.
I've never been involved in or care about organized play but it seems like every edition of D&D handles this reasonably well.

So, you didn't find yourself playing in a /familiar/ way.

I found 4e easier to manage by visualizing the battlefield than 3e. Mainly because cubes are pretty easy, that way. As a consequence of counting diagonal as 1 as, circles and blasts became squares. (cubes in 3D)

That's a major simplification from from spreads and cones and spheres and 180 degree fans and whatnot - each of which, at each possible size, had a specific template to match it to the grid.
Gah.
But, because enough of that was /familiar/ from late-2e C&T, maybe it was OK, while the simpler, easier to visualize, but unfamiliar, squares were not.
I've played D&D (and dozens of other RPGs) for 38 years now and I am only sort of sure I know what you are talking about above. But it suggests to me you've never played D&D with a strong narrative TotM focus before.

None of those were gone, just, different (arguably, more consistently) implemented.
Disease got it's own sub-system that spanned across the usual daily cycle, so actually quite a bit more than a speed bump (also a pretty flexible little sub-system that could have been adapted to curses, long-term injuries or the like, but was under-utilized) - but compared to make a save or you need Cure Disease, maybe a little /unfamiliar/.
Try modelling a real disease with it, then. Or a fantasy disease with effects longer than a long rest or two. You could do that in 3rd and earlier without breaking the system or causing a clash in rules, with players feeling like you were rigging the system against them. Note that 5E brings some teeth back to this, but then cleverly (?) makes most saves easy to make, so the players feel like they narrowly avoid high threat consequences, while still keeping the consequences present, if less likely.

Poison was simply a damage type - very often ongoing damage, and could definitely kill you. Just not with a failed save - nor could Slow or Nuetralize Poison retroactively cure you from instant death. Another simplification, and while arguably intuitive, certainly /unfamiliar/.
Poison as a damage type is fine, and probably one of the better simplifications that made sense. However poison in the real world (and fantasy fiction, film, and practically anywhere except D&D) remains more interesting and serious with lots of risk and narrative potential for the threat. None of that appears in any significant way in 4E, which was obsessed with designing around the idea of immediate consequences in combat and limiting the book keeping because it assumed a larger player base would appear that was just gunshy of keeping track of too many things (and then still failed in that respect).

As far as "Actual Physical Health," hps, alone, may have been a /familiar/ model to you, but 4e's was just a little different, bringing surges into it. If you're used to thinking of a full-hp PC as being in perfect "Actual Physical Health," then one being at full hp after a 5min break may seem the same - but, it's not, he's down surges, which you can also pretend represent Actual Physical Health - If you can handle that /unfamiliar/ act of make believe.
Condescension of implying I'm somehow unable to adapt to the / unfamiliar / aside, I really don't think you have played in a narrative style with an effort toward a cohesive descriptive process in which combat is meant to be visual and interesting from the story side, with the mechanics hidden in the background. 4E works fine if you do not care about any sense that you are doing other than playing a game (as opposed to telling a collaborative story). Healing surges were a fundamental game changer to how damage worked and how you thought about PC health. It was a key "give" in the long standing question of "how much of a PC's hit points are just fatigue/stress?" and the answer was: literally all of it, right up until you hit zero HP and have no more healing surges left.

Healing surges weren't an /unfamiliar/ act of make believe. They were the antithesis of of good story telling at the expense of gamifying D&D so they could create mechanics experimenting with "player rewards" designed to keep players in the game under the illusion of skill.

Don't sweat it - you were actually very much on-topic, in an illustrative-example sort of way.
I think the way you play(ed) D&D and the way I have played it over the decades veered off significantly along the way. I could run some good games in 4E, but it did not support the way I had run D&D previously to that point. There were major implementations in the game which significantly impacted my ability to use the game in the same manner I had in prior decades. Were these changes bad? Not necessarily, but they created a different feel,a different beat to the game if you will that it turned out I no longer enjoyed...but even I hung on longer than my players did. I abandoned 4E when I finally gave in to the reality that it was no longer fun, not in the way we all cared about. Was it a great game for intense dungeon crawls and battles? Absolutely. Could it do literally anything else with minimal or no effort like all prior editions? Nope.

EDIT: super important! I am not actually trying to discredit your perceptions, claims or experiences with 4E, even though I am doing exactly that. I am instead trying to frame context around my own experiences with the game in various editions to maybe help illustrate how you and I could both have had very different and not particularly complimentary experiences. To you, you see a guy (me) who is having trouble with the /unfamiliar/ and not adapting well. To me, I see a guy who understood this quite well, and realized that the game had changed, and left a very large chunk of what I liked about it on the cutting room floor. You're view is not wrong, but neither is mine....and this is why 4E failed.
 
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Interesting thoughts around familiarity versus change (dare I call it innovation?).
My experience ran thus: I started with the three little booklets (plus Greyhawk, etc.) back the '70's. By the time they came out with any further edition, I had already branched out to other games (Traveller, Fantasy Trip, etc.). I never played much of any actual D&D (other than a few con events or one-shots by friends) until 4e.
4e gave me the familiar tropes of the D&D I remembered: levels, classes, d20, magic items, and the like. What 4e really drew me in with was that it tapped into another 'familiarity' which had been long-neglected: I'd been into wargames (SPI, AH) for years before D&D arrived. 4e, with its emphasis on positional tactics, grabbed me and a couple of others in my regular group - and our group still runs it regularly, which we never did with earlier D&D, and we have no enthusiasm to move into 5.
I can't help but think that, in view of this discussion, that our receptivity to 4e was enhanced by our general neglect of D&D's earlier editions.
I said this like 6 years ago and I'll say it again: there's room for a "D&D 5E" and a "D&D Tactics RPG" in the market. 4E was sufficiently different and unique from other iterations of D&D that it could easily stand on its own, if it were marketed not as the New D&D but instead as the Alternative/Optional D&D. I don't even think this would fracture the market, because what one game offers the other doesn't, and the markets have a very thin sliver on the venn diagram of cross-compatibility, as demonstrated by how contentious 4E was.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
...4E was sufficiently different and unique from other iterations of D&D that it could easily stand on its own, if it were marketed not as the New D&D but instead as the Alternative/Optional D&D.
Similarly, my take on 4Ed was that it would have been even better- a stronger, more flexible product- with its own unique identity as a FRPG, without all the baggage/sacred cows* of the prior editors. For example, a classless version of 4Ed where you just picked powers that matched your concept would have no need for the inconsistently designed multiclass Feats.





* many of which I like, FWIW, and feel are integral to the “D&D experience”.
 

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