• NOW LIVE! -- The Awfully Cheerful Engine on Kickstarter! An action comedy RPG inspired by cheerful tabletop games of the 80s! With a foreword by Sandy 'Ghostbusters' Petersen, and VTT support!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 4E The Usage of the Non-Sequitur "4e is a Tactical Skirmish Game"

When a poster quips "4e is just a Tactical Skirmish Game" you reflexivelhy think


  • Total voters
    100
When someone says something disparaging about 4e, what I think they mean is extremely contextual -- and, in fact, might mean something different if said to me, or if said to friends, or if said to someone who does not yet play any form of D&D.

"something disparaging about 4e" is a gross generality that encompasses just about any slight possible from the trivial to the outrageous. What you are doing is an odd Reductio ad Absurdem but in the opposite direction (including all possible disparaging remarks such that a focused, specific, lofty charge is lost in the noise and rendered equivalent to things trite and mundane...therefore inconsequential). This specific post is focused. And focused for a reason. The "something disparaging about 4e" is "It is not an RPG." I want to know how that generic rhetorical charge is received by "4th edition players who have played the system and enjoyed a breadth of play that encompasses more than just Tactical Skirmish Gaming, specifically Roleplaying, and enjoy the game because of this full RPG (not shallow boardgaming) experience" - hence "4e advocates." Someone who disagrees with the charge theoretically and has experience to back it.

What constitutes a 4e Advocate?

"4th edition players who have played the system and enjoyed a breadth of play that encompasses more than just Tactical Skirmish Gaming, specifically Roleplaying, and enjoy the game because of this full RPG (not shallow boardgaming) experience." Someone who disagrees with the charge theoretically and has experience to back it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Jacob Marley

First Post
"something disparaging about 4e" is a gross generality that encompasses just about any slight possible from the trivial to the outrageous. What you are doing is an odd Reductio ad Absurdem but in the opposite direction (including all possible disparaging remarks such that a focused, specific, lofty charge is lost in the noise and rendered equivalent to things trite and mundane...therefore inconsequential). This specific post is focused. And focused for a reason. The "something disparaging about 4e" is "It is not an RPG." I want to know how that generic rhetorical charge is received by "4th edition players who have played the system and enjoyed a breadth of play that encompasses more than just Tactical Skirmish Gaming, specifically Roleplaying, and enjoy the game because of this full RPG (not shallow boardgaming) experience" - hence "4e advocates." Someone who disagrees with the charge theoretically and has experience to back it.

I think you missed the point that [MENTION=59248]mneme[/MENTION] was making -- he can correct me if I'm wrong -- and I was agreeing with. The context of the discussion matters as to how we react to it.

For example, I am in a conversation with another poster. Over the course of the discussion -- with a lot of back and forth between us -- the other poster comments that "4e is a just a tactical skirmish game", or something to that effect. Now, my history with this poster, combined with the conversation we just had, may cause me to view the statement in a different light than if it were stated by someone who just dropped into the thread and made that one statement.

Or, to put it more succinctly, it depends. :p
 

I think you missed the point that @mneme was making -- he can correct me if I'm wrong -- and I was agreeing with. The context of the discussion matters as to how we react to it.

For example, I am in a conversation with another poster. Over the course of the discussion -- with a lot of back and forth between us -- the other poster comments that "4e is a just a tactical skirmish game", or something to that effect. Now, my history with this poster, combined with the conversation we just had, may cause me to view the statement in a different light than if it were stated by someone who just dropped into the thread and made that one statement.

Or, to put it more succinctly, it depends. :p

Understood. Then perhaps you should choose 1 - The person is doing it in good faith and trying to convince you. Or you can abstain. I'm just asking for general 4e advocates' instinctive reaction (post edition wars) to that rhetoric. Rightly or wrongly. Fairly or unfairly. I'm exploring if it is, by its very nature, a caustic, well-poisoning, thread-destroying non-starter. Or if its, generally speaking, more benign than that.
 

3 Man

First Post
Obvious

I would say they are stating the obvious. 4e shines in tactical play and when 5e is live I hope to keep 4e versions of the party current so we can use the 4e rules for the big boss fight at the end of adventures.
 

Obryn

Hero
Wonder what would happen if the same poll were ran for phrases like "15 minute adventuring day" or "quadratic wizards/linear warriors", which I think are used to be inflammatory at least as often as the above but don't seem to be called out as such.
Leaving aside the utter wrong-headedness of trying to restrict who votes in a public poll or posts in a public thread for a moment... (Manbearcat, you're on your own there...)

These are specific, mechanical concerns. Just like, "Martial daily powers don't make sense" or "encounter-based design means I can't gradually wear the party down" or "rituals are poorly-managed and no substitute for strong utility magic." We can have a discussion about the merits and flaws there.

I have no beef with people who don't like 4e; I could care less. To each their own. Excluding 4e from the D&D (or in this case, RPG!) club is a different sort of statement, though. It goes pretty far beyond specific criticisms of mechanics. I am past sick of edition wars, and that sort of statement always looks like the person's angling for a fight.

-O
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
These are specific, mechanical concerns. Just like, "Martial daily powers don't make sense" or "encounter-based design means I can't gradually wear the party down" or "rituals are poorly-managed and no substitute for strong utility magic." We can have a discussion about the merits and flaws there.

I have no beef with people who don't like 4e; I could care less. To each their own. Excluding 4e from the D&D (or in this case, RPG!) club is a different sort of statement, though. It goes pretty far beyond specific criticisms of mechanics. I am past sick of edition wars, and that sort of statement always looks like the person's angling for a fight.
I think the original phrase "tactical skirmish game" could be seen as an attempt to amalgamate mechanics that focus on miniatures and grid-based gaming, or a perceived emphasis on combat mechanics. The question at hand is whether it could be used in an attempt at substantive discourse or whether it is inherently prejudicial or inflammatory. My opinion is still the former. My stance is also that I don't use that particular term and find it misleading, but I don't think there's any need to get excited about these things on any side.

An analogy would be "3e is unbalanced" which is likewise so vague as to be almost meaningless and inaccurate to the extent that it has meaning, but may be used as a legitimate attempt to shorthand a variety of mechanical criticisms people have about the game.

I agree that more specific statements are more useful to discussion, but I don't think the vague ones are necessarily attempts at provocation.

Manbearcat said:
Yes. You are. Voting in a poll vs Posting in a thread. The voting in the poll is for 4e advocates only. The posting in the thread is open to whomever would like to discuss the issue.
Ah. This message is not at all clear from your original post, as evidenced by several comments in this thread by people other than myself (including moderators and "4e advocates"). Even given this distinction, the sentiment still doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, if I were "witch hunting" I would go to the PF forum since that game actually has witches. I'm simply trying to do the same thing that you are purportedly getting at, facilitate an improved understanding of how other people perceive statements made on this forum.
 
Last edited:

Obryn

Hero
I think the original phrase "tactical skirmish game" could be seen as an attempt to amalgamate mechanics that focus on miniatures and grid-based gaming, or a perceived emphasis on combat mechanics. The question at hand is whether it could be used in an attempt at substantive discourse or whether it is inherently prejudicial or inflammatory. My opinion is still the former. My stance is also that I don't use that particular term and find it misleading, but I don't think there's any need to get excited about these things on any side.
Well, that's just it though - it's clear that 4e has strong and prevalent rules for grid-based combat. Anyone who says otherwise has never looked at the rule set.

It's the "just a..." part that causes problems, stated or unstated. Because then it's not an RPG - or at best it's players are pretending it is. I think the analogy is, "well, you can roleplay with Monopoly too, but that doesn't make it an RPG."

Also, I have no idea what a "4e advocate" is supposed to be. It's just more lazy filing of people into boxes and folders.

EDIT:
As for "3e is unbalanced," that's a vague and useless statement that gives very little clue as to the poster's position other than "raaar 3e". But - and this is the important part - it's still not trying to exclude 3e from the RPG or D&D club.

-O
 
Last edited:

Leaving aside the utter wrong-headedness of trying to restrict who votes in a public poll or posts in a public thread for a moment... (Manbearcat, you're on your own there...)

Some commentors have stated that they feel that stating this offhandedly is a good-faith statement (to what end? Good faith must imply to convince otherwise it is gratuitous.). They have stated that the statement is not caustic to discourse (despite an extraordinary amount of evidence to the opposite) and that it doesn't derail threads down into edition war venom. So, who to best ask then 4e advocates (as they are the ones reacting...either emotionally or intellecturally is irrelevant...the effect on discourse is the same). If you are soliciting the specific opinion of a demographic (which by definition excludes those outside of the demographic), you should not include within the sample those who are either not 4e advocates or are 4e detractors.
The poll must be self-selecting as it is soliciting the opinion of a specific demographic in order to answer the specific question:


"What is the consenus reaction among 4e advocates when a commenter states '4e is just a tactical skirmish game?'"


So what do you ask them specifically?

- Do they believe it is a good faith effort to convince a 4e advocate that 4e mechanical ruleset does not encapsulate the RPG experience?
- Do they believe they are being willfully provactive?
- Do they believe they are stating this position just as reinforcement amongst fellow believers (preaching to the choir)?
- Do they believe they are celebrating the opinion, communally, with other detractors or some other form of catharsis such as "opining for the sake of opining on something they feel strongly about"?


There is no need to include corner case reactions that are not helpful to the survey as it just adds needless noise to the signal; The signal being 4e advocates reaction to detractors stating 4e is just a Tactical Skirmish Game.


I made a specific poll. For a specific end. That poll, by definition, REQUIRES an exclusive polling base. You may not like the poll. You may not like me. You may not think that the poll asks an important or interesting question. You may not like the result of the poll. But in order for me to be a hypocrite, I would have to demand a behavioral imperative that I myself cannot, or will not, fulfill the stipulations of. Nothing of the sort has happened here and the usage of the term "hypocrite", and the charge, is bizarre and unfair.

I can't stop non-advocates, neutral parties, or detractors from voting. I just requested that they do not (in good faith) to reduce the noise ratio and distill the signal of the question that specifically asks 4e advocates what their reaction is to a specific brand of rhetoric. Further, I cannot stop them from posting in the thread...nor did I request they do so. I really have no idea why you're even bothering with this line of...I'm not even sure how to classify it.

Voting in a poll vs Posting in a thread. The voting in the poll is for 4e advocates only. The posting in the thread is open to whomever would like to discuss the issue.

I didn't do that (forbid non-4e advocates from posting...not that I could anyway). At all. Discuss away. I fully support it. The more discussion the better! I never requested people not post. I just requested a self-selecting voter base (in good faith) so the coherency of the poll is maintained and the Signal:Noise ratio is reduced. For God's sake. I didn't even vote in the poll (nor will I). This bizarre witch hunt (This request was neither uncivil, unreasonable nor am I a hypocrite) is unfair and utterly tedious.

That wasn't my methodology due to my main consideration being answering a specific question and reducing the Signal:Noise ratio.


Also, I have no idea what a "4e advocate" is supposed to be. It's just more lazy filing of people into boxes and folders.

"4th edition players who have played the system and enjoyed a breadth of play that encompasses more than just Tactical Skirmish Gaming, specifically Roleplaying, and enjoy the game because of this full RPG (not shallow boardgaming) experience" - hence "4e advocates." Someone who disagrees with the charge theoretically and has experience to back it.


So far I'm a hypocrite, unreasonable, uncivil, don't know how to compose a poll (when science is my discipline) because I haven't needlessly inserted noise into the precise sample from which I'm trying to extract a signal, and lazy. Ok.
 
Last edited:

Obryn

Hero
I think you're taking this a bit personally. I think making boxes of "4e advocate" and "other" is lazy and unsound, not that you are lazy.

I'm done with that sort of useless division-making and categorization. It's needless (and, as I said, lazy), and only serves to parcel up the gaming population more and more. We have a lot more in common than otherwise.

Also, public polls on a web forum are not and will never be scientific no matter how many controls you try to place on them. :) They are utterly meaningless for extrapolation to any population other than "the people who specifically took this poll."

-O
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
As for "3e is unbalanced," that's a vague and useless statement that gives very little clue as to the poster's position other than "raaar 3e". But - and this is the important part - it's still not trying to exclude 3e from the RPG or D&D club.
I've seen statements to the effect that "3e isn't balanced, therefore it can't be played as a game"; thus trying to exclude it from the "game" club. Believe me, there's no salient differences in the level of civility people show one edition vs the other.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
Oh I get not wanting the noise. And I don't think you were unreasonable posting the poll.
If I wanted to know why people keep saying "4e is X/isn't X" I'd not direct it at the 4e crowd, either. :) I was just missing an answer to the effect of "people don't think" lol
 

Obryn

Hero
I've seen statements to the effect that "3e isn't balanced, therefore it can't be played as a game"; thus trying to exclude it from the "game" club. Believe me, there's no salient differences in the level of civility people show one edition vs the other.
You see, I have yet to see that. Generally this sort of RPG snootiness gets tossed around at 4e (see: Mr. Alexander and how dissociated mechanics are not RPGs).

Regardless, anyone claiming "it can't be played as a game" is spouting nonsense and edition warring. That doesn't make "4e is just a skirmish game" okay.

-O
 

Jacob Marley

First Post
It's the "just a..." part that causes problems, stated or unstated. Because then it's not an RPG - or at best it's players are pretending it is. I think the analogy is, "well, you can roleplay with Monopoly too, but that doesn't make it an RPG."

This is why I think that context is important. In certain cases, I can write-off the "just a" as careless use of language. Whereas in others, it can clearly be seen as edition warring. In my opinion, most posters don't write with a high level of clarity - myself included! What they are trying to convey may not actually be what they are conveying. I think it is important to offer the benefit of doubt, or to ask for clarification.
 

mneme

Explorer
What you are doing is an odd Reductio ad Absurdem but in the opposite direction (including all possible disparaging remarks such that a focused, specific, lofty charge is lost in the noise and rendered equivalent to things trite and mundane...therefore inconsequential).

That's not even wrong. Just saying; you can't replace one logical fallacy with another one like that.

But no, I wasn't. I was simply hitting another (and much more measurable) axis than you did with this poll. How I take -any- criticism of 4e is going to be very contextual -- and the "it's not a RPG" criticism is probably the most common one, with some merit (despite being incorrect).

The fact is, 4e has a lot of mechanics and a high contact with same. Enough that a -lot- of people have ended up getting turned off by mechanical, not-very-roleplaying 4e sessions.

This is fact. The fact that you -can- run a traditional rpg with 4e doesn't displace it (althought it renders "it's just a tactical wargame" moot).

But by making a general claim disguised as a poll here, devoid of context, you end up just making a muddled mess. Despite the inflammatory nature of the claim, it isn't one that comes out of nowhere, but out of a not-inconsiderable set of people's experiences with the game. Thus it is entirely possible, depending on how it is said or when/where, that any of your suggestions is true.

Regarding the "4e advocate vs not" quesiton...if the poll system allows it, you could have controlled for it via that question (and thus generated more interesting data) rather than potentially turning people off by asking for them to stay out. That is, if the question were interesting as stated, which it isn't.
 


GreyICE

First Post
I think there can be context, but 95% of the time there isn't. There's two complaints tied up into one there.


4E has a strong tactical focus, which makes it unsuited for the campaigns I want to run

This is a legitimate and valid complaint - but nearly no one voicing it wants to run D&D of ANY EDITION AT ALL. Or Pathfinder.

Maybe they want to focus on social aspects and related and still have a strong deterministic system - World of Darkness systems, etc.

Maybe they want to play a game where the rules aren't getting in the way of their story - FATE, Fudge, Savage Worlds, etc.

Maybe they want to just focus on having a good time and doing cool things - 7th Sea, etc.

For the most part, 3E and 2E aren't doing what they want it to either.


I don't like 4E so I'll complain it's not really an RPG

This is the typical complaint. It's terrible.
 


GreyICE

First Post
Where do you get that idea from? About everyone who says this that I know of plays 3.x/PF

Yeah, and they're all falling into category 2.

Both 3E and Pathfinder have a strong tactical focus. For pete's sake, look at the Pathfinder skill list. They have 4 skills for actually interacting with other human beings (and one stat). Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perform. 4E, on a much smaller skill list, loses perform.

Meanwhile, in a system I'm running, they have: Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Intimidation, Performance, Presence, and Rapport. On a smaller skill list. World of Darkness has Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, Persuasion, Socialize, and Subterfuge (Plus contacts, retainer, herd, cult, fame, etc. available as backgrounds).

Ah, but Pathfinder and 3E have rulebooks many times as thick as WoD or Fate. And what are those rulebooks devoted to? Not fluff, not at all (Any WoD core book has 10x the fluff of Pathfinder or any WotC core product). Nope. They're devoted to tactical combat. Page after page of combat gear, spells that are mostly used in combat, rules for combat, etc.

That's the thing - 4E is no more a tactical miniatures game than 3E or Pathfinder. If you compare them to FATE you could call all three "Tactical miniatures games."

It's just dumb chest beating from edition warring dinks.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
And that's just not true. With 3 exceptions in my groups, everyone dislikes 4e for being too miniature focused/too tactical and we mostly play PF/3.x, the occasional SW or SF system not counted. 2 of the 3 exceptions play 4e in another group, and the last is Big Ol' grumpy Edition Warrior.

You can play all older editions with less focus on tactics, but this seems impossible with 4e. At least I haven't yet seen a game report where 4e was played in such a style.
 

GreyICE

First Post
And that's just not true. With 3 exceptions in my groups, everyone dislikes 4e for being too miniature focused/too tactical and we mostly play PF/3.x, the occasional SW or SF system not counted. 2 of the 3 exceptions play 4e in another group, and the last is Big Ol' grumpy Edition Warrior.

You can play all older editions with less focus on tactics, but this seems impossible with 4e. At least I haven't yet seen a game report where 4e was played in such a style.
You do it in 4th edition the same way you do it in other editions - roleplay your characters, speed through combat, roleplay your characters more. Neither is particularly suited to being a social/roleplay heavy system with minimal combat.

I think the biggest source of this complaint is that the tactical focus of 4E is different than 3E. These are the elements of combat in 3E:

1) Action Denial - Improved Trip, Bear Grapples, Save or Suck spells, pinning monsters down with summons, etc., Action Denial is a huge part of the tactical game in 3E.

2) Preparation - Many of the monsters in 3E had huge lethality reductions if you could prep. It could be as easy as cold resist against a cryohydra, or as hard as finding specific potions to deal with blindness/darkness, but 3E combat often was won or lost based on how well the party prepared for a challenge.

3) Save minimization/maximization - basically, the more saving throws you rolled, the worse for you. Conditions were usually long-lasting, extremely hard to remove, and frequently devastating. Making sure you didn't suffer those conditions was a large part of the tactics in combat.

4) Threat identification/nuking - Some threats need to be taken out. IMMEDIATELY. If there's a beholder in the room, it must die. MUST MUST MUST. You do not have the option of leaving it alive for 3-4 rounds, because you will be steaming piles of dead stuff. Either it has to be neutralized (see: Action Denial) or killed.\

5) Long-term resource management: 3E focuses HEAVILY on managing long-term resources. Hit Points are difficult to regain (until wands of CLW/LV become cheap), running out of spells is a huge issue, and many characters have limited resources that recharge on daily basis (rage, etc.). Resting is frequently dangerous, meaning you want to careful conserve your resources. Even minor combats run the risk of incurring long-term resource drain that can cost you, not now, but three, four, five encounters on. Status conditions that are difficult to remove are often inflicted, and even when removal becomes easier (at higher levels) the variety of them ensures you almost certainly need an extended rest to get the specific cure spell you need to remove them. In short, the focus is often less on winning, and more on winning "with style."


In contrast, 4E focuses a lot more heavily on positioning, temporary bonuses, setting up a nova round, and proper power use/role use. Long-term resource management exists, but in a much less draining form than 4E, and even when you add in long-term conditions, they never reach the conditions that occurred in 3E (long-term poisions, negative levels, stoning, etc.).

You could legitimately complain "I preferred trying to shut down dangerous monsters before they could do anything and researching and prepping for combat more than I enjoy focusing on positioning and incremental advantages in a longer combat with more swing." But that's just preferring one style of tactical gameplay to another.
 
Last edited:

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top