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What is the essence of 4E?


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Ted Serious

First Post
That's one way of looking at it, I suppose.

I'm not really asking what that essence is, though, (if such a thing could even be objectively defined). I'm asking what everyone perceives that essence to be.
We can objectively eliminate transient features, like AEDU or math that was fixed or subjective reactions.

We are left with a Class based Paper and Pencil Fantasy RPG. If you loved or hated 4e over and above any other edition, it had nothing to do with its Essence.

We can't conclude anything about the essence of Wizards or Paizo.

I know which one I percieve having a better attitude towards its fans.
 

Ted Serious

First Post
Yes Hit Dice and Healing Surges are individual resources and on the other hand spells can be cast on anyone in the team.
Spells are the resource of the caster, he can use them as a team member or not, but they are his decision. The same is true of hit points, HD or healing surges, you can manage them as a personal or a team resource. The glass cannon who is too aggressive runs out of HD and depletes the healers spells that could have been better used while others HD are still plentiful. Unless the healer decides to let him die.

Wands or potions, whoever needs them uses them no immediate alternative use is lost. You don't have to treat who takes damage as a tactical problem.
 

Shasarak

Banned
Banned
Spells are the resource of the caster, he can use them as a team member or not, but they are his decision. The same is true of hit points, HD or healing surges, you can manage them as a personal or a team resource. The glass cannon who is too aggressive runs out of HD and depletes the healers spells that could have been better used while others HD are still plentiful. Unless the healer decides to let him die.

Wands or potions, whoever needs them uses them no immediate alternative use is lost. You don't have to treat who takes damage as a tactical problem.

I dont really understand what you are saying? Are you saying that the caster can not cast his spells on anyone in the team?
 

We can objectively eliminate transient features, like AEDU or math that was fixed or subjective reactions.
Your opinion is your own. As for myself, you can't tell me that features which were present for literally the entire time I played the game do not reflect anything about the essential nature of 4E. The first two years of releases represent literally everything that I could have possibly used as a basis for forming an opinion, unless you want people to go around forming opinions based on message boards.

If a game is actively played for ten years, then the last two years of that period can only represent at most twenty percent of what the product was all about.

You're more than welcome to ignore transient features when making your own analysis, of course, but that may not lead to a useful analysis. I might have missed if you answered the question, but what is the essential nature of 4E to you? Specifically, if you looked at a different game that you had never heard of before, what features of that game would indicate to you that they were definitely inspired by 4E?
 

The DMG has rules for turning a level 12 standard into a level 20 standard, and the math is pretty trivial. I didn't see rules for turning a minion into a standard, or vice versa.
This is a well-known strategy, which appeals to some. You simply generate a minion which is 8 levels higher than your standard. They have exactly the same XP value. Its very easy to create a minion, it will take 2 minutes, tops. You can give it a simple power that is reminiscent of what the standard does, and maybe some kind of a special property that is evocative too. There's a billion minions out there to work from.

I would note that this isn't the only equivalency in XP value, a level 1 solo is the same XP as a level 6 elite, a level 10 standard, and a level 18 minion. So your level 3 young white dragon is a level 8 elite young white dragon, is a level 12 standard young white dragon, and a level 20 minion young white dragon. At level 6 you meet 2, at level 10, 5, at level 16 20 of them, and each of those encounters is (theoretically at least) an identically medium tough encounter, more or less. You can rationalize it quite well, for level 1 PCs the young white is a threat equal to a whole party. By level 6 it takes 2 of them to be threatening, etc.

This technique has been discussed quite heavily in various 4e threads here and elsewhere for years.
The weird thing is that, it never occurred to me when I was running the game that changing the levels or grades of any of the monsters should be a thing, aside from giving a couple of extra levels to an orc in order to represent a more-experienced orc; but the idea that a level 5 solo could be re-statted as a level 10 elite or level 20 minion is something that I would consider to be quintessential of 4E, just from these message boards. Following my own definition from before, if I saw a new game which actually included rules for that, I would immediately assume that they were copying 4E.
Yup! 4e certainly proposes that 'numbers are not the world' just a convenient gamist tool to make an RPG possible and fun.

As for why I would even want to run an encounter full of level 12 enemies against a level 20 party, it's because that's how I would traditionally show that the party is getting stronger. If you're level 12, and you struggle to beat level 12 enemies, then walking all over them when you're level 20 is a very intuitive way to demonstrate how much more powerful you are.
Right, and you COULD do that. I mean it isn't impossible. I really would usually make it an SC though. However, I recall once using some goblins against a level 7 party. There were a LOT of them, enough to make the XP budget a viable level 7 encounter, but the monsters were obviously pretty anemic. It actually WAS fun, but I think that was just good fortune. It definitely did produce the feeling you are talking about, the players were a little scared at first to see 25 foes, but then they laid in and it got to be fun. They actually did get hit back pretty good though. I seem to recall the rogue even went down at least once.

To contrast, if you're level 12 and you struggle to beat level 12 enemies, but then you get to level 20 and you struggle to beat level 20 enemies, it still just feels like you're struggling. (One of my early disappointments with 4E was realizing that my amazing hero character basically couldn't beat a standard orc in a fight; and it felt like a hollow victory to cleave my way through two minions with one swing, since I knew that they were explicitly designed to be easy for me to kill.)
The healing surge mechanic succeeded at what it was intended to do, which was (along with encounter powers) to ensure that nobody was out for the whole day after a single fight went south; (and also to make it so that nobody was forced to play a healer, and I guess also to prevent you from abusing wands or potions).
Right, it was a pretty neat concept.

It does assume that you want the PCs at full power in every fight, though, which can be somewhat limiting in the way you run the game. And it also assumes that you're going to have enough encounters in a day for the limit on healing surges to be meaningful, which can also be pretty limiting. Granted, there are still an infinite number of games that you can play within those parameters, but there was a bit of a learning curve involved, and not everybody was able to (or wanted to) make the transition.

Well, OK, fair enough. 4e is more tricky if you want to string things out and have just a very few encounters. Of course you could just make them VERY strong, at some point they will become dangerous even if its just one encounter in a 'day'. Or you could change the recovery rule somewhat, maybe in "harsh conditions" a rest isn't enough to get back all your HS. Maybe even not many at all, like 1. I've done all of these things too at different times.

However I have also come to think about stories in RPGs in a really different way from what Gygax established as sort of the baseline that D&D seems to still follow. That is, consider how a lot of movies work. The whole plot takes place in 1 day, or something. Does it matter really what the time frames are? I mean, in the end its just moving around from scene to scene and encountering the action as the plot happens. In a lot of stories it isn't even clear what sort of time is passing. It was the whole 'time is a key part of the campaign' stuff that Gary propounded, and all the very structured time-based resource game play that he loved so much that beat it into people's heads that we had to have 'work days' and keep track of time. Its still pretty amazing to me just how strong Gary's hold is over most of the RPG world, even 10 years after he left us.
 

My take is that DMG1 didn’t have nearly a clear enough voice (while DMG2, design articles, and Dungeon articles were all very consistent) . There was an editor problem or a “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem with the writing/handling of various chapters and instruction.

While myself and others saw it clearly in various 4e game tech and instruction, there are many others who didn’t see it. If that is the case (and it clearly is given how many times we’ve had this discussion), then there is obviously fault on the side of the 4e DMG1 writers or editor. I don’t think that can be argued.

IMHO several things happened. 4e was really pushed by the D&D group, this was Hasbro politics. They brewed up a design, Orcus, and started playtesting it and it just didn't gel. By that point they had apparently already basically committed to a release timeframe, so they went back and hammered out a rehash of the core system, which produced 4e. However, it was now behind, and they simply ran it through the process at high speed. Playtesting didn't get to the level of getting it out to enough people outside the 'box' of the designers and people they knew, so they never quite saw that people basically weren't playing the game they were writing. Things like the DMG simply weren't properly edited and vetted. MM1 has all sorts of monsters that were clearly designed to some earlier standard and then hastily revised (or not) as the game evolved quickly.

4e should have waited a year and been released at 2009 Gen Con. It also would have been a little better climate overall, considering the economy and other craziness that was going on at the time. Anyway DMG1 seems to be halfway caught between design paradigms. It does have a lot of stuff in it that points to the sort of game you and I and Pemerton and others have played with 4e, but at the same time its not fully coherent. Another factor is I think they may have gotten a bit scared of just how FAR 4e could have gone. Maybe they DID right a DMG that expounded a fully story centered sort of game, and decided it was bridge too far at the last minute.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
My experience with healing surges was that there was always one character that ran out of healing surges before the rest of the party which forced the whole party to stop.
That's an excellent point and it's indeed something that happens quite often. In our 4e games this was always a discussion-starter: "Hmm, so our Ranger is already out of surges again. Shall we continue, nonetheless? How's everyone else doing? Alright, since everybody else is still fine, take good care of our Ranger and make sure to keep him out of trouble. On we go!" This is why sources of healing that don't require the expenditure of healing surges are so important and desirable. It's something all of the players were looking out for. The most common source were Leader Dailies, but there are a few others, as well.

It also reminds me of the 'Healing Standard' our party managed to get hold of in our first adventure. We quickly decided it was the "MIP" of our group: it saved our a**** in countless encounters that might otherwise have resulted in TPKs. In case you don't recall what I'm referring to:
Battle Standard of Healing Level 3 Wondrous Item
Power (Encounter; Healing, Zone): Standard Action. When you plant the battle standard in your space or an adjacent square, it creates a zone of healing energy in a close burst 5. Whenever you or an ally spends a healing surge while in the zone, you and all allies in the zone regain 1 hit point.
This effect lasts until the end of the encounter or until the battle standard is removed from the ground. Any character in or adjacent to a battle standard’s square can remove it from the ground as a standard action.
 
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Ratskinner

Adventurer
How can you make/maintain an RPG when any one element can be terrible for a portion of its audience?

Is it truly a zero-sum game?
It seems to be for us pendants online. My observations of casual players like my kids' groups is that:

A) they won't play so much that it matters

and

B) they won't stick so closely to the rules that it matters, anyway

And those folks far outnumber the people who even know what the edition wars are.

So a D&D game that works with a lighter rules touch (earlier eds, 5e) will see broader appeal than ones with a heavier touch (3e, 4e).
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
My take is that DMG1 didn’t have nearly a clear enough voice (while DMG2, design articles, and Dungeon articles were all very consistent) . There was an editor problem or a “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem with the writing/handling of various chapters and instruction.

While myself and others saw it clearly in various 4e game tech and instruction, there are many others who didn’t see it. If that is the case (and it clearly is given how many times we’ve had this discussion), then there is obviously fault on the side of the 4e DMG1 writers or editor. I don’t think that can be argued.
I think this is very true. I tend to personally lean in that direction, but I just do not see it in the 4e ABC1 books. I still recall my shock reading you folks' posts about playing 4e that way.
 

Imaro

Legend
IMHO several things happened. 4e was really pushed by the D&D group, this was Hasbro politics. They brewed up a design, Orcus, and started playtesting it and it just didn't gel. By that point they had apparently already basically committed to a release timeframe, so they went back and hammered out a rehash of the core system, which produced 4e. However, it was now behind, and they simply ran it through the process at high speed. Playtesting didn't get to the level of getting it out to enough people outside the 'box' of the designers and people they knew, so they never quite saw that people basically weren't playing the game they were writing. Things like the DMG simply weren't properly edited and vetted. MM1 has all sorts of monsters that were clearly designed to some earlier standard and then hastily revised (or not) as the game evolved quickly.

4e should have waited a year and been released at 2009 Gen Con. It also would have been a little better climate overall, considering the economy and other craziness that was going on at the time. Anyway DMG1 seems to be halfway caught between design paradigms. It does have a lot of stuff in it that points to the sort of game you and I and Pemerton and others have played with 4e, but at the same time its not fully coherent. Another factor is I think they may have gotten a bit scared of just how FAR 4e could have gone. Maybe they DID right a DMG that expounded a fully story centered sort of game, and decided it was bridge too far at the last minute.

http://dmdavid.com/tag/why-fourth-edition-seemed-like-the-savior-dungeons-dragons-needed/

Here's some interesting reading on 4e and the driving factors behind it's design.. it seems to suggest that bottling the appeal of mmorpg's as well as ensuring portability to a VT were primary (though not the only) influences on the design of the rules system as opposed to it's primary driver being indie design goals... I'm curious whether you think there necessarily has to be some tension between these sets of design golas (the type of play you ascribe to 4e vs. the type of rules set that would cater to the mmorpg market/VTT users. Also if these were their driving factors it might explain why there is little to no advice and guidance around the play of 4e in the way many with indie experience choose to run 4e.
 

Ted Serious

First Post
I dont really understand what you are saying? Are you saying that the caster can not cast his spells on anyone in the team?
He can choose not to, because his spells are his resource. He can be a team player or not. When one party member gets hurt more the others can step up or they can not care about him until he is out of HD, then complain he's forcing them to rest.
 

Ted Serious

First Post
Your opinion is your own. As for myself, you can't tell me that features which were present for literally the entire time I played the game do not reflect anything about the essential nature of 4E. The first two years of releases represent literally everything that I could have possibly used as a basis for forming an opinion, unless you want people to go around forming opinions based on message boards.

If a game is actively played for ten years, then the last two years of that period can only represent at most twenty percent of what the product was all about.

You're more than welcome to ignore transient features when making your own analysis, of course, but that may not lead to a useful analysis. I might have missed if you answered the question, but what is the essential nature of 4E to you? Specifically, if you looked at a different game that you had never heard of before, what features of that game would indicate to you that they were definitely inspired by 4E?
I have, twice. The essence of 4e is that it is a Pencil and Paper Class Based Fantasy RPG.

It is derivative of D&D, just like many other games including Warcraft. A game inspired by a derivative of D&D will appear derivative of D&D.

The only point of saying Pathfinder 2 is like 4e or like 5e is to poison it for potential fans who dislike either of those games.
 

Aenghus

Explorer
As regards running out of healing surges, in later 4e there was a 1st level magic ritual Comrades' Succor, that at the cost of one healing surge from one of the participants allowed up to six participants to trade healing surges between each other.
 

darkbard

Hero
As regards running out of healing surges, in later 4e there was a 1st level magic ritual Comrades' Succor, that at the cost of one healing surge from one of the participants allowed up to six participants to trade healing surges between each other.


Plus the 7th level wondrous magic item Vistani Buzuq.
 

I have, twice. The essence of 4e is that it is a Pencil and Paper Class Based Fantasy RPG.

It is derivative of D&D, just like many other games including Warcraft. A game inspired by a derivative of D&D will appear derivative of D&D.
That is not a useful analysis. Half of all games in existence are derivative of D&D. Your contribution does nothing to distinguish the nature of 4E from that of Final Fantasy X.
The only point of saying Pathfinder 2 is like 4e or like 5e is to poison it for potential fans who dislike either of those games.
Now you're assuming malicious intent. Some people actually like 4E. Some people like parts of 4E, and their deal-breakers with that game might be in areas that others see as non-essential, but we'll never know unless we actually figure out what is essential in the first place!
 

Shasarak

Banned
Banned
He can choose not to, because his spells are his resource. He can be a team player or not. When one party member gets hurt more the others can step up or they can not care about him until he is out of HD, then complain he's forcing them to rest.

That sounds more like a Player problem then a System problem to me. Maybe you could have a talk with the Player that sounds like it would probably fix that issue up the fastest.
 

Indeed. As a hater, here's my summary: if you want to play World of Warcraft, but you don't have a computer, then 4E D&D is the closest approximation.

If you want to play Magic the Gathering, but all your friends would rather play a TRPG, then 4E D&D is the compromise.

WOW RPG was d20 3.5 SRD based, not 4E... ;)
Same for EverQuest.

The core for me for 4E was the uniform application of the same 4 ability chains with different labels for all the classes, coupled to the 1d20 roll high mechanic.

It was a really good rules medium-heavy tactical minis combat system, with a very vague (at least at first) rules light approach to everything else. Exactly the opposite of what I was wanting when it came out.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I don't think being tactical is really the essence that sets 4e apart from other editions. 3e was tactical too.

To me it's probably the unified structure AEDU, a complete abandonment of rules as physics, and balance.

It was not my cup of tea for sure. I guess I prefer power imbalance to all the measures I've seen to correct that imbalance.
 

Ted Serious

First Post
That is not a useful analysis. Half of all games in existence are derivative of D&D. Your contribution does nothing to distinguish the nature of 4E from that of Final Fantasy X.
Now you're assuming malicious intent. Some people actually like 4E. Some people like parts of 4E, and their deal-breakers with that game might be in areas that others see as non-essential, but we'll never know unless we actually figure out what is essential in the first place!
Maybe you should rethink your question.

Do you want answer or are you just trying to make Pathfinder 2 look bad by associating it with the controversy surrounding 4e.
 

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