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What is the essence of 4E?

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:

Yeah, I gave BSoH to the first party that I ran 4e for in 2008. It was a great way to kind of smooth out some of the "the fighter is down to 2 surges again, and we're still 15 miles from home..." But you're right, the players just had to learn to either NOT let that happen, OR change up and let someone else take hits for a while.
 

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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.

I still think Mearls, and by extension basically the rest of them, including dmdavid, have missed what I see as a key point. If you deliver the whole package, something that is UNDERSTOOD to be a certain game, then at least people will take it at face value as that game. Mike is right that they ran out of time to do what they set out to, but I don't agree that it is class design that is the problem. CLEARLY Essentials didn't solve any of what players were concerned about. There was a game, which was fundamentally suited to being a narrativist D&D, but clad mostly in the clothing of a different game written by Gary Gygax 30 years before.

People say they were surprised to hear about how we played 4e. They shouldn't have been surprised, it should have been written all over the DMG! I mean, sure, maybe it would have pissed people off, but at the same time, what is it that is REALLY different between MMOs and D&D? Its the fact that D&D is not 'canned', that the GM can react, can adapt, can tell the story YOU want to be part of! That's narrativist, even Story Now, RPG play, not running stock dungeons on a VTT.

Its weird how they managed to sort of almost 'accidentally' create the right game and yet not know they had it and not understand that it was what they needed!
 

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.
My ulterior motive is that I'm trying to figure out whether I would enjoy Pathfinder 2, based on what I know about other games it may be drawing from, such as 4E.

So far, this thread is making PF2 sound good to me, because it seems to be drawing from the parts of 4E that I liked and not from the parts that I didn't.
 

Tallifer

Hero
To me, the essence of 4e is really the structure of character powers, and the universal application of that structure to *all* characters.

Forsooth. And this was my favourite part and the part I miss the most about 5E or Pathfinder. I liked being able to move seamlessly from class to class, and monster to monster. Once I learned the basic rules, I could understand every new option as it came out.
 

Imaro

Legend
I still think Mearls, and by extension basically the rest of them, including dmdavid, have missed what I see as a key point. If you deliver the whole package, something that is UNDERSTOOD to be a certain game, then at least people will take it at face value as that game. Mike is right that they ran out of time to do what they set out to, but I don't agree that it is class design that is the problem. CLEARLY Essentials didn't solve any of what players were concerned about. There was a game, which was fundamentally suited to being a narrativist D&D, but clad mostly in the clothing of a different game written by Gary Gygax 30 years before.

Couple of points...

1. I think people took it at face value that this was D&D... that the same stories and games they had told and run in previous editions would be playable with the new edition... I think this assumption (especially since it was also part of the 4e marketing, remember... "ze game remains ze same!"... makes me question whether 4e was intended to be this narrativist/story now/etc. game that you and others seem to classify it as. Or whether it was secondary effect. I lean towards a secondary effect of everything listed in that article since I just don't see the designers banking on indie design as carrying the type of numbers 4e needed... When compared to previously sold traditional D&D editions the numbers for indie games sold are a drop of water in a lake... why bet your new edition on that type of design?

2. I'll just say I enjoy Essentials and the essentials classes. While the class change may not have solved everyone's problems they certainly did make the game appeal more to me (along with some of the polish and the concise/compact nature of this sub-branch of the game). IMO, essentials actually delivers on making 4e a game that is good for introducing new people to the hobby, as well as serving casual gamers... in fact I will be starting up a secondary game using 4e essentials because of that fact. Now admittedly I don't discuss essentials much since it seems that many 4e "purist" have a pretty strong bias against essentials so that could contribute to why they aren't discussed (except un a mostly derogatory way) in most of the 4e venues online.

Ultimately I don't think you can definitively say that it's clear Essentials didn't solve any of what players were concerned about... it released 2 years after the core books and I'm sorry but that's a long time to expect people to stick with a game they didn't care for... especially with a popular and readily available alternative in Pathfinder. I think perhaps if the 4e PHB had been a mix of the essentials and core book classes it woud have come of much better overall than it did... I think so, but at the end of the day it's all just speculation.


People say they were surprised to hear about how we played 4e. They shouldn't have been surprised, it should have been written all over the DMG! I mean, sure, maybe it would have pissed people off, but at the same time, what is it that is REALLY different between MMOs and D&D? Its the fact that D&D is not 'canned', that the GM can react, can adapt, can tell the story YOU want to be part of! That's narrativist, even Story Now, RPG play, not running stock dungeons on a VTT.

I disagree here... Story Now is a particular set of techniques/playstyle that while including the traits you mentioned is not specifically necessary for a DM to run a game where he is reacting, adapting and telling a story. {Perhaps you see it that way because it's your preferred style (I also think this is why you and others were able to apply this to 4e) but it most assuredly is not necessary for a DM to include those things in his game.

As for why it wasn't written all over the game... well I would think the designers/developers would have the best handle on the game they designed and I tend to think they didn't necessarily intend for D&D 4e to be run in that specific playstyle and thus why it wasn't promoted as such upon release. I think later they may have figured out it could work that way and tried to push that as a sort of retroactively applied default playstyle (especially since it had little in common with the default Pathfinder style) to try and slow the growing number of dissatisfied players...

Its weird how they managed to sort of almost 'accidentally' create the right game and yet not know they had it and not understand that it was what they needed!

Well I'm not sure it was the "right" game... again banking on indie design (with the available data on it's market ) to make D&D a core brand of Hasbro doesn't feel like what they needed either.
 

Imaro

Legend
Forsooth. And this was my favourite part and the part I miss the most about 5E or Pathfinder. I liked being able to move seamlessly from class to class, and monster to monster. Once I learned the basic rules, I could understand every new option as it came out.

I always find it a little funny how 4e fans will praise a post like this... basically saying there was enough similarity from class to class that one could play any of them with no problem. But will get mad when someone who doesn't like that aspect of the game claims the classes all felt very homogenized. The only difference I see is one finds it positive while another finds it negative... but it's the same trait in the game.
 

Aenghus

Explorer
I always find it a little funny how 4e fans will praise a post like this... basically saying there was enough similarity from class to class that one could play any of them with no problem. But will get mad when someone who doesn't like that aspect of the game claims the classes all felt very homogenized. The only difference I see is one finds it positive while another finds it negative... but it's the same trait in the game.

I disagree that 4e classes are homogenous and easy to learn after learning one of them.. Learning a 4e class involves more than just reading the individual powers, there's often a particular "flow" to learn to get the best out of a class, and that requires playing them with something of an open mind. The learning curves can be more complex than it seems due to in class synergy, and synergy with other classes.

Trying to force a class to play like it did in a previous edition, when it's been changed significantly is likely to be a sucky experience. Often the answer is to learn to play it differently to gain the desired experience, or play a different class that has taken over that concept.

And it's not as if this hasn't happened every edition change, what with eg. all the assassins dropping dead in the transition from 1e to cuddlier 2e. Sometimes the change is just arbitrary, sometimes it reflects a change in direction and philosophy for the edition. Houseruling the former isn't problematic, houseruling the latter and you begin fighting the edition in a way that might be unproductive for the participants.
 

Tallifer

Hero
Also, 4th Edition gave us, in my opinion, the best version of the Fighter (and other such like) in the Defender Role. A Fighter who could defend and protects his companions. "Come and Get It" was for some too fantastic, but allowing for such flights of fancy, I really enjoyed the 4E Fighter.

<laughs> I say that, but it looks like Copperleafy failed to protect one of his fellow adventurers:

Copperleafy defending.jpg
 

Couple of points...

1. I think people took it at face value that this was D&D... that the same stories and games they had told and run in previous editions would be playable with the new edition... I think this assumption (especially since it was also part of the 4e marketing, remember... "ze game remains ze same!"... makes me question whether 4e was intended to be this narrativist/story now/etc. game that you and others seem to classify it as. Or whether it was secondary effect. I lean towards a secondary effect of everything listed in that article since I just don't see the designers banking on indie design as carrying the type of numbers 4e needed... When compared to previously sold traditional D&D editions the numbers for indie games sold are a drop of water in a lake... why bet your new edition on that type of design?
I think 'indie design' vs 'traditional design' is a meaningless distinction when people are having fun playing games. There's nothing inherent about either type of game which makes it more or less popular than the other. So, that part feels wrong to me.

It may be that there were differences of opinion on the 4e team about exactly what game they were writing, that's possible and even likely. There may have been differences between the designers and the marketers, also likely. There may have been some thought of not wanting to go completely over into 'story now' without leaving the game capable of working in more traditional ways. We don't really know what exact discussions happened in that vein. I know that it IS a narrativistic game design, and a good game. I don't need to speculate on that!

I think a lot of what we did in previous editions CAN be done in 4e. Its done a little bit differently is all. I ran plenty of scenarios that I had outlined as possibilities in my old 2e games using 4e. Its still D&D in many fundamental ways.

2. I'll just say I enjoy Essentials and the essentials classes. While the class change may not have solved everyone's problems they certainly did make the game appeal more to me (along with some of the polish and the concise/compact nature of this sub-branch of the game). IMO, essentials actually delivers on making 4e a game that is good for introducing new people to the hobby, as well as serving casual gamers... in fact I will be starting up a secondary game using 4e essentials because of that fact. Now admittedly I don't discuss essentials much since it seems that many 4e "purist" have a pretty strong bias against essentials so that could contribute to why they aren't discussed (except un a mostly derogatory way) in most of the 4e venues online.
I just thought Essentials was kind of a waste of time and resources that could have been better spent on other things. The guy harps on the VTT not materializing, but couldn't they have spent the money that went into Essentials on making it a reality? I mean, what people call 'flaws in 4e' seems more like just basic business mistakes that came back to bite WotC.

Ultimately I don't think you can definitively say that it's clear Essentials didn't solve any of what players were concerned about... it released 2 years after the core books and I'm sorry but that's a long time to expect people to stick with a game they didn't care for... especially with a popular and readily available alternative in Pathfinder. I think perhaps if the 4e PHB had been a mix of the essentials and core book classes it woud have come of much better overall than it did... I think so, but at the end of the day it's all just speculation.
Yeah, I think Essentials missed some key things about 4e and it wouldn't have worked out. They needed to go FURTHER with it if it was going to succeed, not try to regress, which is what Essentials is really about.

I disagree here... Story Now is a particular set of techniques/playstyle that while including the traits you mentioned is not specifically necessary for a DM to run a game where he is reacting, adapting and telling a story. {Perhaps you see it that way because it's your preferred style (I also think this is why you and others were able to apply this to 4e) but it most assuredly is not necessary for a DM to include those things in his game.
Well, we had a LONG discussion of this in another thread, and I never saw anyone draw up a convincing picture for me as to how you would do that.

As for why it wasn't written all over the game... well I would think the designers/developers would have the best handle on the game they designed and I tend to think they didn't necessarily intend for D&D 4e to be run in that specific playstyle and thus why it wasn't promoted as such upon release. I think later they may have figured out it could work that way and tried to push that as a sort of retroactively applied default playstyle (especially since it had little in common with the default Pathfinder style) to try and slow the growing number of dissatisfied players...
I don't see where they did anything like that 'retroactively'. There's a lot of stuff in DMG1 which comes right out of classic narrativist game design and play toolbox. Its just not consistent and all clearly spelled out ABC there. DMG2 seems more reactive to me. It includes a lot of good advice for how to run the sort of weird 3-legged-dog that is the game you get when you take DMG1 literally. It makes that a MORE workable game, but the MOST workable configuration is, and thus would be, a story oriented one.

Well I'm not sure it was the "right" game... again banking on indie design (with the available data on it's market ) to make D&D a core brand of Hasbro doesn't feel like what they needed either.

I think there are reasons to doubt that 'story now' games will sustain robust product lines of adventures. OTOH 4e didn't feature a huge line of modules. It seemed like their strategy was more to make it easy for GMs to cook up stories. I'm not sure how that all fits together in the end. I do believe that some of what the article stated makes sense. The lack of a VTT hurt DDI and that was certainly meant to be a big part of their money strategy.
 

I disagree that 4e classes are homogenous and easy to learn after learning one of them.. Learning a 4e class involves more than just reading the individual powers, there's often a particular "flow" to learn to get the best out of a class, and that requires playing them with something of an open mind. The learning curves can be more complex than it seems due to in class synergy, and synergy with other classes.
It's like the difference between Street Fighter and Smash Bros. There is a lot of hidden depth and complexity that you need to learn if you really want to make the most of Samus (most of it involving frame data), but at a more basic level, everyone still utilizes the same inputs.

If every class in AD&D used the same mechanics as the wizard and priest, then you would still need to learn the subtleties of their unique spells and spell lists, but you wouldn't need to re-learn the mechanics of how spells work. You could make a decent showing of it, right out of the gate.
 

fjw70

Explorer
To me, as someone who DMed a lot if 4e but rarely was a player, the essence of 4e was the monster/encounter building and the all encompassing monster stat blocks. It was such a joy to run.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Another thing that sets 4e apart was the philosophy of making the encounter the centerpiece of the game. More than just a board (i.e. grid, map, etc.), minis, and markers, the rules worked around the length of an encounter as the standard timekeeper. This is where the powers were divided into at-wills, encounter (duh), and dailies (once per x encounters per day between long rests). In fact, the D&D Encounters program was built on the premise of one encounter per two-hour session. As a DM, you would only need to prepare for the next encounter, and the system made it super easy even without digital tools to throw one together in short order. If you're a busy person with a full time job, family, and little free time to prepare elaborate plots and potential left turns by roaming PCs, this system was truly a godsend. And if the combats themselves would not take so long due to high numbers of hit points and too many player abilities with endless conditions to track, it would have been closer to perfection. One encounter at a time.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
This may not the thread for it, but I mentioned it in another thread.

There is a very significant overlap in long term Star Wars fans/traditionalists and D&D (no surprise as these were two of the seminal zeitgeists of that era).

I would think that one of the takeaways of 4e (essence) is:

“Don’t piss off your traditionalist base.”

4e was and has been relentlessly murdered for that.

However, curiously, The Last Jedi was championed for just that (interestingly by some of the same crowd that has relentlessly attacked 4e) but put in pleasant terms such as “subverting expectations.”

So I’m not sure that the “don’t alienate your base/piss off traditionalists” axiom is universal. It’s apparently not even universal among the significant D&D/Star Wars overlap!
If anything, I imagine there's a decent correlation between those who disliked 4e and those who disliked TLJ for the same reasons; it didn't match their expectations of what "D&D" or "Star Wars" should be.

Now, I also know several people who like TLJ and dislike 4e, and their explanation is that primarily because Star Wars is a narrative and should evolve, whereas D&D is a process and should stay more fixed.
 

fjw70

Explorer
The presentation of 4e was a key element for me too. I loved the clear concise mathematical approach to the books. However, I do understand with our math phobic culture this was a problem for many.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The presentation of 4e was a key element for me too. I loved the clear concise mathematical approach to the books. However, I do understand with our math phobic culture this was a problem for many.
Right, so they stayed with the math-light 3.x or moved to Pathfinder. :|
 

fjw70

Explorer
Right, so they stayed with the math-light 3.x or moved to Pathfinder. :|

LOL, I never said that everyone that disliked 4e was math phobic. I imagine the more math phobic people drifted towards the OSR games. However, even those that are comfortable and quite good at calculations can sometimes recoil at a pure mathematical approach.

But this obviously isn’t the whole story of 4e. Just one piece.
 

It's like the difference between Street Fighter and Smash Bros. There is a lot of hidden depth and complexity that you need to learn if you really want to make the most of Samus (most of it involving frame data), but at a more basic level, everyone still utilizes the same inputs.

If every class in AD&D used the same mechanics as the wizard and priest, then you would still need to learn the subtleties of their unique spells and spell lists, but you wouldn't need to re-learn the mechanics of how spells work. You could make a decent showing of it, right out of the gate.

4e classes really ARE very different though. The notion that there is a 'sameness' to them is extremely shallow. Nor is it exactly rocket-science what the differences are. The fighter has lots of hit points, many surges, usually a high AC, and a pretty 'right up front there' punishment mechanic. 4e even goes so far as to write 'defender' right on the lid of the thing! Its pretty clear what it does and how it does it. You don't even have the option to stand back and shoot arrows or something, you go in, you mix it up toe-to-toe with the heavies, and you pin them down. If they won't stay pinned, then you get to do beyond-striker-level damage to them instead.

Now, how would you confuse that with a Wizard? If you played your 4e wizard like a fighter, he would be reduced to a mashed up stain on the floor on round 2. Its kinda hard not to notice that he's intended to mostly avoid being pounded on and interfere with the bad guys so they don't all swarm the fighter at once.

IMHO where 4e does get bogged down in more in the details of character build. Where in 5e you make basically just a few elemental choices, to be a certain class and a certain build, and then maybe whether or not to grab a feat or an ABI as a secondary thing, in 4e you keep constantly making small choices which add up to the different minor variations on your character. So in 5e you would just choose, dwarf (mountain), fighter, champion, and carry around a big axe. In 4e you might have to pick dwarf, fighter, DWT, Giant Slayer, Axe Expertise, Axe Specialization, Mordenkrad Proficiency, find an enchanted mordenkrad, the enhanced CS feat, the right PP, more feats, the right ED, and 10 different power choices made correctly in order to be on and stay on that path.

So, this is one area where I think 4e was open to improvement. While I disagree with the notion that you have to build some crazy entirely different subsystem for every class 'just because', there's a perfectly good argument that the choices should be more basic and less granular. So maybe instead of just 2 variations of FWT there should have been 4 or 5 'styles' that subsumed a lot of the more obvious choices you would make as a package. Thus you could have 'dwarf, fighter, axe master, and then maybe a smattering of 'feat' choices to give you the tweaks you might like to have (do I like to charge into battle, do I like to make big uncontrolled swings with my axe, do I like to knock people down and decapitate them, etc.).

When I wrote my own game I set out to do this. Its BASICALLY 4e, but the choices are more 'broad strokes', and the idea is you don't have to keep paying close attention to EXACTLY what feat you need next in order to add to the tower of stuff that is 'axe dwarf' in PHB1 vintage 4e. Yet at the same time not sacrificing the ability of different classes mechanics to mesh, or the resource model symmetry, as Essentials and 5e did (big sin there). I think I will prove that you can have both the essential advantages of 4e and simplify the sets of choices like 5e did. I think I will prove you can do it without any less diversity of play options and distinctions in classes too.
 

If anything, I imagine there's a decent correlation between those who disliked 4e and those who disliked TLJ for the same reasons; it didn't match their expectations of what "D&D" or "Star Wars" should be.

Now, I also know several people who like TLJ and dislike 4e, and their explanation is that primarily because Star Wars is a narrative and should evolve, whereas D&D is a process and should stay more fixed.

I may fall into that category, but then I also fall into both of [MENTION=17607]Pauper[/MENTION]'s categories: I like the shakeup of TLJ, I think 4e solved 3e's problems, and I think 4e almost lost D&D's base by not respecting the traditionalists.

Firstly, I don't think your prostulation is well formed to show a disparity in thinking. Star Wars is a narrative, D&D is a game used to create narratives. The change in Star Wars TLJ was to juggle a few of the tropes while largely adhering to the SW genre. 4e radically changed the underlying assumptions of how the game works. I do not think these are comparable.

Sorry for the delay in getting back.

Alright, so my thoughts:

I definitely agree with TwoSix's first thought above:

a) "I imagine there's a decent correlation between those who disliked 4e and those who disliked TLJ for the same reasons; it didn't match their expectations of what "D&D" or "Star Wars" should be."

I also saw on the TLJ thread on these boards that there are "people who like TLJ and dislike 4e." I didn't see a breakdown for the reasons for that in that thread (though I invoked it to try to get the reasoning for it). TwoSix provides this:

b) "...their explanation is that primarily because Star Wars is a narrative and should evolve, whereas D&D is a process and should stay more fixed."

Ovinomancer provides the following two thoughts:

c) "I like the shakeup of TLJ, I think 4e solved 3e's problems, and I think 4e almost lost D&D's base by not respecting the traditionalists."

d) "Star Wars is a narrative, D&D is a game used to create narratives. The change in Star Wars TLJ was to juggle a few of the tropes while largely adhering to the SW genre. 4e radically changed the underlying assumptions of how the game works. I do not think these are comparable."

1) Let me start with one part of (d):

I definitely don't agree with the premise that TLJ just juggled a few of the tropes but largely adhered to the SW genre. In fact, I think I'd probably go so far as to say that I've never seen a movie so profoundly push back against or overturn its trope/theme/lore/continuity lineage than TLJ did. I'm a big Star Wars fan, but not by any stretch of the imagination a "fanboy" or anywhere near the biggest I know. I know a ton of SW fans. Waaaaaaaaaay more than D&D fans. These people range from "just sort of a SW fan" like me to the ridiculously obsessed lore honks (like we see with FR or PS in D&D). To nearly a person (3 out of perhaps the 100 or so that I know well), these people didn't just consider that movie a bad SW movie, they considered it a "betrayal." Seriously...using overwrought language like that. I don't get that deeply into fandom, but I understand where they're coming from. And after exploring that phenomenon on the internet, that same sense of "betrayal" is expressed pervasively.

I think the evidence for the SW fans' sense of "betrayal" at TLJ is pretty well captured with Solo's complete flop compared to Rogue One's box office numbers. A movie about Han (frickin') Solo should absolutely obliterate the box office. He is one of the most iconic characters in the history of Western cinema. Rogue One? A story about an unknown group getting the plans to the Death Star? The former (Solo) is sitting at 368 M world-wide after 5.4 weeks of release (and everything showing pretty much a stall-out at this point). The latter (R1)? Well over 1 B world-wide.

The only difference is the latter was released after TLJ and the former released before it. Those two lines of evidence (the wilting backlash by hardcore fans) and the box office disparity between those two movies (despite Solo carrying the force-multiplying "Han factor") are pretty overwhelming I think.

But that being said, while I definitely think you could do a hardcore, objective analysis of trope/theme/lore/continuity for trope/theme/lore/continuity to compare TLJ vs 4e, there is invariably going to be a not-insignificant subjective component to that. So that is probably not particularly worthwhile to do (and that would just bog down this thread and feel a little douchey on my part for leading the conversation so astray...apologies to all for that, by the way!).


2) What I think can be an interesting conversation is where (b) and (d) have some expressed similarity; movie narratives and underlying assumptions can/should evolve more in movies while narratives and underlying assumptions in RPGs need to remain heavily curated toward stability/orthodoxy over time.

Its interesting because I find that proposition to be completely inverted. The reason for that is simple:

A movie born on the back of a lineage is a creation of screenplay/cast/directors/producers/and help. Fans have absolutely 0 (direct) impact on its content or its telling. They aren't active participants. They are passive consumers. Once the tale is told...its told. It is cemented as a piece of cinematic continuity/canon forevermore. There is no veto process and/or "redoes" (and even if there were, the same passive consumer position for fans would exist for those). The only "veto power" the fans can express is lack of engagement with subsequent content (see Solo).

RPGs are precisely the opposite. GM and players are active participants. As such:

(a) The game itself can be hacked if the table wishes. Premise, resolution mechanics, play procedures, reward cycles, social contract over authority and content introduction, etc can all be massaged and manipulated at the discretion of those active participants.

(b) Any setting/trope/genre components can be drifted, annulled, evolved, or ret-conned at the discretion of those active participants.

(c) Because of all of the above, the shared imaginary space and the work of fiction at an individual RPG table is entirely self-derived.




Thoughts?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Sorry for the delay in getting back.

Alright, so my thoughts:

I definitely agree with TwoSix's first thought above:

a) "I imagine there's a decent correlation between those who disliked 4e and those who disliked TLJ for the same reasons; it didn't match their expectations of what "D&D" or "Star Wars" should be."

I also saw on the TLJ thread on these boards that there are "people who like TLJ and dislike 4e." I didn't see a breakdown for the reasons for that in that thread (though I invoked it to try to get the reasoning for it). TwoSix provides this:

b) "...their explanation is that primarily because Star Wars is a narrative and should evolve, whereas D&D is a process and should stay more fixed."

Ovinomancer provides the following two thoughts:

c) "I like the shakeup of TLJ, I think 4e solved 3e's problems, and I think 4e almost lost D&D's base by not respecting the traditionalists."

d) "Star Wars is a narrative, D&D is a game used to create narratives. The change in Star Wars TLJ was to juggle a few of the tropes while largely adhering to the SW genre. 4e radically changed the underlying assumptions of how the game works. I do not think these are comparable."

1) Let me start with one part of (d):

I definitely don't agree with the premise that TLJ just juggled a few of the tropes but largely adhered to the SW genre. In fact, I think I'd probably go so far as to say that I've never seen a movie so profoundly push back against or overturn its trope/theme/lore/continuity lineage than TLJ did. I'm a big Star Wars fan, but not by any stretch of the imagination a "fanboy" or anywhere near the biggest I know. I know a ton of SW fans. Waaaaaaaaaay more than D&D fans. These people range from "just sort of a SW fan" like me to the ridiculously obsessed lore honks (like we see with FR or PS in D&D). To nearly a person (3 out of perhaps the 100 or so that I know well), these people didn't just consider that movie a bad SW movie, they considered it a "betrayal." Seriously...using overwrought language like that. I don't get that deeply into fandom, but I understand where they're coming from. And after exploring that phenomenon on the internet, that same sense of "betrayal" is expressed pervasively.

I think the evidence for the SW fans' sense of "betrayal" at TLJ is pretty well captured with Solo's complete flop compared to Rogue One's box office numbers. A movie about Han (frickin') Solo should absolutely obliterate the box office. He is one of the most iconic characters in the history of Western cinema. Rogue One? A story about an unknown group getting the plans to the Death Star? The former (Solo) is sitting at 368 M world-wide after 5.4 weeks of release (and everything showing pretty much a stall-out at this point). The latter (R1)? Well over 1 B world-wide.

The only difference is the latter was released after TLJ and the former released before it. Those two lines of evidence (the wilting backlash by hardcore fans) and the box office disparity between those two movies (despite Solo carrying the force-multiplying "Han factor") are pretty overwhelming I think.

But that being said, while I definitely think you could do a hardcore, objective analysis of trope/theme/lore/continuity for trope/theme/lore/continuity to compare TLJ vs 4e, there is invariably going to be a not-insignificant subjective component to that. So that is probably not particularly worthwhile to do (and that would just bog down this thread and feel a little douchey on my part for leading the conversation so astray...apologies to all for that, by the way!).
Only if you consider 'Skywalkers are the center of everything' as the core trope of Star Wars is it a betrayal. That complaint is almost always about what they did to Luke. I didn't mind -- he's in the same general place as Yoda and Kenobi as failed teachers in hiding. He redeems himself largely in the same way Kenobi does. It's moving around the pieces, really. Most of TLJ is moving around the pieces of Empire and New Hope with a few new bits. The main thrust that fans got upset at was the replacement of the Skywalker line as the heroes with new blood. That's the trope they abandoned, and where all the complaints come from.

So, no, I disagree there was a large abandonment of tropes in TLJ. They changed the guard, and a lot of fans (especially EU consumers) were very much attached to the old guard. Personally, I found sticking to the Skywalker line was what really killed the prequels -- they couldn't go anywhere, so they puttered around the edges with stupid to distract from the straightforward drive to the known end. The suspense thread touches on this kind of issue (poorly).
2) What I think can be an interesting conversation is where (b) and (d) have some expressed similarity; movie narratives and underlying assumptions can/should evolve more in movies while narratives and underlying assumptions in RPGs need to remain heavily curated toward stability/orthodoxy over time.

Its interesting because I find that proposition to be completely inverted. The reason for that is simple:

A movie born on the back of a lineage is a creation of screenplay/cast/directors/producers/and help. Fans have absolutely 0 (direct) impact on its content or its telling. They aren't active participants. They are passive consumers. Once the tale is told...its told. It is cemented as a piece of cinematic continuity/canon forevermore. There is no veto process and/or "redoes" (and even if there were, the same passive consumer position for fans would exist for those). The only "veto power" the fans can express is lack of engagement with subsequent content (see Solo).

RPGs are precisely the opposite. GM and players are active participants. As such:

(a) The game itself can be hacked if the table wishes. Premise, resolution mechanics, play procedures, reward cycles, social contract over authority and content introduction, etc can all be massaged and manipulated at the discretion of those active participants.

(b) Any setting/trope/genre components can be drifted, annulled, evolved, or ret-conned at the discretion of those active participants.

(c) Because of all of the above, the shared imaginary space and the work of fiction at an individual RPG table is entirely self-derived.




Thoughts?
You're looking at the narrative of the game being flexible (always been thus) and using that as a stand-in for the published ruleset. No one's complaining about how your table hacks the rules -- that's 100% your deal. This issue is that 4e radically changed the way the game plays and then didn't explain that. I think that's because they didn't really understand what they had done themselves. They tried to fix the major issues with 3.x by balancing per encounter (which addressed the 5 minute workday and liner fighter quadratic wizard issues) and tried out a structure to eliminate the Diplomancer type problem by having a skill contest that couldn't just be one player rolling they're best skill to get what they want. These two things accidentally push 4e much towards narrativist play, but I contend this is entirely unintentional due to the complete lack of any suggestions in the books to play this way and the lack of developer comment on this new style.

Still, they radically changed how the game works so that the previous mode of play in 3.x and earlier editions really isn't well supported. And they did this with some changes that empower players and take away the 'DM may I' style D&D generally prefers. Then, they utterly failed to communicate this and also badly misplayed their hand with marketing. The result was a very different game without making this clear in either the marketing or in the rules themselves. Pushing away the grognards with 'suck it, we're WotC and if you want D&D you'll take it our way' marketing just further entrenched the lines. This would be like making a Star Wars movie that's a suspense-thriller involving spies and poker.

I do, however, agree that movie franchises have constraints; I don't agree that RPG franchises lack the same restraints. The formula is what matters to franchises. 4e changed the formula.
 

Heh, @Manbearcat, that was interesting. I won't quote it just because it was long and I'm lazy!

I think the difference between Rogue 1 and Han Solo is just that one was a fun and interesting movie with interesting characters, and the other was boring, shallow, and predictable. All Han Solo did was recapitulate a bunch of action scenes which we've basically seen before. The 'Young Han' is NO different from the 'Old Han' we saw in 1977. He didn't start out differently and evolve, he just sorta was basically the same guy, just younger. There's no surprise when his girlfriend stands him up, nothing shocking about him shooting first, nothing. Its a movie that utterly takes its audience for granted and the writers couldn't even be bothered to give them the respect of a decent plot. It deserved to fail. If it hadn't had 'Star Wars' plastered on it, then it would've lasted a week in the theater and grossed $10 mil. which it richly deserved.

My perspective on the whole 'Last Jedi' thing, as a guy who's seen all the movies and likes them but isn't 'into' the whole genre enough to care about 'canon' or whatever is that it was a perfectly fine movie. I have no idea what sort of lore it transgressed to be honest, and couldn't care less. That's probably true for the vast majority of people who watch a Star Wars movie, they come out and watch them because they're generally fun effects-filled sci-fi.

I will note that I was struck by an article about Star Wars I saw on, IIRC, Ars Technica where the author talked about the inevitable decay of the series from Mythic Tale to simple gritty narrative. That is, when you start filling in all the details and expositing the bit characters and whatnot then the whole story goes from something akin to Hercules to something more akin to your average Manga. It could still be filled with flash and bang, but by episode 10 or so there's really not much more Epicness left. In this sense something like Star Wars is doomed to die. If the epic story was really the point then the whole thing should have ended with 'Return of the Jedi' 20 years ago.

4e is different from 'classic' D&D in a number of ways, but I agree with you that game systems are things that really do have to evolve if they're going to continue to stay current. That is what concerns me about the way 5e seems to put a hard stop on innovation in any fundamental aspect of D&D. Where a movie series maybe should just end and acknowledge that its time to go on to another endeavor, a game system should evolve with the 'art of gaming' and changes in culture, tech, etc. because it is a participatory thing and cannot simply stand as a finished work.
 
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