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4E Where was 4e headed before it was canned?

Ratskinner

Adventurer
This is not entirely off-base, but I think you need more structure than that in order to make it reasonably straightforward for most "I just want to play the game" type folks (about 90% of all players) to get on with it. When they really want to color outside the lines, 4e is quite easy on them in terms of doing it.
I actually think this is a misperception that is common amongst us afficianado types. I think the presentation of "pages of powers", or even "piles of choices" as some other editions and many other games have it, strikes those folks as more problematic than, for example, a 1-page character sheet game with everything you need for your class/character on it. I doubt that most of these casual folks are even aware of how a game like 4e could allow them to "color outside the lines". At least IME, people coming to the game with that attitude have less trouble with abstraction or free-form play than they do with "tax form" style rules and character sheets. Obviously, this is one of those areas with a lot of YMMV attached.

Now, I think its a little more problematic from a publishing/design point of view. Because, if history is any guide, a good portion of those people will eventually want to "get more into it" which puts them in the position of wanting more rule-depth...which, of course a publisher would want to sell them. So that puts you in the position of wanting to have a simple option that plays right next to the tax-form option...which seems a much harder trick to pull off than it looks. Both 4e and 5e have made some effort to that effect, with varying opinions on their degree of success. But I don't think anyone thinks either of them pulled them off spectacularly well.
 

Parmandur

Legend
I actually think this is a misperception that is common amongst us afficianado types. I think the presentation of "pages of powers", or even "piles of choices" as some other editions and many other games have it, strikes those folks as more problematic than, for example, a 1-page character sheet game with everything you need for your class/character on it. I doubt that most of these casual folks are even aware of how a game like 4e could allow them to "color outside the lines". At least IME, people coming to the game with that attitude have less trouble with abstraction or free-form play than they do with "tax form" style rules and character sheets. Obviously, this is one of those areas with a lot of YMMV attached.

Now, I think its a little more problematic from a publishing/design point of view. Because, if history is any guide, a good portion of those people will eventually want to "get more into it" which puts them in the position of wanting more rule-depth...which, of course a publisher would want to sell them. So that puts you in the position of wanting to have a simple option that plays right next to the tax-form option...which seems a much harder trick to pull off than it looks. Both 4e and 5e have made some effort to that effect, with varying opinions on their degree of success. But I don't think anyone thinks either of them pulled them off spectacularly well.
This first paragraph seems obvious to m: does anybody actually doubt that?

The proof is in the pudding, and I think 5E has threaded the needle better than it has ever been done yet.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I actually think this is a misperception that is common amongst us afficianado types. I think the presentation of "pages of powers", or even "piles of choices" as some other editions and many other games have it, strikes those folks as more problematic than, for example, a 1-page character sheet game with everything you need for your class/character on it. I doubt that most of these casual folks are even aware of how a game like 4e could allow them to "color outside the lines". At least IME, people coming to the game with that attitude have less trouble with abstraction or free-form play than they do with "tax form" style rules and character sheets. Obviously, this is one of those areas with a lot of YMMV attached.
Free Form or quasi freeform is very understandable to many - ironically 5e seems way more locked down to me than 4e but that may be my game fu at work. Fewer traps.
 
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Parmandur

Legend
Free Form or quasi freeform is very understandable to many - ironically 5e seems way more locked down to me than 4e but that may be my game fu at work. Fewer traps.
It is both more locked down and more free-form, considered in different aspects. It is more locked down in terms of assigning broad archetypes with limited mechanical customization, but in another way it is more free-form in that actions in play are less mechanically dictated and more about player-DM negotiation for the story.
 
Have you ever formally shared your house ruled version of 4e? I am definitely curious to read through the product.
HoML I think there's a lot of additional things that are possible here. In fact, I'm starting to think that NADs themselves should simply cease to exist and skills should become defenses. This might entail something like basing skills on more than one ability score or something like that, I'm not sure.

Also, the scaling on damage and hit points in HoML doesn't seem quite optimal right now. It is a bit different from 4e because I compressed the level structure to 20 levels, and did some other things which resulted in a 'piles of dice' situation. Its easy enough to resolve (d6 system solved this by simply letting you replace blocks of several dice with their average, which for larger numbers of dice is pretty much just a convenience). I think instead I will do a bit of scaling back. It will have some effect on the power curve, but there are ways to get around that.
 
It is both more locked down and more free-form, considered in different aspects. It is more locked down in terms of assigning broad archetypes with limited mechanical customization, but in another way it is more free-form in that actions in play are less mechanically dictated and more about player-DM negotiation for the story.
There is a big gulf of experience on this point though. My experience is similar to that of a number of other people. We find the lack of any structure to actions in play to work off of much more limiting. So, in 4e, I could leverage skill mechanics (which have some defined uses), 'page 42', powers, terrain powers, and the SC structure, along with keywords and a general 'up the ante' kind of play to guide what and how things could work when you did something that wasn't clearly 'vanilla'. Because it was possible for a player to come to a fairly objective estimate of what this process would look like, it became very easy for players to simply jump in and say "Oh, I do X; I'll make a Y check to see if it works." or at least know that the GM would be calling for a check of that sort (albeit sometimes difficulty level determinations and what are entailed in success/failure are not immediately obvious, but usually they are).

If I am involved in the same sort of thing in 5e, lots is simply up in the air and impossible to predict. 4e has a rep as very easy to GM, and this is also a factor, you can just go with the obvious solution, it is almost always the 'right' one. Even a lot of details are hard to nail down with 5e, like "is this an attack, or is the target going to make a save?" is indeterminate unless you're using some pre-existing ability or it is a fairly orthodox use of a spell. When things go beyond that it can get pretty nebulous and there are a lot of players who are not good at dealing with that.
 
Anyway, the above points out another area of potential evolution in 4e. That is creating a more solid framework for "what happens when I...". HoML, for instance, goes in the direction of adding levels of success for checks, making all non-combat checks become part of an SC, and creating a bit more robust system for stake raising (IE you can spend resources in defined ways to increase your chances of success). I think even more is possible, such as a way to adjudicate wagers (IE I shatter my sword on the stone attempting to cut it in half!). Actually thinking about it, you can sort of do that in HoML now, there are just some restrictions on the situations where it is possible.... Anyway, this is a thing that 4e COULD have added. I don't know if it ever would have.
 

Parmandur

Legend
There is a big gulf of experience on this point though. My experience is similar to that of a number of other people. We find the lack of any structure to actions in play to work off of much more limiting. So, in 4e, I could leverage skill mechanics (which have some defined uses), 'page 42', powers, terrain powers, and the SC structure, along with keywords and a general 'up the ante' kind of play to guide what and how things could work when you did something that wasn't clearly 'vanilla'. Because it was possible for a player to come to a fairly objective estimate of what this process would look like, it became very easy for players to simply jump in and say "Oh, I do X; I'll make a Y check to see if it works." or at least know that the GM would be calling for a check of that sort (albeit sometimes difficulty level determinations and what are entailed in success/failure are not immediately obvious, but usually they are).

If I am involved in the same sort of thing in 5e, lots is simply up in the air and impossible to predict. 4e has a rep as very easy to GM, and this is also a factor, you can just go with the obvious solution, it is almost always the 'right' one. Even a lot of details are hard to nail down with 5e, like "is this an attack, or is the target going to make a save?" is indeterminate unless you're using some pre-existing ability or it is a fairly orthodox use of a spell. When things go beyond that it can get pretty nebulous and there are a lot of players who are not good at dealing with that.
Fair enough: I'd call that a series of features, rather than bugs. It is easier to improv the possibilities using common sense and some simple dice math (only need five numbers that are in the DM screen and a flash judgement for DCs). The 4E approach might be "predictable" but possibly less hilarious as a result. I like some of the DMG alternate Skill systems that are even more loose than the PHB version.
 

Hussar

Legend
Fair enough: I'd call that a series of features, rather than bugs. It is easier to improv the possibilities using common sense and some simple dice math (only need five numbers that are in the DM screen and a flash judgement for DCs). The 4E approach might be "predictable" but possibly less hilarious as a result. I like some of the DMG alternate Skill systems that are even more loose than the PHB version.
THis I tend to disagree with because people are notoriously bad at calculating risk vs reward. That "flash judgement" for DC's is almost always punitive for the benefit of the improvised action which results in players who simply never try improvised actions because they can see that there is no actual benefit to attempting them.

For example, say the PC has normally a 60% chance of succeeding a standard action - attack, skill check, whatever. Now, if you reduce that success chance to, say, 35% (say by raising the DC one "level" or +5 to the DC) but the results of a successful check are only 50% better than if I just did a normal action, then, there's no point. That's a suckers bet. You need to give me 100% better results for a -5 (or 25%) penalty to success, otherwise, there's no point.

But, very, very few people actually understand that. There's a reason that the -5/+10 feats are written the way they are. -5/+5 is totally not worth it. If I am significantly increasing my chances of failure (and going from 60% to 35% is almost doubling my chances of failure), then my reward needs to be even more than what I am risking. Otherwise, it's not worth it.

And, "common sense" and "flash judgements" are almost universally wrong.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
THis I tend to disagree with because people are notoriously bad at calculating risk vs reward.
Call this a double thumbs up. And its not just some math deficiency or game related thing it impacts huge numbers of real life situations. It might even be a defining human feature.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
For example, say the PC has normally a 60% chance of succeeding a standard action - attack, skill check, whatever. Now, if you reduce that success chance to, say, 35% (say by raising the DC one "level" or +5 to the DC) but the results of a successful check are only 50% better than if I just did a normal action, then, there's no point. That's a suckers bet. You need to give me 100% better results for a -5 (or 25%) penalty to success, otherwise, there's no point.
We should note that, outside of combat (where we might measure effectiveness with, say, hit points of damage dealt), there is rarely a useful measure of effectiveness. We can't reasonably say if something was twice as effective or not. There is only perception of effectiveness, and usually then only in a hypothetical sense, as we don't see how the universe of the standard action, and that of the improvised action, unroll side by side.
 
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Parmandur

Legend
THis I tend to disagree with because people are notoriously bad at calculating risk vs reward. That "flash judgement" for DC's is almost always punitive for the benefit of the improvised action which results in players who simply never try improvised actions because they can see that there is no actual benefit to attempting them.

For example, say the PC has normally a 60% chance of succeeding a standard action - attack, skill check, whatever. Now, if you reduce that success chance to, say, 35% (say by raising the DC one "level" or +5 to the DC) but the results of a successful check are only 50% better than if I just did a normal action, then, there's no point. That's a suckers bet. You need to give me 100% better results for a -5 (or 25%) penalty to success, otherwise, there's no point.

But, very, very few people actually understand that. There's a reason that the -5/+10 feats are written the way they are. -5/+5 is totally not worth it. If I am significantly increasing my chances of failure (and going from 60% to 35% is almost doubling my chances of failure), then my reward needs to be even more than what I am risking. Otherwise, it's not worth it.

And, "common sense" and "flash judgements" are almost universally wrong.
Actually, that last sentence is not true, really the reverse: flash judgements made by the human brain are actually rather solid. There is a lot of science bearing that out. Not perfect, but good enough for pretend Elf shennanigans, particularly when the math is limited and open to interpretation.

And, the proof is in the pudding: people have been comfortable using the flexible 5E tools for years now, and it has been very newb friendly (including child friendly).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Real-world political issues are not appropriate here. Please take them elsewhere.
Actually, that last sentence is not true, really the reverse: flash judgements made by the human brain are actually rather solid.
Cite your studies dude... looks at people buying guns to keep their small curious children safe from attacking terrorists on US soil.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
We should note that, outside of combat (where we might measure effectiveness with, say, hit points of damage dealt), there is rarely a useful measure of effectiveness. We can't reasonably say if something was twice as effective or not. There is only perception of effectiveness, and usually then only in a hypothetical sense, as we don't see how the universe of the standard action, and that of the improvised action, unroll side by side.
I think it takes work to put it in. For instance how long does it take to do (can it adjust some over all success by allowing additional application of effort ) does it carry over benefit into the next action and in a team play scenario can its awesome inspire an ally with some benefit on their next action.

Yeh its a bit less defined than hit points. ;) but you need some measure of general success to work towards in any conflict scenario. If the action is a chase scene its pretty presentable to players
This is where skill challenges were introduced.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Cite your studies dude... looks at people buying guns to keep their small curious children safe from attacking terrorists on US soil.
The problem with mistakes like that is that they are considered decisions, actually. Whole books have been written about this, but here is one example summary of the state of psychological studies on the predictive value of snap judgement:

"Evidence points to accuracy in some of the snap judgments we make about other people. Telling whether someone is extroverted or shy is easy. Multiple studies have shown that judgments of someone’s extroversion made by looking at that person’s photograph (even for just 50 milliseconds) predict how extroverted he or she actually is. But we’re also quick to make accurate judgments about facts that seem a lot more difficult to predict, such as the amount of money a chief executive is going to make for the company in a given year, or someone’s romantic attraction toward us. For example, personality traits inferred from the faces of executives predict their leadership skills, measured in terms of bottom-line profits, and the effects are just as strong whether the photo is current or was taken in the leader’s college days."

"Studies have shown that women’s sexual attitudes and behaviors can be accurately judged from 5-minute video clips and even from photos of their faces. Along similar lines, seeing a flash of a face for just 40 milliseconds — 10 times faster than the average eye-blink — was all many study participants needed to tell if a man was gay or a woman was a lesbian, and thinking about it longer actually made their so-called “gaydar” less accurate. Experimental participants who saw faces for a fraction of a second were just as accurate as those who were given all the time in the world. When they were told to think carefully about their decision (versus going with their gut) they choked, producing results no better than chance guessing."


Point is, a simple system of snap-judgement based tiered difficulty like 5E will work very well for most people to improvise actions and reactions, as proven by years of people using the system as such.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
"Evidence points to accuracy in some of the snap judgments"
Thank you very much for your response

Key word to me is "some" - and we are not even making real world snap judgements, we are computing the likely hood of things in a world where a 250 lb man can put the beat down on a beast the size of a building armored like a tank using physical effort alone - ie in practice for most people making such estimates seem really impoverished.. and has classically resulted in Martial types being seriously under fed in capability across the board.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
There is a big gulf of experience on this point though. My experience is similar to that of a number of other people.
You may have a very different definition of "a number of other people" than I might have.

There is the (apocryphal and untrue) quote attributed to Pauline Kael, along the lines, "I don't know how Nixon could have won, because no one I know voted for him." Despite the lack of truth of the attribution, the reason it gets trotted out is because it speaks to something true of the human condition; we all suffer from the belief that our experience is more universal than it is, and fail to see the ways in which it is not, especially when we communicate with like-minded people whose opinions we can elevate.

In the instant case, you (along with some people that you play with and communicate with) have a very strong attachment to a system that you believe allowed it to be liberating; that same system, for many other people, was constraining.

In the same way that, for example, 5e can be said to allow for a very easy, free-form style of play ... but maybe not for you. As Parmandur keeps reiterating, 5e has allowed for a massive explosion of people playing, especially new people and young people, many of whom play a free-form style.

So this would seem that while you may (correctly) attach your opinion as to what is a more liberating system for free-form play, for many people that might not be the case.

Unless you believe that, akin to Steve Jobs, they are all just holding it wrong. ;)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Ever had a DM ask for a series of swimming rolls guaranteeing a drowning process because you know he didnt know how to swim? I have nor is eyeballing the effect of multiple die rolls natural for most people.

This is what I think of when I think of DM improvising free from.

And in D&D land I think of "Just say NO" mentality being disguised because only magic can really do the extraordinary.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Thank you very much for your response

Key word to me is "some" - and we are not even making real world snap judgements, we are computing the likely hood of things in a world where a 250 lb man can put the beat down on a beast the size of a building armored like a tank using physical effort alone - ie in practice for most people making such estimates seem really impoverished.. and has classically resulted in Martial types being seriously under fed in capability across the board.
Well, the fact that we are talking about "I'm an Elf Wizard" pretend time, means that we are not necessarily constrained to strict realism, but narrative fidelity as judged by the DM and players is important. The DMG calls out a Wuxia style campaign as being possible with the skill system as is, with the narrative shifted. The game provides six numbers, with natural language monikers of "Very Easy" to "Impossible," and DM adjudication is all that is needed to assign them. There is no "objective" DC for any task, beyond what a DM and their table find appropriate.
 

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