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


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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Level means plenty, just not everything.
Hyperbole of course, massively less than in Pathfinder(even more so from the looks of PF2 and 4e and for many things it literally can mean nothing where it used to be of some real impact. You are now no better at evading loss of hit points (ac) at level 20 in your chainmail or plate mail armor than you were at level 1 that feels fundamentally less important.

Being basically guaranteed of having a major saving throw if not 2 (feats are optional) where you are no better at level 20 than level 1 sure makes it feel like level is really down graded.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Okay @Hussar let's review exactly where our conversation goes off track shall we??

/snip

Huh, still not seeing anywhere in my replies that it was easy, or that anyone could do it or that it was the same as break dancing.

So, anyway, we agree that it's something you need training to do. Actually, funnily enough, we don't even agree on that to be honest, since, according to you:

I disagree... the difference is In the extremes not the baseline... In 5e a 1st level character can have a chance, however small to accomplish some of the objectively hardest tasks in the game world DC 25. In 4e however a 1st level character can't even come close to succeeding at the objectively hardest tasks in the game world... DC 32-42.

EDIT: That's the difference between bounded accuracy and the treadmill.

A first level character can accomplish the objectively hardest tasks in the world. Give me a 20 stat and yup, I can do the hardest tasks in the world. So, running up a wall counts as the most difficult task in your game world? That only a trained person could possibly do? Oh, but, wait, no he can't. Because he needs to be trained in order to do that.

So suddenly your 1st level character cannot actually have a chance of doing anything the DM walls off behind genre.

Which is it? Is it an objective difficulty or not? If it's an objective difficulty, then training doesn't matter. It's the same difficulty if I'm trained or if I'm not trained. That's what an objective difficulty means. Which means that being trained shouldn't matter. So long as I reach that DC, my level of training does not matter in the slightest.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
A first level character can accomplish the objectively hardest tasks in the world. Give me a 20 stat and yup, I can do the hardest tasks in the world.
My longtooth shifter could hit a 38 athletics during shifting and 40 if I had an appropriate common item (
another item might give 43 once a day). Arguably the ability to massively front load skills might not actually be a good thing but there it is.

Edit ooops one more thing...
Various powers may also boost my skills some of them are only available at level 2 (the earliest) but others are still class specific and can add 5 to my best achievement some of these boosts will be like the item boost mentioned above only once a day others are once an encounter and others are at-will if you use this power.

Note the situational application of powers also means the player has higher agency over reaching the greatest extremes,

So yes in 4e you definitely do have ways to reach the most difficult stunts
roll 20, attributes (+5), Race(+2) + background(+1) + feat(3 focus to +5 situationally) + item( 2 to 5) + power (5 depending on power/class and sometimes situational choice or specific skill application ).

Some things like the utility power boost are only when doing athletics function X but sometimes they arently limited that way. Some are at-will and others are expending encounter powers and others dailies.

It was mentioned earlier that one couldn't use skills as though they were attack actions because they didnt have the same ranges well.... there may be another reason.

Oh and this is also a demonstration of how even though level is very important in 4e yes a number of things combine to at least match the benefits of level
 
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pemerton

Legend
Well another difference is 4e's scaling of DC's with PC level.
The flattened math from the Bounded Accuracy approach, primarily: Very Hard is DC 25 at Level 1 and Level 30.
This is a difference between 4e and 5e D&D, but I don't think it's a relevant one in the context of how DCs are set and how "freeform" that is. In 5e there's a chart. In 4e every time the PCs level up you replace the old chart with a new chart. At the actual moment of adjudication both require choosing a DC from a chart expressed in the language of difficulties.

Also, the less defined approach as to what counts in each catagory and leaving it entirely up to the DM.
The crux of the matter is whether "Difficulty" (in most of these games) is correlated to some aspect of the fictional positioning. How difficult is it to Jump 10'? The more closely-defined the DCs are, the more "locked in" the system is to the particular genre it will create.

4e isn't nearly as loose as 5e in this regard, but it does "lock in" the system fairly well with its suites of powers and expectations for those actions. If anything, the complaint about 5e not allowing martials to have nice things, is based on the comparative lack of such specification.
Jumping is a curious example in this context, as the 5e rules lock that in pretty tightly!

But I don't agree that 4e "locks in" the system via powers and expectations in a way that differs from 5e. Those powers, for martial PCs, may create an opportunity to bypass the GM's interpretive and difficulty-setting function - just as spells frequently do in 5e. But I don't think this changes the approach to DC setting. After all, 5e has spells which produce the same "locking in" - which is something that has come out in this thread.

I think 4e D&D has a much clearer sense of genre and associated tropes and expectations than 5e - via its tiers of play - but that doesn't make it less freeform. That would be an example of how freeform works as per Imaro's discussion of the role of genre in adjudication upthread.
 

pemerton

Legend
There are significant problems with the 4e math when it comes to defenses and skills, largely due to the way ability boosts skew the math over time and the monumental difference between untrained, trained, and skill focus.
I think this may be table-relative.

Defences at upper levels can very widely between good and bad, but at my table this hasn't created problems - it's been treated as part of the tactical context. (I don't know if that's what the designers intended.)

Skills can vary a lot, but what I have found is that the use of the advantage rules for skill challenges found in the RC, plus the use of action points which I think I first encountered in a post by Keith Baker but is then set out in the DMG2, makes a big difference here. In skill challenges I find that players make action declarations for skills their PCs are not good at because that's what the fictional positioning demands, given their goals for their PCs, and this is not hopeless. And the skill challenge framework means that one PC's big bonus can't just swamp the maths and win the challenge.

The only bit of the skill system I have found to be broken, or close to, is the +6 to knowledge skills for the Sage of Ages. As a GM I've been able to handle the auto-successes this gives rise to, but it's not ideal. I think a "roll two and take the best" mechanic probably would work better.
 

pemerton

Legend
In 5e a 1st level character can have a chance, however small to accomplish some of the objectively hardest tasks in the game world DC 25. In 4e however a 1st level character can't even come close to succeeding at the objectively hardest tasks in the game world... DC 32-42.

EDIT: That's the difference between bounded accuracy and the treadmill.
The Level 20 PC can still face down Pit Fiends, while the Level 1 cannot. The Level 20 PC will be capable of plenty the Level 1 is not, but the power curve is manageable now.
A 1st level fighter in 5e has no realistic chance to take down a pit fiend face-to face: the AC of 19 means about 1/3 or so of attacks hit, yielding DPR of around 2 to 3 hp per round. That's around 100 rounds to take down the pit fiend. Each round the pit fiend makes 4 attacks at +14 whose combined damage is 78 hp. If the fighter's AC is 17, that's a 90% hit rate so about 70 DPR.

I haven't tried to calculate the actual odds of a PC victory but the numbers I've set out make it clear that it's absolutely unlikely - many many zeroes to the right of that decimal point.

Whereas on the DC 25 skill check, the chance of success, if greater than zero, can't be less than 1 in 20.

I think this is the disparity that @Campbell may be pointing to. 4e avoids this by a combination of level-scaled DCs and associated "scaling" of the fiction, so that non-combat escalates thematically in the same sort of fashion as combat.

Some people (eg me) think this is a very strong virtue of 4e. Others don't like it. Either way I don't think it bears on the question of whether 4e or 5e is (or is more of) a freeform system.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Skills can vary a lot, but what I have found is that the use of the advantage rules for skill challenges found in the RC, plus the use of action points which I think I first encountered in a post by Keith Baker but is then set out in the DMG2, makes a big difference here. In skill challenges I find that players make action declarations for skills their PCs are not good at because that's what the fictional positioning demands, given their goals for their PCs, and this is not hopeless. And the skill challenge framework means that one PC's big bonus can't just swamp the maths and win the challenge.

Yes using HS and Action points allowing one to make strategic success choices about skill use is pretty awesome and another way player agency is emphasized in 4e and to me that has a lot more in common with more free form games than 5e every will have.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Yes using HS and Action points allowing one to make strategic success choices about skill use is pretty awesome and another way player agency is emphasized in 4e and to me that has a lot more in common with more free form games than 5e every will have.
I see this through the lens of freeform as I characterised it not too far upthread: I see it as something on the player side, and in systems that have resource expenditure elements to them (which both 4e and 5e D&D do) this means giving players the resources to engage the system.

4e has a set of all-purpose resources that all PCs have - healling surges and action points - as well as the option (discussed in DMG2) for spending encounter or daily powers to gain advantages in a skill challenge. That's been an important part of the freeform resolution in my 4e RPGing.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Huh, still not seeing anywhere in my replies that it was easy, or that anyone could do it or that it was the same as break dancing.

All of that arose from you not actually reading what you were replying to (Or purposefully mis-representing what I posted, you never did say which it was) and even now you won't just say yep my bad, should've actually read what you wrote before composing a confusing reply that attributed a stance you didn't actually take so I could argue against it... creating more mis-understanding in the exchange and leading us down a rabbit hole of pointless back and forth... But whatever man.

So, anyway, we agree that it's something you need training to do. Actually, funnily enough, we don't even agree on that to be honest, since, according to you:



A first level character can accomplish the objectively hardest tasks in the world. Give me a 20 stat and yup, I can do the hardest tasks in the world. So, running up a wall counts as the most difficult task in your game world? That only a trained person could possibly do? Oh, but, wait, no he can't. Because he needs to be trained in order to do that.

So suddenly your 1st level character cannot actually have a chance of doing anything the DM walls off behind genre.

Which is it? Is it an objective difficulty or not? If it's an objective difficulty, then training doesn't matter. It's the same difficulty if I'm trained or if I'm not trained. That's what an objective difficulty means. Which means that being trained shouldn't matter. So long as I reach that DC, my level of training does not matter in the slightest.

Did I say had a chance at doing anything in the game? Did I say had a chance at doing the impossible in the game?... Come on, here we go again. Can you go back and read what I actually wrote and address it or just quit replying to me because again we're headed towards mis-understandings because somehow from can succeed at some of the hardest tasks in the game... you've interpreted my meaning to be succeeds at all of the hardest tasks in the game even the impossible... or any of the hardest tasks in the game including the impossible... neither of which I actually said.

If a task is impossible for someone without training... then it's not one of the hardest tasks in the game world... it's an impossible task without training... is that really so hard to comprehend it's in a different category? Now what constitutes an impossible task for someone vs a very hard task is a DM call in 5e... but we knew that already.

Just to illustrate further... can you ride a horse without having a horse? Can you pick a lock with no tools? Can you play an instrument without an actual instrument to play... I wouldn't call any of these tasks some of the hardest in the gameworld... but there are still circumstances where they are impossible to succeed at. Determining a particular usage of a skill is trained only is no different.
 

Hussar

Legend
This is a difference between 4e and 5e D&D, but I don't think it's a relevant one in the context of how DCs are set and how "freeform" that is. In 5e there's a chart. In 4e every time the PCs level up you replace the old chart with a new chart. At the actual moment of adjudication both require choosing a DC from a chart expressed in the language of difficulties.

/snip

Meh. In play, it likely won't matter. After all, we can talk about all the DC's we like, but, at the end of the day, what matters is the chance of success. Which, for fairly typical actions that are expected to be taken by a character of a given level, in 4e and 5e, will remain somewhere in the vicinity of 60%. So, why is it important that the DC is different? Who cares? If the DC is 127 but, I have a +119 to my skill, the chances are STILL 60%.

Pointing at the numbers doesn't actually mean anything. It's no different than using AD&D's lower is better AC system or 3e's higher is better. It's still the same odds, just expressed differently.

Does the expression actually matter?
 


pemerton

Legend
Meh. In play, it likely won't matter. After all, we can talk about all the DC's we like, but, at the end of the day, what matters is the chance of success. Which, for fairly typical actions that are expected to be taken by a character of a given level, in 4e and 5e, will remain somewhere in the vicinity of 60%. So, why is it important that the DC is different? Who cares? If the DC is 127 but, I have a +119 to my skill, the chances are STILL 60%.

Pointing at the numbers doesn't actually mean anything. It's no different than using AD&D's lower is better AC system or 3e's higher is better. It's still the same odds, just expressed differently.

Does the expression actually matter?
I think that you're largely agreeing with me here.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
But I don't agree that 4e "locks in" the system via powers and expectations in a way that differs from 5e. Those powers, for martial PCs, may create an opportunity to bypass the GM's interpretive and difficulty-setting function - just as spells frequently do in 5e. But I don't think this changes the approach to DC setting. After all, 5e has spells which produce the same "locking in" - which is something that has come out in this thread.
It is different in that it leaves the player of a non-casters with less agency
 

pemerton

Legend
Isn't this the case for any game using a d20 for action or task resolution?
No. A 1st level 5e fighter has a chance of defeating a pit fiend, but much less than 1 in 20. Because multiple roles are required. In practical terms the chance is zero, although mathematically this is not the case.

I don't think I'm actually understanding the point...
The point is that 5e, despite bounded accuracy, in practical terms gates some combat outcomes behind levels. 4e does this both for combat and for non-combat.

Some posters seem to think it's a valuable feature of 5e that it doesn't do this for non-combat, but I don't see why non-combat should be different from combat in this respect.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
This is a difference between 4e and 5e D&D, but I don't think it's a relevant one in the context of how DCs are set and how "freeform" that is. In 5e there's a chart. In 4e every time the PCs level up you replace the old chart with a new chart. At the actual moment of adjudication both require choosing a DC from a chart expressed in the language of difficulties.

I think it's relevant and creates a difference in play and how adjudication of DC's is approached.

In 5e I am setting an actual objective difficulty for the hardest tasks in the game world... they will be that difficulty for a 1st level character and they will be that difficulty for a 20th level character and some of the higher ones are attainable by low level characters with the right attributes, skill bonuses and possibly magic.

In 4e I am setting a relative difficulty to the players power so I am not in fact setting an objective Very Hard DC, I am setting a DC for what I believe is hard relative to a X level character. What is moderately hard for a 1st level character is childs play for a 20th level character and what is moderately hard for a 20th level character is impossible for a 1st level character.

IMO this not only creates a difference in how play takes place in the world... Players in 5e know that unless a DM calls out a task as impossible or nearly impossible... even at low levels they have a chance to accomplish tasks that would be Very Difficult even for 20th level characters. It also means the DM when adjudicating a task has to think in terms of the game world as a whole.

In 4e a player knows there are tasks that while easy for a 30th level character are beyond any attempt they could make (thought honestly most DM's aren't going to ever even consider them since the DC's they would use are relative). Also a DM in 4e is adjudicating not what is easy/moderate/hard in terms of the gameworld but in terms of a level X character in the gameworld.


EDIT: Personally I find 4e's system less intuitive... I have 30 levels over which I have to not only think in terms of what is easy/moderate/hard for an X level character (where level isn't even a real in game world attribute) but also if I want consistency in my 4e gameworld as a whole... I have to keep at least a broad idea of what my previous rulings have been across levels so I'm not screwing up the overall world difficulty as well.
 
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Imaro

Adventurer
Some posters seem to think it's a valuable feature of 5e that it doesn't do this for non-combat, but I don't see why non-combat should be different from combat in this respect.

because they are two different systems. I guess my rebuttal is I don't see why it should be the same...

EDIT: To further expound... One is performing a mundane action with which (I am assuming) one is competent and has pretty good natural ability in under normal circumstances...

The other is an untested warrior singlehandedly fighting for his life against a fearless, hulking armored lord & general of hell that radiates fear...

Yeah not seeing why these would be the same
 
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