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

pemerton

Legend
pemerton said:
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.
I don't see how any of what you say here bears upon my comment that this is a difference between 4e and 5e D&D, but not one that is relevant in the context of how DCs are set and how "freeform" that is.

How is it more freeform to decide that something is Very Hard objectively rather than Hard for a 25th level PC?

How is it more freeform for a player to know that a DC20 is something that can be achieved at 1st level?
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I don't see how any of what you say here bears upon my comment that this is a difference between 4e and 5e D&D, but not one that is relevant in the context of how DCs are set and how "freeform" that is.

How is it more freeform to decide that something is Very Hard objectively rather than Hard for a 25th level PC?

How is it more freeform for a player to know that a DC20 is something that can be achieved at 1st level?
All I can speak to is my experience...IMO it's more freeform because of less inherent overhead for a DM who has to consider one factor(objective gameworld difficulty) in adjudicating rather than two( both level of PC's relative difficulty and gameworld objective difficulty)

EDIT: It's also easier in the moment because you only have to consider 1 axis vs. 2
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
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).
Unless the hero invests then mr talented could be rocking some surprising numbers. But its not valuable to hinge things on that.
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.
sure and there in I get my level has lost a lot of its meaning and where Parm gets his I can do it while drunk its got one fewer factors.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
It has been my experience that when I have broken off from the normative standards of play with the people I play Story Games with as long as I have a conversation about what I want to try doing things have gone relatively smoothly. I have experienced some fairly broad push back among more mainstream crowds when I have tried to break away from more traditional roles usually by trying to give away parts of my authority over things like world building or explaining that I want to see where things go instead of having a defined narrative.

Generally speaking there are cultural norms that exist within any game. In my experience most versions of Dungeons and Dragons have very strong cultural norms. There is not nearly as much appetite for deviating from those norms in my experience.
So I saw this comment, and I thought I'd ruminate about it for a while so I can give it the appropriate response vis-a-vis the conversation we are having, and the point that I am making about "Big Tent," "dialogue between past and future," and "heteroglossia."*

I would start by saying that there is certainly a strain of conservative, if not reactionary, thinking within D&D. That said, it is difficult to point to what exactly this strain of reactionary thinking is! Because it is not represented by a single voice, or a single point of view. When you write about the lack of appetite for deviating from cultural norms (conservative, reactionary), I have to ask- which ones? Are you saying the norms of "rules uber alles and magic shoppes for alle" from certain corners of Third Edition? Are you saying "Dungeons and Grit 4Eva!" from certain parts of OD&D and 1e? Are you discussing "Moar Campaign Settings, Moar Character Books" from 2e? How about "Martials are just as Kewl, Brah" 4e love?

But wait- isn't that just edition essentialism? Because within any of those stereotyped gestalts, you get so much more. To use an easy example, OD&D and 1e was so much weirder than dungeoncrawls. This ignores the profound influence of Barrier Peaks, of Gamma World crossovers, of EX1 & 2, of, heck, Oerth (get it).

Because D&D is vast, it contains multitudes. It's name is Legion, for it is many.**

So I think about your reference to Blades in the Dark. And I recall that in a thread, some time ago, another poster was expounding upon the flexible inventory system- specifically, that you didn't have to enumerate the items in your inventory, as you were assumed to have it.

And that reminded me of the proverbial two weeks of iron rations and 20 arrows in D&D. For those not familiar with that tired trope, from the the very beginning, some tables would just have players write down "two weeks of iron rations" and "20 arrows" (or bolts, or whatever) and ... that's it. That would stay on the character sheet until the character died, or retired.

Now, I recall sometime (maybe it was 1983? maybe 1982?) a DM who ran the portable hole method of resource management. In other words, every character started with a portable hole, and it was assumed that within the portable hole they had any item, non-magical, that they needed. And I asked him about this- I was like, "Doesn't that get rid of the planning? The fun?" And he was like, "Naw. I learned this from someone else. I mean, the fun is watching players figure out how to use it; what's not fun is waiting for them to go back to town to get an item they need."

And I bring this up neither to rubbish the BITD system, nor to point out that this resource-management issue was resolved by some tables so many years before (as that DM had learned it from another DM and so on, and I am quite sure you would find the antecedent in the mid-70s, as nothing is new under the sun), but simply to show that "Big Tent" D&D contains that continuing dialogue within it. Saying the game is necessarily about resource management (for example) always misses the point.

Because at its core, it's not similar to other "designed" games- it's an outgrowth of player interactions, of 3PP, of various rulesets both official and unofficial, of norms and expectations. Defining the essence of what is, and isn't, D&D is impossible- although you will get some great (and nasty!) arguments about it.

It's why you can have people discuss 5e in so many different ways, bringing in so many different points of view. How I can marvel at, for example, the way @pogre does these amazing miniatures and detailed maps, even though I only run a sped-up ToTM system and my groups eschew combat when possible. Or I can appreciate the sage advice of @iserith regarding how he handles skill checks, although I prefer to not use skill checks when I can run social interactions completely through roleplaying. Or I can read the different takes of, say, @CapnZapp on magic shops and hope that he gets what he wants, even though I know I will never, ever allow magic items for sale in my campaign. Heck, by the same token I can appreciate the mad ravings of @Oofta and @Twiggly the Gnome while still confident that my decades-long plan for the complete elimination of all Paladins and gnomes is the correct one.

Or, for that matter, I can appreciate the differing view points of @Aldarc and @Maxperson and think, naw, they are both wrong. ;)

(I could keep going, but I've at at 'ed more than the Imperial Army in Star Wars)

Because in the end, that's what makes it so awesome; the heteroglossia. That no one is the King of D&D, that instead it continues to be a dialogue between the past and the future. That I can have one group try and re-create the (exaggerated) glories of 1e using 5e, and another group go all wuxia, and that I can learn that kids I used to teach how to play are now running their own games and playing a modified diceless 5e system that they created during their lunch hour (!).

It's all good, and all awesome, and all D&D.

*If you are not familiar with that, I am appropriating it from Bakhtin; I am using it to indicate that within "D&D" there exists a multiplicity of distinct voices, or tongues, speaking in a refracted manner. This diversity of voices is, IMO, a defining characteristic of "Big Tent" D&D that separates it from most, if not all, other RPGs.

**Satanic panic FTW. Or at least a little Whitman.
 
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Ratskinner

Adventurer
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.
I think you're arguing the other definition of "freeform" with me. Locking in those genre expectations is precisely what I was talking about. The DCs are reflective of genre expectations. To step outside D&D, Fate makes no assumptions on what a +5 Superb Athletics check can or can't accomplish. It's totally up to the genre conventions at table. The same jump that is a +5 in say...an 80's action movie, might be +3 in a supers game or a +7 in a gritty detective game.* 5e is more similar to that. (Fate also includes a Scale mechanic that shakes that up a bit for genres where some characters are significantly more or less capable then others.)

The Jumping rules include the sentence: "In some circumstances, the DM might allow you to make a Strength (Athletics) check to jump higher than you normally can." So those jump rules and limitations are only for jumps that are guaranteed under normal movement costs, not heroic actions. Which makes sense, as those numbers look pretty mundane overall, and are described in terms of movement costs and strict limits, not DCs. Personally, when running 5e, I just ignored those rules because the "figuring it out" seemed to cost more than just "Say yes or roll the dice." I mean, we already had Difficult Terrain.

Personally, I don't take the spells into consideration when making DC adjudications (outside of those set by the spell itself). YMMV, obviously. 5e also describes tiers of play (PHB p15.), but it is (much) less stringent/specific on what exactly those encompass in the expectations of specific actions, instead only defining them by the scope of what kind of problems the characters will face.


* For those who don't know Fate, that's a fairly significant difference. Much more than a +2 warrants on a d20 scale.
 

Parmandur

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?
Presentation matters.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
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 it does, in context of the gestalt of the mechanics. I mean, I'm fair certain we have d20 DCs because when 3e came out, we already had ACs and rolling a d20. Whether or not it actually is, I think that gives folks a feeling of consistency

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%.
That seems to specifically address Bounded Accuracy, and related design considerations. In D&D talking about presentation, you have the ability scores, skills, etc. and folks wanting those to matter. All those are worked into a d20 roll...so that kind of gives you a range of numbers that you're somewhat obligated to work with. (and of course, from a design perspective, you get to make all sorts of trade-offs as to what really matters and how much: ability score, level, proficiency, etc.)

Certainly you could do something else entirely with resolution. Strike!, for instance, makes the same realization you do and resolves all rolls on a d6 appropriately, taking into account only whether you have an applicable skill. However, I think the D&D audience is pretty locked into a d20 roll at this point.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I was watching a random video of parkour, today, and it reminded me of fairly obvious things high STR/Athletics characters would do, like jumping to avoid difficult terrain, which could cover a lot of it.

Of course in skills as in weapons D&D is guilty of segregating STR & DEX too much.
that little attribute conundrum is going to haunt things forever I suspect Parkour is Athletics and its Acrobatics because it is. Lower strength parkour people jump shorter distances but twist and twirl and roll more allowing difficult terrain less purchase or and climbing and lower body weight of less strong ones offset when its about climbing.... shrug If we do it long enough Parkour is con...oops just went down the realism primrose path.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
that little attribute conundrum is going to haunt things forever I suspect Parkour is Athletics and its Acrobatics because it is. Lower strength parkour people jump shorter distances but twist and twirl and roll more allowing difficult terrain less purchase or and climbing and lower body weight of less strong ones offset when its about climbing.... shrug If we do it long enough Parkour is con...oops just went down the realism primrose path.


I missed the memo when we became the parkour blog! Dude, I am so going on Ultimate Beastmaster. "Hi, I'm a part-time parkour instructor ..."
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Certainly you could do something else entirely with resolution. Strike!, for instance, makes the same realization you do and resolves all rolls on a d6 appropriately, taking into account only whether you have an applicable skill. However, I think the D&D audience is pretty locked into a d20 roll at this point.
not thinking swapping out core randomizer was suggested actually.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I missed the memo when we became the parkour blog! Dude, I am so going on Ultimate Beastmaster. "Hi, I'm a part-time parkour instructor ..."
LOL the non-trained Parkour expert - hey neither of those in the discussion supported elevation of non-trained status ;)
 

pemerton

Legend
I think you're arguing the other definition of "freeform" with me. Locking in those genre expectations is precisely what I was talking about. The DCs are reflective of genre expectations.
Which DCs are you talking about?

I am going to post an old quote that I think is the best statement ever made on these boards about how setting DCs works in 4e. And it explains why I think the process of DC-setting is as "freeform" as 5e.

I think this has to do with the relationship between colour and the reward system in 4E. How the imagined content in the game changes in 4E as the characters gain levels isn't quite the same as it is in 3E. I am not going to pretend to have a good grasp of how this works in either system, but my gut says: in 4E the group defines the colour of their campaign as they play it; in 3E it's established when the campaign begins.

That's kind of confusing... let me see if I can clarify as I work this idea out for myself.

In 3E, climbing a hewn rock wall is DC 25. That doesn't change as the game is played (that is, as fiction is created, the game world is explored, and characters grow). Just because it's DC 120 to balance on a cloud doesn't mean that characters can't attempt it at 1st level; they'll just always fail. The relationship between colour and the reward system doesn't change over time: you know that, if you can score a DC 120 balance check, you can balance on clouds; a +1 to your Balance check brings you that much closer to success.

In 4E, I think the relationship between colour and the reward system changes: you don't know what it will mean, when you first start playing, to make a Hard Level 30 Acrobatics check. Which means that gaining levels doesn't have a defined relationship with what your PC can do in the fiction - just because your Acrobatics check has increased by 1, it doesn't mean you're that much closer to balancing on a cloud. I think the group needs to define that for themselves; as far as I can tell, this is supposed to arise organically through play, and go through major shifts as Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies enter the game.
This is exactly how I have experienced the play of 4e. And I don't see how it's any different from the descriptions that are being offered to explain how and why 5e is "freeform".
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Personally, I don't take the spells into consideration when making DC adjudications (outside of those set by the spell itself). YMMV, obviously.
To me you are ignoring the elephant in the room of instant auto success and over estimated limits.

5e also describes tiers of play (PHB p15.), but it is (much) less stringent/specific on what exactly those encompass in the expectations of specific actions, instead only defining them by the scope of what kind of problems the characters will face.
Almost identical descriptions in tiers but 5e lacks the follow through. That is the difference I see.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
No follow through on how one might achieve any sort of parity between out of combat abilities for those not using spells and those who can obviate the need to use dozens of skills ... with one spell cast.
 

Kai Lord

Explorer
It would be like if they announced 6e last year, which seems a ridiculous notion.
Not to derail the thread but is it believed that there even will be a 6th Edition? I thought I read a few years back that going forward WOTC wanted D&D to be like Monopoly, a game that is sold for decades and decades without constant revisions to the core rules.

Which would be quite refreshing IMO, especially since I'm really loving 5E.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Not to derail the thread but is it believed that there even will be a 6th Edition. I
Culture evolves ... D&D is more not less dependent on it than games which are not about story - like monopoly so I suspect that might be a problem if they try to be the evergreen product.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Not to derail the thread but is it believed that there even will be a 6th Edition? I thought I read a few years back that going forward WOTC wanted D&D to be like Monopoly, a game that is sold for decades and decades without constant revisions to the core rules.

Which would be quite refreshing IMO, especially since I'm really loving 5E.
Monopoly has editions, too: there will likely be a 6E, but probably not advertised too heavily, and backwards compatible.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
This is exactly how I have experienced the play of 4e. And I don't see how it's any different from the descriptions that are being offered to explain how and why 5e is "freeform".
4e has examples of what certain DC's mean... while not as exhaustive as 3e it still locks in a chunk of that color to specific DC's.

As an example...Climb has DC's listed as follows...
DC 0 Ladder
DC 10 Rope
DC 15 Uneven Surface (Cave Wall)
DC 20 Rough Surface (Brick Wall)
DC +5 Slippery Surface
DC +5 Unusually Smooth Surface

EDIT: Also these are player facing, being located in the PHB, so this isn't a case where majority of players won't see these... it's a case where the designers are very much letting players know what the expected color is for DC's in the game.
 
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