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

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I actually talk about 5e and 4e in concert largely because i want to see how much of what I see as lost by 5e is actually lost and to what extent there are things I could bring back into it (hey it is supposed to be modworthy) Now some of what I want may not be possible because of some fundamental design choices, but I am not sure how much that might be true.
It is EXCEPTIONALLY modworthy. I would say that (IMO) the single greatest strength of the 5e is how adaptable and resilient the rules are.

Which means two things-

1. To the extent you want to incorporate more "4e" stuff, you will either need to do the work yourself, or find someone who has done it for you.

2. To the extent that you appreciate the elegance of the 4e system as a unified whole, then it will be difficult to attach on to the 5e superstructure.

As I wrote, I have streamlined the game immensely by stripping away aspects of 5e, and incorporating bits from other RPGs (such as Amber) and from prior editions (usually B/X and 1e), but that's just for me- it's really the game that you want to run. :)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
...and some changes between 4e and 5e really point to a compliance with those who whined rather than a legitimate exploration of possible future D&D derived of the games better elements.
With respect - perhaps you have forgotten that 5e was designed with not just whiners, but feedback from the largest playtest audience ever seen in tabletop RPGs?

Are you saying that they should have ignored the playtest feedback, and engaged in design and exploration of those "better elements", even though the feedback didn't indicate they were desired?

If so, mayhaps you should go pop over to the Ryan Dancey thread, and note the issue of not paying attention to the players.

Also... you are arguing with success - perhaps the strongest RPG success seen since the 1980s. The hypothetical of "Well, they could have done even better with a different game..." would need a pretty strong support to make stick.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
As I wrote, I have streamlined the game immensely by stripping away aspects of 5e, and incorporating bits from other RPGs (such as Amber) :)
Holy crap Amber????? I found that a very inspiring one back in the day played a lot of diceless D&D with some of its thinking under the hood.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Also... you are arguing with success
The argument from popularity continues to not impress me. Any more than game designers who can actually publicly claim the action economy is not important for designers to pay attention to, that does not impress me.

Also yes I will still like what I like and think MANY cool elements with potential from 4e were given piss poor lip service and not developed in 5e or rewound into inferior forms (like rituals).

None of this says anything about what "should" have been done its about what I like and what was lost.

And I also think even some of the most interesting aspects of the play test were kept in an undeveloped form instead of used as a direction to accomplish more with.
 

Parmandur

Legend
The argument from popularity continues to not impress me. Any more than game designers who can actually publicly claim the action economy is not important for designers to pay attention to, that does not impress me.

Also yes I will still like what I like and think MANY cool elements with potential from 4e were given piss poor lip service and not developed in 5e or rewound into inferior forms (like rituals).

None of this says anything about what "should" be done its about what I like

And I also think even some of the most interesting aspects of the play test were kept in an undeveloped form instead of used as a direction to accomplish more with.
Due to feedback from the players.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
Question... if non-paragon characters were able to achieve the necessary DC's would you let them succeed at the same tasks?

One more question is there a formal way laid out in the rules that prohibits non-paragon PC's from achieving paragon feats? If so what is it? If it's just DC's well @Garthanos made the argument that it's very possible for low level PC's to get extremely high skill bonuses when built for it. Assuming that's the case how do you avoid the "creep" @Manbearcat was speaking too?
So there are two reasons why the "Trickle Down Genre Creep" wouldn't be an issue in 4e:

1) I've run about 95 levels of 4e play (including a pair of 1-30 games). In all of that time, I've never seen a PC who could deploy the action resolution numbers necessary to make the maths work in any meaningful way. There primary reason for this is opportunity cost. 4e rewards you for breadth when it comes to investing in Utility (you get a lot of bang for your back there), but there are comparatively steep diminishing returns for trying to invest in the y-axis and piling on Skill numbers. Further, over-investing there will lead to under-investing in combat returns. And 4e combat is by far the D&D combat with the most tactical depth and related punishing nature for not building toward engaging with that to a reasonable degree.

2) Conflict framing in 4e isn't neutral. The GMing ethos of 4e is about proportionate escalating threats and stakes as the game progresses. This is the fundamental machinery of the Tier system, the themes, the cosmology, and the PC build machinery which is centered around it.

You aren't framing Heroic PCs against Paragon/Epic Tier obstacles and threats and vice versa. A Heroic Tier PC is not going to run into a level 21 Threat/Obstacle. A Paragon Tier PC is not going to run into a level 1 Threat/Obstacle.

So the situation just doesn't come up.

This is the beating heart of the sort of Story Now/Step On Up pedal-to-the-floor action/adventure nature of 4e play.

Contrast with open world, serial exploration/hexcrawl play where the the magnitude upon play of theme/premise and conflict will vary wildly from moment to moment, from session to session.

5e is built to support the latter sort of play (which is "Classic D&D").
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Due to feedback from the players.
Excuses like everything in the game was actually run through the players or as though play test questions are perfect at discovering things.

Ever see how differently worded questions in polls result in seemingly diseparate results?
 

Parmandur

Legend
Excuses like everything in the game was actually run through the players or as though play test questions are perfect at discovering things.

Ever see how differently worded questions in polls result in seemingly diseparate results?
That's why they worked it for two years, to ensure they got as wide feedback as possible. And every survey got bigger, and bigger, so the net was cast wider over time.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Holy crap Amber????? I found that a very inspiring one back in the day played a lot of diceless D&D with some of its thinking under the hood.
Yep! I was always a huge Zelazny fan (esp. Lord of Light, Amber- first series only), so I had incorporated some of his ideas into my 80s campaigns.

I can still remember the thrill of buying Amber the RPG. "FINALLY, RULES! YAY!"

And then the confusion when I read it, and I was all like, "Wut? How does this even?"

And gradually grokking it, and then incorporating some of it back into my D&D after we had played it through a few times. :)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
And gradually grokking it, and then incorporating some of it back into my D&D after we had played it through a few times. :)
I was playing lost worlds with my brother when I first found Amber a lot of things came together ... the concept of generalized methods which were like tactics. Ie situationally better or worse depending on a roshambo combinations merging with some diceless rules like resources you could allocate really fired up my brain.

All this very much hinged on small number of players ;)
 

Imaro

Adventurer
So there are two reasons why the "Trickle Down Genre Creep" wouldn't be an issue in 4e:

1) I've run about 95 levels of 4e play (including a pair of 1-30 games). In all of that time, I've never seen a PC who could deploy the action resolution numbers necessary to make the maths work in any meaningful way. There primary reason for this is opportunity cost. 4e rewards you for breadth when it comes to investing in Utility (you get a lot of bang for your back there), but there are comparatively steep diminishing returns for trying to invest in the y-axis and piling on Skill numbers. Further, over-investing there will lead to under-investing in combat returns. And 4e combat is by far the D&D combat with the most tactical depth and related punishing nature for not building toward engaging with that to a reasonable degree.
Hmmm... @Garthanos seemed to imply that the numbers to reach a paragon level of DC's wouldn't be all that hard for a heroic 4e character to reach...

Paragon DC's...
Level 11 Easy(13)/Moderate(19)/Hard(27)
Level 20 18 25 34

Let's take a 4th level character with just the basics (No theme/background/feats/etc.)... 20 Ability (+5), 1/2 level (+2), Trained (+5)...

So to accomplish an early paragon easy task they have to roll a 1 or higher, moderate 7 or higher and hard task they need to roll... 15 or higher, not exactly beyond their ability to achieve at all.

Far end of paragon roll a 6 for easy, a 13 for moderate and they can't accomplish a hard task (though with magic and/or feats, utility powers, themes, backgrounds, etc it's probably doable... again no real hard barier mechanically.


2) Conflict framing in 4e isn't neutral. The GMing ethos of 4e is about proportionate escalating threats and stakes as the game progresses. This is the fundamental machinery of the Tier system, the themes, the cosmology, and the PC build machinery which is centered around it.

You aren't framing Heroic PCs against Paragon/Epic Tier obstacles and threats and vice versa. A Heroic Tier PC is not going to run into a level 21 Threat/Obstacle. A Paragon Tier PC is not going to run into a level 1 Threat/Obstacle.

So the situation just doesn't come up.
Ok... so DM force/choice/fiat/whatever doesn' allow the PC's to choose to interact with obstacles, threats, etc. that are higher then their tier...

This is the beating heart of the sort of Story Now/Step On Up pedal-to-the-floor action/adventure nature of 4e play.

Contrast with open world, serial exploration/hexcrawl play where the the magnitude upon play of theme/premise and conflict will vary wildly from moment to moment, from session to session.

5e is built to support the latter sort of play (which is "Classic D&D").
It seems to me that the main element in either edition preventing the lower mythic character from doing the same feats as the higher mythic character is the DM not actual mechanics.

EDIT: I think 5e is flexible enough to do either type of play... just saying.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
2. To the extent that you appreciate the elegance of the 4e system as a unified whole, then it will be difficult to attach on to the 5e superstructure.
Even with your number 2 being the likely problem - I am tempted by bits of 5e, like inspiration and like the movement system seems like the Attunement subsystem. Those are swipeable and I may be totally able to bring to 4e. To be honest I am seeing things in PF2 I want to steal also related to skills.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm still rather baffled how the DM determining that X is impossible unless the character is trained is somehow an "objective" DC. How does the DM determine that? Sure, it applies to everyone in the game world, but, that's not what objective means. It's an entirely subjective determination (whatever the DM feels is appropriate for his or her understanding of how difficult the task would be) that is simply applied generally.

That's not what objective means.

So, again, if the DC is 25 for performing a task, what difference does it make how I achieve that DC? And, how can you claim that the DC is objective when it is gated behind a DM's determination?

In 5e, the only mechanical difference between trained and untrained is a +2-6 (7?) bonus to the ability check. Note, you never actually make a "skill check". You make an ability check that is modified by skills. There's a key difference there. How do I unlock a lock without lock picks? Fonzie Bump for the win. I achieved the appropriate DC (somehow) and the lock is open. Whether or not I'm trained shouldn't actually enter into it, not if the DC's are objective to the game world, rather than subjectively determined by the DM on an ad hoc basis dependent on the DM's understanding of genre convention.
 
You aren't framing Heroic PCs against Paragon/Epic Tier obstacles and threats and vice versa. A Heroic Tier PC is not going to run into a level 21 Threat/Obstacle. A Paragon Tier PC is not going to run into a level 1 Threat/Obstacle.

So the situation just doesn't come up.
I think that (actually fairly simple) idea caused a lot of consternation. What a threat/obstacle represented was relative to the PCs encountering it. That didn't mean that lower level threats 'disappeared' or leveled up with the PCs, it meant that how they were handled by the system changed to model the relative challenge they represented.

Monster secondary roles are an example. SC complexity could be another. The same monster that was given the stats of a 10th level solo in heroic could be a 14th level elite in paragon, and a 24th level minion at epic. Infiltrating a well-guarded castle at low level might have been a very difficult complexity 5, while at paragon the complexity might be 2, and at Epic it might not even call for a challenge, just a check or two or a single group check.

Letting the stats change like that could be described as 'more freeform,' but it's really just having more tools.

If 4e had had the chance to continue evolving, I think things like that would have become more explicit, with better guidelines for the DM.
 
So, again, I don't see what you're arguing? I look at your example, and if that is as freeform as 4e gets ... it doesn't seem that freeform.
Care to elaborate?

Question... if non-paragon characters were able to achieve the necessary DC's would you let them succeed at the same tasks?
No. A non-paragon dwarf isn't the toughtest dwarf around. This is why I think it's strictluy analogous to your example of the amphibious PC.

One more question is there a formal way laid out in the rules that prohibits non-paragon PC's from achieving paragon feats?
No. That's why I am saying that it is a freefrom mode of adjudication, based on the table's conception of the tiers of play.

Fewer restrictions and assumed systems = more free in a formal sense.
Yep 5e just has less formal structure in general... which just goes to the point that many of us have been making about 5e.
So as I posted upthread, I don't see freeform as a synonym for GM decides or GM makes up whatever s/he wants and/or calls for whatever rolls s/he feels like. What I would see as paradigms of freeform systems would be HeroQuest revised and Maelstrom Storytelling. (Others have mentioned Fate but I'm less familiar with it.) Both these systems have PCs built around freely chosen natural language descriptors (much like Cthulhu Dark that I mentioned upthread). Both have very tight scene-resolution frameworks (similar to skill challenges in 4e) but I don't see that is at odds with them being freeform.

Freeform, as I understand it, is about the way that PC build elements relate to established fiction relate to consequences of actions. Standard D&D combat is a paradigm of non-freeform - PC build elements fall under tightly-defined mechanical categories that generate mostly mechanically-defined consequences (hp loss, then death) with fictional positioning playing little role (sometimes modifiying attack rolls).

The example of reforging Whelm as Overwhelm differs at every point in this respect: the PC build element of a high Endurance skill bonus doesn't have a mechanical meaning that is independent of the fiction of being a tough dwarf (it's quite different, in this respect, from the same PC's attack bonus); its deployment is clearly embedded in the fictional positioning (in that case, of the hammer in the forge); and the consequences are fundamentally fictional consequences (the injury to the PC's hands; the reforging of the hammer) rather than mechanical (contrast hp attrition).

As I said, to me it seems - in process terms - pretty indistinguishable from @Imaro's example of the amphibious PC making a check to hold his/her breath.

I do find it weird that half the proponents for 4e seem to be arguing that unlike 5e it's a tightly integrated ruleset with clearly defined parameters and this is a plus... while the other half seem to be claiming it's just as freeform as 5e and it's parameters are no more locked down than 5e...
I don't know what you mean by "parameters".

I'm only talking about resolution of skill checks - framing, setting a DC, adjudicating outcomes.

As it happens I think that 4e's power system supports a more flexible and freeform approach to adjudication more broadly, because these are all-purpose resources that can be used in all sorts of contexts as suggested by the underlying fiction - which is a notable contrast to 5e's more traditional D&D spell lists - but that is not a topic that has come up yet in this thread except a little tangentially in some posts from me and @Garthanos.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I'm still rather baffled how the DM determining that X is impossible unless the character is trained is somehow an "objective" DC. How does the DM determine that? Sure, it applies to everyone in the game world, but, that's not what objective means. It's an entirely subjective determination (whatever the DM feels is appropriate for his or her understanding of how difficult the task would be) that is simply applied generally.

That's not what objective means.
If it was subjective the DC would change depending on the character?/level?/... well something, in my example it doesn't change. Your inability to grasp that doesn't mean it isn't true.

So, again, if the DC is 25 for performing a task, what difference does it make how I achieve that DC? And, how can you claim that the DC is objective when it is gated behind a DM's determination?
Because determining whether it's appropriate to roll and determining the DC are two different steps.

In 5e, the only mechanical difference between trained and untrained is a +2-6 (7?) bonus to the ability check. Note, you never actually make a "skill check". You make an ability check that is modified by skills. There's a key difference there. How do I unlock a lock without lock picks? Fonzie Bump for the win. I achieved the appropriate DC (somehow) and the lock is open. Whether or not I'm trained shouldn't actually enter into it, not if the DC's are objective to the game world, rather than subjectively determined by the DM on an ad hoc basis dependent on the DM's understanding of genre convention.
Lol... The beauty is as long as the book states that the DM determines if a roll is appropriate or not before determining a DC... you can run your game in the world of Happy Days and I can run my game in a world where some kind of tool is necessary to pick locks and neither of us is having badwrongfun.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Care to elaborate?
Okay.

So as I posted upthread, I don't see freeform as a synonym for GM decides or GM makes up whatever s/he wants and/or calls for whatever rolls s/he feels like. What I would see as paradigms of freeform systems would be HeroQuest revised and Maelstrom Storytelling. (Others have mentioned Fate but I'm less familiar with it.) Both these systems have PCs built around freely chosen natural language descriptors (much like Cthulhu Dark that I mentioned upthread). Both have very tight scene-resolution frameworks (similar to skill challenges in 4e) but I don't see that is at odds with them being freeform.

Freeform, as I understand it, is about the way that PC build elements relate to established fiction relate to consequences of actions. Standard D&D combat is a paradigm of non-freeform - PC build elements fall under tightly-defined mechanical categories that generate mostly mechanically-defined consequences (hp loss, then death) with fictional positioning playing little role (sometimes modifiying attack rolls).
Similar to the "RPGs shouldn't be literary" I just don't understand your definitions; in my opinion, you can't define one thing you don't like (so-called "GM decides" or as you charmingly put it "GM makes up what s/he want and/or calls for whatever rolls s/he feel like") and then re-define those pejorative terms as something else (not freeform).

To me, this is just arguing by re-defining terms; not discussing to understand.

The example you brought up was foreign to me, and, quite honestly, needlessly busy, and much more complicated than it needed to be (the opposite, for me, of freeform)- and that was your go-to example.

But hey, if it works for you, awesome sauce.

Good?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Here's my particular concern when it comes to making judgement calls based on shifting genre concerns in a play environment where spells have a dramatic impact outside of combat: How do we do it hygienically?

What I mean by this is as levels raise how do we keep our rulings consistent and fair in a way that guarantees we are acting as referees rather than game designers when we make our judgments? Is there a means or mental framework that allows us to ensure that a high level fighter can consistently do the things a high level fighter should do while low level fighter or high level wizard cannot do the same without us meaningfully designing the game in motion?

Basically how can we attach our decisions to things that are true in the game state without meaningfully making a determination based on things like game balance or narrative outcomes?

Fourth Edition offers us things like Tiers, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies to use as touchstones. Still making consistent decisions can sometimes be somewhat difficult. This is slightly helped by the fact that magic use outside of combat is also mostly a matter of fictional positioning. There is also the DC by level chart. Generally I am mostly fine with determining difficulty by how difficult should it be for this person, but nailing down what a 17th level character should be capable of isolation rather than a holistic range can be difficult.

Fifth Edition also offers us Tiers, Proficiency, and Expertise. The tiers are less defined however. Proficiency is pretty binary and applies to low level PCs just like high level ones. I would love to use Expertise as a separate touchstone except Rogues get it from day one and most classes get it not at all. If I could change one thing about Fifth Edition it would be to grant Expertise to every class and have Rogues and Bards be more broadly skilled and not deeper skilled than other classes. There is also the DC chart. Generally the issue I have is that judging based on the every man is not very useful to me when it comes to characters that should have long ago left that stage in life.

As someone who prefers to approach active play as a referee both are largely unsatisfying to me for Step On Up or challenge oriented play. I largely do not want to be concerned with game balance or outcomes in the middle of play. I want to set a challenge and leave it up to the PCs to accomplish it however they want to. Game design considerations are something I view as a between session activity.

I find B/X adequate mostly because by limiting it to only Basic and Expert I can keep a consistent milieu. Stars Without Number and Godbound (B/X clones targeting other genre) both have largely contained bands of efficacy.

I am hoping that Pathfinder 2 will be better. Simple DCs are not determined based on the every main, but based on who can accomplish a task. Can someone who is Untrained, Trained, Expert, Master or Legendary at this accomplish this task? It also has the option to lock certain tasks off to level of proficiency. So knowing something about the nature of this spell might require Master level Arcana or holding up a mountain might require Legendary Athletics. It also provides a DC by level table, but it is about affecting something of that level. So if the PCs are trying to sneak past some guards and you don't have stats you decide the guards are probably level 3 and then make some other adjustments based on the fiction.
 

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