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

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Campbell, your post makes sense except I'm not sure that you've got BW on the right side of the divide. Care to elaborate some more? (Eg are you thinking of the GM's flexibiilty in respect of narrating failure?)
Burning Wheel is close, but much like how Fourth Edition's skill challenges can obviate time and place Versus tests and intent based resolution combined with Let It Ride have a similar impact where they are less about specificity of the fiction and more broad strokes. This is less the case when dealing when utilizing Fight! or Duel of Wits. There is also the case that players largely decide what their characters' struggles are. Even though Exalted shares very similar mechanics to Burning Wheel there certain struggles are embedded into the mechanics and themes for particular character types.
 
Burning Wheel is close, but much like how Fourth Edition's skill challenges can obviate time and place Versus tests and intent based resolution combined with Let It Ride have a similar impact where they are less about specificity of the fiction and more broad strokes.
When I play BW the GM is someone who is a longtime player in my group (though also the newest RPGer among us in that he began in the late 90s rather than early-to-mid 80s) but has only ever GMed BW.

I think he is better than me at the time/place aspect you mention. I think my BW leans closer to 4e/Cortex+ Heroic in the sort of way you don't like so much.

Oddly enough I think that Prince Valiant might be helping me develop that aspect of my GMing. I'm not sure if I can quite explain why - maybe because it defaults to painting in such bright lines and crisp colours that it makes it easier for someone for whom it's not first nature? As a GM I tend to lean into the emotional/stakes side of the situation rather than the time-and-place. (This is why taunting the players is such an integral part of my approach!, and why I don't do well with systems that would make such taunting mean-spirited or adversarial eg B/X.)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Campbell, as you describe it PF2 seems quite different in some key respects from its 3E/PF predecessor(s). Is that right? I wonder if that will affect its uptake.
I have never really seen a game like it. While it does share some features with Third Edition including lacking the long list of features that Fifth Edition took from Fourth Edition from what I have seen it plays nothing like Third Edition. It takes the mechanical rigor and design language of Fourth Edition with a dash of the design language of Apocalypse World and brings in detailed traps and exploration rules that really remind me of B/X. The GMing ethos strongly reminds me of a combination of Moldvay and Apocalypse World. Where GM judgement is called for they explicitly state it.

Thematically it really reminds me of Berserk! It presents a fairly brutal world with a combat system to match. PCs and Monsters are built off the same number base with a level 1 Creature largely having the same number of hit points and damage potential as a PC. Monster design is a combination of Fourth Edition, Third Edition and B/X. Monsters all have unique abilities, some combat, some non-combat. They also have immunities, weaknesses, and resistances that must either be exploited or gotten through. Many monsters have long lasting afflictions like poisons, diseases, and curses. Some monsters like the hydra even have special ways they need to be killed. In the case of the hydra its heads must be cut off and cauterized.

Hit points are explicitly meat. Many monsters will disembowel you, gore you, and do all kinds of nasty stuff to you. There is powerful mundane healing, but it comes from the Medicine skill. Basically characters will be undergoing surgery on a regular basis.

So operational play is still a really big deal. Encumbrance is really focused on with an abstract Bulk system. They have added consumables for martial characters that must be affixed to your weapon or armor before use. You probably will want to carry multiple weapons to deal with different creatures. Spell casters use real Vancian magic and have had their slots cut down severely so every spell is precious. They do have at will cantrips and focus spells that are a combination daily/encounter spell.

However decisions you make on the encounter level are also critical to success. Largely you need to be good at both to do well. The action economy is something that both martial characters and casters must manage to excel. For a caster that means spending actions to sustain powerful spells as well as casting spells some with variable effects depending on the actions you take. Often timing is critical for casters. Mistiming a powerful spell can be a real judgement error. Martial characters must manage movement, special actions, and their reactions to be effective. You can be bad at playing a fighter.

I'm not certain how uptake will go. I am very excited about the game, particularly for the embrace of B/X style exploration and GMing ethos. I do not think it will meaningfully play like Fourth Edition. I guess I will find out tomorrow when I play.
 
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I find that I want to focus mostly on the story, but have a reasonably deep system of options for players to work with, so a 4e-like character build system (actually 5e has a good one in some respects as well) is great. Resource symmetry serves 2 purposes, which my own game heavily leans on. That is, the ability to combine and juxtapose almost any resources on a given PC, and the ease of use and understanding of the system, which requires understanding less different classes of things to fully grasp.

This also means that there is a way in which it is ANTITHETICAL to what @Campbell is saying about PF2, that PCs there are very specialized and kind of 'niche'. A HoML knight and a HoML warlock can both kinda do the same thing. They will do it with very different FLAVOR, and may find some approaches better or worse, but in principle they could really be built to end up at the same place, or one could step in for the other and do something in his place.

The focus becomes more on the CHARACTER and not the BUILD, so the warlock has certain character attributes (abilities, relationships, goals, equipment, etc.) that let him distinguish himself, but build (class, race, boons, etc.) is not really about what problems you can solve so much as it is about helping you work out the things your character does, what he is, etc.

OTOH I have tweaked the game in the direction of making situations and resolution more dynamic and varied than the intricate tactical micro-focus that 4e can tend towards. Things like afflictions and generating and using resources are more important. I think it is a lot easier in HoML to actually do things like have a monster that can only be killed a certain way than in 4e.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
The other element is that martial characters utilize the action economy so much more efficiently that resources are largely asymmetric from both sides. It is largely on the side of martial classes while being more of a hindrance to casters.
To me action economy means "in combat" which is actually something that has been sort of solved in both 4e (and 5e didnt throw that out)

I find that I want to focus mostly on the story, but have a reasonably deep system of options for players to work with, so a 4e-like character build system (actually 5e has a good one in some respects as well) is great. Resource symmetry serves 2 purposes, which my own game heavily leans on. That is, the ability to combine and juxtapose almost any resources on a given PC, and the ease of use and understanding of the system, which requires understanding less different classes of things to fully grasp.

This also means that there is a way in which it is ANTITHETICAL to what @Campbell is saying about PF2, that PCs there are very specialized and kind of 'niche'. A HoML knight and a HoML warlock can both kinda do the same thing. They will do it with very different FLAVOR, and may find some approaches better or worse, but in principle they could really be built to end up at the same place, or one could step in for the other and do something in his place.

The focus becomes more on the CHARACTER and not the BUILD, so the warlock has certain character attributes (abilities, relationships, goals, equipment, etc.) that let him distinguish himself, but build (class, race, boons, etc.) is not really about what problems you can solve so much as it is about helping you work out the things your character does, what he is, etc.

OTOH I have tweaked the game in the direction of making situations and resolution more dynamic and varied than the intricate tactical micro-focus that 4e can tend towards. Things like afflictions and generating and using resources are more important. I think it is a lot easier in HoML to actually do things like have a monster that can only be killed a certain way than in 4e.
I think the skill challenge is a pretty fine mechanism for managing both escaping and enabling the discovery of the the creatures chink... so I am not really thinking other than making it a bigger story element instead of a line in a monster description is a stickler on this point at all - now I may be holding a hammer and seeing things as nails but I really do not think so.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Pathfinder 2 has a much more flexible and fluid action economy. The martial character classes are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this action economy because their abilities are much more efficient at utilizing it than spell casters. They have access to powerful reaction abilities that can shape the tenor of a fight. They are simply better at the action economy than casters. This allows you to express your skill at playing the game effectively as a martial character.

On the other hand most spells take 2 or 3 actions to cast greatly limiting their mobility. Many powerful spells require you to sustain them which also takes an action. While sustaining a spell you are limited to casting 2 action spells if you do not need to move. If you move and sustain a spell you generally cannot cast. The action economy is largely your enemy if you are playing a spell caster.

Also the action economy is not just used for combat in Pathfinder 2. It is used for encounter mode which can include action scenes and social encounters. Many abilities interface pretty well in these situations as well, particularly action scenes like chases or trap rooms.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Also the action economy is not just used for combat in Pathfinder 2. It is used for encounter mode which can include action scenes and social encounters. Many abilities interface pretty well in these situations as well, particularly action scenes like chases or trap rooms.
When a skill challenges is contextualized within the time scope of a battle scene like an escape or some similar it can happen in 4e but I would say most of the time aside form action points and some powers which are also beyond combat function I wouldnt say the action economy is something carried outside of combat. So that is distinct
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
When a skill challenges is contextualized within the time scope of a battle scene like an escape or some similar it can happen in 4e but I would say most of the time aside form action points and some powers which are also beyond combat function I wouldnt say the action economy is something carried outside of combat. So that is distinct
Pretty much everything a character can do is stated either in terms of the action economy or time it takes if it is meant for exploration mode. Things like Recall Knowledge, Convince, Lying, and the like can all be used in the scope of a combat encounter with defined action costs. On the other hand you could have a social encounter say at a party where things like movement rates could genuinely matter as you try to convince guests to leave before some nasty ritual goes off or have a duel erupt in the middle of a social scene.

Exalted was broadly similar in that the social influence mechanics could be used in the midst of combat so you get to have those epic shonen fights where the battle of words are just as important as the clash of swords. Pathfinder is somewhat more limited in that adjusting attitude requires a longer conversation.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Pretty much everything a character can do is stated either in terms of the action economy or time it takes if it is meant for exploration mode. Things like Recall Knowledge, Convince, Lying, and the like can all be used in the scope of a combat encounter with defined action costs. On the other hand you could have a social encounter say at a party where things like movement rates could genuinely matter as you try to convince guests to leave before some nasty ritual goes off or have a duel erupt in the middle of a social scene.

Exalted was broadly similar in that the social influence mechanics could be used in the midst of combat so you get to have those epic shonen fights where the battle of words are just as important as the clash of swords. Pathfinder is somewhat more limited in that adjusting attitude requires a longer conversation.
I guess one could say I think someone did in this thread the skill challenge mechanics which would serve similar timing purposes are agnostic wrt game world time. Sure successes in a chase scene are a distance countdown and in another scene they might represent that nasty rituals progression you mention but there is no hard tie in.

One might even see martial types with their generally higher healing surges in 4e as having more resources to pull out to push for success outside of combat than other archetypes. (course others may have rituals to do similar things... so there is that)
 
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TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
However decisions you make on the encounter level are also critical to success. Largely you need to be good at both to do well. The action economy is something that both martial characters and casters must manage to excel. For a caster that means spending actions to sustain powerful spells as well as casting spells some with variable effects depending on the actions you take. Often timing is critical for casters. Mistiming a powerful spell can be a real judgement error. Martial characters must manage movement, special actions, and their reactions to be effective. You can be bad at playing a fighter.
I have to say, you've gone a long way in encouraging me to taking a much deeper dive into PF2. Kudos.
 
Again, going back to 4e direction, clearly we can see a progression in the refinement of the SC technique from DMG1 to RC. RC-grade SCs are pretty good. Both sides have a pool of resources to pull from in order to either increase the odds of success at a cost, or to put additional pressure on the PCs. The understanding of plot progression at each point in the SC is much clearer, and the expected 'flow' of a challenge is thus much improved. Could a 'clock system' like BitD has, or some other mechanism like an aspect-based thing derived from a FATE-like game work better? I don't know, maybe.
SCs were definitely an area where 4e had more room to develop. They were a very new idea compared to most other mechanics that have seen the light of day in D&D, the RC version of SCs was out in 2010, only two years after they were "invented," and it was a third or fourth iteration, really, going from literally non-functional at release to workable if overly abstract, to decent, but still, overly abstract, IMHO. There was so much fill-in-the-blanks going on that it could end up just a sort of window dressing covering the same sort of DM fiat D&D has always resorted to for much of anything outside of combat & casting.

There are different directions Skill Challenge mechanics could have gone, though, and no telling which it might've taken had it been given 10 years, say, instead of 2....
 

Imaro

Adventurer
4e doesn't cap out the game system at level 30, just PCs levels. There are level 35 monsters, for instance (they are all Gods or Primordials, but they exist). So it is quite possible to generate level 35 DCs, that would be considered a maximum challenge DC for a level 30 PC by DMG guidelines. Going by RC pp 126 and extrapolating the table to 35 (the RC table stops at 30) The highest DC in 4e is a 46. Even if you stop at 30 it is a 42. This means that 'god-like' feats of skill are entirely outside the realm of heroic, or even pretty much paragon tier characters. An extreme level 20 PC (paragon capstone) might hit some of these DCs with very high rolls. That seems pretty appropriate to me.
No it doesn't cap the "game system" at 30 but DC's for PC's are based on the level of the PC's unless specifically noted otherwise. So they effectively cap out at 30. Can you extrapolate and create higher DC's... sure (just as you can in 5e) but the rules (at least the latest ones in the RC) aren't based around a DM doing this and neither are the DC's in a skill challenge. As for taking the highest DC for a level 30 character... welll as has already been pointed out earlier... the same is true for the highest DC in 5e. And I'd disagree it's entirely outside the capability of paragon tier PC's as we've already shown even heroic tier PC's in 4e can accomplish easy to moderate epic tier DC's pretty easily with the right combination of skill/attribute/level/theme and so on.

I think the tier system itself also provides a strong basis for expectations in terms of 'color' when it comes to these sorts of tasks. Epic is clearly different from Paragon is clearly different from Heroic. 5e is a lot 'fuzzier' in that sense, and IME DMs don't seem to do a lot of re-imagining the scale of things at high levels. It just isn't clear to them at what point the game naturally transitions to a different 'mode of play'. AD&D was a bit stronger in this regard, there was a 'name level' transition. It wasn't hard and fast like in 4e, but it was definitely there (PCs getting followers and bases of operations was a big thing). Still, 4e is really the only system where things can very naturally 'go gonzo' and it is pretty clear where and how to manage that transition (though the lack of an Epic DMG is unhelpful here).
But that's all it is... expectations which any DM can choose to adhere to or not. It's a form of gatekeeping enforced solely by the DM and mechanically no different than the tiers 5e describes as default. The main difference I see is 5e spends time talking about how to subvert, change and mod these expectations... while most of 4e's advice is about how to adhere or enforce them.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@pemerton

I think a lot of people have the tendency to get tripped up in comparative analysis where they look at an element of game in isolation and then apply it to the paradigms they are used to instead of trying to look at a given game on its own terms and taking a critical look at systems holistically and see if that's an experience you want to embrace. I think this is as true for the more positive reviews as well.

This was a big problem when Exalted 3rd Edition came out to the point that the community referred to it as Second Edition Thinking. The core combat system and social influence mechanics were redesigned from the ground up to lead to more tense and less binary results, but when viewed through the prism of old paradigms many game elements seemed to work in fundamentally different ways.

I do not think my analysis is perfect. I am still getting a handle on it. I have played in a couple organized play sessions, but I do not think I will really understand until I have a chance to run it for my home group which might not be until October.
 
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