D&D 4E Who's still playing 4E

MwaO

Adventurer
Touching base on the dual weapons use, I know a ton of folks that took full advantage of the attack powers that were minor actions as their two weapon fighting options. Granted, there was not alot if them, but it was an option.

My personal opinion is that they should have done this with the dual weapons powers of the fighter, ranger, and the barbarian from the beginning instead of multiple attacks as just a standard action. It would have opened the door for more options for players.

I think that's actually one of the big problems of 4e - namely that there's way too much incentive to stack bonuses rather than do one big attack. And R&D had a very shaky implementation of options designed to prevent it from being a problem.

Bonuses should have been limited, small, and per W/I of damage where all other damage listed is extra(and doesn't apply). If a Barbarian gets say +5 damage for a 1W and +30 damage for a 6W, there's some incentive to take that 6W over a 1W+1W+1W power.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I think that's actually one of the big problems of 4e - namely that there's way too much incentive to stack bonuses rather than do one big attack. And R&D had a very shaky implementation of options designed to prevent it from being a problem.

Bonuses should have been limited, small, and per W/I of damage where all other damage listed is extra(and doesn't apply). If a Barbarian gets say +5 damage for a 1W and +30 damage for a 6W, there's some incentive to take that 6W over a 1W+1W+1W power.

Right, and then you need MUCH fewer and smaller damage bonuses to get people up to high level damage output, and the whole design is much more predictable. It also means a sword that does +1 damage scales all the way to epic, you're just applying the damage bonus 5 or 6 times instead of one with each attack.

Another option would simply be to have the damage bonus be dependent on the attack roll, or simply on level (IE its an inherent bonus) then you don't really have to worry about any of it.
 

thanson02

Explorer
I think that's actually one of the big problems of 4e - namely that there's way too much incentive to stack bonuses rather than do one big attack. And R&D had a very shaky implementation of options designed to prevent it from being a problem.

Bonuses should have been limited, small, and per W/I of damage where all other damage listed is extra(and doesn't apply). If a Barbarian gets say +5 damage for a 1W and +30 damage for a 6W, there's some incentive to take that 6W over a 1W+1W+1W power.
I think that had as much to do with combat duration then anything. Depending on how good the DM was at building encounters, combat could drag on and exhaust the players as much as the characters. So the players are motivated to stack as much as possible so they are not personally tiered when combat finishes.
 

Sure, if one wanted to pursue a narrative component that sees the Fighter somehow accessing arcane energies through boon or study, etc. that's entirely possible too. I just don't see the need to force the narrative to accommodate what may only be a mechanical choice.

I can definitely see where you're coming from. I don't think Mr. Alhazred is trying to speak for what you're arguing against though. I think he's just saying, if you want your Fighter to *actually* Cast Spells, blowing a feat on it feels excessive. Justify the action through the narrative and call it good. You're speaking about something slightly different--wanting a cool ability, regardless of whether using it is Casting A Spell or not, in which case the narrative justification can easily be done as you've said.

I see this as, more or less, a slightly more advanced form of 4e's eventually-explicitly-stated ethos of "if you have a player with a really thematic Ice Wizard, but there's a Fire-keyword spell the player REALLY wants, just refluff it as Cold as long as it isn't exploitative to do so." E.g. if the player is using Frostcheese and this power is being selected because it would do something ridiculous if it were Cold instead of Fire, maybe don't allow it--not without a deeper explanation/justification/investment. But if it's just because they really like the idea of dropping a zone of Don't Stand In The Pain, and want to explain it as razor-sharp ice shards rather than licking flames, more power to 'em.

----

It occurred to me, just now, that I have (finally!) returned to playing 4e but hadn't mentioned it here! So now I have. I have a pretty cool group and the GM is enthusiastic about learning how to run 4e (he's an old-schooler at heart, who decided to do a Let's Read of the initial corebooks because he got many 4e books for cheap, found he liked the flexibility and refluffing, so he wanted to give it a spin). Definitely looking forward to tomorrow night's session--we've just finished our second "job," and it will be interesting to see what comes next!
 

thanson02

Explorer
It occurred to me, just now, that I have (finally!) returned to playing 4e but hadn't mentioned it here! So now I have. I have a pretty cool group and the GM is enthusiastic about learning how to run 4e (he's an old-schooler at heart, who decided to do a Let's Read of the initial corebooks because he got many 4e books for cheap, found he liked the flexibility and refluffing, so he wanted to give it a spin). Definitely looking forward to tomorrow night's session--we've just finished our second "job," and it will be interesting to see what comes next!

Welcome back into the fold. :D
 

I think that had as much to do with combat duration then anything. Depending on how good the DM was at building encounters, combat could drag on and exhaust the players as much as the characters. So the players are motivated to stack as much as possible so they are not personally tiered when combat finishes.

Well, its complex. IMHO what happened is people didn't understand (and by people lets be clear I mean people with the initials M. M. basically) that 4e combat WILL NOT WORK FOR A SLUGFEST (I mean it CAN, but you have to be VERY specific and design the encounter that way to make it interesting, and then its really only good as a change of pace, maybe once per level at most). So, you got these combats that almost entirely and exclusively are straight up "steel cage death match" encounters. Both sides have no other motive except to fight to the bloody end, and no other way to end the fight except perhaps to retreat at some point (which rarely happens, and 4e doesn't have explicit morale rules, aside from Intimidate use to force surrender).

The upshot being you had to chew through the full hit points of EVERY opponent, all the time. It just isn't the right way. The PC's objective should be getting past the bad guys, or whatever the narrative demands. Maybe killing them all is decent option, but it doesn't have to be. Likewise if the bad guys are trying to SURVIVE, or achieve some purpose of their own, then the encounter will rarely turn into the slogging affair that you note. It also means that things other than mass DPR optimization start to matter. If you can really move around the map then you can get by bad guys, or snatch something, or whatever and not fight it out with each dude.

So, what happened is, the PCs were offered this slogging KotS affair, which probably 50% of all groups got inflicted on them on day one of their 4e experience. They learned REAL FAST to do nothing but jack their DPR and that every encounter would be a fight to the death for team monster. Soon the PCs are limited mobility damage output machines without much provision for stealth or anything else unless it is directly in service of doing more damage. At that point ALL they can do is brute force every situation. That's fine, but most groups don't WANT that all the time.

This is also why soldiers don't work well, because they were supposed to be impeding you from doing other stuff, not nailing you down to the floor in a slugfest all encounter. You were supposed to break past them or whatever so that they weren't an obstacle anymore. Likewise elites in general don't work well in the slug-it-out paradigm.
 

thanson02

Explorer
Well, its complex. IMHO what happened is people didn't understand (and by people lets be clear I mean people with the initials M. M. basically) that 4e combat WILL NOT WORK FOR A SLUGFEST (I mean it CAN, but you have to be VERY specific and design the encounter that way to make it interesting, and then its really only good as a change of pace, maybe once per level at most). So, you got these combats that almost entirely and exclusively are straight up "steel cage death match" encounters. Both sides have no other motive except to fight to the bloody end, and no other way to end the fight except perhaps to retreat at some point (which rarely happens, and 4e doesn't have explicit morale rules, aside from Intimidate use to force surrender)...................

If Mr. M. M. Is who I think he is, I think he does whatever his bosses tell him to do. If he is not who I think he is, then he can remain anonymous.

As for the rest, I agree with you and yes, it is complicated. There are different types of encounters and there are different ways to go through encounters. My point was that it is hard for players to understand the diversity of options when the DM doesn't get it, and based on your response I would say we agree on this.

One of my biggest criticisms with D&D across the board is the lack of DM training on how to run a good game with the system you have. Most DMs just try to mimic what they have been shown by other DMs and that can be just down right bad. Also, if they do not understand how the system works, then they will not understand how to make the tools work and when they have to make a decision on the spot because a player throws a curve ball, it can end up going really bad.
 

If Mr. M. M. Is who I think he is, I think he does whatever his bosses tell him to do. If he is not who I think he is, then he can remain anonymous.
I'm pretty sure MM is mostly his own boss. He can't hide behind anyone else. Bill Slavicek might have passed him a hard play, but he wasn't up to dealing with it, and didn't WANT to AFAICT. Yes, it galls me, but KotS is just the epitome of slugfest adventures. It avoids even its own plothooks, which EXIST but are just left to rot on the table in favor of moar 'room full-o-monsters' fights.

As for the rest, I agree with you and yes, it is complicated. There are different types of encounters and there are different ways to go through encounters. My point was that it is hard for players to understand the diversity of options when the DM doesn't get it, and based on your response I would say we agree on this.

One of my biggest criticisms with D&D across the board is the lack of DM training on how to run a good game with the system you have. Most DMs just try to mimic what they have been shown by other DMs and that can be just down right bad. Also, if they do not understand how the system works, then they will not understand how to make the tools work and when they have to make a decision on the spot because a player throws a curve ball, it can end up going really bad.

Its varied. I mean 2e was pretty explicit about WHAT it wanted. The problem was TSR never really got into game theory much. Certainly in the late 80's when 2e was taking shape they STILL hadn't cottoned to the idea that mechanics could support gameplay and not just provide a more or less abstract type of adjudication. They got CLOSE with the Marvel game, but it didn't QUITE gel, and none of what they did in other games seemed to ever feed back into D&D. I mean Top Secret actually got pretty close to doing some cool stuff too.

3.x doesn't seem to have really HAD a theory, beyond 'give them loads of options and a lot of rules, they'll figure it out'. 4e just has poor presentation of its concepts. Some of the devs were designing an indie game, and some were designing tactical combat system with D&D on the name, and they didn't talk.
 

MwaO

Adventurer
I'm pretty sure MM is mostly his own boss. He can't hide behind anyone else. Bill Slavicek might have passed him a hard play, but he wasn't up to dealing with it, and didn't WANT to AFAICT. Yes, it galls me, but KotS is just the epitome of slugfest adventures. It avoids even its own plothooks, which EXIST but are just left to rot on the table in favor of moar 'room full-o-monsters' fights.

I think a lot of the issues that 4e had in acceptance were largely due to three specific mistakes:
Lots of bad mods, particularly from LFR which was way, way, way, way overextended - I think there were roughly 120 mods in year 1.

They were overly attached to skill challenges which weren't written well, especially in LFR - there were a couple social skill challenges I vaguely remember where the party would roll initiative and a PC who couldn't make a Cha-check to save their life would be asked to do some sort of Charisma skill. And then fail miserably while the player of some Cha-focused PC would look on in disbelief. LFR got a lot better at organic skill challenges, but they were still problematic because the best place for skill challenges is a DM who knows their party in advance.

They didn't make a simple Fighter who just bashed things and had the name Fighter. And they didn't give the Wizard some real way of being overly complex - say a Tome Wizard with a few additional spell choices to make traditional Wizard players happy. Some people just want that kind of game style...
 

I think a lot of the issues that 4e had in acceptance were largely due to three specific mistakes:
Lots of bad mods, particularly from LFR which was way, way, way, way overextended - I think there were roughly 120 mods in year 1.
Yeah, I can't speak to LFR. I know from talking to a few of the people that were big contributors that there ARE good LFR modules, but you're probably right, they weren't there in year 1. Honestly I don't USUALLY run modules, I LIKE to build adventures, so PERSONALLY I didn't really care how good or bad the WotC fare was. Its just that it clearly undermined the game.

They were overly attached to skill challenges which weren't written well, especially in LFR - there were a couple social skill challenges I vaguely remember where the party would roll initiative and a PC who couldn't make a Cha-check to save their life would be asked to do some sort of Charisma skill. And then fail miserably while the player of some Cha-focused PC would look on in disbelief. LFR got a lot better at organic skill challenges, but they were still problematic because the best place for skill challenges is a DM who knows their party in advance.
SCs ARE the lifeblood of 4e, if they're understood well and done properly. The presentation, and the DMG1 pre-errata SC rules just mostly sucked in certain mechanical aspects. If they'd have presented the RC version and built a few good SCs then it would have been OK. Yes, its easiest if you know the party in advance, but honestly, the real secret is PLOT and ACTION. Its fine if the guy that goes first doesn't have a CHA skill, he should be able to do something else, that's all.

They didn't make a simple Fighter who just bashed things and had the name Fighter. And they didn't give the Wizard some real way of being overly complex - say a Tome Wizard with a few additional spell choices to make traditional Wizard players happy. Some people just want that kind of game style...

There are lots and lots of little ways that 4e could have called back more to earlier editions without costing it anything really unique. Instead the designer made it almost a mandate to break with D&D in several ways.
 

<snip> but honestly, the real secret is PLOT and ACTION. Its fine if the guy that goes first doesn't have a CHA skill, he should be able to do something else, that's all.

This cuts to the core of 4e. But I'd scale PLOT back to just CONFLICT. That is what 4e's engine does; CONFLICT and ACTION (/adventure). One of the great tragedies of 4e's demise is how trivially easy it is to just improv a session out of whole cloth.

A few weeks ago, plans fell through on an evening so I introduced a few new people (along with a long time player) to TTRPG with a complete off the cuff session of 4e.

1) Players made 1st level characters (sans CB) with PHB1/2 using standard array.

2) We settled on play being centered around pretty straight-forward tropes; (a) a village with a horrible secret and (b) a haunted forest. We drew a quick map with the village, the forest, and then took turns putting an area of danger/discovery on the map.

3) The players picked 3 Themes/Backgrounds from NCS (generic-izing them a bit). Together, they came up with a quest for each T/B and wrote each on a separate flash card. I shuffled them and handed them out to the players.

This setup took about 40 minutes (with silliness and friendly jabs included). That left about 2 hours and change of gameplay. The village was was basically riffed off of 1770s pre-revolution Boston only the occupied peoples were quietly worshipers of this voracious thing in their well. The forest turned out to be haunted by malevolent elven spirits who died a century ago at the hands of an opposition clan who wanted to live peacefully with the first colonialists.

We had massive village-threatening fire that had to be put out (which turned out to be arson), a chase, an exorcism, the attempted talking down of a group of rioters against a terrified group of soldiers (lol Boston Massacre?), a witch hunt - all SCs - and a pair of combats.

CONFLICT and ACTION (/adventure). Off the cuff just using the PC build tools, monster math/tight encounter budgets, level 1 damage expressions/DCs, RC SC framework. Done. 4e is excellent at taking you through D&D's story (from levels 1-30). However, its streamlined nature and core design of closed-action-scene > transition scene > rinse/repeat (and everything integrated into that paradigm) with pushing play toward and then resolving the conflicts that the players have signaled they care about (through PC build choice and quests) makes fun free-form one-offs like the above an utter cinch.

It didn't, and still doesn't, get nearly the credit it deserves for this.
 

thanson02

Explorer
Yeah, I can't speak to LFR. I know from talking to a few of the people that were big contributors that there ARE good LFR modules, but you're probably right, they weren't there in year 1. Honestly I don't USUALLY run modules, I LIKE to build adventures, so PERSONALLY I didn't really care how good or bad the WotC fare was. Its just that it clearly undermined the game.


SCs ARE the lifeblood of 4e, if they're understood well and done properly. The presentation, and the DMG1 pre-errata SC rules just mostly sucked in certain mechanical aspects. If they'd have presented the RC version and built a few good SCs then it would have been OK. Yes, its easiest if you know the party in advance, but honestly, the real secret is PLOT and ACTION. Its fine if the guy that goes first doesn't have a CHA skill, he should be able to do something else, that's all.



There are lots and lots of little ways that 4e could have called back more to earlier editions without costing it anything really unique. Instead the designer made it almost a mandate to break with D&D in several ways.

I am running LFR adventures with my home crew and they are great one shots to help the players get a feel for FR. Although I will admit that one if the main reasons it is working is because I am digging into other sources for story fluff to get the feel of the environment.

As for SC, I completely agree! I have several homebrewed that I use on a regular basis and they are a great tool to help track social and exploration situations. They were presented badly in the published material, no lie. In fact, I think the best one they had was out if the Monster Vault, which was one of the later ones. But my players love them and they help keep things organized for me. Win-Win.

Towards your last point, yea. But to be honest, I was burned out by 3.5 (and creeped out by some if the players I would run into playing it in my area) so the change in direction was refreshing for me. It made it a game again and because of that, it became fun again. And with the release of supplants and the Unearthed Arcana articles (a MUST have to play 4E, IMHO), any issues I had in the beginning faded.
 

I couldn't disagree with this approach more! I view 4E's ability to separate mechanics from fluff utterly and completely to be one of the system's greatest strengths.

A bit late to this conversation, but nevertheless: I am SO fond of 4E's possibility of refluffing powers. Two weeks ago one of my players told me, he would like to play some kind of alchemist who throws potions and glitter at his friends and foes. He played a standard cleric for several sessions and was okay with it but realized that he didn't like the whole concept of worshipping a god etc. So he asked me if he could become an potion master of sorts.

So I renamed all of his cleric powers, gave them back and said "now you are an alchemist". He couldn't be happier. No rules changes, no feats, no multiclassing, just renaming. He even was happy about the fact that he didn't have to learn new powers and their mechanics. Now he slices his enemies apart for ingredients, brews oils and potions and his "Cascade of Light" is now called "Essence of Molten Gold".
 

3.x doesn't seem to have really HAD a theory, beyond 'give them loads of options and a lot of rules, they'll figure it out'. 4e just has poor presentation of its concepts. Some of the devs were designing an indie game, and some were designing tactical combat system with D&D on the name, and they didn't talk.

3e was about mechanical streamlining and systematisation. Its theory was "D&D is a good game that we love but has some very clunky bits, and has too many inconsistencies to make the player making plans easy. We'll iron out the inconsistencies and leave a streamlined system you can do whatever you want with." (And yes, the system is streamlined in that everything works the same way. And is fair in that everything works the same way for everyone.)
 

thanson02

Explorer
3e was about mechanical streamlining and systematisation. Its theory was "D&D is a good game that we love but has some very clunky bits, and has too many inconsistencies to make the player making plans easy. We'll iron out the inconsistencies and leave a streamlined system you can do whatever you want with." (And yes, the system is streamlined in that everything works the same way. And is fair in that everything works the same way for everyone.)
Maybe on the player end, but not the DM end. The tools were not there to truly challenge the players, at least from what I saw. All the 3/3.5 DMs was more of back seat narrator. Perhaps your experiences were different, but that is what I kept running into and based on what I have heard from others, I am not alone in this.
 

3e was about mechanical streamlining and systematisation. Its theory was "D&D is a good game that we love but has some very clunky bits, and has too many inconsistencies to make the player making plans easy. We'll iron out the inconsistencies and leave a streamlined system you can do whatever you want with." (And yes, the system is streamlined in that everything works the same way. And is fair in that everything works the same way for everyone.)

I was looking at it from a thematic perspective. WotC put out this sill byline, "back to the dungeon!" but there's not that much procedural Gygaxian play in 3e, and 3.5 just went off into this weird sort of rocket tag game where everything past 5th level is insta-gank, and its all about tricking up so you do the ganking and not being the gankee. That would actually be a pretty reasonable game, except they A) forgot to tell anyone that's what it was, and B) larded the game full of classes that have no business being in that environment. Its really kind of a hot mess.

Yes, its 'streamlined' and its systems are (mostly) pretty unified, but its not really 'clean' in the way that 4e is clean. 4e is INTENTIONAL design, even though it seems like it got away from its designers a bit, they definitely thought through each element and sorted out how it would play.
 

Nibelung

First Post
SCs ARE the lifeblood of 4e, if they're understood well and done properly. The presentation, and the DMG1 pre-errata SC rules just mostly sucked in certain mechanical aspects. If they'd have presented the RC version and built a few good SCs then it would have been OK. Yes, its easiest if you know the party in advance, but honestly, the real secret is PLOT and ACTION. Its fine if the guy that goes first doesn't have a CHA skill, he should be able to do something else, that's all.

I got burned so hard by the earlier presentation of SC that I simply can't use them anymore in my games. I know the rules changed and got better, but my mindset got engraved with that first version, and block my creativity.

So now when I need a group check, I take advantage of having exactly five players, and just ask everyone how they will bypass that stuff, and if three succeed, the whole group succeeds. And then I move on with the plot or the action.
 

I got burned so hard by the earlier presentation of SC that I simply can't use them anymore in my games. I know the rules changed and got better, but my mindset got engraved with that first version, and block my creativity.

So now when I need a group check, I take advantage of having exactly five players, and just ask everyone how they will bypass that stuff, and if three succeed, the whole group succeeds. And then I move on with the plot or the action.

That's highly unfortunate. I've had the good fortune to have not one, but three DMs who really understood how to work within the Skill Challenge structure, and I believe it's distinctly enriched my experiences of 4e play. In fact, in my current 4e game, we've gone two sessions without any (real*) combat--and yet the session-before-last was as action-packed as any of the others have been.

*Technically it wasn't a combat, but during the middle phase of the session before last, we had a sort of impromptu Skill Challenge to escape an underwater wreck with psionic zombies between us and the exit. My character (Dragonborn Paladin, naturally) used his cold breath to pulverize those between us and the airlock; I got a solid attack roll (something like 23?) so that sufficed for that round. Later, our Wizard used one of his encounter spells to keep the zombies away from the airlock chamber itself until we could bring the runner to the ship's hull so we could all escape. We also had some skill rolls (athletics, acrobatics, arcana, and the campaign-specific skill, technology) in the mix. And, perhaps ironically, our DM is working just off having read the DMG1 and sporadically read DMG2--though he's had people advise him on the flaws of the Skill Challenge presentation in the former.
 

Pobman

Explorer
I'd love to see a video of a group playing through a "Skill Challenge done right". Does anybody know if such a video exists?
 

Balesir

Adventurer
I'd love to see a video of a group playing through a "Skill Challenge done right". Does anybody know if such a video exists?
I would be surprised if it does, because capturing one would be like trying to bottle laughter. Running a really good SC is hard, even if supremely satisfying when it comes off. Very much like running really memorable combats, I think. I can usually manage "pretty fun and moderately satisfying", but "memorable and amazing" strikes randomly and more seldom.

FWIW I find increasingly that DungeonWorld's advice about player moves can be extrapolated to SCs. Use them only when you can identify a specific intent that the players/characters have, and use it to judge progress toward that intent. Each failure brings some cost, hard choice or dilution of that intent - complete failure means that the intent is not realised, but you should keep the outcome interesting and moving in an interesting direction ("Fail Forward").

Also FWIW I posted some systemic notes that I use with moderate success here in the "Open Skill Challenges" thread. These were an attempt to underpin a more reactive, game-like approach to skill challenges with player planning and mechanical systems.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top