Yet another look at KotSF/4th Ed.

The Eternal GM

First Post
So we played last night.

4 players, with varying levels of D&D experience from lots (me) through to only a couple of 3.5 sessions. Only the halfling didn't get used.

So to most of us this was a 'new system test' session, and we were playing for laughs as for as the story went.

So I was Arthur Dent the Wizard (who spoke only in the third person), then there was Eric the Cleric, Beatrix the Dragonborn (w/ boobs!) and Hank the dwarf (with his battle cry of "Hank Smash!").

So WotC break the third rule of adventure design... The first mentioned NPC has a dumb name. Caralel (?) who of course alternated between Kal-El, Caramac, Caramel and Captain Cadbury. And the rest of the NPC's got ignored and abused equally... Poor DM, he suffered with dignity and even tried to keep things in character. I'm so proud.

We didn't TPK. Only two of us got killed, and I am proud to see I fled the field and abandoned Eric to his fate, which ended the session in time for folks to go home and eat.

It was a laugh, and a longer session than we would normally have played.

20 4th Edition Observations Thus Far... In no noteworthy order.

#1 - Per day powers are so ultimately awesome that we rested as much as we could. Utterly undermining the design logic.

#2 - The wizard still has a crossbow. It's a crossbow called magic missile now. But it's still a piss-poor ranged attack and very sad.

#3 - The per-encounter powers seemed to be the most fun and reliable ones. They had some noticeable effect (unlike at-will) and saw use as much as we could.

#4 - I hate minion rules. Some kobolds take one hit, but are a constant threat to my squishy wizard. Other kobolds are tougher than ocean liners... The hell?

#5 - Action Points... Again, resting is promoted by these being hard to get and keep, but easy to restore back to 1 with a good nap.

#6 - Book keeping. I hope you like it, it has lots. Tracking effects is no harder than in 3.5, but there's always more of them going on with ongoing effects. Marking is annoying.

#7 - Minis... You'll need them to play.

#8 - The fighter is crap at his job. Marking isn't much more than book keeping a few mods. The Paladin is great at the fighter's job, his marking kills monsters for no discernable reason.

#9 - the action/action conversion (standard/move/etc) was easy and saw lots of use.

#10 - The cleric's ability to save an ally from a critical hit got a standing ovation.

#11 - Critical hits as max. damage on a 20 are great. Book keeping cut down and no confirming is all good.

#12 - Dragonborn dragon breath and the wizard's burning hands exist purely to kill all the minions... And make us laugh.

#13 - Sleep is clearly meant to be renamed 'Make folks drowsy for a second or so' and is now an utter waste, especially as a per day spell. Expeditious Retreat is dumb fun!

#14 - The wizard is still a total wimp if more than one minion gets near him. The pre-gen should have had an area effect blast for such occasions, not three nigh-identical rays.

#15 - This whole 'every fight is a big tactical encounter' thing is getting old already.

#16 - Why aren't the character sheets separate pages? Why are the books made of toilet paper? We paid how much for this?

#17 - The maps are awesome, and will see use after 4th is out proper.

#18 - There is enough rules to play, everything we needed to know was in there.

#19 - Combat is more fluid and dynamic, it definitely does what 3.5 wanted to do in its latter years. Lots of hp going up and down, combat advantage shifting, etc.

#20 - They will come to fear the name of Arthur Dent, or they will be destroyed!

So ultimately, I enjoyed it. The focus on "The Encounter" is very irritating to me, as I'm a story-focussed kinda guy, and that's one thing the 4th Ed. rules don't appear to really support.

As a set of mini skirmish rules, they're awesome fun! If the new D&D mini rules are like this, I'll play it, but as a set of role-playing game rules... They're not to my taste. Better than 3.5? Definitely... But still heading away from the style of game I enjoy.
 

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So ultimately, I enjoyed it. The focus on "The Encounter" is very irritating to me, as I'm a story-focussed kinda guy, and that's one thing the 4th Ed. rules don't appear to really support.

Don't leap to that conclusion quite yet. ;) 4E has rules for long-term quests, and advice for building longer-term campaigns. I don't know which edition is your favorite or what your preferred style is, but I also prefer long-running stories--in fact, many of my campaigns are nothing but one long, single plotline--and I foresee no trouble at all managing to maintain that style with 4E. :)
 

pukunui

Legend
The Eternal GM said:
#1 - Per day powers are so ultimately awesome that we rested as much as we could. Utterly undermining the design logic.
Were you guys aware that you can only take one extended rest per 24 hour period?

#4 - I hate minion rules. Some kobolds take one hit, but are a constant threat to my squishy wizard. Other kobolds are tougher than ocean liners... The hell?
I wonder if that was perhaps the intended reaction from a player's perspective. I think minions are going to be a 4e DM's best friend, though. ;)

#6 - Book keeping. I hope you like it, it has lots. Tracking effects is no harder than in 3.5, but there's always more of them going on with ongoing effects. Marking is annoying.
This is my main criticism.

#8 - The fighter is crap at his job. Marking isn't much more than book keeping a few mods. The Paladin is great at the fighter's job, his marking kills monsters for no discernable reason.
So the fighter still sucks, eh?

So ultimately, I enjoyed it. The focus on "The Encounter" is very irritating to me, as I'm a story-focussed kinda guy, and that's one thing the 4th Ed. rules don't appear to really support.

As a set of mini skirmish rules, they're awesome fun! If the new D&D mini rules are like this, I'll play it, but as a set of role-playing game rules... They're not to my taste. Better than 3.5? Definitely... But still heading away from the style of game I enjoy.
Are you sure all of that's not just a symptom of it being a published adventure being played with an incomplete "quick start" rules primer and a whole bunch of people who are new to this edition? I'm just wondering if you'll still feel this way after you've played the game for a while using the full rules and have had a chance to make your own encounters and the like. It seems to me like the full 4e rules will still support story-driven gaming just fine. It's just that all the "preview" material has been combat-focused because it's easier to show off.
 

Ginnel

Explorer
So your big gripe is that the adventure wasn't story driven and seemed to be focused on combat, ummmm Ok, I believe the adventure is there to show the biggest changes in the rules which is combat, if you want to have a more story focused adventure erm write one? Also you might think doing the adventure as a Beer and Pretzels type one from the start (Eric the cleric etc), may have lead to a less story focused adventure by the DM as well?

Also in terms of resting all the time, you can do so once in 24 hours pretty much the same as any other edition where you could recoup abilities/spells so just write the adventures so that players are encouraged to rest less or not at all, in a dungeon maybe another group starts looting while the players are resting again maybe you have the whole place tumbling down.

Heh magic missle I believe in the 3.5 DMG it had guidelines about creating spells one was if its a spell you can't see anyone being without its probably to low a level, I believe magic missle fitted that category quite well, so toning it down all to the good.

On the minion thing it wasn't a cruise liner Kobold it was a kobold with moxie.
 

That One Guy

First Post
The Eternal GM said:
So ultimately, I enjoyed it. The focus on "The Encounter" is very irritating to me, as I'm a story-focussed kinda guy, and that's one thing the 4th Ed. rules don't appear to really support.
I think of the 4e 'encounter' as a WoD scene. Also, I think plot reasons like, "Must accomplish goal X within Y days" would deal with everyone rocking the narcolepsy. I think marking and effects is the joint job of the dm and the PC who used the effect. Sleep is sort of underwhelming... except the one time I saw it used and temporarily averted the TPK that would happen because the dm didn't know the 4e rules.

BTW, I think 4e fighters rock. Hardcore. (I must add that a lot of this comes from Tide of Iron, which the KotS fighter doesn't use, as well as the fighter's rad stickiness)
 
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Irda Ranger

First Post
The Eternal GM said:
S#4 - I hate minion rules. Some kobolds take one hit, but are a constant threat to QUOTE=The Eternal GMmy squishy wizard. Other kobolds are tougher than ocean liners... The hell?
Welcome to my world. Luckily, I have a solution which I'll post in House Rules once I can fully document it (which I need the books for).


The Eternal GM said:
#6 - Book keeping. I hope you like it, it has lots. Tracking effects is no harder than in 3.5, but there's always more of them going on with ongoing effects.
This gets easier. I've found it helpful if the players track both the condition they inflict and the conditions they are inflicted with. This is easier on the DM.


The Eternal GM said:
#7 - Minis... You'll need them to play.
FWIW, I've gotten through 2 out of 3 4E playtests without - but it is more fun with.


The Eternal GM said:
#8 - The fighter is crap at his job.
Either you don't know what his job is or you're doing it wrong. Fighters rock.



The Eternal GM said:
#15 - This whole 'every fight is a big tactical encounter' thing is getting old already.
As opposed to what? "Every fight is a static brawl in a 10x10 room"?


#16 - Why are the books made of toilet paper? We paid how much for this?
Here here.

Random points not addressed I either agree with or can't comment on for some reason.


The focus on "The Encounter" is very irritating to me, as I'm a story-focussed kinda guy, and that's one thing the 4th Ed. rules don't appear to really support.
Yes and no. They don't support it - but they don't interfere with it either. Story is very important to me, and I'm glad the rules stay out of it (mostly). Story is fluid, dynamic, and impossible to model using rules. I'd rather 4E's philosophy of "We model combat, story is the DM's job" than something intrusive and interfering (in a bad way).



As a set of mini skirmish rules, they're awesome fun! If the new D&D mini rules are like this, I'll play it, but as a set of role-playing game rules... They're not to my taste. Better than 3.5? Definitely... But still heading away from the style of game I enjoy.
Um, did the rules somehow prevent you from roleplaying? This is an honest question, because so far I haven't seen any RP-killers in the ruleset.
 

Boarstorm

First Post
I've always been mystified by the assertion that certain systems support "roleplay" or "storytelling" more than others.

In my experience skill systems and social interaction rules were always more of an appendage to the actual roleplay, occassionally useful for when you were winging it, but hardly necessary on a regular basis.

My experiences may not be typical, but they leave me in a position that I don't have a lot of context to evaluate assertions such as this.
 

Heselbine

Explorer
A pretty fairly balanced review - you called it bad if you thought it bad, good if you called it good.

I finally got my copy last night and I was very surprised by the quality. My expectations had been reduced so far I was expecting something written in crayon on tracing paper. It's a bit flimsy, sure, but you get a nice robust folder to keep it all in. It's similar in some ways to Slaughtergarde. Price is a little too much also, but not excessively so.

1) Per day powers - this is an interesting approach. My players certainly haven't done this yet, but I can see it's a flaw. Sure, the DM can get round it by maintaining the pace of the adventure, but I thought the rules were supposed to fix the 5 minute working day problem? In practice I don't expect this to be a big deal for my group, however.

2) No, I disagree with this. The wizard in my group is much happier he has magic missile. Sure it does damage like a crossbow, but the flavour change is important.

4) Suspend your disbelief. Go with the minion rules. They make large fun encounters more possible. The mechanics seem odd, but the game succeeds if it's fun, not because it has mechanics that 'make sense', whatever that means in the context of fantasy.

6) Marking - agreed. In general bookkeeping is a bit less, though. But I do wonder about how much of a pain marking is going to be.

7) Minis - you need them. I've been playing with minis since 1e, so this is not a problem for me. I think Wizards should cut any nonsense about not being able to play with minis and just say they're needed.

12) That's what 'controller' means! The wizard is supposed to do lots of damage to lots of creatures - that's his job.

13) Not my experience of 'Sleep' which was crucial in one combat we played.

14) Of course the wizard's a wimp! You have to protect him! At least he has more than 4hp now at 1st level and won't die as soon as he's taken out by an arrow.

15) I'm really surprised at this comment - the move to large encounter areas makes everything much more fun. So - you want more fights in 10' x 10' rooms?

16) I think the character sheets could have been separate pieces of paper, to be honest. Seems a bit daft to have them in a book.

Compare this adventure to the first adventure for 3e. In my mind, this one is far superior and Wizards have handled the transition from 3e to 4e much better than from 2e to 3e.
 


Heselbine

Explorer
The Sunless Citadel is what I'm talking about yes, and yes, it had Meepo.

But the threat was an evil druid with his evil twig-men, and frankly it was a little on the silly side. KotS contains a far more credible and significant threat and it showcases 4e's far superior ability to have challenging and interesting encounters straight off. I mean, how many fights against four kobolds do you need to have in 3e before the PCs are strong enough for an interesting encounter?

4e started off with some design assumptions. If you don't agree with the design assumptions you're not going to like the game - fair enough. But I think you should judge the success of the game against how well it meets its objectives, not whether or not you disagree with those objectives.
 

Boarstorm

First Post
Heselbine said:
The Sunless Citadel is what I'm talking about yes, and yes, it had Meepo.

But the threat was an evil druid with his evil twig-men, and frankly it was a little on the silly side. KotS contains a far more credible and significant threat and it showcases 4e's far superior ability to have challenging and interesting encounters straight off. I mean, how many fights against four kobolds do you need to have in 3e before the PCs are strong enough for an interesting encounter?

4e started off with some design assumptions. If you don't agree with the design assumptions you're not going to like the game - fair enough. But I think you should judge the success of the game against how well it meets its objectives, not whether or not you disagree with those objectives.

You won't find a bigger supporter of the new edition than me, friend. I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek above. Someone recently mentioned how sad it was that that little kobold ended up being among the most "iconic" things in 3E, and I tend to agree.

Though, if I can be indulged in a bit of prophecy, I imagine our little gnome friend isn't going to be stepping out of Meepo's shoes for awhile.
 

Nightchill

Explorer
Hm, on the Minions, I'm not having too much trouble imagining them..

The Minions approach, wearing a tattered vest and wielding some minor weapon - possibly holding the sharp hand. From their stance and bearing (not to mention their equipment) they're inexperienced and look largely untrained. A dodge followed by a slash. A parry followed by a stab. Minions die fast. Within a few moments two are dead on the floor without the hero breaking a sweat.

Then the music stops and some obviously (at least slightly) trained enemy fighters come forth. These guys are holding their weapons the right way (phew), their armor is at least mostly whole, and they're aware of their comrades as they move forwards.
 

Sitara

Explorer
KoTS would have to go a long way to overtake the Sunless Citadel in terms of adventure quality. While physically KoTS is superior, in terms of actual game quality from what I hear it does not yet beat SC.
 

The Eternal GM

First Post
Wow, thanks all for not pulling me to bits when I think I really deserved it looking at my post (typical for me, my points work but my tone is always too harsh).

Covering a lot of questions/responses fast here.

Yes, we did only rest once every 24 hours. Yes, there still seems no reason not to do that unless every adventure is going to be time limited.

As for 4th Ed. denying role-playing. Essentially all combat encounters are set to be a skirmish of around the parties level, with some variance up and down. This doesn't work for me. I don't want skirmishes all the time. I want to be able to run combat my own way, with stealthy foes or with hordes or whatever else. But as soon as 4th Ed. combat starts, the PCs are brimming with death-deal and it is harder than ever before to catch them unaware, or even to give them preparation advantage. Ultimately, I'm not going to find it easy to use my preferred narrative approach to action scenes. This, I feel, limits the role-playing by making every single fight a prolonged tactical encounter.

With dumping p/d spells as standard, the wizard doesn't have enough good spells, merely infinite poor ones.

As for us larking about in the game, that has no bearing on the rp... We weren't trying to do much but test the system when we played. And I am not the kinda guy to invest in a character that isn't mine and I wn't be keeping.

As for the fighter. The pre-gen does suck. He marks, which means that a monster is meant to turn on him. But the penalty is no big deal (unlike the Paladins very random mark for divine damage... Thing... Er) and nigh every monster is free to just wander off and hit the squishy people. So for all I hate 'combat control' as a concept in a tabletop game, I am even more unimpressed when it doesn't work.

As for magic missile... It should be magic missile. Now it's just 'random ray of nothing' (my name after throwing it to little or no effect the ninth time) and I might as well have a crossbow all over again.

And utterly from a DM point of view, I won't use minions. They suffer from my biggest problem of 3.5/4 which is that whole "make the players feel big, clever, special every second even if they do nothing to warrant it" in this case, by creating a worthless line of foes for them to murder with uberpowers. Not my thing.

Er, time's up, gotta go.
 

Heselbine

Explorer
<quote>You won't find a bigger supporter of the new edition than me, friend</quote>

Sorry, the you wasn't you, it was a generic you.

<quote>KoTS would have to go a long way to overtake the Sunless Citadel in terms of adventure quality</quote>

What did you find particularly good about Sunless Citadel - it wasn't bad, certainly, but I don't think it ranks up there with the greats. Maybe it's all about our particular memories, though. For me the Village of Hommlet has a very high status but when you look at it the actual module's not that interesting. It was the adventures I ran that I fondly remember.
 


Grazzt

Demon Lord
Irda Ranger said:
Welcome to my world. Luckily, I have a solution which I'll post in House Rules once I can fully document it (which I need the books for).

I'd be interested to see these myself, as designing monsters just to make the PCs feel special (instead of, oh you know, having them earn it) is just, well, bad.
 

Tuft

First Post
The Eternal GM said:
As for the fighter. The pre-gen does suck. He marks, which means that a monster is meant to turn on him. But the penalty is no big deal (unlike the Paladins very random mark for divine damage... Thing... Er) and nigh every monster is free to just wander off and hit the squishy people. So for all I hate 'combat control' as a concept in a tabletop game, I am even more unimpressed when it doesn't work.

How fighter marks are going to work will depend heavily on how the DM looks at them: Is he looking at "Intention" or "Effect"?

The one brief 4E trial I played at a convention had the kobolds running straight across the battlefield when they were marked, triggering Attacks of Opportunity all over the place. "Oh, the Mark! The Mark! Is unbearable! It burnsss Usss! Must... kill... marker!" That's one approach.

I suspect other DMs are going to look at the pure effect of the mark and say: "Well, even with this Mark, the wizard is still much easier to kill than the fighter, so I'll just let my kobold stay here and keep making Mage Salsa..." That's the other approach.
 

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