Yet another look at KotSF/4th Ed.

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Just a reminder, since I think some folks missed my warning at the bottom of page 6. It looks like the thread has gotten back on track, but please don't stoop to being rude. I'm pretty sure you won't like the results.

Thanks. Carry on!


First Post
Endroren said:
Celebrim said:
The mythic '15 minute workday' is not a product of rules. It's a product of some players approach to the game, coupled with what appears to be conscious DM reinforcement of that approach.
Huzzah! What he said!

It's not a myth - it's a byproduct of spell slots. Wizards had a few spell slots (1 more per spell level if they specialized). Take a 4th level wizard (a pretty optimal level for them as they gain 2 spells) with an 18 in his primary stat and place him in 3 battles during one day, each with an expected duration of 6 rounds. That's a total of 18 actions. The wizard has 4 1st level spells and 3 2nd. A reasonable assumption is that the wizard expects to need at least two utility spells at some point during the day, so you end up with a max of 5 total spells. So the wizard can cast a spell each round in the first combat and do nothing in the next two or he could split up his spells and spend 2/3rds of his day firing a crossbow. Combat classes can do their schtick all 18 rounds. One could argue that you could get an extra 3 combat-based cantrips in there at some point and perhaps an extra regular combat spell if you specialized, but cantrips don't scale so you might as well have a crossbow, and even with those cantrips and an extra spell or even two, you're still spending over half the combat doing nothing magical.

As a general rule (and yes, there are exceptions of course), people who play wizards want to do something resembling spell casting during most of their combats. So the option was to spend 2/3rds of the combats not casting spells or rest after one combat.

Yes, there are groups that rested after each encounter simply to be at max strength, but the real problem that truly does exist in 3.x (and it was faaaar worse in previous versions) is that certain players didn't really get to "play" the class at all the way they envisioned it unless they rested after each combat.

The main issue stemmed from the original concept of D&D. It was a tactical game in its inception, and the wizard was the class that sucked rocks at low levels, but ruled the game if you managed to keep him alive to later levels. So from a tactical game sense, choosing a wizard was a short term sacrifice for long term gain. The game has changed since then, as have the expectations, and one of those expectations is that wizards cast spells -- all the time. You may not agree that a wizard should be able to cast a spell every round, but enough people thought so that it created a major drive to fight and rest, which is solved by 4e. People who fought and rested to be at constant maximum efficiency will do so, but people who felt like they had to do it so that their characters could continue to do something interesting will no longer have to. And that's all good.


First Post
Endroren said:
Look, MAYBE the real 4E books will be different but even just using the standard HERO rules , even the Sidekick, as a guide, there is a distinct difference in the focus of the rules. 4E, in this introductory module which may or may not have been a good example of play (despite the fact that it is supposed to be) gives little more than lip service to social skills. Pair this with what the WotC designers have said and I think I have a valid concern here.

And as I mentioned, I HOPE I'm wrong, but honestly, I'm pretty concerned that I've hit this on the head.

Meh. I'm not worried. IMO, the biggest obstacle to roleplaying in KotS is not the rules, nor the scenario as presented, but rather the fact that it uses pregens. Instead of coming up with a character concept and then using the rules to realize it in play, players have to pick a set of statistics and then try to come up with a character for it. That lack of ownership of and investment in the character is sure to have a depressing effect on the immersion of many players.


First Post
Vendark said:
Meh. I'm not worried. IMO, the biggest obstacle to roleplaying in KotS is not the rules, nor the scenario as presented, but rather the fact that it uses pregens. Instead of coming up with a character concept and then using the rules to realize it in play, players have to pick a set of statistics and then try to come up with a character for it. That lack of ownership of and investment in the character is sure to have a depressing effect on the immersion of many players.

I myself am going to let my 2 players just control 2 PC's each, I am gonna pick one of the two remaining (the warlord is gonna be counted) and use that as an NPC, and run it without any care for RP.

I bought the blasted KotS as a straight up system test. I know my players can RP and I hate using premade / canned adventures and canned pregen PC's for actual RPing.


Endroren said:
Have you read the skill descriptions in HERO? Or better yet, have you read Ultimate Skill? These are well designed, robust, story driven rules. And it isn't just two rules.

I don't own HERO.

How do the HERO rules...
  • Create an inciting incident
  • Create rising action leading to a crisis
  • Resolve the conflict
  • Generate a denouement
  • Produce a theme
  • Develop character

Keep on the Shadowfell does this:

It creates an inciting event:
Kobolds attack the PCs
It creates rising action:
PCs investigate threat; PCs discover cult; PCs are attacked by cult (the crisis); PCs assault cult
It resolves the conflict:
PCs fight with Kelarel and kill him, or he opens the gate
It has a denouement:
A celebration in the PC's name if they are successful
It has a theme:
It's not enough to stay on guard against evil, you have to go out there and fight it
It is short on character development, except in the whole "level up" process.
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First Post
Aw, Endorren changed his mind early. I was just about to comment on the non-combat stuff that's confirmed in the DMG/PHB and say that the argument will pretty much be over as soon as we all just agree that Keep on the Shadowfell has some flaws and isn't the perfect 4th Ed. experience. ;)

I used to believe that roleplaying was all about the "pretended" social interaction between NPCs and PCs, and if you didn't do that much, you weren't really roleplaying.

But I come to believe that this is not all to it. Even combat interaction is roleplaying. You play (in a very literal sense of playing a game, too) the role of a Fighter or a Wizard. You use abilities and techniques that suite your style. That is also a subset of roleplaying. And judging from what I hear about the early editions of D&D (which is not that much), it was always an important part for a role-playing game.

And it is notably different from a typical war game or boardgames, where you lead an army that hardly has something like a role, or Monopoly where it really doesn't matter whether you play a Shoe or a Car, since you all do the same stuff, or a card game, where everything you do depends on the cards handed to you, with no "personality" or "role" attached, or a game like Go or Chess, where it doesn't matter whether you're black or white, since you all get the same pieces and moves. [/ridiculously long sentence]

Maybe the "social" parts are a higher concept of role-playing, but that doesn't diminish the basic type of roleplaying. I play a Fighter, therefor I fight. I am also courageous, boast with my prowess, and lead the party (the latter unfortunately an aspect that at least the 3E rules totally missed, and probably also the 4E rules). I am a Cleric, therefore I cast spells that heal and banish evil creatures, and I also teach people the lessons of my faith and ensure proper behavior of my comrades. I am a Wizard therefor I blast my enemies into oblivion, and I also have vast knowledge on history, arcane lore and science. I am a Rogue, therefore I stab people in the back, and also disable traps, and mingle with the common folk to secure information.


I think D&D has always a strong focus on combat. Most games I played and enjoyed do so. That might be just me (and my group), but I like tactical, exciting combats. And I might even be better at that then at running a number of NPCs (which is probably not so good for my DMing) for pure roleplaying purpose "against" the PCs. Sometimes I think we should do more of that. But I am not sure if it's D&Ds fault that we don't.

That said, off course a lot of people love (and even prefer) the high concept role-playing. I think the tavern and the general time in Winterhaven in KotS are the main (or only?) points where you can do the "socializing" stuff. For better or worse, it is not very mechanically detailed, but it contains some amount of role-playing hints. It could be expanded upon (and maybe it should have been?)

Why does KotS not include more of these opportunities?
2 Ideas (beyond the "that's all D&D 4 can support)
1) The designers wanted to introduce the people to the combat rules of the game, because these are some of the major changes.
2) The designers decided that going light on role-playing is actually better for beginners. If you really haven't roleplayed that much (maybe coming from video-games and MMORPGs?), you might find it hard to "naturally" fall into playing your role. Coming up with an interesting personality (for a pre-generated character!) and reactions to NPC and PC activities might be a little daunting, and testing the waters in free-form scene might be a good idea.


First Post
Endroren said:
Let me preface by saying I'm not trying to be a jerk when I ask is...I'm trying to understand the differing opinions.

What IS a roleplaying game to you?​

In other words, what does a game system have to include to be able to honestly include the words "Roleplaying Game" somewhere on the cover? Some manner of definition must be possible, otherwise one could call anything an RPG.

No one's touched on this, yet, which is a shame as I think it's probably the most interesting thing to come out of the argument at hand.

The simple answer to me is this: Anything I want it to be. Or, taken from the other angle, anything I want to turn into one.

The (admittedly humorous) example of role-playing a game of Go Fish is a perfect example. For anything outside of conflict resolution (specifically combat), I don't need rules. Rolling against a chart for NPC reactions to my diplomacy check always struck me as ... not a perversion of roleplay, per se, but somehow counter to how roleplay should be resolved.

And I get that a shy person might want to roleplay a dashing bard, or that a rocket scientist might get a kick out of trying to play "Thog," but have a hard time modulating his behavior. But it's the attempt on the part of each individual that should count, not a roll of the dice. If the shy fella makes an honest attempt, take it into account. Weigh it MORE HEAVILY than the dice.

That's what roleplaying is about to me -- moving beyond the shackles of everyday life that you've trapped yourself in. Not improving an NPCs reaction from "Indifferent" to "Helpful."

Anyway, I haven't slept in two days. I hope that made sense.


JeffB said:
I'll preface by saying I like KOTS so far (and I was all set up NOT to). However I think it's been marketed very poorly.

Its a horrible introduction to the game of D&D

Its a good introduction to the 4E rule-set for players familiar with the game previously

I think Wizards should have gone the 3E route: i.e. 3 core books, an introductory adventure (that requires the 3 books) and a "basic set" with streamlined rules and adventure material for the Novice.
Well, the problem with that is no one wants to play the "novice" version. People want the real thing. This is the "basic set" for all intents and purposes, and it mostly works in that regard. The lack of basic equipment information is one glaring omission - you can buy stuff in town but you can't because you don't have the PHB yet... or you find magic armor that gives an extra +1 to AC, but you don't know what AC bonus the armor itself gives...

I disagree that KotS is a horrible intro to D&D. It's a standard-issue dungeon crawl with a standard-issue plot, not really all that different from dozens of other D&D adventures that have been published over the years. If it's not a good intro to D&D, then no adventure is.

KotS also has lots of advice for newbie DMs, which was generally missing from previous "intro" adventures. If anything, it's probably not so good for someone familiar with the game (or at least with 3e) because it's similar but also slightly different, which creates a lot of confusion in how the rules work.

Contents May Vary said:
My players do that, and the monsters are going to regroup/get reinforcements.

That area you cleared yesterday? Guess what?

This seems like the best solution to that problem (well, that and "random" nightly encounters full of PartyLevel+4 monsters... That'll teach them :evilgrin:)

JeffB said:
Answer to PCs who *take advantage* of resting rules = wandering monsters (if you don't use them already)


Now, regarding Roll vs. Role, I have always found that, apart from character creation, the only thing I need from a rpg system is conflict resolution rules. Which basically mean combat and some skill system. Everything else is handled by the story, thank you very much.

I have not seen the full 4th edition rules, but 2 things sold it for me: the promise of improved combat rules (everybody cooperates!) and the streamlined skill system (skill challenges are a simple idea, yet something that really adds drama to stuff like opening a door while arrows fly above your head)

edit: Mhmm... It seems I came late to the party... it seems that Mouseferatu came in and saved the day for 4e...


First Post
Stomphoof said:
Until the actual sourcebooks come out you are basing everything off a level 1-3 adventure. And it is entirely possible that they decided to write a combat oriented adventure. The biggest changes that I am aware of are those to the combat engine.
Exactly. If I am not completely mistaken someone from WotC mentioned that the adventure is targeted on the existing D&D player base, not complete rpg newbs.

So, it's not supposed to be an introduction into role playing games, it's supposed to showcase the differences between 3E and 4E.

M.L. Martin

The Basic Set comes out this autumn.

A smart move on WotC's part, IMO. Trying to draw new players in at launch might be counterproductive--they'd likely be alienated by the flamewars between "4E is the Pinnacle of Gaming, a masterwork of design that will never be equalled, and the path to universal peace and propserity!" and "4E is a betrayal of the memory of Gygax, the spirit of D&D, and all that is right and good!". :)

Bring them in once we've all reached some sort of peace, even if it is only the peace of the grave. ;)


First Post
Endroren said:
That seems a strange approach. If the module is "introductory" the goal is to teach players WHAT the game is. Now if it were called a "conversion" module, designed to teach players about what was different I'd believe your argument.

Look, if this is an introductory module, what WotC is telling us is "this is what it is like to play this game" and based on that,'s a minis game.

It's an introduction to D&D, and it's an introduction to 4E. Let's not get into semantics, but let's also compare it to introductory adventures that have come before. Where are all the RP rules in Keep on the Borderlands or Village of Hommlet or Sunless Citadel? To pretend that KotS is a paradigm shift in D&D intro adventures is to ignore the history of D&D intro adventures.

What are you asking for exactly? A dozen pages of rules to cover the intricacies of social encounters? Not that intricate social encounters are appropriate for an introductory adventure. The fact is most social encounters involve players asking questions, receiving responses, and evaluating those responses, and the module provides all the details you need to run those encounters.

An even handed response. Thank you.

You're welcome.

You are right. Good roleplayers can make ANYTHING a roleplaying game. I can make Hero Quest a role playing game. I can make Go Fish a roleplaying game (see my other post). Then again, I could make 3.5E a minis game. But does that make these games something they aren't? No. A game IS what it IS whether or not a creative person can bend it into somethign else.

A game is not a roleplaying game because someone roleplays. It is a roleplaying game because the system it presents supports and encourages roleplaying. The system I'm reading in the introduction that WotC has provided, does not do this. Oh sure, here and there they say "You could talk in a funny accent" but really, is that a system that embraces and encourages roleplay?

The mere fact that the adventure is more than just a sequence of fights, even if the stuff that isn't part of that sequence is overwhelmed by what is, is what makes it a Roleplaying Game. How in the hell do you see detailed tactical encounters and assume that they discourage roleplaying, anyway? To even get to a fight past the first two requires the players to engage with a number of NPCs, some of whom give incorrect information. One of them is a spy who will intentionally mislead the players. They'll have to evaluate this information, and decide on a course of action. Later on there is a fight that can be bypassed via role playing as well as some puzzles and out of combat problems to solve. Sure, there are a lot of fights, and they are best run using miniatures, but this is D&D we're talking about, and fights are a big part of D&D.

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