PDA

View Full Version : D&D 4th Edition Review from an old gamer perspective



HowwwwL
09-13-2009, 12:29 PM
As promised, I am doing a review with my impressions on 4th edition. Going into this version, I was unbiased, and was actually thinking of doing a Savage Worlds campaign in it's stead, especially after hearing the bad reviews.

But I talked with someone in my LGS that said it wasn't as bad as all the bad press it was getting, and he suggested I try it out. I've played so many other games int he past, I figured it was worth a try. I could always just ditch it and start something else. So I did.

A brief history about me: I've been playing RPGs since 1979. Not just D&D, but many many many others over the years. It seemed to be like a geek badge of honor or bragging rights to have played the most different RPGs when going through my teens and early 20s. I am now almost 40 years old, and have been playing RPGs since I was 9. My focus on RPGs is ROLEPLAYING, and combat has always been incidental. I always find the combat in all RPGs to be lacking in tactical quality to most miniature wargames, and when I want to play a tactical combat game I fall back on Warhammer 40k and Fantasy, or Confrontation/Ragnarok. Which I find does a much better job for this. ;)

I have been playing D&D 4th edition for a few weeks with my group, though I've been planning my campaign for 6-8 weeks. Each player has roughly 12+ years playing D&D from 2nd edition to 3.5. I've been playing D&D since 1979 and started with Advanced 1st edition D&D.

I am going write a review of my impressions and referencing some of my group's impressions of this new edition. I will be honest in that I came into this edition with an open mind despite all the bad press from other gamers (which almost made me pass it by), and I am comparing it to mainly other versions of D&D, though I might reference others I've played.

I am DMing in 4th Edition Eberron (which is also a first time for me), and I normally do my own homebrew world. So I will comment as well on how this setting is working so far for my planning.

I could talk about lots of different things, but I am going to focus on the following main categories, and you can reply with other questions that I haven't covered and I can answer those directly if you are interested in knowing more of my thoughts on this system:
1) Roleplaying
2) Combat
3) DMing
4) Eberron World - Why would I want to use it?

ROLEPLAYING:
I started pretty skeptical. Before deciding to buy D&D 4th Edition I heard a lot of people say the Roleplaying is gone in 4th edition, and it has become too mechanical. Some of the posts I read people said they felt that stripping out half of the skills has weakened the roleplaying value of the game.

I will be honest. I've been roleplaying for almost 30 years, in many different games. The roleplaying aspect in general hasn't changed in 4th edition, let's face it, you do not need rules at all to role-play. However, I do want to qualify that.

In combat roleplaying definitely has changed, so much so, I instituted a house rule in order to promote it. My players are very good roleplayers, and always used to roleplay in combat in earlier editions, but with 4th edition, because the cards print off only mechanics, they are focusing more on the mechanics and not the fluff with the powers. Like, WHAT does it look like? Describe the effect? They are so focussed on the card mechanics they forget about it.

I think this is partly due to the fact everyone is new to the game, and people are still learning their powers, but I put a house rule in place to try and to get them in the habit of looking beyond the mechanics. Here is my houserule.


XP for Cinematic Effects/Roleplaying in Combat.

Cinematics/Roleplaying in Combat: Every time you describe any ENCOUNTER, DAILY, or AT-WILL power you use in combat (without quoting the book), describing how it looks, and what happens in a non-technical way, you will receive 5 XP as bonus Role Playing Experience. Considering that there will be between 10-20 combats per level, and most combats take around 8-16 rounds to play... Well you do the math. It is going to add up very quick.

Example of getting XP by using Witchfire: I cast Witchfire. A bright white flame bursts from the Lich's, mouth and hands, as he stiffens in agony. He takes 2D6 + 4 damage and has a -4 to all his attack rolls until my next turn.

Example of NOT getting XP using Witchfire: I cast Witchfire. He takes 2D6 + 4 damage and has a -4 to all his attack rolls until my next turn.

Example of getting XP by using Thorn Strike: I use Thorn Strike. I swing my weapon at the goblin 5 feet away from me and ghostly vines spring from my weapon wrapping around the goblin, pulling it closer to me. I do 1D8 + 2 damage, and he gets pulled one square to me.

Example of not getting XP by using Thorn Strike: I use Thorn Strike. I do 1D8 + 2 damage, and he gets pulled one square to me.

I am not going to retro game it, if you forgot to do this before you roll your dice, it is too late for XP. I will be tallying this behind my screen and adding up the role playing experience after every session. The reason for this, is I find with the new rules and the cards you print off, it focusses on the mechanics more in the text. I want us to experience the fluff behind the mechanics, so we can all visualize what is happening in combat. When I play an RPG I play for the story and roleplaying, not for the mechanics. If I want mechanics, Miniature wargames in my opinion have much better combat rules. ;) In any case, I am hoping this promotes people to describe more what is happening, in addition to the mechanics, instead of just the mechanics.

This rule is not mandatory, but you will find yourself falling behind in XP early on if you don't participate.

As far as the skills go, In just a few sessions, our players have used every skill in the game. Because you can use certain skills in so many ways, I haven't found a problem with the fewer skills, it has actually been much more fun for me as a DM. I feel like I am back in 1st and 2nd edition again, when the DM actually had some grey area to play with.

An example is Appraise. There is no Appraise skill. Someone wanted to try and figure out what a specific tome was worth. I told them to make a Thievery check with no armor penalty, and I rolled percentile behind the screen and added their roll to it. Anything over 100% after adjusting would be an exact estimate, otherwise I multiplied the final adjusted percentage to the real worth of the book. I only allowed one check. You either have a good idea or you do not, re-rolling didn't make sense, unless of course there was something special about the item that he didn't know about (like it was magic, or some piece of historical parchment was stuck in the pages somewhere). Oh, it is fun to actually have flexibility as a DM again...

So with that minor houserule, I noted above, I think Roleplaying is more similar to 1st and 2nd edition D&D, and I think is superior to 3 and 3.5 based on the playing my group and I have done so far.

I did do one more houserule for identifying magic items. It wasn't necessary (the rules cover it), but being an old school DM, I wanted more flavour to it, so I wrote up a special rule for identifying items. I won't bother putting it in my review because of this, but if you are interested to know what I did, I will definitely reply to your question later for whomever is interested.


COMBAT:
I will start off by saying... Wow has combat changed a lot. If you haven't played 4th edition, and are thinking about it, be prepared to forget 75% of what you know.

That being said, I find the combat rules to be tighter and there are less grey areas (actually I haven't come across a grey area yet, though I am sure I will, no combat system is perfect). The sliding and shifting is more difficult to get used to for one of our players (he is trying to rationalize it in his head - like how does a halfling shift a dragon with a melee attack???)

Regardless, I am finding combat to be very tight, and is a lot faster paced. I read in many places that it plays like an MMO. I am going to admt something, I am embarrassed of. I was addicted to MMO's at one point in time. I've played WOW, EQ2, LOTRO, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Warhammer Online, Tabula Rasa, and with the exception with Tabula Rasa (which I stopped close to level 30 because it was waaaay too buggy), I have multiple characters at the highest level in each game. So if anyone can comment on the MMO factor, I think I qualify.

I have to AGREE with the statement that combat plays like an MMO. Think of an MMO. You are spamming At-Will powers (fastest recharge), and some encounter powers (recharge every few minutes - combat over by that time) and some Daily powers (some that take 30 minutes to recharge or more).

So yes, it does play more like an MMO. Is this bad? For myself I see it as a good thing. There are less grey areas, everyone has more powers, and the powers are interesting.

Remember the Wizard getting to 3rd level. Omg. 1 Magic missile, then I get to throw darts for the rest of the combat... LOL! I've played D&D for many years, and in the last 15 years I would only play wizards via multiclass after I played a straight wizard a few times early on in my role-playing career.

In 4th edition, I would not hesitate to play a single class Wizard. They look like a blast! Literally...

In 4th edition they got rid of 'free 5-foot steps' (THANK GOD!!!), and many other reactionary rules which were very hard for even veterans to remember. You do not provoke attacks of opportunity as much in 4th edition (one example, is if you stand from prone when in base to base with enemy, no attack of opportunity).

Some people in my group say combat is like a card game now. You play your cards each turn, and if you use a daily or encounter power, you just tap it or flip it over to remember it is gone.

Honestly, one player in my group seems less excited about this mechanic, however the other 4 players LOVE it.

COMBAT FROM DM's PERSPECTIVE:
I find running the combats as a DM in 4th edition much easier than 3.5, and I will explain why. Because of the system they use, creating the encounter is SIMPLE, adjusting the encounter (if a player misses a session) is SIMPLE, and each monster's powers and stats are all in one spot. You don't have to go referring all over the place, to see what this mechanic does, or that does. Everything is described nicely on its card! Much more simple from DMs perspective.

I find the combats to be more cinematic, and dynamic than in other editions. It is not like I stand in one place and swing my sword over and over again (static). The combat is always moving, evolving, and interesting situations happen in the ebb and flow.

Because of the above reasons, I personally think the combat is much simpler and faster than 3rd edition to run, but much more complicated than 1st or 2nd edition to run. So if you like very very simple combat, 1st and 2nd editions are better, if you like more complicated combat that takes much longer to resolve, I think 3rd edition would be more to your liking, if you want something in-between, I think 4th edition is your choice.

I personally think of all the editions, I like 4th edition combat the best. it is not as slow and cumbersome as 3 and 3.5, and has more flavour than 1st and 2nd edition. This is hard for me to say, because my favorite RPG of all time was 1st edition D&D, but I think that is more out of nostalgia than anything...


DM-ING:
I wasn't sure what to expect from the DMing side. DMing D&D has always been a lot of work for me. I am one of those DMs that likes to ad-lib a little but have enough planned so that I have details. Some of our players bring small laptops and take notes on the facts to review later. Gotta be prepared!!!

In any case, because I always made my own homebrew adventures, I had to always create my own encounters. To be honest, I always found it hard to make encounters that were not too challenging. The whole EL system, I found to be inconsistent. It could be because as the PCs leveled certain classes shined, and others paled in comparison. It was like this in ALL editions of D&D form my experience. I haven't played enough 4th edition to tell you whether that problem has gone away or not. Maybe in a few years??? heh heh.

In any case, designing encounters in 4th edition is so damn easy, I was in shock when I made my first encounter up for the adventure I am running now (which of course is made by myself using the Eberron setting). All I have to say is WOW. It is so easy to adjust the difficulty of an encounter, it is ridiculous. It has saved me a lot of stress and time. I can even adjust an encounter right before I put the monsters out, because there are easy formulas you can use. If a player can't make it to a session, and you fade that character into the background, you can adjust easy. If the encounters you made aren't challenging enough or are too challenging, there are minions or elites you can suddenly spring in there, with NO EFFORT.

I have to say of all the things in 4th edition that stand out for me, it is this. It is hands down my favorite thing in the whole edition. But I am a DM, so that comes from a DM's perspective. ;)

Controlling combat as a DM is very easy, it is fast, and I am not bogged down with a lot of things that slow down the game. I find that roleplaying has the feel of 1st and 2nd edition again for me. 3rd edition became too mechanical for roleplaying. I am 'old school' when it comes to D&D. I preferred 1st and 2nd edition when it came to how it handled skills. I disliked the way 3 and 3.5 handled skills. It was like EVERYTHING came down to a dice roll and a DC. EVERYTHING. That always bothered me.

You see for me, when it comes to combat I want less grey areas, and when it comes to roleplaying I want MORE grey areas. I want the PCs to explain to me why they think they can do something and how they intend to do it, and roleplay while they are doing it. Just throwing a 20 sided dice down and saying, 'I did it', doesn't hold water for me. Explain to me why you think I should let you roll that skill check... Role-play it, don't ROLL-play it.!!

As an aside, one of my favorite skill systems is the old Chaosium rules for Call of Cthulhu and I prefer that over EVERY edition of D&D. But that is my personal preference, I am sure other people out there will think I am crazy for that. heh heh.

At this point in time, I've already developed my campaign to level 5 (though the players are only level 1 still). I think this is the easiest game to DM out of any system I've played over the last 30 years... You can quote me on this. I am still amazed by the simplicity... Prior to this, I felt Call of Cthulhu was number one with the old Chaosium rules...


EBERRON:
Okay, over the years, I've played/DM'd a few D&D Worlds, and the rest were homebrew. I've done Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk probably the second and third most, next to my homebrew world.

What is so special about this Eberron world you ask? Well, for me what is setting it apart from the other worlds so far are a few things. I will touch upon each of these things.

1) Intrigue
I find that Eberron goes above and beyond in this area. It almost feels like it is like Fantasy Espionage! One of my players even made a Half Elf Bard spy/linguist type character, when he read a little about the world. Another did a changeling rogue for a similar reason.

I am not going to explain the whole history of Eberron to you, there is a wiki you can read for that, so you may want to go there first, then come back here and read this part to understand what I am talking about. But what I can say simply is, all the territories on the main continent are in a time of tentative peace, which is ready to erupt into war again, and all these powers are trying to gain an advantage (via exploring for artifacts, crafting weapons and armies, etc), during this time. There is so much a DM can do with this and reasons for PCs to be doing almost anything for some organization. Plot hooks are pretty unlimited...

2) Magic
One of Eberron's races is a Warforged. it is pretty much a golem that suddenly became aware and can think for itself. They have flying ships powered by Fire or Air elementals, Water based ships powered by water elementals, and depending on where you are in the world, you can have low magic areas and high magic areas.

If you group like low-magic, you can do that, if they like high-magic, they can do that too. Lots of unexplored areas to tap into, and one of the most interesting cities of any world, Sharn. I would argue based on my experience with Forgotten Realms, and now Eberron, that Sharn is 10x more interesting than Waterdeep, and I am being very conservative in that estimate.

3) Books
The books they produced for this game are top quality. The artwork inside is better than even the main core books. There are some minor inconsistencies that passed through the editors, and you can read about them on the D&D forums, but they are so minor, and are mostly historical references, that you as a DM may never ever reference and you can easily fix that.

I recommend the Eberron campaign world to any group who likes intrigue, spies, mystery, and playing a golem!!! I've been impressed by it so far. Though I will be honest, I will be checking out Dark Sun when it comes out and I will see whether I want to go there or not in my next campaign...


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Roleplaying - Anyone who says this game has lost it's roleplaying value either doesn't know how to roleplay, or got caught up with the combat mechanics and did not make ANY effort to remedy that. I found a simple house rule remedied the not roleplaying in combat thing. The skills are perfectly fine in this game, and an experienced DM will actually like the roleplaying value of this more, than many other games out there. I think it is on par with 1st and 2nd edition D&D for roleplaying value, based on my experience.

Combat - The combat brings to mind a move for me when we play. I definitely think it is a step up from all the previous editions. I found that 3rd edition combat was okay, but I think it tried to be too much like a miniature wargame, but the rules themselves were too fiddly and slow. I've played Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k, and Confrontation/Ragnarok for many years. If I want to play a solid tactical miniatures game, I go to those. Roleplaying games, should in my opinion be simple to understand, and reasonably quick to flow through people's turns (so they do not fall asleep between turns - yes, sadly that has happened to us in 3rd edition many times, heh heh). I was not expecting the whole 'movie-like feel' to the combat, the fluid ebb and flow to each turn, and I find that the players seem more engaged when playing 4th edition combats because of this.

There is a lot of tactics in 4th edition combat. Positioning is important, and monsters and players, can slide your character into positions that can totally change your plans from round to round. I think this is a great positive. I personally feel 4th edition combat is superior to all other versions. It is not as heavy as 3rd edition, and has more meat to it than 1st and 2nd edition without being cumbersome.

Dming - DMing is much simpler than ALL the previous versions. I find I can spend more time on story development, and less on encounter creation. I find running combats much easier, and more fun (because the monsters are more interesting to play with their new unique abilities), and roleplaying to me feels like 1st and 2nd edition again, which I find much more comfortable running.

Eberron - I would recommend Eberron to anyone not sure what they want to do with a world, and do not want to spend the time to make their own. It has a lot of flavor and intrigue, and has a lot of reference material. You can still use ALL the fluff from the 3rd edition books, with the exception of how Dragon Marks work (they changed some tuff like adding Aberrant mark rules, etc).

I've been pleased overall with 4th edition, and I am glad I tried it out despite all the negative press. If you haven't tried it because of the negative press, then I think you are missing out on a solid roleplaying system. Everyone has their preferences on what they look for in RPG mechanics. However, I have to say, based on the negative press I've read so far, many of the most vocal people either haven't actually tried this game yet, or they were playing the rules wrong when they did, because some of their arguments do not make any sense to me at all now that I've actually tried the game. I didn't dislike 3rd edition. There were a few fiddly things in there, that annoyed me, but I didn't hate it, I actually played it for many years. It definitely needed some fixing, and from what I hear Pathfinder has done that. With Pathfinder and 4th Edition D&D available to play, I do not see a reason for anyone to play 3.5 anymore, unless they are dead broke $$$.

wizarddog
09-13-2009, 04:23 PM
4th Edition does have to grow on you at first. I think those who are "system exploiters" may find the game lacking. It requires the DM to make rulings for things outside the printed rules. It works like 1st edition with better combat rules and powers. In fact, 1st edition modules make excellent adventures for the game.

I have really only one player who truly dislikes it, claiming its too confusing. We play 4e when he can't make the normal 3.5 game session. :D

HowwwwL
09-13-2009, 08:22 PM
It works like 1st edition with better combat rules and powers.

That is a good analogy. I would agree with this statement. I think that is one good reason why I like it so far.

Grimwell
09-16-2009, 01:05 AM
Thank you for writing this out. You did a great job of explaining what you were going to evaluate it, and why you reached the conclusions you did. It's a great read. ;)

yukonhorror
09-16-2009, 01:04 PM
probably will comment more (only got half way), but didn't want to forget.

I have to say my favorite part of 4e is how cinematic combat is. I think it is a product of being so engrossed in 1st ed.

And, I also like the greyness of RPing, again stemming from my 1st ed background.

Good read. Very thorough, and it appears unbiased. Except for a bias towards 1st ed :D

Now to finish it.

michael
09-17-2009, 03:44 PM
Nice review.

Windstar
09-17-2009, 03:50 PM
Great review howwwl, tho now I am afraid to DM Eberron for ya now. lol

cplmac
09-17-2009, 07:00 PM
Yes, I agree that this is a great read. I would think that it could perhaps get put into the reviews section also, if Farcaster would want to have it there also.

KnightoftheOldCode
09-17-2009, 07:38 PM
Nice review, I am currently running a 3.5 game and one of my players has the 4th ed books and is very interested in playing 4th while I am kinda on the fence with it. Not sure if I will like it or not.

HowwwwL
09-17-2009, 07:54 PM
Nice review, I am currently running a 3.5 game and one of my players has the 4th ed books and is very interested in playing 4th while I am kinda on the fence with it. Not sure if I will like it or not.

Well my friend, I was just like you. All the bad reviews were putting me on the fence as well, making me a skeptic. I was going to bypass it totally and just go with a different system.

I am glad I gave it a chance. So far I think it is a solid system. Is it for everyone? No. There is a reason why people play different systems. Including myself. However, I think 4th edition is a solid RPG. It facilitates good roleplaying, has a very solid combat system, is easy to DM, and has a lot of books to support it. Give it a shot for a few levels and see what you think. You have nothing to lose except a few weekends and some chips and pop. :)

I found the reviews I read to be very biased, and now that I've played the game and worked with it for a bit, I now think many of those people haven't really played the system. Many of the comments just do not make sense to me, especially the whole "kills roleplaying" argument.

I also do not understand this whole 'you have to hate 4th edition to like 3.5, and vice versa argument.' Why can't you like both? I like aspects of both games. They are different, but so is Savage Worlds to Cthulhu, to 4th edition D&D, to Palladium, etc... I like multiple game systems, and I just consider 4th edition to be yet another game system.

In my opinion it is pretty solid. I haven't found anything about it that warrants the bad press. The whole push/pull/slide thing that happens actually makes the combat very tactical, but it doesn't slow down the game. It is a good mechanic in my opinion, it really makes the combat take on a life of itself. Once you try it you will see that immediately.

If you are a Forgotten Realms fan, and do not like the changes to 4th edition Forgotten Realms, there is no reason why you need to move up to 4th FR. You could convert your 3.5 stuff. History can be the same. I've nearly always done my own homebrew thing over the last 30 years. And I see no reason why someone couldn't adapt the 3.5 FR stuff to 4th. Most of it is fluff, and in my opinion making characters and adjusting monsters is so damn easy in 4th edition, I do not think it is a big deal and would be well worth it for the hardcore FR player.

Spumis
09-17-2009, 10:23 PM
Great review. I'm going to recommend many of my 4e-hater friends (who haven't even played the system yet...) to check this out. Hopefully someone with a lot more experience with gaming systems than I have will be able to convince them where I haven't.

As a person who's DMed 4e, I really appreciated the encounter system as well. For a person who doesn't like to spend a lot of time building encounters and would rather focus on story and intrigue the encounter system is a god-send.

HowwwwL
09-18-2009, 07:38 PM
I was asked privately to post the houserule I have for magic item identification, so I decided to post it here in case others are interested as well...

Magic Item Identification
When identifying a magic item I will be using the following rules.

The plus/bonus on the weapon can be detected by anyone messing around with it. No roll or skill needed.

If the item has a special power or ability, it will require the person to be out of combat, and an arcana check will be needed. The DC for this check is DC 15 + 1/2 the level of the item to determine the power. It will take 5 minutes per level of the magic item to determine what it is and what it does. For example the DC is 30 to identify a level 30 item, and it takes 150 minutes (almost 2 and a half hours) to identify. The DC is rounded UP for odd levels. You may roll again after the time period has expired, and you may also take 10 on the roll.

If the item in question is Religious in nature, a religion check can be used to identify the item in the same manner.

If the item in question is an Artifact, I will allow a History check to do the same thing.

Tim Grunkemeyer
09-18-2009, 08:32 PM
I have been Dungeon Mastering D&D 4e for a year now and I do not like how long it takes to finish an encounter. I have thought about decreasing the monsters' hp so they die faster and increasing the monsters attack modifier so they are still chanllenging.

I have also been dissatisfied with my groups' roleplaying. I continue to look for ways to encourage it. One thing I'm going to do is let them meet more NPC's to interact with.

My group will be starting Eberron soon!

Khairn
09-18-2009, 09:38 PM
First off I'd like to say thanks for the review. It's well written, you explained what your opinions were based on and it came across very well. Kudo's!

Like you I'm a veteran of many table top RPG's (started in '78) and MMO's (Ultima, EQ, DAOC, L2, WOW, EQ2 etc etc) and like you I've GM'ed and played 4E with a group of experienced gamers. But its funny how our experiences with the latest edition of D&D are so different. Aside from the RP'ing aspect of 4E, (which I agree with you) the conclusion of myself and the majority of my group were exactly opposite of yours.

As an example we found the limited skill selection didn't allow for any substantial character differentiation, the push/pull /slide of powers to be overly "gamist", combat to take longer than in 3E, the "At Will" powers (just hit Hotkey #1) made everyone feel like they were playing an MMO, and from a DM's standpoint 4E didn't save me any prep time except when creating the odd boss mob.

I believe that 4E is designed to assist new players to transition to table top gaming from the more popular online games, which I think is a smart move by WotC. But there were many "sacred cows" (both system and setting wise) that were thrown away in the creation of 4E, which many gamers simply didn't like.

Having said all that I still GM 4E to help the FLGS, would recommend it for new players and am glad that it seems to be bringing in some new blood into the hobby. But I personally found there were too many aspects of earlier D&D that I would have to abandon, for me to accept 4E as my system of choice.

Thankfully no one is forcing anyone to play any game they don't like. So I'm glad you're enjoying 4E and I hope you don't mind this contrary post.

Game on.

HowwwwL
09-18-2009, 10:24 PM
Thankfully no one is forcing anyone to play any game they don't like. So I'm glad you're enjoying 4E and I hope you don't mind this contrary post.
Game on.

I don't believe your post is contrary at all. As I posted above, people play other RPG systems for a reason. There are certain peculiarities with each different game, and each set of mechanics will draw certain people into it, and repel others.

I play multiple game systems, not just D&D, as I believe you do too based on your post above. D&D 4th edition is not my FAVORITE game system. I think it is a solid game system, and is fun to play, and I think many people would like it, but it definitely is not for everyone.

An example I can give is, Call of Cthulhu. People who like heavy combat based RPGs would HATE the old Chaosium rules. Yet it is a game system I really like still to this day.

What I think I was trying to get at in my review is that in my opinion 4th Edition is a solid game system, and it got a lot of bad press for unfounded reasons. The system is not broken, it does not kill roleplaying, etc... However, some people will definitely not like it, just as some people would dislike Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, Hero System, Savage Worlds, Craft, or other RPGs out there for one reason or another.

I am very glad there are many RPGs to choose from and not just the different versions of D&D. I still plan one of these days to do a Savage Worlds: Deadlands Campaign!!!

Your opinion is very welcome, and I am glad you stated very logical reasons as to why the game wasn't for you.

Thanks for posting!


I have been Dungeon Mastering D&D 4e for a year now and I do not like how long it takes to finish an encounter. I have thought about decreasing the monsters' hp so they die faster and increasing the monsters attack modifier so they are still chanllenging.

I have also been dissatisfied with my groups' roleplaying. I continue to look for ways to encourage it. One thing I'm going to do is let them meet more NPC's to interact with.

My group will be starting Eberron soon!

I've heard posts on other forums about the HP problem. The solution I've heard is to stop using so many Brutes, and utilize some minions, artillery and other roles which have fewer HP. Create a more tactical situation with less monsters instead of having a slugfest.

The right tactical setup can increase the difficulty of an encounter immensely, and make the PCs think a lot more. You don't need as many monsters because of this, and it will be just as hard, if not harder.

As far as roleplaying goes, your problem with Roleplaying can be curbed. I ran a campaign in the past, and it was 2nd edition D&D if I remember right, (man, it must have been 15 years ago now). I had a similar problem you are having with lack of roleplaying. I started to change the way I handled XP. I made the combats worth 25% of the total XP for a level, and Roleplaying 75%. So whatever they would normally get for monsters was piddly, though the XP they got for interaction and flavour was worth a LOT. I had a system to record objectively the roleplaying XP value. I also gave XP for roleplaying in combat.

I had categories, and when they succeeded in satisfying a category, they got a checkmark in that area, and the area had an XP value. You saw certain characters go up in level faster than others, and you know what? The PCs who were falling behind, started whining about it. Surprised? heh heh.

I told them, you have total control in how much XP you earn, you are just choosing not to earn it. I showed them my system, and within a few sessions, they were reaping the XP like the others who were ahead of them. They were going out of their way to satisfy the various categories.

The Roleplaying suddenly improved dramatically. To this day I always give Roleplaying XP... Even if it is minor at times. Though I currently do not use that system, because my players are now very experienced and roleplay very well in the sessions.

I have a house rule currently for combat, but that will become worthless in a few levels (5 XP per attack when you are level 7 or 8 is worth nothing), but it will be worth a lot for a little while. Long enough to get them used to it. They will become Pavlov dogs quickly...

Regardless what any game system tells you, sometimes YOU have to decide how you will handle XP, and it might not follow the game rules. You sometimes need to use your own system, because all groups are not created equally, even just for a little while to get them used to the idea.

It is your job as a DM to create an environment that is fun to play in for all your players, and help encourage them to role play. Without role playing, RPGs are just poorly designed miniature games...

You also have to understand your players. Some players are not interested in roleplaying at all. They are just interested in combat. Those types of players if introduced to miniature wargaming will be much happier in the long run. They will sometimes leave a campaign that is too roleplaying heavy...
:)

rcarner
09-19-2009, 12:31 AM
Thank you for the interesting review on 4.0 vs. 3.5. It was interesting to see where we agree and disagree. Mostly we disagree. I do like your idea about having your players colorfully describe their attack actions for xp bonuses. That make it easier to stay in the mood of role playing and not fall into rule. I plan to introduce that in addition to several other methods I tend to use, but to be honest I am not all that worried about it... the role play left when we went to 4.0. Since it is all the same players... I am hopeful and confident it will find its way back when we return to 3.5.

A little background about me: I have been playing since 2nd edition but to a lesser degree. I learned 3.0, then 3.5 and DM'd numerous sessions of 3.5. I consider myself a 50/50 roleplay/hack-n-slash type of DM who appriciates a nice mix of both. I have been playing off and on for about 16 years.

About 1.5 years ago I formed a group of people for bi-monthly sessions of 3.5. Everyone was fair role players and enjoyed developing deep character interaction.

About 3 months into that session, we decided to try out 4.0. They each rolled up level 1 (or maybe it was level 2) characters and at first the game seemed interesting, new and exciting. We realized it would take a few sessions to get comfortable with the new rules and I think I can definately agree that the rules are easier by far (too easy perhaps... at the expense of realism and skill elimination). We played for just over a year now and are now switching back to 3.5.

What went wrong for us?

Let me share two emails which illustrate the entire party's thoughts on the topic. Dont get me wrong... I dont think any of us hated it, but the more we considered 3.5 and weighed the options against the 4.0 game we had been playing for the past year, the more we realized we left a much better system. We did play for a year... I think we gave it a fair shake.

--- START OF EMAIL THREADS---
What is everyone's thoughts about D&D 4.0? The reason I ask...

Lately I havent been having a lot of fun DMing (or playing when I play as a character). I wonder if anyone else is having similar concerns/pains. The reasons I can think of break down like this:

1. Lack of role playing oppertunities/experiences
2. Combat has become rediculously difficult to make challenging
3. Skills suck
4. Realism is out the window

I'll go into some further detail...

1. Lack of role playing oppertunities

Either because our happy group lacks a strong desire to role play, or because the lousy DM never creates oppertunities for role play, or because the game system doesnt provide much of a function/reason for role-play... whatever the reason... we dont role play. It would be difficult for anyone to really point at the last 10 sessions and come up with any role play that lasted longer than 30 seconds.

One of the main reasons I was interested in gaming was to enjoy countless hours of banter plumbing the depths of fantasy character strengths and flaws. I keep thinking that "this session will be the one" that role play takes place for more than 5% of the session, but unless i am blind to it... it isn't happening. My initial hope was for 50% role play, but I probably would have been content with 25%. As anyone else noticing this missing? This is probably my main problem... the game loses most of its fun without this element for me and I find that 4.0 has no use or complelling reason for role playing...

2. Combat has become rediculously difficult to make a challenge

Since you all gained about level 10 I have found it exceedingly difficult to provide challenging combats. Let me explain...

When I first started playing D&D about 15 years ago I was constantly in fear for the life of my character(s) and that thrill and nervous anxiety was awesome for me. I liked having to 'think on my toes' and suffer the consequence if I (my character) failed at something. Sometimes he/she died. Not often, but sometimes and when it happened it was like getting hit with a baseball in the gut... and for some odd reason that pain and loss, though insubstancial, made the insubstancial victories all the more sweet.

Currently I can generally throw a group of monsters typically 3-4 levels higher than the average level of the party and most of you go through that challenge like a hot knife through butter. Most of you dont have any fear of the challenge because of a seemingly endless supply of powers that can pretty much be renewed at whim with a easily attained extended rest.

Is it just me or is every character rediculously over-powered. Or is it every monster/trap in my toolkit that is rediculously under-powered? I assume that sometimes I may be under playing the monsters or not using the environment to full potential, but it is pretty much a constant at this point for me that the combat will not be a real challenge and that takes all the wind right out of my sails (and I would assume some of yours too). Combat has become boring for me.

3. Skills suck

Do I really need to explain this? Skill challenges are a joke and difficult to fabricate. You pretty much roll a 5 on a D20 and you know everything there is to know about a monster. What is the fun in that? You roll a 2 and you can climb a marble wall coated with grease. These are two examples, but as far as I can tell every skill is either broke or crap. Skills suck and they pretty much eliminated skills from the game as far as I am concerned.

4. Realism is out the window

While alignment was something of a confinement and a constraint on a very small number of classes, it added role play oppertunity and made people stay 'in character' or possibly risk punishment. Alignment was pretty much eliminated with 4.0 to my chagrin. I really enjoyed the complex mixing of various alignments in a party to create a humous and often explosive concoction. But alas... we are all the Unaligned, because D&D cares not for alignment any longer and to wear an alignment is now a slight disadvantage.

You're each supposed to be 'a cut above', but as near as I can tell... even Kryptonite cant harm any of you supermen and women. Every class gains every basic skill every other level, no questions asked. No reason to have to hurt your brain deciding where to spend your skill points. No sense worrying about swimming in that armor any more... everyone has the fins of dolphins apparently, etc. etc. Just roll an athletics D20 and get a 4 and you're fine. OK maybe a slight exageration.

OK while I understand the game isnt meant to be taken literally, and physics is understood to be simply one component of nature (the other, of course, being magic), but my ability to suspend disbelief is severely shaken each game session at how much inter-planning goes on between round segments. Somehow all the other "fantasy role playing games" seemed so much less like a cartoon than this one.

Is it just me that feels that 4.0 is not living up to the hopes and dreams I had when first it came out? This email is not intended to point the finger at anyone or call anyone nasty names... I am just pointing out some continuing irritation I have been having with the game system we chose to play.

Just some reckless and rambling mutterings...

By the way, we're still on for Sunday @ 1:30pm. I would say you're all going to die, but I severely doubt it even though I intend to hit you with everything I got...

Ryan

---EMAIL RESPONSE FROM ONE OF OUR CORE PLAYERS---

I do prefer 3.5 DnD rules to 4e in most regards. 3.5 had more of a "realism" feel to it. (As far as realism goes in a world of trolls and magic).

-Expanded skill list and choosing your skills as you level.(Two equally wise men, one who studied Nature extensively, the other who did not, only +5 difference in skills)

-Monsters & Players operating under the same rules.
For instance, a lowly goblin will have ~6 hp, which is awesome, but so will your Rogue. Oh, and your level 10 wizard with +0 Con Mod and 20 HP just got 1 shotted by a Orc Grunt's falchion


-More magic (Lvl 10 Wizard 3.5e vs Lvl 10 Wizard 4e, no question as to who has more magic options)

-Better Magic (Rituals? Really? I want to make a magic bridge out of shadow and its going to take me 1 hour? Why bother? I could climb down the cliff and up the otherside by that time.)

-Creating a character felt more like making a man or woman who became an adventurer, with thier own strengths and weaknesses(3.5) and less of a lesson in choosing synergistic attack options.(4e)

-Disarm, Trip, Grapple, Sunder, Wands with Charges, Scrolls that can be used in a combat, Less healing availibility, Effects lasting longer than 5 minutes or until the end of the encounter, Effects lasting longer than Save Ends,Animal Companions, Useful Familiars, Charm Spell, The occasional devastating Save or Die spell.

-Dislike the Magic Item Wishlist too. I was interested in it at first, but over time came to reverse my opinion.

The list goes on....

One of the only things I can point to that I like more than 3.5 is things such as Push, Pull and Slide and Knocked Prone being common occurences, keeping combats more mobile.

Not to say I don't like playing 4E, but to me it feels like a completely different game, and not a new step in DnD's evolution.

Even the short while we played 3.5e way back when felt like a much more alive world than now and for me atleast, it has everything to do with the rules/system, not the DM/Players.

If I had my vote, Break some 3.5 back out again.

-Josh

michael
09-19-2009, 08:46 AM
I haven't yet bought a single 4th ed. book. I won't unless I find a group that is interested in playing it. This discussion is very helpful to someone like me. I have been interested in the game, but couldn't find players for it. i recently joined a 3.5 campaign though.

Anyway, thanks for all of the insight to everyone who was doing the side-by-side comparison.

HowwwwL
09-19-2009, 10:29 AM
Hi rcarner, thanks for posting. First off I would like to say, that this review was NOT about 3.5 vs 4th edition. But I did compare certain things to 1st, 2nd and 3.5 in my review, as well as referenced other systems. However, by your post, it looks like that was your focus, so I wanted to share my thoughts on your issues.

I am going to apologize now for the long post everyone...

I was reading through your post and I saw some things that I found interesting, and would like to comment on them, and I hope you do not get defensive, as they are just my observation/suggestions, and it is more to offer assistance or 'food for thought' more than anything. I am not saying I am right and you are wrong, or anything like that, I am just going to share my experience over the years and thoughts and opinions based on the frustrations you listed above. After reading this, you can very well disagree with me and call me an idiot, as I am not the single authority on all Roleplaying games, by any means. heh heh.

Anyways, here we go.

1. Lack of Role Playing Opportunities. You had mentioned many reasons why roleplaying could be lacking in the group. Based on my experience with RPGs over the last 30 years, and this one, I can assure you it isn't 4th edition that is the problem. People can roleplay with no rules at all. Dice rolls are just an easy objective way for a DM to determine outcomes. In earlier editions, it was subjective, and the DM decided whether something happened or not.

If there is a roleplaying issue, I find that in most cases, it is either the DM's fault if roleplaying does not occur, or you have a group who is more interested in fighting than interacting. If the NPCs are not interesting or the story itself you are immersing the players in is not interesting to them, that is when roleplaying begins to dwindle. It is up the the DM to remedy this, and identify it when it happens. It is up to the DM to decide when the PCs will fight. I've gone 4 or 5 sessions before without a fight in one of my campaigns, it was ALL roleplaying and roleplaying XP. The characters really were the drivers of that, I was along for the ride as the DM. It is a good feeling when this happens, it means the players are seriously interested in the story they are immersed in.

2. Combat has become ridiculously difficult to make challenging. I haven't played myself to the level you have in 4th edition, but all I hear from reviews of people who are playing Paragon and Epic level campaigns is that the character classes are balanced, and the game scales very well combat wise from level to level. Again, I don't know if I am the best person to comment on this issue for you, but I've read that utilizing your environment more (pushing, pulling, sliding characters into pits or areas to put the party into disadvantages) as well as allowing the monsters to use the terrain to reduce flanking opportunities, etc, might help more.

One sure thing that would help though, is limiting the magic items. If you gave them an impossible combat to win as an example, and knocked them all out, and stole all their items and made them start from scratch with magic items, this definitely would reduce their power significantly. Do you allow them to "buy" magic items in your world? If so, STOP.

As an experienced DM, I NEVER allow this, no matter what any rule says. Even if I use a pre-made module, I will review the treasure and make adjustments, so overpowered synergies cannot be realized. The magic items are always useful, and helpful, but never chosen, and I know they are not instant wins for the monsters I intend to throw at them... If they start getting too powerful, the magic item treasure stops until it gets challenging again.

3. Skills Suck. You comment on skill challenges being too simple. A skill challenge is not a challenge if it is too simple, and is not worth XP at all if they can easily make it. You as a DM have the ability to adjust EVERYTHING. The rules in any RPG are just GUIDES. You know how many house rules I had in 1st, 2nd and 3.5? I could have wrote another manual. heh heh.

Also, I do not allow ANY skill rolls without them roleplaying to me and justifying why I should allow them to roll. So in every case, they have to really be a salesman roleplaying wise as to why I should allow them a roll. If they can't, and they only needed a 2+ to beat the DC, they fail, because they are not awarded a roll. MAKE THEM ROLEPLAY. Heck in earlier versions, there was no DC, they just had the skill, so it as up to the DM whether their argument was good enough, and the DM decided arbitrarily whether it was a pass/fail.

Maybe that is part of my problem, I grew up with those types of systems, so I do not need black and white carved in stone rules for passing/failing.

In addition, you as a DM have the power to adjust DCs. The XP on a challenge is based on the difficulty, and so if you have to increase the DC, or add penalties heavily to make it challenging, then you also have to adjust the XP to ensure there is balance there.

I am not seeing how you think skills were removed from the game in this edition, and as a DM I find it satisfying to be able to have some grey area to work with again. I gave the example earlier about Appraising in my review. There is no Appraise skill, however, I was able to utilize an existing skill and apply logic to it. Also, it takes AWAY from the whole, I rolled a 5, I succeeded issue. They have no idea if they succeeded. Makes things more interesting.

Also, as a DM there are some rolls you should be making for them. Telling them to make a perception check, dungeoneering check or any other check can really make difficult situations easy for them. I only do this, if I want them to have some "intuition" about something coming up. It gives away the fact that there is something there, and you will find the whole party wanting to roll, even though there was nothing prompting them to do so in the first place.

4. Realism is out the Window. You have a few points here so I will tackle them one by one.

a) Alignment. I always thought of alignment as a role-playing guide. I also found that most people never played true to their alignment. There are always many occasions where they would play out of character, because they felt they needed to adapt to a situation. There was nothing stopping your characters from choosing Good, or Evil in 4th edition. My question is, why do they need to be given a label to roleplay that way? This tells me that you may have inexperienced roleplayers.

If they chose unaligned, and decided to play them as good, that was their choice, not a rule problem in 4th edition. You can't force someone to play their character a certain way whether there is an alignment rule or not. They will end up being unhappy and either kill off their character and roll another, or always play out of alignment.

I think the designers of 4th edition realized this, and decided to allow characters to play how they wanted to, since they will in the end anyways. If I am playing a character chaotic evil, I don't need a 'title' or named alignment to tell me that. I know I am being bad. So I consider this more of a player problem on your end.

In my current campaign, I have a Warden that is Good, an Artificer that is Good, an Unaligned Bard, Unaligned Rogue, and Unaligned Warlock. The Warden and Artificer are playing their characters as Good. If you attached the 3.5 Alignment titles to how they are playing their characters right now, the Bard is Neutral Good, Rogue is True Neutral, and the Warlock is Chaotic Good. Just because those labels are not in the game, it doesn't mean the players cannot play it like that. I've never understood the argument that those identifiers have any real place in the game... If you really wanted them in there, you could house rule it in. Nothing preventing this.

b) I know you were exaggerating about the dolphin reference, but do you assign penalties to the dice rolls based on added difficulty? The DC is just a target, you can move that target with penalties, which also add more realism. To be honest, if you are comparing this to 3.5, I see no difference in how easy it was to beat the DCs there as well without penalties. If you are looking for a game that does a good job with skills and advancement of skills, I really like Chaosium's rules for Call of Cthulhu.

c) I think nearly all RPGs take reality and throw it out the window. Ever seen a Warforged walking around your town? heh heh.

In any case, it is sad to see your frustration, though I think a lot of your problems are not due to the game system itself, and a lot to do with how you might be dealing or not dealing with things based on my explanations above as a DM, or not wanting to house/rule or adapt to things you would like to see happening in your game.

Don't be a slave to the rules, make the rules work for you!!!

I thought I would add, I am not SELLING 4th edition by any means. It is not for everyone. Just like Hero System, Call of Cthulhu, or Savage Worlds is not for everyone. It is just another game system.

My points above are just commenting on how I do not think the problems you are having can be blamed solely on the system like you are stating above. All RPGs have their flaws. If you do not think 3.5, 1st edition, and 2nd edition have flaws, then I would say definitely you and your group have other issues... heh heh. The whole reason for 3.5 was because 3.0 was a train wreck, and in 3.5 they fixed what they could.

Juno-Ome
09-19-2009, 09:28 PM
well Howwwwl, After reading your thread's entirity on the issues faced by 3.5, 4.0 and what have you, I must say its informing...I myself have only DMed 5 games, and 3 of them were complete jokes (They didnt work well, albeit i was told very little about the game itself and was 'learning by ear' about how to play D&D itself.) the last 2 ive been tasked with DMing, have suffered from the same problems you mentioned. (Lack of RP and over emphasis on mechanics based combat.)

Ive played 3.5 and was introduced to it around 2006, since then ive certainly heard the hype and snipe towards 4E...but much of it turned out to be over-reaction, I've played a Single session, but regrettably i've never been given a real taste of 4e in action, so regrettably, i lack the experiance to give any kind of lecture.

Alas, I can no longer remember my train of thought with this post, So before i look like im raving I'll simply leave the notable points i like about the article, It's well written and points out the issues found in D&D versions such as 3.5, but compliments itself by stating the honest to goodness truth about the "Issues" and just how easily they can be solved.

ChaunceyK
09-20-2009, 11:18 AM
Just wanted to address a few things, as I'm in a similar boat as you are, Howwwwl. I hadn't played D&D in around 20 years. I played OD&D back then, and jumped head-first into 4e. Thanks for the lengthy review, btw.


Before deciding to buy D&D 4th Edition I heard a lot of people say the Roleplaying is gone in 4th edition, and it has become too mechanical. <snip!> I disliked the way 3 and 3.5 handled skills. It was like EVERYTHING came down to a dice roll and a DC.

I still feel a part of 4e Roleplaying comes down to a dice roll and a DC. I remember back in my days of OD&D, all you needed was a clever solution:

This one time, we came across three wild-eyed humans protecting some obvious treasure while exploring a cavern. They ranted & raved like lunatics, one of them claiming to be King of the Cavern. We decided we didn't want to deal with fighting them, because they appeared insane & would likely fight to the death, and if they turned out to be a little too much for us, we could lose a party member. So instead we told them "Look, we can tell just by looking at you that you're the King & this is your cavern. But you might want to know that there's another fellow back the way we came who told us HE was King of this here cavern. We know he's lying to us, but really...are you gonna let him get away with that?"

So off they go to find this bogus King...bogus in every sense of the word, because we made the whole thing up. But we impressed our DM enough with a clever alternative to combat that he gave us "the win" for it. Now lets flash forward to 4e:

Sounds like a good idea, roll your Bluff & see if he bought it. Ooooh, a 5. Nope, he sees right through it. Great idea, though.

In some ways, I think a great idea should get the win on its own merit. Other times, like maybe if the players keep using the same story or if they just can't come up with anything, THEN I think a Bluff roll is adequate. Maybe the Monsters have "heard this one before" because you told it so many times, its getting around. Or maybe the players are stuck for a Bluff, but the CHARACTER came up with something.


The sliding and shifting is more difficult to get used to for one of our players (he is trying to rationalize it in his head - like how does a halfling shift a dragon with a melee attack???)

I've got a Halfling Rogue, so that's an easy one for me. Its a simple matter of feinting enough to a specific area during the Attack, that the dragon unwittingly inches his way to where the character is purposely directing him.


Remember the Wizard getting to 3rd level. Omg. 1 Magic missile, then I get to throw darts for the rest of the combat.

This brings back memories. We had an upper-middle aged Wizard, 1st Level. His HP were so poor, he'd stay in the room to collect XP for the battle, but all he could do is literally stand in a far corner using his Sling & stones with his piss-poor THAC0. We did what we could to protect him on his promise "No no, really. When I learn spells I'll be doing everything I can to give back to the party!" I nicknamed him Ralph Furley for his apparent cowardice while trying to look like he was actually doing some fighting. (On a sidenote, he did make it up to around Level 4 or 5, but was killed by a Doppelganger. RIP Greegan.)


Some people in my group say combat is like a card game now. You play your cards each turn, and if you use a daily or encounter power, you just tap it or flip it over to remember it is gone.

Its a huge step above what I remember:

DM: What are you doing this round? Attack, Run, or Defend?
PC: I'll attack.
DM: Ok, roll to attack!

Now we actually get choices on HOW to attack! I like the customization, but so many attacks are so complicated. Yeah, they're usually easy enough to understand when read aloud, but with so many characters in the party and each with so many different attacks, working together is harder than OD&D:

PC1: I'll use this attack because then you can use that attack & then he could use the other attack.
PC2: No wait, mine doesn't do that. It was the other guy who does that.
PC3: Not mine. Unless you mean this attack, but its not exactly like that. It actually does this, which is close, but not quite.

I do like 4e's customization, but all the different attacks are a little much to keep track of outside of your own character. As a DM, I don't see how you can keep track of it all to know for certain what every character can do.

As far as flipping cards over once you use your Encounter or Daily, I like that. For one, easy to keep track of what was used. For another, I just like that some attacks are considered more difficult to work into a battle & thus you only receive the chance to use them so often.

HowwwwL
09-20-2009, 12:20 PM
Sounds like a good idea, roll your Bluff & see if he bought it. Ooooh, a 5. Nope, he sees right through it. Great idea, though.

Do you make adjustments to dice rolls because of a good idea? I do. If one of my PCs has a killer idea I didn't think of, and I think the NPC would definitely be more impacted because of it, I adjust their dice roll by +1 to +5. It is totally a subjective role playing adjustment on my part. Same thing if they do the opposite. If they do not give me a good enough reason, or poorly roleplaying I will do the opposite, penalty -1 to -5.

I've talked to a few DM's here and they do not adjust dice rolls. They tell me they do not want to bring subjectivity into the game (They could never DM 1st or 2nd edition without doing that, heh heh). I have a differing opinion, but to each his own. I am tainted by the old editions of D&D I guess.

I am glad you posted, it is nice to see another old timer trying this game out, and seeing your viewpoints. I agree with the massive selection of powers, as a DM I thought I could never keep track of them all.

However, I try to promote the characters to explain to me what it does, and then afterwards, they tell me the mechanics. Because many of them use the same powers (especially the at-wills) over and over I am beginning to remember the powers as they name them, which is actually very surprising to me. I am starting to feel like a psychology experiment... :eek:

We just played again last night. One of my players brought his teenage daughter over to watch. She actually plays 3.5 on Friday nights with him in another group and she never has played 4th. But she asked to come to see what it was like and just observe.

Just watching the combats she was enthralled, and said, "I really like this! You can actually push a monster away from you? WOW!" She commented on how many actions people were taking in a turn, and said that it looked like a lot of fun, because you weren't just standing in one place and swinging your weapon.

I think this is case in point of what WOTC was trying to do with this edition, bring in new blood by simplifying the rules a little, and adding more flavour to the combats... Which is a good thing, I think.

Valdar
09-20-2009, 05:52 PM
Here's a good article on how to keep skill challenges fun- note that the author advises you to put the dice down and base success on RP rather than rolling if someone RPs really well:

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dursc/20090318

ChaunceyK
09-20-2009, 06:56 PM
I actually don't know if my DM(s) make adjustments for good RP's. Never even occurred to me. I'll have to ask them. But it does make sense to give a personal penalty/bonus for a really bad/good one.

HowwwwL
09-20-2009, 11:25 PM
In any RPG, any tool, mechanic or houserule a DM can put into place to promote Role Playing is always a good thing. What I find is that many DMs do not have the experience to know how to remedy these situations, or how to challenge the PCs once they have to go into the "grey" area. They are so trained to look at "black and white", and they bow to the rules lawyers...

RPGs are about having fun, interacting with other people at the table, and playing a ROLE. Some of the BEST RPGs I've played through the years have had very few rules when it came down to roleplaying and DM decision-making.

Many game systems over the last 10 years, have tried to dummy down the game, to try to make it easier on the DMs/GMs, by taking the subjective decision-making away from them. All this has really done, is taken away some of the DM's storytelling tools. Sometimes failing a roll on a skill, can make for an interesting situation. Making all of your rolls all the time, makes for a very predictable story, doesn't it? That is why I always preferred the 1st and 2nd edition rules. DM decides based on their roleplaying and logic whether a skill succeeds... To guide the story into a logical direction, as if you were reading a novel. What would the NPC do in that situation??? Not did you make the roll (yes/no)?

The DM's real role is not to be the adversary at the table. He is a guide. I do not have to tell you that some players think of the DM as an adversary, like he is a computer game and he can be beaten... So they fight over nitpicky rules, and try to max/min their character to try to win. Sometimes losing battles make for the best stories...

But that means, the DM has to improvise on the spot, and some inexperienced DMs have trouble with this whole concept. Hence the removal of as much "grey" area as possible... In any case I digress...

Thanks for the great posts guys!

Grimwell
09-21-2009, 01:32 AM
If I may,


In some ways, I think a great idea should get the win on its own merit. Other times, like maybe if the players keep using the same story or if they just can't come up with anything, THEN I think a Bluff roll is adequate. Maybe the Monsters have "heard this one before" because you told it so many times, its getting around. Or maybe the players are stuck for a Bluff, but the CHARACTER came up with something.

While I fully agree, I'd like to point out that Bluff rolls are not new and novel to 4th edition D&D... so a critique of them getting in the way of RP is of value; but not specific to this particular edition.

In any system, your example does help prove the point of having a game master who can ignore or break the rules as things make sense. One of the most entertaining parts of the game for me is letting my players surprise me with something so neat I can't help but let it happen (typically to see what happens next).

Etarnon
09-21-2009, 03:07 AM
I'm a fan of "standing in place, swinging a sword, imagining the actions I take", it's a lot faster.

C'est la vie.

Dytrrnikl
09-21-2009, 04:37 AM
First, thank you for giving a concise and succinct review of 4E. WHile it has done nothing to change my mind about the two items that I think make for an unenjoyable gaming experience.


Regardless, I am finding combat to be very tight, and is a lot faster paced. I read in many places that it plays like an MMO...
...I have to AGREE with the statement that combat plays like an MMO. Think of an MMO. You are spamming At-Will powers (fastest recharge), and some encounter powers (recharge every few minutes - combat over by that time) and some Daily powers (some that take 30 minutes to recharge or more).

So yes, it does play more like an MMO. Is this bad? For myself I see it as a good thing. There are less grey areas, everyone has more powers, and the powers are interesting.

This is the one fo the major monkey wrenches for myself and the people I've gamed with since '89. This is based off of running the Keep on the Shadowlands or whatever that first 4E adventure is called back when it first was released. Almost immediately after the first combat, I heard my "City of Heroes" drones complain that if they wanted to play a MMO, they'd play COH. Which kind of surprised me, still does. They like MMOs, then they should be pleased with the direction the mechanics went.

The other monkey wrench, perhaps the more nitpicky of the two is characters being capable, or rather, too capable at first level. If DnD became a strictly classless, skills based system, this in and of itself wouldn't be a bad thing; particularly since it would give the feel of playing WEG Star Wars, FASA Star Trek, or even Shadowrun - three games for which I have had many enjoyable hours of gaming.

All in all, 4E isn't for me, nor my group. Maybe it's the fact that we're outside the target for the game being mid-30 somethings. Maybe it's just due to the mechanics not suiting our tastes. Whatever the reason, we're sticking with previous editions of DnD and other game systems in general.

HowwwwL
09-21-2009, 08:30 AM
Thanks for posting guys. It is okay not to like a certain game system, and that includes 4th edition. I know people that dislike Hero system, GURPS, 2nd Edition D&D and 3.5.

It is just nice to have choices out there and be able to find a game that suits your preferences more. So many games to choose from. D&D is not the only Fantasy RPG system out there. It is just the "oldest" to my knowledge.

I know people who prefer GURPS and Hero System for their Fantasy over all editions of D&D.

Keep in mind my review was not an attempt to convince anyone to switch over to 4th Edition because it is the best system ever. I was just trying to point out my opinions on the game system, and have a more objective review of the game. The other reviews I found on the web were always 3.5 vs 4th edition, and that is the WRONG way to go about reviewing ANY RPG Game system.

Every game system has flaws, and has redeeming qualities. It is just a matter of which one you feel suits you more. That is why I still play multiple RPG systems.
:)

ChaunceyK
09-21-2009, 09:45 AM
Absolutely, Howwwwl. I'm sure I speak for many who read & appreciated your review (but may have had nothing to add, and thus didn't reply). Its a review, and all reviews lean towards being opinions..."this is how it worked, and this is how I felt about it." Some like 4e, some don't. We all discussed how we felt about it & why. We're all above stupid flame wars about it, here at P&PG. :cool:

kkriegg
09-28-2009, 07:40 PM
Good review. I am inclined to agree with you on many points.

Combat is fun. I like the multiple powers of varying strengths and uses, as well as running around on a grid and trying to think up some tactical plan with my comrades. Is it like an MMO? Yeah. But there are RPGs that base their mechanics around card games, various casino mechanics, and more... whats the harm in an MMO-inspired mechanic?

Most of the classes are balanced and cool. The roles are finally formalized. The books look great, too.

I can't imagine DMing. Every time I try, I get intimidated at the prospect of keeping track of all the various powers, recharges, and statistics. Maybe one day I will get around to it.

Now for the bad. I totally agree with rcarner on points 1 and 4.

Roleplaying is down the crapper. Admit it. Sure, you can say you can think of great RP oppertunities in 4E. But that's like saying Chess is a great Roleplaying game. Because, hey, there's nothing in the rules to say you CAN'T roleplay as a mighty general commanding in an epic clash of armies, imagining the lowly pawns struggling through mud while the knights jump around in L-shaped formations for some post-hoc reason.*

4E doesn't tell you not to roleplay, it just does almost zilch to support it. It cleaves such a rift between "crunch" and "fluff" that any non-combat element becomes akin to window dressing or a coat of paint. Who wants to bother thinking up a creative solution or sampling the local color when a few tumbles of the dice can accomplish it in a fraction of the time?
I like your extra XP for creative descriptions. But it strikes me as treating a symptom rather than finding a cure.

Realism** is down the crapper, too. For evidence of this, take a look at the 2E Monster Manual. There's a solid page of descriptions for even the lowliest of monsters, with some stats sprinkled in. Now flip over to the 4E MM. You'll get a paragraph description, tops, followed by a Pokemon card. What does the monster eat? How does it raise its young? Can the players trick it some how? Who cares? We have HP and that's all you will ever need to know.

* Much like the player powers. How can a halfling slide around a dragon? Who knows? You CAN think up some justification for it, but it will be totally irrelivent to anything. Whether he does it with careful feints and jabs, or through the power of his own flatulence, will have zero bearing on the game as it is played.

** By realism I mean the sense of reality. The immersion and sense that you are in another world.

ChaunceyK
09-28-2009, 08:37 PM
First, kkrieg, I respect that you have your own opinions on 4e. I've only played a handful of sessions myself, so my opinions are still forming. But for now, I'm happy enough with it. (Although you might be interested in a Topic I started on here called "Has D&D become too complicated?") In general, I've come to the conclusion that its become so detailed, it will likely lose as many players as it will gain in terms of those who have played past editions. There's more to love & more to hate, depending on how each player views it all. As much simpler as it was when I played way back when, there were still things I would've changed, so I'm not even saying it was "better" when it was simpler. In general, you just can't please everyone. :)


How can a halfling slide around a dragon? Who knows? You CAN think up some justification for it, but it will be totally irrelivent to anything. Whether he does it with careful feints and jabs, or through the power of his own flatulence, will have zero bearing on the game as it is played.

No as far as this one goes. I don't know how much you know about 4e, so I don't mean to sound insulting as I'm still just learning alot about it myself. But I do know that some Monsters are resistant to pushes/pulls/slides. Heck, the Dwarf has a resistance known as "Stand Your Ground" which reduces those moves against him by 1 block, so I should jolly well expect a Dragon to "Stand His Ground" by more than that, if not be completely immune to it. :laugh:

kkriegg
09-29-2009, 02:34 AM
Hey, don't get me wrong. I've played alot of 4E online and a fair amount face to face, and I'm a member of a bi-weekly group that plays it. A great group of guys I met through pen and paper games, as a matter of fact. I do enjoy the game alot, so I'm not one of those types who just hates it because now I have to buy more books.


...so I should jolly well expect a Dragon to "Stand His Ground" by more than that, if not be completely immune to it.

You're kind of missing my point. A large creature may be able to resist being slid by a small creature, but it will be due to a power or immunity... not any sort of logic about weight and size. I've seen quite a few times where players were able to get away with silly things because of the rules as written, but 4E is different. The DM may just bring the gavel down and say, "No, you can't slide anything that big even though the rules say you can," but then he's just unbalanced and gimped an entire race or class.

HowwwwL
09-29-2009, 08:32 AM
Roleplaying is down the crapper. Admit it.

Sorry I can't admit it, because I don't agree with this statement. :D


4E doesn't tell you not to roleplay, it just does almost zilch to support it. Who wants to bother thinking up a creative solution or sampling the local color when a few tumbles of the dice can accomplish it in a fraction of the time?

My players want to think up solutions. I don't ALLOW them to roll the dice on their skill check unless they sell me on why they should be able to, unless it is obvious like an Athletics check or Acrobatics for instance. But if they are using Bluff, Diplomacy or other "role-playing" skills, they definitely have to sell me "role-playing" wise in order to roll the skill check.

Maybe your DM just doesn't care and it is easier for him to have the PCs roll the dice?


Realism** is down the crapper, too. Now flip over to the 4E MM. You'll get a paragraph description, tops, followed by a Pokemon card. What does the monster eat? How does it raise its young? Can the players trick it some how? Who cares? We have HP and that's all you will ever need to know.

Did you read the Lore areas in the Monster Manual? It gives you more than enough to go on, and as a DM you fill in the rest based on why your story has them at that location.


** By realism I mean the sense of reality. The immersion and sense that you are in another world.

I find a good DM can weave a story that can immerse the players in another world. Every game has a set of different mechanics. They are just mechanics though. They are there as a guide. The mechanics should not immerse you into another world, that is the job of the DM's storytelling ability.

ChaunceyK
09-29-2009, 08:50 AM
Hey, don't get me wrong. I've played alot of 4E online and a fair amount face to face, and I'm a member of a bi-weekly group that plays it. A great group of guys I met through pen and paper games, as a matter of fact. I do enjoy the game alot, so I'm not one of those types who just hates it because now I have to buy more books.


Oh no, I'm not saying you're hating on 4e all together. You said what you liked & what you didn't like. That's cool with me. But as far as books, I don't own a single hardcover. I bought when they were still selling as PDF, and then when I realized they were going to keep releasing more & more books...well, that might not bother you but it did bother me. I wanted stuff like the Adventurer's Vault & Martial Power for my Halfling Rogue, but they're doing updates so often with all sorts of equipment our characters can use, I decided instead just to subscribe to the DDI for the Character Generator. That way, when I need to level up (and playing monthly with just 2 characters, that ain't happening often), I can subscribe for just the one month to get all the updates & buy whatever equipment I want. I'd much rather pay $9.95 3 or 4 times a year & see exactly what goes in what slots (fully automated) than spend the money on actual books & have to search through it manually.

That's just my preference.



You're kind of missing my point. A large creature may be able to resist being slid by a small creature, but it will be due to a power or immunity... not any sort of logic about weight and size. I've seen quite a few times where players were able to get away with silly things because of the rules as written, but 4E is different. The DM may just bring the gavel down and say, "No, you can't slide anything that big even though the rules say you can," but then he's just unbalanced and gimped an entire race or class.

I feel the power/immunity isn't a magical or trained thing in this case. It reflect a natural thing for a Dragon because he's so big (hard to move with physical force) & intelligent (shouldn't fall for a feint that would make him inch away). And if WotC hasn't granted a Dragon this feature...I have no problem with a DM deciding it for me. There's always more than one way to skin a Dragon.

kkriegg
09-29-2009, 01:01 PM
I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on all points here. If you're having fun, more power to you. It just seems like most of the roleplaying aspects happen in spite of 4E, and not because of it.

Valdar
09-29-2009, 04:59 PM
I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on all points here. If you're having fun, more power to you. It just seems like most of the roleplaying aspects happen in spite of 4E, and not because of it.

Discussions like these are rather pointless if nobody agrees on what "roleplaying" means, and it's difficult to determine what you mean by it in your comments. As far as I can tell, it looks like your current group is pretty roleplaying-light, and you're attributing it to the system rather than your group.

Your complaint that you can use a skill roll instead of roleplay has been true since skills were introduced in 2e, as Grimwell pointed out, so that's no more true in 4e than it was in earlier editions. You can bemoan the lack of craft or profession skills, as others have done, but in 3e and before, all those skills did were to either derail the adventure or take away skill points that you would normally spend on things that would actually get rolled (in 4e, as of PHB2 your background skills improve your adventuring skills, rather than detracting from them).

The word "Roleplaying" appears three times on the first page of the PHB, and there's a chapter with that title as well. The DMG is very light on rules, and instead contains practical advice on creating bang-up adventures for your group. DMG2 is pretty much the same deal. What, if anything, would make this more of a roleplaying game for you?

Grimwell
10-03-2009, 10:45 AM
Meh. Let's revisit some of the old saws then?

Roleplay in general: The core books for the other editions had just as much roleplay advice as the 4E core books. Which is a clever way of saying they didn't.

Skills instead of roleplay: The very first time I heard someone say "I use diplomacy to convince the guard to let us in, does a 17 work?" was in the early 1990's. Next question?

4E Plays like a MMO: Trust me. Please. For the love of my sanity (I *work* at a MMO company). Rolemaster plays like a MMO. 4E is far too simple for that comparison to be valid.

Now the slides/push topic is interesting and fun to my eyes. ;)

How does a halfling slide a dragon? I'm making a new thread!

HowwwwL
10-03-2009, 12:33 PM
Skills instead of roleplay: The very first time I heard someone say "I use diplomacy to convince the guard to let us in, does a 17 work?" was in the early 1990's. Next question?

I think people really believe roleplaying is all about being able to make a skill check. In actuality, the skill rolling gets in the way... Game designers created a "seemingly" objective method of figuring out NPC reactions, instead of letting the DM decide based on the player's roleplaying ability, imagination, or ability to act out or present their intentions.

I firmly believe that these "tools" have reduced or crippled the players' ability to describe "how" they are accomplishing certain tasks. I see this with newer players. They will dive for the dice before even describing what they are doing. That is why I do not let people roll the dice, until they explain to me what they are doing.

Many of the negative comments you see about "roleplaying" and 4th edition, seem to target the number of skills in the game and how there are less than in 3rd edition.

I've been playing RPGs for a long long time, and I am still not sure how people can draw a direct line between roleplaying and the number of skills listed in a game.

If a skill is not listed in the game, how does that prevent you from roleplaying and describing the act of doing that missing skill? How does it prevent a DM from either making a subjective judgement call based on the player's description, actions, or speech (God forbid!!!), or taking an existing skill and creating an objective method of figuring success if the DM does not feel comfortable being subjective????


4E Plays like a MMO: Trust me. Please. For the love of my sanity (I *work* at a MMO company). Rolemaster plays like a MMO. 4E is far too simple for that comparison to be valid.

I still think this game's combat system definitely has similarities to MMO style combat. Of course I am simplifying it to make that comparison. If it was like playing an MMO I would expect WOTC to charge me a monthly fee for playing. D&D Insider anyone? haha.

All jesting aside, I've found the 4th edition combats to be a refreshing change from the older versions. All you have to do is watch the player's eyes when it is their turn and you can see the hamsters running their booties off in their heads. The game is not just a stand there and swing my sword style game. The Push, Pull and Shifting has added a very tactical/strategic feel to the combats which I immediately liked.

I also like the fact that the Cleric is not a MUST anymore. Players can play what they want now, and not fight over who has to be the cleric this time...

ChaunceyK
10-03-2009, 03:27 PM
I also like the fact that the Cleric is not a MUST anymore. Players can play what they want now, and not fight over who has to be the cleric this time...

I'm going back 20 years for this, but I enjoyed being a Cleric back then. I enjoyed being the guy who kept us all from croaking, healing regular wounds & also curing blindness & deafness and such. Back then, I felt like it was a niche role.

Right now I'm starting a new character for a new campaign I'm joining, and its a Cleric. But I'm doing it for depth of character this time, not because I want to be "the healer."

Back then, making a character felt like "we could really use a <insert class here>"...now I'm more interested in creating interesting & fun characters. Is it the game system? Or is it just where I am in life? I don't know & I don't really care either, just as long as I'm having fun. :laugh:

Grimwell
10-04-2009, 10:30 AM
I don't know & I don't really care either, just as long as I'm having fun. :laugh:
I would like to declare you the winner of this conversation. :)

HowwwwL
10-04-2009, 12:53 PM
I would like to declare you the winner of this conversation. :)

Indeed! That is the WHOLE point of playing these crazy games!!! heh heh.

ChaunceyK
10-04-2009, 04:13 PM
I would like to declare you the winner of this conversation. :)

:first: I'd just to like the Academy for this award, and especially all the little people...dwarves, halflings, and gnomes alike...thank you!