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Maelstrom
06-07-2008, 08:52 PM
As I scanned through the 4e Players Handbook today (which I couldn't resist doing today even though I have my pre-ordered set arriving in a week or so), it dawned on me some of the roots of debate that there is between 3.5 and where 4e has gone.

In D&D 3.5, the sky is the limit when it comes to flexibility of character design. So many options are available that can be mixed and matched in any way you can come up with. You can multiclass as much as you want, pick up prestige classes along the way, pick any feat from countless sources, and peruse a whole library full of additional equipment, magical items, and spells.

Beyond the core of the system, this flexibility encourages creativity, as all these options provide inspiration into new and untested combinations, but on the flip side it is also a primordial ooze from which munchkins can thrive. With so many sources out there, there are bound to be a few broken options, allowing insanely powerful characters. It is just as easy for someone without the killer instinct to create a useless character for the sake of creativity. Spellcasters that multiclass sound cool, but they are (for the most part) stunted in there growth. Certain races mixed with certain classes may sound cool to play, but they end up being weak against the more powerful and synergistic combinations.

On either end of the scale, the ultra or the abysmal combinations available in 3.5e, balance hangs by a thread, and it takes a firm DM to either maintain that balance or throw it out the window.

Enter 4e. The designers seem to have gone the opposite direction when it comes to balance vs flexibility. Balance seems to be the codeword, as classes are created with set roles in mind, and some races are given obvious synergies with some classes. When Balance is king, flexibility is the casualty, as when you allow unfettered access to options, it becomes a firefight to restrict unbalanced options.

With balance comes some benefits, especially with some of the design elements put into 4e. If it is maintained, all player characters will be valuable in any encounter or conflict. They will all have something to add because they have been designed that way. Also, you do not have a single character stealing the show, because he needs the others just as much as they need him.

So here we are at a crossroads. Flexibility vs Balance. Personally, I think 4e is fulfilling its role as a new alternative that creates a solid system based around balance. Many will find it invigorating, maybe not quite understanding why 3.5 felt bloated. Others will find it stifling of their creativity.

Where do you fit?

ronpyatt
06-07-2008, 09:36 PM
The balance they've created appears to open the way to inexhaustible character class design. Each class follows the same framework, which means that creating new classes will be simpler and more elegant. Multi-classing is a set of feats, but those few feats in the core rules hint at the possibilities awaiting us in the future, because multi-class feats appear to follow a framework that can be patterned and expanded on for other types of multi-classes.

I favor generic games as I was early on exposed to Champions, Role Master, GURPS, and many other mostly generic systems. The Hero System in particular helps you create balanced characters for a group. This was not always the best approach, because it took so much effort to build a character. It was a two tier endeavor building through a framework to have a character. It looks like they've done the same thing with 4ed, but they've hidden the framework.

tesral
06-08-2008, 12:52 AM
Where do you fit?

Flexibility.

I take a some what different approach to the idea than does 3.5. I believe that creativity is enhanced by restriction. I also believe that picking options from a fixed menu is not being creative. And/or gates are not creation.

I will take an interesting concept and bend the game to fit it. The rules as always bend to the idea not the idea to fit the rules. I have seen the travesties that come of the idea being trimmed to fit the unyielding rules. I would rather not play that.

I was presented with an idea for a character that had physical stats in the pit. I mean strength of 3 con of 4 dex of 2 kind of physical stats. That PC was never moved from his location in the gang's hideout. He used telepathy and ideas to control and to influence things. The other PCs did the physical, he thought, and did nothing else. No spells, no skills, no fighting. Just ideas and coordination.

Can I build that with 4e or even 3e? Would you play a PC that was physically incapable of stopping a sprite from choking him to death? I helped build that PC and we had a lot of fun in that game.

But it takes a special player to consider that, and a good one to run it, and if I might say so, a DM that can see the possibilities to aid its creation. Something for which no rules existed.

gdmcbride
06-08-2008, 03:16 AM
An interesting post, Tesral. Please pardon my over-long response.

First of all, as you note, D&D has never supported that level of flexibility. Truly, the only traditional RPG that flexible that I know of is the Hero System (where you can play a hyper intelligent, invisible and insubstantial musical rhythm that passes from person to person, manifesting as them humming the same tune and briefly serving its enigmatic will) or perhaps GURPS. And that level of flexibility often comes with a cost -- complexity!

Then there are the narrativist systems like Universalis that take flexibility even a step further, getting rid of the concept of characters all together and making game play an act of pure improvisational creation. Such total creative expression also has a cost -- depersonalization. In a world where you aren't necessarily any one character, you often identify with none of them.

Most games (and certainly D&D) find these costs too much to bear. Most players don't seem to want their games quite that avant garde. They eschew flexibility in exchange for arbitrary and subjective values like fun, familiarity, playability, simplicity.

I agree that some level of restriction is necessary for creation. Even the greatest artist must first choose his canvas and decide to confine this painting to that space. So it is with games. Before we can play, we must choose our rules (no matter how fluid).

Balance, though is a unique issue to games. Balance is the idea that every player must have equal opportunity to win (if we decide that is important) or to at least contribute to the act of creation. The artist need not share his canvas. But even in the simplest game like tic-tac-toe, it is only a game if we both get to put down marks.

Where I'm going with all this -- D&D 4th has made its choices. These choices don't make the game better or worse in any sort of objective sense. They define the game for what it is. Is checkers a better game than D&D? Is that even a meaningful question?

All we can talk about is personal impressions -- I enjoy D&D more than checkers -- or perhaps revenue generation if you want to get mercantile (and by the way, in the money arena -- I suspect checkers cleans D&D's clock).

In your post, you talk about enjoying the level of flexibility that allows someone to make up an immobile remote tactical advisor (a concept I’ve seen done in several games though usually not fantasy). In the endlessly subjective arena of RPG design, it is good to know what you want your system to support. However, it is equally important to remember that others may not share those goals.

D&D 4th would probably support the remote tactical advisor better than 3.5, by the way. The warlord is a class loaded with ‘help my friends’ powers. It would be fairly simple, I would think, to make a crippled warlord who uses his powers remotely via a magic item or perhaps a ritual.

Gary

Maelstrom
06-08-2008, 04:39 AM
The balance they've created appears to open the way to inexhaustible character class design.

I haven't been able to look through the multi-class feats. Maybe they were able to achieve the impossible and add flexibility to balance.


Very good points gdmcbride. I think that hits the nail on the head in a way I haven't thought of before. Complexity definitely comes when you attempt to impose balance on such a flexible system... take a look at the downfall of the RPGA. Rulebooks upon errata upon rulebooks so that characters could all experience the same adventures with relative balance. I liked the concept, but was choked by the amount of material designed to keep that delicate balance. 4e is going to be able to do what RPGA attempted pretty much out of the box due to its design decisions.



But it takes a special player to consider that, and a good one to run it, and if I might say so, a DM that can see the possibilities to aid its creation. Something for which no rules existed.

There's the key I think. It was possible to allow such flexibility, but it takes creative people thinking out of the box to bring it to its full potential.

tesral
06-08-2008, 01:34 PM
There's the key I think. It was possible to allow such flexibility, but it takes creative people thinking out of the box to bring it to its full potential.

The tightness of the box is also a factor. Are you encouraged to think of new directions or are direct confrontation characters what you are "allowed"?

And no, Warlord would not have fit Rodregio nor would the abilities have allowed him to do what he did. It was a unique circumstance requiring some unique thinking and tools not available to either 3e or 4e.

Inquisitor Tremayne
06-09-2008, 09:06 AM
I want flexibility AND balance.

As a player, 3.5 (RAW) never offered me that. If I went for flexibility I lost in balance. If I stuck with balance (which I usually choose/chose) I lost me flexibility.

Examples: Flexibility; I want like you can't believe a wizard/fighter. There is no way in 3.5 to make this fun for me to play. I am either A. not going to be a strong spell caster, B. be a strong fighter, or C. or both, neither a strong fighter or strong spellcaster. Which would be wonderfully fine for ROLE playing. I can role play the crap out of a character like this and I really want to. But I immensely enjoy tactical combat and a wizard/fighter is going to fall flat at some point in a combat session.

Balance; so because I can't get the flexibility I want with my wizard/fighter I am left choosing one over the other, wizard OR fighter. This way my character can actually contribute to a combat scenario in a significant way. As a wizard that equals more spells and as a fighter that equals being able to get into a fight and survive.

From what I have read and what I know of 4e it seems that they have fixed this. I know for a fact that Star Wars Saga Edition has fixed this. And doing so has made me a happier player and GM. I get my 4e books on Saturday and we'll see if it makes me happy as well.

tesral
06-09-2008, 01:47 PM
I want flexibility AND balance.

Balance; so because I can't get the flexibility I want with my wizard/fighter I am left choosing one over the other, wizard OR fighter. This way my character can actually contribute to a combat scenario in a significant way. As a wizard that equals more spells and as a fighter that equals being able to get into a fight and survive.


I can give you both, because I don't balance the classes around a fixed XP table. I balance them with the XP table. I have been doing this for over a decade and it works well in play.

Now you have to start with a 2e core to do it but the XP rider system I developed lets me build balanced characters of anything you want. You want a fighter that casts spells? I can do that. You want a magician that is good in melee as well? I can do that.

Now this character will rise in level slower than a straight from the book character, but it will do exactly what you want and will not be useless, like a 3e multiclass.

gdmcbride
06-09-2008, 03:53 PM
And no, Warlord would not have fit Rodregio nor would the abilities have allowed him to do what he did. It was a unique circumstance requiring some unique thinking and tools not available to either 3e or 4e.

Okay, so I'm curious. What are Rodregio's abilities? What can he actually do?

Gary

tesral
06-09-2008, 04:01 PM
Okay, so I'm curious. What are Rodregio's abilities? What can he actually do?

Gary

He was a telepath, and a good one. He could barely crawl, had 1 HP per level.

He worked entirely through mental contact with his followers. Giving them ideas and coordinating their actions. He was utterly incapable of action on his own. He was a "commoner" What I call general class. the player's only action possible was to give people ideas. He sat in the lair, they brought him books, and took care of them. He read the rumor and intelligence he was supplied and planned their jobs. He was a 100% manipulator.

fmitchell
06-09-2008, 04:20 PM
He was a telepath, and a good one. He could barely crawl, had 1 HP per level.

He worked entirely through mental contact with his followers. Giving them ideas and coordinating their actions. He was utterly incapable of action on his own. He was a "commoner" What I call general class. the player's only action possible was to give people ideas. He sat in the lair, they brought him books, and took care of them. He read the rumor and intelligence he was supplied and planned their jobs. He was a 100% manipulator.

That's easy: Kibitzer, a core class to be introduced in The Codex of Royal Pains.

Seriously, do you really need ANY rules to play or GM such a character? All you need is a GM fiat that he remains in continuous mental rapport with all the other PCs (perhaps with some limitations), and, if he's as helpless as you imply, that an enemy who finds him in his lair can automatically give him a coup de grace. (Unless he had other telepathic gifts you haven't stated, or had enough mobility to dodge and put up a feeble fight.)

It's great that a player could be satisfied with that role ... but most games are geared to characters who go out and do things, and their rules reflect that fact. Conceivably you could create such a person sticking strictly to the rules of HERO or GURPS -- and apparently D&D psionics -- but only as an exercise in rules lawyering.

starfalconkd
06-09-2008, 07:14 PM
Flexibility.
Not every fighter or wizard or rogue is either x version or y version.
The flexibility of 3.5 requires a dm and his/her players to come to an agreement as to what is and is not appropriate in their games. It encourages people to create their characters while trying to be considerate of other players. 4.0 does all this for you by taking the choice out of your hands. Truthfully, I'd rather have the option to build my rogue/fighter/wizard/eldritch knight/arcane trickster and keep the common sense not to build said character.

Valdar
06-10-2008, 01:10 PM
Flexibility.
Not every fighter or wizard or rogue is either x version or y version.
The flexibility of 3.5 requires a dm and his/her players to come to an agreement as to what is and is not appropriate in their games. It encourages people to create their characters while trying to be considerate of other players. 4.0 does all this for you by taking the choice out of your hands. Truthfully, I'd rather have the option to build my rogue/fighter/wizard/eldritch knight/arcane trickster and keep the common sense not to build said character.

You still have flexibility in 4.0- flexibility of character concept, but not flexibility within the rules. If such broken characters don't work for the intended way the game should be played, I say chuck 'em. Want a Wizard that knows how to swing a sword? Cool- take the multiclass option. Want a Wizard that min-maxes his way to being just as effective a Fighter as a Fighter? Well, no, you can't have that (or maybe you can- we'll have to see how the game plays out in time.)

starfalconkd
06-10-2008, 04:57 PM
You still have flexibility in 4.0- flexibility of character concept, but not flexibility within the rules. If such broken characters don't work for the intended way the game should be played, I say chuck 'em. Want a Wizard that knows how to swing a sword? Cool- take the multiclass option. Want a Wizard that min-maxes his way to being just as effective a Fighter as a Fighter? Well, no, you can't have that (or maybe you can- we'll have to see how the game plays out in time.)

In 4.0 a wizard and fighter of same level, both with proficiency in longsword, and matching strength scores are just as good as each other with said sword. The fighter's various powers improve his sword skills while the wizard's will most likely have nothing to do with it.

Webhead
06-10-2008, 05:17 PM
In 4.0 a wizard and fighter of same level, both with proficiency in longsword, and matching strength scores are just as good as each other with said sword. The fighter's various powers improve his sword skills while the wizard's will most likely have nothing to do with it.

According to my present understanding, this is true of a character's basic attack. The importance being that the Fighter's powers will revolve around his swordsmanship, making him better at that than the Wizard could ever hope to be. The Wizard's powers, of course, will allow him to kick butt in a completely different way.

So if the Fighter didn't call upon any of his special expertise (aka his powers), then yeah, he will hit as often as a Wizard of equal level and Strength score. And then, the Fighter will be proficient in more weapons than the Wizard, so it takes the Wizard more effort to be a half-decent swordsman.

Valdar
06-11-2008, 12:45 AM
In 4.0 a wizard and fighter of same level, both with proficiency in longsword, and matching strength scores are just as good as each other with said sword. The fighter's various powers improve his sword skills while the wizard's will most likely have nothing to do with it.

They'll be just as good as each other with their basic attack, sure, but you'll be taking a basic attack only under rare circumstances. The fighter will be better overall with swordplay.

Webhead
06-11-2008, 09:07 AM
They'll be just as good as each other with their basic attack, sure, but you'll be taking a basic attack only under rare circumstances. The fighter will be better overall with swordplay.

And then there's the Fighter's class abilities, including the +1 attack bonus to the melee style of his choice and his ability to issue a Combat Challenge, etc. Stuff which the Wizard can't boast.

Maelstrom
06-11-2008, 04:01 PM
And a reasonable AC! A swordwielder with robes? Pincusion!

Kilrex
06-11-2008, 05:12 PM
And a reasonable AC! A swordwielder with robes? Pincusion!

Mage armor and shield give a +4 each, so that is a +8 AC w/ no max Dex or ACP. Bad thing is it takes 2 rds to set up. But with a little forwarning, he has a better AC at 1st lvl than most fighters.

Maelstrom
06-11-2008, 06:57 PM
Still have those? That would take up two per encounter slots though, right?

Webhead
06-11-2008, 08:03 PM
Mage armor and shield give a +4 each, so that is a +8 AC w/ no max Dex or ACP. Bad thing is it takes 2 rds to set up. But with a little forwarning, he has a better AC at 1st lvl than most fighters.

I couldn't find Mage Armor, but I do see that the Shield spell is still there, though now it is a 2nd Level power, usuable once per encounter for a +4 bonus and it only lasts until the end of your next turn when activated. Definately no substitute for reliable armor that a Fighter can wear. It's more of an "emergency airbag" when the Wizard is about to be attacked by something bad and nasty.

starfalconkd
06-12-2008, 07:50 AM
And a reasonable AC! A swordwielder with robes? Pincusion!

Can't wizards wear armor though if they take the feats?

Webhead
06-12-2008, 09:03 AM
Can't wizards wear armor though if they take the feats?

By my present understanding, yes, but there are two important caveats to that:

1) They have to spend a feat (or several) on it. Being proficient in Leather is required for Hide or Chainmail proficiency. Chainmail is required for Scale and Scale is required for Plate. So, a Wizard needs to spend 4 feats if he wants to walk around in Plate (Leather, Chain, Scale, Plate).

2) Characters do not add their Dexterity or Intelligence bonus to AC if they wear Heavy Armor (anything except Cloth, Leather or Hide). Since Wizards will typically have a high Dex or Int, this is rather undesirable cost-wise.

starfalconkd
06-12-2008, 05:13 PM
Ok, the 16 int wizard with leather has an AC 15 if I'm reading the 4.0 PHB right. The fighter in scale has an AC 17. Not too bad a difference. I suppose it's kind of a pointless debate though.

Valdar
06-12-2008, 06:29 PM
Ok, the 16 int wizard with leather has an AC 15 if I'm reading the 4.0 PHB right. The fighter in scale has an AC 17. Not too bad a difference. I suppose it's kind of a pointless debate though.

True. A Wizard that tried this, and had the party wiped out by minions because he neglected his area attacks, would soon be looking for a new gaming group.

Inquisitor Tremayne
06-13-2008, 09:12 AM
Ok, the 16 int wizard with leather has an AC 15 if I'm reading the 4.0 PHB right. The fighter in scale has an AC 17. Not too bad a difference. I suppose it's kind of a pointless debate though.

That is also assuming he/she is spending a feat on Armor Proficiency (leather). Which in that case the player is spending valuable character resources (feats) on making the wizard armored. I have no problem with that.

starfalconkd
06-15-2008, 09:35 AM
That is also assuming he/she is spending a feat on Armor Proficiency (leather). Which in that case the player is spending valuable character resources (feats) on making the wizard armored. I have no problem with that.

Buying leather prof does not seem like a bad idea for a wizard. Am I wrong? I haven't read the books to carefully since I am not going to be using them.

Valdar
06-15-2008, 04:58 PM
Buying leather prof does not seem like a bad idea for a wizard. Am I wrong? I haven't read the books to carefully since I am not going to be using them.

I'll have to see how the game plays out- The Wizard should theoretically not be worrying about defense, and relying on the Defenders for that, but most defenders can only lock down one foe at once. If minions play tactically, they will target the Wizard if at all possible so they can either take him out before he fireballs them, or mob him so he can't use an Area attack on them (though that sets them up for a Close attack...)

There's no more arcane spell failure, so armor is much more accessible to wizards now if you want to go that route.

Maelstrom
06-15-2008, 05:28 PM
The Wizard should theoretically not be worrying about defense

Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. If you try too hard to limit a Wizard's innate weakness, you'll just get a poor character all around. If you focus instead on building the Wizard's strength, you'll be more useful to the party all around.

Webhead
06-16-2008, 02:21 PM
Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. If you try too hard to limit a Wizard's innate weakness, you'll just get a poor character all around. If you focus instead on building the Wizard's strength, you'll be more useful to the party all around.

True. The Wizard does get a couple of powers that can help keep them alive in a tight spot though. Otiluke's Resilient Sphere is a nice spell for those occasions when it would be much safer being inside an impenetrable force-bubble, and it can just as easily trap one of your foes! :D