change is good
by, 03-27-2009 at 03:39 PM (577 Views)
While I wait for my simulations, will present you a bit of edition history. Now, this is no where thorough or complete, just taking from memory.
Some say WOTC changed editions to sell more books. While this may be true, with any system, change is inevitable. I am sure people didn't want Gurps to update to a new edition, but it happens.
I think the main cause/drive for change is balance. The game designers (I feel) are constantly striving for a robust, but balanced game. So will talk about balancing factors in the editions I am familiar with (meaning I won't mention 2nd edition). Mainly pointing out balancing factors, and how they have changed (and probably for the better).
Great edition. Many fond memories of this edition, and it is what got me into gaming in the first place.
The balance amongst races was their racial features, but also the limit to what level they could achieve. Gnomes could only go up to 5th level illusionist for example. Also, certain classes could only be taken by certain races. I.e. no dwarven wizards.
Also, only non-humans could have two classes at once, but only humans could "multiclass." Multiclass in that once they took on a new class, they could never go back to take levels in the old class, but retained benefits/drawbacks of both classes.
Balance amongst classes were spells, weapon profs, HD, general features, alignment, but the big one: xp tables. Also, there were ability minimums.
The only one that wasn't tied into flavor, was xp tables.
If a class seemed to be much more powerful than another, you just leveled up slower. The 1st ed barbarian didn't reach 2nd level until he had 6000 exp pts. That is the equivalent to a 4th level thief. Bottom line, balance was achieved on an infinite timeline, but at the 5000 exp pt mark, the barbarian was much weaker than the 5000 xp fighter.
The ability minimums really stunk. If you didn't roll a 17, you didn't have a prayer of becoming a paladin. If you didn't roll 3 15's, no monk for you.
Now there were other broken concepts, like the complexity of ability bonuses, to hit/save tables, etc..., but as a player, this one sucked the most.
As for skills, they took a minimalist approach. The DM used his/her intuition to assess success of "soft" game mechanics.
again don't know much, but know they tried to replace the hitting mechnics with Thac0, which I heard wasn't good.
Breakthrough. All races can be all classes. Humans no longer suck. Multiclassing fixed (if not enhanced too much).
Also put in a lot of details for mechanics, combat and non-combat. Details on grappling, two-weapon fighting, sundering weapons, pushing people, etc... As for skills, have a robust skill selection, and a point buy system. How many points you get depends on if you are human (got extra pt per level), your class, and your intelligence.
All mental abilities (int, wis, cha) now grant bonus spells depending on class (instead of just wis like in 1st ed).
Also, cha has a purpose. Not a much bigger purpose, but much bigger than before.
No more ability score minimums. If you want a paladin with an 8 charisma, go for it.
Everybody levels up at the same rate, how awesome was that. This personally was my favorite.
Also, added the concept of feats. Very cool addition for personalizing your character, and maximizing the utility of certain class features.
So balance comes from class features, how good you can atk stuff, how good of armor/weapons you can use, your saving throws, HD, how many skills you can train in, and how many skill pts you get.
Anything horribly wrong with this, no, but it could be better.
And now the point. In 3.5, if you weren't great in combat, you were awesome outside of combat, and vice-versa. While the rogue and the ranger did scouting and sneaky stuff, the fighter with plate mail was forced to hang out until they got back. Same thing goes for when talking to the noble asking for resources. Classes like the fighter were awesome in combat, but couldn't contribute much when it came.
In 4e, the emphasis has been taken away from skills (according to some people's perspective), but for the sake of balance. To give the rogue a better role in combat, or allow the wizard to participate after using their one magic missile for the day, 4e makes them as effective as a fighter in combat, but in their own flavorful ways. So to improve rogue's role (for example) in combat, he couldn't be super awesome in the non-combat format.
The skill system in 4e is set up so there is some differentiation, but balanced amongst the classes enough so all can participate equally.
In short, 3.x achieved a big bulk of their balance through awesomeness in and out of combat. 4e achieves this balance by flavor and slight, but significant differences.
That's why it may seem all classes/powers are the same. It is so everybody can be just as good as the other in all facets of the game. But it's that slight difference between the powers (ranged vs. weapon, or causing the dazed condition, or whatever), that makes a power different enough to feel like you are doing something unique.
They even took away the alignment restriction (FINALLY).
4e also added healing surges, converted fort, will, and ref into defenses, and made saving throws simple.
They tried to prevent the bad roll and you die concept (roll bad once and your character is instantly dead).
My favorite change: taking away the necessity of a class/role.
You no longer NEED a healer, it is just nice to have. You don't NEED a spell wielding wizard, it is just nice to have. You don't NEED the fighter meat shield, but again, nice to have.
The GM basically had to give you some sort of outside healing if you didn't have a straight up healer. No more need for that. I love that.
There are a lot of other little nice things added to 4e, but look for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Bottom-line: change is good and inevitable.
For those who LOVE the skill system of 3.5, I will offer my 2 cents on how to have the skills of 3.5, but the combat of 4e.