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An issue with 4th edition

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[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Im not sure if this has been brought up before and if it has my response would be; it is such a big issue that it deserves to be brought up again.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]The issue I am speaking of is the discrepancy between the wealth of a character created and beginning play at 2nd or 3rd level compared to a character that began play at 1st level and played through to 2nd or 3rd level. If you are not sure what I am talking about, I will use an example:[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]A party of 5 PCs starts play at 1st level; they work through 10 encounters and get all 10 treasure parcels laid out in the DMG. That means that the party of 5, now 2nd level has four permanent magic items dispersed throughout the party. Suddenly, one of the players cannot play anymore for a valid reason (use your imagination) and now the party will be down one PC. Lets say that I am able to find another player, they create a character according to the DMG rules for characters starting above 1st level. This new character starts play with 3 permanent magic items (probably 4, since they also have enough gold to buy another and it is their prerogative to do so) and a pack full of adventuring gear (that they got for free, per the rules as written) . . . and the party, you remember, those players that worked for their level, have a total of 4 magic items (I am being generous here in assuming that the player that left had no magic items) between them.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Something is amiss here. I thought 4th edition was designed to address issues like this? The answer is simple for any experienced DM, you either scale up the power level of the party or you scale down the power level of the new player by adding in magic items or removing magic items respectively. The real question becomes: Which is the better way to handle this? Scale up or scale down?[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]I have my own thoughts on this issue that I will share here, and I am sure that everyone else has their own ideas. I just want to say that this is the opinion of one person, nothing more. If you want to get all worked up about my opinion, which is your prerogative, I will apologize in advance. If my words offend you to a point that you must lash out on the internet, I am sorry.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]So here we go.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]I think that scaling up the players that played through from 1st to 2nd level is the better option. I have several reasons for thinking this:[/SIZE][/FONT]
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[SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman]1. I am inclined to believe that most of the level 3 and lower magic items are pretty modest in what they can actually do, and I really do not think that folks in the party getting an additional +1 to hit, or +1 to some/all of their defenses is a big deal (especially since they cannot hit at all right now or so it seems). I also think that all characters should have a magic item after level 1, no matter how minor, especially if I am supposed to hand out 4 according to the DMG. So, I guess that I am saying that I feel the treasure parcels laid out in the DMG are not up to snuff at low levels. I think more low level items would be better than what is listed. [/FONT][/SIZE]
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[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]2. 4th edition seems to be all about balance, keeping the party power level balanced against appropriate level encounters, this means number of players and equipment. How was balance tested for at say 3rd level? I do not know, but my thought is that for play testing purposes, the designers created 3rd level characters using rules similar to the rules in the DMG for creating characters above 1st level (this was probably done at higher levels as well). Is the party that has played through to 3rd level from 1st level now underpowered it should not be assuming that you used the DMG to hand out treasure parcels. I have already shown the discrepancy between the two methods at low levels and I will say that it does even out at higher levels. Honestly, if my party of 2nd level PCs steamrolls through what should be considered an appropriate encounter with their 3+ magic items per character, I am much more willing to increase the difficulty by adding another baddie or two without increasing the XP, all appropriate level encounters should be challenging, and I do not want to destroy the model of 10 encounters yields another level gained.[/SIZE][/FONT]
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[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]3. Fun factor. It probably is not fun to see a character come into a group better equipped than you, especially if you worked your @$$ off to get the equipment and magic loot that you have. Heck, it probably is not all that enjoyable to see all other players end up with some sort of magic item, and you not get one but hey, that is what the RAW tell us to do. I think this problem is one of oversight/omission. I certainly do not think it was intentional that an ideal 5 person party ended up with 4 magic items at 2nd level, and it is easy to remedy if you are the DM (like the first encounter after reaching 2nd level yields some item for the player that has nothing). So, as inflexible as the 4th edition system wants to be, good old DM insight and wisdom will prevail and lead to keeping the system balanced when something is out of whack.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]While I prefer to go RAW when ever possible, I think this is one instance where RAW may not be the best for the PCs and I. I try to follow the rules as much as possible with as little deviation as possible. But, this system is just like every other system I have played now imperfect, and it requires some tweaking.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Perhaps this problem with 4th edition D&d is not a problem, but more of an issue that exists within the system, like many others I have yet to discover, that exist to provide a challenge to me. Isnt it only fair that I get challenged by the game occasionally, I mean; I do it to the players every week?[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Thanks for reading.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Dan G.[/SIZE][/FONT]

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  1. Otakar's Avatar
    Dan, you bring up a good point that I will have to remember if I ever DM. I would naturally default to reducing the items the newly created higher level character would receive but I liked how you mentioned that these low level magic items aren't that powerful. It's true. We have kobolds running around with AC 15 so first level characters can really feel challenged by that. Every plus really counts. Not that I would opt for the "monty haul" but, it I were to DM, I would probably throw a few more items in the mix.
  2. Aidan's Avatar
    It's not the higher level characters that are the issue. The gap between the magic that a new character created at the party level and a party member that has been with the party since level 1 grows less with each level gained, as the party gains more parcels. By 3rd level, the discrepency will have disappeared almost entirely.
  3. Webhead's Avatar
    I think your instincts are probably spot-on and your solution seems to have a solid foundation based on your observations.

    That said (and only as a personal opinion), I think that the 4e DMG overdoes magic item rewards in general (and high-level character-gen in particular). Even 4 permanent magic items for a 5-man party seems excessive to me by 2nd level. Especially considering that 2nd level can easily be reached in 1 or 2 adventures. I always felt that magic items should be "magical", meaning rare and exciting. But such considerations are more about the DM and his campaign decisions than the RAW.
  4. cigamnogard's Avatar
    Not having read 4.E that closely - is the game designed for a four person limit? What I am suggesting is why not add a 5th magic item for 5 players or a 6th item when playing with 6 players.
  5. Drone7's Avatar
    4th edition is designed for 5 people or so the PHB says. It seems clear that looking at the level 1 encounters in the MM that going with less than five could be disasterous.
    I will tell everyone how things go after Saturday, that is when we play again. I plan on handing out some low level items and have kind of planned the second level out with some less magic than would normally be given considering the increase I will give out on Saturday.