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A Veteran GM's Preview of the D&D Player's Handbook 2

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the new-and-improved dept.

Role Playing (Games) 74

Martin Ralya writes "I've had the Player's Handbook 2 for two weeks (it releases on the 17th), and I've written an in-depth preview of the book from a GM's perspective for Gnome Stew. It's billed as 'the most significant expansion' of D&D 4th Edition yet, and that's accurate. The short version: No power creep, no balance problems, and all of the new classes are excellent — even the bard. They'll become part of D&D's lore in nothing flat."

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1st Ed. (1)

crumbz (41803) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190373)

Books are cheap on eBay. Why does anyone feel the need to pay exorbitant amounts of money for, what is in principle, the same game released over 30 years ago.

Boy, do I feel old and cranky.

Re:1st Ed. (3, Insightful)

gizmoiscariot (442386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190395)

This is like saying "First Person Shooters are cheap elsewhere. Why do people keep buying exorbitant amounts of money for, what is in principle, the same game released over 30 years ago (Wolfenstein 3d)"

Theres a large difference between old school D&D and 4th edition.

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190421)

There sure is. 2E is better by a huge margin. Instead of being a RULEbook, 2E is more of a GUIDEbook, leaving the ways and means of the campaign to the DM, as it should be.

I guess they figure people these days aren't bright enough to figure stuff out on their own.

The truth is often mistaken for a troll, so AC is on...

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Barny (103770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190727)

Yeah, I hear one of the things they are looking to add back into the game in 4.5 (when it launches) is role playing!

Seriously, we are playing through one of the suggested campaigns with a good GM atm, and there is just no opportunity to role play these damn things, they have simply removed the skills needed in most cases, or just changed the rules in others to discourage it.

Enjoying WW "world of darkness" a whole lot at the moment, you can do so much more in regards to character development and all you need to get going is 2 books... (core rulebook and whatever race you are playing).

Try Savage Worlds (4, Interesting)

MaineCoon (12585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190797)

I've been playing in a 4E campaign for about 7 months now, but I managed to get most of my group to try out alternating with Savage Worlds' system, playing Deadlands (Reloaded). Now our DM is switching out the 4E game for a Crimson Skies game running on Savage Worlds.

If you want something that offers a lot of room for character creation without bogging down (make a PC in 5 minutes with more flavor than any D&D character), has rules that don't get in the way of roleplaying (and has mechanisms to reward it), and offers tactical or non tactical combat that is FAST even with many combatants, then check out Savage Worlds. There area a bunch of published systems with more on the way (next Cthulhu game will be SW based) and a huge amount of fan conversions (it really doesn't take a lot of work to convert a setting). Best of all, the core rulebook is only $10 - Savage Worlds Explorers Edition - and includes all the rules you need for nearly any type of gaming situation (I had a gunfight split off into a chase situation on the side, which we then ran simultaneously using the chase rules; the chase ended in a crowd and the next session, will probably be resolved with a persuasion contest).

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27195347)

Instead of being a RULEbook, 2E is more of a GUIDEbook, leaving the ways and means of the campaign to the DM, as it should be.

You will never, ever even attempt to show any evidence that 3E or 4E isn't the same. Because you know that it isn't true. Which means you have shrieked a confession that you're a craven lying piece of shit.

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195737)

You will never, ever even attempt to show any evidence that 3E or 4E isn't the same

Actually, 3e introduced a focus on skills and "kit"ing that changed the focus of the game in a subtle, and unexpected direction. Rules that had been largely ignored in 2e because they were frankly bad were written to be in line with everything else, and so got used -- leading to less "role" playing, and more "roll" playing, by accident of good design.

I'd have to scratch my head and read books I've largely stopped playing by, but I think there were even a few things that were actually added into 3e that weren't in 2e, that indeed made it easier to just "roll-play" what in 2e was an entirely social encounter.

(Off the top of my head: the search skill)

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196667)

I think there were even a few things that were actually added into 3e that weren't in 2e, that indeed made it easier to just "roll-play" what in 2e was an entirely social encounter.

Yeah. And you know, people like me preferred it that way. This social element made it much more fun to be a DM. I had a good idea of how difficult anything should be, so before there were skills and feats, players could still attempt them. They'd explain to me why they think they might have a reasonable chance to succeed, I considered their case in the context of the world that I created, and it was easy to work out the probability that they would succeed. I would communicate this to them in qualitiative terms. ("You have a pretty slim chance of landing on that ledge if you jump from standstill, unless you take off that huge backpack.") Then if they want to do it, I tell them to grab a d20 and hope to roll high.

See, there was once a time when DMs weren't so chickenshit that they had to hide behind tables for everything. Yes, it's good to have clear rules about the basic stuff, like falling damage (and also combat, obviously).

DMs now are designed explicitly so that a computer can play their role almost as well as they can. This is not only boring for the DM, it removes many of the interesting role-playing options from the players. Those options just "do not compute."

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 5 years ago | (#27198015)

My role-playing group has taken the opposite extreme: no system whatsoever. We started with a fantasy setting described online, describing characters in general terms. We've managed to run everything from combat to encounters with gods without needing explicit stats or dice. (Okay, I did roll a few dice occasionally for a general random good/bad result.) I'm not sure that a system is really necessary, and would rather focus on the storytelling aspect. Still, I understand that some people are more interested in the details of combat.

To deal with some awkward situations, next time I might try something like the "Everway" system of having a few very general stats and specialties. Or the "BESM" concept of rating items as trivial, minor or major for purposes of shopping.

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27213733)

That actually sounds pretty cool. A friend of mine developed game system called "pulp in a cup" and I was there when he first ran it at a gaming con. I was really impressed!

We had four hours to play a complete scenario. He described the world and the mission (in that case Japanese cyberpunk, but any setting would work) and asked the players to describe their characters, their special powers, backgrounds, etc. So character generation took about 10 minutes, involved no paper, and it was interesting. Then we'd ask questions to get a better understanding of the situation, and try to just accomplish the task. I was amazed at how well that worked! We were just able to immerse in the story and not fiddle with any mechanics. I wish John would publish the (very short) outline of instructions for how to run the system. So far, this [blogspot.com] is the only mention I found.

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215125)

I've seen a lot of people make comments just like yours and in places other than just D&D gaming. The same is true for any level or gaming. I know people who look back at some game they use to do and know so well, with the rules and "tricks" engraved in the back of their head. Then, when coming back to or trying a new version, they reject it with claims of "it's not the same because 'x','y', and 'z' are impossible to do.".

There's nothing really wrong with that. However, in the context of D&D and those who claim "you can't Roleplay anymore" is about the most illogical statement one can make, particularly when you hear some of the arguments, like "It use to be a 'guide'book and not a 'rule'book". Well... the book will be whatever you make it into. You can use it as a guide or as straight rules. Don't blame the system if you're using more strictly than others did in the past. Certainly, older versions were far more vague on rules. Powers specifically were vague on use making it easier to draw a line from point A to point B in terms of use, however every single one of those things are still possible in any addition you play. The key? Players willing to be creative (including the DM).

You're not going to "roleplay" if your DM won't let you use your 4E magic missle to attack a tree to try and fell it onto a pack of kobolds. But you *could* do it in 4E, even though it's not written in the book. There's no more "rock to mud" spell or vise versa, but you *could* still do it in 4E. Your DM and players just have to be creative enough.

The truth of that matter is, 4E is just as much roleplay as anything else, it's the DM and players who have grown (as you sort of hit on) use to hand-holding from previous versions where everything had a rule and you had to follow the rules strictly. Now, with 4E, they've gone back to "hey, here's the mechanical rules, the rest is up to you."

I'm finding the hardest part of DMing 4E, is breaking the bad habits of my players of NOT roleplaying. From years of being told "no" to everything they try, because it wasn't in the book, to saying 'yes', is no easy task. In actuality, they're growing quite good at adjusting to it and I'm seeing more roleplaying than in the previous 3E campaigns I've run.

What 4E does and does well is it gives you the mechanics for a game, particularly combat, and it leaves everything else in your hands. And people just can't seem to figure this out. 4E is an instruction manual on how to put a toy together. What it doesn't do is tell you how to play with the toy once it's finished. That's up to you and your players imagination and that's what I see as the biggest problem for many people looking in at 4E and bitching about the lack of "roleplay". If they read the book, they'll find it saying this very thing. It's your (plural) job to roleplay the game, not the books.

At least, that's the way I've been seeing it unfold.

Re:1st Ed. (5, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190407)

I have a solution for you if you're not interested in the latest book. Don't buy the book.

You're welcome,
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-man

Re:1st Ed. (2, Insightful)

gizmoiscariot (442386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190455)

Agreed. Not sure what all the hate for 4ed comes from. If you don't like it, don't play it. Its not like the previous edition's books exploded at a certain date and were not usable.

Re:1st Ed. (2, Funny)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190495)

Exploding books are awesome! Thanks for giving me another way to kill my players!

Re:1st Ed. (2, Funny)

Myrimos (1495513) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190505)

Agreed. Not sure what all the hate for 4ed comes from.

4th edition? Hell, until they bring back THAC0, screw 'em.

Now get off my lawn.

Re:THAC0! (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190899)

You're funny as hell and earned some lawn food, but did anyone actually LIKE THAC0 or were we just stuck with it?

That's why the net is awesome. Answering cutting edge 1984 questions in 2009.

Re:THAC0! (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 5 years ago | (#27194751)

THAC0 was just a convention that allowed for simple addition (or subtraction) to figure out the chance to hit, so yes, I liked it for early D&D because it sped the game up. Technically we were not stuck with it because 1st edition AD&D used a lookup table that did basically the same thing - you'd cross-reference a base chance to hit against armor type, add in any bonuses and get a target number.

Now if you really meant to ask if I thought it was bad comparatively to 3 or 4 then yes ;)

If I really wanted to combine mathematical challenge with gaming, I'd try to find Bionic Commando (pen and paper - and yes it existed) - I sold mine years ago, but I remember the back of the book was all differential equations (and at the time I didn't have that math, but I've since had it long ago).

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190775)

Its not like the previous edition's books exploded at a certain date and were not usable.

While they didn't explode, per se, 3.5 ed. became unavailable almost immediately as all the players bought up the last copies. It's rather hard to stick with what you love when the core rulebooks go out of print as soon as the new ones come out. Welcome to forced obsolescence for geeks.

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191013)

Welcome to the internet, where you can download shit.

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192721)

Go to paizo's website and download Pathfinder... it is a slightly bugfixed 3.5

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27195761)

It's rather hard to stick with what you love when the core rulebooks go out of print as soon as the new ones come out.

How can you be on SLASHDOT and not know about this?

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/srdarchive [wizards.com]

D&D 3.5 and d20 Modern, less a VERY small subest of the rules, free and copyleft for your geeky enjoyment. Yes, copyleft. Same principle as the GPL.

(Why is 4e SO different from 3e? So they could break the OGL.)

The Lack of Love for 4th Ed. (3, Interesting)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190807)

gizmoiscariot: Agreed. Not sure what all the hate for 4ed comes from. If you don't like it, don't play it. Its not like the previous edition's books exploded at a certain date and were not usable.

The problem is that depending how they get the books, they might not know how much they're going to hate it until they get the books, sit down with them, and find out just how limited this edition really is.

If you're lucky enough to live near a game store that has a back room or upstairs dedicated to playing games (a dying breed, those, but that's a rant for another time), then odds are good that either someone there plays 4th or the store itself runs demos. That's the best opportunity to play the game without needing the books yourself, because someone else likely already has them.

If you're just browsing in a bookstore, there's less opportunity to see the thing in action. You can read snippets and passages, but unless your bookstore is progressive and offers places where you can sit down and peruse what you want to buy, you're likely not going to capture the spirit of what makes a game good or bad.

As for why there's no love for 4th, I think it's limitation shock: 3.5 had become a hairy, unkempt, unruly man-child with many stress fractures where the added-on feats and features were causing bloat. The attempt to streamline it, give it a nice haircut, and maybe even get back to old-fashioned values (i.e. its wargaming roots) was overdone and overdone hard, to the point where I now refer to it as "the bastard child of role-playing and slot-car racing."

Counterpoint: At the risk of the "troll" moderation, those people who insist that roleplaying is impossible with 4th edition rules is doing it wrong. Roleplaying is a matter of characterization, independent of whatever structure of rules is at the table. It has more to do with imagination than the list of moves that your character can execute in combat, though they serve well as a reference for definition.

Re:D&D meets software (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190939)

"Edition 4 ServicePack3!"

Sorry, Editions & Versions fascinate me. But we are moving towards a weird mix of EvolvingItem vs. Authenticity.

Just suppose they did strip it hard. Do you think they did the baseline right so they can add back as needed?

Re:"This book will self destruct" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190917)

Actually, they are, sorta.

Wizards successfully hauled certain parts of gamer culture into "Authorized Edition or Bust". They developed the model on Magic the Gathering, but I think they're successfully getting some crossover into D&D, to the boost of their sales.

Granted, Businesses are there to make money, and Wizards is good at it. Gamers have an ethic where "cheaper is purer" in many ways, so when a corp Makes Money, it starts little tidepools of grumbling. But it takes the corp to make the quality gaming materials, and the worst case is when a system dies and die-hards photocopy their hand made sheets of new adventures.

Re:"This book will self destruct" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191365)

Wizards successfully hauled certain parts of gamer culture into "Authorized Edition or Bust".

Nah, this ethic goes back to the original D&D pamphlets when TSR pushed out books to undermine third party rules.

When the revenue model is based on selling rule books, new rules are to be expected.

Re:1st Ed. (3, Interesting)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190937)

If you don't like it, don't play it.

Well, but those of us who played older versions of these games and realized that they were broken in certain ways are disappointed to see that they won't be getting any more "patches," so to speak, to their favorite edition of the game.

It's like being a huge Battlefield:Vietnam fan, and then Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142 come out. You like BF:V, and don't like BF2142, and so you don't buy or play BF2142--but it does mean that you're stuck with the BF:V gameplay that you have, rather than getting fixes or updates that the game might sorely need. And it still means that you're disappointed that they took the games in a direction that you don't like. Not playing the new game doesn't really remove the disappointment, and it does make it tough to find new people to play the old game with. Naturally, this makes a person want to complain--it's perfectly natural, and it's just as natural to dislike complainers, which is why this "don't like don't play" attitude is to some extent understandable.

1st Ed. is all I play. (1)

Grog6 (85859) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192751)

Of course, it's a lot easier to play something that hasn't changed in 30 years, lol.

When I'm 80, in an Altzheimer's ward, I'll still be able to run 1sd ed games from memory...

I committed all the tables (all the original ed books)to memory long ago, all I need are players and some dice.

Me too, thank you! (2, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196383)

At my table I use certain "house rules" that simplify annoying things like to-hit modifiers for armor type, but yeah, it's 1st ed all the way for me.

Back then, the game world looked recognizably like the Middle Ages, and character classes were defined by social roles, not by combat system mechanics.

4th edition is a game, and it feels like one. To complain about its realism would be akin to complaining that actual knights and bishops act nothing like their corresponding chess pieces. They can make them do whatever they want.

What Gary Gygax did for D&D is what Tolkien also did in his fiction: He made the world seem recognizably like history. He had an appendix on polearm heads. Among the rules were straight up history lessons. His D&D was history with a tweak. In addition to actual history there was this extra element - the gods, the primal elements, the outer planes... things that ordinary people in that world have superstitions about but almost never encounter openly. Even those things match the actual superstitions of history in their most important elements.

I guess I insist on playing campaigns that capture this spirit, and for this, 1st ed is perfect. As far as the mechanics go: they're maybe not optimal, but nothing is, and with wise house rules and good roleplaying, you can make any system work at the complexity level you need. What's most important is to have the system pull you into the right spirit of the setting, and to get out of your way when you want to role play a character. I don't see any reason to abandon the "cannonical" D&D - 1st ed - for the flavor of the week. It's not like the previous game somehow vanishes when the new flavor comes out, and I support people playing and hosting whatever rule system makes the most sense to them. I recently ran a 1st ed game in a rather small con, and I thought it worked just fine. I'd love to see more of that.

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190427)

The only real similarity between 1st and 4th Edition D&D is the brand name. You sound old, cranky, and ignorant.

Re:1st Ed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190683)

Gameplay, and rules have changed significantly over the different versions of the game (Less so between 3 and 4 but still). The most obvious changes from a game play perspective are replacing THAC0 with a far simpler and more intuitive Armour class system, and the consolidation of saving throws into fort reflex and will. These two changes alone make gameplay much smoother over the older versions. Replacing non weapon proficiencies with a feat system was even better.

Further, standardizing skill and ability checks means that its far easier for a DM to adjust to inventiveness by their players, if your players come up with something unique that you decide would favour them at a given task a simple +2 bonus works great for ad hoc adjustments. Or go higher if you think it merits such, likewise unfavourable circumstances impose a -2 (or more).

There were serious flaws in the game mechanics prior to third edition, it was overly complex, involved consulting a table for just about any action more complex than tieing your shoes, and most of the formula were obscure enough to make memorization difficult.

While Third Edition could be viewed as a dumbing down of the game (indeed i know people who feel that way) The fact of the matter is that by simplifying it, it became easier to play and learn. this makes it easier to attract new players, as well as make the game run smoother. And as a DM I'm all for anything that means less consulting of rule books during play.

Re:1st Ed. (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190765)

I'll agree with that. From a standpoint of mechanics, the rules have been greatly simplified and made consistent. In 3rd (and 4th, presumably, although I'm not as familiar), a new situation can be resolved by applying the game mechanic principles. In 1st and especially 2nd edition, there was nowhere near that consistency.

I think 3rd edition went bad in a few other ways; it was a little over-powered, and dumped too many ultra-specialized and powerful classes, feats, and races into the mix.

Regardless, the quality of the experience with any of the editions hinges 90% on the quality of the dungeon master, who is under no obligation to actually use the rules... so it really doesn't matter what edition you use. For basing a computer RPG off of, though, the newer editions are FAR better designed. That's probably no coincidence.

Re:1st Ed. (2, Interesting)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191399)

Books are cheap on eBay. Why does anyone feel the need to pay exorbitant amounts of money for, what is in principle, the same game released over 30 years ago.

Boy, do I feel old and cranky.

You sound it too. You're essentially judging "youth culture" without making any effort to investigate it; like old people griping about rap music or the internet. If you'd actually open up and read a 4e book, you'd see how radically different it is from 1e.

You probably wouldn't like it 'cause your tastes have fossilized, but at least you'd be able to voice a semi-intelligent complaint about it at that point.

Re:1st Ed. (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191823)

I ran a number of AD&D 1st Edition campaigns, but never bothered to pick up the 2nd Edition.

I was very aware of consideral systemic problems wth AD&D, but by in large every DM I knew tweaked the rules to his liking. AD&D is not a game you play like chess or bridge, that really needs tournament rules. As DM, you control the mythos of the universe in which your players play, therefore you control the implicit rules of the campaign. It's a short step from there from making up your own explicit rules. Virtually no DM I knew followed the AD&D rules exactly, and many of us replaced sections of the rules entirely to suit our preferences.As DM you set the rules in order to maximize the enjoyment of your players; if they don't like them, you change them but if one player objects to what other players like, he can find a different game. My philosophy was the a campaign was group storytelling, and I tweaked the rules appropriately. This attracted like minded players.

Recently, my kids were interested in learning about D&D, so I picked up the latest edition. My impression of it is that it is far better by many measures, but worse in others. It'd be a much better system if you wanted to play D&D as a tournament game, if you registered your characters the way bridge players are registered and took them around to different campaigns.

On the other hand, it was much worse from other standpoints. For example the Gygax mythos, which was fine as a starter mythos but rubbish from a literary standpoint, seems wired more deeply than ever into the structure of the game.

The improvements of the recent rules move the game more down the road of simulation. Under the old rules the cure to balance problem was a judicious application of Deus ex Machina; done cleverly enough it becomes part of the story and is not even noticed by the players. You take the player with an unbeatable character and you cut him down a notch, which motivates the player to respond. So from a DM perspective the rule improvements reduced the need to play dirty tricks on the players, but this is not an improvement in fun.

What the rules do do is make playing more complicated. The AD&D 1st edition rules,with all their faults, could be explained to a new player in about fifteen minutes and learned by a new DM in a few hours. This, combined with the ready made but hackneyed Gygax mythose, bootstrapped many a fine campaign.

So, I'm in the market for a simpler system. It doesn't have to be perfect, because perfection isn't really that important. Perhaps I'll go to Ebay, as you suggest, but ideally it'd be something that is designed from the outset to be simpler to play and extend.

No comments....... (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190375)

and already slashdotted. Nice.

Re:No comments....... (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190383)

Normally we work very hard to conceal our love for D&D from the masses. But given that there are no women on the internet...

Re:No comments....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190591)

Good. Keep concealing it. We want even less to have to read about it.

Re:No comments....... (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191325)

Tell me, sir, who is the man responsible for this [hellokittyfan.com] ?

Re:No comments....... (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191981)

Dude,

Stop sharing your hello kitty stuff already. We've already seen it.

Re:No comments....... (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192763)

Wait. Does that mean that slashdotters are actually reading the article BEFORE commenting? That can't be right.

Can't be good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190543)

This can't be as good as previous versions of the game. I mean, it's not "Advanced" any more, is it?

Honestly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190583)

How is D&D not dead already? It was tired a decade or more ago. When the hell are people going to move on?

Re:Honestly (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191549)

That depends on what you mean by "moving on." Are you talking about moving to other RP systems, or leaving that aspect of gaming altogether?

DM (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190679)

Shouldn't it be veteran DM? Silly noobs... =P

Pedantry (1)

LightPhoenix7 (1070028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190685)

Nitpicking here, since the original site requires an account to post...

First, while technically there are 16 core classes, in reality that number is 17 counting the Swordmage. This is slated to be expanded upon in Arcane Power, and has had material released in DDI. It's clear WotC considers this a fully realized class (Arcane Defender, for those interested), as much as any other class in the PHBs.

Second, Deva is a re-imagined Aasimar. It may be unfair to the author, but I have to question the opinion of any author that would write a piece and not realize this - especially since WotC has indicated this is the case. It throws a giant monkey-wrench into the credibility of the article, from a long-time D&D player's (ie, my) perspective.

Nothing wrong in what he said. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191435)

The author made clear that they were only considering core material and not setting-specific material. When the Eberron books come out, I doubt he would consider the Artificer either. His reasons for doing so were fair in my opinion.

Second, it's not unfair to consider them a new race. The background and flavor of the race is sufficiently different. Deva are angels who chose to incarnate as mortals and not reincarnate endlessly. Aasimar were humans with angelic ancestry. Also, Rodney Thompson from WotC R&D explicitly distanced the race from the Aasimar here [rpg.net] .

Re:Nothing wrong in what he said. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191445)

angels who chose to incarnate as mortals and not reincarnate endlessly

I meant, "and now reincarnate endlessly."

Re:Nothing wrong in what he said. (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192027)

Sorry, hate to burst your bubble but artificers are LFA legal(only to third level currently). There is no more setting specific crunch.

2nd edition was great (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27190697)

I learned to play on 2nd edition, and it was great, except for the fact that you had to check on each die roll whether you wanted a high result, or a low result.

Atk roll high
Skill Check, low
saving throw high
Turning undead???? I still can't remember

3rd edition simplified all of this, as well as initiative, Players ALWAYS want to roll high.

A higher AC is always better than a lower AC.

Re:2nd edition was great (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196567)

Did this inconsistency really get in your way once you spent the necessary 30 seconds to learn that on saving throws, you want to roll low?

RP vs. G (3, Insightful)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190783)

I read TFA, and I saw no discussion of how this book (or any of 4e, really) fosters the RP of the G. Pretty much the whole review was about how these different characters will function differently in combat. It reads like we're back to miniature gaming with some background character information for color--and much less focus on the fostering of interesting characters with subtle motivations, backgrounds, and non-strategic interactions with the party or NPCs.

One could argue, I think, that any class-based system constrains the ability of even experienced players to come up with unique character ideas. You might play a character with an interesting motivation and background, but at the end of the day you're the "striker, divine" (or whatever).

Maybe DnD isn't the place for that, and if you want to play characters one should play Amber (or arguably WoD). And I'm sure that I'll hear from folks that say any good gamer can wedge a character into whatever they're given to play, and that's true to an extent.

But certainly the system can foster the sense of character and RP, mostly by how much emphasis they put on combat rules and differentiation between characters. A class-based system limits that differentiation, by design, so you more or less have a pre-determined function in a squad of people that you need to fill or you're leaving a gap during melee.

It seems like 4e has borrowed from WoW to the extent that playing characters is mostly an afterthought, just as it is in WoW. (Yeah, I tried to play on some "RP" WoW servers too, and barely ever ran into others that would also RP. Most of the other folks didn't even know it was an RP server, and frankly, again, the system was all about combat effects, and had very very few character driven effects or story, so it's extremely hard to differentiate yourself outside of combat.) I don't fault WotC for that--it's hard to not want to replicate the success of WoW.

But really, if I want to play combat miniatures, I'll do something else (like Warhammer). If I want to RP, it doesn't sound like 4e is the system to do it.

Am I wrong?

Re:RP vs. G (3, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190901)

You're absolutely right, and it sounds like 4e continued the downward spiral of the RP element in D&D.

I also agree that class based systems will tend to make people RP less because the character's not different enough. I thought the Firefly system did a decent of helping RP, and I think Palladium does a decent job as well simply because there's just so much detail to the world that it makes players want to incorporate their character into it.

However, IMHO, the best system for RP is GURPS. I've never seen a mechanic encourage RP more than the disadvantage system. Most players who do strong characterization in the other systems do it by giving their characters disadvantages anyway, it's just not incorporated into the system. It's easy to make a characters that's good at things, it's what every player does naturally. But when you incorporate the other aspects of the character into the game, character will gain more dimensions naturally and be a lot more fun to play.

However, many of my friends disagree with me on that (sometimes violently), so YMMV.

Re:RP vs. G (3, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27193949)

  However, IMHO, the best system for RP is GURPS.
 
Whatever works for you; nowhere is YMMV is as true as it is in game design.

However, I have followed the development of GURPS for years and years. While I love the system for individual character design, everytime I have tried to develop a party around it, the characters are too individual. The party often just won't have a single cohesive focus because none of the players work together. Most GURPS campaigns that I have been in have fallen apart after a few sessions as a result--everyone is off doing their own thing.

Again, this can be corrected with good DMing--it's really their job to find the motivator that unites the party. And, they can help during character creation by giving each character a "god" part that will serve as a unifier later. But that put a lot more work on the DM.

The best system I have developed a character in, personally, is WoD. I think the new version is even better--instead of 7 classes, there are now 5. Each major class has a multitude of minor classes, including rules for creating your own variation. So every character is broadly slotted into a major class, with a lot of opportunity for the refinement and differentiation of that concept with a minor class. Also what helps WoD, imo, is that many of the powers have pretty subjective interpretation--so if you haven't designed the character, and played the character, to back up your application of that power in combat (or otherwise) it's not going to work. Therefore, good RP lends itself to what you are able to accomplish in combat, not vice versa.

btw, GURPs "borrowed" the concept of disadvantages from the original Hero Superpower games. But I think you're right, it's a key element to creating different characters.

Another thing that I really like about GURPs is the ability to RP during combat. By this I mean the mechanic that lets you choose between actively defending, aggressively attacking, or blending them. While it serves a strategic purpose, it also allows some RP--a fearless barbarian would also aggressively attack without consideration of defense, while a spineless wizard might always maximize their defense until just the right moment for an attack.

Finally, I'm having a debate about game mechanics on slashdot. Thank Gygax I'm already married with kids--I think I just lost my "check vs. social skills" saving throw. ;)

Re:RP vs. G (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196447)

I thought that the first edition of AD&D was pretty good for roleplaying. I loved the feel, and I still use it. I'm glad that WotC don't own the trademarks to chess or monopoly or go or some other classic game. If they did and tried to make an "updated edition" of the rules, I bet some people would play by them, but nobody would think it's strange if you just wanted to play "real" unWotc'd chess or go. It's not like the old rules get overwritten. 4th edition D&D is its own game, a very different game than 1st ed. There's room in the world for both.

It's not like the older editions are made obsolete when there's a new flavor of the week.

Re:RP vs. G (1)

MykeBNY (303290) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205625)

I'm glad that WotC don't own the trademarks to chess or monopoly or go or some other classic game.

Actually Hasbro owns the trademarks to both D&D and Monopoly.

Re:RP vs. G (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27190925)

From everything that I've heard about 4th edition--honestly, it's not much--it's been compared to the "WoW" of D&D. The game at least pretended, at one time, to be about role-playing--which is why your character stats were generated randomly in the default system. The statistical distillation of the game mechanics, though, inevitably resulted in the same kind of treatment happening to D&D as happens to every other game out there--people thoroughly and empirically evaluate every practical combination of weapons and skills and items that they can think of, and then everyone plays with the most efficient ones. For an MMO, where the player is in a battle with the developers to minimize the time commitment (whereas the developers have a vested interest in maximizing the time it takes to do everything), it makes a sad kind of sense. For a game that is nominally about telling a story with rules, it really runs contrary to the spirit of the game.

But, honestly, if that's how people _want_ to play these games, it's really not for me to tell them how to do so. Admittedly, newer CRPGs do include content that really forces you to build the most effective characters possible if you want to experience everything the game has to offer. Beyond that, since a multiplayer CRPG really doesn't have the same GM-player dynamic as a tabletop D&D game, it's really not possible to "correctly" role-play a fighter with a strength of ten--you just end up getting killed in combat and unable to pass any of the rigidly-defined skill checks. This prevents you from making fun progress in the game, whereas in a tabletop even failure should give you an opportunity to role-play something fun, if the GM and the players are imaginative enough to do it.

Re:RP vs. G (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191345)

I agree can be hard to find good RP on WoW. But surely consenting adults in a room together can RP to their hearts' content?

Re:RP vs. G (2, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192817)

You don't need a system to roleplay. You need a good GM

The 4th edition rules actually encourage good roleplaying by not placing too many kludgy rules in its way

Re:RP vs. G (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196489)

Oh yeah, why are there TWO 300+ page player handbooks then, whose primary focus is on discussing the combat mechanics of various classes? The way the old game encouraged roleplaying is that it defined the character classes by social roles, which everyone who knows history intuitively understood. Players easily understood 1st ed roleplaying principles because the game world sort of looked like the Middle Ages in which all the middle-age superstitions were actually true. Anyone who knows something about history can definitely picture that in great detail. So the actual rules were more terse and yet more filled in at the same time, because D&D used to be modeled on social relations (and myths) in actual history.

Re:RP vs. G (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27203747)

Because, lets be honest, the whole point of the D&D game since the days of Gygax has been to kick down the door, kill some monsters and take their treasure.

The 1st edition books also heavily emphasized combat... Non-weapon proficiencies were an "optional rule" even in 2nd edition.

...and now that I think about it, the vast majority of roleplaying rules sets dedicate most of their pages to two things: character generation and combat. Because everything in between is just roleplaying, and we all know how to do that since we were kids playing cops and robbers...

Re:RP vs. G (1)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215859)

You're pretty good in your analysis. 4E doesn't not foster RP, infact, it pretty much states this to some degree in the PHBI as well as being easily inferred through how they deal with "flavor text" for each spell (what they now call powers).

However, I reject the claim that this prevents RP or interesting characters. Since when was an interesting character determined by their role? Be it that they're a healer(4E Leaders), a DPS (4E Strikers), tank (4E Defenders) or utility (4E Controllers). I still find the biggest problem people who have an issue with D&D(and 4E in particular) with regards to role playing isn't the system, it's the people. Everyone who complains about role play complain the *book* doesn't allow role play. That precise point is the real truth. Role play has never and should never be the responsibility of the gaming system. The whole point of role play is freedom and creativity. The game system is to try and balance the mechanical parts of it. And that's exactly what 4E does well.

Everything is still possible to do in 4E and I find it actually better for role playing than at least 3E (my only other P&P RPG experiance) because the underlying mechanics are much more simple to adjust and modify and that's, in my opinion.

What 4E really does need is a good book on how to role play. A guide on how to make interesting characters with back story and how to define them by their actions, powers and such. How to use powers to affect the environment to perform things you wouldn't normally need. Actually, the DM guide for 4E covers some of this pretty well already and the DM guide is very much a guide by most means. The PHB... not so much. But the PHB had a lot of ground to cover so I cannot blame it for skimping on the "how to RP" section.

I believe it's the people who are missing RP because they've gotten too comfortable with books and systems that told them how to RP their character. You don't need a book to tell you how to role play. As for "class based". With a little experiance with 4E, you can easily mix/match class powers to fit whatever type of character you want to play. That's the whole point behind how you multiclass in 4E. With some creativity and a willing DM, you can easily create whole new classes out of the parts you're given by swapping like-level abilities because the mechanics behind 4E are very easily modular and swappable. Of course, 4E won't tell you how to do this, that's the part where you have to be creative.

I still haven't heard one example of something you can't role play in 4E that you can in other games. I've even seen the 4E rule set lend itself well to other genre's such as survival/horror or future Sci-Fi really well.

As for the WoW / Video Game assertions... it's also true the mechanics were developed to easily transition into other mediums besides P&P, such as video games, TCG, Minis, etc. I believe WotC stated this at some point.

I don't think this means your wrong, I think this just means you're looking for something else in a product. But at the same time, it also doesn't mean the product is incapable of doing the things you claim it does.

Cheers!
Fozzy

Rigid rules suck (1)

fortunato (106228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191079)

All I can really say is as a GM back in the days of 1st and 2nd edition (I stopped playing once WOTC took over), the fact that there were no specific rules for certain situations is exactly why it was fun to play. The GM could make up whatever was necessary to move the game along without having to worry about some player screaming about the rules. Most of the folks complaining about the lack of ability to role-play with the new ruleset -- this is really what they mean. If you want rigid game mechanics, play a video game.

The Power Creep (5, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191193)

"No power creep"?

Sorry, I have to take exception to this.

One of the major problems with 4th edition is how hard it is to hit things. When I sat in on a Gencon panel with the 4ed designers last summer, they said they balanced the game around a 50%-60% hit rate. While this may have made their math easy, it doesn't make the game fun. Seriously - when you use your awesome encounter ability and it misses half the time, it kills a lot of the fun in the game.

Worse, over the course of the 30 levels 4th Edition is designed for, PCs pick up a net -5 to hit along the way (Monster AC goes up linearly with level, PC's attack bonus goes up proportional to half your level (a -15 to hit change), but +6 for using a magic weapon, +4 for stat bumps), meaning that PCs end up missing 75% of the time or so without using anything special. This means that PCs that needed 11s or better to hit Irontooth (a +2 level monster) need 17s or better to hit Orcus (a +3 level solo). Sure, there's powers like Lead the Charge that give a large bonus to hit, but in order to apply the bonus, you have to hit with it.

4th edition has been very cautious at assigning bonuses to hit - almost all feats in the game (like Weapon Focus) were rewritten to add bonuses to damage instead of bonuses to hit. There's only very limited ways of gaining bonuses to hit (Tieflings using fire attacks have a feat available, as do Warforged with another ally adjacent to the target).

So where does PHB II's power creep come in? The major, obscene jump in power is a pair of feats called Weapon Expertise and Implement Expertise, that add +1/+2/+3 to hit at the heroic/paragon/epic tiers. It's approximately 10 trillion times better than any feat released before (the Warforged feat mentioned above - which is a racial feat - only gives a +1 bonus, and only when you have another ally touching the monster), and obsoletes immediately those feats that have tried to give a bonus to hit.

This is combined with melee mastery, which lets you swap out strength for your highest stat when making basic melee attacks. So a 10 Str, 20 Cha Paladin - who'd flail weakly at any enemy provoking an Opportunity Attack before - picks up the equivalent of +5 to hit and damage.

Sorry for the math, but the nutshell idea is: with just two feats, it works out to a +8 bonus to hit, which is insanely out of whack with everything they've done before.

The current theory is that WOTC realized they screwed up the math in their to-hit rolls and/or realized that PCs missing 75% of the time is simply not a very enjoyable way to spend an evening (my group is ready to go back to 3rd Edition, they're so pissed off at missing all the time), that they released this "patch" to correct the problems in their math. Which sounds fine at first, until you realize that they probably should have just patched the system to give a +1 bonus to hit at 5th/15th/25th levels. Creating a feat to do the work for them is bad, since it just set the new standard in feat design, and because the feat is now mandatory for all characters, and feats are supposed to be minor options that people can use to tailor their specific characters. No feats should be mandatory.

The rest of the PHBII seems to follow this theme. Bards have a paragon path that lets people automatically hit. Avengers get to roll twice every time they attack, and take the better roll, etc.

While this is all welcome news for those of us that play the game:
1) It reveals how badly made 4th Edition was and is.
2) It is a tremendous power creep, which is rather the opposite of what the reviewer for Slashdot said.

4th Edition is the snack food of the role playing world.

Re:The Power Creep (1)

gorckat (960852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191551)

until you realize that they probably should have just patched the system to give a +1 bonus to hit at 5th/15th/25th levels. and because the feat is now mandatory for all characters, and feats are supposed to be minor options that people can use to tailor their specific characters. No feats should be mandatory. Don't they still have a little blurb somewhere in there about how you can make any changes you desire to the rules...these sound like excellent starting points! Either give the +1s or give everyone the feat for free. Or will this violate the OGLCMA?

Re:The Power Creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191555)

Rules in rpg-games are a guideline, not a rule.

Whoever let's any rule get in the way of the fun (that's why you sit down) deserves whatever (no fun) they get.

Really. Just because someone wrote it down does not mean it's a good idea. If you do not like what you see, change it, ignore it. Also, the PCs always win anyway or the plot would be rather boring (the most boring PC is a dead one, you... cannot do anything with/to it anymore).

Change or ignore the rules, but do not let them ruin your fun!

Re:The Power Creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191827)

False in 4th edition. 4e is written from the persepctive that the rules are NOT meant to be tinkered with. They made it harder to modify the game to your liking. They don't LET 3rd parties publishing things that would change anything (for example, a D&D dwarf is always a D&D dwarf, even if the setting demands something different).

There are even parts of the Player's Handbook that are stated such that the players tell the DM what to do! Yes, that's right. The players control the game; the DM is just there to roll the dice for the monsters. He's not there to try to tell a story or anything.

Re:The Power Creep (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192187)

>>Rules in rpg-games are a guideline, not a rule.

Which is fine and all, but I play in the RPGA, which runs the rules as they're written.

Re:The Power Creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191703)

Eh, just more same-old same-old. TSR used to pump out poop and call it gold nuggets in the hope that gamers would buy it, and they did.

Now it's TSR-WotC-Hasbro, but it's the same game. 4th Ed. is not an improvement on anything, just the company pushing out new books in the hope that the gamer community will feel obligated to buy them.

Re:The Power Creep (2, Informative)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192081)

The to-hit thing sounds like an interesting point. I used Google to find this forum discussion [enworld.org] of it.

Some people claim that hit rates aren't really that low (people are always trying to optimize, so few people really have "average" characters) and that team cooperation can more than make up for it.

I have no idea. The only contact I have with 4e has been the Penny Arcade podcasts [wizards.com] .

Re:The Power Creep (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27192301)

>>Some people claim that hit rates aren't really that low (people are always trying to optimize, so few people really have "average" characters) and that team cooperation can more than make up for it.

Low level combat hides the problem.

A second level paladin attacking irontooth, with a 20 Charisma (as optimized as you can make it), will have a +6 to hit. Irontooth is AC18. That's a 12+ (45% hit chance). With flanking, that's a 10+ needed (55% hit chance), which seems about on par for the design of the game. If they happened to have picked up a +1 weapon by second level, then the odds are 50%/60% with flanking, which is where WOTC wants it to be. The point is, there's not a whole lot you can do after this point - actually, if you're just using the PHB, there's *nothing* more you can do to improve your hit bonus unless you have a teammate pop some power for another +2 to hit.

When fighting Orcus, the same paladin picks up +14 to hit from levels, +4 from stat bumps, and uses a +6 weapon. He might become a demigod, which is worth another +1 from stat bumps. Looking at a total bonus of +31. Orcus is AC48 (and a brute, which means his AC is lower than default), so you're now looking at the same fully optimized character hitting on a 17+ (20% hit rate). If you were unfortunate enough to start with a 16 in your attack stat, then by default you need a 19 or better to hit Orcus.

And trust me, combats are really lame, and really long when you need a 19+ to hit a monster. I've played just such a combat in LFR a couple weeks ago, and it was really, really annoying. My 7th level barbarian really couldn't do much against the AC31 monster. +12 to hit = a 19 or better needed on the die roll.

So there's a problem somewhere. If 4ed is designed around a PC hitting around half the time, where is the loss coming from? Mainly it's from the fact that monster armor classes scale linearly, but PC attack bonuses increase in fits and starts. When my barbarian in LFR went from 7th to 8th level, he gained +3 to hit - +1 from a stat gain, +1 from level, and +1 from acquiring a new weapon. So the combat he'd just played against would have become a lot more manageable - the 19+ would have turned into a 16+, which then could have been lowered another +2 from a flank to a relatively reasonable 35% hit rate. It's still not fun to miss that often, but it still represents a 3.5x increase in hit rate from needing a 19+.

And these fits and starts don't quite keep up with monster AC. So my guess is WOTC ran into some issues playtesting the game AFTER the game was already out, and so settled upon this approach as the best way of making up the math deficit.

Re:The Power Creep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27192847)

You seem to have screwed up your math.
A 2nd Level Paladin with a 20 Charisma will have 1 (1/2 Level) + 5 (Cha Bonus), +2/3 (Weapon Proficiency) = +8 or +9 vs 18 AC = 10/9 needed to hit, which is 50-55% chance to hit.
Add in Flanking for another +2 and that Paladin is up to +11/+12 depending on the weapon he's using with the situational bonus, which gives him a 55-60% chance to hit.

In fact, it seems you've forgotten proficiency bonuses in all of our math there, which is an extra +2 or +3.
The higher level party will have many other bonuses available to them from various areas. Buffing from their Leader (Cleric/Warlord)

To me, it sounds like the problem you encountered was a 31AC Monster at 7th Level, which sounds like the DM's fault ot me. If the AC was that high, the monster's other defences should have been substantially lower, and attacks that target those defences would have been the right way to go.

Re:The Power Creep (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27196529)

Why should it be easy to hit? Look, I won't ever use 4th edition rules, I want to play something else, but this doesn't seem like a good objection to the game system. In fact, it's my experience that starting characters in 4th ed feel incredibly overpowered. Original AD&D also had a 50% chance to hit a guy in chain mail at first level, if you weren't a fighter.

So much of 4th ed seems focused on combat mechanics that in a way, I applaud them for making combat hard for the players. There's already great danger that it will become a fight simulator and not a role-playing game.

3rd edition/OGL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27191801)

My group's still with OGL games/3.5 edition. We're staying there. I't just a whole lot of a better RPG. 4e might be a better tactical miniatures game, but it sure isn't an RPG.

Old Joke (2, Funny)

tb3 (313150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27191973)

Ahh, yes, Dungeons and Dragons. A game that that combines the breathless excitement of Parcheesi with all the thrills of double-entry bookkeeping.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27198605)

Go to paizo's website and download Pathfinder... it is a slightly bugfixed 3.5

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