View Full Version : 4th edition, blessing or curse

Sir Tiamat
04-27-2009, 07:36 AM
A topic in which to discuss the merrits and flaws of 4th edition. Simply catering to a need. ;)

04-27-2009, 10:31 AM
Its neither a blessing nor a curse, it represents a style of play that is well suited to an action adventure movie style of play, and very poorly suited to a costume drama style of play.

Sir Tiamat
04-27-2009, 11:35 AM
I disagree. Skill challenges have been reduced to a coin flip. AFAIC, the skill system is the game, and combat is something to do once in a while to change things up to add some dramatic tension. Frankly, I'd rather resolve combat with a coin flip and keep the skills system.

That's the point of my critique of the Gavin Tael write up. As a 9th level character, he's either a +4 on a skill or +9. All of the range of choices from zero to combination of synergies, feats, and specific items is gone. The skills system is now so simplified, with few skills and no skill points, that you can't build a game on the skills system and ignore combat.

The number of skills has been reduced, the choices involved in which skills to be good at is remarkably reduced to almost nothing, so that skills and adventures based on skills are no longer a viable way to play a game.

I can see the problem, as I too did not like the simplified skill system. However, during play I did not notice any real adverse effects from this simplified system. I think this is mainly because the difference between a char that is very good in a certain skill compared to a char that has average proficiency is likely to more than 10 points at mid-level. In my experience 10 points makes a lot of difference on a d20.

04-27-2009, 06:18 PM
Particularly if simplifying the domain system to '+1 per bonus of 5 from the skill' or the like for domain actions the 0/.5 lvl/+lvl proably doesn't impact all that much.

Personally I'd go more with the 3e approach as you can easily simplify it to 4e type skill levels, but have more scope to compare high v wide and so on with 3e's more gradiated approach.

4e looks to heavily works against the wizard as army-killer that you got in DnD, but that could just be my mis-interpretation, if so then some of the issues you get with wizards will reduce although you will get issues with domain magic which would presumably become open to any class in line with non-combat magic. The latter is an easy fix if you want to keep domain magic for wizards and priests though.

Personally my view is that if 4e encourages roleplaying games then it is good for BR as the hobby will be bigger, and vice versa. So far I seem to being hearing more vice leading to versa but little in the way of hard figures to support the view.

04-27-2009, 09:23 PM
At 12:36 AM 4/27/2009, Sir Tiamat wrote:

>A topic in which to discuss the merrits and flaws of 4th edition.
>Simply catering to a need. ;)

Personally, I`m indifferent to 4e. It`s not really my taste in
RPGs/game mechanical styles, but it has a few interesting things in
it. It`s just that there are fewer things in it worth using than
things I want to put into use, so on the whole I would give it around
a 5 on a 1-10 scale. From the POV of BR, though, I think its nearly
useless or, at least, that are options that make better sense for
portraying things in the setting--including 2e or some iteration of
3e. BR is the proverbial round peg and 4e is the square slot.

I wouldn`t go so far as to characterize that as a curse,
though. It`s not like the last episode of Galactica or
anything.... I don`t have any interest in playing Birthright with 4e
rules (though if someone were to come up with a system that blew me
away I`d be quite pleased) but if it amuses people to do a conversion
then that`s all to the good.


04-27-2009, 10:08 PM
From a BR perspective, it doesn't really impact it, anyways. There won't be an official world book, most likely, for Cerilia. So 4e will be fan-based for us.

In that respect, in light of the skill system, it really just returns to a 2e style for that. The complaint that Gavin Tael would have a + or -5 based on skills isn't really much different from the fact that in 2e at 9th level he would have had only 5 non-weapon proficiencies, if memory serves me. Considering the game was built with that in mind... the skill system doesn't change much.

Meanwhile, wizzies and clerics accessing their realm spells also returns to 2e - whereas 3e it was easy to multi-class, and thereby have someone capable of using all the holdings - now, only classes able to draw on that power source can use the holding effectively.

Regardless, doesn't matter to me. I hate 4e mechanics for my style of BR-play, and still house-rule the heck out of my 3.5e.

04-27-2009, 10:46 PM
I quit playing 3.x just before the annoucement of 4E because of all the broken mechanics, power builds, and IMO craptastiness of it. In 4E you have to work hard to make a character that would be considered "crappy" and be outshined by a min-maxer.

It erode my soul until all roleplaying games turned to ash in my mouth and I completely stopped playing RPGs until the release of 4E. Even though I loathed 3.x, I admit that I was a 4E-Hater when it first was announced and I rode the bandwagon of beating the 4E-hatedrum.

Then I previewed the fluff changes that came in the 4E preview books and I thought that it had merit but I wasn't going to put much stock in it until I got to preview the books. I went to the bookstore and sat down with the 4E books and paged through them. I immediately turned around came home and ordered the set from amazon.

4E gave me my drive to game again and I have since played 4E & L5R. I am looking into Savage Worlds as well and never looked back at 3.x. I had to decline a game because it was still using the 3.x rules and I just couldn't bring myself to slug the system and build a character.

Now that I am starting to stray off-topic lets get back to it. 4E feels like the fun days of ole 2E. I feel that Birthright and 4E would go together like a good puzzle that never quite fitted with 3.x. So in long, 4E is a blessing... now if only Wizards would stop putting their foot in their mouth.

04-27-2009, 11:41 PM
3.x was super versatile. That meant it was capable of use by any gaming style. If a DM didn't exercise good judgement in what they used and what they allowed, it was very easy to bring in material that didn't suit what had gone before, and so could be wildly unbalancing. But almost any playing style could be constructed by picking and choosing classes, feats, and abilities. 4e doesn't leave this job to the DM. It does it for him. That means I can't play my game in 4e, because 4e doesn't support it with the mechanics I need and the choices I need.

The design philosophy of 4e, where the game itself selects a playing style and goes from there is more robust, by which I mean idiot-proof. But that comes at the cost of being able to design other kinds of characters for other kinds of playing styles. For a cinematic action game, its a great system. For other kinds of games, like one that feels like an episode of the Tudors on Showtime (http://www.sho.com/site/tudors/home.do), not so much.

What makes 3.x a good system is that its versatility allowed me to play a game of skills-based political intrigue in my game, and someone else to play a game were wizards rode magically animated metal beasts firing wands of fireballs at flying demon pirate ships.

4e won't allow some of the over-the-top stuff I saw in 3x, but it won't work for my low action, skills heavy, emphasis on what-you-know style of play either.

I like 4e for what it is supposed to do. Its easy to learn, easy to play, and when you want cinematic action gaming, its got to be at or near the top of the list. I've said so since I read the books (and I pre-ordered). Its just not trying to be all things to all people the way 3x did. 3x allowed a DM to do anything, with the caveat that they had to exercise good judgment about what to allow and what to forbid or steer players away from.

04-28-2009, 12:26 AM
I will also admit that I was very scepticle of 4e and was not interested until I read about the Skill Challenges. This is what made me pre-order the books from Amazon. Yes there are more rules for streamlining combat but from my experience as a DM, combat was the biggest time waster and you were always going back to the books to re-read the rule for a particular combat option. 4e has made this area easier to understand and in my play testing of 4e combat now takes less time, therefor more time for roleplaying.

Skill Challanges are a great addon for roleplaying but I would agree that the list of skills could be a bit limiting. I have been tossing up the idea of going back to 3e skills but 4e for the rest. I am still undecided yet and as I get further down the track in my 4e conversion of BR I will have a bertter idea.

04-28-2009, 04:07 AM
After sitting down and playing 4E my take on it is it's great for random encounter monster slaying dungeon hacking. In fact, for just fights, I like it much more than any previous version of D&D. It's easier to explain to players and none of my players have had to look anything up in a book, which happened ALL the time in 3x, breaking the mood. Players can just review the power card on their sheet for abilities, I'm so happy the mood of the game doesn't get crushed every 5 minutes like 3x did because somebody got some feat from some book, that may or may not have been reviewed by the GM, and may or may not be in some book that happens to be at the table. Combat hasn't shortened up any, but it feels that way because the time it took to stop the game and find the rule has been removed in 4E.

I hate the concept of healing surges but love the way they work that it almost makes up for the silly way characters can heal themselves. It sure beats the tar out of the "whole party of clerics" or "two clerics in a party" build that just broke healing in 3x.

The game is just much more better organized that 3x. If you use the character builder it centralizes so much information you really don't need any books at the table.

The skills are too few, skill challenges are interesting but really need fleshed out by Game Masters to make any sense. I've been in some games where the GM says "You need to make 2 diplomacy success". In those games is super mechanical and just plain boring to engage the skill challenge. I've seen intrepid game masters explain what each skill roll is, defining it in terms of roleplaying and what's being said, argued, or debated. That system is slightly better than just stating your successes requirements.

I prefer figuring out the number of successes and then being entirely flexible on what skill rolls are used or not used, and a good argument (through roleplay) might be worth more than one success. I don't lower the difficulties of the skills checks, but a clever argument might mean less successes are needed. Encouraging better "in character moments"

I gave thought to running a 4E Birthright Game but the cons out wieghed the pros such as:

1. The domain turn information would have to be adapted to the game. It's too much work for me to invest in it.

2. The races, classes, and abilities keep drifting further from the AD&D source material. I'm not real keen on having warforged wardens, and teifling warlocks running around. Birthright, at least Andurian Birthright (which is really what I want to play) is very human, very basic class oriented. I want to keep it that way, not have a team of minotaurs, with me having to make source material concessions just to place them in the word. It's clear 4E is ALL about new crazy races and classes, the more the merrier.

3. 4E is a treasure trove of abilities. Feats at every 2 levels, new abilities at every level all keep a character focused on the "build" of characters. That means I need extra dedicated players willing to go above and beyond to write story, background, and plot element for the game. Most of the players I have anymore are the 9-5 professionals with families. They have 4 hours to spend on monday nights playing and not much else. So I decided not to play in Birthright because it's sooo very much about what's going on around the players, and my players have just enough attention span at the moment to worry about their character, not so much the world.

I'm probably giving up 3x entirely (I preferred AD&D to it) and just playing 4E for monster beats, and AD&D for Birthright Games.

04-28-2009, 05:09 AM
There is nothing new about skill challenges we didn't have in 3x. The Medieval Players Handbook alone has two even cooler kinds of skill challenges, one based on debates and one based on making things. In 2e using proficiencies and way
back in 2004 (http://www.birthright.net/forums/showpost.php?p=21323&postcount=23) using skills I have always preferred important tasks to require rolls in several skills, rather than one. And this assumes the plenitude of skills in a 3x environment, let alone a skills desert like 4e. For a battle I want to see a character's strategy, tactics, logistics, morale, and anything special they might want to try. All before the battle starts. Moving troops around, redeploying, spotting opportunities, using reserves all require more checks.

To me a major battle is about a series of skill checks by a commander and unit to unit combat. Not the commander in combat himself, although there can be some of that.

Although certainly not an opportunity for everyone to be differently equal. There are things for everyone to do, but the burden of command lays on the shoulders of the commander.

04-28-2009, 12:05 PM
Well, skill challenges per se are not a new concept, but the wording in the core books it is, before they weren't so directly described to the GM. It's a pitty the basic math on the DMG is flawed, but it has been fixed over the Enworld forums (and they have even made new skills systems, like the Obsidian Skill System, pretty nice). And again, if you find you are short on skills, you can find some of the old skills ported to 4e over Enworld (or just add them yourself). Honestly, I don't see why anything done in 3e can't be done in 4e.

For me, as other posters, 4e streamlined the most rule-intensive part of the game (combat) making it easier to concentrate on other things. Also, I was pretty exceptic of how well the game would expand with new classes, but the Players Handbook 2 was a very nice surprise in that department.

04-28-2009, 06:16 PM
I'm obviously a freak in that 4e appears to make combat far more complicated to me - and the same feat/ability bloat that caused problems in 3e as products were churned will quickly erode the 'not known off the top of my head' benefit as 4e keeps churning out the splat.

Of course I used a stream-lined 3e combat system called 'forget the sodding battlemat and we'll wing it on whether or not you can cleave/attack of opportunity/etc' but even so 4e appears to be all about 'more powers more of the time' and more limited by the need for a battlemat making it much more complicated. The few 'games' I tried at gencon dragged combat out terribly due to the number of power options available, only the spellcasters used to have that problem... About the only good thing to come from the combat system was recognition of mook status.

04-28-2009, 07:40 PM
D&D will NEVER solve the bloat problem, because it is precisely that bloat which makes them such a marketing powerhouse.

They HAVE succeeded, IMO, in making the new rules, new classes, new powers, etc. much more interesting and viable. For the first time I am really interested in rulebooks beyond the core books. In fact, I daresay the new rules supplements keep getting better and better, with more creative options that make the core sets the less interesting ones. Kind of the reverse of 3e.

However, WotC seems to be producing too much too fast. I don't see how they can continue to market new products successfully along the same lines. They're already doing Martial Power 2 and Player's Handbook 3. I doubt the sales will be so good on Martial Power 3 and PH 4. So unless they find something new, I predict that indeed, we will see 5th edition a little earlier than the typical 8-10 year edition cycle. More like 5-7 years.

I do agree with other posters that the combat system is more streamlined, fun, and generally superior to every previous edition. Bloat will continue to be a problem, but at least you don't have to plan out your character's entire career from level 1 anymore.

As for story and flavor, it is really pretty easy as a DM once you get over combat and turn back to story and role-playing, just like any other edition. It takes less brainpower to put good and quick combats together, leaving more time for other stuff. And given that WotC is encouraging homebrew more loudly than ever, I don't really understand people's gripes about the proliferation of races and classes. Just nix them in your game if they don't fit! I've allowed genasi, tieflings, shifters, and devas in a fairly traditional D&D setting, but I strongly object to their alien look and feel, so I just ruled that they look quite human, with only slight variations. I also don't have any truly cosmopolitan towns and cities; racial diversity is very rare, and racial tensions do exist. I don't buy into a fantasy world where there's far less racism than the modern world where we only have one species of humans to deal with. Seems to me the only difference in a fantasy world is that humans might get along better with each other and treat the other species the way humans in our world treat other races.

Anyway off that soap box and on to another. There's a lot of support for skill challenges now and I find them very helpful and useful. I think this is the great growth area for 4e.

As for a BR adaptation, I think it would be worthwhile to puzzle out a minimalist combat system for a game that emphasizes roleplay over adventuring, and greatly expand skill challenges.

I'm thinking Skill Powers. Yes, there is the likelihood that such a thing would bloat just like Combat Powers do, but I think that could be a good thing, revolutionizing role-play. It would make skill uses in a myriad more situations than combat just as interesting as combat. Skill powers would create a combat-like give and take and encourage people to be just as if not more interested in skill challenges as combat.

Birthright is a great setting to lead the way on Skill Powers.

04-28-2009, 11:21 PM
I'm obviously a freak in that 4e appears to make combat far more complicated to me - and the same feat/ability bloat that caused problems in 3e as products were churned will quickly erode the 'not known off the top of my head' benefit as 4e keeps churning out the splat.

Of course I used a stream-lined 3e combat system called 'forget the sodding battlemat and we'll wing it on whether or not you can cleave/attack of opportunity/etc' but even so 4e appears to be all about 'more powers more of the time' and more limited by the need for a battlemat making it much more complicated. The few 'games' I tried at gencon dragged combat out terribly due to the number of power options available, only the spellcasters used to have that problem... About the only good thing to come from the combat system was recognition of mook status.

I think the problem with 3e is not so much the battlemap and AoO rules (although AoO were pretty bad) but the spellcasters as you say. Get a mid-high level party, full of combat buffs hit by a dispel magic, great fun :p

Also, I agree that 4e will take a while to understand if you just pick some pregens at mid-high level, but you would have the same problem in 3e too. If you start playing from level one combat is not a problem at all as the players know pretty well their own powers so they will choose them pretty fast, and for the DM monsters aren't so complex to run (as they have far less options available to them).