Jul 31, 2008

That horse just moved! Hit it again!

In true horse flogging style, we are going to stick to 4e just a little bit longer. This time, lets look at the GOOD things about it...Okay, that was fun!

Okay, okay! Sorry, couldn't resist a little "funnin". Seriously though, 4e really does have some good things going for it. Here's the list I can come up with, based on my first read through. Feel free to chime in on any of your personal likes, please refer DISLIKES to the previous post.

1.)LESS HOMEWORK - Only a true masochist can say (with a straight face) that 3.5 was easy on DM's. In fact, it was a step backwards (or forwards) from the tedious bookkeeping that 2nd edition was - to me, anyway. This was more prominent in homebrew games, as the plethora of DUNGEON magazines, as well as the scores of other one-shots and adventure paths on the market helped a LOT in this regard.

Still, how long does it take to sheet up a fully statted and equipped Cleric12/Monk6/Paladin2? About 2 hours, depending on what splatbooks you have to reference and so on. I don't claim to be a prep ninja, or sloth for that matter. I take a thorough approach, and double check my numbers once, at the end. 2. Hours. That's a long time, when the kids are going crazy, the wife wants help with dinner, and you only have 5 of them after coming home from work. Sure there is a certain sense of accomplishment you feel when you are done...but by then the house has burned down, and the kids are in college!

4e was designed very well from this aspect. It is a variant of 3e's "core modular" concept taken to a logical extreme. K.I.S.S. taken to new heights of you will. The reviews aren't kidding when they say that you can flesh out a character in HALF the time. Monsters? Smaller stat blocks, similar abilities across variants and power levels. It REALLY is a streamlined system.

2.)FASTER PACED COMBAT - Notice the word "paced" in there. This is important, as I'll explain. One has to be careful how they explain combat in 4e. It is neither better or worse than 3rd edition in most categories, MINIONS is where it gets it right. It's a no brainer that heroes want the bad guys to go SPLAT! when they hit them. It is also a gospel truth, that in 3e, having lots of minions in combat was a great way to get yourself committed. With one small "tweak" 4e fixed one of the biggest complaints of all the previous editions.

Here is where we split hairs on the wording. In my experience, and I am evidently not alone, combat tends to be LONGER in 4th edition. I blame this on a design choice that is pervasive throughout the game. INSANE amounts of hit points. An in depth mathematical analysis/playtest of 4th edition over at http://www.thealexandrian.net/ refers to this as "Padded sumo suit fighting". This can be found in part 2 of the July archives. The low damage dealt by the PC's added to the immense amount of HPs granted to monsters makes one feel like a battle involving whiffle bats.

The caveat to this, is that combat FLOWS better. There is something happening every round that alters the battlefield dynamic. The rules are built upon cooperative action, so it lends very well to teamwork. Unfortunately, the bookkeeping is still just as big as issue as it was before.

3.)HEALING SURGES & RITUALS - This is a bit of a give/take for me. IMO, these both are murder on immersion. This is not to say that they are bad. I seem to recall a similar mechanic at work somewhere in 3e that allowed you to get your CON bonus back in HP for every round you did nothing but move or take a 5' step. The source is irrelevant, however, and we won't dwell on it here.

This is a big departure from canon. Clerics, even heal-bot clerics were a staple of the game for decades. They still are, to an extent - just not like they used to be. This one gets a pass because it is squarely in the realm of "good for players". Getting greased is no fun. Especially when it's because you were doing your job. The ability to heal a fractional amount of HP a few times a day serves to stretch the adventuring day out a bit. This can only be construed as good for all involved.

Rituals are a different bag altogether. While I disagree as to their content and implementation, allowing a party to succeed without being forced to have a wizard in it is a good thing. While allowing a fighter to cast raise dead "feels" hokey, in game terms, it doesn't break or ruin anything.

4.)PERKS AT EVERY LEVEL - This is another split decision for me. As a player, "dead" levels are lame as hell. Getting the neutered 1/2 feats that 4e has been populated with is...a mixed bag. This DOES, however, fix the power creep issues, as the party gains overall power much more slowly. I am curious as to how this will pan out after the first 3 or 4 splats drop...we'll have to see, but once again, if it makes the players happy - so be it.

5.)STREAMLINED SKILLS - Overly so, IMO, but still a pass. I say this because the skills system needed an overhaul. While I disagree as to the extent it was taken, that is a bit like whining about not getting enough birthday presents.

All in all, there are quite a few thing to love about D&D. There are still warts, but there always will be. I will save the rebuttal until later, but rest assured, there will be one.


jonathan said...


[looks around]

<_< >_>

[Large cane comes from off-stage and yanks Donny offstage. Then the announcer...]

"Up next folks, MORE of what you came for... MORE Bashing of D&D 4E!"

Donny_the_Dm said...

Lol! That was funny! Keep in mind, that EVERY game system has it's redeeming qualities...except F.A.T.A.L. that one was terrible through and through.

Also, it's hard to bash too much, when there is so much crunch still left on the short term release schedule. While fun, it's not really fair.

That, and I don't want to get a rep for being a anti-4e sie where all bashers are welcome. IT's...complicated. It has merits, these I will share, it has flaws, these I will share as well. My personal preference tends to color my arguments enough as it is.

We'll have a strictly con article coming tonight or tomorrow.

jonathan said...

Sweet! Another 4E killer on the way! Oh, and yeah.. FATAL was ... well.. offensive. But, since no one else is chatty atm, how about Blue Rose? Gah! LOL! I still have no idea why it won so many Einies.

Donny_the_Dm said...

Yeah, blue rose never did it for me. Amber either. Nor did GURPS, RIFTS, d6 Star Wars, or most of the crap that was released for World of Darkness.

Gaming is such an intenseley personal experience, that it is really hard to figure out exactly what a person will like.

Unless I am dealing with people I actually know reasonably well, I hold interviews (usually at a denny's) and try to spend a couple of hours with a group of people. I do this because I need to know what THEY expect. I need them to know what I expect, and it helps weed out the weirdos - been stuck with too many of thoe over the years.

Graham|ve4grm said...

As for faster combat, I'll tell you from personal experience:

- It takes more rounds to complete.
- Each round moves faster, and each player gets more turns.
- With these combined, from personal experience, it takes about the same amount of time (real time) to play a 4e battle while learning the rules as it does to play a 3.5e battle with rules we know.

But, and this is the big part, it feels faster.

Players don't notice the amount of time it takes to finish. They notice how long it takes until it's their turn again. As a player, it feels like it's moving faster, and because of this it tends to keep your attention more.

Anonymous said...

the link to http://www.thealexandrian.com/ should be to http://www.thealexandrian.org/ instead.

Anonymous said...

nevermind they are both wrong, what is the real link? i'm curious to read it.

Anonymous said...

ah ha!! .net!!

Donny_the_Dm said...

Fixed, and thank you oh faceless one!