Aug 1, 2008

Overhamification...good or bad?

I was originally going to reply to a comment by Graham, but as it grew, it got too big, and began to become worthy of an actual post.

Answering what will be forever remembered as the "Ham Sandwich Argument"

I mean, if I had 100 types of ham for a sandwich, and I could put any 10 of them together for a sandwich of awesomeness, that would be great and would result in a lot of different-tasting sandwiches.

If I had 1000 types of ham, though, it wouldn't result in significantly more tastes of ham sandwich. Each of those additional 900 flavours of ham is going to taste pretty similar to one of the existing 100.

Even if I was able to use 20 different ham types for my sandwich, all the added flavours would begin to blend into each other, or would be there in such small quantities so as not to affect the flavour in any meaningful way. 4e decided to have fewer, more distinct types of ham. And by only combining two (one with a taste of the other), each type you have on the sandwich adds significantly to the flavour.

I have a small issue with this analogy, it's this; When making a 3E "sandwich", one only uses 1-4 different kinds of ham (unless they are a fool). IMO the best sandwiches are made from 2-3 different kinds. Yes, there are thousands of different types of ham, but how many actually get used for one sandwich?

Now how does having the deli manager come out and tell you that due to a perceived overhamification, they are now only stocking 12 types of ham, and you may have no more than 2 different kinds...period. Unless of course you want an "epic" ham sandwich, if you have the patience to sit through it's grueling construction, you can choose ONE more piece out of the "special" ham drawer. I've never been a fan of limiting option for more fun...it feels oxymoronic to me.

Don't get me wrong, I bet at least 3-400 of those other hams are terrible, or don't go with the mustard, or whatever, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to try them does it?

Now that I'm done "hamming it up", we'll go to your first question.

What would you say is required to make someone a "rogue".

Now, forget class names here. Why does someone need to have the Rogue class to be a Rogue? Was the 3.5e Ninja not rogue-ish? Even the Bard was pretty rogue-y.

What is required to be a rogue? And why does it matter if you have the class title in the first place?

Excellent question, but it is difficult to answer. A portion of it is down WAY below. The easy part first. You need the rogue class to be a rogue, because fighter can't be stealthy worth a damn : ) It is focus primarily, identity secondly, and flavor tertiarily. These three words are the reason for existence of all the classes out there (and to a lesser extent the PrC's as well). These concepts are woven into the very fabric of the game.

Let's put it another way; what makes a striker, a striker? The PHB says, mobility and high offensive potential...how does this say ranger or rogue? They sneak and track too, but where is that mentioned? Wouldn't a fighter with a 2H weapon fit this too? A wizard "properly" played in the back rank? A smiting paladin? Why should my role be tied inexorably to my class and style of play? This brings up powers, the meat and potatoes of 4e. The reason those won't work out are because the powers structure is built specifically to enhance the single role your character has been fitted for.

This hearkens back to the olden days of D&D, when nobody but humans could be paladins, or only elves and dwarves could actually multiclass. Why? Because it was in the rules. The difference now, is that the whole game is now built around the concept.

Moving on, I'd say the difference between similar classes (Barbarian/fighter/Paladin or Bard, Ninja, Rogue) is focus. I mentioned it above, but here we see it come into play. Ninjas and bards are NOT rogues, they are core (and expanded core) classes that overlap somewhat within the rogue's sphere of influence. They share some skills, and a few mechanics, but they are not built to be trapspringers, tomb raiders, or (arguably) burglars. They are uniquely different using the same set of core class mechanics. Examples, bardic music/knowledge, ninjas and bards get spells, sudden strike vs. sneak attack, granted abilities (ninja) that have no roguish analog, different skill point bases, different class skills.

Class title gives a (hate to use the word) generic outline of a character concept at the outset of the game. You would pick a rogue because you want to sneak around, be an opportunistic damage dealer, play a skills based character, or simply want to steal things. None of that says "striker" to me.

I would ask you, why have a "role" title at all instead? Does my "role" define my gaming experience any differently than my class should? Why can't I have a striker warlord? Or a leader wizard? What single feat or power that I trade for will make me this? How many will it take? I'm never gonna be a fighter/rogue, I'll be a fighter, with a couple of rogue skills, or a rogue who handles a sword a fractional amount better. How is this useful multiclassing?

I don't think it is very realistic to try and strip the "class" out of the question. It is integral to 3e mechanics. We'd have the same problem trying to strip the roles out of 4e, it is part of the core mechanic as well. This leads us to an apples and oranges comparison, which is impossible to really discuss. IT will come down to liking oranges tart goodness vs. Apples crunchy goodness - similar, but not enough to draw an actual comparison too. Better just to enjoy the fruit eh?

This was a fun post to write, and my cubies probably think I am insane from all the stifled giggles over here : )

Readers: Unlike some blogs, I WANT your opinions. Disagree with me PLEASE! Challenging (respectfully of course) an entrenched viewpoint is how you change minds. If I am wrong, I am wrong, it's as easy as that. I can and will change my mind, if it's the right thing to do.

This blog has literally exploded lately. There are dozens out there that would kill for the kind of discourse going on here. Keep it coming. ALSO; the polls I put up are the bellwether's for which direction the content flows, please take 10 seconds to use them, it's a big help to me, and you as well.

10 comments:

Graham|ve4grm said...

what makes a striker, a striker? The PHB says, mobility and high offensive potential...how does this say ranger or rogue? They sneak and track too, but where is that mentioned? Wouldn't a fighter with a 2H weapon fit this too? A wizard "properly" played in the back rank? A smiting paladin? Why should my role be tied inexorably to my class and style of play?

Except the Wizard, all of those are partly strikers, yes. And what you don't seem to realise is that the big-weapon Fighter and smiting Paladin make pretty good strikers in 4e.

The thing is, that's only part of their schtick. Rogues and Rangers have striker as their main schtick, and will thus be better at it, just as a Rogue was potentially better at it than a Fighter in 3e.

--

Ninjas and bards are NOT rogues, they are core (and expanded core) classes that overlap somewhat within the rogue's sphere of influence

So what does define being a Rogue?

According to the next sentence, you seem to think it is:

- trapspringer
- tomb raider
- burglar

Alright. I take Skill Training (Thievery).

What's left for me to do to fit your definition of "rogue"?

--

I would ask you, why have a "role" title at all instead? Does my "role" define my gaming experience any differently than my class should? Why can't I have a striker warlord? Or a leader wizard?

For the same reason that you couldn't do a Defender Sorcerer or Controller Paladin in 3e. The classes have things they're strong at, and things they're not.

How has this changed from 3e?

--

I don't think it is very realistic to try and strip the "class" out of the question. It is integral to 3e mechanics.

Yes, it is. But that's the point!

Class is no longer the definer of what you are!

To go back to the d20 Modern reference I mentioned before, I give you the following example.

There is a Soldier advanced class in the core book.

Character A has been in the army for 12 years. He has fought in a number of conflicts, and is currently stationed protecting US dignitaries when they visit Iraq. He is a big, intimidating man, with a number of battle scars, and has been through a lot of advanced training. He's even being considered for the Green Berets.

Character A's build:
Strong 1/Tough 3/Bodyguard 4

Is he not a soldier?

Character B is a boxer, heavyweight. He's won his share of titles over the years, and some even say he's the best in the league, though he'll deny it. He does have a mean left hook, though, and has ended a number of battles early in the first round because of it. He lives in Vegas with his wife and 3 daughters.

Character B's build:
Strong 3/Soldier 5

Is he now a soldier?

As I used to say on the d20 Modern boards:

Not every soldier is a Soldier, and not every Soldier is a soldier.

And not every rogue is a Rogue.

--

I'm never gonna be a fighter/rogue, I'll be a fighter, with a couple of rogue skills, or a rogue who handles a sword a fractional amount better. How is this useful multiclassing?

Again, what defines being a "Fighter/Rogue"?

I'd define it as someone who can both fight well and handle Rogue duties, such as traps, sneaking, and burglary. What else do you require before you'd call a character a Fighter/Rogue?

I want a list. :)

Graham|ve4grm said...

Oh, also, why the definition of "striker" doesn't scream Rogue or Ranger ("they sneak and track too, but where is that mentioned") is because:

- not all strikers will sneak and track
- not all sneakers and trackers will be strikers

Donny_the_Dm said...

I see you left the ham sandcich argument alone...probably for the better, trying to write that was drawing funny looks, tring to argue it would have probably gotten me fired!

As to the d20 modern angle. Understand that these are not "roles" which is what this is all about. This is an example of taking two different paths to the same destination. I am eagerly awaiting the 4E versions of that one.

Can 4e do this? Can you start with a rogue (striker) and end at 30th level with a striker/controller? Or a Striker/Defender? would it be a playable character?

We keep coming back to the same points...We're, IMO getting hung up on a direct comparison of the editions. I grant that you can attain at least similar character options between editions (not counting missing classes!) Thats cool, you won that one yesterday :)

We're talking specifically roles today

4E IS D&D. There are a lot of folks that would argue that, I'm not one of them. It's DIFFERENT D&D...that's the hangup. If 4E was a re-packages 2nd edition with cool new art, and a better layout, we'd be having the same issues methinks.

Graham|ve4grm said...

As for this being all about roles, I thought we were discussing character concepts. But alright.

Can 4e do this? Can you start with a rogue (striker) and end at 30th level with a striker/controller? Or a Striker/Defender? would it be a playable character?

A character that can do decently in both roles? Yes. Definitely.

But a Rogue/Wizard will be a weaker striker than a straight Rogue, and a weaker controller than a straight Wizard.

They will still be an effective striker (the primary class) and a decent substitute controller.

But the days of one class (cough, Druid, cough) being able to do everything are gone. Because the potential to do everything often results in trying to do everything at once. This either results in doing everything poorly, or doing everything good (see 3e Druid) and thus overshadowing the focused players.

But, yes, you can split your focus through the multiclassing mechanics decently well, and your character will be fully playable.

(Probably the least playable one will be the one I'm making (Paladin/Warlock), as it relies on three separate magic weapons/implements (hammer, holy symbol, wand/rod/blade). But it will still be playable, it will just require more expenditure of resources.

You still haven't answered my "what makes you a rogue" question, though. I would like to hear your opinion on that.

Donny_the_Dm said...

Hmmm...What makes you a rogue? Good question.
First answer would be choice, but that's not what you're looking for.

A.)A focus on stealth
B.)A penchant for thievery
C.)A glass jaw (low HP)
D.)More skills/skill points than everyone else.
E.)A silver tongue

You know, this is harder than I had thought. These are almost all skill based. Those are easy to port over. Hmmm...so if it isn't that, what is bothering me here...Let me find out you already knew that, and I'll put YOU in a sandwich! :)

I dunno, what DOES makes a rogue? Or a fighter for that matter? Anyone?

Graham|ve4grm said...

First answer would be choice, but that's not what you're looking for.

As in class choice? No, that's not what I'm looking for. That's like saying "What makes a ham sandwich?" and getting the answer "The fact that it's a ham sandwich." when the answer you're looking for is "Bread, butter, ham, and condiments."

But your list? See, that's my list, too.

Well, mostly.

The glass jaw is common, but not necessary. A half-orc or dwarf Rogue will usually be pretty tough, and a multiclass Fighter/Rogue will be quite durable as well. But the Fighter/Rogue is still a Rogue.

More skill points than everyone else isn't always true, but a lot of skill points is.

And a silver tongue is true only about half the time, though Bluff is probably 3/4.

But, by your list, here are things that are rogues, or rather that can potentially be rogues:

- Bard
- Ninja
- 4e Wizard with skill training in Thievery, Stealth, Acrobatics (for good measure), and Bluff

I'm pretty sure I can indeed tell you what's bothering you about it, though correct me if I'm wrong. I've seen the exact same situation about a million times on the d20 Modern boards, with people coming over from D&D 3e.

In D&D (all versions before 4e), characters were largely defined by their class name.

You weren't a guild thief, you were a Rogue 6/Guild Thief 5.

Prestige classes were the worst offenders for this, where certain organizations had all of their members from a specific class (Red Wizards of Thay, for one) or certain PrCs were off-limits unless you were part of that organization.

Aka: All Red Wizards are red wizards, and all red wizards are Red Wizards.

But even there, at least the PrC defined a specific occupation or group.

But take Rogue. Ask 10 people, and you'll get at least 8 or 9 different answers of what a Rogue (class) does or can do (in the game world). They'll usually include stealth and thievery, but they won't necessarily include both, and may or may not include social skills.

As such, Rogue is not a specific definition.

But D&D has always treated it like it was.

In 3e, if someone asked you what your character was, and you said "Level 12 Rogue"... what did that even tell them? You have sneak attack, and not many hit points. You could probably open locks, but they couldn't even guarantee that.

4e realised that classes were not good definitions of player ability, and formalised the definitions of roles because of that.

But the class "Rogue" and the character descriptor "rogue" are separate.

Han Solo, for instance, is a rogue (small r). He probably wouldn't have Rogue levels in a D&D game.

A 3e bugbear brute might very well have Rogue levels, but would not fit your definition of a rogue at all.

Not all Rogues are rogues. Not all rogues are Rogues.

Separate the class names from the characters.

Donny_the_Dm said...

lol, got me again!

I think you nailed it! Entrenched thinking is a bitch, so much so that sometimes you don't even realize that that its an issue. Crazy stuff.

I ordered dead tree 4e books today. Pre ordered martial power and the treasure vault book as well.

I wont go so far as to say it's gold, but with a little work, there is a good game in there.

Thank you for helping me clarify my thinking on this. Sometimes we get so tied up obsessing over breeds, that we forget its just a dog! and fun to play with too.

Graham|ve4grm said...

Holy hell!

I did not expect you to actually be convinced enough to order the books!

(Nor would I have been distraught if you didn't, of course.)

In any case, I hope you enjoy the game. I think that you will, if you are able to adjust your thinking a bit. I think that anyone used to 3e can enjoy 4e. It just comes at things from a different mindset.

But still.

Holy hell!

Donny_the_Dm said...

lol!

That's what the whole key to 4e is; a change in thinking. Different times, different designers.

I think a large majority of "haters" would be surprised at how much of their wrath is simply a rabid desire not to change.

4e is the new paradigm now. Even PFRPG isn't 3.5, it's a 3.5/4e hybrid that will probably be forced to abandon simple backwards compatibilty after it's next major revision...different times, different designers.

Graham|ve4grm said...

Oh yeah. Resistance to change is rampant among, well, humans. Us geeks are no exception.

Well, the biggest exception is people like me.

Engineers, that is.

We openly embrace change, because we're the most likely to instigate it in the first place. We're taught from day 1 that change is the only way to move forward.

Too bad that isn't taught to everyone.

re: Pathfinder, I've been largely unimpressed. It looks a lot like a mishmash of the houserules of 5 different playgroups. I dislike many of the changes, and would houserule them back to 3.5e, and the changes I do like are changes they implemented in 4e as well.

So, yeah, even if 4e failed to impress me, I'd be avoiding Pathfinder.

(That, and I've found the mechanics in the Pathfinder adventures I've been running to be somewhere between mediocre and sketchy. Great for story, but poor mechanical products.)