Sep 2, 2008

Okay, I'm sold. Assault on the lightless Depths will be 4th Edition.

Not exactly earth-shattering in it's import, but news it is. I mention this in a post because I want to talk about the reasons why.

As my regular readers may remember, I launched this blog as a public sounding board for my hare-brained projects. Whenever I am too lazy to write about them, I just spout off some other random crap that is generally entertaining at the very least.

My current obsession/project is a re-boot of a classic 2nd edition boxed set that introduced me to the joys (and travails) of Dungeonmastering. My goal is to re-write it using the new mechanics, and improve it enough to make a case of it not being a copyright infringment. Luckily, this is pretty easy if you actually invest a little time.

Thus was born ASSAULT ON THE LIGHTLESS DEPTHS, a combination of all the cool stuff that I want to see/play/run in a campaign.

Epic storyline? Check.
Evil villains? Check.
Dungeons? Check.
Dragons? Check.
Assassins? Check.
Stupid adventurers? Check.

Pretty simple right? Well, not so much. I have yet to find online tools that I am comfortable with to generate most of the encounters, so I have been manually creating the stat blocks and encounters myself...3 signatures have never been so necessary to prevent someone from becoming a danger to themselves or others. It has been AWFUL!

Here's an example. My BBEG at the very end is going to be a class 0 or 1 deity. How long do you think it takes to create a CR 22 Aberration Paragon Deity? So far, 4 1/2 hours. I have three full sheets of notes, a very basic set of skills, a very long list of desired powers and attributes, a proposed list of nearly 15 feats, some flavor text, and not much else. See, I've been hunting through 13 books trying to piece together a coherent whole. Looking forward, I am seeing the halfway point off in the distance...

THIS is why 4E will succeed. It isn't torture to design within the system anymore. Simplicity is not always a bad thing. In fact, in product development, it is usually paramount! So why is it so derided here? Entrenched nerdism gone sour? Fanboy FTW mentality? Wish-I-was-still-a-late-teen angst? Oh well, it's never that simple is it? (pun intended).

After perusing my 4E DMG, I see that the same creature would take more like an hour...tops. Minions? 20 minutes for the base critter, another 20 minutes per variant for the actual named NPC monsters. I don't know about you, but my time is becoming increasingly precious as I get older. It used to be acceptable (hell! it was a badge of honor!) to spend 10-16 hours prepping for a bi-weekly game. I simply do not have that option anymore. Between that and the incessant prodding from Graham @ criticalanklebites, I simply have no reason to hold on to a system, that while it holds a number of fond memories, was still a prison cell disguised as another 10 X 10 room.

My players are cautiously optimistic. I feel honored that they put more stock in my DMing than they do the rules it is built from. This said, I choose the product that is designed specifically to get me away from the hours and hours of homework, and back behind the screen where I belong.

BTW: I got called a 4oron on the Paizo boards the other day! Should I have been mad? I wonder if the mild amusement tempered with pity was the intended response? Somehow I rather doubt it : )


Jonathan said...

link the forum thread from Paizo! I wanna yell at them!

... I'm looking forward to your conversion - you should just post it as you finish parts, and maybe update a "all-in-one" PDF as the parts start to come together.

Graham said...


And once you get used to it, those creation times go down fast! I can whip out a level 4-8 creature in about 10 minutes now, and a higher level one shouldn't take much longer.

Though for the base math, use Asmor's number cruncher.

Oh, and mild amusement tempered with pity, while not the desired response, is indeed the correct one.

Not because we're "right" and 4e is "better", but just because that person feels it's worth throwing names around for.

(Mind linking to that thread, by the way? I'd love to read the back and forth there. Email me if you don't want to post it.)

DoveArrow said...

I haven't had a real opportunity to look at 4E yet, let alone play it, but I can definitely feel your pain when it comes to building 3.5 deities. Right now, I'm working on creating a demilich deity, with a divine rank of 1, for an epic campaign I want to run in 3.5. Suffice it to say, I've been working on the creature for something like 12 hours now, and I'm still not completely done tweaking it. I also think the stat block is ridiculously unwieldly. In fact, it's so bad, that I decided to create a condensed version of the stat block that only contains information pertinent to combat and it still takes up a page and a half.

If nothing else, I certainly hope that 4E has fixed some of the problems of epic level play, because honestly, the act of writing an epic level adventure in 3.5 feels just as epic as anything the PCs might do during the game.

Blotz said...

Good luck to you! I'm not sure if my group can stick with 4ed long enough to fight a deity. As for all the 3.5 problems... we rarely play that high a level. :(

Graham said...

@DoveArrow -

Epic is one of the major smoothing-outs that 4e has, with DM prep time as the other. You just might find a lot to like about 4e, once you take a look.

@Blotz -

Yeah, my group rarely plays at that level as well, in 3e. Thing is, I never really realised why until I got looking at 4e. I never brought them to high levels because it was too annoying for me to run.

Can I ask why you don't think your group would stick with 4e long enough?

ChattyDM said...

I got called a 4oron on the Paizo boards the other day! Should I have been mad? I wonder if the mild amusement tempered with pity was the intended response? Somehow I rather doubt it : )

You have no idea how happy that makes me... Not the 4e thing (although I'm looking forward to see you tackle it). When I first 'met' you on my site, I nearly deleted your angry comment and dismissed you... but I felt that there was something under all that anger and lo and behold... Donny became a Blogger, got readers, joined the Network and influenced Mearls to write a post.

Dude... that makes me very happy for you, more than you embracing 4e.

You rock man.

Donny_the_Dm said...

lol, warm and fuzzies abound tonight!

@Graham & Jonathan - I tried to find it and recieved a notice that the thread has been locked and hidden. Vic wetz (technical director) messaged me and said that the conversation had gone past the point of no return. "Flames for everyone!" To loosely quote Napoleon.

@Dove - Welcome to my humble lair! I just finished creating my uber bad guy. Lvl 26 Solo Controller & Demigod. First bad guy I've statted with 4E - 30 minutes. Hardest part was thumbing through MM looking for cool powers to cherry pick. I'll finish tweaking it tomorrow, and hopefully find a statblock I can cut and paste it into. I was amazed at how easy it was!

@Blotz - Welcome to you as well! 3.5 will always have a special place for me, it was the edition where the training wheels truly came off. I will continue mining ti for all it's worth for years to come. For what it's worth, never had a "successful" game past 13th level. Combats grind to a halt, and battles seemed to degenerate to either cakewalk or TPK...neither of which are very fun.

@Chatty - Thank YOU for the perspective. 3 months ago I was the one throwing insults around. After actually trying the game, and reading the opinions of people I have come to trust, it was only a matter of time before I came back from the dark side :) Technically that makes me your henchman! Though I've always preferred cohort myself.

Once again, thank you all for your support, not just with the project, but in general. This blog was started because I saw the potential to be able to speak my mind to people who actually cared - as opposed to being another random, nameless whiner on a messageboard. Keep rockin folks!

Graham said...

hopefully find a statblock I can cut and paste it into.

As a lesson that I've been drilling into Chatty as well, when you need random stuff from the interwebs, just ask!

Monster Stat Block Templates (Word)

How's that work for ya?

it was only a matter of time before I came back from the dark side

From the dark side... to the dark side... in either case, there's a side involved. And a lack of light.

And dice.

Yeah. Definitely dice.

Anonymous said...

Spot on with your guess at why people enjoy spending hours creating these creatures.

I think this is the sort of thing that should be done for one in the digital age, by those Difference Engines I have heard so much about. But where is the 4e Digital Tabletop thingy when you need it?

I second the call for publication of your conversion, but I should open a can of worms by asking - should deities be governed by anything as earthly as mere "stats"

ChattyDM said...

I second the call for publication of your conversion, but I should open a can of worms by asking - should deities be governed by anything as earthly as mere "stats"

The 4e design teams thinks not. Gods are too unfathomable to be slain by lowly mortals.

Avatars, Aspects and divine agent though are fair game I'd say.

Donny_the_Dm said...

Alas, this is a mere quasi/Demi-god pulled from it's prison on the far plane by the blood sacrifice of thousands of poor spellcasters. I have hopes there will be tentacles for everyone!

Donny_the_Dm said...

ARRRRGGHHH! Damned websense filters. Cannot access template from here...all my ninja skills have been forseen by the IT clan. Hey Graham, could you possibly e-mail the temp to me?

It would be greatly appreciated, as I will have to actually work till I have it (the horror!)

Plotter said...

Maybe non-wotc link?

Plotter said...

Well that didn't work right.

Donny_the_Dm said...

actually thanks to a little cut and paste, it worked just fine! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I played my first ever 4e session tonight. It was a bit ... weird. My backstab was... phenomenally awesome. And people had too many hit points. And the wizards were even weaker. I'm not sure what I think of it, really.

But the DMing was good!

Donny_the_Dm said...

It DOES take a bit of getting used to. Things work differently...even some stuff that has the same names.

Question is, was it fun? Everything else is just quibbling over details :)

Graham said...


I'm so proud! ;-P

Donny_the_Dm said...

Me too :)

Anonymous said...

I think it is essentially better designed than 3.5 (I played for less than 3.5 hours, so probably I'm wrong) but a bit overpowered and touching on silly because of it.

But fun was had, due to good DMing and fun players. My halfling was both deadly and entertaining!