Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nerdrage Over 5e?

I saw this image on blogger buddy Tim Brannan's The Other Side as I was trying to find a suitable image for this post. It is originally from theweem.com. This may be an oddly convoluted post, and I do not guarantee continuity, nor conclusion.

No doubt many of you have heard the announcement that Wizards of the Coast owners Hasbro have announced that a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is in development, and the Nerdiverse was agog with... well, mostly ire. This is extremely common. New editions always fuel edition wars. The switch to 4e was so disliked that it caused a whole new game, Pathfinder, to be born based on D&D 3.5 rules under the d20 open license.

Now, I do not love every edition of D&D, but as the graphic says, whatever is being played, I will play it. I am not a huge fan of 2nd Edition or 3.5e, but those are mechanics based dislikings rather than spite for change. What Hasbro is doing that is semi-smart is asking for player input.

The biggest problem with edition wars is how silly they get. The major complaint about 4e is that it does not foster role-play and is too much like World of Warcraft. This is sill on several levels. First, role-play is just a style of playing. You can role-play Yatzee if you really want to. The mechanics of 4e are primarily for combat, but in truth there have never been hard-and-fast rules for role-playing in any edition. Sure, 1st Edition had charts on what races got along or hated each other and provided modifiers to interaction based on these, but ultimately it was up to the Dungeon Master. You, as DM may say that dwarves and elves get along swimmingly, or that half-orcs are considered rare and beautiful. Throw those charts out the window then. A modern example is in my current game where the DM has decided that Lloth is not in fact evil, and the drow are more of an unknown that a race predisposed to malevolence. I have seen it mentioned that when you try to role-play in 4e it angers the combat-centric players. That, my friend, is not the edition's fault but rather the people at your table.

As long as we are talking about player input, here are some (mostly) edition-neutral things I would like to change, though most are things that a DM could demand of his group.

Multi-Classing: the character who is multi-classed is bad at two or more things. the whole concept comes out of a 1st edition (2nd edition as well?) ruling that non-humans could only progress so far in any class. Say you are a dwarven fighter and reached your maximum allowable level as a fighter. What do you do? You become a level 1 thief or assassin, as these were the only other classes you could be. Racial class restrictions are a thing of the past, but we still have players who want to multi-class, despite the fact that there is a plethora of classes and at least one will suit your multi-class desire. Want to be a fighter-wizard? Sword mage. Fighter-rogue? There is a build for that.

Memorized Rituals: I do like that wizards can be effective for an entire fight now. They used to be the porn-stars of D&D. They shoot their wad, and that's it for the day. The problem is that some rituals (the replacement for more role-play spells) are useful in combat, but not useful enough to warrant being a power. Take Sun's Glow for example. it is a non-offensive version of light, but you have to use up an attack power slot to get it.

From my webcomic Clerics Get No Love
If we could memorize some rituals with ritual slots, then we could do away with such predominantly useless powers.

Alright. I'm done. When there is a new edition I will likely play it, and if I don't like it I'll find people who still want to play 4e. D&D is D&D, the rules are just rules. The fun is the important bit.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

Hear! Hear!
Thanks for the shout out too!

I am prepping a post about what GOOD things we should be looking forward to in a new D&D game, but I agree with what you are saying here.

In the end it is all about getting around the table, playing a game and having fun.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I am sure there will be a lot of improvement, but at the time of writing I was still groggy and had not my Red Bull yet.

If anything, D&D is a survivor. It will learn from the games that would not exist had D&D not existed, and I am sure they will take player input into account, to a point.

I am fortunate now that I play with a pretty awesome group. It is a bit big (sometimes there are 11 PCs), but the core players are good guys/gals who enjoy the role-play aspect, and do not play out of character. As far as role-play vs combat goes, you certainly can role play in combat. My Eladrin rogue is a noble, so he is very cock-sure in combat. We fought a 200+hp dragon last session (along with its underlings) and I was the main antagonist. I also threaten opportunity attacks a lot, as "certainly they cannot hit me!"

Aaron E. Steele said...

"I have seen it mentioned that when you try to role-play in 4e it angers the combat-centric players. That, my friend, is not the edition's fault but rather the people at your table."

We'll have to disagree on that point. If system matters (and it does) then those things that are expected of the participants should be rewarded.

Since you are rewarded for combat, and completing quests, in 4e, those are the activities that should be undertaken.

Therefore, it is completely appropriate for 4e players to discourage role-playing. It is a sub-optimal activity.

It is 100% the edition,s fault. 4e is designed to provide rewards for combat and quests. To suggest otherwise is pure obtuseness.

If you want to foster role-playing, establish rules that encourage and reward it. I'm just so tired of the people arguing that 4e does not prevent role-playing. The more apt question is how does it encourage it?

The answer, of course, is that it does not.

Darius Whiteplume said...

The role play is independent of all systems, save those where it is the only aspect (like Trollbabe and other storytelling RPGs). If a group does not mesh, whether it is any edition of D&D, GURPS, or parcheesi, that is the limiting factor. Rewards like XP have always been based on combat, including 1st edition where you earned XP for treasure value (treasure you had to fight for). If the bulk of players are combat centered, then the role playing style player may, I hate to say, find another group. The opposite is true as well. Then benefit of good role playing in D&D has always been up to the DM.

As far as rules go, we are talking about combat mechanics. Combat means life or death so cannot be as subjective as whether you made a good argument to the captain of the guard or the old creepy woman in the woods. As these are subjective you cannot make mechanics for them, otherwise all role playing becomes skill challenges. "Do I trick the old lady? I have a 25 bluff role, so yes." most DMs would not allow such

Darius Whiteplume said...

Sorry, iPad froze up and I could only post. Couldnt cut/paste.

I think most DMs would demand that you explain how you are tricking the old lady, and weigh your roll result, should they demand one, against your explanation. Like I said in a previous comment, my current group is very role play heavy, the DM and most of the players. The rules don't limit or deter that. If I want to play a paper and pencil version of WoW, I need to find another group, or if I bitch that we spent two hours of play talking to a shopkeeper (which we did recently), they should perhaps ask me to not return.

Trying not to sound beligerent, and I appologize if I do, but I still contend that role playing is around the table. D&D has always encouraged role playing, but never rewarded it in black and white. That's why every PHB devotes a whole two pages to "what is role playing" and then gets straight to mechanics.

I agree it would be nice, say to get XP for healing or avoiding combat, but still we are tied to the DM. if he/she thinks those rules are crap, then they are out and you might be in the wrong game.

Aaron E. Steele said...

It will be interesting to see what WOTC does with 5e.

T. Roger Thomas said...

I don't anticipate this will affect me.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Aaron - agreed.

@TRT - :-)

dirtydomino said...

I have to agree for the most part. I for one enjoy 4e and have ever since it came out. I do hear the comments that compare 4e to World of Warcraft, and having played the MMO since vanilla, I have to say that's not really an accurate statement. I also hear it being said mostly by people who don't even play WoW.

Regardless, having run a few long term campaigns since 4e was released, I will say there was an adjustment period. We were use to doing basic attacks all the time -- now we had some cool powers to use. There was a great deal of belly groaning about the rituals and how cool those spells were in older editions. But, over time -- about 6 months of playing once every week or so -- we caught on to the new system and really started to enjoy having more abilities. We figured out there was a time and a place for a ritual and how to work it best into the game.

If anything, there has been more RP since we started playing 4e than before. I try to have a balance in the groups that I GM as they are in the middle of the road when it comes to combat and RP. And who says RP and combat can't be combined? Intimidating a bloodied enemy into surrendering is RP. Having the player act out how his character intimidates the enemy and having me act out the response is good RP.

Heck, in my last campaign, my party spent 4 hours one session researching various clues and speaking with multiple npcs in an attempt at catching a sort of "Jack the Ripper" type character. Not once was a single weapon unsheathed that entire night and they said they had a blast.

World of Warcraft focuses on combat, but that doesn't mean there aren't players there who don't roleplay. I goes both ways.

The stage (platform) is there in 4e, all it needs are the performers and in some cases, a good director.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Hi DD, we have certainly had combat-free 4e sessions, and I think the simplicity of rules (or one could argue complete lack of) force role playing in some respects. I have been looking over Big Eyes, Small Mouth recently, and they are pretty specific about you not using a lot of rules for things that a character should be able to do. Driving a car, for instance needs no rolls, however evading pursuers or surviving a crash might.

I too was an early adopter of 4e. I like the attack powers. My one slight objection is that most classes are on fairly equal footing, but some are slightly useless (my wife played a druid in 2nd/3e and hates druids in 4e). I think things could be more fluid on a player end. We had a young player who wanted to play a spellcaster, but use a bow. Our DM was not sure what to make her. I was thinking "just take sorcerer powers and say they are something bow-based" to make a sort of arcane archer. That too is role playing, and completely possible in the system. I'd like to see what they will come up with for 5e, but I do hope it is not to much of a step backwards.

dirtydomino said...

I had made up a druid a while back and I thought she was pretty interesting when I was done with her. I guess it depends on what type of druid your wife was playing, but mine was a animal-form meleer/off-tank, so it worked pretty well.

A spellcaster who uses a bow is possible. There are a plethora of feats that allow for the switching of implements, but I think the only real downside to that is you have to subscribe to Wizards to use their builders that has all the most up-to-date abilities through their Dungeon/Dragon magazines. But it is a business after all and they've got to make money somehow.

I think the biggest complaint from my players (who have been playing since the first box release from the 70s) don't like that the skills are boiled down too generically. For instance, they had captured a prisoner and wanted to tie him up. The wanted the "Use Rope" skill from 3e and it's not there for 4e. Same with the appraisal of gems, etc. But we were able to work things out -- thievery check (DEX-based) to tie up a prisoner, streetwise skill to find out how much you could sell a gem in the market, etc. Just got to improvise sometimes and there is nothing wrong with House Rules if everyone at the table agrees to them.

Two of the players (one of which is my husband) doesn't like how a lot of the abilities of casters are not as powerful as they use to be. They liked a wizard being OP in the old school editions and miss that a "Ring of Flight" doesn't work constantly. But people are going to have a problem when you have to take away to make things more balanced.

In the end, it's really about making the players feel like a hero. We've signed up to participate in the building of 5e. So we'll see how things turn out.

Darius Whiteplume said...

To be fair to 4e, the wife was just learning it, and is a bit of a power gamer. She'd likely do more after getting a hang of things, but cannot get over the memory of her rockin' 3e druid. :-)

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