Posts Tagged ‘angry dm’

The Next D&D N5xt

Posted: 29 June 2012 in The Hobby
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Mike Mearls has an article up talking about the survey feedback they got from the first round of open playtesting for D&D 5E, and what that means for the next round.

As I’m writing this, it strikes me: why am I writing this?  I’ve pretty much already decided that 5th Edition isn’t going to be for me.  At best I’ll riffle through 5E’s pockets for a few nice ideas, but it’s unlikely that they’re going to make a system that serves me better than 3.X or Pathfinder, and certainly not the way they’re heading right now.  Everything about 5E strikes me as “wonky”, so why bother spending more time on it?

I think the answer is: D&D, and role-playing in general, is something I’m passionate about.  I want to see it done well, and so I can’t help but engage in this dialog (such as it is).  D&D 5E probably won’t become something I want, but if I don’t participate it definitely won’t.  It’s still probably a futile exercise, but…

Anyways, go ahead and read Mearls’ article, I’m going to go through and address his points.

I do think they’re on to something with speed of play, though that may just be in light of the slow pace of modern gaming, and D&D 4E in particular.  It strikes me that the way we play modern systems (regardless of the rules system) tends to bog things down with options and analysis and so on.  The playtest rules at least feel a little more “fast and loose,” so I’ll give them credit for that.  I think most people had positive responses for (Dis)Advantage because they haven’t grasped the full implications of the mechanic.  I’ve all-but decided that I’m strongly opposed to it, myself – not because I think it’s a bad idea, but because I don’t like the roll-twice-drop-one mechanic (and the way it’s math plays out alongside static bonuses).

I like the sounds of adding in combat options and different maneuvers.  I’m… intrigued by the thought of Facing rules.  In my gaming career I’ve never encountered anything like that, though the people I know who have rarely seem to have good things to say about it.  Too much book-keeping?  I don’t know.

Surprise (which was just -20 Initiative for those surprised) was actually something I really liked.  I might have changed it to, say, -15 or -10 so that it wasn’t quite as severe (the best you could do when surprised is a score equal to your DEX mod, and most of the time you’d have a negative score — which means you’re going after everyone on the other side for the entire battle).  I can see how the permanent loss of initiative could be frustrating over the period of a long battle.  Maybe make the -20 temporary?  Or have the surprised members just lose their first turn?  It’s something to think about.

Critical hits were automatic on a 20 and did max damage.  I guess I can see how that’s boring, but it’s also not far from the way things have always been.  I’m a fan of 3.X criticals (threat range, confirm roll, and 2x the roll) with my only real complaint being that a crappy roll can do less than a regular hit (been thinking about max damage+roll for my games).  I really don’t like auto-crit on a 20; it means that 1 in 20 swings will be a critical, regardless of how easy or tough your opponent is.   like confirm rolls because it means 1 in 20 *hits* will be a critical, and that’s a bigger number for weak foes and a smaller number for tough ones.

They’re still interested in getting rid of skill points, and I can kind of understand that.  I think it’s a mistake, but I can understand it.  The idea of having training replace your attribute mod instead of enhancing it is interesting, but it means that training is less useful for someone who’s attributes SHOULD make them good at it.  So a character with a -2 mod is just as good with training as the guy with a +3 mod.  That doesn’t feel right.

Resting and Healing is where I had some of the biggest issues with the playtest.  He doesn’t really say much, except that it sounds like they want to put out different sets of rules depending on how gritty you want your game.  when it comes down to it, THAT is one of the things I dislike the most about the way they’re approaching 5E.  If I get together with friends to play 4E or Pathfinder or OSRIC, there’s a reasonable expectation that we all understand the system we’re going to be playing with, with a bit of variance for house rules and preferences.  With D&D 5E, though, the ASSUMPTION going in is that you can drastically change the rules system, and so it strikes me that there will have to be a negotiation each time a group forms — and when I say that, I mean more of a negotiation than “do we want to play 4E or 3.X?  Each time a new campaign starts there will need to be a discussion as to whether we’re using Themes, or Facing Rules, or High Lethality, and when someone tells invites me to their 5E game, I need ask, “well, which 5e?”

The one thing he does say definitively is more than a little concerning for me: they want to move Healing magic out of the spellcasting system and into a theme or something so that Clerics can heal *and do something else* each round, be it heal and attack, or heal and cast a spell, or whatever.  This concerns me because it’s essentially the biggest tactical failing of 4th Edition.  Tactical Healing works best when it’s a choice you need to make, like taking any other defensive move rather than an offensive one.  By allowing a Cleric to do healing and attacks at the same time, there’s no trade off.  Healing becomes assumed (because why would you not choose to heal, if it’s essentially free), and in becoming assumed it becomes necessary.  Now instead of having Cleric (or at least, Healer) as an option, it’s a staple that every party needs to have in order to be successful.

If you don’t want to be a Healer, don’t be a Healer.  If you don’t want all Clerics to be Healers, we’ve already begun to address that.  But if we take away the tactical cost of healing we lose the ability to choose to have it or not.

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I recently read a rather long post by The Angry DM discussing the question “what is Role Playing?”  Angry got a bit irritated by stock phrases like “role playing means different things to different people” and the notion that role playing and dice are mutually exclusive (or at least at odds with each other).  Angry notes that long before Gygax and Crew created their spin-off of Chainmail “role playing” was an actual term with actual meaning.

Angry goes through several pages of discussion (and I think it’s all good stuff), but his thoughts basically boil down to a few key points.

  • Role Playing is the process of envisioning a situation, putting yourself into the place of one of the characters, and then making a decision on what that character would do.  If you’re imagining a scene and deciding what your character would do, you’re role playing.
  • All the other bits that we associate with role playing, including speaking in character and describing actions, are good aids for role playing, but they’re really just presentation.  They help the other players understand the new situation that comes about once your character has acted, but they aren’t  necessary to role playing as such.  Someone who narrates rather than monologues is role playing just as much as anyone else.
  • There are two classes of role playing — ‘weak’ role playing, where the decision you make would be made the same way and for the same reasons regardless of what character you’re portraying (buying an item at $30 instead of $60); and ‘strong’ role playing, where the decision you make is heavily based on the personality of the character you’re portraying, and often involves resolving an internal conflict (wanting two mutually exclusive things, or not wanting either of two options).
    • “Weak” and “strong” are not meant to signify “bad” and “good” roleplaying, it’s just a matter of how dependent on the character your choices are.  Angry notes that in some cases, such as combat, weak role playing can be very appropriate, as people trained for high stress situations fall into predictable routines.
    • Angry also notes that this doesn’t preclude combat from having strong role play opportunities — the Elf Fighter who engages the Orc opponent, heedless of his party or other considerations, because he has an intense hatred for Orcs, is making a strong role playing decision.

This whole discussion struck a chord with me because (as with many posts I read relating to our hobby) it gave me words for considerations that I didn’t have before.  It would often bother me when, having asked my players what their character’s attitude or opinion on a thing was, they would respond with “why should I have to know that?” or “why should I decide that now?” or “I just want to develop my character through play.”  I’ll acknowledge that developing characters in play is valid (and honestly expected), but I can now say why the lack of a clear understanding of my player’s characters bothers me: I yearn for strong role play, where characters are presented with difficult choices to make and internal conflicts to resolve.  That is exceedingly difficult to achieve as a GM if I can’t get a view on what my player characters care about, or fear, or whatever.

I don’t have a good fix to the issue (I still desire answers and my players still resist providing them) but at least I know what’s going on and can begin to address it constructively.

Adjusting 4E

Posted: 14 June 2012 in House Rules
Tags: , ,

When all is said and done, 4th Edition is what finally brought me in to the D&D fold.  It made the game approachable in a way that bad DMs and years of textbooks to catch up on never did.  I was repelled by it’s flaws pretty quickly and fell in with Pathfinder and (to a much lesser extent) the OSR movement, but I still owe 4E some credit.  I also have a number of friends (including my wife) who came on board with 4E and don’t feel as strongly about it’s flaws as I do, so I’ve decided to put effort into “fixing” the system so I don’t find it so repellant.  I’ll be collecting those house rules on a new Page I’ve created, and probably adjusting my adjustments as I find what works and what doesn’t.

A lot of this is based off of comments made on Dissociated Mechanics, Defining Your Game, and the Dual Faces of Healing, probably some other sources and influences as well.  Right now I only have a few beginning notions of what I think I need to fix, and the barest notion of how to fix them.  Thoughts and feedback are welcome.

Energy Sources : All classes in 4E have an energy source, not unlike characters in Diablo 3, but it’s a rather informal, dissociated thing.  I’d like to clean that up, and make it reasonable that a Fighter only gets 3 Encounter powers every 5 minutes, and 2 Dailies each day.

Energy Conversion: Related to Energy Sources, I feel like there should be some notion of converting between Encounter energy and Daily energy.  It’s all effectively Mana or Focus or Fatigue, just bigger or smaller chunks, you should be able to give up a Daily to recharge Encounters, or forgo your encounters to fire off an extra Daily, right?

Power Through Pain: So what happens when you’re out of Energy?  You just can’t do anything but basic moves?  I think I want to have a mechanic where characters can overexert themselves if they’ve expended all their energy, perhaps Fatiguing, Exhausting, or Damaging themselves as they push their body beyond what’s “safe”.

Tactical Healing: I think that there’s generally way too much healing available in combat, and it’s rarely done in a way that forces a tactical choice.  I’d like a way to change that, and preferably something better than individual errata on ever Cleric power.

Recovery: Recovery between encounters is something that I also feel there’s way too much of; there’s little sense of lasting consequences from poorly chosen or poorly executed plans.  I’d like to scale that back and make recovery available and reliable, but not necessarily instantaneous.