Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Time for (Edition) War, A Time for Peace (I Swear it's not too Late)

This post is a response to Bruce Cordell's blog post A Time to Heal on the DnD Next playtest group. You should take the time to read it if you haven't and vote on the poll. If you haven't yet and you are at all interested in DnD next you should bookmark that page and make your voice heard. For those of you expecting Weekly Homebrew I am going to try to get an article out at the normal time, but I really wanted to respond to Cordell's article.

I did pick up the t-shirt though
If you follow my blog you know that although I am definitely not an Edition Warrior (tm), I do have some concerns about the direction DnD next is going. If all you play are home games with your friends who all have similar playstales perhaps my concerns sound overblown to you. But imagine this, you go to your FLGS, a con, or even the D and D Virtual Table all set to play some 4e DnD. When you arrive the DM says I'm sorry I'm running Basic D and D I hope you can adjust. If you are a 1e Veteran the scenario also works in reverse just imagine your DM started running 4e one day without letting you know.

But you say DnD next is big enough for everyone. You can play your 4e Wizard with my 1e Fighter all at the same table. Well first I am not entirely convinced that will be the case. I certainly hope it is the case. I have no problem with someone else playing a Vancian Wizard, but I have no interest in it. I have talked a lot more about this subject here, but even if I can bring my character to the table, there is another problem which Cordell's article pointed out that I hadn't even considered. That problem is the Cure Selfish Wounds Cleric.

What do you mean all I know how to do is one sword swing?
I am a big fan of party optimization. I think D and D works best when you have a well rounded party both mechanically and for story purposes. At the very least you should try to have some connections between your characters so they have some reasons to work together and you should at least think about how they will work together in combat. I tend to weigh in on the side of game versus simulation, even though I really enjoy the shared storytelling aspect. I may be in the minority, but I believe that the game will run better if you have a balanced and well planned party.

Because of this I think it's very important to know what you are getting into for party composition. I know not everyone agrees with me, but it's how I prefer to roll. I like to have an idea what the others are playing so I can either pick something that will make us totally awesome, like a lazylord for a group with lot's of good basic attacks. Or conversely, I can fill in some roles to keep us at least at the baseline. That's one reason I really like the Berserker. I can provide some baseline defense while also bringing the pain to those who oppose me.

I am Delzoun you will FEAR ME!
The problem with bringing back some of the older edition stereotypes is that we left them behind for a reason. Some things can be fun to have at the table even if I don't like them. I suppose a Vancian wizard would probably fall under this, although I really don't want to have to rest after one round because my friend cast his one spell for the day. What I really don't want to deal with at the table is a cleric who doesn't heal or lead in any other way. I think a destruction cleric trope is fine, but if you are going to have a cleric there needs to at least be some baseline that they operate at for healing and whatever else leading means to you. I really like how this was handled in 4e all leaders have a baseline healing that is cheap and easy. I don't want to see a return of CoDzilla.

When I play D and D I want to show up at the table and have an idea what experience I am going to have. I want to be able to talk to my DM and the other players before the game and show up knowing whether I am going to play something like 4e, something like 1e or something like GURPS. I may enjoy playing all those games, but if I show up to play 4e and I am handed GURPS I will be disappointed. Furthermore if I am told to expect a cleric and I find Delzoun god of destruction sitting across from me I'll be disappointed as well. Not because I want Brian to play a cleric, but because I would have brought the cleric if I had known Brian was going to play Delzoun. As always your mileage may vary. Until next time remember don't let your DM tell you no. It's always, "Yes and...?"


  1. I'm not as concerned about some of the specifics - will the party have healing, is it mechanically balanced, etc. - as I am the overall effect. I don't see how fragmenting the player base is going to bring us all together under one big umbrella.

    Moreover, the whole, "Let's set aside the hate," ideal is great...for folks who didn't just spend the last three years being called a 4ron or 4tard. - John

    1. My concern is being able to have a conversation about the game that we all know what we're saying. I also really really like the everything is core concept from 4e and I will be sad to see it go. Honestly I will probably keep playing 4e unless I can find a DnDnext game that runs like it. And John I totally agree with you. I want to slaughter the Edition Warriors from Pathfinder who say 4e is just an MMO. Clearly they didn't ever play with you. As an aside the correct term is 4venger or 5hilistine. I submit Pathfind3r for 3.x, but if someone has a better name I'll be more than happy to use that instead.

    2. I can see how there'll be a core that is a kind of lingua franca. Beyond that, I don't see people really *wanting* to have a conversation. If we can each pick our mechanics, what's to discuss?

      I won't be sad to see "everything is core" go. My personal feeling is that I've been playing so long that bog standard, vanilla D&D is boring. I'm interested in doing something unique - if that means I can't play a Warforged Bladesinger, I'm okay with that.

      But I think the problems with people not getting along include more than just Pathfinder folks. There's quite an online, vocal contingent of folks - folks who play Pathfinder, who stuck with WotC's 3e, who stuck with second edition, who stuck with AD&D, who are playing BD&D, or who are still playing OD&D - who have deep, deep issues surrounding 4e and who have taken it out on those who do enjoy it.

      It's kinda like Dell announced a new computer, saying that not only will it run Windows but Mac OS as well, and that Apple and PCs fans will put aside any animosity and ideological differences to use it as one big happy family.

      Yeeaaaahhhhh...not gonna happen. - John

    3. Well John I can't argue with you there. And that's even if they could get it to run both effectively without sacrificing one or the other. I have to say the lingua franca is very important to me. I like planning out a party that will work well together. I often don't get that even in 4e where we kind of have that lingua franca. Without it I don't really think I am going to want to come to the table. And I respect your opinion on everything is core, but I heartily disagree. I have no problem limiting myself for a theme game, but if I am going to limit myself then the DM needs to get my buy in by running a theme I am interested in. I have had far too many of my fun toys taken away for "no reason" to want to give everything is core away now that I have it. In fact that is my new battle cry. You can have "Yes and...?, Everything is core, and the information imperative" when you take them from my cold dead hands! Let the Edition war commence. (Mostly Tongue in Cheek)

    4. Yeah. People playing at the same table is interesting, but I feel it's unimportant when juxtaposed with how well the modular system actually works.

      Beyond mere mechanics, I'm not sure how much fun it's going to be to play a basic character at a table where everyone else has chosen complex characters.

      I'm curious though about buy in. How did you get people's buy in for the Arthurian game? Is it just their agreeing to play? - John

    5. Well it depends on how basic is basic. Sometimes I enjoy playing a character that has to reinvent the wheel every five seconds, but lately I have enjoyed the Essentials style classes, which tend to be a lot more basic then some of the earlier classes. As for getting buy in, I really didn't. The way it would normally work for the VT is I would post a campaign description on the find a campaign forum and people who are interested in the campaign post and we hash out the details that way. Sadly this time I just posted an open game and you got what you got. I hope no one wanted to play a Tiefling Psion.

  2. I think the basic characters are going to be about BD&D basic. As I understand it, they'll have a pre-selected standard ability every level or every few levels - otherwise, it's all To-Hits, AC, and HP, baby.

    If the complex characters are more like 4e characters - getting to Push, Pull, Slide, Prone, et al., the bad guys all the time - I'm seriously wondering how exciting basic will be. (Even for a guy like me.)

    To me, it seems like saying, "I'm interested in running an Arthurian campaign. If you're interested, make an appropriate character" is getting buy in. Those who aren't interested don't make up characters and join the game. Certainly, a DM find that no one is interested in his or her game or a player may find the game very different than the one advertised, but generally, accepting the invite is buy in. - John

    1. I think, and keep in mind I haven't played in the pool yet, I think that the idea is that things like slides pushes and pulls is supposed to be handled by Player DM interaction. There is something to this if that is the case. I mean I have several times lately been able to use a power in a way not strictly allowed by the wording by making the case with the DM. It is entirely possible that if the player DM interaction piece is handled well the 4e style player may grow jealous of the freedom the more basic character has to interact with the world. Of course there is nothing stopping the Batman from interacting with the world and there never was so I may be talking out of my butt. To your other point I think a DM should sell the game a little bit more than I'm making an Aurthurian game, but yeah that's about the size of it. I will say that to me buy in is that, AND letting the player be part of the world creation when you can. I love the shared storytelling aspect of the game when it works.