Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Credit Where It's Due

I'll say this much: the section of the 4e Dungeon Masters Guide pertaining to puzzles is well done and broadly consonant with old school design principles, particularly the notion that puzzles exist to challenge the player rather than the character. James Wyatt is to be commended for including this section, even if it's weakened somewhat by rules for handling puzzles as "skill challenges."

5 comments:

  1. If you notice the 4th edition DM Guide is non-judgemental on play style. It just lays out what the author knows and leaves you to choose what element to use (or not). Hence the contradiction of advocating challenging players and then provide a way to use dice rolls to resolve the challenges.

    It is why I get annoyed at poster slamming D&D 4th for advocating a tyranny of fun. Because if they have actually read the new DMG they will see that the authors are trying to be inclusive of different play styles than exclusive.

    The same with the encounter system. Yes it what they present in their own adventures and magazines but if you read the DMG it all presented as recommendations.

    Of course one person recommendation is another's ironclad rule. But I ran into that back in the day with the old level charts for AD&D. (Wait that can't be on the 4th level, that is a 6th level monster!)

    However despite an otherwise excellent DMG for 4th edition there still remain other issues for many (and for myself). The fact that the game is superficially D&D the game, the high action, high fantasy 24/7 nature of the rules, and so on.

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  2. I think this post as well as some of the recent responses to the other posts from today are on the verge of dancing around a point that has been made before and deserves an occasional repeat:

    D&D 4e is first and foremost a commercial product. The whole package (looks, rules, style), is meant to move books for the present market of gamers interested in the D&D brand. Which I argue, perhaps cynically, has existed pretty much since AD&D was created. Good or bad, that is what it is.

    I agree that it looks like some of the people invovled with the game have sympathies for old school gaming, and have tried to give you a way to add those touches here and there, but they also understand their job and IMO opinion did so admirably.

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  3. If you notice the 4th edition DM Guide is non-judgemental on play style. It just lays out what the author knows and leaves you to choose what element to use (or not). Hence the contradiction of advocating challenging players and then provide a way to use dice rolls to resolve the challenges.

    I do appreciate that, which is why I wanted to be clear in this post that I don't think everything about 4e is wrongheaded or ill-conceived. And I think, had 4e been designed more explicitly to be agnostic on the issue of play style and included scaleable mechanics to support that, I might not be so down on it. However, it's clear to me that, while there are nods to the old ways, they're no more than that.

    Because if they have actually read the new DMG they will see that the authors are trying to be inclusive of different play styles than exclusive.

    They are within a fairly narrow range of play styles, most of which I'd call "new school" overall. At the very least, it's clear that the designers believe "old school" is primarily about attitude and that rules are somehow independent of the question.

    Of course one person recommendation is another's ironclad rule. But I ran into that back in the day with the old level charts for AD&D. (Wait that can't be on the 4th level, that is a 6th level monster!)

    This is true, which is why I think what designers present as their most fully fleshed out recommendations is important. It may well be that 4e's encounter system could be twisted into better conformity with the old school, but the presentation we get in the DMG makes it clear (to me anyway) that it wasn't designed for that purpose.

    However despite an otherwise excellent DMG for 4th edition there still remain other issues for many (and for myself). The fact that the game is superficially D&D the game, the high action, high fantasy 24/7 nature of the rules, and so on.

    That's ultimately my conclusion as well. I think one could run an "old school" 4e game, but it'd be only superficially so, since the underlying rules "engine" (how I hate that usage) wasn't designed to emulate that style of play.

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  4. Which I argue, perhaps cynically, has existed pretty much since AD&D was created.

    You'll get no disagreement with me on this score. I recognize that AD&D was every bit as much a creature of commerce as 4e, which is why I tend to champion OD&D above all other versions.

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  5. Kudos on a good point Zweihander, similar to one that came up at our table when 4thed was announced. We looked at our shelf of 3rded books and realized that WotC had pretty much published just about everything they could about 3rded. And being primarily a "publishing company", they needed a new product to publish. So they could stay in business and send all their lil wizards and witches to Hogwarts with new spellbooks and wands.

    And so far so good, 4th edition looks like a publishing bonanza because the system as laid out will allow for an endless stream of new powers and items and monsters splatbooks.

    Now whether its a system I'll like and use myself... that's still up in the air....

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