Tashiro (tashiro) wrote in roleplayers,
Tashiro
tashiro
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Personal Thoughts on 4E.

I'm not a jerk, really.  I just play one on TV.  ;)
The reason I'm doing this as an indie post is to explain some of my view on things, and my general objections, and how it applies to not only 4E, but to some RPGs in general.  Everyone has their own dislikes and likes (and hey, if you want to reply on that here, that'd be awesome) when it comes to RPGs, and if you happen to like an RPG, cool.  If you don't, that's cool too.

I think my two disconnects with 4E D&D is 1) they took away options from the game, rather than adding them, and 2) they divorced the rules from the setting.  The game is more an abstraction rather than a literalism.  Both of these things very much bug me.



1)  Options.  In the Red Box, you had Humans with Classes, and Demi-Humans without Classes.  'Elf' was a Class.  Since this was my very first RPG, I didn't see a disconnect with it.  Until I saw AD&D.  The idea of a demi-human being something other than a demi-human was cool.  AD&D 1E added to what the Red Box provided.  It had its own limitations (maximum attributes by sex and by race, and Class limits by attributes and by race), but it was more than what was provided in Basic.

2E AD&D was more a refinement of 1E, and provided Kits, which allowed you to tweak Classes without having to make entirely new Classes.  This is where the Fighter / Samurai came in, or the Bard / Blade.  This added to the game, allowing more flexibility and the ability to tweak your character.  Creating brand new Kits were easy.  Sure, the mechanics were a bit... lackluster... in places, but the overall concept was good.  (And I loved the Shi'ar).

3.0 (and by extention, 3.5) added to this.  They removed level limits from demihumans, they made everyone able to Dual Class without incident, they evened out the XP needed to level, and they took Proficiencies from 1E and made them a solid part of the game (non-weapon proficiencies became skills).  Everyone had access to spells from 1st to 9th level, rather than just wizards, and they added spontaneous casting.  I was a bit sad to see Kits go, but Prestige Classes were fairly decent as a concept.  Feats were added, which I felt was a bonus.  To me, while 3E is rather rules heavy, provided the most flexibility for characters.  Want to play a nobleman?  Sure.  Commoner?  Sure.  The pig farmer struggling against the goblins who, down the line, becomes a hero of the land?  Yep.  The spoiled priss who's never seen a day's work in his life who learns the meaning of hardship, loses everything, and begins to rise again a better person?  That's here too.

Star Wars Saga Edition, I feel, was what 4E should have been.  It was 3E, but streamlined and cleaned up in a way that was intuitive.  It didn't bog the game down, and in fact cut out some of the excesses, making the whole thing smoother.  It was made so you could use minis if you wanted, but you could set them aside and get things done.  It blended social aspects of the game and adventure aspects into a nice whole, I feel.

4E D&D removes a lot from the game.  Multiclassing is almost thrown out the window -- something which I think 3E had done well.  It's certainly complex and almost unrecognizable.  The idea of starting at the bottom, fighting for your survival, and climbing your way up is pretty much gone.  The hazards and trials that come from being low level are diminished (if not removed).  You start heroic, and the only direction is up.  To me, that isn't heroic.  Heroic comes from being outclassed, knowing that you are putting your life in serious, real jeapordy, and then going ahead anyway.  If three quarters of your group die, and you're left with one or two survivors, and decide 'yes... I'd do that again, because it was the right thing to do', then you're a hero.  If you go 'well, that was a bit of a workout, let's all go to the tavern, drink, and swap stories', then ... no, you're not a hero.

2)  I'm a huge proponent of 'the world defines the engine, the engine defines the world'.    The world itself dictates what the engine should be, and the engine defines what the world is.  For example, if your world is a grim, bleak place where death may lurk behind every door, then the mechanics god-damned well better reflect that.  If the characters aren't able to die at the drop of a hat, then there's something wrong with the mechanics -- a disconnect between what the setting says it is, and what the engine says it is.  Alternatively, if you're playing a setting which is supposed to be low fantasy, but the mechanics allow for tweaks and twists which allow characters to go beyond what the setting says -- a disconnect exists between the limits imposed by the setting, and the limits imposed by the mechanics.

As D&D progressed through iterations, it added a lot to the game.  It went from a 'generic, humanocentric fantasy game' to a more flexible fantasy game with allowances for different game worlds (Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Al-Quadim), to a much more flexible game system which allowed a lot of plug-and-play.  Wanted a specific feel?  Remove certain Feats, add other Feats, bar specific Prestige Classes, build specific Prestige Classes.  Now, for the record, 3E has a lot of faults, mostly because to really know what you're doing you need a spreadsheet (always a minus).  A character really shouldn't need to take a half hour or more to figure out what you're doing and how everything interlocks, but this was a price for the flexibility 3E provided.

4E D&D seems to have taken a step back.  Instead of being open ended, it seems more closed.  If you want to make a specific genre, you're going to have to look at the Feats (though a lot of Feats have somewhat removed setting-specific feels), and then you're needing to look at Abilities.  A boat load of Abilities.  You'll need to figure out which fits with what you want, and which doesn't.  You're going to need to then make new ones, and that is far, far from intuitive.  And the thing is, regardless of what you do, 4E is high fantasy.  Very high fantasy.  There's no other genre present.  A low fantasy game doesn't exist in this engine, and the game, in spite of what it says on the tin...

You have the freedom to create anything you can imagine, with an unlimited special effects budget and the technology to make anything happen.

... doesn't.  Do I have the technology to make the apprentice from Dragonslayer?  The guy with almost no magical skill to his name, a few cheap tricks, who ultimately puts down his spells and picks up the spear and shield to slay the dragon?  The guy who was very very very oh my god over his head from day one?  Now, mind you, in 3E, you aren't going to be killing dragons at 5th level solo, but the point is the appearance of the character is present:  A 1st level Commoner, 2nd level MU, 1st level Fighter.

Or, a personal favourite, a courtier.  Someone who has never seen the battlefield (and if lucky never will), whose every word in court can make or break careers and end lives, and who has ninja minions to do her sneaky spy and slay stuff in the halls of power.  Someone I know said she's more a plot device, but the thing is... I strongly disagree.  I don't think 'social' characters should be relegated to plot devices.

The 4E engine, I feel, has taken away a lot of what was good in prior editions, and essentially moved the game into an MMO feel.  That's good for people who like MMOs and tactical combat games, and that's bad for roleplayers who don't.  I think that's why there's been a shift to Pathfinder (and perhaps True d20, though I don't know there) -- because Pathfinder has refined a lot of what was good about 3.5, and removed a lot of what was bad.

Anyway, that's my personal views on this whole matter.  :)  Agree or disagree as you will.
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