Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dungeons and Dragons - Some Musings on Editions

A while back, I was asked for my opinion on the different editions and still stewing over 5e, but posting because it's Thursday.


After pretty much completely redesigning a d20 system from the ground up, I really appreciate the game design of 4e.

If nothing else, they have a real separation of fluff and crunch so rules aren't hidden.

The other is a term I like to call Cookisms, after Monte Cook's love of mages.

This is wherever a rule that balanced Spellcasters in 2nd was mitigated or outright removed from 3rd.

For example

1. in 2e, a spellcaster was successfully hit, they lost their spell, making their overpowered spells have a real chance of failing. In 3e, spellcasters were given a concentration check which usually removes that chance entirely.

2. in 2e, most magic items found are for nonspellcasting classes, especially fighters and making magic items is a real choice and a real loss to make. In 3e, spellcasters can make magic items and combining that most spellcaster magic items are cheap as hell, so it really disrupts this balancing mechanic.

3. fighters went from having some of the best saves at high levels, to only being good with fortitude...which makes them easy pickings to will and ref saves.

4. To placate the need for somebody to play a cleric, they got spontaneous spellcasting of healing spells, instead of opening up whom can heal. Words cannot express my joy of the warlord of 4e that can fit a similar role.

5. Druids are similarly broken. While I never liked the druid duel for the connection., one single feat really broken them completely: natural spell. You can now cast spell while shape shifted, which after about 8 level is pretty much all the time.

hell I used to pretend to be the wizard's familiar for ambushes, and turn into something big like a bear (because my physical stats were determined by which creature I shifted into). I had this dire ape, wood shape, shillelagh trick that allowed me to thump people for massive damage.

6. feats, while a good idea if refined a bit, became a straight jacket for the fighter class. it really limited what the fighter could do without feat investment and there was no gauge for power level.

7. the idea of system mastery: A lot of stuff was seeded to trick and trap pcs into bad character builds.

8. prestige classes were required for anything beyond the core to keep up and they weren't made equal. I had a good friend who wanted to play a master lasher whip master and he was pretty much useless in most scenarios.

9. worse, optimized characters rarely looked like the standard archetypes. You had to mix a prestige class in there somewhere to get what you want and it usually ended up as a frankenstein.

Pathfinder did fix a few things (such as balance the druid), but it's biggest problem is it didn't use it's fixes completely.

CMB/CMD is a fantastic mechanic. However, it should have been used consistently throughout all associated mechanics. There are a few places where they merely copied and pasted the original spell and ignored the mechanic.

They also introduced new tier 1 (aka broken classes): the witch, the summoner and the oracle.

This is to not say 4e isn't perfect

1. skill challenges needed serious refining so it wasn't used as a blunt instrument by vindictive gm's to force you to use your weakest skills. While this was fixed somewhat in dmg2, some strands still occur.

2. we never got a martial controller ....grumble (I want my acrobat dag nab it).

3. feats went as crazy as in 4e as in 3rd.

4. there was a math fix that was required based on game design.

None of these were insurmountable and was kinda looking forward to a 4.5, but it ultimately it was undone by licensing.

the gsl was much stricter then the ogl

1. It could be revoked at any time. Thus very few people wanted to put their faith in wizard's judgment. This decision was proven correct.

2. It had no wiggle room for alternative setting development. I wanted to see a 4e modern dag nab it.

3. they used the dnd insider to limit access to 3rd party development.

and it was even worse on inception.

honestly, if the gsl was more lenient, I probably would have used gamma world 7th as a base for my own material. It is one of my most favourite games and is amazing for duplicating rifts without the bull.

I'd love your thoughts on the subject.  What changes have you seen over your gaming career.  Feel free to post in the comments below. :)

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