Friday, September 24, 2010

Five Things 4th Edition Does Poorly

Since the theme of the week seems to be 4E I thought I would share some of the parts I dislike about 4E - it's good but it ain't all sunshine and rainbows.

#5 - Marks. What the hell does this represent in-game and why do we need it? I have a whole near-rant here so I won't repeat it but it is a "seam" in the game for me.

#4 - Nitty-Gritty: I don't see many 4E characters buying 10' poles, caltrops, flaming oil, darts, spikes & hammers, or any of that old dungeoneering equipment we all used to get in the Basic/1E and maybe even 2E days. No one worries about who's the "mapper". There's not as much expedition-preparing or equipment-preparing anymore. I have yet to see or hear of a 4E party buying a mule. It's not a huge issue but it does affect some of the feel.of low-level play.

#3 - Gritty: There was a lot of talk about minions when 4E came out, monsters who die in one hit. Hell, in 1E every low-level character and monster is effectively a minion - able to be killed in one hit. It instilled a healthy sense of self-preservation and reinforced "the run" as a viable solution to an encounter. In 4E low-level characters and monsters often have 20+ hit points to start with meaning nobody dies in one hit. This has brought the concept of "grind" to a prominent place in discussions of 4E combat, sort of the opposite of what is supposed to happen in a game with "mook" or minion rules.

#2 - Henchmen & Hirelings - There are some kinda-sorta rules in the DMG2 for companion characters but what if I don't want a companion? Maybe I just want a couple of men-at-arms wearing leather armor and carrying spears working for 1gp a day.  Maybe I want a couple of war dogs to help out. There are kludges but it's not easy to do.

#1 Verisimilitude - A lament in 3 parts

The Bard in my main campaign has a power called Vicious Mockery. It's an at-will, so he uses it a lot. He has killed people with it.How exactly does that work? He doesn't speak Kobold (Draconic), yet he can apparently string together enough curses in Koboldish to make the poor little buggers' heads explode! yes I know you can visualize it however you want but that's not always a feature - sometimes it's a bug. If it was a daily I could get through it as pulling off the perfect zinger or the Killing Joke but it get used multiple times in every combat!

Fighters have Daily powers. He can swing a sword a certain way that will do triple damage, knock the guy back 3 squares, and leave him stunned, but he can only do it once a day. Why? It's a Martial Power - it's not a magical power or a magic item that lets him do it. It's not coming from a god. It's specifically described as training, natural talent, or a trick he knows. How come if he uses it against some bandits on the road he can't use it on the orc barbarian when he gets to the dungeon? Some people used to gripe that wizards forgetting spells as they were cast was stupid and unrealistic - now we have fighters forgetting their signature moves as they are used. how is that better? At least before you could say "it's just magic and that's how it works in this world." Now we can't even use that.

Treasure comes in "parcels". now I ignore the groupings myself and just total up the amount and "parcel" it out as I see fit but this is tougher to do with magic items. Magic items are all assigned a level now which should probably make them easier to arbitrate and hand out but  there are versions of just about everything for each of Heroic, Paragon, and Epic tiers. So you don't just have a "Sunblade" anymore - you have three levels of them now. Seems to make them a little less special if you know you got the "starter" version. Then there is the whole push to let the players choose their magic items just like they would choose and buy regular equipment. - it's a big change even from 3E as the characters can "disenchant" items and use the byproduct to increase the enchantment of another item. At least it's a way to avoid the "magic store" using game mechanics.

So anyway there are some of the wrinkles I have found with 4E - won't keep me from playing it but like every other edition of D&D it ain't perfect.


David Larkins said...

The verisimilitude wrinkle is what absolutely killed 4e for me personally. And, sure enough, it was the bard and that pesky Vicious Mockery ability. When my bard mocked a sleeping kobold to death, well...that was pretty much it for me.

Marks and the "grind" of combat were runners up in the "not for me" list.

I really don't have a problem with people calling 4e "D&D" - I mean, I'd call 2e "D&D" since it was the first system I played regularly, and it's so very different from OD&D. What keeps me away from 4e is that I just don't like the feel of the mechanics. Waaaay too gamey for my tastes.

David Larkins said...

Correction: looking back at my posts, I realized it was actually Misdirected Mark that was used on the sleeping kobold. That's even worse! ;)

Blacksteel said...

After reading your posts from the links I am clearly working through the same territory you were. Now having talked about it with my bard player he pointed out that he is an "arcane" caster and the power is listed as doing psychic damage, which I had kind of forgotten. Having that reminder does make me more comfortable with Vicious Mockery specifically. Heck, I'm a long time Hero-system player so I'm pretty comfortable making up specific descriptions for general effects but it's harder in 4E and I think it's exactly what you touched on - the flavor text. In older editions this wasn't flavor text it was literally how the power worked, and it's tough to ignore when I should ignore it in this version. I'm working through it and I'm having a lot of fun running the the game so they did something right in there.