Friday, May 30, 2008

No Need to Kill the Wizard First

James has posted the first installment of his review of 4e:

Before I move on to the details, I can save some readers a lot of time: 4e is “balanced” because they just removed a huge number of options. 4e characters just don’t do as much as 3e characters. They can’t. The rules aren’t there. Once you accept that, it’s a pretty fun game, but coming to it from 3e is a cold and bitter shock, especially if you play 3e at the high end of optimization like I do.

He's got the lowdown from the perspective of someone who has mastered 3e, and it's not exactly pretty, but it is very interesting. And don't get annoyed when you see he stops after character creation. What he's reviewed so far makes up a good half of the book.

No, I'm serious.

No, I'm not kidding. The character class section takes up a giant chunk of the book, since it includes all their powers and abilities. And that includes spells.

9 comments:

Philotomy said...

I find "...4e characters can't do as much...[because] the rules aren't there..." to be an interesting comment. He clearly belongs to a different school of play than I do. I tend to find lots of rules confining and cumbersome, rather than liberating.

(That's not a comment on 4E, which I have no experience with; it's just a comment, in general.)

James Maliszewski said...

(That's not a comment on 4E, which I have no experience with; it's just a comment, in general.)

Yes indeed. One of the things I've rapidly come to realize over the last few days is that people's reactions to 4e say more about their own conception of what an RPG is (or should be) than they say about the new edition itself. And one of the things it says is that many people who play 3e have come to equate rules with options in a way that I find dangerously unhealthy. If 4e corrects this, I'll give the new edition a small cheer, but I'd amazed if it did.

trollsmyth said...

From what little I've seen, in terms of flexibility, 4e seems to embrace the worst of both worlds. That is, it has all the rules of feats (or powers in this case) and skills, but combines them with niche protection that is far more rigorous than 3e's. It's not so much that there are no rules for adjudicating certain actions as it is a segregation of rules by class. In 3e, you could, in effect, build your own class via multi-classing and feats. In 4e, you pick your role on day one, and you're pretty much stuck there.

- Brian

James V said...

"In 4e, you pick your role on day one, and you're pretty much stuck there."

I gotta say that IMO, that is a situation that doesn't really bother me, espcially if there can be good variation within that one role.

My tastes lean more toward having 5 varieties of choclate ice cream followed by 5 varietes of strawberry, etc. than having every flavor really being neopolitan with varying thicknesses of the three possible flavors.

To use a poor but tasty analogy :)

James said...

Well, one of the reasons I like 3e is that I do genuinely like tinkering with the rules and how they interact. If I didn't, I wouldn't be running Adventures in Playtesting with a hundred-plus pages of houserules. I like plenty of other games with much less fiddly rule systems, too. But that wasn't actually what I was talking about.

The issue I was addressing was this: You can't (for example) change into a monster in 4e. You can't -- no amount of clever description, player creativity, or situational exploitation will turn you into a bear. No ability PCs get lets them do that.

You can't raise the corpses of your fallen enemies to serve you. You can't summon a badger horde. You can't enthrall your foe's minions.

These abilities are gone. PCs do not have access to them, short of the GM adding them back in (or Wizards publishing them again -- and given the decade-long debacle that was 3e polymorph, I'm not seeing it). And that makes me sad, because these are awesome archetypes that were totally playable in previous editions.

(Tangential: There seem to be many Jameses around. Interesting.)

James V said...

"These abilities are gone. PCs do not have access to them, short of the GM adding them back in (or Wizards publishing them again -- and given the decade-long debacle that was 3e polymorph, I'm not seeing it). And that makes me sad, because these are awesome archetypes that were totally playable in previous editions."

IIRC, WoTC does have a publishing plan of one 4e PHB/DMG per year so perhaps in the future we will see some of these more esoteric and I do think occasionally tricky powers. IMO that's why they are holding back on these powers, because they have to fit into what seems to be a pretty different paradigm for play.

trollsmyth said...

Yikes! I hadn't realized they'd gone quite that far. I assumed there was still a ritual or something that did some of those old tricks. :/

(And on the tangent, I'm also a James, though I don't go by that name but rarely.)

- Brian

James said...

That's... possible, I guess? But I really doubt it. The 4e focus is on strictly limited bookkeeping, HP damage, and powers with extremely specific and limited effects.

This I Foretell:

Druids will have a shapechanging ability based on their PHB2 variant in 3e, where it changes their stats instead of replacing them. They will be melee-focused.

Psions will have extremely limited charm abilities. They will have primarily vs. Will HP damage and a bunch of dazes.

If a summoner class comes about, the things they summon will be generic/token-like, instead of actual monsters, and will have minion HP.

There will never be a PC necromancer class that can actually raise fallen enemies as servants. The most they may publish is a Guild Wars-style necromancer who can turn a corpse into a generic undead of some type, and I consider this exceedingly unlikely.

There will never be 3e-style polymorph.

Check back in a year, see how I do.

Philotomy said...

I wonder if Necromancer Games is going to fill any of those holes. Clark has expressed a desire to inject save or die, etc. back into 4E, so I suppose it's a possibility. I'll be curious to see how all that works out.

(I am not a James.)