Thursday, March 20, 2008

Make Love, Not War - The 4.0 Way!

Have I been too hard on D&D 4.0? No, it's still chock full of annoying game-isms that I'd be happier off without. But Rodney Thompson has posted a nice, long discussion of non-combat mechanics in D&D that does put a smile on my face:

We showed off skill challenges in the Escape from Sembia event at D&DXP. Basically, it boiled down to this: the heroes needed to escape from some Sembian guards, prompting a chase sequence. The heroes then had the option of using a variety of skills to escape from the guards, and the encounter was built using the non-combat encounters guidelines in the DMG. Basically, the players could use any skill they liked, so long as they had a good explanation for it, and the encounter gave rules on adjudicating those checks based on the likelihood that the attempt would be feasible. For example, one player I read about used his History skill to remember an old sewer grate from some ancient plans of the city, where he was able to had. Obvious skill choices allowed players to hide, climb on top of buildings, disguise themselves as passers-by, etc. Now, before I get jumped on, yes, these are all things you could do before. However, unless a skill check was specifically called out in the adventure, most adventures leaned back on the hard-coded skill DCs and results in the skills chapter. The difference isn't that you can do these things in 4th Edition, but that the default assumption in 4th Edition is that players should and will find creative solutions to problems, and the rules are designed not only to allow the DM to fairly adjudicate those assumptions but also to reward players for doing so.

Nice, eh? Again, notice the excessive hand-holding, though newcomers to the game will, I'm certain, appreciate the effort. Anything that nudges the game away from the stereotype of "kill anything that moves and take its stuff" is a plus in my book.

I just wish they'd included something like this in 3.x. Combined with the lack of game-isms, it would have made D&D an excellent system for running the sorts of games I prefer. Instead, I had to wait for True20 to really get the sort of mechanical support I wanted from the d20 system. Still, better late than never, and the new generation of gamers are going to have this sort of RPing supported by the rules, rather than implied between the lines. WotC deserves a big thumbs up for this.

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