The 'errata retrain' problem, and the deeper issue

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Over in the November errata thread, discussions quickly moved to how to modify characters rendered illegal by the November errata. The general consensus is that the character must be immediately modified to become legal, otherwise those characters are stuck in a Catch-22: you can't play until you retrain, you can't retrain until you gain a level, but you can't gain a level if you can't play. That's a fine and necessary clarification.

This discussion then moved on to discussing options for characters not rendered illegal but merely 'unplayable' by the errata, and the consensus from the LFR Admins and such is that the powers-that-be are discussing a policy by which retraining can be allowed in circumstances where errata modifies a character's build. While I'm not entirely unsympathetic to those who thought they were gaining a particular benefit when they took a given power, feat, or item, only to realize that errata changed that benefit to the point of unrecognizability, I'd like to point out that, in my view, allowing any kind of errata-based retraining outside the existing retraining rules for characters who are not strictly illegal is a bad idea, and weakens the entire concept of global campaign rules.

The point of allowing a rebuild seems to be for characters who lose a chunk of AC from the avenger errata or lose a chunk of damage from the bloodclaw weapon errata to find a way to get something more valuable. But if you only identify characters who took those things as eligible for a rebuild, there's going to be people who feel left out because another piece of errata not included in the rebuild, say Hurricane of Blades, feel they should be given immediate rebuild options because their characters were changed, too. Ultimately, any changed power or item (say Call of the Beast, which most observers will probably view as having been improved in the errata) could be part of a build concept for which any change, even an improvement, will result in a less effective character, in the view of the player running the character.

So you're left with a situation where you can't simply rely on the board discussion to identify the powers/feats/etc. that require immediate rebuilds, because not all the possibly affected powers/feats/etc. will be discussed. If you rely on the designers to identify which powers/feats/etc. are modified enough to justify a rebuild, others whose powers/feats/etc. are not considered on that list will be upset. In effect, anyone left out of the subset of those allowed the free rebuild will feel left out, so to avoid the perception of unfairness, every character should be allowed the rebuild.

Even once you've decided whether to allow global or specific rebuilds, though, you're only scratching the surface of the problem.

The general campaign rules for LFR have been described as being a kind of 'honor system'; given that DMs no longer need to even report which specific characters run by a given player played in a given adventure, much less what treasure bundle that character chose. This is fine as far as it goes; after all, I do agree with the argument that if you feel the need to 'cheat' at LFR to make your character powerful, then why exactly are you playing?

The real problem, though, is not that people cheat. The problem is that there's no real benefit to following the rules, because they're frequently unenforceable.

Let's say I'm unaware of the errata and take a character power that's been errata-ed in the latest update. I show up at the table and try to use the power, only to have the DM inform me that the power doesn't work the way I think it does because it's been errata-ed. Another player at the table points out that I should have gotten an errata power-swap for that, and since it's just one power, the DM decides (in an agreement described by another poster as 'under the table') to let me swap for a different power for this adventure. Fine, no problem, right?

Except now I realize I can go to a different game with my unerrata-ed character, play, and get a free power-swap for a different power that's more useful in that specific adventure. Borderline? Maybe. Then I realize I can take an entirely different build of my character to D&DXP, where none of the powers, feats, or even trained skills are the same as my character back home, and nobody will ever be the wiser.

So what's the point? It's not as though anybody's going to stop you from being this kind of lame player, right?

Well, the rules should stop me -- the very presence of global campaign rules on things like tracking advancement, retraining, and magic item choices presumes that those rules are enforceable, and that there are consequences for violating those rules. So now I find a DM who actually catches me doing my shenanigans, and he won't let me play that character. Except it's a heroic 7-10 adventure, I have no other character in that level range that hasn't already played the adventure, and I'm the fourth man at the table, so if I can't play, nobody can play. How does the DM enforce the campaign rule in this situation?

It may seem like I'm bringing up a lot of corner-case situations to illustrate my points, but that's part of the point itself -- there are dozens if not hundreds of these kinds of corner-case scenarios, which is exactly why the DM at the table is supposed to be the one empowered to adjudicate these situations, because the campaign staff can't draw up rules that account for every possible situation, nor can they sit in judgment on every individual LFR game being run around the world.

Keep in mind that there's an entire class of players whose fun derives from examining the rules system and finding ways to legally exploit the system for maximal efficiency and effectiveness. You're telling me these players aren't going to look at the campaign rules as being another system they can min-max to their benefit? Especially when DMs can't enforce the campaign rules nearly as cleanly as they can enforce the game rules?

Ultimately, you end up with a situation where some DMs feel as though they need to enforce the rules as best they can, while other DMs feel they need to work with the players to circumvent the rules to aid their friends, and still others feel so hamstrung by the rules that they simply give up trying to make sense of them and just try to run an entertaining game. In isolation, these aren't major problems, but as soon as you bring all these people together at DDXP or GenCon and try to put them at the same table, it becomes really pretty obvious which characters have been playing in  games where the campaign rules are treated as rules, which play in games where they're treated as guidelines, and which play in games where they're treated as obstacles to be overcome.

The very fact that the designers of the game care enough about the ruleset to issue errata to curb the more egregious legal exploits possible within the ruleset suggests that the same care should be taken with the Living Campaign ruleset. If you're going to allow the campaign rules to remain fuzzy and largely unenforceable in the interest of fostering inclusiveness, then why not apply the same logic to the game ruleset and leave the broken stuff in?

I'm not bringing up this point from the perspective of a player thinking that the system is totally broken and that I'll stop playing LFR if it isn't fixed -- I enjoy the campaign, not least of which because I play in a fairly large group that agrees to abide by the campaign rules even when they're inconvenient. Nevertheless, at conventions and other large public events, the more I run into players who've clearly not had to consider the campaign rules as restrictive of their personal goals, the less interested I become in playing LFR games, knowing that I'll have to share a table with one of them and have to deal with their broken character, their arguments with the DM over 'stuff our DM doesn't bother with', etcetera.

If convention play is seen as the 'crown' of LFR, then Organized Play should provide DMs with the tools they need to enforce and adjudicate campaign rules as effectively as the errata they get from the designers that allows them to enforce the game rules. Otherwise, it seems to me that OP should give up the idea that con play is the pinnacle of LFR and focus on allowing DMs to expand local play opportunities as greatly as possible, in which case the specific campaign rules become less significant.

In this specific case, allowing even conditional rebuilds in an environment where the impact of those rebuilds is basically untrackable would, to me, constitute an admission that DMs shouldn't bother trying to enforce the existing campaign rules. Stick with the existing rebuild rules, please.

--
Pauper
Fwiw, I'm completely comfortable with the opposite of your preference. If something is changed, I'd rather people changed it than played something they enjoy less. Especially in situations where the new situation is totally odd - like avengers who lose AC in leather, but can't change their magic leather into cloth - or people who can no longer wield an urgrosh.

If that means that everyone retrains whenever they feel like, then so what? Everyone is playing a character they'd rather play. As a DM, as long as a character is legal when you have it at the table, I'm good. I don't care and don't want to know. It's way less stress for me, and presumably less stress for the players.

Course, I also do the same thing in home games. 'They issued errata for this, and it's a good change - if you want to change, feel free' and 'You're hitting 11th after this, may be a good time to doublecheck your entire character and figure out if you want to make any changes before you pick up your paragon path'. I also stopped playing LG effectively because of the tracking (my wife in particular hated it, and just wanted to play casually without micromanaging every gold piece and time unit).
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I'd have to disagree with you on this.

If the rules significantly change major elements of a character players should be able to change them. Period. I doubt anyone here would play a third session in a home campaign if, after having created a character (let's pretend he's a paladin) and played him in one session, the DM suddenly decided that he shouldn't be able to use his weapon or armor and furthermore you couldn't change the character to match the new rules. If a DM decided that paladins couldn't use prayers in plate armor and were only proficient in bludgeoning weapons but declined to allow my paladin to change his plate armor to scale (or whatever else) and his magic bastard sword and proficiency feat to craghammer (or some other equivalent), I certainly wouldn't bother showing up to the third session. Players who are following the rules should be able to change their characters if the rules change under them. And changes to the big three item/proficiency slots (weapon, armor, neck slot (though practically, only the first two are likely to be relevant) are the most serious kinds of changes that can occur to a character. All of those item slots figure into the basic math of 4th edition.

So, in short, I think there is an obligation on the part of the campaign to provide for reasonable changes to characters in response to rules changes and errata. There may be some corner cases where characters are screwed (and I think that bloodclaw weapons should be one of those) because a fair change is to difficult to determine, and the effects of the errata on the character is limited. Changes to basic proficiencies and weapon or armor/class feature interactions, however, are not among those cases that can do without a means of redress.

What makes it even more necessary for the PTB to fulfill this obligation is the very lack of a tracking system that you decry. Because many players feel entitled to make reasonable adjustments to their characters on the basis of errata (and this is an accurate perception in my opinion), they will do it whether or not the rules permit it--and in fact, many of those most effected by this errata have already done so. If the PTB decide not to provide for any change, they will not only be ignoring their obligation as the DMs of this shared campaign, they will also be placing an unenforceable mandate on those who do wish to keep or enforce the rules. An honor system will only work to the degree that its dictates are reasonable. If the PTB decide to implement rules that a significant minority of players see as unreasonable, in the absence of any enforcement mechanism, they will ignore those rules and thereby diminish respect for the rules in general.

Now, if the PTB want to institute some form of tracking mechanism for characters, I'm all for that as long as it isn't one of the heinous computerized tracking systems that have so dismally failed every time the RPGA has attempted them. It will be useful and provide an additional incentive for players to follow useful rules. Combined with a player or character based enforcement mechanism, it is the only way for the PTB to enforce unreasonable rules like denying any recourse to players who are no longer proficient in their weapon or whose class features no longer function with their weapon/armor.

But, contrary to the original post, the unreasonable decision to deny any recourse to any players effected by errata that does not explicitly render their character illegal will not serve to create more respect for the rules and enhance the honor based system. The player who is willing to make unauthorized changes in their character can do so (and has done so in the past) without the fig leaf of an authorized exception to hide behind. So unless character tracking and enforcement mechanisms are added to LFR, the "do nothing" approach will not make enforcement of the current rules possible. All it will do is convince players that the PTB are unreasonable and that the best way to preserve a fair game within the LFR framework is to take reasonable action under the table with the attitude that what the PTB don't know won't hurt them. In the long term, that approach is not compatible with an honor-based system of rules. Therefore it is imperative that the PTB end up with a fair and reasonable approach that gives relief to the most serious corner cases.
I'd have to disagree with you on this.

If the rules significantly change major elements of a character players should be able to change them. Period. I doubt anyone here would play a third session in a home campaign if, after having created a character (let's pretend he's a paladin) and played him in one session, the DM suddenly decided that he shouldn't be able to use his weapon or armor and furthermore you couldn't change the character to match the new rules. If a DM decided that paladins couldn't use prayers in plate armor and were only proficient in bludgeoning weapons but declined to allow my paladin to change his plate armor to scale (or whatever else) and his magic bastard sword and proficiency feat to craghammer (or some other equivalent), I certainly wouldn't bother showing up to the third session. Players who are following the rules should be able to change their characters if the rules change under them. And changes to the big three item/proficiency slots (weapon, armor, neck slot (though practically, only the first two are likely to be relevant) are the most serious kinds of changes that can occur to a character. All of those item slots figure into the basic math of 4th edition.

So, in short, I think there is an obligation on the part of the campaign to provide for reasonable changes to characters in response to rules changes and errata. There may be some corner cases where characters are screwed (and I think that bloodclaw weapons should be one of those) because a fair change is to difficult to determine, and the effects of the errata on the character is limited. Changes to basic proficiencies and weapon or armor/class feature interactions, however, are not among those cases that can do without a means of redress.

What makes it even more necessary for the PTB to fulfill this obligation is the very lack of a tracking system that you decry. Because many players feel entitled to make reasonable adjustments to their characters on the basis of errata (and this is an accurate perception in my opinion), they will do it whether or not the rules permit it--and in fact, many of those most effected by this errata have already done so. If the PTB decide not to provide for any change, they will not only be ignoring their obligation as the DMs of this shared campaign, they will also be placing an unenforceable mandate on those who do wish to keep or enforce the rules. An honor system will only work to the degree that its dictates are reasonable. If the PTB decide to implement rules that a significant minority of players see as unreasonable, in the absence of any enforcement mechanism, they will ignore those rules and thereby diminish respect for the rules in general.

Now, if the PTB want to institute some form of tracking mechanism for characters, I'm all for that as long as it isn't one of the heinous computerized tracking systems that have so dismally failed every time the RPGA has attempted them. It will be useful and provide an additional incentive for players to follow useful rules. Combined with a player or character based enforcement mechanism, it is the only way for the PTB to enforce unreasonable rules like denying any recourse to players who are no longer proficient in their weapon or whose class features no longer function with their weapon/armor.

But, contrary to the original post, the unreasonable decision to deny any recourse to any players effected by errata that does not explicitly render their character illegal will not serve to create more respect for the rules and enhance the honor based system. The player who is willing to make unauthorized changes in their character can do so (and has done so in the past) without the fig leaf of an authorized exception to hide behind. So unless character tracking and enforcement mechanisms are added to LFR, the "do nothing" approach will not make enforcement of the current rules possible. All it will do is convince players that the PTB are unreasonable and that the best way to preserve a fair game within the LFR framework is to take reasonable action under the table with the attitude that what the PTB don't know won't hurt them. In the long term, that approach is not compatible with an honor-based system of rules. Therefore it is imperative that the PTB end up with a fair and reasonable approach that gives relief to the most serious corner cases.



At my LFR game tonight (I DM'd a Solstice Season MYRE 1-1), it was suggested to me by one of the players that the reason most of the furor on the boards has died down (except mine) is that by and large, most players who had their characters dinged by the update have simply rebuilt their character as it suits them under the new rules, and simply have no further reason to discuss the matter.  The suggestion was that the only people on the boards who are still talking about the update are 1) People who are gloating about others being nerfed and 2) People who don't want to break the rules and are unhappy with what was done to them.  Oh, with 3) a small number of people who are waiting for the other shoe to drop this coming week with the (possible) December update.

I know I'm sitting on #2 myself.  And I'm certainly seeing a lot of people who appear to be #1. 


Most people who have rebuilt their characters whether limitedly (for instance, replaced magic leather armor for an avenger with cloth armor of the same enchantment and traded leather armor proficiency for improved armor of faith) or wholesale are probably smart enough not to admit to it on the boards.

That's a good thing too. When people make the changes under the table, they only damage their own respect for the rules (which may have already been damaged by a lack of reasonable and timely rules for handling the transition) and that of those who know what they did (probably their DM and the other players at the table where they did it). If they blabbed on the boards, the entire internet would not merely suspect but would actually know that people were ignoring the (lack of) rules. Furthermore, there is undoubtedly a lot of variance in what people thought was reasonable. The hypothetical example I just gave seems reasonable to me, but might seem overly generous to some people. I have no doubt that there are people who took greater liberties. Perhaps there is someone out there who decided with his DM that he should be able to trade his bloodclaw weapon in for any level 12 item he wants. (Who knows, maybe he bought the item with cash on hand when his character hit level 12 and could have bought any level 12 item he wanted). And perhaps there is someone who used the nerf to storm of blades/hurricane of blades to rebuild their rageblood from the ground up as a whirling barbarian. Right now, those who want everyone to respect the rules are able to think of the hypothetical avenger above as typical of whatever under the table fixes are going on and not get their panties in a twist over it. And they're probably right. But if they heard a few stories about complete rebuilds, the boards would be consumed in a torrent of angry flames about cheaters. Furthermore, those people who would have liked to do a complete rebuild but didn't think that was reasonable might feel like they missed out by limiting themselves to reasonable changes and resolve to either make more extensive changes right now (since everyone else is doing it) or to go hog wild next time. None of those results are desirable.

So, yes, I suspect that you are right and the hue and cry has subsided because 90% of people have done whatever they felt like doing under the table. But, given that something needed to be done and no official word has been forthcoming, I think it's for the best that they made their under the table alterations and furthermore, it would be best if they keep what they did under the table.
I agree 100% with the OP and support his position. I would like players to think twice about their decisions for this characters because they know undoing a decision will take time and/or money. I would like to have a little more accountability in LFR (maybe not as much as LG but any improvement would be nice).

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening the in near future. The vocal minority on these forums seems to prefer a more casual LFR and things are likely to continue to be that way.
I would like players to think twice about their decisions for this characters because they know undoing a decision will take time and/or money.



I'm entirely fine with this - but the important part here is that there was no decision involved on the part of the players that they're undoing.

It's WotC's decision that they're undoing. At which point, no part of me thinks it's fair to punish them.

I will grant that _some_ of the people are knowingly using things that should be expected to be errata-ed, and sure I can choose to not have sympathy for them. But, how that covers people who played avengers and went 'well, I guess it's hard to say no to +2 AC for a feat' or elves or dwarves who went 'huh, Urgrosh sounds neat, I'll try that'? While I do think that bloodclaw is totally fine post-errata, I do think it's silly to call it a 'decision' to use bloodclaw in LFR. Were you in the 50% of melee characters who happened to have a choice of a +3 bloodclaw before a +3 voidcrystal? Okay, apparently you made a conscious decision when you took it over your +2 vicious or +1 lightning or whatever I _know_ players who actually weren't really sold on its power but took it just because it was +1 or +2 better than what they had and they didn't expect to see other +3 options anytime soon.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
The problem is that there's no real benefit to following the rules, because they're frequently unenforceable.



I would describe the real problem another way: I have no idea what the basic philosophy of the LFR campaign is.

We have campaign documents that appear to be hard-and-fast rules... except we also have the head of the campaign talking about how sometimes you have work out "appropriate play experiences" if the rules would lead to something seen as unfair, and advising us, when determining whether something is allowed in the campaign, to consider whether there's a good reason not to allow it, as opposed to just strictly reading the rules.

I honestly don't know what the campaign's philosophy is.

Sure, individual staff members can tell us what their philosophies are, but if there's one thing we learned in the last few weeks, it's that, while we're all appreciative of how much work they do, when it comes to actual decision-making about campaign policy, the actual authority of campaign staff below Tulach appears to be in the same neighborhood as past campaigns gave to those in charge of individual metacampaign organizations.

I tend to be more of a strict rules guy, which I'm sure is a point of view some campaign staff would agree with.  Others follow more of a "Hey, it's all about the player's fun.  As long as you don't go too far, that's what most important."  I'm sure there are campaign staff that would agree with that.

As a practical matter, RPGA rules enforcement--now more than ever--is done by social mechanisms.  If you are doing what the group you are playing with considers "the right thing", you're fine; if you're not, you're likely to find yourself less welcome.  Perhaps the rules allow it (such as reading over a module to metagame your preparations before playing) or don't (running public-only adventures in your living room to help DMs prepare for a gameday), but the important thing is what feels right to your group.  When you get that fuzzy, the only things that really matters is whether your behavior meshes with what you believe the overall philosophy of the campaign is.

Take a look at where various posters are coming from, and you'll see that, at heart, most of these discussions are about fundamental differences in philosophy, basic distinctions in what they see as the paradigm of the campaign.

Consider these statements:
* Campaign staff set the rules and you follow them, even if they lead to an unfair result.
* The most important thing is that players have fun.  Optimally, that's within the rules, but if they conflict, it's okay to break the rules every now and again.
* Players are encouraged to use all approved WOTC materials.  If we allow material in the campaign, it's because we believe it's fine for you to use.
* Players are responsible for creating balanced characters that conform to the core design of the class.  If you go beyond the average power level or outside of the core intent of your class, you do so at your own risk.

Which of these statements you consider to be true will play a large part in determining how you think the campaign and the players in it should respond to rules changes.  Without knowing what the campaign's philosophy is, players will default to the assumption that their own philosophy is the correct one, and act accordingly.

So, yes, I suspect that you are right and the hue and cry has subsided because 90% of people have done whatever they felt like doing under the table. But, given that something needed to be done and no official word has been forthcoming, I think it's for the best that they made their under the table alterations and furthermore, it would be best if they keep what they did under the table.



We DMs know who these people are. Even in a large city, the LFR community is pretty small.  I don't really care too much, but other people do; and these people making changes are made fun of pretty frequently when they aren't in the room.
I agree 100% with the OP and support his position. I would like players to think twice about their decisions for this characters because they know undoing a decision will take time and/or money. I would like to have a little more accountability in LFR (maybe not as much as LG but any improvement would be nice).

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening the in near future. The vocal minority on these forums seems to prefer a more casual LFR and things are likely to continue to be that way.



Are you just referring to everyone who posts on the forums as the vocal minority? From your post it sounds like you think the way you want it to be is what the majority wants, which is impossible for you to know.  From all your posts on this subject I know that we have very different views on how the campaign should go, you want to basically punish those who made valid choices because you feel that the choices they made were unbalanced and they should have known that picking that was too good to be true, regardless of the fact that they were legitimate choices at the time.  I just want people to have fun and not worry that the choices they make now won't be invalidated in the future.  I honestly can't see how a "majority" of people would want to play in your version of the campaign.  LG's ridiculous accounting practices were a turn off to a lot of new players, so turning to that campaign for help on the subject is a bad idea. 

The simple thing here is this is a game, if you make choices according to the rules while playing and later those rules change you should not be bound by the choices you made at the time, it's really that simple.  A FAIR game that changes rules on it's players allows those players to adjust to the new rule, an unfair game will just change rules midstream with no adjustments allowed.  Do you want to be playing a fair game, or an unfair one. 
Blah blah blah
I was refering to anyone who posts on these forums as the vocal minority. The vast majority of LFR players will never browse these boards.

As for the fairness factor. I suppose we're just going to have to agree to disagree. I think allowing people who made poor choices free rides is 'unfair'. If a choice you made turns out to be a poor one in the future you should still be held accountable. You can use the retrain options available to you just like everyone else.
I was refering to anyone who posts on these forums as the vocal minority. The vast majority of LFR players will never browse these boards.

As for the fairness factor. I suppose we're just going to have to agree to disagree. I think allowing people who made poor choices free rides is 'unfair'. If a choice you made turns out to be a poor one in the future you should still be held accountable. You can use the retrain options available to you just like everyone else.



And here is the problem, you want to punish someone who made a non-poor choice that was then later changed to a poor choice because of a rules update.

You keep saying they should be "held accountable" but really it's wotc who needs to be "held accountable" when they make changes, and doing so means allowing those whose characters they have changed when they issue updates alter their character to compensate.

You can't hold the player accountable for making valid choices and not hold wotc accountable later for changing those choices. 

And it's not like these choices which were strong choices when they were made and become a weak choice simply because it's not as good at later levels and they need to be held accountable for that choice at that time, it becomes weaker instantly because of a change in game design.  I can't even begin to understand why you can't see this or choose to punish people for playing the game by the rules but as you say, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this I suppose. 
Blah blah blah
The more harmful effect of not being given a reasonable opportunity to change stuff after an errata isn't that people will cheat.

It's that people will decide it's not worth the effort, and stop playing LFR.

I've already met a number of folks that stopped, at least for the time being, because they are tired of the lack of timely communication from the top after major changes.



-karma
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric
Thanks for the reasonable discussion. I didn't figure we'd get a consensus or even much agreement on the issue, but at least we're not cluttering up a different thread hashing out these issues.

I have to say the position I agree most with would be bgibbons: 



Consider these statements:
* Campaign staff set the rules and you follow them, even if they lead to an unfair result.
* The most important thing is that players have fun.  Optimally, that's within the rules, but if they conflict, it's okay to break the rules every now and again.
* Players are encouraged to use all approved WOTC materials.  If we allow material in the campaign, it's because we believe it's fine for you to use.
* Players are responsible for creating balanced characters that conform to the core design of the class.  If you go beyond the average power level or outside of the core intent of your class, you do so at your own risk.

Which of these statements you consider to be true will play a large part in determining how you think the campaign and the players in it should respond to rules changes.  Without knowing what the campaign's philosophy is, players will default to the assumption that their own philosophy is the correct one, and act accordingly.



I actually think the last bullet-pointed issue above is the big one for this discussion.

Elder Basilisk points out that if a DM decided to unilaterally modify the terms of a home game so that a particular class is 'nerfed', and doesn't allow a player to modify his character, the player would rightly feel upset and be unlikely to continue to play. While I agree with that point, I think the situation here is actually a bit different: in this case, the game's creator has changed things because they feel the need to enforce balance between classes.

Let's ignore for the moment whether a change like the avenger AC change or the bloodclaw change should be treated as a 'nerf' or a 'restoration of balance'. The real question is, a DM finds out that one of the rules in his rulebook has changed. What does he do?

In a home game, he can simply choose to ignore the change, particularly if his players are having fun.

LFR DMs, however, are not expected to ignore published errata. So that solution isn't available.

A home DM could allow the player to swap the affected item/feat for any other feat the character qualifies for.

In LFR, the theory is that certain items are only available in certain adventures (with a few exceptions); this seems to be 'baked-in' to the existing LFR structure. Yes, campaign staff made an exception for Veteran's Armor way back when, but the fact that there's discussion going on now suggests that the staff didn't intend for that situation to become a precedent for how every errata-based change should be handled in the future.

Feats are a bit easier to adjudicate, but again there are already existing rules about how many and how often feats can be retrained, as well as how often a character can use a 'global rebuild'.

In each case, it seems as though allowing a 'free respec' whenever errata comes out effectively defeats the purpose of having these rules in place. This is definitely part of what I meant when lamenting that following the rules doesn't seem worthwhile, because people who ignore them, even if only in specific circumstances, aren't restricted by doing so.

I guess the real point is that someone is going to feel that, whatever the answer to this question is, the answer is 'unfair'; either its unfair to those who took the errata-ed stuff and have to live with that decision until they can change the stuff under existing campaign rules, or it's unfair to the people who've been following the rules without complaint but now watch others flaunt them as a means of avoiding the 'nerf bat'.

I guess I'd like a statement of philosophy here as to how the rules should be approached, and preferably one that doesn't make me feel like a sap for treating the rules as binding.

--
Pauper 

A home DM could allow the player to swap the affected item/feat for any other feat the character qualifies for.



I should point out that this would generally be done outside the normal retraining rules which normally apply in home games that follow the core rules.

In LFR, the theory is that certain items are only available in certain adventures (with a few exceptions); this seems to be 'baked-in' to the existing LFR structure. Yes, campaign staff made an exception for Veteran's Armor way back when, but the fact that there's discussion going on now suggests that the staff didn't intend for that situation to become a precedent for how every errata-based change should be handled in the future.

Feats are a bit easier to adjudicate, but again there are already existing rules about how many and how often feats can be retrained, as well as how often a character can use a 'global rebuild'.



I think you are mistaking the similarity in form between normal retraining and what I will call rebuilding (for lack of a better word--I mean exchanging of feats/class features based on unforseen changes in the rules). Both of them involve swapping one feat or feature for another. However, they exist to address very different functions.

Retraining exists to allow players to experiment, to make mistakes, and to gradually power up their characters after reaching paragon or epic levels. (The last assertion would probably not have been my choice, but the PHB is very explicit that you can retrain heroic feats into paragon and paragon or heroic feats into epic feats, so I can only assume that it is intended for characters to actually do this when it is advantageous to them). Since feats are not locked in permanently, characters can take a feat and see if it works out and turn it into something else if it doesn't. This creates an important safety valve that allows players with less system mastery in the relevant sections of the system to learn how to create characters that can do what they want them to do without feeling like they need to start a new character to apply everything they have learned.

Rebuilding, on the other hand, has a very different function. To the extent that it exists (in home campaigns or under the table in LFR), it exists to allow players to compensate for unforseen changes in the rules that cause feats/class features/items and their interactions to no longer serve their function. Unlike retraining, this is not gradual, nor is it delayed. There is (or should be) no waiting period where your avenger continues to play wearing his magic leather armor which no longer works with armor of faith. The purpose of this is repair, not experimentation.

In each case, it seems as though allowing a 'free respec' whenever errata comes out effectively defeats the purpose of having these rules in place. This is definitely part of what I meant when lamenting that following the rules doesn't seem worthwhile, because people who ignore them, even if only in specific circumstances, aren't restricted by doing so.



I can sympathize with the feeling that following the rules does not seem worthwhile and this is why I argued in the initial thread that time was of the essence and that imperfect rules the week that the change came out would be better than perfect rules a month later. That said, neither hypothetical official rebuild guidelines nor responsibly done under the table rebuilding necessarily defeat the purpose of having item acquisition or retraining rules.

IMO, a responsible approach to item substitutions would not defeat the purpose of item acquisition rules. If, for instance, you can exchange the base item for a weapon or armor enchantment--changing leather armor of psychic resistance to cloth armor of psychic resistance--when rules for either the base item (in the case of double weapons) or interacting class features (again, in the case of many double weapons and avengers with non-cloth armor) changes, that would not fully address the rebuilding issues but would not raise any issues with the item acquisition system. No-one would end up with anything that they could not have obtained under the base system.

Likewise, a sensible approach to class feature/paragon path/feat rebuilding would not endanger the purpose of retraining rules since they serve very different purposes. If an avenger swaps leather armor proficiency for improved armor of faith based on the new rules, that actually preserves the retraining rules to serve their original purpose rather than pressing them into service as a wholly inadequate patch for a lack of rebuilding rules.

I guess the real point is that someone is going to feel that, whatever the answer to this question is, the answer is 'unfair'; either its unfair to those who took the errata-ed stuff and have to live with that decision until they can change the stuff under existing campaign rules, or it's unfair to the people who've been following the rules without complaint but now watch others flaunt them as a means of avoiding the 'nerf bat'.

I guess I'd like a statement of philosophy here as to how the rules should be approached, and preferably one that doesn't make me feel like a sap for treating the rules as binding.



As I said, I definitely sympathize with the dilemma, but the only thing that can address it is official rules for rebuilding, so (apparently) only Chris Tulach can help with that. If you were looking for a sophisticated justification for under the table character rebuilds that would enable you to distinguish between principled under the table actions and mere destructive anarchy, I think there may be some useful analogies to civil government and the natural law principles found in the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist papers--most especially the right of revolution.
Retraining exists to allow players to experiment, to make mistakes, and to gradually power up their characters after reaching paragon or epic levels.



I agree with you in this; the retraining rules are intended to allow a greater degree of flexibility in a character build. I can see an analogue in 3.5 edition characters -- prior to the retraining options in 3.5, if you wanted to take a feat or prestige class with many specific prerequisites, you'd have to take all the prerequisite feats in order, even if those prerequisite feats weren't terribly effective for your character at the time. I always saw this as part of the cost of going for a specific powerful feat or PrC -- an opportunity cost, by requiring a character to take less effective feats earlier in the build to compensate for having access to a more powerful option later. The 3.5 retraining rules didn't completely eliminate this, but they did limit the degree to which you'd have to 'carry' relatively unpowered feats -- instead of having to take feats at lvl 3, 6, and 9 to get your PrC at lvl 10, you'd simply retrain the level 3 feat at 8, take one at 9, and retrain the level 6 feat at 10 prior to entering the PrC. (Or, depending on how your DM interpreted the level-up 'order of operations', retrain at 7 and 8 instead of 8 and 10.)

The other purpose for the retraining rules, which I think you'd agree with, is to allow characters to make use of new feats, powers, etc. from new rules sources with existing characters, thus helping to ensure the value of the new rules sources to current players -- if you had to start a new character to make use of all the cool stuff in Primal Power, for instance, you might not feel as eager to go out and drop $30 US or so on Primal Power. Again, I think this purpose is non-controversial.

(The last assertion would probably not have been my choice, but the PHB is very explicit that you can retrain heroic feats into paragon and paragon or heroic feats into epic feats, so I can only assume that it is intended for characters to actually do this when it is advantageous to them).



Given that the rules direct you to replace your class-based powers rather than gaining brand-new class-based powers starting in Paragon tier, I actually think this is part of the overall design.

Since feats are not locked in permanently, characters can take a feat and see if it works out and turn it into something else if it doesn't. This creates an important safety valve that allows players with less system mastery in the relevant sections of the system to learn how to create characters that can do what they want them to do without feeling like they need to start a new character to apply everything they have learned.



Again, no argument on this.

Rebuilding, on the other hand, has a very different function. To the extent that it exists (in home campaigns or under the table in LFR), it exists to allow players to compensate for unforseen changes in the rules that cause feats/class features/items and their interactions to no longer serve their function. Unlike retraining, this is not gradual, nor is it delayed. There is (or should be) no waiting period where your avenger continues to play wearing his magic leather armor which no longer works with armor of faith. The purpose of this is repair, not experimentation.



Here's where we disagree.

From my perspective, I don't see the distinction between, say:

- taking the Enlarge Spell feat, playing with it for a few adventures, finding out it's not as useful in your build than you expected, and deciding to retrain it, and
- taking a bloodclaw weapon, having the designers discover that it's more powerful than intended and issue errata to bring it more into line with other weapon enchantments, and deciding to retrain it

I can appreciate that your argument is that the former situation is one the player brought on herself with her own choice, and thus should abide by the retraining rules, whereas the latter situation is one 'imposed' on the player from an outside authority and thus not one that she should be held responsible for. I just don't see the distinction as being significant; the distinction as I see it is not in the reason for the decision, but with the decision itself -- if you decide a particular feat, weapon ability, etc. is not as useful for your character as some other feat, weapon ability, etc. choice would be, we already have rules to handle how to get rid of the choice you feel is sub-optimal and replace it with something you like better. To try to distinguish between player-initiated dissatisfaction and errata-related dissatisfaction gets -- to borrow your philosophical examples -- a bit too close to trying to figure the morality/ethicality of an action by the actor's intention, which can get messy and imprecise. Why bother with the ostensible reason for the retrain, when what's important and measurable is that something was retrained or swapped?

I will say that, if errata causes some combination of effects to become illegal -- such as a particular armor enchantment no longer applying to a particular type of armor -- then any affected players should modify their characters immediately to correct the problem. Again, though, there's already an existing rule that covers this situation, so there's no need to create a new 'respec' system to cover it.

What I'd prefer to see from the designers, if they wish to explore the possibility of creating a 'respec' rule, is to clarify that they are discussing this, and in the meantime to use the existing rules for retraining if you wish to make changes before the 'official' rules are released. This avoids your 'perfect is the enemy of good enough' problem by making it plain that there are existing ways to modify characters, and those existing ways should be used rather than create ad-hoc 'solutions' which do nothing but muddy the waters and reduce respect for the existing campaign ruleset.

--
Pauper 
I think there's a pretty notable difference between these two situations:
1) Someone took a bloodclaw weapon. Now it's less effective.
2) Someone is playing an avenger, decided to focus on the defender aspect of the class cause it's neat, took 13 Str and 14 Con at character creation (sacrificing potentially Wisdom, for instance) for Hide, took Leather Armor, Hide Armor, Hide Armor Specialization, managed to obtain some +3 Deathcut Hide, and took War Priest as a paragon path specifically looking forward to the level 16 marking mechanic to assist in tanking (I'm sure there's a better example, but the important part is just the concept of picking a paragon path to be a better defender)

The first loses a bit of DPR, but can cope quite easily. Within a couple levels they'll pick up a different +4 magic weapon anyhow.
The second needs three retrains to fix his feats and has armor that cannot be cloth at all. In addition, his ability scores are poorly spent now, and given the option he'd change how 5 points were spent, but unfortunately you can't retrain that at all. Further, the loss of 4 AC (or 5 if he has to sell his armor and just buy a replacement) might now convince the player that he can no longer actually serve function as a defender. On a plus side, he can focus more on being a striker. Of course, his paragon path helps with being a defender so now he's potentially unhappy with his paragon path. Which can't be retrained at all.

I'm personally thankful that I've largely fell in the former camp. But I can't remotely equate the two characters in the same camp.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director

Here's where we disagree.

From my perspective, I don't see the distinction between, say:

- taking the Enlarge Spell feat, playing with it for a few adventures, finding out it's not as useful in your build than you expected, and deciding to retrain it, and
- taking a bloodclaw weapon, having the designers discover that it's more powerful than intended and issue errata to bring it more into line with other weapon enchantments, and deciding to retrain it



I'm not nearly as concerned about bloodclaw as I am about things like the double weapon change, avengers in leather armor, and to a much lesser degree, the healer's sash change (since it is a fundamental change in what the item does and how it does it). But in all cases, I think there are several notable distinctions in addition to the distinction of intention:

A. In case 1, the enlarge spell feat did not change. Its objective utility for the various purposes for which it is used did not change. It is only your perception of it and its relative usefulness compared to the other options that changed.
In case 2, the actual rules item--whether bloodclaw weapons, avenger armor of faith feature, or double weapons changed. Whatever the rule item is, its objective utility for whatever purposes it serves changed. The player's perception of its relative value to the character may--and probably will change as a result of that.

B. In case 1, odds are good that you discover that you are not happy with the option before you build too much upon the foundation. If I find that I don't like wielding a greatspear with my warlord, I probably find out within a level of gaining proficiency and beginning to use one. Unless I specifically built the character around a complex mechanical concept involving a combination of greatspear, polearm momentum, opening shove, etc, I can just trade in greatspear proficiency for bastard sword proficiency at my next level and move on.
In case 2, on the other hand, there is a good possibility that the changes effect foundational aspects of your character. If I had a level 12 urgrosh wielding eladrin tempest fighter/shock trooper affected by the November errata, I would not simply be able to make one substitution and move on. In order to account for the change, I would have had to either change out eladrin soldier and all of the spear and axe related feats for light blade feats and proficiencies or trade out tempest technique for two-handed weapon talent and Shock Trooper for Kensai or blade dancer.

So, in case 1, it is very likely that the desired change may be effected with a simple one-level swap. In case 2, on the other hand, it is quite possible that the change will be complicated and will require several levels of transition, none of which are stages you will be happy with or would want to play if rules weren't forcing you to do so.

C. The two kinds of changes are very often of differing severity.
If a class 1 retraining option doesn't work out the way you want, odds are good that it just means you are slightly less efficient than you would otherwise be. Using your example, let's speculate that I took enlarge spell because I thought it would work with cloud of daggers and, upon finding out that it doesn't work, I don't think its usefulness with stinking cloud and orbmaster's incindiary detonation are enough to make it worth the feat slot. Well, I'm a bit unhappy, but while I'm waiting for the opportunity to fix it, I still have things I can do with it.
On the other hand, class 2 (rebuild) options can have much more dramatic implications. The 12th level eladrin tempest fighter from before, for instance, would go from attacking at +18/+18 (+5 str, +3 enh, +6 level, +2 proficiency, +1 expertise, +1 tempest technique) for 2d6+14/1d10+14 (+5 str, +2 tempest technique, +2 feat, +3 enhancement, +2 iron armbands of power) to attacking at +14/+18 for 1d12+10/1d8+14. Against a standard AC of 15+level, he goes from a basic attack DPR of 14.025 to 8.05 with his primary hand and from 13 to 11.8 with his off-hand. (Figures include deadly axe which no longer applies to the off-hand). Depending upon the attack in question, that's a 10-40% damage decrease which effects everything the character can do.

I suppose it is possible that a player could build his character into a corner such that he is not proficient with his weapon and his class features don't work with it (I guess we'd be looking at something like a swordmage picking up axe proficiency and a magic axe). But it's pretty highly unlikely. On the other hand, feat/class feature interactions have now changed for at least three major character types (battleragers, tempest fighter/double weapons, and avengers) and may well change again in the future (my suspicion would be aimed at hide armor expertise and barbarian agility/swarm druid DR stacking). Changes of that magnitude are not something that players should have to play through.

Furthermore, there is a point that I don't think you are addressing: using retraining rules for purpose 2 (rebuilding) prevents you from using them for purpose 1 (retraining). To use an actual example, I have a dwarf TWF ranger character who I was initially going to multiclass fighter through the battle awareness feat. When hide armor expertise came out, it makes hide armor a much better option than the heavy armor proficiency feat tree (which he had been pursuing)--and that, in turn, pushed barbarian multiclassing over the top. So, I started the process of retraining battle awareness to beserker's fury and next level plan to retrain chainmail proficiency to hide armor expertise and use transfer enhancement to get magic hide armor. That seems to be a pretty classic case of retraining serving one of its intended purposes: I wanted the shiny new option so I'm retraining in order to get it. Fortunately, it works fine because I was unaffected by the errata. But, for the moment, let's imagine that things were different and, instead of being a twf ranger, my character were a beastmaster ranger who used dwarven weapon training to be proficient in the urgrosh and had grabbed weapon expertise: spear (because I prefer javalins to handaxes as backup weapons). The errata would prevent the build from functioning in the way that it is supposed to since I would no longer be proficient in the off-hand side of the urgrosh and the primary side is no longer a spear. It still has a fairly easy fix: switch to a waraxe/handaxe combo, but doing so would require changing from expertise: spear to expertise: axe. That's fine, but if I am using my retrain to fix the mess that WotC made of my character (case 2), I cannot use it for its intended purpose (case 1).

I can appreciate that your argument is that the former situation is one the player brought on herself with her own choice, and thus should abide by the retraining rules, whereas the latter situation is one 'imposed' on the player from an outside authority and thus not one that she should be held responsible for. I just don't see the distinction as being significant; the distinction as I see it is not in the reason for the decision, but with the decision itself -- if you decide a particular feat, weapon ability, etc. is not as useful for your character as some other feat, weapon ability, etc. choice would be, we already have rules to handle how to get rid of the choice you feel is sub-optimal and replace it with something you like better. To try to distinguish between player-initiated dissatisfaction and errata-related dissatisfaction gets -- to borrow your philosophical examples -- a bit too close to trying to figure the morality/ethicality of an action by the actor's intention, which can get messy and imprecise.



To continue the philosophical/legal examples, figuring out whether the accused is innocent or guilty can also get messy and imprecise, but it's pretty important if you want your justice system to actually deliver justice.

In the rules case, however, figuring out whether something was changed in errata is neither messy nor imprecise. All of the changed items are clearly printed in the errata. Now, if you want to try and distinguish between various errataed items with some meriting a limited rebuild opportunity (perhaps those effected by the avenger and doubleweapon/tempest changes should have a rebuild but barbarians who had chosen the now (sensibly) nerfed powers should not have any rebuild options) and some not meriting such a rebuild opportunity, you could get messy and imprecise, but you don't have to. You could easily say, "if a feat or class feature was trained, exchange it for another feat or class feature for which you qualify and if the rules for a base armor or weapon type were changed or the rules change for a class feature changes the way that it interacts with your feats or items, you may exchange the applicable feats for feats of your choice and may exchange the relevant armor or weapon for another; if the new item is ineligible for the enhancement on the old item, you may exchange it for a +x magic item of the new type instead." There's nothing imprecise about a statement like that. Was the feat changed? Was the class feature changed? Do you have a weapon or armor that no longer interacts with your feats/class features in the same way? All of those questions have discoverable and verifiable answers.

Why bother with the ostensible reason for the retrain, when what's important and measurable is that something was retrained or swapped?



I don't know if anyone is arguing that we should be bothered about the reason for the rebuild. I think most people who are arguing for rebuild options want to see the opportunity to rebuild in response to rules changes. We don't care if a hypothetical avenger player is swapping his leather armor proficiency for weapon focus because the rules for armor of faith changed or because he decided that he wanted damage more than AC. For most of us, the point would be that he traded an armor proficiency for an armor that no longer functions with armor of faith for another feat. That is plenty measurable regardless of the intention and is easily distinguished from someone who, at the same time swapped his executioner's axe for a fullblade (neither of which were changed in the errata).

I will say that, if errata causes some combination of effects to become illegal -- such as a particular armor enchantment no longer applying to a particular type of armor -- then any affected players should modify their characters immediately to correct the problem. Again, though, there's already an existing rule that covers this situation, so there's no need to create a new 'respec' system to cover it.



Actual illegality is pretty rare and, as you point out, there are rules for addressing it. The problem is that errata is also introducing changes to foundational mechanics for characters that manage to invalidate their character choices (for instance, an avenger who took leather armor proficiency to increase his armor class but found that, post-errata, leather armor actually reduces his AC instead) without rendering them actually "illegal." There is an urgent need for rules to address this situation.

What I'd prefer to see from the designers, if they wish to explore the possibility of creating a 'respec' rule, is to clarify that they are discussing this, and in the meantime to use the existing rules for retraining if you wish to make changes before the 'official' rules are released. This avoids your 'perfect is the enemy of good enough' problem by making it plain that there are existing ways to modify characters, and those existing ways should be used rather than create ad-hoc 'solutions' which do nothing but muddy the waters and reduce respect for the existing campaign ruleset.



Using the existing retrain rules in the meantime may avoid the "perfect being the enemy of the good" problem, but only because it lines the good up against the wall and administers an extrajudicial execution with a 50 caliber machine gun.

Doing so would not address the genuine fairness issues that extensive errata is raising and additionally prevents the retraining rules from serving their intended purpose. Furthermore, it is the failure to address the actual needs of the campaign in a fair manner that is likely to reduce respect for the existing ruleset. It may do so subtly (because players make under the table adjustments and view the PTB as unresponsive to their concerns), but an official "do nothing" approach would have anything but a subtle effect; it would be every bit as much a violation of the unspoken contract between the players and the campaign DM as arbitrary houseruling without allowing for adjustments would be in a home campaign.