The Legacy of D&D and 4th Edition

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Recently I started reading in preparation for an upcoming 80’s nostalgia D&D night event the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books.  Although I had played the game years ago, moved to 3rd edition, 3.5, and then pathfinder until I finally came to the 4th edition crossroads, I kind of had a revelation from reading these classic books.   I have sort of became enamored with some of the design changes ideologically between the many editions and I thought it might be interesting to open a discussion about the difference in design concepts and see what everyone’s take on it is. 


The basic discussion is, how has D&D progressed since its 1st edition and which parts do you think are for the better or for the worse in newer editions, in particular 4th edition. 


One thing I noticed right away, or I suppose I was simply reminded of it is how Tolkeinish the original 1st and 2nd edition versions of D&D where.  In particular how little focus their was in the mechanics themselves, balanced or not, and rather the mechanics being influence on story where the core influence was middle-earth and the sort of fantasy version of Middle Ages of Europe.  I have to say that as I re-read the books and started fiddling with character creation and in particular started reading the Dungeon Masters Guide and some of the classic adventures immediately I thought to myself how valid the game still was.  When I conceived the 80’s nostalgia event, I thought it would just be a funny romp through classic game-play, something to break up our regular gaming sessions which consist of mostly Pathfinder and 4th Edition D&D, but now I have to admit that there are many concepts I actually really miss a great deal. 


I think the big fundamental change between 2nd and 3rd edition was that in 2nd edition the GM was king and rules where considerably less defined and favored the organizer, something that intentional or not gave extraordinary creativity to the GM and in a way freed up the players to allow them to role-play in a more dynamic environment.  For example when it came to spell research or item creation their where few core mechanics (at least not in the core rulebooks) but rather more descriptive advice on how to handle such things.  While in 3rd edition we simply had a feat that defined to the player exactly how he could go about doing it.  Naturally the GM could still turn down item creations by simply creating some story driven way to prevent them from getting components or what not but in all, since the player took the feat as the GM you were kind of obligated to let them use it, otherwise the feat is useless and the player is effectively cheated out of it.  In this way I think that 3rd edition and 4th edition are in sense more mechanically driven and the power of mechanics rules the game considerably more than previous editions of the game.  This method is used in a lot of areas in 2nd edition and in most cases feats or special class abilities clearly defined them in 3rd and 4th acted as replacements. 


I think both methods have their usefulness but looking back at 2nd edition I sort of have to side with it mostly because of the role-playing implications.  By having a more dynamic and less defined system, players are forced to say “I want to do this” and there are no rules for them to look up, in most cases just a story driven explanation.  It sort of creates a sense of wonder and unknown, where the player is doing something that he will discover as the story progresses, rather than a simple act of execution of a mechanic.  There is no guarantee’s for the player, each act represents a generally undefined action and the GM is not obligated to make it work the same each time, but rather is allowed the flexibility to apply logic and his own vision, but most importantly he can apply it as part of the story rather than just a role. 


I have always had a hard time explaining or even making sense of why in newer editions of the game with increasing volumes through each new edition, role-playing took a back seat to ROLL playing.  Then a friend of mine kind of summed it up and looking at the second edition in comparison, as well as other classic role-playing systems it clicked for me.  My friend said that “If you give your players a hammer, every problem they encounter starts to look like a nail”.  That made a lot of sense because in 3.5 but more so in 4th edition combat and combat oriented skills, abilities and spells became the focus not so much because the games don’t have other mechanics but more because combat is so well defined and clear.  The greatest clarity in particular in 4th edition is combat resolution so of course players try to solve their problems with combat and the game effectively becomes a combat romp.  As odd as it may seem given the vagueness of many rules in AD&D and that by design it was a dungeon crawling combat romp, it was this vagueness and lack of definition that drew out the dynamics of role-playing… aka players didn’t have a hammer, they didn’t have much of anything just the imagery and story that the GM presented.  Their characters where more ideas then mechanical machines and so the problem solving and approach to the game was in a sense more versatile.  In newer editions of the game, because mechanics are so well defined when there is a problem people tend to start thinking in terms of “what abilities do I have to solve this problem” and when you look at a standard 4th edition the ratio of combat oriented abilities for the most part defines the character. 


I don’t know how anyone else feels about it, despite this sort of revelations I still really love newer versions of D&D, in particular Pathfinder but I enjoy the 4th edition rules as well though as I read more and prepare for my nostalgia event I can’t help but think about how some of the concepts from the original D&D that really made it such a great game have wandered off and I guess the conclusive question is why?  Why have we as role-players come to a point where every concept, idea and imagery has to have a mechanic that defines how it works?  Isn’t this a game of imagination?  Dynamics? And most importantly role-playing?  Why does every action of a player can do have to be defined in mathematics where in they know in advance their odds of success?


 


What do you guys think?

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Why have we as role-players come to a point where every concept, idea and imagery has to have a mechanic that defines how it works?  Isn’t this a game of imagination?  Dynamics? And most importantly role-playing?  Why does every action of a player can do have to be defined in mathematics where in they know in advance their odds of success?



It takes strain off the DM, makes the game more fair, increases the chances each player has to have fun, and makes it easier to do crazy stuff off the bat.
Basically 4e allows you to do whatever you like precisely because the mechanics are so easy and well-defined. You don't have to come up with your own rules all the time, you don't have to spend hours designing stuff that will never be used, you don't have to make up a new class because your player wants to be "a wizard with a dash of fighter and cleric" or because his idea doesn't perfectly match the description of any given class.

Seperating the fluff and mechanics makes imagining easier and makes trying stuff that's not in the rules go faster, and reduces the number of times a DM has to say "no".

Knowing beforehand what your odds are decreases the chance of players feeling shafted because they didn't know that they had a 80% chance of dying for trying to do something outside the rules, and means they can devote more time to just roleplaying and less time to trying to come with a mechnical representation of what they are trying to do. 
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Ya I can kind of hear what your saying here.  It does require considerably more attention from the GM but when it comes to "player fairness" I don't know if that's such a great thing if the fairness comes from exposing mechanics to achieve things.  I find that with Pathfinder and 4th edition players outmanuver me as a GM all the time because they learn the mechanics better then I do and as a result encounters, events and sometimes entire story plots break because while I did a great job writing the story, a simple feat or ability countered the entire thing.  I find this to be particularly true in combat encounters.  The end result is that while the players are satisfied with their success, their is a sense of "well that was stupid easy".  In a lot of ways actually I find that having every possible thing defined mechanically actually opens me up to more GM blunders then if I was dynamically (or more specifically logically) storytelling events.

As for knowing your odds.  I think the difference between AD&D and later versions is not that players didn't know their chance of success, but rather the chance for success was handled as part of the story, where in 3rd and 4th edition is a simple matter of quickly doing the math to know with certainty whether or not something is actually dangerous or if the GM is simply describing it that way. 

For example in AD&D its "Their is a chasm here, its about 40 feet across, its slippery and their is an updraft, it looks pretty dangerous".  The player knows its a risk and hence a sense of fear about the jump and must decide, is it worth the risk..  In Pathfinder the player does the math and realizes that he can make this jump no problem because he has a high skill in jump, hence... no sense of dread, he knows its no problem. aka look up in the book.. ok its a DC 15.  Penaltiy for slippery +2, maybe another +2 for updraft... ok so DC 19, I have a +15 in Jump, this is not dangerous at all, its practically automatic.

When all the role-playing situations are handled by simply cacluating odds, the game is less about role-playing and more about skills, abilities and other mechanical functions of the character.

It is faster, it is simpler and I agree with you on that completetly.  In fact its one of the reasons I play pathfinder as it is easier to run the game and so we can get farther in a shorter period of time, but it is at the sacrafice of role-playing I think.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Don't forget that it's still the DM setting the DC, and unless you choose to share it, the players don't know it. Also, I wouldn't call it "great job" on the story writing if one simple 4e ability can break it, because they've pretty much been specifically designed not to do that anymore.

If players are breaking your encounters easily,  then either they or you might be doing something wrong I think applying a rule the wrong way or missing a guideline or something... how exactly do they end up making your encounters stupidly easy? Maybe the situation can be remedied.

Also note that D&D 4e isn't about promoting fear all that much. Players are the big damn heroes and it takes more then a simple pit to scare them.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Don't forget that it's still the DM setting the DC, and unless you choose to share it, the players don't know it. Also, I wouldn't call it "great job" on the story writing if one simple 4e ability can break it, because they've pretty much been specifically designed not to do that anymore.

If players are breaking your encounters easily,  then either they or you might be doing something wrong I think applying a rule the wrong way or missing a guideline or something... how exactly do they end up making your encounters stupidly easy? Maybe the situation can be remedied.

Also note that D&D 4e isn't about promoting fear all that much. Players are the big damn heroes and it takes more then a simple pit to scare them.



Ya I think their is a lot of truth to what your saying.  I think my issue with campaign and adventure desing is that I still think to much in terms of realism.  4th edition in particular has become a very over the top super hero game where the players are all effectivly Connans who can do just about everything.  I do have the sense that their is so much confindence in their characters abilities mechanically that they don't really fear anything...

"oh a dragon, no problem we are 12th level!"...

I suppose its why Im more partial to older systems where the players where very much mortal men and their level while it empowered them a great deal in systems like AD&D, no one was ever invinsible and they where always one bad role-playing choice from a severe injury or even death.  The fear of death in the face of danger is one of the appeals of older RPG design I think for me.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Realism should definately go out the window. But it's quite possible to get them scared, you just have to set out to scare them. I once presented my party with a Goristro (a lvl 19 Elite demon) when they were level 6, the creature was locked behind a portal.

They taunted it, then closed the portal. Then later, they realised what they had just earned the enmity of...

Big heroes or not, they get scared everytime I mention "demon" or "nine hells", because they know there's something out there waiting for a chance to curbstomp them, something they have no hope of defeating.

Fear can still be done. It's just not much of a "Woops, you rolled a 1. Better get that backup sheet" anymore, it's more subtle, more powerful, more real. Going down that slippery road, where you see the Vampire emerge from the dark, feel its power as you become paralyzed and notice your allies are too distracted by the Vampire's minions to see it glide close to you, sinking its teeth in your neck and being unable to move...

To me that's a lot more scary then "A Wizard appears. He casts Finger of Death. You died."

Suspence is 90% of fear, and it's still there. The inevitability of defeat, that is scary. And the longer you toy with your players, the longer they try to push on knowing they're going to lose, the more scared they'll get.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Yes of course you are right.. I don't think a system can deter a GM from creating suspense and fear.  Though I do like the intensity of a roll as much as I do a good story.  The agony of deciding whether or not to jump and cliff and not knowing exactly what your odds are and having no way of looking it up has its own mystique.

One thing I do note about 4th edition that is considerably better then 3rd and pathfinder is that because the skills are less defined, you do have that sort of "no place to look" feel to it.  I think thats one aspect of classic Role-playing captured even though I find that the skills are a bit too generic.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Great thread gents.

I've been playing since Basic D&D so have experienced every version.    I remember reading an article not long ago about this and the writer (can't recall who it was) said that back in AD&D days (1E if you will) Bob the 1st level Fighter was basically identical to Bill the 1st level Fighter.   It was only as these two characters went out and did stuff that they diverged.  Bob became Bob the Dragon Slayer and Bill became Bill Trollbane.   But mechanically they were the same still - it was their roles in the world and the things they did which differentiated them.   Now under 4E Bob the Sword and Board Fighter with these N powers is a totally different character to Bill the Tempest Fighter with these N powers.  The game system differentiates them before they have lifted a dice.   I like this idea.

I think they have done a lot of good stuff with 4E.  Just last session my monk was in the sewers and wanted to make a jump from one walkway to the other across the slime.  It was a simple case to look up how easy this would be for me and do the maths - I knew it was an easy jump for me with small risk (something like a 4+ on d20 to make it).   Then I had to look up doing the same thing from a standing start needing to clear the ochre jelly in the way.  The rules said I needed a 40+ on my d20 to achieve that.   Simples - I couldn't do it.       I like this as a player - I don't feel I'm getting shafted by the DM "making up" random chances to succeed.

I do, however, miss the fact that you really can't  play 4E without a grid.   1E and 2E we used to just sit around a room and the DM would describe the dungeon - it was all very fast and loose.  I miss that (to a degree).

Cheers!
Though I do like the intensity of a roll as much as I do a good story.



Yeah, 4e doesn't cater to that basically. They really tried (and succeeded) to not have success and failure henching on a single die-roll, but on a series of rolls with various chances to change tactics and try differens solutions first.
You don't get that "oh man this roll is so important" often anymore. Although when it does happen, it gets extra intense because it's the first time in 5 levels that it happens. I've had a few of those and they can be pretty serious. 

As for playing without a grid, Wrecan has a post on his blog called SARN-FU, basically a way to play 4e without a grid. You might enjoy reading it. 
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Yes indeed Basic 1st edition was definitly a simplified system, oddly enough it was very demanding on the GM but simultanously quicker in execution as you mentioned, things where much looser and the definitions of the phsyical world where less mechanical.

Though I always felt that basic was more of an introductory game to D&D then systems that followed it.  It sort of feels to me like if I was going to get say a group of 7 year olds into Role-Playing I would use that system just for that dynamic and story focused way of running games.

Im actually amidst a rather heated discussion about differentiation of classes in 4th edition.  I agree with you certainly that players in 4th edition have greater options and even 1st level characters can have a great deal of variety and differences in abilities, my beef with the system is that mechanically the abilities themselves don't differ that much.  Its all about very small adjustments and little side effects, it just seems pointless to create so much variation yet have so many simularities. There are maybe 20 or so actual effects like Knockback, Imobilize or gaining extra attacks.. and they are just shuffled around into different combinations. 

I agree that this creates a lot of dynamics in combat and I do think the combat system is fun in 4th edition but it just doesn't seem all that nescessary in a role-playing game but what it does do is slow the game down a great deal.  I mean I don't know how you guys feel about it but I have never thought of "combat" as the central aspect of a role-playing game.  Its a part of it sure, but I don't believe a game session should boil down to a series of combat encounters.   

Their is something illussive about 4th edition that just doesn't sit that well with me from a role-playing perspective.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Keep in mind that D&D basic 1st edition was on of the first of its kind. Many, many things have been learned since then, and this has influenced the design direction of the game greatly.

Also, the reason there are a few basic effects and many shufflings of them is to create emergent options... because there are hundreds of powers that allow you to Prone an enemy, you can create a single Feat that gives a bonus to powers that Push 1, and you suddenly boosted dozens of exploits, spells, prayers, etc, etc. It makes it so much easier to build upon things.

Simple powers such as Tide of Iron are not only useful and awesome, but they can be varied in dozens of ways depending on the kind of character you want to play. Things like that are possible precisely because there are a few basic effects and many ways to modify them. You don't need "improved Tide of Iron" to push enemies further, you just need something that allows you to Push further. And if you happen to be a Wizard with Thunderwave, then that same thing that gives a bonus to the Fighter might work for you as well, because you're using the same Mechanic.

It's simply a way to give players more control and freedom. By keeping the basics low and abstract, and allowing everything to influence everything, you generate far more options then by constantly expanding the basics themselves.
Very solid gameplay design, basically. 
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
The thing that amazes me most about going from say 1e and 1.5e(thats what 2e would be called today), aside from so many rules for every little thing is this so called balance. Class balance didn't exist and really no one cared. You're a magic user, this means you die left and right at low levels but people fear you like nothing else IF you get to be high lvl. IF...

People in my games were ok with that. No one cared if there wasn't a rule for sitting on a stool vs sitting at a kitchen table. We just made stuff up as we went along. It was always fair, because most of the people at the table agreed with the ruling afterwards. If it sounded like you were trying to work the system, and people did try from time to time, as DM I just chuckled and asked if they REALLY wanted to try that. They knew what was coming and backed off. See? No guess work involved.

My games still work that way. I really don't care what the rules say, I'm the DM and that means I'm the final arbitter. That said, if it sounds fair to me, go for it, if not, you're outta luck. Then again, I DM for adults, some of which I've DM'd for for quite awhile so we know where we're coming from.

Thats one good thing about so many rules I suppose. Used to be you asked how someone's game was because they varied quite a bit from one DM to the other. Now its more generic but you usually know what you're getting into before you get there.
Well I have another question for you Pluisjen.  In your opinion where did 4th edition go in terms of advancement in the series of D&D.  Did it take a step back from 3.5 edition and capture its roots, or is 4th edition a sort of rendition of what future role-playing games might look like?

To me the vibe has always been that it attempts to go back, their is to some respect an elegance there in the way it did by simultanously offering interesting mechanics, while having less restriction, but in the same token it has really strayed from the sense of tolkein like fantasy where the game world is less fantasy and more science fiction.

Do you miss the sense of realism?  Or I don't know what the right word might be but perhaps being down to earth as a game system? 

What attracts me to older systems like AD&D is the sort of idea that the heros are ordinary men (in a fantasy sense) doing extrodinary things.  While 4th edition seems to be yet another step towards the super fantastical imortals, almost god like characters with very few boundries.  Is that a good thing?  Or are we going to look back at some point and wonder where the floor is as role-players?

Im finding a lot in my group that their is this sort of synical sense that the 4th edition is such a stray from the real world that players are having a hard time connecting with their characters, because they are so vastly different from anything they can imagine themselves being.  And this sort of disasosiation is creating a kind of role-playing void and sense of attachement to story in place of a more sort of board game like feeling where they take actions when they are supposed to, roll dice when their supposed to and the whole experiance is all very tactical and strategic rather then a communcal story.

Any of that make any sense lol?

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

I see a few references to "basic 1st edition".


Just to be clear, are we discussing basic (the first in the BECMI line) or 1st edition (the first in the AD&D line)? Keep in mind that they are 2 totally different versions of the game.

Very good OP, I think.

Looking back at the old editions, I made the same observations. But my conclusion is that I like the new version of DnD much much better than the old versions.

The old versions gave a lot of power to the DM, indeed. With power comes responsibility, though. And as a player, to be dependent on the "whim" of the DM can be a nuisance at best and a disaster at worst. Every situation in the game can become case law. And every decision can be different, it could be an incoherent mass of rulings. That is what I sometimes experienced, at least.

Also, without a basic rule set covering almost all situations in an abstract sort of way (and 4E covers situations in an abstract sort of way), successful roleplay depends a lot on what the player knows, not what the character can do. And it is about what the DM knows.
How to climb a wall, how to swim in armor, how to build a bridge, how to mix alchemical fire? If you have a rule for it, however abstract it may be, if the character knows it statwise, it could be done according to the rules. If they are no rules and the player has to explain what the character does ("I mix reagent A with B, then put it in this device, etc.), the game favors those who know more, regardless of what the character actually knows.
And this increases the chance of metagaming.

Another thing is consistency of the rules themselves. Do I have to roll high or low? Do I use percentage die or just a D20? There is more design elegance in a system that follows one simple principle (rolling high is good, you use D20). Of course I like the fact that my barbarian had STR 18 (63) back then. But why is strength measured in percentages to some point but not intelligence, wisdom or charisma?

Last but not least: prep time. The old rule-systems required much more prep-time for a DM. I prepared at least three 4E game nights yesterday in less than 3 hours. With a wife, kids, job and other hobbies, that is much better for me. As a pupil or student time was less of a problem.

The roleplaying itself has NEVER changed for me in all editions. I feel I can roleplay in Basic DnD, ADnD, 3.x or 4E. Really, no difference there. But to me, in my opinion, 4E offers the transparency and ease of play and preparation that fit my needs today more than any other DnD-system before. And I like the fact that it was built that way, the designers had exactly this in mind. I applaud them for that.
I don't know, I remember thinking "oh a dragon, no problem we are around 16th level" back in 2nd edition. Yeah, he killed a few of us, but we still won and our cleric resurrected them anyway. Oh, and for all you youngsters I say around 16th level because there was a staggered xp progression for the different classes back then.

Anyway, I'll get to my point. The game has always been what you make of it. I have played in games where roleplaying consisted of 4 catchphrases and a silly name, all of which were drawn at random from the DM's hat. I have played in games where my character was the 3rd son of Duke Oswald, 5th in line to the throne of Cormyr. Now guess which editions those games were in. 

Good thread by the way. I really like the idea. I'll give it some more thought and post some more later.
The thing that amazes me most about going from say 1e and 1.5e(thats what 2e would be called today), aside from so many rules for every little thing is this so called balance. Class balance didn't exist and really no one cared. You're a magic user, this means you die left and right at low levels but people fear you like nothing else IF you get to be high lvl. IF...

People in my games were ok with that. No one cared if there wasn't a rule for sitting on a stool vs sitting at a kitchen table. We just made stuff up as we went along. It was always fair, because most of the people at the table agreed with the ruling afterwards. If it sounded like you were trying to work the system, and people did try from time to time, as DM I just chuckled and asked if they REALLY wanted to try that. They knew what was coming and backed off. See? No guess work involved.

My games still work that way. I really don't care what the rules say, I'm the DM and that means I'm the final arbitter. That said, if it sounds fair to me, go for it, if not, you're outta luck. Then again, I DM for adults, some of which I've DM'd for for quite awhile so we know where we're coming from.

Thats one good thing about so many rules I suppose. Used to be you asked how someone's game was because they varied quite a bit from one DM to the other. Now its more generic but you usually know what you're getting into before you get there.



Ya I hear ya.  Sometimes I get the sense that Im just old and sort of that classic sense of D&D is not shared with some of the younger players.  I mean I have players in my group that were in liquid form when 2nd edition was an old system.  Suffice to say though I suppose a good GM can take any system and layer it with his style so that the game performs to his way of telling a story and the mechanics really shouldnt matter that much.

One thing I can say though without reservation and I agree with everyone here is that 4th edition is definitly an achievement in role-play game design.  They have taken something that is traditionaly fairly complex and made it something our younger generation can pick up and relate to.  Perhaps my age is showing when I generate my opinion about 4th editions mechanics.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"


I see a few references to "basic 1st edition".


Just to be clear, are we discussing basic (the first in the BECMI line) or 1st edition (the first in the AD&D line)? Keep in mind that they are 2 totally different versions of the game.




Ya thats a good point, certainly their is mechanically a lot of variations in the earlier D&D versions.  To me I suppose the defining version was 2nd edition, probobly because its the one I played the most and ran the most.  If I had to pick a second in line though Pathfinder would probobly be that game.  Though im at a loss really to give any constructive reasoning, I read the core rule book and it spoke to me.  Sometimes it really is just a matter of inspiration, though I have to admit i'm partial to certain authors and if we were to include all games systems that I list as my favorites they would mostly be from TSR and its a safe bet that Richard Baker, Gary Gygax and often Bill Slavicsek are behind the projects.

Alternity being at the top of the list, certainly AD&D a close second and I would definitly have to give a tip of a hat to West End Games version of Star Wars.

Im not sure where 4th edition would fall in their but certainly it has had a great impact on the role-playing community, their are very few people I know that haven't found themselves behind a character in this edition of the game.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"

Well I have another question for you Pluisjen.  In your opinion where did 4th edition go in terms of advancement in the series of D&D.  Did it take a step back from 3.5 edition and capture its roots, or is 4th edition a sort of rendition of what future role-playing games might look like?



My main experience with D&D before 3e comes from games like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, never have them played. In my opinion, 4e is simply taking a new approach to the whole "story of heroes thing".

Instead of trying to write an epic Tolkien-worthy 2000 page book, it tries to catch the essence of a 2 hour action movie. If you prefer the written version of Tolkien over the movie version, I think you'll like 3e and before more, whereas if you prefer the movies (and other action/fantasy movies) I think you'll enjoy 4e.

You shouldn't approach it as "a new version of D&D" but rather "a new approach to storytelling".


Do you miss the sense of realism?  Or I don't know what the right word might be but perhaps being down to earth as a game system? 



If I want realism, I'll go outside. I want games to be fun, most importantly. That means that things don't operate on a "makes sense" level, but a "would be awesome" level. Would it be awesome, but nonsensical, if the bad guy's lair collapsed after his defeat? Then it happens, because it's awesome and I'm here for the awesome.


What attracts me to older systems like AD&D is the sort of idea that the heros are ordinary men (in a fantasy sense) doing extrodinary things.  While 4th edition seems to be yet another step towards the super fantastical imortals, almost god like characters with very few boundries.  Is that a good thing?  Or are we going to look back at some point and wonder where the floor is as role-players?



You can still be an ordinary man, if you want. The rules allow you to be awesome heroes, but they don't force you to. How you tell your story can have a lot of impact on it. But all-in-all, heroes in 4e are more capable, I think that is the main thing. They're not bumbling fools anymore, they're actual people that can actually handle themselves.
Personally I enjoy that idea; it can be fun to roleplay an average Joe for a while, but at some point you want to become Conan and kick ass, instead of remaining Joe, only with a magical sword, who is still constantly tripping over uneven floors and hitting his allies once every 20 rolls.


I'm finding a lot in my group that their is this sort of synical sense that the 4th edition is such a stray from the real world that players are having a hard time connecting with their characters, because they are so vastly different from anything they can imagine themselves being.  And this sort of disasosiation is creating a kind of role-playing void and sense of attachement to story in place of a more sort of board game like feeling where they take actions when they are supposed to, roll dice when their supposed to and the whole experiance is all very tactical and strategic rather then a communcal story.



Do any of your players watch movies? The whole idea is that they are larger then life action heroes, not normal people. Play them like you see the heroes in big Hollywood movies played. I think that works a lot better.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Well I have another question for you Pluisjen.  In your opinion where did 4th edition go in terms of advancement in the series of D&D.  Did it take a step back from 3.5 edition and capture its roots, or is 4th edition a sort of rendition of what future role-playing games might look like?

To me the vibe has always been that it attempts to go back, their is to some respect an elegance there in the way it did by simultanously offering interesting mechanics, while having less restriction, but in the same token it has really strayed from the sense of tolkein like fantasy where the game world is less fantasy and more science fiction.

Do you miss the sense of realism?  Or I don't know what the right word might be but perhaps being down to earth as a game system? 

What attracts me to older systems like AD&D is the sort of idea that the heros are ordinary men (in a fantasy sense) doing extrodinary things.  While 4th edition seems to be yet another step towards the super fantastical imortals, almost god like characters with very few boundries.  Is that a good thing?  Or are we going to look back at some point and wonder where the floor is as role-players?

Im finding a lot in my group that their is this sort of synical sense that the 4th edition is such a stray from the real world that players are having a hard time connecting with their characters, because they are so vastly different from anything they can imagine themselves being.  And this sort of disasosiation is creating a kind of role-playing void and sense of attachement to story in place of a more sort of board game like feeling where they take actions when they are supposed to, roll dice when their supposed to and the whole experiance is all very tactical and strategic rather then a communcal story.

Any of that make any sense lol?



To me, what you say makes a lot of sense. And it describes the different tastes of play that we see in the different editions. Some like it this way, some like it the other way. Some get upset about this, which we should not. 

I do not think that "realism" plays any part in this. AC, HP, THAC0, magic users, shape changers and beholders offer no realistic representation of the world. They offer some sense of believability to some people and no sense of believability to others. I played Harnmaster for a couple of years and many of those that I played with praised this system for it's realism and looked down on "AdnD-hack-and-slash". One really should not bother discussing this, it leads no where. Nowhere at all.

But the characters ARE different in these systems. And you have to accomodate your roleplaying to the way the characters are. Yet, there is no disconnection between the player of a 4E character any more than there would be in 3.x or any other system before. High level 3.x/Pathfinder characters are very powerful, not less powerful than 4E characters. The same is true for high level magic users in ADnD. Why, then, would that affect your roleplaying? You are still dealing with fireballs, flying monsters, invisibility, etc.

Low level 4E characters are very vulnerable, too, so there is nor "superhuman" aspect in my opinion. My players wet their pants fighting a wolf pack at low level. Sure, a lot of this has to do with how you describe the scene, but also rules-wise.

This is what I think:
You can play "ordinary men and women destined for great deeds" in 4E. Or you can play "heroes from the start". It is a question of fluff and description. It is not a question of the use of the rules. I have never played in a group that allowed for TPKs or did not bemoan the (very rare) death of a beloved PC. We have always tried to avoid these situations, because we thought they are no fun. That has not changed at all, regardless of the edition or even game system (DnD, Warhammer, Rolemaster, Runequest, Midgard, Shadowrun, Traveller, Fading Suns, Harnmaster, Gurps, Cthulu - oh, well, probably not Cthulu. I think you are EXPECTED to die at some point in Cthulu. Or be completely insane).
Thanks for everyones opinions guys, its been a great discussion, definitly gave me a lot to think about and like the nerd I am, i will be thinking about.

"Edition wars like all debates exist because people like debates"


Ya I hear ya.  Sometimes I get the sense that Im just old and sort of that classic sense of D&D is not shared with some of the younger players.  I mean I have players in my group that were in liquid form when 2nd edition was an old system.  Suffice to say though I suppose a good GM can take any system and layer it with his style so that the game performs to his way of telling a story and the mechanics really shouldnt matter that much.



If you were to listen to some of the 4E games that I DM, you wouldn't be able to tell immediately what edition it is that's being played (aside from when specific rules or powers are mentioned). I run my 4E games just like I ran my BECMI, 1E, and 2E games. My storytelling method has changed very little over the years. It has certainly improved, as I was only a kid when DMing BECMI and 1E, but it's more the depth of the tale of being told than the core storyline itself.

That's why I always giggle a little to myself when I see people, for whatever reason, label any given edition as "not D&D". D&D, to me, is a mindset, not a ruleset. I can tell the exact same stories regardless of edition. My players (especially some of my long-time players) appreciate that they can sit down to one of my games and get the same depth of plot/story no matter what edition we might be playing that night. The rules might be different, but the approach to storytelling can remain consistant.
D&D, to me, is a mindset, not a ruleset.


Awesome line!  Consider this stolen.
D&D, to me, is a mindset, not a ruleset.


Awesome line!  Consider this stolen.



Thanks.
I have my brief moments of clarity every now and then.
Role-playing is role-playing don't matter what edition you use. 

I have heard this statement many times over.  " X edition let players roleplay more and better then X edition"

I have been playing since AD&D and frankly my roleplaying has remained the same.  It has in fact gotten better as I have gotten older, but at the core roleplayers will roleplay regardless of edition and rules

In a way 4th opened up many doors for roleplaying.  In previous editions there where a lot of "fluff" rules.

The most obvious being Paladins had to be Lawful good.  Now that this fluff mechanic is gone it opens up more doors for roleplaying
D&D, to me, is a mindset, not a ruleset.


Awesome line!  Consider this stolen.



Credit where due... awesome HS... awesome.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 


In a way 4th opened up many doors for roleplaying.  In previous editions there where a lot of "fluff" rules.

The most obvious being Paladins had to be Lawful good.  Now that this fluff mechanic is gone it opens up more doors for roleplaying



While I hate to expound on an alignment discussion in the middle of an otherwise good thread, the old-E Paladin-hate gets very old. Paladins have somehow become the poster-children for everything that people seem to dislike about old-E's (well...them and THAC0). Far too many times I have have seen/heard the old "paladins had to be LG, and that limited my RP". In the vast majority of these cases, the claimants can rarely produce any actual evidence that it limited RP, and it has now basically become a tag-line to smear older editions, and is along the same vein as referencing WoW when describing 4E.

If you chose to play a paladin, you knew the alignment restriction was in place. You knew that if you did something stupid you'd be stripped of your paladinhood. You knew that if you had a "gotcha" DM that you were already on borrowed time. You knew all these things before writing "Paladin" on your character sheet...but you chose to do it anyway. If you did not know these things, then it was a failure on you for not doing your research. You obviously had a character concept in mind and, by writing "Paladin" on your character sheet, you agreed to abide by the stipulations that came along with it. You had zero right to complain, grouse, or otherwise whine when those stipulations came up and bit you in the butt. Playing a paladin was not for everyone. Many couldn't handle it. For them, there were fighter/cleric multis that could net you many of the same features, but without the stipulations. Playing a paladin was a choice that many took too quickly without actually reading all the stipulations that came along with it. I have no sympathy for those players.

Paladins had no less RP opportunity than anyone else did. An even-halfway imaginative group can do wonders with a paladin. Setting up scenarios that tested his faith and commitments were just one way to expound on the RP for paladins. So many other classes could not have these scenarios presented to them, because the alignment they chose afforded them the right to not give a damn about their commitments and faith. To tell the truth, I would rather DM an entire group of paladins than just one bad player who wrote CN or TN on his alignment line.


Paladins had no less RP opportunity than anyone else did. An even-halfway imaginative group can do wonders with a paladin. Setting up scenarios that tested his faith and commitments were just one way to expound on the RP for paladins. So many other classes could not have these scenarios presented to them, because the alignment they chose afforded them the right to not give a damn about their commitments and faith. To tell the truth, I would rather DM an entire group of paladins than just one bad player who wrote CN or TN on his alignment line.




In the Pathfinder campaign I'm in, we have a (dwarf) paladin, and I haven't noticed it affecting his RP at all. Granted, if we had a 'Gotcha!' style DM, we'd probably have an ex-paladin, because the rest of us... well, we aren't exactly paragons of virtue. We manage to do the right thing 99% of the time though...

The biggest change for me is that my games now use dungeon tiles and minis.

That last time I played with a larger group of players we were playing AD&D. We would have one 10x20 dungeon tile on the ground and after the players put their minis on there to show marching order we'd not move them the rest of the night.

Back then I felt the game lacked some realism that made role-playing become metagaming too much.

I was trying to chase my players into a cave by having an orc army on one side of them and a 200 foot cliff on the other. The players thought about fighting the army since orcs could not hit their AC, and ended up deciding to jump off the cliff because they knew they could survive 20d6 damage and the army could not.

I changed games after that to play what I considered more realistic games (Earthdawn and Shadowrun).

I came back to D&D with 4th edition. Since the rules read like a miniatures battle game, my current game is pretty much a tabletop battle. That's the kind of game my group is expecting, so I run it that way. It actually makes it easier since I can use published adventures to speed up my prep time.

At first I had created an entire world with factions, important NPCs, secret events in motion, foreshadowing, and elaborate back stories. It turned out that my player eyes would glaze over till the dice came out, so I pretty much cut the story down to a paragraph letting the players know why they were standing at the entrance of the next dungeon.


What's kinda funny is that when I first tried playing 4e with my wife her eyes would glaze over as soon as the dice came out. She could not understand why it would take 4 hits to kill a wolf. She preffers a system like Vampire where we spend most of the game session without any rolls.

In a way 4th opened up many doors for roleplaying.  In previous editions there where a lot of "fluff" rules.

The most obvious being Paladins had to be Lawful good.  Now that this fluff mechanic is gone it opens up more doors for roleplaying



While I hate to expound on an alignment discussion in the middle of an otherwise good thread, the old-E Paladin-hate gets very old. Paladins have somehow become the poster-children for everything that people seem to dislike about old-E's (well...them and THAC0). Far too many times I have have seen/heard the old "paladins had to be LG, and that limited my RP". In the vast majority of these cases, the claimants can rarely produce any actual evidence that it limited RP, and it has now basically become a tag-line to smear older editions, and is along the same vein as referencing WoW when describing 4E.

If you chose to play a paladin, you knew the alignment restriction was in place. You knew that if you did something stupid you'd be stripped of your paladinhood. You knew that if you had a "gotcha" DM that you were already on borrowed time. You knew all these things before writing "Paladin" on your character sheet...but you chose to do it anyway. If you did not know these things, then it was a failure on you for not doing your research. You obviously had a character concept in mind and, by writing "Paladin" on your character sheet, you agreed to abide by the stipulations that came along with it. You had zero right to complain, grouse, or otherwise whine when those stipulations came up and bit you in the butt. Playing a paladin was not for everyone. Many couldn't handle it. For them, there were fighter/cleric multis that could net you many of the same features, but without the stipulations. Playing a paladin was a choice that many took too quickly without actually reading all the stipulations that came along with it. I have no sympathy for those players.

Paladins had no less RP opportunity than anyone else did. An even-halfway imaginative group can do wonders with a paladin. Setting up scenarios that tested his faith and commitments were just one way to expound on the RP for paladins. So many other classes could not have these scenarios presented to them, because the alignment they chose afforded them the right to not give a damn about their commitments and faith. To tell the truth, I would rather DM an entire group of paladins than just one bad player who wrote CN or TN on his alignment line.




I didn't mean to bring alignment hate, but I was showing a example of a rule that was a fluff mechanic.  I also didn't say you can't roleplay because of the restriction, but it did limit it if you wanted to something outside of the traditional paladin.

Another fluff mechanic I know of is you wanted to be a half-sea elf you need to see the ocean at least 1 a week or you took penalties to your wisdom because of homesickness.

Fluff mechanic was something I didn't relies I didn't like till it was gone



The thing that amazes me most about going from say 1e and 1.5e(thats what 2e would be called today), aside from so many rules for every little thing is this so called balance. Class balance didn't exist and really no one cared. You're a magic user, this means you die left and right at low levels but people fear you like nothing else IF you get to be high lvl. IF...
 


People did care and many walked away (like me) and others made there own games. I thought it was very much a crock to not feel magical and feel like some crappy fragile apprentice at low levels. And as a fighter I thought it was a crock to be somebody elses bagage carrier at high levels. Having nothing effective to do for large periods of time  (often many many adventures worth advancement was slow as a dog and then level drain could make your mage worthless all over again) is un fun and all the romanticizing in the world shrug... its nostalgia... longing for the bad old days.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

The thing that amazes me most about going from say 1e and 1.5e(thats what 2e would be called today), aside from so many rules for every little thing is this so called balance. Class balance didn't exist and really no one cared. You're a magic user, this means you die left and right at low levels but people fear you like nothing else IF you get to be high lvl. IF...
 


People did care and many walked away (like me) and others made there own games. I thought it was very much a crock to not feel magical and feel like some crappy fragile apprentice at low levels. And as a fighter I thought it was a crock to be somebody elses bagage carrier at high levels. Having nothing effective to do for large periods of time  (often many many adventures worth advancement was slow as a dog and then level drain could make your mage worthless all over again) is un fun and all the romanticizing in the world shrug... its nostalgia... longing for the bad old days.



+1


+1


 +2.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
RP has nothing to do with the edition.  If you can RP, then you can do it 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6E..... it won't matter.  Though to be fair, my first 4E character was an unaligned charisma paladin who cared more about his hair than helping people   One of those "Just because I never could before" things.
RP has nothing to do with the edition.  If you can RP, then you can do it 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6E..... it won't matter.  Though to be fair, my first 4E character was an unaligned charisma paladin who cared more about his hair than helping people   One of those "Just because I never could before" things.


Why couldn't you before?  DM?
Because the rules of the game hard-coded caring about people into the way a paladin had to behave. A paladin who failed to care about people enough lost access to all their class abilities.
RP has nothing to do with the edition.  If you can RP, then you can do it 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6E..... it won't matter.  Though to be fair, my first 4E character was an unaligned charisma paladin who cared more about his hair than helping people   One of those "Just because I never could before" things.


Why couldn't you before?  DM?



Because you couldn't have an unaligned Paladin in earlier editions?

I'm with Hokus on how you can't complain about the Paladin hindering role-play, but I'm also with Rian_King that the Paladin, by requiring LG, limited the concepts that could have the "paladin mechanics".

4e's Paladin is perfect.
Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging. Roll dice, not cars.
Because the rules of the game hard-coded caring about people into the way a paladin had to behave. A paladin who failed to care about people enough lost access to all their class abilities.


So change them.  To this day, I still don't get people's strict adherence to rules they don't like.  The number one thing I love about D&D, is the ability to change the things I don't like.
Because the rules of the game hard-coded caring about people into the way a paladin had to behave. A paladin who failed to care about people enough lost access to all their class abilities.


So change them.  To this day, I still don't get people's strict adherence to rules they don't like.  The number one thing I love about D&D, is the ability to change the things I don't like.


Changing rules requires the consent of the other people in your play group, particularly the DM.  Many people were and still are leery of changing rules.

The paladin, in particular, was considered a very powerful class in 1e and 2e.  The alignment restriction was intended as a way to keep the class balanced (under the peculiar definition of "balance" used when talking about those games).  House ruling out the alignment restriction of paladins in pre-WotC paldins would also require you to come up with a way to limit their powers.  That's more work than most DMs were willing to engage in.
First of all, nice Oberoni fallacy. The ability to change a rule doesn't excuse a bad rule. Second of all, he doesn't necessarily have the ability to change things he doesn't like. If he is playing a paladin, he is not the DM. If he is not the DM, he does not have the ability to change any of the games rules. He can request that the DM do so for him. But the answer will not necessarily be a yes. Alternatively, this edition gave him what he wanted right off the bat: the ability to play a paladin without alignment restriction; the ability to play a paladin who does not necessarily care about people.
First of all, nice Oberoni fallacy. The ability to change a rule doesn't excuse a bad rule.

Excusing a bad rule is not the point, ignoring it or changing it is.  There are many rules in this game and others that don't make sense, those involved have several choices.  They could play the rule as is and suffer the consequences.  They could change the rule to something that all parties agree is more reasonable.  They could not play the game and choose something else off the shelf.   Whatever the solution, complaining about it on an internet forum seems the least likely to be effective.

Second of all, he doesn't necessarily have the ability to change things he doesn't like. If he is playing a paladin, he is not the DM. If he is not the DM, he does not have the ability to change any of the games rules. He can request that the DM do so for him. But the answer will not necessarily be a yes.

He has free will.  If his current DM doesn't allow such play, perhaps finding a DM that does could be a solution.

Alternatively, this edition gave him what he wanted right off the bat: the ability to play a paladin without alignment restriction; the ability to play a paladin who does not necessarily care about people.

Good stuff.  Glad to see his needs are being met.