Legends and Lore - Combat and Other Forms of Violence

56 posts / 0 new
Last post
Legends and Lore
Combat and Other Forms of Violence

by Mike Mearls

While combat has remained constant, it (like almost everything in the game) has changed over the years.

Talk about this column here.

I'll repeat what I said on the article comments itself, since I think it'll get more notice here.


I agree with Mearls here, and finally get where he's going with these articles.  D&D SHOULD be able to support many different kinds of play.  If my game featured more "Essentials"-based classes with fewer options to use per round, even though they're mechanically just as good, then we'd probably be able to get our combats done in good time (instead of the 4 hours it takes for one combat right now, due to players (AND THE DM!!!) with options paralysis on every turn. 

I think I understand, then, why they're putting so much investment into simpler-more-streamlined gameplay right now.  It's not a replacement for more complexity, or saying that "Martial Characters should be simple while Arcane Characters should be complex."  It's more saying that, "many people who play Fighter want to play a more simple character.  Let's give them that option, while MAINTAINING THE OPTION of a more complex Fighter."  The game is moving forward to support both directions, and that makes me very happy.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

I'll repeat what I said on the article comments itself, since I think it'll get more notice here.


I agree with Mearls here, and finally get where he's going with these articles.  D&D SHOULD be able to support many different kinds of play.  If my game featured more "Essentials"-based classes with fewer options to use per round, even though they're mechanically just as good, then we'd probably be able to get our combats done in good time (instead of the 4 hours it takes for one combat right now, due to players (AND THE DM!!!) with options paralysis on every turn. 

I think I understand, then, why they're putting so much investment into simpler-more-streamlined gameplay right now.  It's not a replacement for more complexity, or saying that "Martial Characters should be simple while Arcane Characters should be complex."  It's more saying that, "many people who play Fighter want to play a more simple character.  Let's give them that option, while MAINTAINING THE OPTION of a more complex Fighter."  The game is moving forward to support both directions, and that makes me very happy.



Well Said, but beware the flames, they be a comin
Speedier combat would be a welcome option at my table.  I would love to run a couple of quick encounters and then be able to introduce a complex tactical encounter as the conclusion of an adventuring chapter.
Oh, I'm aware.  I've learned to ignore the flames, mostly.  There's a lot of worries there, and I know it's in WotC's best interest to try to dampen them somewhat, get them from burning everything.  But Mearls' articles are finally starting to take shape here.  I agree with those who said that there should be a compilation, or these are better read all alongside one another.  He's going somewhere with this:  he's taking us towards this idea that D&D should be many different things for many different people, because ultimately, it's a roleplaying game, and how do you sell imagination?  You can't.  But you can sell structure, and different structures provide for different ways of playing the game.  When I RP, I'm always frustrated by people who write their characters as being too powerful, making character-on-character duels somewhat pointless and coming down to when one RPer decides to concede to the other for whatever reason (usually because the other was able to write a more convincing ploy).  The reason this happens is because there's no structure in a free-form RP.  But structure in an RPG allows us to judge and weigh the powers of characters, so we can play what we want, but also be balanced against each other and with each other.  That's why I love RPGs like D&D. 

But creating that structure is difficult.  How do we decided what format that structure will be in?  What are our goals for making it?  Mearls had now clearly identified their goals:  they want to provide us all with the most fun game for each and every player and/or group.  And some groups are going to want more structure, and others less.  Some are going to want one type of structure, and others, another.  Just because one type of structure is sitting on the fence right now because it has a lot of support while another form of structure is being built up, a lot of people are worried the second structure is going to be the be-all and end-all.  But both are equally valid and equally desirable by WotC, who want to sell us the structures that will allow us to play the game we want to play. 

The only way I can see a downpoint in all this is for people who actually felt that strict adherence to AEDU was the only way to keep the game balanced and fun for everyone.  I disagree with this statement, but I have more than one friend who believes this and is extremely dissatisfied with WotC ever since they revived the Power Point mechanic in Player's Handbook 3.  I don't know how one would go about pleasing this sort of player/DM, besides saying, "in the games I play with you, we'll just not use any player rule-sources published from PH3 on" or some variant of that.  I don't think there's much I can do otherwise, and this frustrates me, because I want to play with this friend, but I also want to play with the new toys.  Guess I just need to start another group that I play in, and toggle between multiple different games.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

Don't worry, Marandhir is a Tiefling. He's resistant to fire. ;)


I said as much on Wrecan's thread. Combat should go quick or be drawn out if the DM should choose to do so. Right now, combat is great as drawn out. Short? It's okay, but it really isn't a challenge. Maybe we can get creatures who have special templates that allow them to challenge players in a short period. As "Elite" creatures are a special template, perhaps "Quick" creatures can be a template for fast but meaningful play.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

^ Alter_Boy makes a good point.  Wink


Also, Mearls name-dropped Kara-Tur.  Where else have I heard that setting recently?  Could this be 2012's, to tie into Elemental Heroes?

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

I'm excited to see this Combat Velocity article.  We just had a discussion about this very topic yesterday at our game when an encounter unexpectedly took 2 1/2 hours.

I will say this is probably my favourite of Mearls' articles. He covered things in a good manor, and didn't make it sound like he was buying into nastalgia. He also took a good amount of time to reference 4e in there too!

I understand that essentials wants to provide something simple for the simple crowd. However, it creates issues in three key few areas.

1) Ok, so there's people wanting a simple fighter. You make a simple fighter. Why produce a second, just as complex if not more, wizard? What if you want to play a simple spellcaster.

2) Why do you continue to support these? Now, I can understand some new simple classes to give a bit more variety, but why publish more options for the simple classes? It just bloats them back up to the old ones. Thus defeating your point of keeping them simple.

3) The "complex" crowd losing out on new stuff, that instead the simple crowd gets. While many powers...mostly arcane and divine...are transferable back to the parent classes, it isnt the same as a new build or class like we used to get. Right now this is mostly HoS's problem. You have a bunch of powers, but no new builds unless you have DDI, or bought the simple books that you wouldnt want to buy otherwise. The original assassin, one of the few pure shadow  classes, and desperately hurting for support, gets a new "build" that has nothing to do with it, with some utilitiy powers you can poach. In the end for us complex folks, HoS is like paying 30 bucks for a few dragon articles of powers.

That said, while simpler classes can help reduce combat length, they definitely don't have a garunteed effect. The Thief in my party takes noticibly longer than the mage.

Note: I would like to clerify by calling a crowd "simple" i do not mean it in a way insulting their mental capacity. They merely enjoy simple characters. I'm cool with that, and have some in the party. I am also not calling complex people any better than simple. I am merely saying making simple things complex again is likely to hurt the simple crowd, while not helping the complex crowd.

Making combat simpler, or faster, doesn't make out-of-combat more prevalent or detailed. If, Mr Mearls, you want to encourage courtly intrigues and other activities of this kind, this is by produce rules, or at least guidelines for them, not by making another aspect of the game simpler.
Simpler combat is just simpler combat.
I agree on the interest of being able to "modulate" the complexity of the rules according to the campaign you want to play. but the reasoning that simple combat encourages other activities is a fallacy.
Remember Tunnel Seventeen !
I don't think he was necessarily trying to say that simpler combat encourages a more creative detail of play outside of combat, but rather that some players enjoy a more narrative and interactive style of play and that sometimes a more simple and speedy combat fits their flavor or play a bit better and opens up the opportunity to be more creative.
One of the thing I value most in 4e is the combat engine actually works. In most rpgs, the mechanics are so bad you have no choice but to run them in a narrative fashion with a big dose of dm fiat. I agree however, lots of players prefer a quicker, more narrative style of combat. What I would like to be able to do is keep the existing engine for the big boss fights, but have some other means of dealing with the lesser fights, mainly so they don't soak up so much time.
I don't think the answer is simpler classes, but simpler combat system. Ideally, D&D should have two interchangeable combat systems: one for fast relatively unimportant combats and one for longer and more important combats. The current combat system is very good for the latter one, but we don't have any for the former. Perhaps the fast combat system could omit miniatures and tactical positioning, and maybe monsters would have fewer hit points but hit harder. However, the characters should remain the same for both systems with full range of powers.

I am currently running a story-driven campaign and could really use a faster system. I am now hesitant to use combat in the campaign as even one can eat up most of the session.
i violently disagree with that
I don't think the answer is simpler classes, but simpler combat system. Ideally, D&D should have two interchangeable combat systems: one for fast relatively unimportant combats and one for longer and more important combats. The current combat system is very good for the latter one, but we don't have any for the former. Perhaps the fast combat system could omit miniatures and tactical positioning, and maybe monsters would have fewer hit points but hit harder. However, the characters should remain the same for both systems with full range of powers.

I am currently running a story-driven campaign and could really use a faster system. I am now hesitant to use combat in the campaign as even one can eat up most of the session.





I refer you to the excellent Burning Wheels fight & bloody versus modes of combat.

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." - Nietzsche

TSR Worlds

Alternity

Birthright

Excellent article.  To repeat something I mentioned in comment to the article, I wonder if simplicity/complexity can be an option toggled by the DM on a combat-by-combat basis.  A complex combat uses all the options available to all classes, while in a simple combat, the players burn a daily before play, and then use simplified rules.  A DM can say he is running a "simple game" in which case, the players know not to even bother building complex characters, or he can run a "complex game" so the players know they'll never enter simple mode.  Or a DM can alter the mode depending on the combat.

Just something to think about. 

I’ve removed content from this thread because trolling/baiting is a violation of the Code of Conduct.  You can review the Code of Conduct here: wizards.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wizards.cfg...

************

Please keep your posts polite, respectful, on-topic, and refrain from personal attacks and flaming, these are violations of the Code of Conduct.  You can review the Code here: wizards.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wizards.cfg... . You are welcome to disagree with one another but please do so respectfully and constructively.

************

Please return discussion to the topic of the thread, or it may need to be closed.

************
Since apparently my "I think two different combat systems would work just fine" was also deemed offensive I'll just not talk about it anymore Undecided
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.
i violently disagree with that



Huh? You disagree with having an additional option?
i violently disagree with that



Huh? You disagree with having an additional option?



i dont think something is good just bc its an additional option. its just my personal opinion that i wouldnt want to seperate combat systems.  i already feel there are options out there for speeding up combat. plus i like combat so, just my opinion
I haven't seen combat drag on in a while, myself - we're usually doing 3-4 fights in 4 hours, in the group I play with, with skill challenges and stuff interleaved. I have no problem, however, with a "zoom-in" mode on combat. The Shadow of Yesterday, IIRC, calls it "bringing down the pain" - you can resolve fights in a roll or two, or you can go into "details view," and do the full deal (like mentioned above, Burning Wheel does it too).

I wouldn't use skill challenges for it (mostly because I like the idea of thinking of something new): instead I'd look at the character stats and see if you could come up with an abstraction technique to create "thumbnails" of the character and then very quickly resolve the fight. Abstract them to their roles, for instance, with a couple stats, and then 2-3 dice rolls to resolve the combat (that was, by the way, completely randomly top-of-my-head, and probably wouldn't work and quite possibly cause unexpected symptoms in small animals).

If the reaction to the Essentials line has taught me anything, it’s that people like their style of play and don’t want to see it go away.


This line alone gives me hope that maybe I'll see a 4e book that I consider worth buying again.  Maybe.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I don't think the answer is simpler classes, but simpler combat system. Ideally, D&D should have two interchangeable combat systems: one for fast relatively unimportant combats and one for longer and more important combats. The current combat system is very good for the latter one, but we don't have any for the former. Perhaps the fast combat system could omit miniatures and tactical positioning, and maybe monsters would have fewer hit points but hit harder. However, the characters should remain the same for both systems with full range of powers.

I am currently running a story-driven campaign and could really use a faster system. I am now hesitant to use combat in the campaign as even one can eat up most of the session.

I agree.  Its worth repeating that the mechanics of 4e combat are not broken.  They work just fine, great in fact.  At the risk of contradicting my original posts, I don't know that I would be that interested in running completely different or separate systems in my games.  I just want to have viable options to speed up combat in less important encounters, but I need one that doesn't just cripple the monsters so much that the combat is already just a forgone conclusion from the outset.

This was an excellent read, really enjoyed this article.

As I wrote in the comments section, I believe a gold standard out-of-box is still critical.  That "mid-point" is indeed what the standard game should shoot for and support.

However, it's also true we could all use more ideas, help, and guidelines to emphasize or streamline certain parts of play.  The Combat Velocity article is a great example.

That said, I simply don't believe an average 60 minute combat encounter is a good standard for D&D 4e combat.  I love the tactical richness, but hate the actual time cost.

Combat's average length in 4e hurts the classic D&D experience that features and celebrates a balance of all the modes of the game: challenging combat (and other encounters), immersive roleplay and exploration.  You just have less time to do it all "right."

LEONINE ROAR : Amp Up Your D&D Game : Visit my D&D blog :: FASTER COMBAT : Crush Your Combat Grind

I agree.  Its worth repeating that the mechanics of 4e combat are not broken.  They work just fine, great in fact.  At the risk of contradicting my original posts, I don't know that I would be that interested in running completely different or separate systems in my games.  I just want to have viable options to speed up combat in less important encounters, but I need one that doesn't just cripple the monsters so much that the combat is already just a forgone conclusion from the outset.

Isn't it a bit contradicting to want less important encounters to be still relatively deadly to the players? Shouldn't those just be minor resource drains or even just story driven?

Anyway, personally I am looking at making some kind of super minion that dies after two or three hits and deal a bit more damage for the happy middle ground between skill challenge fight and the typical 1+ hour fights.

Loved the article, and I really have nothing to contribute to the general discussion.

Tho I was wondering what people thought of the narrative poll's Mearls is throwing in at the end of the articles. I'll admit that I actually look forward to seeing where things go from article to article and was wondering if anyone else thougth the same.
Loved the article, and I really have nothing to contribute to the general discussion.

Tho I was wondering what people thought of the narrative poll's Mearls is throwing in at the end of the articles. I'll admit that I actually look forward to seeing where things go from article to article and was wondering if anyone else thougth the same.



Sure, as long as the choices stay engaging, I vote. 

At one point, the last string of them hit a slow spot, so I stopped voting.

There's a subtle lesson there: if most of the choices boil down to go west, east, north and there's not enough exposition, clues, or interesting flavor/RP/scenes, you've lost people.  Just like DM'ing.

LEONINE ROAR : Amp Up Your D&D Game : Visit my D&D blog :: FASTER COMBAT : Crush Your Combat Grind

Mr. Mearls plays the player-diversity card yet again in this weeks Legends & Lore.  Once again, we are told that his brilliant new direction is just including players that have been marginalized by the lack of simplistic martial builds.  Only, this time, we're told, it's general simplicity he's on the prowl for.  Sadly, of course, the lack of any simplified Wizard build (or any non-martial build /as/ simplified as the Slayer, say), not to mention the introduction of Fortune Cards to D&D Encounters, still gives the lie to that claim. 

Also, the diversity issue is couched a little differently this time, between tactical and narrative play.  Of course, the two are quite compatible, even complementary.  Engaging tactical combats, used well, can help build an interactive story in an exciting way; a meaningful story makes tactical combats personal, giving players a sense of buy-in so that it's not just an exercise in winning a battle.

D&D grew out of tactical miniatures wargaming.  It has /always/ had a strong tactical aspect. When Mr. Mearls first played D&D, his group might have ignored most of the rules, but there were others who were measuring ranges and areas of effect, checking morale, aplying weapon vs AC adjustments, using ransuers to dismount riders, pummelling, grappling, setting spears to recieve charges, calculating the volume of rooms/corridors being filled by a fireball, rolling every system-shock/resurection-survival/loyalty-base/whatever % check, and generally playing D&D like the tactical games it had it's roots in.

In the past, the game catered to both types of players, because the community was extremely tollerant of variants.  Even the pages of The Dragon, particularly Leomund's Tiny Hut included many rules variants.  Though the AD&D rules were complex and contained many bizarre details, they could be ignored or changed at the whim of the DM.  Today, in no small part due to WotC's aproach to it's on-line community and organized play events, not to mention the 'everything is core' marketting campaign, that tollerance is virtually gone.  Even where there's not 'One True Way' to play, people seen to /want/ one, clinging to the current 'RAW' as gospel. 

The only way to cater to multiple styles in such an environment is to use flexible, detailed, and above all /balanced/ rules.  Those who want to go all narrative can still ignore some or all rules.  But, most of us are stuck using the rules deemed 'official' or 'RAW'  - so they'd better be /good/. 

Ultimately, wildly different play styles were aplied successfully to OD&D not because it was a good option for that, but because there were so few options.  Today, there are many RPGs and most cater so some specific niche.  WotC may want D&D to have the mass apeal (and thus unit sales) it had when it was virtually the only game in town, but that's simply not an option anymore.  The best that might be done is to make a very good, well-balanced, playable system that still evokes, in it's flavor and fluff elements, some classic D&D nostalgia.   

Making D&D suck the way it did in 1982 isn't going to bring back the fad that drove it to briefly rival monopoly's sales, it'll just make it suck.


Finally, of course, the article ends with another goofy 'poll.'  Clearly, polls were meant to be part of the 'communication' strategy, but, for whatever reason, didn't work out as desired.  I don't know why they're bothering to continue to include them. 

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

I don't think you can (for a roleplaying game) have a combat system that is both quick and deadly without throwing out balance. If you're down to a couple rolls resolving all the combat possiblities from overwealming difficulty to TPK, it's more likely for chance to dictate your demise than in a longer series of rolls with multiple stats that effect a TPK (hitpoints and surges).

Loved the article, and I really have nothing to contribute to the general discussion.

Tho I was wondering what people thought of the narrative poll's Mearls is throwing in at the end of the articles. I'll admit that I actually look forward to seeing where things go from article to article and was wondering if anyone else thougth the same.



Sure, as long as the choices stay engaging, I vote. 

At one point, the last string of them hit a slow spot, so I stopped voting.

There's a subtle lesson there: if most of the choices boil down to go west, east, north and there's not enough exposition, clues, or interesting flavor/RP/scenes, you've lost people.  Just like DM'ing.

I vote for whatever seems like it will end this diversion soonest. I.E. go back out the entrance, run up the stairs from the snake, etc.

Finally, of course, the article ends with another goofy 'poll.'  Clearly, polls were meant to be part of the 'communication' strategy, but, for whatever reason, didn't work out as desired.  I don't know why they're bothering to continue to include them. 



People got somewhat annoyed that he was polling about Essentials design decisions while trying to cover them as something else.

Finally, of course, the article ends with another goofy 'poll.'  Clearly, polls were meant to be part of the 'communication' strategy, but, for whatever reason, didn't work out as desired.  I don't know why they're bothering to continue to include them. 
People got somewhat annoyed that he was polling about Essentials design decisions while trying to cover them as something else.
OK, but either drop them or use them more honestly.

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

Do nonsense polls really bug you guys that much? (Who cares?)
Quick combat rules could be used to represent combat you can clearly dominate, thus reducing the outcome to check wether you lose healing surges or not. Maybe abstracting the battlefield into two front lines divided between melee, close range and long range put head to head then include a few rolls. Find some way that clever players can avoid losing healing surges in those battles so they are rewarded by having more ressources. Keep the tactical encounter for stuff that matters.

Also for the polls I always vote for the foolhardy version, this time I attacked the snake :p
58292718 wrote:
I love Horseshoecrabfolk. What I love most about them is that they seem to be the one thing that we all can agree on.
See for yourself, click here!
For quick, narrative-style battles maybe it would work if you minionize all the baddies. I know that's what we do for infiltration-style "Silence the guards!" type encounters.
For quick, narrative-style battles maybe it would work if you minionize all the baddies. I know that's what we do for infiltration-style "Silence the guards!" type encounters.



There is no problem that cant be solved with MOAR minions... or.... well MOAR dragons.
  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."

 

A 'quick combat' resolution system could certainly be workable and balanced - well, about as workable and balanced as the skill challenge system.  In fact, it could be similar to the skill challenge system.  Roll some dice, deduct some surges, move on.  I can't see it being terribly engaging, though.

But, then, I don't really understand the 'combats take too long' thing, anyway.  4e combat is fun - option rich, tactical depth, however you want to put it - getting it over with as fast as possible is counter-intuitive.  I can see calling a combat when the result is foregone and it's gotten into a rut, but trying to make all combats shorter for it's own sake doesn't apeal much to me. 

Don't get me wrong, I'd have nothing against faster resolution or tricks to use time at the table more efficiently, but the 'solution' of making combats short /in rounds/, doesn't strike me as the best way of doing that.

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

I agree.  Its worth repeating that the mechanics of 4e combat are not broken.  They work just fine, great in fact.  At the risk of contradicting my original posts, I don't know that I would be that interested in running completely different or separate systems in my games.  I just want to have viable options to speed up combat in less important encounters, but I need one that doesn't just cripple the monsters so much that the combat is already just a forgone conclusion from the outset.

Isn't it a bit contradicting to want less important encounters to be still relatively deadly to the players? Shouldn't those just be minor resource drains or even just story driven?

Anyway, personally I am looking at making some kind of super minion that dies after two or three hits and deal a bit more damage for the happy middle ground between skill challenge fight and the typical 1+ hour fights.


Yes, you're right about that.  I think what I'm trying to say is that I would still like to have some sort of "X-factor" in the combat that could be a game-changer even if it is a relatively non-lethal encounter.  I'm just not exactly sure what that might be.
A 'quick combat' resolution system could certainly be workable and balanced - well, about as workable and balanced as the skill challenge system.  In fact, it could be similar to the skill challenge system.  Roll some dice, deduct some surges, move on.  I can't see it being terribly engaging, though.

But, then, I don't really understand the 'combats take too long' thing, anyway.  4e combat is fun - option rich, tactical depth, however you want to put it - getting it over with as fast as possible is counter-intuitive.  I can see calling a combat when the result is foregone and it's gotten into a rut, but trying to make all combats shorter for it's own sake doesn't apeal much to me. 

Don't get me wrong, I'd have nothing against faster resolution or tricks to use time at the table more efficiently, but the 'solution' of making combats short /in rounds/, doesn't strike me as the best way of doing that.



I think that the default 4e way works great for set-piece battles but sometimes fights just need a quicker pace. Whether it's because the result is forgone before the battle begins or you're in a dungeon full of guards and the players don't want to fight through 10 rooms with a guard encounter in each of them or any other number of things. There is certainly room for different styles of combat resolution in the game.
I think my problem is this: Without completely redesigning the game, how do you do it?

For better or worse, 4e is built around the tightly balanced simulationist mini-grid combat system. Everything about the game is designed to support this central pillar, from XP budgets to class structure to even 4e's relatively weak attempts at noncombat resolution (Skill Challenges, I'm looking at you!). If I want to run a less combat heavy game, I'm forced to either use a 4e so radically changed as to be a brand new game (no push/pull effects, different class power structure, different resource management, different XP system, different monster design, different skill system), or kludge 4e into an acceptable shape (as per the "combat velocity" article -- a host of suggestions that try to hide the elephant in the room by covering it up with a rug).

There's some wiggle room, of course. You can add a better noncombat resolution system, you can add "noncombat powers," you can insert new "streamlined battle system mechanics." You can paint that elephant a different color, cover it with a new rug. If you want for it to be more than a band-aid, though, you are going to need a brand new game (or its equivalent). Here we get to the trouble with One Brand to Rule Them All: only one game can be D&D, everything else is "just a house rule."

Scaling would be brilliant, absolutely. I want what Mearls is advocating. But if the game doesn't have this in mind from the get-go, it's going to be clumsy. There will be pros and cons, kinks and wrinkles. The reaction to and effect of Essentials shows this brilliantly. Even a small, positive change like "Here's a new Fighter build that's easy to build and run!" becomes a choice to destroy the future of the game with your pagan idolatry of "simple fighters" that like to kick Runepriests in the junk, or to play a complicated fighter that you don't have fun playing, not to mention the hiccups thrown into multiclassing, hybridization, feat support, and other fiddly bits. I love Essentials, it's a great thing for me, but 4e clearly wasn't designed with the intent to be able to support a simple class of any fashion. You could gut the thing so that it can do both, but by that point, it's hardly the same game.
How about we shrink the combat?

In the DSi ware shop there is a little game called Dragon Quest Wars. You make a squad of four monsters out of five basic Dragon Quest monsters (Slime, Healie, Kimera, Dracky and Golem) and you pit them against another four monster squad on a tiny grid, nothing bigger than 6 by 6. Your piece can move only 1 square per turn and use one of two attacks. They can only take 1, 2 or 3 hits. Its more or less monster chess in a small scale.

How 'bout we apply a similar principle? Scale down everything from movement, range, HP and damage into either 1, 2 or 3, shrink the field down to a bare grid with a few blocks for cover if you wish. Allow only At-Will abilities (and possibly class feature like the Leader's Word) and simplify effects and remove some rules. It still remains tactical but its simplified a great deal. Plus you could put in a turn limit, like 3 or 4, and if you inflict more damage in that time (or take out more enemies) you win, plain and simple. The damage you've taken then gets turned into Healing Surge drain.
58292718 wrote:
I love Horseshoecrabfolk. What I love most about them is that they seem to be the one thing that we all can agree on.
See for yourself, click here!
I think combat in 4E is awesome, and I haven't noticed the "grind" that people keep complaining about. On the bright side, this was the first article from Mike Mearls that didn't make me want to bean him in the head with a tomato. He was coherent, lucid, kept his "good old days" reminiscing to a minimum, and actually conveyed a positive attitude toward 4E.

Usually when I read his articles he seems to be putting down 4E by rambling on about how much cooler 2E was, which tends to trigger my "tomato chucking" impulse. This time, he actually refrained from bashing 4E (amazing isn't it, the Lead Designer mercilessly bashing his product), which is great.

Of course, all this is all only my perception of his articles, and like most things, open to many different interpretations.
"You got your Essentials in my 4E!" "Well, you got your 4E in my Essentials!"
Sign In to post comments