Well this feels like a "get those kids off my lawn" rant.

As I’ve been poring through the various threads where we are all discussing out wants and dreams for the new edition, I’ve noticed something that I haven’t experienced with my particular gaming group that seems to pop up a lot in the discussion about what should or shouldn’t be in 5E. There seems to be an attitude that any level of meaningful challenge is inherently undesirable. It seems like there is more and more of a tendency to remove risks and a real sense of accomplishment in pursuit of inevitable victory.


 My question is why? The game has to have rules, which by definition tell us what we can and can’t do, but when concepts older editions are brought up all that seems to being focused on is what you “weren’t allowed to do”. The past few editions have been all about granting the players more and more freedom and eliminating the restrictions. Alignment is virtually non-existent  and it certainly has no impact on the game worth mentioning any longer, because that’s not fair to players to force them play within a specific moral code. The much reviled save or die spells are gone replaced by “save until you make it” effects because sitting out because you are dead or petrified sucks. Hit points pretty much capped at 10th level, with an incremental growth afterward and that certainly isn’t going to be embraced again because dying isn’t fun so we should have a lot of HP. Every class has been balanced into oblivion because no one should have to feel not as good as someone else. So much has been softened, lessened or just removed in order to insure that no one has to ever sit out or feel less than optimal.


 Now I realize that not all the old rules were ideal—or even logical (Elves as a class or only being allowed to advance to a specific level despite a several hundred year lifespan for example), but when did we become so resistant to things actually being difficult? Isn’t part of the attraction of fantasy stories overcoming the odds? Facing down horrifying creatures that clearly outmatch you and coming out the other side? How are we feeling a sense of accomplishment when it seems like so many of the elements placed in our path to make that accomplishment meaningful within the game have been excised. I’m not advocating a return to OD&D, but I think there are things to be learned from the past editions and some of those things were that adventuring was hard, it took a while to become a nigh-demi-god-like being and you may very well die.


 I guess what I’m trying to figure out is when did things being challenging stop being fun for people. The risk of death helped give meaning to the actions we were taking. Yeah it sucked if something looked at you and told you to “die” and you blew a saving throw and died, but when you didn’t it was a rush.  Being able to conquer those things that could legitimately pose a threat to you was part of the fun of the game. It helped provide a feeling of uncertainty instead of the feeling of inevitability that seems to have replaced it—the monster has buckets of HP but ultimately in the end the PCs will triumph because things have been stacked in their favor because losing isn’t fun. Well yeah of course it’s not, but if there is no chance of failure why bother? I am of course going to be told that if I loved those aspects of the old games I should probably play those editions. But the thing is there have been some many advances in game design that are equally good as well, I am truly hoping that 5 edition—or whatever it ends up being called—embraces all the good things that have come from all the various editions of D&D and that includes the hard parts as well and I don’t see this being a widely embraced philosophy. Am I wrong or am I simply not seeing it?

Dying just because you rolled a '1' on a d20 wasn't exciting.  It was just dumb.  There was no skill, no accomplishment, nothing.  You may as well have played craps.


-Polaris  
Dying just because you rolled a '1' on a d20 wasn't exciting.  It was just dumb.  There was no skill, no accomplishment, nothing.  You may as well have played craps.


-Polaris  



It's called luck. 

As I see it, if you don't want your character to die then go play pinball or watch tv. 

My games are deadly. Characters die a lot. 
I'd say for the most part you're right. Things being challenging, and actually threatening seem to be less popular.

However, I wonder if this is true for most gamers or just a vocal minority on these boards and elsewhere? You know what they say, it's the squeeky door that gets the oil.

Dying just because you rolled a '1' on a d20 wasn't exciting.  It was just dumb.  There was no skill, no accomplishment, nothing.  You may as well have played craps.



I can see why this is unacceptable for some groups, but as far as I see it sometimes life and death is that literal roll of the die. You can die in real life for no real reason, other then chance as well. Thinking about it this way is strangely Cathartic.

I don't think this is wrong or right, more a matter of world view through the lense of a game.
Learn about Liberty: http://www.youtube.com/user/LearnLiberty Free Market Capitalism is the truest, and best hope for man kind. IMAGE(http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p157/Rumek_Testament/NeoGrognardextracroped.jpg) Visit my blog at: www.theneogrognard.blogspot.com
I agree with you in general, OP, but not in your specific example.  Save or die effects are not difficult to deal with.  You roll a d20.  That's all there is to it.  Below X and you die.

Not interesting, not fun, not difficult.


The true test of challenge allows the players that moment of dawning comprehension when they realize that they are losing this fight.  It's that feeling that enables the exultation of victory.  Without that slow realization that they are losing, victory just feels preplanned or anticlimactic; in other words, boring.  Unless there are special circumstances involved, victory without the possiblity of defeat is not fun.  And if people don't realize there was a possibility of defeat, it's the same as if there was no possibility.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Agreed with Polaris. Save or die, petrification, alignment restrictions, class imbalance, these are no fun. I can tell you from experience, however, that 4th ed can be plenty challenging, all you need to do is bump up the encounters a few levels. This is better, because it leaves the level of challenge up to the playgroup and DM. I would much rather an open system that says "choose your level of challenge" than another that says "the challenge is rolling a die, good luck!" 

That being said, petrification is too slow in 4th ed, and the fact that a stone to flesh salve can be made from a cockatrice's feathers is a bit dumb.

Alignment is different. You should be able to roleplay a code of conduct without having mechanical restrictions. This allows for character development. The paladin spends a lot of time with a charismatic swashbuckling rogue? maybe he loosens his moral code a bit. Or maybe, the rogue learns the error of his ways. Players shouldn't be punished for exploring thier characters.
Dying just because you rolled a '1' on a d20 wasn't exciting.  It was just dumb.  There was no skill, no accomplishment, nothing.  You may as well have played craps.


-Polaris  



It's called luck. 

As I see it, if you don't want your character to die then go play pinball or watch tv. 

My games are deadly. Characters die a lot. 




It's called a GAME.  If I wanted to deal with luck, there is plenty of it in the humdrum of everyday life.  I don't want to come into a game, and five minutes later told to 'go home because we won't be able to ressurrect your character' on the basis of a single die roll that wasn't even my fault.

It's NOT FUN and that should be the overriding reason why SoD was removed from DND and should stay removed.

Death in a dramatic fashion after a series of adventures where maybe things can go right or wrong, is one thing.  Just dying from a single roll is completely different.

 
-Polaris      
Meh, I preferred the scarier days of 2e and 3.5.  I liked needing to find ways around things that should just kill my character off.  I enjoyed actually worrying about a fight I was about to get into.  It forced a party to think.  To try and come up with a way to win and make sure everybody made it.  When I DMd 4e I noticed a change in my group.  They went balls to the wall in every combat because they didn't fear anything.  Oddly enough this recklessness resulted in a few TPKs.  The reason, I think, is that when it's just a matter of throwing a lump of numbers after another and those numbers are similar enough, well, you just don't feel threatened.  When you throw in 'oh yeah, this lump of numbers that happens to be lower than yours can also just kill you with a word', it changes things.  Makes the players have to calculate more.  Think ahead, move cautiously.  Develop a plan.  I think 4e is missing some of that.

The last time I played 4e I was playing a character that was nigh indestructible - and it wasn't even the most resiliant character I created.  I got tired of that really, really quick.  Nope, this one was a character that should have been a glass cannon but happened to be made of titanium.  Incredible damage output, great D, the ability to evade and the ability to self-heal.  The end result was that I got sick of it.  I hadn't even been hit in about half a dozen sessions and when I was it wasn't ever a big deal.  In fact, it would have been funny if it wasn't so pathetic.  Anyhoo, I didn't have to plan anything - not that there was much I could have planned for anyway with fixed powers, etc.  I just showed up, rolled dice, killed stuff and watched my friends do the same except they also got hit sometimes.  Let me tell you, dominating like that is entertaining for about three fights.  And then everyone gets tired of it.  Meh, I always enjoyed playing a game where there was a real chance to lose my character.  I mean, if I died I could always make a new one.  Right there and then.  Hell, I'd be done before the session was and possibly even introduced to the campaign again.  I guess all I'm sayin' is that I get that missed danger thing.  I get it 100%.
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]

I agree with you in general, OP, but not in your specific example.  Save or die effects are not difficult to deal with.  You roll a d20.  That's all there is to it.  Below X and you die.

Not interesting, not fun, not difficult.




I get that aspect, it does come down to luck in that specific example. The challenge isn't in the act of the roll itself--fundamentally most things in the game come down to the luck of a roll-- the challenge is in dealing with a creature that can kill you in one hit. How do you prepare for it? What steps do you take to try to counter its abilities? How do you fight something that can can just kill you by willing you dead? Fantasy fiction is littered with creatures like that and the game should be able to simulate that. Not for every creature. It feels like so many steps have been taken to mitigate any chance of failure that it seems kind of pointless. And the SOD example was just that, an example of what I see as a symptom of an overall philosophy that seems far more common now.
I do miss the good old days of rolling a 1 and dying. 
I do miss the good old days of rolling a 1 and dying. 



Right along with undetectable traps that could kill the entire party, and being told not to name your character until fifth level.


Ohh....SHINY.  I like!  (sarcasm fully intended)


-Polaris   
Divine_Bobhead, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the playstyle that you describe, but the thing is that the general assumptions about the game and the sort of stories you're supposed to tell with it have changed so fundamentally that the lethality of the bygone days is no longer desireable to most people.

However, I personally love the feel of the old school dungeon crawl with all of the dangers and risks involved and the ever-present possibility of death. I ran my friends the introductory module for a retro-clone that shall remain unnamed so as to not spoil anyone, but the module involved a dungeon where one room was veritably filled with magical items with extremely dangerous and unpredictable effects. The players, against their better judgements, decided to try out all of the items, eventually leading into a TPK as one player was sucked into a magical mirror and replaced by an evil mirror double that attacked the rest of the party (or something like that) with the two characters who survived this fight only to get killed by some undead in the next room when they decided to explore further instead of pulling out.

We had a blast and it was a welcome departure from our usual fare.

I personally hope that 5e will also support this kind of game due to its modular nature, but failing at that there are a bunch of really good retro clones out there for those games where I want a more real sense of danger.
When I DMd 4e I noticed a change in my group.  They went balls to the wall in every combat because they didn't fear anything.  Oddly enough this recklessness resulted in a few TPKs.  The reason, I think, is that when it's just a matter of throwing a lump of numbers after another and those numbers are similar enough, well, you just don't feel threatened. 



This is exactly what I'm talking about. There seems to be an attitude when I've run 4E games that there isn't a need to exercise any caution. There's no need for common sense, we can just charage in and bang away on things until they die, because eventually-- unless we are overwhelmed by sheer numbers-- the party will win. There is no feeling of doubt and that doubt is what make you think before you act.

IMO, danger, excitement and challenge do not reside in a system's rules, but in the adventure. And who builds the adventure? It's either a professional writer at WotC or a DM. It is that person's responsability to ensure that an encounter/adventure is challenging and surmountable. And because every group is different, it is ultimately up to the DM to play to its party members' strengths and weaknesses. If something is too easy or difficult, it's the writer's (DM's) fault, not the system's.


What we need in the future are not game mechanics to make the game easier or more difficult, we need more material to help DMs make it as such. Of course, there are some mechanics that will affect the game's base difficulty, but, again, it is up to the DM to use his better judgement.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. There seems to be an attitude when I've run 4E games that there isn't a need to exercise any caution. There's no need for common sense, we can just charage in and bang away on things until they die, because eventually-- unless we are overwhelmed by sheer numbers-- the party will win. There is no feeling of doubt and that doubt is what make you think before you act.



I'm positive it's part of why we stopped playing 4e.  Every battle was looked at the same way - just charge in swinging and odd are you'll win.  What else can you do, really?  And what else could happen?  Obviously it didn't always work out in their favor, but I don't think they'd have been TPKd the times that they were had there been any threat in their minds. 

I remember spending multiple sessions gathering intel and trying to dictate the terms of an upcoming battle.  Scry for days trying to note habits, interrogate known associates to try and get an idea of how ready they were, how many there were, etc.  Literally hours of gaming just to try and set up a battle to be won and survived.  Cuz you had to.  Cuz you could be Phantasmal Killer'd.  Prismatic Sprayed.  Power Word Killed.  Imploded.  Weirded.  If you weren't careful, weren't prepared, you'd die.  And if you were?  Man, there's nothing better than defeating a superior foe that expected to defeat you.  ;)

Some of my most cherished D&D moments were also spent avenging a fallen comrade.  In one case, a Wizard of greater talent than any in our party was a sort of thorn in our side.  We'd fight but he'd always get away.  Eventually he got fed up with us crushing his minions and coming after him afterwards and he took us on personally with a crack crew.  And he killed on of us right off the bat.  Well, we whooped his boys but they bought him the time he needed to bail.  We immediately went after him with a quickly replenished crew and he once again killed one of us right at the start of the fight.  This time we were ready with a Dimensional Anchor, though, and we made him pay dearly for the two friends he personally took out.  I'm talkin' removed limbs, eyes, tongue, level drain and, finally, being placed in the main room of one of our retired PC's holds.  In a cage.  On display.  You don't get that creative rage when there's nothing on the line.  When there's nothing personal about it.  Sometimes it pays when the DM kills a PC.  Meh, it was fun for us.
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]


IMO, danger, excitement and challenge do not reside in a system's rules, but in the adventure. And who builds the adventure? It's either a professional writer at WotC or a DM. It is that person's responsability to ensure that an encounter/adventure is challenging and surmountable. And because every group is different, it is ultimately up to the DM to play to its party members' strengths and weaknesses. If something is too easy or difficult, it's the writer's (DM's) fault, not the system's.


What we need in the future are not game mechanics to make the game easier or more difficult, we need more material to help DMs make it as such. Of course, there are some mechanics that will affect the game's base difficulty, but, again, it is up to the DM to use his better judgement.



Agreed. It just feels as if there has been a trend toward removing more and more of the mechanisms that helped the DM to present that challenge to the players.
Seeing as I just TPKd my party two weeks ago in a 4e game, I think I can say that lethality is still a big part of the game.  If you design your encounters right the players still have to fight like dogs and exercise a fair bit of caution.

 
Man, there's nothing better than defeating a superior foe that expected to defeat you.  ;)



This exactly. I miss that feeling, both as a player and a DM. It was satisfying to see the players plan ahead and take out a superior enemy, far more so than watching them just wade in time after time with no appreciable planning--best case they'll do a head count to make sure they're not badly outnumbered.
Agreed. It just feels as if there has been a trend toward removing more and more of the mechanisms that helped the DM to present that challenge to the players.



Save or Die though was never such a challenge.  It only looked like one at first.  It took over two decades of game experience to learn and appreciate that.  Let's not throw that experience under the bus.  I am all for challenges but make them REAL challenges, not who can 'not roll a one'.


-Polaris
I do miss the good old days of rolling a 1 and dying. 



Right along with undetectable traps that could kill the entire party, and being told not to name your character until fifth level.


Ohh....SHINY.  I like!  (sarcasm fully intended)


-Polaris   




Wow! Talk about a killer DM. No wonder you are so cynical.  

Let me apologize for all the jerks hiding behind a DM screen.



Sure the game should be a challenge but a player should be able to expect to have fun in the process. The chance of failing a check should be possible and occasionally someone might actually die as a result, but the game comes with contingencies built in. If a character dies there are churches temples and shrines where clerics can be found to raise them from the dead. The earlier editions gave costs for hiring clerics to heal players and by ninth level the party cleric was capable of raising the dead on the spot. 

Dying was annoying, expensive, and frustrating but never a reason to go home. At the very least you should have had the option of rolling up another character. Or in the case of a killer DM, to have alternate characters available for use when the idiot found a way to do a character in. 

I always feel bad when a character finds a way to get itself killed. I sometimes fudge rolls if I see that a player is in trouble. I think the tension of being close to falling in battle is as valuable as actually going down. The players realizes that they are vulnerable and they change tactics or eventually fall. 
I do miss the good old days of rolling a 1 and dying. 



Right along with undetectable traps that could kill the entire party, and being told not to name your character until fifth level.


Ohh....SHINY.  I like!  (sarcasm fully intended)


-Polaris   




Wow! Talk about a killer DM. No wonder you are so cynical.  

Let me apologize for all the jerks hiding behind a DM screen.




Just so you know, the Killer DM in question was famous.  Someone called E Gary Gygax.


-Polaris   
You are taking save or die out of context. Usually if you get into a situation against a save or die effect unprepared is when you are subjected to save or die. Usually there has been some challenge that was failed before you even get to the save or die.  I don't see it as being "random death" as you seem to be portraying it.

I always brushed it off when my conservative freinds go on complaining about how "everybody gets a trophy for participating nowadays", but with the recent trend in game development, maybe they were right. A trophy is more valued when earned, not when it is predetermined.


Halber   
The problem isn't that it's "roll a 1 and you die," the problem is that it wasn't something that often came down to player skill.  The idea is that you stop yourself from reaching that position of "roll a 1 and you die" in the first place.  But...

In earlier editions that theoretically meant that your DM would provide you with hints as to what to watch out for, and it was up to you to understand what these hints meant and to avoid the danger.  Thing is, that's now how it ended up working.  Large numbers of monsters to be randomly rolled into encounters had insta-kill attacks, and there were plenty of modules with unescapable or unavoidable encounters where you'd be consistantly rolling not to instantly die.  And traps?  Forget it!  Because thieves gained their skills so painfully slow and had to roll twice to get rid of a trap, the odds were very starkly against you being able to actually do your job!

In 3e, this transmuted with purchasable magic items and greatly increased caster strength and versatility.  Now, you didn't care what was to come, because the name of the game was stacking enough modifiers and preventatives on you at once to prevent yourself from ever rolling in the first place.

But the problem is that neither of those is really fun.  It's not fun to recieve no warning and just boom you're dead.  It's not fun to completely neuter an enemy or threat by stacking preventatives on yourself. 
Zombie Babies just hit the nail on the head.

Nobody tells stories about the time you walked through an adventure or encounter.  You tell stories about the times your character died epicly, or the times your party used every possible angle to complete the mission.  Those stories needed one thing to happen: risk.

Risk is notably absent from 4E, in my experience.  Even for 1st-level characters, the possibility that your PC will die is low.  And that makes for a pretty lame experience at the table.  There's not the same sort of shuddering dread that, having expended his lone magic missile for the day, your 1st-level mage is going to lose his 3 hit points because he can't outrun that goblin and the fighter is dead and the cleric is dead and ohgodsohgodsOHGODS.

 Laughing

Those are the stories you tell for years afterwards.  

There's no reason to run like hell in 4E, so far as I can see.   

I can see why this is unacceptable for some groups, but as far as I see it sometimes life and death is that literal roll of the die. You can die in real life for no real reason, other then chance as well. Thinking about it this way is strangely Cathartic.



See, the problem with that comparision is that there isn't a 5% chance of me dying every time I cross the street when the light tells me. Or therei sn't a 5% chance of me dying when I go to a grocery store. Random things happen, but they are very, very unlikely to.

So, no, random death in real life isn't so random you can predict it on a die roll. If you wanted to effectively keep this comparision true in D&D, you could have your players randomly roll d20s while doing mundane non-adventurer stuff (like going to the shop, or crossing the street), if they roll a 1, something happens, and they die. Because, I mean, death is random right? He totally failed to see that horse and carriage was trampled.

Doesn't sound fun, does it? Why is Save or Die any more fun?
I suppose the hue-and-cry against having the Raise Dead type of ritual or spell, is real.  I mean I get it that players have the Apples of the Norse gawds (artifact!) for every extended rest.  Just because everybody knows the name Gygax, doesn't mean they can't go Monty Haul ALL of the time.  The worst case scenario book, with a D&D related thingy on only one page, points out that bribing the local magic mart Priest into giving you a quickie death-ender, is just an easy Skill Challenge away.  Hey, you don't even have to rolE-play it.  Silly medievals ...

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

I think part of the issue is that you (by which I mean everyone of the Old School that hasn't move on to the New School) and I (by which I mean all the new kids and/or old kids that have embraced the New School) have different takes on what types of challenge are fun.


For instance, 4e has plenty of deadliness...if you're using newer monsters and not exploited the highest end Optimization, but is deadliness a desirable form of challenge? What is?

Personally, I would like to see an optional set of rules for injuries, so that while it's not that hard to stay alive in dnd (I've seen some deaths at the table in 4e, but nothing like in 2e), you do take some kind of wound or injury if you drop to 0, and risk it if you get bloodied.

It shouldn't be crippling, but it would provide the interesting, engaging parts of death in older systems (having real consequences, finding a way to bring the character back, or in this case heal them, etc)

As healer type classes (not just "leaders"/support and buff classes, but thematic healers) could have ways as they level to mitigate, and eventually outright heal injuries, just like clerics could raise dead, but early on it would be a big thing.

but some people don't want that. Why? Because for a lot of people DnD, and RPGs in general, aren't something you can "win" at. They're not a challenge game, essentially, but instead a co-op game of storytelling. For them, discussion of whether or not dnd is "too easy" entirely misses the point of DnD.

And they're no more wrong than you are, I'd say.



For a lot of the other stuff, I do disagree strongly with you on the value of some of the things you mentioned. Getting rid of alignment restrictions helped the game. Restrictions aren't inherently good. They're neutral. Their value depends on what they are restricting, and what the outcome of that restriction is.

Why shouldn't players get to play about what they want, in the context of the world in which they're playing?

Wanna know what the first thing I ever heard someone of my parent's generation tell me about DnD was?

It was that DnD is a game of the imagination, in which you can do anything, be anything. Then, she went on to tell me about her fellow player whose character was a unicorn. Another character was a half-troll. In another campaign, she played a nymph, and another character played a centaur. Someone else played a goblin at some point in there.

This was all outside the rules, because those rules were too restrictive. Recently, we had a player want to play a centaur. So, since we're playing 4e and it's super easy to do, we retooled an elf to be a centaur, game him a higher carrying capacity, and worked out a immediate action racial encounter power that he could swap with one of his class powers, that made him kick a nearby enemy in response to being attacked, and push them 3 squares.

Groups circumvent restrictions like that for a reason.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome

Agreed. It just feels as if there has been a trend toward removing more and more of the mechanisms that helped the DM to present that challenge to the players.


I think there is a reason for that. While adventuring is perilous, it must also be exciting (and fun, because this is a game after all).


I'll use SoD as an example, as it seems to be a popular topic: SoD is very punitive. Therefore, if you manage to prepare for it, then congrats to you, you may avert instant death. But you can't plan for everything; random encounters, BBEG scrying on your preperations, counter-espionage and similar kinds of curveballs. Now, if the players make much use of SoD, you can bet the DM will give similar abilities to enemies. Now the game turns into a game of initiative. If you lose it, you better hope you roll (or your defence is) high enough. If you get hit and die, that's no fun, because you never got a chance to retaliate. Imagine a tennis match where the players always score aces; the one who goes first wins, and you just watched the most boring tennis match ever.


I think that's why blows and death effects were softened (or PC resilience increased, depending on how you see it) in 4E: there's no fun in not having a chance because you taken out by bad luck. It's not about threat levels or challenge (as I stated earlier, that's up to the DM), it's about being taken out before you get to play. I don't think anybody would find that fun, regardless of the system used.


A challenging situation, to me, is when the players realize the odds are stacked against them and they think up of ways turn the tables or get out. If they get taken out in the process, well at least they tried and died heroically. They should have an "OH SH-!" moment, but it shouldn't come at the expense of a PC's life.


As I’ve been poring through the various threads where we are all discussing out wants and dreams for the new edition, I’ve noticed something that I haven’t experienced with my particular gaming group that seems to pop up a lot in the discussion about what should or shouldn’t be in 5E. There seems to be an attitude that any level of meaningful challenge is inherently undesirable. It seems like there is more and more of a tendency to remove risks and a real sense of accomplishment in pursuit of inevitable victory.


 My question is why? The game has to have rules, which by definition tell us what we can and can’t do, but when concepts older editions are brought up all that seems to being focused on is what you “weren’t allowed to do”. The past few editions have been all about granting the players more and more freedom and eliminating the restrictions. Alignment is virtually non-existent  and it certainly has no impact on the game worth mentioning any longer, because that’s not fair to players to force them play within a specific moral code. The much reviled save or die spells are gone replaced by “save until you make it” effects because sitting out because you are dead or petrified sucks. Hit points pretty much capped at 10th level, with an incremental growth afterward and that certainly isn’t going to be embraced again because dying isn’t fun so we should have a lot of HP. Every class has been balanced into oblivion because no one should have to feel not as good as someone else. So much has been softened, lessened or just removed in order to insure that no one has to ever sit out or feel less than optimal.


 Now I realize that not all the old rules were ideal—or even logical (Elves as a class or only being allowed to advance to a specific level despite a several hundred year lifespan for example), but when did we become so resistant to things actually being difficult? Isn’t part of the attraction of fantasy stories overcoming the odds? Facing down horrifying creatures that clearly outmatch you and coming out the other side? How are we feeling a sense of accomplishment when it seems like so many of the elements placed in our path to make that accomplishment meaningful within the game have been excised. I’m not advocating a return to OD&D, but I think there are things to be learned from the past editions and some of those things were that adventuring was hard, it took a while to become a nigh-demi-god-like being and you may very well die.


 I guess what I’m trying to figure out is when did things being challenging stop being fun for people. The risk of death helped give meaning to the actions we were taking. Yeah it sucked if something looked at you and told you to “die” and you blew a saving throw and died, but when you didn’t it was a rush.  Being able to conquer those things that could legitimately pose a threat to you was part of the fun of the game. It helped provide a feeling of uncertainty instead of the feeling of inevitability that seems to have replaced it—the monster has buckets of HP but ultimately in the end the PCs will triumph because things have been stacked in their favor because losing isn’t fun. Well yeah of course it’s not, but if there is no chance of failure why bother? I am of course going to be told that if I loved those aspects of the old games I should probably play those editions. But the thing is there have been some many advances in game design that are equally good as well, I am truly hoping that 5 edition—or whatever it ends up being called—embraces all the good things that have come from all the various editions of D&D and that includes the hard parts as well and I don’t see this being a widely embraced philosophy. Am I wrong or am I simply not seeing it?




You sit down to play the original Ninja Gaiden, and for its time it was one of the most difficult/challenging games ever made. However, back then you could only do a handful of things compared to what you can in the newest game. They took away certain creatures that might have killed in one hit, or any number of other things. However, if you were to sit down and play the new Ninja Gaiden it is still one of the hardest games for its time. Yes, you have a whole bunch of new bells and whistles, and you even lost some of the things that made the original so deadly. However, the difficulty hasn't been lost it has just changed from when you first played.

Much the same can be said about these newer editions, though I will agree that a lot of the lethality was lost in 4th edition. It still had its ways of being able to kill your players. Just this past week I was in a high level 4th ed game (famous for being a demi-god in power and so on) and my group was having a heck of a time with two beholders and a demon. Now beholders may not have the 100000 eyes of instant kills like you remember them, but they still had 100000 eyes of, "OW OW! OH DEAR SWEET HEAVENLY POWERS THAT BE MY ARM JUST FLEW ACROSS THE ROOM!" As I said, the little creatures that could kill your ninja in one hit are gone. However, they've been replaced by something that is probably just as hard.

In my opinion, save or dies both by use of player or dm was at best a last resort button. Lets face it, if both sides spammed save or dies it got really annoying. In the long run it made "blast-o-matic" wizards/sorcs in 3.5 a bad choice, why do I want a fireball that has variable damage? When I could just take this one power that has a chance to just kill? It was a far more efficient use of your spell slot per day. The dm's solution to this was to then throw all manner of things that were immune, but my point is that it shouldn't have been an issue in the first place.

As for attribute damage, yes it scared the ever living heck out of your players when a stat was being hit. However, yes this maybe out of sloth, but it gets really annoying to keep up with the book keeping.

In the end its not that the difficulty isn't there, in fact in some ways it might even be deadlier, its that we've just changed how the game is difficult. 
I don't care how lethal you make it, I'm not going to be catious or plan out an attack. I'm going to do what all my characters do: be an idiot and see what happens.

Back in 3.5 I had a Ranger scouting out a jungle, got captured by a group of enemy Rangers and their Wizard. Five guys in total, all higher level. I attacked anyway, and I'm ashamed to say the Wizard got away while I was cutting out the throats of his comrades. I tried something similar in a different jungle with a different character, and some Kobolds shot me up full of poison darts and I died Indian Jones style.

I like the level of lethality as it is. I like the idea that I can be stupid and still make it out if I have some lucky rolls or just play smarter while I'm in the thick of it. That my Paladin can win fights because that stubborn moron won't stay down. That my Rogue can get attacked by a giant spider and inbetween his sobbing fits and cries for his mother, he can think of a way to kill the beast. More importantly, that he can survive long enough for me to think of something.

I'm totally cool with you enjoying your playstyle, and having options for it. But I like being John McLane, and I see nothing wrong with that.
Zombie Babies just hit the nail on the head.

Nobody tells stories about the time you walked through an adventure or encounter.  You tell stories about the times your character died epicly, or the times your party used every possible angle to complete the mission.  Those stories needed one thing to happen: risk.

Risk is notably absent from 4E, in my experience.  Even for 1st-level characters, the possibility that your PC will die is low.  And that makes for a pretty lame experience at the table.  There's not the same sort of shuddering dread that, having expended his lone magic missile for the day, your 1st-level mage is going to lose his 3 hit points because he can't outrun that goblin and the fighter is dead and the cleric is dead and ohgodsohgodsOHGODS.

 

Those are the stories you tell for years afterwards.  

There's no reason to run like hell in 4E, so far as I can see.   



Upon release, 4e was less deadly than intended. Monsters weren't as scary, and even non Optimizer players were putting more resources into accuracy and such than expected. Part of that was that there just weren't as many interesting feats as there were slots, back then. That changed fairly quickly, but in the beginning it was relatively sparse for some characters.

With new monster scaling, and if your players aren't optimized to the teeth, 4e can give you reason to run. But it probably won't happen on accident. If the DM wants it to either happen, or at least be a risk, it will be. If the DM doesn't, it will take really bad luck.

I've still seen it happen when the DM didn't plan for it to happen, because sometimes luck really is just that bad, but most of the time it's not going to.

I've also had plenty of fights end with half the party making death saves and/or one or two dead, everyone depleted and someone getting a lucky hit to get us through. And those are epic, yes. Which is why death saving throws are epic. There's just my shadar-kai monk, and the halfling sorceress still standing. Two rounds later, the sorceress is in a losing shooting match with the Big Bad, she's bloodied and I just made a successful save last round. I stand up, hit the Big Bad, and he goes down. It was sweet. Had anyone died the big death, eh. Big Bad, end of the adventure...not a bad death.

Had anyone died when we were fighting zombies in the crypts leading to the big bad...that would have been lame.


Not one single person that I have ever known in real life has told a story like the example you use here in a fond recollection. Not once. They have, and I have, remembered with irritation or other, similarly negative, feeling.

What people do remember fondly, IME, is the times where their character was a big damn hero, when the party worked together like a well oiled killing machine to take down the big bad, when the socialite character convinced the king to let them lead the army against the undead horde, how the party (using a skill challenge, even before that term was ever used) lead the army successfully against the undead horde, saving hundreds on the good side with their superior tactics and skill, and how they then used that success to get land/titles/favours/the princess/whatever from the king, how they staged a riot in a major city as part of helping a party member escape prison, etc.

People remember, and retell, the times when they kicked butt. Most death stories I've ever heard have either been entirely narrative (ie, they could happen in any system, ever) or are remembered because they were funny in some way. For instance, in star wars, a friend likes to retell the time his jedi was holding off a horde of Sith led bad guys, barricaded a room, and while the other escaped, strapped himself down with explosives. When the Sith broke through the barricade, the Jedi said, "There is no death. There is only The Force." and set of the explosives, killing him, the Sith, and big chunk of that part of the Sith army. There were no mechanics involved, and I've done similar things in 4e.

Notably, one using a spelljammer rigged so that I could steer it solo, and an improvised teleportation ritual that set off when I rammed the spelljammer into Tiamat, who had been anchored to her Avatar enough that if we could manage to kill her now, it'd stick. The teleport sent us diving into a distant sun. The DM ruled that since it was epic teir, and I had killed a god and all, I was able to take control of the explosion created just enough to keep it from whiping out any of the nearby planets that I didn't know about until the last second, when it was too late, losing any narrative shot I had at godhood in order to save lives, and the star turned bright blue, and was renamed on our home world, after my character.

Character death can be cool, but a random kobold killing a character in a relatively small fight because it rolled a crit isn't fun.

4e just takes away the likelyhood that you'll die a lame, boring, meh death.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
While adventuring is perilous, it must also be exciting (and fun, because this is a game after all).



With peril comes excitement.  Without peril, it is not an adventure.  According to the OED, to adventure is to "engage in daring or risky activity".

I'll use SoD as an example, as it seems to be a popular topic: SoD is very punitive. Imagine a tennis match where the players always score aces; the one who goes first wins, and you just watched the most boring tennis match ever.



Sure, if that's all that's going on.  However, leaving Save or Die aside, the flavor of peril is lost in 4E.  When you can take a short rest after every encounter and regain all your encounter powers as well as heal up to full health, after being reduced to sub-zero HP maybe twice or thrice and not even needing to save, there's really no need for caution.  Charge on in, because we don't need to worry about how many surges we have left until the boss fight.  

Contrast that to a situation in which the cleric has maybe one or two healing spells left, you've got one or two potions of healing for the party, with no possibility of gaining more healing spells until after the equivalent of an extended rest or the colossal luck of finding more potions, the wizard is tapped except for continual light and you're already down half your HP because of that last fight...Do you really want to open that door in the dungeon?  There's much more opportunity for tension there.  There's more peril, thence more excitement, because every single hit might be your last.

I think that's why blows and death effects were softened (or PC resilience increased, depending on how you see it) in 4E: there's no fun in not having a chance because you taken out by bad luck. It's not about threat levels or challenge (as I stated earlier, that's up to the DM), it's about being taken out before you get to play. I don't think anybody would find that fun, regardless of the system used.



I think there's something missing from the SoD debate here: When a PC is likely to encounter a SoD effect, that PC is just as likely to be equipped with some power/spell/bit of kit/saving throw which gives him a better-than-even chance to survive.  We're talking pretty high-level stuff, there.  Examined in a vacuum, yeah, SoD looks like a potential for suckage.  But the game "back yonder" was pretty well-balanced that way.

A challenging situation, to me, is when the players realize the odds are stacked against them and they think up of ways turn the tables or get out. If they get taken out in the process, well at least they tried and died heroically. They should have an "OH SH-!" moment, but it shouldn't come at the expense of a PC's life.


I disagree.  As I noted above, an adventure without life-threatening peril, well, isn't.  Frodo and Sam's experience was an adventure because one does not merely walk into Mordor.  

In fact, there's the difference I've seen between 1E (when I started paying tithes to some podunk town in WI) and 4E: Then, every encounter was something to be feared, because even a lowly orc could lay you low.  You flitted from tree to tree, hiding under your cloak, and only fighting when you absolutely had to.  Even the mighty had to play smart when confronted with powerful foes or overwhelming odds.  All it takes is one arrow.  Ask Boromir.

What makes an epic adventure is "Oh god oh god we're all going to die", not "Pew, I take out another minion with a magic missile".  You want to talk about a boring tennis match?  (It's a useful metaphor! Cool )  The latter is like Rafael Nadal playing, well, me. Wink

One more observation about "bad luck" - it's "bad luck" when you're down to a handful of HP and your foe gets lucky and actually rolls well enough to hit you.  Still a couple of numbers on a d20.  But I don't hear you decrying that.  Why?

Edited to add:  There's something else at work here, too. Back in days of TSR yore, making a character wasn't such a complicated affair.  Roll some d6s, get your stats, choose your class/race, roll hit die/dice.  Pick a name.  You could do it in less than ten minutes for a 1st-level PC with maybe ten pages of one book. 

In 4E, I can't imagine developing even a 1st-level PC that quickly or at all off the cuff.  So players get more attached to their creations; bloody hell, I do, because even with a tailored build from the Forums here and Character Builder it takes me forever.  Doing it at the table because my PC just died would take the rest of the evening and a stack of sourcebooks.

So back in The Day a player could honestly ask "Death, where is thy sting?"  Higher-level characters, yeah, that sucked.  But like I said, in the vast majority of cases smart play coupled with game balance mitigated the odds of unlucky death.  

I can see why this is unacceptable for some groups, but as far as I see it sometimes life and death is that literal roll of the die. You can die in real life for no real reason, other then chance as well. Thinking about it this way is strangely Cathartic.



See, the problem with that comparision is that there isn't a 5% chance of me dying every time I cross the street when the light tells me. Or therei sn't a 5% chance of me dying when I go to a grocery store. Random things happen, but they are very, very unlikely to.

So, no, random death in real life isn't so random you can predict it on a die roll. If you wanted to effectively keep this comparision true in D&D, you could have your players randomly roll d20s while doing mundane non-adventurer stuff (like going to the shop, or crossing the street), if they roll a 1, something happens, and they die. Because, I mean, death is random right? He totally failed to see that horse and carriage was trampled.

Doesn't sound fun, does it? Why is Save or Die any more fun?



By the same token in real life I don't go delving into dark, dank underground tunnels that are populated with lethal traps, unknown vermin and viscious and frequently intelligent killer monsters in pursuit of lost wealth and items of arcane power. If I did I'd imagine the potential for death would be particularly high. There are comperaply dangerous activities in the really real world and I would wholely expect death to not only be possible, but likely, which is why I don't do those things.  
I don't care how lethal you make it, I'm not going to be catious or plan out an attack. I'm going to do what all my characters do: be an idiot and see what happens.

Back in 3.5 I had a Ranger scouting out a jungle, got captured by a group of enemy Rangers and their Wizard. Five guys in total, all higher level. I attacked anyway, and I'm ashamed to say the Wizard got away while I was cutting out the throats of his comrades. I tried something similar in a different jungle with a different character, and some Kobolds shot me up full of poison darts and I died Indian Jones style.

I like the level of lethality as it is. I like the idea that I can be stupid and still make it out if I have some lucky rolls or just play smarter while I'm in the thick of it. That my Paladin can win fights because that stubborn moron won't stay down. That my Rogue can get attacked by a giant spider and inbetween his sobbing fits and cries for his mother, he can think of a way to kill the beast. More importantly, that he can survive long enough for me to think of something.

I'm totally cool with you enjoying your playstyle, and having options for it. But I like being John McLane, and I see nothing wrong with that.



This.

While I don't play that way, I love that people can if they want. I also like that I can have a wizard that is in the thick of things, focusing on close busts and blasts with his staff and his wits, and that's a viable thing.

And really, I just don't want my characters to die stupid, pointless, inane deaths just because other people value realism over game design. If 5e is going to be modular, then this is one thing they definately need to avoid baking in to the system so deeply that it can't be done away with. Make room for Hard Mode players, and room for Normal Mode players. Because that's what we're talking, to some extent.


Because I'm just not down for the random kobold in the first fight of the campaign lobbing my head off because they crit once, while I was at fill hit points.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
old school high level combat in 3.X as i remeber it.

damage done did not matter
the only thing that matterd was if you did enough damage to require a death save
the cleric would cast a mass heal. or chained heal if any player got under 50% hitpoint
so would any priest on the other side.
 

I'm totally cool with you enjoying your playstyle, and having options for it. But I like being John McLane, and I see nothing wrong with that.



See I totally get this and I agree, there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, that's the biggest problem with so many of these conversations, there is there attitude that a differing opinion is wrong. I understand that play style, hell I've done it and enjoyed it. It is certainly cathartic, my point is that in the rush to accomidate this playstyle they have removed many of the options that allowed for the other style of play. The lethal edges have been removed instead of made optional. 

As I’ve been poring through the various threads where we are all discussing out wants and dreams for the new edition, I’ve noticed something that I haven’t experienced with my particular gaming group that seems to pop up a lot in the discussion about what should or shouldn’t be in 5E. There seems to be an attitude that any level of meaningful challenge is inherently undesirable. It seems like there is more and more of a tendency to remove risks and a real sense of accomplishment in pursuit of inevitable victory.




I'm going to agree. I really like games that are "think or die", like Call of Cthulu or Shadowrun. One wrong move, misstep or wrongly planned mission and blam, you're dead or out of play.

AD&D was like that. Death was quick and many times random. If your character died, it was expected, and you rolled up another one and hopped into the action. You were lucky if your DM did not insist on you starting at 1st level.

I think a lot of more modern players seem to want to have a "Save Game" option where they can never loose. It is a little like playing a RPG computer game where you save game every half hour and if you have a bad encounter, you just re-load the last saved game. You obviously can't do that in an RPG like D&D, so other rules need to be implemented, such as Balance. Balance of the encounters, balance between players, balance of the magic items and money....

Balance supposedly makes it funner for the Group as a Whole, but I think that level of group-ness is also a recent (5 to 10 years) thing.

You may know ALL the rules, but I KNOW the Spirit of the Game.

With peril comes excitement.  Without peril, it is not an adventure.  According to the OED, to adventure is to "engage in daring or risky activity".


And Save or Dies remove the peril.

Sounds odd, but consider the following; in order to tell a proper story, at least a portion of the cast needs to survive.  The only situation which actually fits the bring-ten-character-sheets style of play are dungeon delves specifically suited to that task, and most campaigns aren't using it.  Thus, if it wants a proper Fellowship of the Ring-a-ding, the game needs to compensate for the ability of Totally-Not-Aragorn to suddenly drop dead when rolling a one.

They've taken two forms; preparations and revivals.

The OP talked about how much he enjoyed the idea of PCs preparing for dire combat, but it's worth noting that the methods DnD used were nothing like mythology.  Instant death was often avoided in stories using mundane methods; Perseus and the shield's reflection to foil Medusa's gaze, for example.  Yet in DnD, the method of preparation consisted of having more magic than the opponent; casting death ward or similar immunities before the fight.

But since that doesn't always work, the game has to include resurrection to compensate for kobold-induced-necrosis.  The instant you make it easy to revive the dead, all sense of peril falls flat, and we're back to the revolving door of the afterlife that turns the entire game into a joke.  No one takes death seriously if they can be brought back to life in two minutes and a pinch of diamond that stopped being a serious cost ten levels ago.

Save or Dies demand Do Overs for the system to do anything, and Do Overs turn death into a speedbump.  That should not be so.
And Save or Dies remove the peril.

Sounds odd, but consider the following; in order to tell a proper story, at least a portion of the cast needs to survive.  The only situation which actually fits the bring-ten-character-sheets style of play are dungeon delves specifically suited to that task, and most campaigns aren't using it.  Thus, if it wants a proper Fellowship of the Ring-a-ding, the game needs to compensate for the ability of Totally-Not-Aragorn to suddenly drop dead when rolling a one.

They've taken two forms; preparations and revivals.

The OP talked about how much he enjoyed the idea of PCs preparing for dire combat, but it's worth noting that the methods DnD used were nothing like mythology.  Instant death was often avoided in stories using mundane methods; Perseus and the shield's reflection to foil Medusa's gaze, for example.  Yet in DnD, the method of preparation consisted of having more magic than the opponent; casting death ward or similar immunities before the fight.

But since that doesn't always work, the game has to include resurrection to compensate for kobold-induced-necrosis.  The instant you make it easy to revive the dead, all sense of peril falls flat, and we're back to the revolving door of the afterlife that turns the entire game into a joke.  No one takes death seriously if they can be brought back to life in two minutes and a pinch of diamond that stopped being a serious cost ten levels ago.

Save or Dies demand Do Overs for the system to do anything, and Do Overs turn death into a speedbump.  That should not be so.



I see it now!  We're talking at cross-purposes, at least this far.  I do not concern myself with these mechanics, because in my experience resurrection isn't as easy as you're describing.  None of the DMs under which I play/played made it that easy, and I sure as hell don't for my players.  If you play by the book it can't be that easy.

This is one of the areas where the much-maligned alignment and deities actually have a crucial game effect.  When a PC dies at my table, suddenly all of their actions are compared to their alignment and deity's precepts.  If it's too far one way or the other on the matrix, guess what?  Lucy, you have some 'splainin' to do!  And the PC doesn't just get up and walk away.  Add in the CON restriction to resurrection.  Add in system shock rolls.  Suddenly it's no longer a revolving door; it's still something to make you thoughtfully cautious at the very least!

I'm totally cool with you enjoying your playstyle, and having options for it. But I like being John McLane, and I see nothing wrong with that.



See I totally get this and I agree, there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, that's the biggest problem with so many of these conversations, there is there attitude that a differing opinion is wrong. I understand that play style, hell I've done it and enjoyed it. It is certainly cathartic, my point is that in the rush to accomidate this playstyle they have removed many of the options that allowed for the other style of play. The lethal edges have been removed instead of made optional. 



This.  +1,000,001.  

Laughing 

erdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Alignment is different. You should be able to roleplayerdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> a code of conduct without having mechanical restrictions. This allows for character development. The paladin spends a lot of time with a charismatic swashbuckling rogue? maybe he loosens his moral code a bit. Or maybe, the rogue learns the error of his ways. Players shouldn't be punished for exploring their characters.



erdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Since we are seemingly kind of fixated on the more lethal aspects of the game, I wanted to bring this point back that was made earlier regarding alignment. I love good character development and can see both the scenarios you are presenting coming to pass. The only reason I appreciated the alignmentalerdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> restrictions placed on certain classes in the past is because I tended to view them like this: A paladin is granted his power from a god. Said god lays down ground rules for using the powers he is granting the paladin, if the paladin chooses not to abide by the aforementioned dictates his powers go away. I saw this as being akin to a cop. If a cop goes and commits a crime he looses his "class features", including the right to arrest, carry a firearm etc until such time as he is cleared of the charges. If he is not cleared of the charges he is stripped of those abilities permanently and likely his alignment has changed, no longer in keeping with what we would consider in keeping with a law erdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">enforcement officer. I realize this totally fails to take into account crooked cops etc, but in the real world internal affairs are not omnipotent, in D&D the conceiterdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> is that the gods are aware of their followers actions and can move to strip them of their powers if they violate their ethics.