are themes a good mechanic?

Hi,

I'm playing since 2ed, and think (like everybody i think) that each edition has his "strong" points, like 4e and tactical combat (a great great great improvement) or 3.5 in character options and so.

I read some threads about "dead" levels (levels that don't apport you anything (like in 3ed)) and themes, a new mechanic in 4ed.

We have a known and effective mechanic called Feats, in 3rd only fighter can use them to customize really the PC and in 4rd they can be used on all classes with a simple mechanic: each even level you get a feat.

Why we want a "rigid" theme? Introduce: "Background feats".

Each odd level you gain a background feat, with no real bonus in fight only for skill encounters and very conditional, depending on your alignment, your character actions or your group campaign. For example:

I have a 3rd lvl fighter that save a little village from a thiefs or bandits or orcs, etc. A background feat for example: Local hero of "Village", you have a +1 bonus to Diplomacy. Or "Dragonslayer", prereq: kill three or more dragons. Benefits: beign famous or infamous, etc. Or "Tabern thug", prereq: win 2 or more Tabern fights. Benefit: 20% discount on all trades in all the taberns you "fight". (sorry i can't explain better cause my english XD)

The idea is clear:

Character + theme or Character + evolutive background?

Thanks!

The introduction of themes was very popular in 4e so they are running with it.  I agree though, as your career progresses, you will develop a history that is effectively building an ongoing theme.  I don't see why you should have to build it into some kind of formalised feat/kit system though.  If you saved the King's daughter you should get a bonus to diplomacy when dealing with the King or his supporters and a penalty when dealing with his detractors/enemies.  Give the players some narrative authority based on their gaming history.
Hi,

I'm playing since 2ed, and think (like everybody i think) that each edition has his "strong" points, like 4e and tactical combat (a great great great improvement) or 3.5 in character options and so.

I read some threads about "dead" levels (levels that don't apport you anything (like in 3ed)) and themes, a new mechanic in 4ed.

We have a known and effective mechanic called Feats, in 3rd only fighter can use them to customize really the PC and in 4rd they can be used on all classes with a simple mechanic: each even level you get a feat.

Why we want a "rigid" theme? Introduce: "Background feats".

Each odd level you gain a background feat, with no real bonus in fight only for skill encounters and very conditional, depending on your alignment, your character actions or your group campaign. For example:

I have a 3rd lvl fighter that save a little village from a thiefs or bandits or orcs, etc. A background feat for example: Local hero of "Village", you have a +1 bonus to Diplomacy. Or "Dragonslayer", prereq: kill three or more dragons. Benefits: beign famous or infamous, etc. Or "Tabern thug", prereq: win 2 or more Tabern fights. Benefit: 20% discount on all trades in all the taberns you "fight". (sorry i can't explain better cause my english XD)

The idea is clear:

Character + theme or Character + evolutive background?

Thanks!




The theme is like adding a subclass to your character.  It is something you start the game with because it says something about who you are.  In my upcoming game I am playing a Bard and I am currently trying to make a choice between the scholar and explorer themes.  When I make this decision it will effect the overall characterization of the Bard how he acts from the beginning of the campaign.  If I chose scholar the bard is more of a story teller and enjoys books and spends a good deal of time stooped over reading them.  If I chose the explorer I am always ready to move and always ready to start the next adventure and exploration.  (thanks for helping me think it out and make the choice a lot easier my character will be an explorer)  The background feats you describe are exactly what feats are described as.  Often we as players forget that we should chose our feats based upon what we have been doing in our game not upon what we are trying to build for. Also having fully story based requirements would ruin any game that a DM was trying to run as all of the PCs would be running around trying to fulfill the prerequisites of their feats rather than working towards some common goal.

The introduction of themes was very popular in 4e so they are running with it.  I agree though, as your career progresses, you will develop a history that is effectively building an ongoing theme.  I don't see why you should have to build it into some kind of formalised feat/kit system though.  If you saved the King's daughter you should get a bonus to diplomacy when dealing with the King or his supporters and a penalty when dealing with his detractors/enemies.  Give the players some narrative authority based on their gaming history.



These are called attitude and/or circumstance bonuses.  

Themes in some cases are also used to alter classes entirely.  In the same game as the bard explorer there will a barbarian defender.  He is a defender because he will largely be using the properties of his theme to alter the options of the barbarian to make himself more of a defender type which along with my use of misdirected mark will make him an able off tank for the party.  



Why we want a "rigid" theme? Introduce: "Background feats".

Each odd level you gain a background feat, with no real bonus in fight only for skill encounters and very conditional, depending on your alignment, your character actions or your group campaign. For example:

I have a 3rd lvl fighter that save a little village from a thiefs or bandits or orcs, etc. A background feat for example: Local hero of "Village", you have a +1 bonus to Diplomacy. Or "Dragonslayer", prereq: kill three or more dragons. Benefits: beign famous or infamous, etc. Or "Tabern thug", prereq: win 2 or more Tabern fights. Benefit: 20% discount on all trades in all the taberns you "fight". (sorry i can't explain better cause my english XD)

The idea is clear:

Character + theme or Character + evolutive background?

Thanks!




The introduction of themes was very popular in 4e so they are running with it.  I agree though, as your career progresses, you will develop a history that is effectively building an ongoing theme.  I don't see why you should have to build it into some kind of formalised feat/kit system though.  If you saved the King's daughter you should get a bonus to diplomacy when dealing with the King or his supporters and a penalty when dealing with his detractors/enemies.  Give the players some narrative authority based on their gaming history.



So, what you want is to give players alternative rewards outside of treasure and XP. 4E did something along the line with the addition of Boons, so I'm thinking giving away more varied effects like that would be just what your looking for.

Now, if we throw the DM out of the equation, I do think there's room for non-combat feat slots in the character progression cake. But I'd also want to layer a theme on top of that.
Themes are a great way to gently mutate your character out of a locked role. My barbarian in an upcoming game (hey look at that, hi Sleep!) as just noted is taking the Primal Guardian Theme to augment the class.

I wasn't feeling up for playing a Warden (the obvious choice for the theme to be REALLY powerful) but I wanted to start as a Striker, and mutate mid-game to cover the role of Defender. What'd I lose for this? Well, Rages. I'm dropping some of my 4E daily megahits in order to gain things like an Aura 2 Mark and Punishment. Also, because I wrote a lot about my character and how he grew up and what brought him to this point where we start the campaign, it just makes a more sense for me.

Also, it's more depth for my character. He protects those around him, but since I'm a barbarian, I can be a bit reckless with it, as such, the aforementioned Aura 2 can hurt my allies, again, fits. It's flavor, and it tastes delicious.

Back in 2nd Edition, Kits were the name of the game, but they sometimes had an associate XP penalty with them, and that's no good. I don't think you should penalize your players for adding flavor, esspecially in the case of the 4E Themes where you have the option at replacing your normal powers for those of the Theme. It's not a power-up, more like a power-shift. Sure you get (sometimes) a freebie attack, but it's not usually more powerful or pronounced than a normal at-will power.

Some people talk about how you are "locked" into a role. You play a fighter, you must be a Defender. So not true. Themes can help you break out of those roles a bit better and take something truly unique. I encourage folks to flesh out their characters in creative ways, provided you talk it over with your DM, you should always have a way to play what YOU want to play.

-- Edit, in response to above;

Alternative Rewards are amazing! Sometimes you've got studious psion who have been plagued by headaches from picking up all the psionic static from those around him/her. A great boon/alt reward is the Closed Mind "item" that grants him/her a Psychic Resist for the tier of the gift and some other neat toy with it. IIRC, that's an insight bonus while not bloodied, and and encounter ability for temp. Just a neat treat. I love the Alt Rewards.
Themes aren't necessary... but they are neat.

The specific mechanics don't really matter that much - though certainly "more impact" is better than less.

Honestly, "themes" in 4e are something of a refinement of an idea they've been trying to get across from day 1 - making your character background matter.  They went through three iterations of Background mechanics, and two iterations of Theme mechanics, before they found something pretty good.


I would love to see a similar approach taken with "prestige classes", honestly.  I think the concept still has merit, as it was originally presented in 3e, and I think the idea of integrating that concept with the concept of Alternative Rewards would give us something really, really interesting.

Something that was mostly outside of the normal character progression, maybe adding a few minor abilities, and which offered some different options as the character progressed.
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Themes aren't necessary... but they are neat.

The specific mechanics don't really matter that much - though certainly "more impact" is better than less.

Honestly, "themes" in 4e are something of a refinement of an idea they've been trying to get across from day 1 - making your character background matter.  They went through three iterations of Background mechanics, and two iterations of Theme mechanics, before they found something pretty good.


I would love to see a similar approach taken with "prestige classes", honestly.  I think the concept still has merit, as it was originally presented in 3e, and I think the idea of integrating that concept with the concept of Alternative Rewards would give us something really, really interesting.

Something that was mostly outside of the normal character progression, maybe adding a few minor abilities, and which offered some different options as the character progressed.



I think I agree with pretty much everything here. Especially your thoughts on the iterations of backgrounds and themes.  Although I do like using both themes and backgrounds.  That Explorer Bard has a Background as a thief because well he has stolen a lot of stuff in his past.

I just want to make sure I understand what your trying to say about prestiges.  If I am right I gotta say im liking the idea.  Stop me if I am wrong but you are saying that prestiges should be a little like a theme that can be awarded later into the game once some prerequisites have been met.  They worry less about the core progression of your character but add even more interesting flavors to the mix. An example being you have been in a few bar fights now and you have these particular stats here is the drunken brawler prestige you weren't going for this when you started but due to the flow of the game you have ended up getting a reputation and ability in this area.  I say it is cool but the pursuit of this should be somewhat optional and up to the character.  Also how do we put a limiting factor on there to keep people from just grabbing a million of these guys.
 
Hi,

I'm playing since 2ed, and think (like everybody i think) that each edition has his "strong" points, like 4e and tactical combat (a great great great improvement) or 3.5 in character options and so.

I read some threads about "dead" levels (levels that don't apport you anything (like in 3ed)) and themes, a new mechanic in 4ed.

We have a known and effective mechanic called Feats, in 3rd only fighter can use them to customize really the PC and in 4rd they can be used on all classes with a simple mechanic: each even level you get a feat.

Why we want a "rigid" theme? Introduce: "Background feats".

Each odd level you gain a background feat, with no real bonus in fight only for skill encounters and very conditional, depending on your alignment, your character actions or your group campaign. For example:

I have a 3rd lvl fighter that save a little village from a thiefs or bandits or orcs, etc. A background feat for example: Local hero of "Village", you have a +1 bonus to Diplomacy. Or "Dragonslayer", prereq: kill three or more dragons. Benefits: beign famous or infamous, etc. Or "Tabern thug", prereq: win 2 or more Tabern fights. Benefit: 20% discount on all trades in all the taberns you "fight". (sorry i can't explain better cause my english XD)

The idea is clear:

Character + theme or Character + evolutive background?

Thanks!


I'm all for it. I think a slightly different approach would be great, in which some of the traits traditionally assigned to classes are split off into themes. For instance, skill selection could be partially related to theme rather than class. Thus you can have a Fighter with the Sage theme, who has access to more skill picks than a dumb brick-type Fighter, and includes skills such as Arcana, Religion, etc. (knowledge-related skills) that the base Fighter class doesn't include.
Wishlist: -Alternate ability bonuses for pre-PHB3 races -Lots more superior implements or an official customization rule -Monk multiclass feat that grants Unarmed Combatant
Prior to the thread, I had no idea what these "themes" were as a mechanic (I don't play 4e). They sound neat. If it helps players assume a character that is part of a larger setting, I'm all for it.
Themes in 4e are an expanded idea on backgrounds. They are more character defining because they give more to your character than +2 to a skill or two, more hit points, or proficiency in a weapon, etc. They allow a character to play a little bit outside of his primary role or reinforce that role with some extra abilities. They give more things to do in the early levels of the game when you simply don't have much going on (which is why the level 1 feature is most often an encounter power).

From what they've said, they look to be combining the mechanical concept of backgrounds and themes into one. What this sounds like to me is that you'll get a bit of both and that they will give the same kind of benefits that both do. I'm hoping for extra combat powers (spells, exploits, prayers, whatever you want to call them) as well as the nice character building bonuses like skills or unusual abilities outside of combat out of most themes.
Themes in 4e are an expanded idea on backgrounds. They are more character defining because they give more to your character than +2 to a skill or two, more hit points, or proficiency in a weapon, etc. They allow a character to play a little bit outside of his primary role or reinforce that role with some extra abilities. They give more things to do in the early levels of the game when you simply don't have much going on (which is why the level 1 feature is most often an encounter power).

From what they've said, they look to be combining the mechanical concept of backgrounds and themes into one. What this sounds like to me is that you'll get a bit of both and that they will give the same kind of benefits that both do. I'm hoping for extra combat powers (spells, exploits, prayers, whatever you want to call them) as well as the nice character building bonuses like skills or unusual abilities outside of combat out of most themes.



boom this is sort of what I want from themes I kinda like being able to mix and match themes and backgrounds but  a theme giving both in combat abilites as well as some interesting out of combat abilities will be cool.  

My personal hope for themes is that they are easily home brewed.  It seems like the best and easiest way to invent some flavor to be added to a character without having to home brew an entirely new base class.  So say your running a home brew campaign setting and you want to add some of that home brewed campaign setting's flavor to the characters. Invent some home brew themes and offer them up to the players as awesome flavorful bits that can be used for this campaign.
My personal hope for themes is that they are easily home brewed.  It seems like the best and easiest way to invent some flavor to be added to a character without having to home brew an entirely new base class.  So say your running a home brew campaign setting and you want to add some of that home brewed campaign setting's flavor to the characters. Invent some home brew themes and offer them up to the players as awesome flavorful bits that can be used for this campaign.



Yes, please. They'd be great for fleshing out a setting.
It's that about i was talking, i see how 4ed focused in combat too much, i like tactical combat but that do that take a non-combat feat is very "difficult" in the player mind because it's thinking about the next fight.

I think that the tactical fight (like Miniatures in 3rd) is the best improvement of 4rd edition but it does that the players are more and more worry about their PC's fight prowess.

And, honestly, if the Theme are a roleplaying tool they would have to be stripped of all "tactical" benefeits; also i think that they are too much rigids, and if wizards can make a variable tree progression of roleplaying benefeits and flavor for each class this mechanics will be more better than before.
It's that about i was talking, i see how 4ed focused in combat too much, i like tactical combat but that do that take a non-combat feat is very "difficult" in the player mind because it's thinking about the next fight.

I think that the tactical fight (like Miniatures in 3rd) is the best improvement of 4rd edition but it does that the players are more and more worry about their PC's fight prowess.

And, honestly, if the Theme are a roleplaying tool they would have to be stripped of all "tactical" benefeits; also i think that they are too much rigids, and if wizards can make a variable tree progression of roleplaying benefeits and flavor for each class this mechanics will be more better than before.



The nice thing about the themes, they add a nice layer of roleplay while still adding to your combat ability. Roleplaying and combat prowess are not mutually exclusive.
No, really when a player see a theme he think, well this theme is a good theme, my PC is good with it, i like the flavor but if he see a more benefeit in combat  on another theme... well, it's that we're discussing here.

If you want to introduce a roleplaying flavor with themes it not need of any plus or bonus or anything, but if we're thinking all the time about combat (and i love it, the combat) we need another thing, absolutely new mechanic separated from combat mechanic. In some wicked way the prereq. in Prestiges classes work toward this objective, if you want a good (or broken) prestige class you have to take some out-of-combat feats (that work in a less degree with PP or ED).

It's that i'm trying to explain, if you want a good mechanic in a roleplaying view don't merge it with a tactical benefeits, it's absurd how Optimization Board has influenced the gameplay, either because the DM is a "munchkin" or because the players are. Maybe is a sensation of mine but each MM has in mind the differents "super" builds and with the rise of this new monsters the games in which the play isn't optimized are obligated to turn in a more and more optimized viewpoint. (sorry for my english).
More than just background and themes, I'd merge all character customization groups of options into themes (or kits or talent trees -- the name is irrelevant). High level-only themes could easily take the place of Epic Destinies and Paragon Paths, for example.
If feats are the main tool for customization, then themes should essentially be pools of feats that become available to those who have a that given theme. I'd go even further and remove all generalist feats, and condition access to feats to class, feat and themes (allowing for characters with multiple themes).

GP
Themes are great I love themes honestly from the bottom of my heart.

 I just hope they aren't abused by people  who want to shove any non Fighter/Cleric/Mage/Rogue concept who can support it's very own class into a theme just so they only have 3 or 4 classes.
While themes were made for initial character creation to help flesh out a possible background and associated skills, the 4e rules also state that you can add a Theme later if the need / situation arises.  It also says that a Theme can be "re-trained" or changed if the campaign situation causes your character to sterr away from their current Theme or follow along a new one.

As far as prestige classes, I think they got split between Paragon paths and possibly Themes.  I'd like to see a middle ground.  I would like to see more Class-specific Paragon Paths / Epic Destinies to represent the various specializations each class could take.  This would be some sort of prerequisite paragon path that would give specific bonuses.

A lot ofr this customization could also be implemented within the class itself, allowing a little more customization within the class.  You could have a trade-off type system where the more sepcialization you gain, the more you must give up.
The thought a theme was more akin to a background.  e.g. a fighter with a cavelier background might get access to some additional skills and feats.

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I like 4E themes as a light taste of something out of the background that is maybe one small portion of another class. Weaker and narrower than what multiclassing ought to be, but still useful. Or something unrelated to any class, or that crosses classes.

For example, the Outlaw theme offers a weaker variant of Sneak Attack as an encounter power, boosts speed and maneuverability (level 2 and 6) and boosts sneakiness (level 6 and 10). So is it something for a striker? Not necessarily. It's also great for getting OUT of melee, for a character who really doesn't belong there. And my bard frequently uses the level 2 utility to be somewhere else in a hurry so she can attend to something needful - when your speed is 5, being able to double-move 18 one turn lets you close that door quite a bit sooner.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
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