D&D Next Q&A: Setting Specific Options, 1st Level Characters & High Level Play

In this week's D&D Next Q&A, Rodney tackles the topics of character specific options in different settings, the different feel and approaches to first level characters and some goals for high level play.

Trevor Kidd Community Manager

1) So setting specific class variants? Expected.

2) So 1st level is goblin slayers. Whether you are experienced is dependent on what you deem others around you are. Power Creep Power Seep. In Point of Light, you are a superhero. In FR, you are some chump.

3) So the base high level is dependent on which modules you use?

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

1) Glad to hear that they're considering setting-specific (and non-setting specific) modules for non-spellcasters. It's interesting to think about what might replace Combat Superiority (or what alternate forms it might take) in various settings.

2) A good, detailed response. My only question is: How will module selection reflect these different playstyles? Is it going to be in modifying character options (as in: You're fresh faced neophytes, so you get low HP)? Or is it going to be in modifying the world around them (as in: You're Big Damn Heroes, so NPCs are going to be weaker to imply your strength)? Or are there going to be modules for both ends, hopefully with some advice as to how they interact?

3) This raises a lot of interesting ideas as well. Are high level spells all going to be highly specific/restricted by resouce requirements in order to keep spellcasters from warping the game? An interesting thing about the non-adventuring occupations for high level adventurers that he throws out is that most of them involve the adventurers being sort of "public figures" or movers and shakers in their society. What might the high level adventurer who wants to be a recluse resort to to spend their money or occupy their time aside from adventuring?
Q&A Haiku Time!  Awesome edition!  

Setting-specifics?
Yes! For casters and others.
Modules are awesome!

How awesome are newbs?
Depends on how awesome you
make your local guards.

High-level campaigns?
As easy as low-level
But with more awesome!
 
I don't think answer #2 was that illuminating at all. Whether a PC feels like a red shirt with a 50% chance of seeing the next sunrise or a kid fresh out of ninja school who is a fully trained killing machine with zero real world experience depends more on the PC interacting mechanically with the encounters, not how the setting portrays them. If the rules treat PCs as disposable, then they are red shirts no matter what the setting says.
...whatever
I don't think answer #2 was that illuminating at all. Whether a PC feels like a red shirt with a 50% chance of seeing the next sunrise or a kid fresh out of ninja school who is a fully trained killing machine with zero real world experience depends more on the PC interacting mechanically with the encounters, not how the setting portrays them. If the rules treat PCs as disposable, then they are red shirts no matter what the setting says.
...whatever
@thecasualoblivion

The point of #2 is that the mechanical expression of a PC and the narrative expression have been divorced.

Level one just means goblinslayer. Whether you are a Diabloesqe necromancer trained many years in the jungle or a 1st year student from a magic school matters not.

Level 1 means your wizard can take 2 hits best from a mundane commoner wielding a dagger.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Totally digging the Backgrounds deal, there was always that question about an "old" 1st level character.
#1 - Campaign specific material is good, as long as they don't go overboard and make too much material that is tightly tied to specific game worlds. Also, they need to recognize that some material in a campaign book might be fine for general play while other is specific to that campaign world. Not every feat/item/class option in the Dark Sun campaign book needs to be marked "Dark Sun only"

#2 - Meh. The answer mostly dodges the question, but it isn't a question with a single definitive answer. It is also nice to see that they are recognizing that different campaign worlds might have different power levels. 4e want to far in trying to crunch the existing D&D worlds into one power level chart.

#3 - The comment about stacking is good, but rather vague. At least they recognize the problem. The high level adventuring comments are OK, they seem to have their ideas in the right range but it is something that requires a lot of careful rules to cover.
I'm excited for campaign-specific options and flavor choices!

Danny

While overall I like the way this all sounds as a bundle, im a little dubious of high level play because it has never panned out in my eyes the way they have stated they wanted it. 

3e had issues with overabundance of power which made the game awful depending on your gaming group (and I have had some bad luck in that avenue) and left some players feel left out.

4e was just... eugh... at high levels. It was nigh on the same as low levels but with more dice, which is fun every now and then, not on every turn. And thus far 4e is my favourite edition, up to about level 13.

I don't think I ever played a high level campaign in 2e but I heard the usual murmurings about imbalance (which I know will always happen so im not counting that as a negative).

Basically im reserved till I see empirical proof of this working, but as for the concept, I'm right behind WotC wishing this works. 
@thecasualoblivion The point of #2 is that the mechanical expression of a PC and the narrative expression have been divorced. Level one just means goblinslayer. Whether you are a Diabloesqe necromancer trained many years in the jungle or a 1st year student from a magic school matters not. Level 1 means your wizard can take 2 hits best from a mundane commoner wielding a dagger.

No, it doesn't.

If the system treats your PC as a doormat, its a doormat. No amount of the setting calling your PC a hero will change that. If the mechanics make your PC feel like a red shirt, no amount of fluff will make it not so.

Fluff needs to reflect the mechanics.

...whatever
@tco

The mechanics does match a lot of the more reasonable fluff.
At level 1 you are not the hero unless the villain is a mere goblin and the people and guards are 1hp smucks.

But if the villain is a 5d6 fireball slinging level 7 mage and the town guard are level 3 fighters in this setting, your level 1 fighter is a fresh recruit.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I agree with Orzel.  The answer is tellign you exactly how a DM can use the mechanics to create a campaign where the adventurers are raw recruits (the goblins are minions of the villain and the town guardsmen are all 1st-3rd level fighters), or the adventurers are bad-ass heroes (a goblin is the villain and the guardsmen are all 1 hp cannon fodder).
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
On the one hand I'm happy to see them firmly establish a starting 'power level'. Unfortunately it's not the one I wish they would have picked. Still, if they come out with an optional rules module that can deal with 'zero level' I suppose it's the best I can hope for. Could definitely have been MUCH worse.

The REAL problem is their continued talking like Backgrounds solve anything. They don't. They're an OPTIONAL system which many of us won't be touching under any circumstances, so you can't shift ANY required component of the game under that modular umbrella. It MUST be its own, fully self-contained module.




If you feel it solves an inherent problem to the game why don't you use it.  Yeah it is optional but it solves a problem you see within the system.  So you use the option.  I don't see a problem here at all.  You see a problem in the system they have provided a solution the solution is optional you use the option to solve the problem you see within the system.  Refusing to touch it even though it provides a solution to your problem is just undue stubborness.  That isn't their problem at all.
@thecasualoblivion The point of #2 is that the mechanical expression of a PC and the narrative expression have been divorced. Level one just means goblinslayer. Whether you are a Diabloesqe necromancer trained many years in the jungle or a 1st year student from a magic school matters not. Level 1 means your wizard can take 2 hits best from a mundane commoner wielding a dagger.

No, it doesn't.

If the system treats your PC as a doormat, its a doormat. No amount of the setting calling your PC a hero will change that. If the mechanics make your PC feel like a red shirt, no amount of fluff will make it not so.

Fluff needs to reflect the mechanics.

I guess part of it is that the 'test for heroic protagonist' isn't just being a little more bad-ass than the local militia.  It's being set up to get all the way through a story.  Your 1d10 hp AD&D PC was prettymuch the 'red shirt,' you're talking about.  He died pretty easily, and had little chance of not staying dead. Getting to 2nd level was a matter of luck and paranoia.  By 9th level, he could stand up to a lot of punishment, save vs all sorts of horrible things most of the time, and likely get raised by his buddies if his luck ran out.   But he also might roll a 1 on a save or touch the wrong cursed magic item and be "irrevocably slain, Resurection, Wish and the like notwithstanding."  Luck and paranoia still played a big part.

3e characters achieved protagonist-like durrability earlier, and 4e characters started with it.

Maybe the crux of the question is "at what level should the player start thinking about naming his character ?" 

 

 

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@thecasualoblivion The point of #2 is that the mechanical expression of a PC and the narrative expression have been divorced. Level one just means goblinslayer. Whether you are a Diabloesqe necromancer trained many years in the jungle or a 1st year student from a magic school matters not. Level 1 means your wizard can take 2 hits best from a mundane commoner wielding a dagger.

No, it doesn't.

If the system treats your PC as a doormat, its a doormat. No amount of the setting calling your PC a hero will change that. If the mechanics make your PC feel like a red shirt, no amount of fluff will make it not so.

Fluff needs to reflect the mechanics.

I guess part of it is that the 'test for heroic protagonist' isn't just being a little more bad-ass than the local militia.  It's being set up to get all the way through a story.  Your 1d10 hp AD&D PC was prettymuch the 'red shirt,' you're talking about.  He died pretty easily, and had little chance of not staying dead. Getting to 2nd level was a matter of luck and paranoia.  By 9th level, he could stand up to a lot of punishment, save vs all sorts of horrible things most of the time, and likely get raised by his buddies if his luck ran out.   But he also might roll a 1 on a save or touch the wrong cursed magic item and be "irrevocably slain, Resurection, Wish and the like notwithstanding."  Luck and paranoia still played a big part.

3e characters achieved protagonist-like durrability earlier, and 4e characters started with it.

Maybe the crux of the question is "at what level should the player start thinking about naming his character ?" 



This.

The 'test for heroic protagonist' is being able to take a decent number of hits and having robust abilities to overcome challenges, the second of which level 1 PCs in pre-4E D&D also tended to lack and 5E is looking to go back to that. It isn't determined by fluff, and setting fluff is not a replacement for it.
...whatever
On the one hand I'm happy to see them firmly establish a starting 'power level'. Unfortunately it's not the one I wish they would have picked. Still, if they come out with an optional rules module that can deal with 'zero level' I suppose it's the best I can hope for. Could definitely have been MUCH worse.

The REAL problem is their continued talking like Backgrounds solve anything. They don't. They're an OPTIONAL system which many of us won't be touching under any circumstances, so you can't shift ANY required component of the game under that modular umbrella. It MUST be its own, fully self-contained module.




If you feel it solves an inherent problem to the game why don't you use it.  Yeah it is optional but it solves a problem you see within the system.  So you use the option.  I don't see a problem here at all.  You see a problem in the system they have provided a solution the solution is optional you use the option to solve the problem you see within the system.  Refusing to touch it even though it provides a solution to your problem is just undue stubborness.  That isn't their problem at all.



No, using it just breaks other things...in this case the pre-3rd experience and the nature of a class-based system. They have said since day 1 that backgrounds, themes, etc will all be optional. You can't then make them the solution to a bunch of different problems because it reduces (or outright removes) the possibility of them remaining optional. It's like inflicting someone with a disease through the use of a product, then putting the cure in a lion's den and telling everyone that you've supplied a solution to any problems their product may have caused. Just because it's a solution doesn't mean it's viable.

My problem isn't with this one issue (power level) but with the default answer we're getting to EVERY situation: "Backgrounds solve it". They don't, and even if they did, they're not supposed to. Every issue/problem needs a separate modular answer, not all of them lumped into one giant monstrous module.



What exactly is your preferred play style then? Do you think characters should have less hit points and no hit dice, healing should be 1 hp a day unless you fell unconscious in which case you have to rest for a week before you start getting hp back?

I mean that can all be addressed in the hit point and healing dials...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
On the one hand I'm happy to see them firmly establish a starting 'power level'. Unfortunately it's not the one I wish they would have picked. Still, if they come out with an optional rules module that can deal with 'zero level' I suppose it's the best I can hope for. Could definitely have been MUCH worse.

The REAL problem is their continued talking like Backgrounds solve anything. They don't. They're an OPTIONAL system which many of us won't be touching under any circumstances, so you can't shift ANY required component of the game under that modular umbrella. It MUST be its own, fully self-contained module.




If you feel it solves an inherent problem to the game why don't you use it.  Yeah it is optional but it solves a problem you see within the system.  So you use the option.  I don't see a problem here at all.  You see a problem in the system they have provided a solution the solution is optional you use the option to solve the problem you see within the system.  Refusing to touch it even though it provides a solution to your problem is just undue stubborness.  That isn't their problem at all.



No, using it just breaks other things...in this case the pre-3rd experience and the nature of a class-based system. They have said since day 1 that backgrounds, themes, etc will all be optional. You can't then make them the solution to a bunch of different problems because it reduces (or outright removes) the possibility of them remaining optional. It's like inflicting someone with a disease through the use of a product, then putting the cure in a lion's den and telling everyone that you've supplied a solution to any problems their product may have caused. Just because it's a solution doesn't mean it's viable.

My problem isn't with this one issue (power level) but with the default answer we're getting to EVERY situation: "Backgrounds solve it". They don't, and even if they did, they're not supposed to. Every issue/problem needs a separate modular answer, not all of them lumped into one giant monstrous module.



What exactly is your preferred play style then? Do you think characters should have less hit points and no hit dice, healing should be 1 hp a day unless you fell unconscious in which case you have to rest for a week before you start getting hp back?

I mean that can all be addressed in the hit point and healing dials...



Not sure what you're asking, or rather, why you're asking about it.

I've said over and over again that to our group 1st level represents essentially the common man, with just a tiny spark of potential that differentiates him from an npc. Hence my statement that their stated assumption doesn't match, but is close enough for modification through a module. In other words, better than it could of been, so we'll take the compromise hit on this one.

I've explained our opposition to skills, feats, backgrounds, themes, etc. For us the game must emulate (not match, just be strongly reminiscent of) pre-3rd style gaming. I've also, in this very thread, explained that my opposition to the 'background' cop out has very little to do with the power level issue, but is instead a general resentment of a canned answer that they've offered to almost every question raised by the community: "backgrounds fix it".

So what exactly is it that you're unclear about, so I can try to address that specific issue rather than ramble on as I'm wont to do?



After you strip out backgrounds and specialties your game is left all the way back at 1E levels of complexity and without backgrounds and specialties you have no skills (non-weapon proficiencies in 2E) or feats (class features in 2E). You are essentially very weak so you start with 1E level survivability. A single solid hit by a monster can take anyone but a Fighter out of the game. I'm not really seeing what you are complaining about?
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Fresh-faced apprentices Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoner
Town Guard: 20 HP Human fighter
Mook: 6 HP kobold
Enemy: 12  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 30 HP kobold trap lord

Experienced Veterans Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 6 HP Human fighter
Mook: 3 HP kobold
Enemy: 7  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 17 HP kobold trap lord

Big Damn Heroes Mode

Townsfolk: 1 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 3 HP Human fighters
Mook: 1 HP kobold
Enemy: 2  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 6 HP kobold trap lord

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Fresh-faced apprentices Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoner
Town Guard: 20 HP Human fighter
Mook: 6 HP kobold
Enemy: 12  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 30 HD kobold trap lord

Experienced Veterans Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 6 HP Human fighter
Mook: 3 HP kobold
Enemy: 7  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 17 HD kobold trap lord

Big Damn Heroes Mode

Townsfolk: 1 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 3 HP Human fighters
Mook: 1 HP kobold
Enemy: 2  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 6 HD kobold trap lord



30 HD, that's insane...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Fresh-faced apprentices Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoner
Town Guard: 20 HP Human fighter
Mook: 6 HP kobold
Enemy: 12  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 30 HD kobold trap lord

Experienced Veterans Mode

Townsfolk: 4 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 6 HP Human fighter
Mook: 3 HP kobold
Enemy: 7  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 17 HD kobold trap lord

Big Damn Heroes Mode

Townsfolk: 1 HP human commoners
Town Guard: 3 HP Human fighters
Mook: 1 HP kobold
Enemy: 2  HP kobold dragonshield
Boss: 6 HD kobold trap lord



If the PC is still made of glass and gets dropped in 1-2 hits, or feels like it lacks the tools to deal with adventuring life compared to their future selves, none of that changes anything. Back when I was a 2E DM, I did exactly what you just described, for this very purpose. It was a lame, unsatisfactory solution compared to 4E lv 1 PCs who can take a few hits and have powerful-seeming tools to affect their world.

You can't change things just by manipulating the encounters. The mechanics of the PCs themselves matter, and matter far more. Fighting weaker enemies does not make you feel strong. 
...whatever
On the one hand I'm happy to see them firmly establish a starting 'power level'. Unfortunately it's not the one I wish they would have picked. Still, if they come out with an optional rules module that can deal with 'zero level' I suppose it's the best I can hope for. Could definitely have been MUCH worse.

The REAL problem is their continued talking like Backgrounds solve anything. They don't. They're an OPTIONAL system which many of us won't be touching under any circumstances, so you can't shift ANY required component of the game under that modular umbrella. It MUST be its own, fully self-contained module.




If you feel it solves an inherent problem to the game why don't you use it.  Yeah it is optional but it solves a problem you see within the system.  So you use the option.  I don't see a problem here at all.  You see a problem in the system they have provided a solution the solution is optional you use the option to solve the problem you see within the system.  Refusing to touch it even though it provides a solution to your problem is just undue stubborness.  That isn't their problem at all.



No, using it just breaks other things...in this case the pre-3rd experience and the nature of a class-based system. They have said since day 1 that backgrounds, themes, etc will all be optional. You can't then make them the solution to a bunch of different problems because it reduces (or outright removes) the possibility of them remaining optional. It's like inflicting someone with a disease through the use of a product, then putting the cure in a lion's den and telling everyone that you've supplied a solution to any problems their product may have caused. Just because it's a solution doesn't mean it's viable.

My problem isn't with this one issue (power level) but with the default answer we're getting to EVERY situation: "Backgrounds solve it". They don't, and even if they did, they're not supposed to. Every issue/problem needs a separate modular answer, not all of them lumped into one giant monstrous module.



What exactly is your preferred play style then? Do you think characters should have less hit points and no hit dice, healing should be 1 hp a day unless you fell unconscious in which case you have to rest for a week before you start getting hp back?

I mean that can all be addressed in the hit point and healing dials...



Not sure what you're asking, or rather, why you're asking about it.

I've said over and over again that to our group 1st level represents essentially the common man, with just a tiny spark of potential that differentiates him from an npc. Hence my statement that their stated assumption doesn't match, but is close enough for modification through a module. In other words, better than it could of been, so we'll take the compromise hit on this one.

I've explained our opposition to skills, feats, backgrounds, themes, etc. For us the game must emulate (not match, just be strongly reminiscent of) pre-3rd style gaming. I've also, in this very thread, explained that my opposition to the 'background' cop out has very little to do with the power level issue, but is instead a general resentment of a canned answer that they've offered to almost every question raised by the community: "backgrounds fix it".

So what exactly is it that you're unclear about, so I can try to address that specific issue rather than ramble on as I'm wont to do?



After you strip out backgrounds and specialties your game is left all the way back at 1E levels of complexity and without backgrounds and specialties you have no skills (non-weapon proficiencies in 2E) or feats (class features in 2E). You are essentially very weak so you start with 1E level survivability. A single solid hit by a monster can take anyone but a Fighter out of the game. I'm not really seeing what you are complaining about?



I just told you exactly what I was 'complaining about'. I mean, word for word. In English. No tricks or linguistic flourishes. Here, I'll bold it for you. There it is...for the, what, third time in this thread? I don't know what it is about that sentence that you're not getting.

Lemme try reconstructing the entire flow of conversation:



Community: What's the default power for level 1 characters?

Dev: Well, it's basically this, but if you're unhappy with that you use backgrounds to imagine it differently.

Me: Since backgrounds are a completely optional component they cannot be used to establish a core concept like default power level (or back story) for people not using them. You can't make us use them in order to solve the power level issue because then we have them with all their attached baggage and that inherently denies a playstyle that we were assured would be supported. Therefore you MUST keep each module to addressing exactly one problem. We'll compromise on the imagined starting power you suggest, but would like a unique module to address variations at some point. Also, PLEASE quit answering every question with 'Backgrounds solve that', they don't, and can't.

SIT: They just told you backgrounds give you an optional power level adjustment, so use it.

Me: *sigh* That doesn't work because it's an optional system for other aspects that we don't use and there's no way to separate them, or achieve our playstyle with them.

You: Do you think hit points should be directly related to the price of tea in China?

Me: *head assploads* My dying body outlines what I'm saying in blood, and dies pointing directly to it. We don't use backgrounds at all, and in that default state their assumption about power level is slightly over what we'd prefer. We're ok with it as default, but would like a separate module at some point to allow slightly lower comparative power levels. Also, they need to quit acting like Backgrounds solve anything for those not using them.

You: If you choose not to use backgrounds your characters get weaker. That also solves the complexity issue that you never even remotely hinted at.

Me: [Divide by zero...Tan Ru...Nomad...compute to last place the value of pi...error...error...please advise]  *BOOM*




Ok, so even without all the addons, its still too powerful for you? Ok I can see that. I think WotC wasn't saying you MUST use backgrounds to set the power level. I think they were saying you CAN use the backgrounds to show the power level. For instance the soldier background implies you've seen combat and know what you are doing. Which would imply that you aren't a commoner...

However if you don't have backgrounds you wouldn't use them to help set the power level. You would use other things like how tough a commoner is and what kind of monsters you are put up against.

Now its completely valid to want your players to have their characters skulk around and gank the goblins one by one when they go outside to relieve themselves until the dungeon is empty and then loot it, or whatever your particular play style is. I just wasn't understanding the connection.

By the way I agree though, putting powerful commoners and monsters won't do anything but make the game deadlier...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
On the one hand I'm happy to see them firmly establish a starting 'power level'. Unfortunately it's not the one I wish they would have picked. Still, if they come out with an optional rules module that can deal with 'zero level' I suppose it's the best I can hope for. Could definitely have been MUCH worse.

The REAL problem is their continued talking like Backgrounds solve anything. They don't. They're an OPTIONAL system which many of us won't be touching under any circumstances, so you can't shift ANY required component of the game under that modular umbrella. It MUST be its own, fully self-contained module.




If you feel it solves an inherent problem to the game why don't you use it.  Yeah it is optional but it solves a problem you see within the system.  So you use the option.  I don't see a problem here at all.  You see a problem in the system they have provided a solution the solution is optional you use the option to solve the problem you see within the system.  Refusing to touch it even though it provides a solution to your problem is just undue stubborness.  That isn't their problem at all.



No, using it just breaks other things...in this case the pre-3rd experience and the nature of a class-based system. They have said since day 1 that backgrounds, themes, etc will all be optional. You can't then make them the solution to a bunch of different problems because it reduces (or outright removes) the possibility of them remaining optional. It's like inflicting someone with a disease through the use of a product, then putting the cure in a lion's den and telling everyone that you've supplied a solution to any problems their product may have caused. Just because it's a solution doesn't mean it's viable.

My problem isn't with this one issue (power level) but with the default answer we're getting to EVERY situation: "Backgrounds solve it". They don't, and even if they did, they're not supposed to. Every issue/problem needs a separate modular answer, not all of them lumped into one giant monstrous module.



What exactly is your preferred play style then? Do you think characters should have less hit points and no hit dice, healing should be 1 hp a day unless you fell unconscious in which case you have to rest for a week before you start getting hp back?

I mean that can all be addressed in the hit point and healing dials...



Not sure what you're asking, or rather, why you're asking about it.

I've said over and over again that to our group 1st level represents essentially the common man, with just a tiny spark of potential that differentiates him from an npc. Hence my statement that their stated assumption doesn't match, but is close enough for modification through a module. In other words, better than it could of been, so we'll take the compromise hit on this one.

I've explained our opposition to skills, feats, backgrounds, themes, etc. For us the game must emulate (not match, just be strongly reminiscent of) pre-3rd style gaming. I've also, in this very thread, explained that my opposition to the 'background' cop out has very little to do with the power level issue, but is instead a general resentment of a canned answer that they've offered to almost every question raised by the community: "backgrounds fix it".

So what exactly is it that you're unclear about, so I can try to address that specific issue rather than ramble on as I'm wont to do?



After you strip out backgrounds and specialties your game is left all the way back at 1E levels of complexity and without backgrounds and specialties you have no skills (non-weapon proficiencies in 2E) or feats (class features in 2E). You are essentially very weak so you start with 1E level survivability. A single solid hit by a monster can take anyone but a Fighter out of the game. I'm not really seeing what you are complaining about?



I just told you exactly what I was 'complaining about'. I mean, word for word. In English. No tricks or linguistic flourishes. Here, I'll bold it for you. There it is...for the, what, third time in this thread? I don't know what it is about that sentence that you're not getting.

Lemme try reconstructing the entire flow of conversation:



Community: What's the default power for level 1 characters?

Dev: Well, it's basically this, but if you're unhappy with that you use backgrounds to imagine it differently.

Me: Since backgrounds are a completely optional component they cannot be used to establish a core concept like default power level (or back story) for people not using them. You can't make us use them in order to solve the power level issue because then we have them with all their attached baggage and that inherently denies a playstyle that we were assured would be supported. Therefore you MUST keep each module to addressing exactly one problem. We'll compromise on the imagined starting power you suggest, but would like a unique module to address variations at some point. Also, PLEASE quit answering every question with 'Backgrounds solve that', they don't, and can't.

SIT: They just told you backgrounds give you an optional power level adjustment, so use it.

Me: *sigh* That doesn't work because it's an optional system for other aspects that we don't use and there's no way to separate them, or achieve our playstyle with them.

You: Do you think hit points should be directly related to the price of tea in China?

Me: *head assploads* My dying body outlines what I'm saying in blood, and dies pointing directly to it. We don't use backgrounds at all, and in that default state their assumption about power level is slightly over what we'd prefer. We're ok with it as default, but would like a separate module at some point to allow slightly lower comparative power levels. Also, they need to quit acting like Backgrounds solve anything for those not using them.

You: If you choose not to use backgrounds your characters get weaker. That also solves the complexity issue that you never even remotely hinted at.

Me: [Divide by zero...Tan Ru...Nomad...compute to last place the value of pi...error...error...please advise]  *BOOM*




Ok, so even without all the addons, its still too powerful for you? Ok I can see that. I think WotC wasn't saying you MUST use backgrounds to set the power level. I think they were saying you CAN use the backgrounds to show the power level. For instance the soldier background implies you've seen combat and know what you are doing. Which would imply that you aren't a commoner...

However if you don't have backgrounds you wouldn't use them to help set the power level. You would use other things like how tough a commoner is and what kind of monsters you are put up against.

Now its completely valid to want your players to have their characters skulk around and gank the goblins one by one when they go outside to relieve themselves until the dungeon is empty and then loot it, or whatever your particular play style is. I just wasn't understanding the connection.

By the way I agree though, putting powerful commoners and monsters won't do anything but make the game deadlier...




See, I read it as 'this is the default, but you can imagine it differently by choosing different backgrounds'. As if that was going to be the be-all, end all of the discussion on starting power. Obviously the starting power is the starting power. Offering differing campaign settings, or comparisons doesn't change what a character is mechanically capable of at any given level. What really go tme though was once again hearing their 'backgrounds solve it' by-line. Seriously, look back over the last couple months of questions and count how many include that answer. It's not a panacea even if you use it, and for those of us that don't, well it's nothing short of ridiculous.



Even as someone that likes backgrounds I can see that they are not a cure-all for the game. I mean a background is literally 3-4 skills and a minor story telling perk. They are not by any means an answer for anything including 'power level'...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Pheonix, I was confused by your reaction because in this case, nothing that WotC said seemed to imply that backgrounds were a required solution.  They explained backgrounds by stating: "For the player, I think one of the things that our backgrounds system does for us is that it allows us to establish unique stories and histories for the characters, showing what they were exceptional at doing before they became adventurers. "

But, there's nothing that says you need to use that subsystem.  If you want to declare an entire backstory for your paladin, including the bastard son you turned out to never have had, there's nothing that says you have to use the background system at all. If you want your background as paladin to be "generic paladin class", you can do that.  While poorly described, it seemed the only things that backgrounds did, were to formalize what level 1 adventurers were -- for those who use backgrounds, level 1 adventurers are adventurers with exactly 1 background.  For those who don't use the system, level 1 adventurers are  ones who have 0-infinity back story related events that shape their character.

Now, perhaps they are a little too aggressive at showing how backgrounds can be used, but that comes down to them having a new toy, not a required component.  If you are playing pre-3rd, then your background is whatever you say it is, and a first level character is whatever you say it is. 

As for the rest of mechanics vs fluff -- the arguement that 4e made was that first level characters could take on a lot of enemies and still survive.   If you make all enemies do 1d2 damage, and have 3 hp, your 1st level characters will feel the same way 4e chars did. (though rogues will still feel boring in combat, sorry).   If you make all monsters do 2d6+2 damage, and have 15 hp, then your first level characters will feel the way 1e chars did.   Tada!    Fixing fluff through the power of math.

(now, for those who liked a level 0 commoner, tabula rasa, that requires creating 1 class - the "commoner" at level 0, and setting everyone to that class.  Feels like an easy enough module.)
I rather liked the tier concept. It has its issues in terms of structuring a campaign, but in some ways it can work for you as well. While things like switching up to running castles and whatnot is cool I think the problem in AD&D was no ALTERNATIVE was really considered (except just go on doing what you were doing before). There are a lot of different ways to structure a game. I feel like I'd like more choices. It would be great to be able to run a heroic tier and then say "well, a few years go past and things happen and now you're more important!" or maybe have PCs go around  building strongholds, or maybe a combination of those things, or maybe just have them all get a lot stronger over the course of a single long story arc.

That is not dead which may eternal lie
Yeah, it seems to me that they aren't coupling Backgrounds to a solution to the power level at all. Rather, it seems to me that they are suggesting that - for those folks who use Backgrounds - that they (the Backgrounds) could go a long way towards informing the power level of 1st-level characters instead of determining it.

So, perhaps a 1st level fighter was a soldier at some point. That doesn't actually mean he killed anything at all, or that he has any real combat experience. If his unit didn't see action, or he was a soldier in peacetime, or whatever, that reflects his skill level and where he comes from. However, if the same fighter was in a unit in a war-torn nation and saw a lot of action, he could be a grizzled veteran. In the first case, 1st level characters might be the "slightly a cut above a commoner" style, while in the latter, they could be "veteran" or perhaps even "Big Damn Heroes," as the group decides.

And for folks not wanting to use backgrounds? They can explain all of that using backstory. The only difference would be that the folks using Backgrounds have attached Skills and whatever other small benefit is attached to any specific Background. And that's a difference that the non-Background-using folks won't care about, assuming they are also not using Skills in any way, shape, or form.

I'm not saying any other form of interpretation is incorrect. That's just how I'm reading it is all.

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

The mechanic "Background" is distinct from the characters story background... but only by a hair.
  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."

 

Yeah, it seems to me that they aren't coupling Backgrounds to a solution to the power level at all. Rather, it seems to me that they are suggesting that - for those folks who use Backgrounds - that they (the Backgrounds) could go a long way towards informing the power level of 1st-level characters instead of determining it.

So, perhaps a 1st level fighter was a soldier at some point. That doesn't actually mean he killed anything at all, or that he has any real combat experience. If his unit didn't see action, or he was a soldier in peacetime, or whatever, that reflects his skill level and where he comes from. However, if the same fighter was in a unit in a war-torn nation and saw a lot of action, he could be a grizzled veteran. In the first case, 1st level characters might be the "slightly a cut above a commoner" style, while in the latter, they could be "veteran" or perhaps even "Big Damn Heroes," as the group decides.

And for folks not wanting to use backgrounds? They can explain all of that using backstory. The only difference would be that the folks using Backgrounds have attached Skills and whatever other small benefit is attached to any specific Background. And that's a difference that the non-Background-using folks won't care about, assuming they are also not using Skills in any way, shape, or form.

I'm not saying any other form of interpretation is incorrect. That's just how I'm reading it is all.



That's how I read it.

I see it as if you use backgrounds, the world around you tell you some powerful you are. A sage can be a bearded old librarian, respected wise man, or a gifted student and all could be level 1.

What matters is that an ogre squises them all.

A soilder fighter who is level 1 in human lands might be the toughest guy in town.
A soilder fighter who is level 1 in the City of Brass is some chump efreeti whip for fun because a level 1 fighter can't do jack to an efreeti.

Robin vs Random Monster= Big Damn Hero
Robin vs Two Face= Trained expert
Robin vs Mind Controlled Superboy= Very outclassed novice

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

The mechanic "Background" is distinct from the characters story background... but only by a hair.

In 4E, per RAW and the old offline character builder, you can stack as many backgrounds as you like on a character... but mechanically you only get one benefit option from one background.

In principle I like that.

But most of the backgrounds are either too setting-specific or too vaguely described, or both, to really be useful except as jumping-off points for writing the character backstory. Aside from the one that I choose the mechanical benefit from, I'd rate them as approximately as useful as alignment. (And whether alignment is at all useful in building character backstory, is a matter of personal taste/style.)

"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
The mechanic "Background" is distinct from the characters story background... but only by a hair.

In 4E, per RAW and the old offline character builder, you can stack as many backgrounds as you like on a character... but mechanically you only get one benefit option from one background.

In principle I like that.

But most of the backgrounds are either too setting-specific or too vaguely described, or both, to really be useful except as jumping-off points for writing the character backstory. Aside from the one that I choose the mechanical benefit from, I'd rate them as approximately as useful as alignment. (And whether alignment is at all useful in building character backstory, is a matter of personal taste/style.)



I guess I see what you mean on that latter bit.  You might see them as being similar I guess excepting having many axis that run parallel and interact with oneanother and so on makes for a much more complex basis and they are less of an attempt to pseudo model behavior than to just describe various complex influences ie a background.
  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."