D&D Before

I don't usually post threads about my blog.  But I just started a new series of blog articles that I thought would be of particular interest to the community.  I'll be posting a new installment every week. (Barring the week on which the first of the month falls -- I post my Heroes of Blogging series on that day.)  I hope to generate some -- hopefully civil -- discussion on the direction of Next.


D&D BEFORE


Recently, I have been looking over the Design & Development articles that were published in the run-up to Fourth Edition and it occurred to me that it would be useful to see whether the goals that the designers set for themselves were met, and whether they will be carried into the Next iteration of D&D.  Partly inspired by Style75's discussion thread, the idea of D&D Before was born.  In this nine-part series of articles, I will look at each of the Design & Development articles released in the early part of Fourth Edition.  I stop when the articles begin discussing materials that are to be introduced in the Players Handbook 2, like the bard and barbarian.


Fourteen designers wrote articles for Fourth Edition.  Remarkably, all three of the lead developers for Next -- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, and James Wyatt -- were among them.  After analyzing the current designers' "before" articles, I will look at the other developers' articles, also by author.  By grouping the articles by designer, I hope to get a sense of each designer's preferences and personal style.  
Unearthed Wrecana
Very cool Wrecan. I will definitely check it out.
My two copper.
Nifty.

I would hope, however, that you, and everyone who reads the series, would keep open the possibility that their preferences and personal style may have shifted in the last four years.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Absolutely, mand!  Actually, one of the premises of the exercise is to see how styles have shifted and possibly why.  That's why I'm going to start with Mearls, Crawford, and Wyatt!
Absolutely, mand!  Actually, one of the premises of the exercise is to see how styles have shifted and possibly why.  That's why I'm going to start with Mearls, Crawford, and Wyatt!


Indeed; in the magic item article, Andy Collins even talks about how his own ideas changed just over the course of 4e development. I am looking forward to reading these.

You've got my attention. This sounds quite worthwhile.
This is interesting stuff. I notice that attunement of magic items was considered for 4e and it's interesting that they are revisiting it for 5e. It seems a bit too complicated for my taste, but a lot of other people might enjoy it.
I find the article on pantheons very interesting, especially in light of what we have seen with the Cleric so far.  The questions they raised back then are still relevant:

"When we wanted to put a temple in an adventure, what god would it be dedicated to? We could make Generic Evil Temples™, but that would sap a lot of the flavor out of our adventures, and rob us of specific plot hooks and story lines based on the portfolios and histories of these gods.


When we wanted to illustrate a cleric in one of our books, what holy symbol would the cleric hold? Again, we could rely on a stable of generic symbols (maybe the Zapf Dingbat font?), but at the cost of a lot of flavor."


I think this would make an interesting topic for Jon Schindehette's "Dragon's-Eye View" article.

The description of Points of Light describe it as a extremly hostile and dangerous place,  a place where Harry the butcher and Clark the buglar won't stand a chance on the wild for more than 1 hour.... Maybe i didn't made my settings that diferent from Points of Light then...
Sounds great.  I'll be reading.  Thanks.
This is an awesome idea.

Now, I wonder if I can "follow" this through my profile...

Hmmmn... 
I've posted my analysis of the Design and Development articles of Mike Mearls and James Crawford.  Let me know your own analysis and insights!
The next article is up: James Wyatt!  Let me know what you think.
Wrecan,
Thank you for doing these articles.  I haven't gottent threw them all yet, but they have been very informative and are helping me design some house rules for my groups Next campaign.  I really just wanted to say - thank you! 
I wish I had the time to get to this right away. Sadly I'll have to wait a couple days, unless my schedule clears up a bit.
No problem. The blogs ain't goin' anywhere.
The Wyatt article is a very nice summary, and an example of why the DDN gumbo could end up being very tasty indeed.

Much appreciated!
Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words: "A long time ago...." (Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast) Winner of You Build the Character #12, YbtC #22, YbtC #24, YbtC #28 and YbtC #35 Winner of You Make the... Contest #8
Great work wrecan !

Looking forward to read more of your analysis..
Reading the Mearls article, the part about quests stood out to me.  I've never seen anyone make a quest card, and  most DMs I've played with have never even made much, if any, use of the quest system(mechanically, anyway).  I use it myself a fair bit when I DM, but I've never made cards and don't usually even formally inform the players that they've started a quest.  I know this is all anecdotal, but I think a survey on how frequently quest cards were used and how dominating an affect they had on gameplay would be an interesting subject, at least.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
quest cards....that's too MMOish...i am playing the edition people call MMO...and i don't have that kind of campaing structure...

Yeah I've never seen anyone use the cards either, but the system left me with the distinct impression that they wanted to help guide people to a specific story format. I think this notion of guidance permeated the game - at least that was my impression reading the rules and playing the few sessions I did.


And it's a decent format, but I can understand why people felt railroaded by it.

quest cards....that's too MMOish...

no more MMOish than the random dungeon generator they gave us in the late 70s.

quest cards....that's too MMOish...

no more MMOish than the random dungeon generator they gave us in the late 70s.




Is rare for a MMO to have random dungeons to the point that i have never played one of them...that's more related to rogue-likes games or rogue-like inspired games (Diablo)
If there's a "Kill Ten Rats" quest card, I want one just have it.
...there is nothing i hate the most than spending the first 5 hours of a game being a pest exterminator...good to know i never had to on a PnP RPG so far...
I've enjoyed what you've written so far and I'm looking forward to reading more, wrecan.
I've enjoyed what you've written so far and I'm looking forward to reading more, wrecan.



Wow ontopic post for the day
  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."

 

Great analysis (as usual), Wrecan.
Thanks for the kind words everyone...

Reading the Mearls article, the part about quests stood out to me.  I've never seen anyone make a quest card, and  most DMs I've played with have never even made much, if any, use of the quest system(mechanically, anyway).


I didn't mean to imply that quest cards are commonly used. They are not, in my experience, either.  What I intended to convey was that the philosophy behind the article -- that story-based awards should be told to the players up front, so they know what goals have been set and how valuable achieving them will be, is something that permeated the design philosophy of 4e. 

I think of it this way. Traditionally, railroading DMs had one tool -- the stick. Deviate from the railroad and he'd literally move heaven and earth to get the PCs back on track. But the quest card article gave the railroading DM a second tool -- the carrot. By promising PCs quest XP for completing specific tasks, the players were encouraged to stay on the railroad ad thus felt like they were sacrificing somethign if they decided to follow up on a different story seed they discovered. 
I actually used a quest log in a couple of my games that let players track quests. The hope was to help keep them on track and help keep them invested. I got mixed results, but mainly due to players just being used to not using something like that. When they have played TTRPGs for 10+ years without such things, it's hard to break that habit :P
My two copper.
I like that idea of letting players choose a particular quest. The DM could have a half-dozen different "starting point" encounters, each for a different quest. The players could then choose which quest to do and the DM could use that quest as a basic outline for further encounters.
I have to say, I wasn't that interested in the first couple articles, but the one with James Wyatt was fascinating. It gave me a couple insights into the game that I didn't have before, particularly about save or die mechanics. Want to throw my agreement out there about cries of player entitlement and "DM may I." I've never seen a shred of validity to those complaints, and Wyatt's focus on group empowerment is to me personally a huge deal and very important.

I can already see myself winding up on more of the "Monty Haul" side of the DM fence, as I tend to be somewhat liberal with magic items, but that may change due to bounded accuracy. I liked that 4e had magic items in the PHB simply so players could look at it without feeling like they were doing something they shouldn't. The section on the pantheon was also a great read. Keep up the good work.
I've added the latest article to the blog.  This week we analyze the great-granddaddy of 4e: Rob Heinsoo
"Heinsoo related the story of his third edition multiclass fighter/bard who he felt was underpowered because the bard class lacked focus. Like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, he vowed that no class would ever go hungry again."

 Heinsoo be blessed for that...

About Wrecan comment: "It caused some other issues as well. The power source-class role grid was born. The Quest for the mythical martial controller began. People stopped looking at a class as a narrative tool and saw it as a generic bundle of manifested abilities created at the juncture of a party role and a power source. The "story" of the game began to be subsumed by the mechanics of the game, which increasingly required heavier and heavier layers of reflavoring spackle to make it appear narrative."

 
I don't see this as an issue, i saw it as a huge positive aspect, people stop building stereotypes and started to build characters... It stopped being, i play THE wizard, i play THE cleric, i play THE paladin and instead they started to call themselves by name and unique character and unique personality and persona,  a character under the barbarian class could be nothing related to the Nomadic or Savage Barbarians, i have seen players playing a "Barbarian" more like a gangster, a barbarian with 16 INT and 16 CHA and it working mechanical and giving context to the player character who was a former criminal from a mafia, he was smart, ruthless and with some anger issues (represented by the barbarian rages).  This is one of the things i hated about former editions of AD&D...you don't build a character, you selected it from a pool of characters that were all fantasy trope stereotypes...
Loving these articles.

Personally I'm a fan of "party roles", but I despised "power sources". I also think the roles were a little TOO strictly adhered to in the early stages of development.

The Swordmage could have represented a range of Gish archetypes but it was straightjacketed by the "Defender" name. "We can't do THAT with a Swordmage, he's a DEFENDER".

I think that's actually one thing Essentials got RIGHT. It kept party roles but loosened them up heavily and was far more happy to mix power sources, too.


IMO party roles should still guide design direction, but it needn't be so explicit to players. Often my groups felt like they HAD to have a balanced team, instead of just playing what they wanted.
Loving these articles.

Personally I'm a fan of "party roles", but I despised "power sources". I also think the roles were a little TOO strictly adhered to in the early stages of development.

The Swordmage could have represented a range of Gish archetypes but it was straightjacketed by the "Defender" name. "We can't do THAT with a Swordmage, he's a DEFENDER".

I think that's actually one thing Essentials got RIGHT. It kept party roles but loosened them up heavily and was far more happy to mix power sources, too.


IMO party roles should still guide design direction, but it needn't be so explicit to players. Often my groups felt like they HAD to have a balanced team, instead of just playing what they wanted.



Is actually the complete oposite of what you say with essentials, essentials classes are completly restricted to their one and only build and role.  A AEDU fighter can outdamage the slayer and be a defender (infact increasing your damage output make your defender punishment alot bigger, thus defending even better because enemies would less likely to ignore you) at the same time as well as other things like single target controller, a slayer can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them...a knight can only defend and nothing else...A AEDU Rogue can be single target controller and striker...Thiefs can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them.
Wrecan -

What you are doing here is demonstrating why I love and respect you so goddamned much.  Kudos!

And to everyone else: Read his Unearthed Wrecana blog as well.  Utterly fantastic stuff.
Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging. Roll dice, not cars.

Is actually the complete oposite of what you say with essentials, essentials classes are completly restricted to their one and only build and role.  A AEDU fighter can outdamage the slayer and be a defender (infact increasing your damage output make your defender punishment alot bigger, thus defending even better because enemies would less likely to ignore you) at the same time as well as other things like single target controller, a slayer can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them...a knight can only defend and nothing else...A AEDU Rogue can be single target controller and striker...Thiefs can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them.



For certain classes, sure. But look at the Berserker. Or some of the mage builds (that seem to lean even more towards blaster than anything out of pre-E).

I'm not saying it was the case throughout Essentials- some classes were very restricted in their role as you point out. But I also felt that there was some effort to see the roles as being able to be blended, rather than being oil and water.


For certain classes, sure. But look at the Berserker. Or some of the mage builds (that seem to lean even more towards blaster than anything out of pre-E).

I'm not saying it was the case throughout Essentials- some classes were very restricted in their role as you point out. But I also felt that there was some effort to see the roles as being able to be blended, rather than being oil and water.



first of all Berserker is not essentials... it have anything in common with essentials classes with the exception of using defender aura instead of marking, Berserker design is AEDU in every sense of the word, it follow the exact same progression AEDU does (otherwise it would be barebones because of lack of compatibility to get the original Barbarian), it just adopted defender aura instead of marking...And guess what...you can still make a Barbarian into a pseudo-Defender, a warlord can also be build as pseudo-defender and cleric on paragon it can turn into a complete defender (with mark and punishment and all...).

Mage is also not essentials in design either, they just exchange implement mastery for schools of magic and can also encounter can be swaped like the dailies and utilities do on the original Wizard...A mage is not even a good blaster even less into a better blaster than the 4e wizard could before if it isn't backed by the feats and powers the Wizard already had.

I can't help but draw a link between the fighter/bard annecdote and the warlord being a personal project of Heinsoo's.


Like he got the opportunity to make his fighter/bard as a class.

Loving these articles.

Personally I'm a fan of "party roles", but I despised "power sources". I also think the roles were a little TOO strictly adhered to in the early stages of development.

The Swordmage could have represented a range of Gish archetypes but it was straightjacketed by the "Defender" name. "We can't do THAT with a Swordmage, he's a DEFENDER".

I think that's actually one thing Essentials got RIGHT. It kept party roles but loosened them up heavily and was far more happy to mix power sources, too.


IMO party roles should still guide design direction, but it needn't be so explicit to players. Often my groups felt like they HAD to have a balanced team, instead of just playing what they wanted.



Is actually the complete oposite of what you say with essentials, essentials classes are completly restricted to their one and only build and role.  A AEDU fighter can outdamage the slayer and be a defender (infact increasing your damage output make your defender punishment alot bigger, thus defending even better because enemies would less likely to ignore you) at the same time as well as other things like single target controller, a slayer can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them...a knight can only defend and nothing else...A AEDU Rogue can be single target controller and striker...Thiefs can only deal damage and nothing else no mather how much you try to build them.



Yup, the damn thing has a role straight jacket on that is for certain. The standard 4e ranger can be built monotone striker.. but can also be shifted to produce some single target control, not so the slayer. 
 
  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."

 

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