PC / Monster / NPC Transparency

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Prolouge: my player base split when 4.0 came out. My brother, his friends, and I (the DM) stuck with 3.5. My two friends and their occasionally-playing wives went with 4.0, partly because it was easier for the girls, who are newer to the idea of tabletop games, to play and to learn. One of my 4.0 buddies came back to our main group, and now plays both editions. I still like to hang out with my two buddies and their wives, so I play a little 4.0, but would never DM it.

---

So, I had a long talk with my hardcore-4.0-friend-and-DM yesterday on msn, and I was able to pair down what really keeps me a 3.5er... and it's the fact that the players don't operate by the same rules that the rest of the world does.

When I play in a 3.5 game, I know that my player can make sense of the world around him in game. Animated skeletons and zombies are animated by a spell effect. There's a limit, based on the strength of the caster, to how many undead there are. There's a way to identify the spell, cast it myself, disjoin it or interact with it, because it operates on the same principles and rules that my spells do. When the bugbear picks me up with his chain and chokes the life out of me, I know that I could take the feat that the bugbear is using eventually, if I devote enough resources to qualifying for it. Because darn it, that's a really awesome move.

I can cast that spell. I can craft that trap. I can learn that maneuver.

In 4.0, I cannot learn the spell or ritual that animated those skeletons. Those skeletons are there because they need to be there for me to kill, or for the big bad necromancer to feel necromancery. I can poke at them with Arcana all day, but I'll never learn the math behind it, the rules, because there are none. It'll never be something my character could replicate with a lifetime of study, because the world doesn't play by my rules.

If I can craft the traps that I encounter in dungeons, I can do it because my DM let me. Not because I invested the resources, the skills, the training. Not because there was a rule for it. How many can I craft? How often? How quickly? Whatever the DM makes up, that's how many, that's how often, that's how quickly.

And forget that chokehold maneuver. The bugbear can't do it because he's a fighter, or because he selected a feat, or even because he's a bugbear. He can do it because he's a bugbear strangler, and nobody else in the whole world could ever learn the technique.

It just murders immersion for me that 4.0 turned this on it's head. I love the PC / NPC transparency in 3.5, it's what made me fall in love with D&D. 4.0 is fun, don't get me wrong. Very fun. It just doesn't give me the sense that my character really can do whatever he wants to do, go where he wants to go, learn what he cares to learn. It's like when you're playing City of Villians or World of Warcraft and there's a door somewhere. The door doesn't go anywhere, doesn't even open... it's jut a graphic on the wall. You're not supposed to look at it, interact with it, wonder about it.

3.5 D&D is the only game that really makes me feel like I can wonder, like I should wonder, ask, investigate, or replicate. And it's the 'across the board' rules approach that does it. I feel like I understand my dissatisfaction with 4.0 as an immersive game, a simulated world, a roleplaying tool. It's because I feel like the game slaps my hand a bit when I go poking at that ritual, that trap, that maneuver, and ask, 'what's this'? The answer feels like a ruler across the knuckles, and a curt 'don't worry about it'.

I hope this... essay I appear to have written gives some folks a little insight into what a lot of people might mean when they make similar criticisms. Expressing the sentiments behind some of the more violently-met criticisms has been my goal here for awhile.

Respectfully,
- Rake
As long as you have fun. Because that is the point of playing whatever RPG or edition you prefer, to have fun. Nothing else..
You'll be able to summon skeletons when the PHB2 comes out with the Necromancer in it.

Until then, no, none of the PC classes have that ability. So what? You aren't playing devoted disciples of death or doing whatever horrible ritual is required to get the undead. A person can learn it. You can't, because its not accessible to you. Of course, if the DM wants to make it available, there's a wide selection of rituals and magic items that might prove very helpful for guidelines.

The bugbear choke can be replicated with a rogue power. Sorry, can't remember which one, but it lets you redirect an attack to an enemy adjacent. Take that. Grapple your foes a lot. Voila.

The trap construction rules, if I'm recalling correctly, would mostly tell you that it would take a ridiculously long time to dig a hole in the ground.

The entire premise of the D&D system is that you have a DM that makes decisions about the world, thus allowing limitless possibilities. Without 'whatever the DM makes up', the game simply ceases to exist.

Most of these complaints are based on mechanical differences, not immersive differences.
OT, but didn't Animate Dead in 3e had a material component cost of 50gp per corpse? I remember my players complaining of that ridiculous cost and that it destroyed the immersion of trying to play a Necromancer.

Unless of course there came a spell outside Core that obsoleted this spell?
And here lies the difference in tastes between players that focus on the narrative aspect of the game, and players that focus on the simulationist aspect of the game.

Me, I care more about narrative then simulation. And when I really feel like getting out some simulationist jollies, well, Star Wars Saga is as close to a simulationist game as I ever want to play again.

Different strokes for different folks. We all have different tastes.

I can understand why you would dislike 4e with your particular set of preferences though!
You'll be able to summon skeletons when the PHB2 comes out with the Necromancer in it.

Until then, no, none of the PC classes have that ability.

Well, here's the rub. None of the PC classes will ever have that ability, because it's not an ability. The undead minions the BBEG necromancer commands are not a part of any ability or power. There is no rule, no math, no ritual that says how many he can make, how often, or at what level. It's not something a PC will ever be able to replicate, understand, interact with, or research.

The bugbear choke can be replicated with a rogue power. Sorry, can't remember which one, but it lets you redirect an attack to an enemy adjacent. Take that. Grapple your foes a lot. Voila.

While what you suggest doesn't replicate the bugbear's ability, the chokehold in question isn't the point. There are any number of abilities like these.


The trap construction rules, if I'm recalling correctly, would mostly tell you that it would take a ridiculously long time to dig a hole in the ground.

Heh. That's what I'm saying.

Most of these complaints are based on mechanical differences, not immersive differences.

They're not complaints, per se. Hopefully I spelled out what I'm expressing here, clearly. But yes, it is the mechanics I'm talking about. If the mechanics treat the world like 'a place where the game happens' (which, I would like to make clear, is not what 4.0 does) as opposed to 'a place where fantastic things happen', the result is a less immersive game. The current edition just doesn't aim as high in that regard. The design goals are just different.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great thing for the hobby. It's just not the game for me, and for a lot of other folks, and reasons like this one might be a big part of why that's true.
In 4.0, I cannot learn the spell or ritual that animated those skeletons.

Only because that power has not yet been written and placed within the 4e gaming system. There is nothing that says the DM can't create that same ritual for a PC to use.

If I can craft the traps that I encounter in dungeons, I can do it because my DM let me. Not because I invested the resources, the skills, the training. Not because there was a rule for it. How many can I craft? How often? How quickly? Whatever the DM makes up, that's how many, that's how often, that's how quickly.

Hmmm i don't see anything in the books about crafting traps. But I only have the PHB with me and I could be missing something. I would use Thievery and a DC check to see if you can assemble a trap from the right materials which you purchased.

And forget that chokehold maneuver. The bugbear can't do it because he's a fighter, or because he selected a feat, or even because he's a bugbear. He can do it because he's a bugbear strangler, and nobody else in the whole world could ever learn the technique.

PC asks the DM if they can create a new power for their character. I don't see anyplace in the rules that say this can't be done. Assuming the DM allows the new power a PC has it. OR if it was on the fly the PC has to grab the target then make an opposed athletics check to see if you're strong enough to chock that target.

It just murders immersion for me that 4.0 turned this on it's head. I love the PC / NPC transparency in 3.5, it's what made me fall in love with D&D. 4.0 is fun, don't get me wrong. Very fun. It just doesn't give me the sense that my character really can do whatever he wants to do, go where he wants to go, learn what he cares to learn.

Sorry I disagree. I think this has more to do with the limitations of the DM. A player only has to ask "Please show me the rule that says I can't do that" If no rules are in a book then the play can say "Can I do x y z then?" And the DM then agree or disagree.

I think part of the problem is that 4ed is new and for the most part has been rewritten with a new base system. So there are a lot of things (Powers/Skills/Feats/classes/etc) that have not yet been developed or published by WOTC. Until it's "written in stone" it's up to the DM and PCs to improvise and expand the system as they feel they need. Just because it's not in a book or a mag doesn't mean you can't do it. And even if it is in the core rule book. As long as the whole agrees at your table you can modify the rules. No cop is going to come and bust down your door.

Edit: grammar
OT, but didn't Animate Dead in 3e had a material component cost of 50gp per corpse? I remember my players complaining of that ridiculous cost and that it destroyed the immersion of trying to play a Necromancer.

Hm. I'm not sure why material component prices would have an effect on immersion, and I've never heard this complaint from a player, but yes, animate dead and many other spells have material components.
I'm with Cyber-Dave here, it is reasonable that someone more oriented toward simulation would have issues with 4e. Since well that isn't the focus of 4e. Just as people more into well for instance like me and Cyber-Dave with the narrative-side of RPGs would enjoy 4e.
And here lies the difference in tastes between players that focus on the narrative aspect of the game, and players that focus on the simulationist aspect of the game.

Me, I care more about narrative then simulation. And when I really feel like getting out some simulationist jollies, well, Star Wars Saga is as close to a simulationist game as I ever want to play again.

Different strokes for different folks. We all have different tastes.

I can understand why you would dislike 4e with your particular set of preferences though!

As always, nice to see you Dave.

I'm glad you get it. Critics of 4.0 get a lot of hate on these boards, I think that understanding the why of it might help folks 'get' what different types of players are looking for in a tabletop.
They're not complaints, per se. Hopefully I spelled out what I'm expressing here, clearly. But yes, it is the mechanics I'm talking about. If the mechanics treat the world like 'a place where the game happens' (which, I would like to make clear, is not what 4.0 does) as opposed to 'a place where fantastic things happen', the result is a less immersive game. The current edition just doesn't aim as high in that regard. The design goals are just different.

I REALLY disagree with the bolded part of this quote. I like games that are designed on narrative principles. They are not designed to simulate the existence of a world, but rather to aid the narration of story. I find games that focus on simulating on the existence of the world become unnecessarily cumbersome, and that breaks immersion for me. I could care less if the PCs and the NPCs work on the same principles. It doesn't bother me when they do (I like Star Wars Saga)! But it doesn't bother me when they don't either. It doesn't effect my immersion one way or another. What effects my immersion is when rules become so cumbersome that the group stops focusing on the story, but starts focusing on the rules.

But, to clarify, I am not disagreeing that the bolded part of that quote is true for you. I can see how a player who prefers simulationist philosophies of game design would feel that way. I just don't think its an essential truth. Someone who could care less about simulation one way or another, and just wants to focus on telling a story (with mechanics that work well as mechanics rather than devices designed to simulate) will not find that mechanics that don't treat the world like 'a place where the game happens' will result in a less immersive game.

Like I said, different strokes for different folks. Depending on your preference, you will like a different type of game.
I pretty much agree with everything StormKnight said there. I'd also like to state that several abilities either shouldn't be availible to PCs (Actual dragon breath. Aboleth slime. Etc.) or shouldn't bother getting a writeup because when the player gets that power the DM basically asks him to retire due to moving beyond D&D. A useful and cost effective form of animate dead tops that list. "Okay well I guess you summon a skeletal army and have it clear the dungeon. Skeletons will start getting useless around level 10 so level your characters to there and we'll start the hunt for the next spell that will bypass plots that aren't specifically tailored to combat your undead armies."

OT, but didn't Animate Dead in 3e had a material component cost of 50gp per corpse? I remember my players complaining of that ridiculous cost and that it destroyed the immersion of trying to play a Necromancer.

Unless of course there came a spell outside Core that obsoleted this spell?

25 gp per hit die actually. Of course there were the fun questions of what happened when you controled a monster that had control over spawn. And I'm sure there were some fun splat things to make you even more broken....
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
What effects my immersion is when rules become so cumbersome that the group stops focusing on the story, but starts focusing on the rules.

I agree with this. And I'm not going to apply it to any game or edition. Some groups will understand x rule system but have difficulty with y rule system. While other groups will fully understand y but stumble over x rules.

If your group spends more time arguing over a rule in a book. Then that kills the immersion. Every system / edition has flaws.

Play the system / edition you find works best for your group.
Only because that power has not yet been written and placed within the 4e gaming system. There is nothing that says the DM can't create that same ritual for a PC to use.

There isn't a ritual. This is one of many instances in which 4.0 says 'we don't need a rule for it'!

Which begs the question: 'What if a player wants to try it?'

To which there is only: 'He can't.', or 'Have the DM make something up.'

It may be hard for some to understand, but both of those answers are very unsatisfying for many types of players.

Point in case: I once homebrewed some feats for a player in a 3.5 game. We played for awhile, and one of the players asked the player using the homebrewed feats how he was doing the neat things that he was doing. He told him about the feats we had homebrewed, and all the interest left the asking player's face. He goes: 'oh'. And that was that. Nobody (at our table, anyway) tells stories about the time the DM said they could get away with something. They tell stories about the time they did that awesome thing, made that impossible check, had that great idea...

Hmmm i don't see anything in the books about crafting traps. But I only have the PHB with me and I could be missing something. I would use Thievery and a DC check to see if you can assemble a trap from the right materials which you purchased.

And now we're just winging it. One step closer to playing Cops & Robbers. I respectfully suggest that this is a very unsatisfying answer, and that if the answer is 'Thievery maybe, and I'll make up a DC and a price'., I'd rather just scrap the action, or the character concept.

PC asks the DM if they can create a new power for their character. I don't see anyplace in the rules that say this can't be done. Assuming the DM allows the new power a PC has it. OR if it was on the fly the PC has to grab the target then make an opposed athletics check to see if you're strong enough to chock that target.

See above, I guess. 'Houserule it' is just so... cheap as an answer. Or it feels that way, anyway. It's like playing a game of Magic with cards you designed yourself. Even if they're underpowered, nobody is going to remember the victory.

Don't get me wrong, I'll houserule away a problematic rule, or simplify something that just doesn't turn much of a profit on the 'work vs. fun' scale. But adding content on this level isn't a satisfying answer to so core an issue as in-game immersion. If I wanted the PCs to be able to try any maneuver that a monster could use, I'd be making all kinds of iffy calls on the fly. Not to mention that the monsters would need to have those options, too.

That's the sound of 4.0's flagship game design element - careful game balance - flying out the window.
Hm. I'm not sure why material component prices would have an effect on immersion, and I've never heard this complaint from a player, but yes, animate dead and many other spells have material components.

The spell should have a material cost, no doubt. But it makes you wonder where all the worlds NPC necromancers found all these 25 gp+ Onyx Gems (checked it on d20srd.org) for their hordes of undead. And of course the impact of Onyx as a natural resource, since by killing the Undead, the gem burned out to a useless shell.

Talk about simulationism killer.
As always, nice to see you Dave.

Nice to see you too. ;)

I'm glad you get it. Critics of 4.0 get a lot of hate on these boards, I think that understanding the why of it might help folks 'get' what different types of players are looking for in a tabletop.

I don't mind people critiquing 4e, or not liking it because it doesn't cater to their personal subjective taste... as long as people understand that they don't like it because of their personal subjective taste, and not because their opinion is some sort of empirical essential truth that makes 4e an inferior/sub par game that is not actually a role-playing game.

You didn't really say anything that isn't true (in my opinion, for the most part). All you really stated is that you don't like the game because its not simulationist, and you like simulationist mechanics. Fair enough. What am I supposed to say, you are wrong for liking them? Your not. We each have our own tastes. That is that.

Me personally, I really didn't like the way 3e handled things. I really like the way 4e does not attempt to conflate PCs with NPCs, because they are not the same. One character is the hero-protagonist, and the other is a point of orientation against which the protagonist is oriented. They don't serve the same narrative purpose, and so they don't need the same mechanical construction. All they need is a pair of mechanical constructions that mesh well. And, when I say mesh well, I mean that can interact with each other when the scene requires it... at least, that is my opinion due to my personal preferences.
I really don't see it that way, I am afraid. I have seen my players do far more interesting things in 4E than they did in 3.5. They haven't been this creative since Mutants and Masterminds, which is VERY liberal on what kind of crap you can try. Last week our Shadar'kai chain-fighter went leaping from the top of a staircase to tackle a flying succubus into the water below, where the two of them spent a good portion of the rest of the combat trying to drown each other. The rules didn't "cover it", but between the rules for grabbing and page 42 I had enough to satisfy both my rules-mongers and my actors.

The mindset of 4E is very much "go and try it". Part of the above fight was that the succubus was wearing an amulet that controlled guardian gargoyles. Once they grabbed that the gargoyles went stone. They proceeded to lash it to the deck of their ship and are now on a quest to learn to control the amulet and find a way to make more gargoyles to watch over their keep. There aren't rules for that, but there is a FRAMEWORK for it in the ritual rules and the skills section. I don't feel like I am bound to finding "official" rules for it when the basic system already gives me what I want.

You want to raise the undead? Okay, quest for the knowledge, I'll make a ritual for you, and you get to deal with the social fallout of being an effing necromancer! You want to choke people with a chain? Start fighting with a chain and then page 42 it. Works for me.
I pretty much agree with everything StormKnight said there. I'd also like to state that several abilities either shouldn't be availible to PCs (Actual dragon breath. Aboleth slime. Etc.) or shouldn't bother getting a writeup because when the player gets that power the DM basically asks him to retire due to moving beyond D&D. A useful and cost effective form of animate dead tops that list. "Okay well I guess you summon a skeletal army and have it clear the dungeon. Skeletons will start getting useless around level 10 so level your characters to there and we'll start the hunt for the next spell that will bypass plots that aren't specifically tailored to combat your undead armies."

Wow, I don't think an animate undead army could ever clear an appropriate-level dungeon (especially not a realistically designed one, but hell, even if we're talking a cavern, I have to say no). Animate dead is just not strong enough at the level you acquire it to perform like this. Especially with a cost behind replacing minions.

In any case, I'll openly and freely admit that there are a few game-breakers in 3.5. Our games have been playing just fine for years now, though. And, of course, there are a few in 4.0 already, too. Game balance isn't really on the table here.
Game balance isn't really on the table here.

You mean in terms of discussion, or in terms of existence in 4e?
I don't mind people critiquing 4e, or not liking it because it doesn't cater to their personal subjective taste... as long as people understand that they don't like it because of their personal subjective taste, and not because their opinion is some sort of empirical essential truth that makes 4e an inferior/sub par game that is not actually a role-playing game.

You didn't really say anything that isn't true (in my opinion, for the most part). All you really stated is that you don't like the game because its not simulationist, and you like simulationist mechanics. Fair enough. What am I supposed to say, you are wrong for liking them? Your not. We each have our own tastes. That is that.

Me personally, I really didn't like the way 3e handled things. I really like the way 4e does not attempt to conflate PCs with NPCs, because they are not the same. One character is the hero-protagonist, and the other is a point of orientation against which the protagonist is oriented. They don't serve the same narrative purpose, and so they don't need the same mechanical construction. All they need is a pair of mechanical constructions that mesh well. And, when I say mesh well, I mean that can interact with each other when the scene requires it... at least, that is my opinion due to my personal preferences.

Actually, I do like 4.0. Combat borders on 'brilliant' (if also on 'easy'), and it's almost relaxing after DMming three 3.5 campaigns. Gah.

It just fails to be as good as it's predecessor, for me (and my players).

In other news: I'm happily shocked that we're all having a civil discussion. Yay forums!
You mean in terms of discussion, or in terms of existence in 4e?

In terms of discussion. In terms of 'having it or not', 4.0's got it in places that 3.5 doesn't even have places. Not that it doesn't have some problems, but 3.5 can devolve pretty quickly if your players are willing to play character concepts that are... well... stupid. Fortunately, I am blessed with players that optimize and roleplay. Go me!
Prolouge: my player base split when 4.0 came out. My brother, his friends, and I (the DM) stuck with 3.5. My two friends and their occasionally-playing wives went with 4.0, partly because it was easier for the girls, who are newer to the idea of tabletop games, to play and to learn. One of my 4.0 buddies came back to our main group, and now plays both editions. I still like to hang out with my two buddies and their wives, so I play a little 4.0, but would never DM it.

---

So, I had a long talk with my hardcore-4.0-friend-and-DM yesterday on msn, and I was able to pair down what really keeps me a 3.5er... and it's the fact that the players don't operate by the same rules that the rest of the world does.

When I play in a 3.5 game, I know that my player can make sense of the world around him in game. Animated skeletons and zombies are animated by a spell effect. There's a limit, based on the strength of the caster, to how many undead there are. There's a way to identify the spell, cast it myself, disjoin it or interact with it, because it operates on the same principles and rules that my spells do. When the bugbear picks me up with his chain and chokes the life out of me, I know that I could take the feat that the bugbear is using eventually, if I devote enough resources to qualifying for it. Because darn it, that's a really awesome move.

I can cast that spell. I can craft that trap. I can learn that maneuver.

In 4.0, I cannot learn the spell or ritual that animated those skeletons. Those skeletons are there because they need to be there for me to kill, or for the big bad necromancer to feel necromancery. I can poke at them with Arcana all day, but I'll never learn the math behind it, the rules, because there are none. It'll never be something my character could replicate with a lifetime of study, because the world doesn't play by my rules.

If I can craft the traps that I encounter in dungeons, I can do it because my DM let me. Not because I invested the resources, the skills, the training. Not because there was a rule for it. How many can I craft? How often? How quickly? Whatever the DM makes up, that's how many, that's how often, that's how quickly.

And forget that chokehold maneuver. The bugbear can't do it because he's a fighter, or because he selected a feat, or even because he's a bugbear. He can do it because he's a bugbear strangler, and nobody else in the whole world could ever learn the technique.

It just murders immersion for me that 4.0 turned this on it's head. I love the PC / NPC transparency in 3.5, it's what made me fall in love with D&D. 4.0 is fun, don't get me wrong. Very fun. It just doesn't give me the sense that my character really can do whatever he wants to do, go where he wants to go, learn what he cares to learn. It's like when you're playing City of Villians or World of Warcraft and there's a door somewhere. The door doesn't go anywhere, doesn't even open... it's jut a graphic on the wall. You're not supposed to look at it, interact with it, wonder about it.

3.5 D&D is the only game that really makes me feel like I can wonder, like I should wonder, ask, investigate, or replicate. And it's the 'across the board' rules approach that does it. I feel like I understand my dissatisfaction with 4.0 as an immersive game, a simulated world, a roleplaying tool. It's because I feel like the game slaps my hand a bit when I go poking at that ritual, that trap, that maneuver, and ask, 'what's this'? The answer feels like a ruler across the knuckles, and a curt 'don't worry about it'.

I hope this... essay I appear to have written gives some folks a little insight into what a lot of people might mean when they make similar criticisms. Expressing the sentiments behind some of the more violently-met criticisms has been my goal here for awhile.

Respectfully,
- Rake

funny i never met a necromancer npc in 3rd that followed pc rules.
they normally had dozens if not 100's of undead.
there were plenty of diffrences in 3rd between npc's and players
in the end it does not matter, play whatcha like.
Given the typical cash per encounter in 4e (equivalent to 20% of a same-level magic item), all you have to do is make sure that it typically costs more than that to beat an encounter. The most cost-effective will typically be low level (around level-10) monsters; probably 20 regular or 80 minion. If we assume a standard monster (or 4 minions) has a cost equal to a same-level magic item, we can buy 5 level-10 standard monsters or 20 minions with the cash from a single encounter. Odds are you'll lose at least that many units in the fight.

Alternately, you can just use the rules for NPC allies, which basically subtract from the XP value of an encounter.
Game balance isn't really on the table here.

Actually it kind of is. The NPCs must have a ritual that creates undead such that they are a viable threat to the similarly leveld PCs. In the hands of the PCs such a ritual makes the game a joke. Unless the ritual requires so much money as to make the casting impossible in which case the PCs are left wondering where all these Necromancers are getting all this money and why they're turning it all into skeletons leaving none behind for the PCs. This is true for any monster creation rulings, which is why summons and minion creation rules are far more sparse.

There were several of these disconnects all over 3rd ED if you made a dungeon that was worth the PCs time. 4th ED removes those dsconects in favor of vagueness, which is still a cop out, but one I find more palitable.
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
The problem here is
A) giving examples that are flat out wrong.
and B) complaining about "immersion" on purely mechanical grounds.

Your character doesn't know the game mechanics. You do not look and say "Ooh, a D12 in action, why can't I get one of those?"

There are over 600 powers in the PHB alone. You can do a LOT with those powers. Really, really a lot. Odds are there is actually very little that a monster can do as part of what reasonably constitutes its class that a character can't effectively replicate.

Yes, there are some things PCs can't replicate exactly. Primarily because they would destroy most games if the PCs could. However, there's no reason that should destroy immersion. You can either the view the PCs as being the people who aren't interested in pursuing those powers, which is a perfectly reasonable limitation on character choices. (Playing "no evil characters" does not mean evil characters don't exist; it means we happen to be telling the story of a group that isn't evil). Alternatively, there are a variety of incredible simply reasons why the power isn't accessible; including the basic idea that necromantic power is not learned. You can't "learn" to control vast armies of undead any more than you can "learn" to have green eys.
This is one of those things where I feel like you must be playing a very different game than me.

In 4.0, I cannot learn the spell or ritual that animated those skeletons. Those skeletons are there because they need to be there for me to kill, or for the big bad necromancer to feel necromancery. I can poke at them with Arcana all day, but I'll never learn the math behind it, the rules, because there are none. It'll never be something my character could replicate with a lifetime of study, because the world doesn't play by my rules.

Anytime I played 3.5 against a necromancer, the necromancer had exactly the right amount of undead to make the combat interesting. I never played against a necromancer who only had one zombie because of her low level. Frankly, the whole concept of magic-by-hitdice always felt pretty immersion breaking to me.

If I can craft the traps that I encounter in dungeons, I can do it because my DM let me. Not because I invested the resources, the skills, the training. Not because there was a rule for it. How many can I craft?

Why would there be a limit? As long as you have the parts needed to make the traps, why would you have to stop? Why would that be determined by anything other than how much rope or acid or whatever you had with you?

How often?

Whenever you have the time.

How quickly?

However long it takes you to dig a hole in the ground.

Whatever the DM makes up, that's how many, that's how often, that's how quickly.

I fail to see how it is more immersive for the book to answer these questions based on mathematical balance instead of the DM based on how long he thinks it would take you to dig an appropriate hole, or how much acid a trap would require. I also have no idea what this has to do with the point about NPCs and monsters. If I encountered a trap in 3.5, I did not assume it was set by a level appropriate rogue.

And forget that chokehold maneuver. The bugbear can't do it because he's a fighter, or because he selected a feat, or even because he's a bugbear. He can do it because he's a bugbear strangler, and nobody else in the whole world could ever learn the technique.

You have it exactly backwards. That creature is a bugbear. Because he knows this awesome strangle technique, he's a bugbear strangler. If you can find a bugbear who will teach you the technique, and you have the size and strength of a bugbear, you too could learn it. Just like in 3.5.

It just murders immersion for me that 4.0 turned this on it's head. I love the PC / NPC transparency in 3.5, it's what made me fall in love with D&D. 4.0 is fun, don't get me wrong. Very fun. It just doesn't give me the sense that my character really can do whatever he wants to do, go where he wants to go, learn what he cares to learn. It's like when you're playing City of Villians or World of Warcraft and there's a door somewhere. The door doesn't go anywhere, doesn't even open... it's jut a graphic on the wall. You're not supposed to look at it, interact with it, wonder about it.

I don't even understand this part. Does your DM include a lot of superfluous details that he hasn't bothered to develop?

3.5 D&D is the only game that really makes me feel like I can wonder, like I should wonder, ask, investigate, or replicate. And it's the 'across the board' rules approach that does it. I feel like I understand my dissatisfaction with 4.0 as an immersive game, a simulated world, a roleplaying tool. It's because I feel like the game slaps my hand a bit when I go poking at that ritual, that trap, that maneuver, and ask, 'what's this'? The answer feels like a ruler across the knuckles, and a curt 'don't worry about it'.

I don't get this either. One of the things that got me into DnD is that, unlike some other games, it rewards knowledge and planning as much as hitting something with a broadsword. I have found this to be absolutely true with 4e, just like 3.5. I suggest you tell your DM that you find "Don't worry about it" an unsatisfactory response. If there is a trap in my way and my character is capable of figuring out how and why it was set, I would expect the DM to tell me.

I hope this... essay I appear to have written gives some folks a little insight into what a lot of people might mean when they make similar criticisms. Expressing the sentiments behind some of the more violently-met criticisms has been my goal here for awhile.

Respectfully,
- Rake

I find your myriad criticisms to not even be similar to each other, let alone any other criticisms I have heard of DnD.
The transparancy (or lack there of) issue swings both ways. One of the things that really started bogging down my 3.5 game was how much work it was to design every NPC that the PCs were going to interact with.

"Hmmm, the baker is level a level 3 expert, but let's give him lowly roots as a commoner. So we start with the commoner skills . . .
. . . so what 3 feats should I give him . . . .
and hit points . . .
. . . wait, what, the players want to talk to the cheese merchant next?!?"

"So the 15th level necromancer is the bbg for this run has these spells in his spellbook . . . but he's going to have these memorized . . . and 7 ranks into profession sailor . . . well he'll need a workforce of goblin miners to collect the massive amounts of onyx he consumes, and while technically non-combatants, we'll need their stats too . . ."




. . . losing train of thought . . . will post later 8-)

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Monsters and players don't need to operate by the same rules. It's a game, not a simulation. The lack of transparency makes designing characters easy and fun, and designing monsters easy and fun. It's a shame that your sense of immersion is ruined by a lack of mechanical consistency, but I find it odd that you base your sense of immersion on mechanical consistency in the first place, rather than the practical expressions of the world around your character.
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That ruler cuts, or slaps, both ways. If I'm designing encounters against the BBEG and his undead hordes, the last thing I want is the straightedge of simulationism rapping me and saying "That's too many skeletons for Summon Undead Army! Why are there spectres; they're not allowed unless the BBEG has abilities X Y and Z." And so on.

I don't have much problem with monsters being the only ones who can perform particular stunts. In our real world, there's creatures with unique abilities. If there's a 'physics' behind all monster abilities, the danger is that they become harvestable to the PCs, making them overpowered.

Simulationism is the preference of many players, and nothing wrong with that. But it can be an absolute pain in the rear for DMs, who have to justify what they create, and be vigilant against player exploitation. I'm not saying that any of the sim supporters in this thread are out to exploit, but when players can always see the building blocks of the DM's creations, it's all too easy for them to spot a way to take advantage that the DM didn't think of. Five pairs of eyes against one, and all that.
and it's the fact that the players don't operate by the same rules that the rest of the world does.

I think I really just disagree (mostly) with the language. NPCs/Monsters/Whathaveyou all operate on the same basic rules (Attack vs. Defense; Powers; Defenses; Hit Points; Etc)* - just not the same creation rules. To me, it's not even that distinct from 3.5. Under those rules, nearly all creatures were "playing by the same rules" - but using different creation methods (especially since CR didn't mean anything resembling "character level"). In addition, many monster options and abilities were strictly not available to player characters (unless they were playing that particular monster), though the characters could potentially approximate those abilities through options of their own.

Many foes were likely to "not operate by the same rules" as the PCs, unless they were built using PC creation rules. Given that you can still use PC creation rules to create NPCs in 4th, I guess I just don't see a major difference.

When I play in a 3.5 game, I know that my player can make sense of the world around him in game. Animated skeletons and zombies are animated by a spell effect. There's a limit, based on the strength of the caster, to how many undead there are. There's a way to identify the spell, cast it myself, disjoin it or interact with it, because it operates on the same principles and rules that my spells do. When the bugbear picks me up with his chain and chokes the life out of me, I know that I could take the feat that the bugbear is using eventually, if I devote enough resources to qualifying for it. Because darn it, that's a really awesome move.

I can cast that spell. I can craft that trap. I can learn that maneuver.

Mostly. You'll still run into the myriad of abilities that are not available to PCs (again, unless they're playing as those specific monsters, or abusing shapeshifting).

A stronger point, perhaps, is that 3.5 had many more monsters built, at least partially, using the normal PC creation rules.

In 4.0, I cannot learn the spell or ritual that animated those skeletons.

Yet - though it's not really important to your point, and others have pointed it out.

Those skeletons are there because they need to be there for me to kill, or for the big bad necromancer to feel necromancery. I can poke at them with Arcana all day, but I'll never learn the math behind it, the rules, because there are none. It'll never be something my character could replicate with a lifetime of study, because the world doesn't play by my rules.

To be fair, this was already how things were working - at least to a degree - for a lot of GMs. The villains were only playing by the rules if they had to play by the rules. That necromancer villain that dominated a plotline wasn't limited to 2x his hit dice in controlled undead - he had a vast undead army. And until the options arose for players to (approximately) mimic this option in a later supplement, the world didn't "play by the rules."

If I can craft the traps that I encounter in dungeons, I can do it because my DM let me. Not because I invested the resources, the skills, the training. Not because there was a rule for it. How many can I craft? How often? How quickly? Whatever the DM makes up, that's how many, that's how often, that's how quickly.

Yup, traps are not covered. I forgot the 3.5 DMG (or at least the SRD) listed prices for traps.

And forget that chokehold maneuver. The bugbear can't do it because he's a fighter, or because he selected a feat, or even because he's a bugbear. He can do it because he's a bugbear strangler, and nobody else in the whole world could ever learn the technique.

I'll point you to the Rogue power Garrote Grip. Not exactly the same thing, but it approximates it extremely well. I believe there are other powers along similar lines.

It just murders immersion for me that 4.0 turned this on it's head. I love the PC / NPC transparency in 3.5, it's what made me fall in love with D&D. 4.0 is fun, don't get me wrong. Very fun. It just doesn't give me the sense that my character really can do whatever he wants to do, go where he wants to go, learn what he cares to learn. It's like when you're playing City of Villians or World of Warcraft and there's a door somewhere. The door doesn't go anywhere, doesn't even open... it's jut a graphic on the wall. You're not supposed to look at it, interact with it, wonder about it.

A fair feeling, I guess, though I really disagree that the transparency is absolutely gone (or that the lack of transparency is completely new).

3.5 D&D is the only game that really makes me feel like I can wonder, like I should wonder, ask, investigate, or replicate. And it's the 'across the board' rules approach that does it. I feel like I understand my dissatisfaction with 4.0 as an immersive game, a simulated world, a roleplaying tool. It's because I feel like the game slaps my hand a bit when I go poking at that ritual, that trap, that maneuver, and ask, 'what's this'? The answer feels like a ruler across the knuckles, and a curt 'don't worry about it'.

See, I've had some odd observations with 4th Edition, specifically with "brand new" players. For existing players, I've seen "more limited" comments, because there aren't rules for everything.

But for new players (and for older players who are slowly adapting), I've really seen an attitude that is very much along the lines of "I want to do X - how do I do it?" The books really go out of their way to emphasize that the GM should be saying "Yes" if the players ask "Can I?" - and once that attitude is imparted to the players, the game really takes off to where (I think, at least) it should have been.

Anywho, I think others may have addressed all of this better, but what the hell.


*: Obvious exceptions being "recharge" powers, items, and equipment.
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Monsters, NPCS, and PCs shouldn't operate by the same rules. The classes and their abilities are developed based on the abilities that adventurers would accrue in the course of adventuring.

There is no reason that an NPC should have to belong to only classes that PCs can belong to, nor have the same level-appropriate modifiers as PCs. An NPC could very well be an extremely sneaky breadmaker with a small bonus to arcana checks from what his magical aunt taught him as a baby, diplomacy through the roof, and weapon proficiency with a rolling pin just in case. He'd get squashed right quick as an adventurer, but he does a fine job of keeping his bakery safe from shoplifters. What level is he? He's a level 57 baker, which means he can maintain his own yeast cultures but hasn't started selectively breeding it yet.

The same goes for monsters. Why would a bugbear have to be a fighter? He knows how to strangle, and that's worked well enough so far. He has no heavy armor, so why would he be proficient with it?
The problem here is
A) giving examples that are flat out wrong.
and B) complaining about "immersion" on purely mechanical grounds.

Your character doesn't know the game mechanics. You do not look and say "Ooh, a D12 in action, why can't I get one of those?"

I agree with StormKnight. Not that Rake isn't also right (in that, there is an issue he and other players have with accepting 4E), because the issue isn't one of "this is more immersive" or "this or that edition doesn't use the same rules for everyone". Rake simply used poor examples.

The issue is a matter of preference. Rake likes his games to have static, referenced rules for everything, and dislikes games that change based on DM whims. He places the rules above story in importance. That makes the game more immersive for him, when he "knows how the world works". Nothing wrong with that, and please don't go into talk about Gamism, Narritivism, or Simulationism when the audience doesn't understand what those terms mean (like me; I don't understand them).
D&D 4E Herald and M:tG Rules Advisor I expect posters to follow the Code of Conduct, use Basic Etiquette, and avoid Poor Logic. If you don't follow these guidelines, I consider you to be disrespectful to everyone on these forums. If you respond to me without following these guidelines, I consider it a personal attack. I grew up in a bilingual household, which means I am familiar with the difficulties in adopting a different vocabulary and grammar. That doesn't bother me. Persistent use of bad capitalization, affirming the consequent, and flaming bother me a great deal.
Rule that I would change: 204.1b
204.1b Some effects change an object’s card type, supertype, or subtype but specify that the object retains a prior card type, supertype, or subtype. In such cases, all the object’s prior card types, supertypes, and subtypes are retained. This rule applies to effects that use the phrase “in addition to its types” or that state that something is “still a [card type].” Some effects state that an object becomes an “artifact creature”; these effects also allow the object to retain all of its prior card types and subtypes.
"Eight Edition Rules Update" We eventually decided not to change this template, because players are used to “becomes an artifact creature,” and like it much better.
Players were used to Combat on the Stack, but you got rid of that because it was unintuitive. The only phrase needed is "in addition to its types"; the others are misleading and unintuitive.
To add to Stormknight's points, there's another tihng at work here: Assuming the fact that there aren't rules for something means it doesn't exist in the world.

There's no reason we can't have human stranglers, or those kidnapper dudes from Scales of War that can drag stunned people around that are different races. Nothing is keeping the DM form giving these powers or similar to them to any other character in the world, or making a power like that for a character.

So saying that these things don't exist is entirely unjustified. The reson you don't see a human strnagler and a halfling strangler is so we're not glutting the MM with flavor transfered copies of the exact same monster.

Further, it needs to be noted that many of these things are mentioned in the books. Many rituals for creating undead for example are mentioned in the MM. Hell, the Lich ritual is actually fully stated. But here is where the game takes and narrative stand and says 'I am assuming that PCs will be a) good guys, and b) career adventurers, and therefore, I do not need to make them accessable to the players. I only have to give out the story info so the DM can use it.' It's even justified by there being honest to god wars over rituals like the Boneclaw creaiton ritual (in the MM), so what are the chances that you'll just fall bassackwards into it?

Once again, this is a situation where a lot of the complaint comes with unfamiliarity with the material. anyone that's read the MM can tell you that there's a pile of implied undead creaiton rituals in the world, just not for sale to PCs.
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Nothing wrong with that, and please don't go into talk about Gamism, Narritivism, or Simulationism when the audience doesn't understand what those terms mean (like me; I don't understand them).

A tangent, but just because a few people aren't aware of what a word means should not preclude others from using it. If you don't know what a word means, the correct response is to look it up, not to rail on the other person for using it.

It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the concepts of narrativism, gamism and simulationism. They are very helpful terms to have handy when discussing role-playing games. You can read up on them and how they relate to one another at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrativism#GNS:_Gamist.2C_Narrativist.2C_Simulationist and I'm sure there are plenty here (myself included) who would be willing to help you understand them better if you remain confused.
Tales from the Rusty Dragon (http://rustydragon.blogspot.com) - A 4th Edition Conversion Project Covering Paizo's Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path
different strokes for different folks, really.

while 4th doesn't have rules for animating a horde of undead, it's hardly something i've ever seen as needed. i can see why some people would want that, but myself i've never seen the need for it.

i also understand the complications those spells bring to the table. i've seen how summon & animate type spells slow the game down in 3rd and having to wait until it works right instead of throwing it into the game and hoping for the best is perfectly valid reason to take such an ability out of the initial release in my opinion. i would rather pay for someone else (who's probably better suited then i am) to work out a problem, then have them hand me a hammer and nails and told "get to it!" and hope i fix it myself.

in 3rd ed core i'm unable to play an arcane spell-slinging, plate wearing, axe swinging warrior right from the level 1 get-go. yet i'm able to do so in 4th ed core without a problem.

is that strike against 3rd? no! why? i'm not actively trying to grind against the system then complaining when something goes wrong... that's being obtuse, IMO.

as for the Bugbear Strangler thing... it might be a technique only Bugbears can learn due to their unique physiology. or it might be something they're waiting to work the kinks out before unleashing on the pc creation rules.

To use a 3.5 example, imagine if a PC wanted the monster ability-only "Improved Grab", well though cookies... until the Sandstorm supplement book came out with "Scorpion's Grasp" which, surprise surprise, gave us an ability that is eerily similar to improved grab.

some things will take time before it comes into books, and sometimes you'll have to work things out yourself. that's the way D&D has ALWAYS rolled.
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I agree with Rake. I enjoy 4e a lot, but it's not my preferred D&D game. The transparency issue is differently one of my main gripes about 4e. But as Cyber-Dave said, different strokes for different folks.
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Unfortunately, Rake, none of your arguments have any relevance at all with immersion because immersion is a personal matter. It's obvious that while something may be more immersive to you, it's not the case for me and viceversa. If you enjoy a more empirically codified roleplaying game, hwere part of your pleasure is analyzing and understanding the math behind it and how it applies to the game world, then more power to you. Keep in mind that this is not essential to a roleplaying game, from a universal point of view. In many cases, this can make a roleplaying game less accessible, especially to DMs, who then need to put in extra work in adventure design to make sure that some gameplay element remains mechanically consistent with the rest of the game. Do we need to bother with the full write-up of a sage NPC when all you're going to need from it is a modifier on specific knowledge checks? By the same token, does that sage need to be seasoned combatant in order to have the check modifiers you need?

In any case, immersion has nothing to do with mechanics and everything to do with your capacity to believe the game world. And, as with all beliefs, your mileage may vary.
I agree with Rake. I enjoy 4e a lot, but it's not my preferred D&D game. The transparency issue is differently one of my main gripes about 4e. But as Cyber-Dave said, different strokes for different folks.

I think you mean definitely. :P
sblocking the off-topic discussion
A tangent, but just because a few people aren't aware of what a word means should not preclude others from using it. If you don't know what a word means, the correct response is to look it up, not to rail on the other person for using it.

It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the concepts of narrativism, gamism and simulationism. They are very helpful terms to have handy when discussing role-playing games. You can read up on them and how they relate to one another at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrativism#GNS:_Gamist.2C_Narrativist.2C_Simulationist and I'm sure there are plenty here (myself included) who would be willing to help you understand them better if you remain confused.

When a person introduces an unfamiliar term/idea, it is the responsibility of that person to explain the meaning, not the responsibility of the audience to learn this information for themselves. There are several reasons for this.

First, to make sure the Audience knows the material. Some audience members may already be familiar with the terms, but it is unlikely that unfamiliar terms getting explained would cause familiar audiences to complain. The reverse is not true.

Second, to make sure the Educator understands the material. An audience member may correct or clarify some bit of information, which changes the meaning.

Third, to clarify what meaning the term is being used for. If I were to talk about Shag, some people may construe my meaning to be sex, others to a carpet fashion in South-East USA, and still others may simply be confused, not having any knowledge of the term.



Lastly, the wiki of GNS theory is not sufficient to explain the "opposition" posters use them for. "If it's Simulationist, it isn't Gamist". The external links do not alleviate the issue, either. To clarify for the boards (because I'm not alone in the misunderstanding), you need to write a new thread to explain the purpose of GNS theory for discussion. A poster who is using the terms needs only to explain the long-version of the meaning behind the term, as they use it.
D&D 4E Herald and M:tG Rules Advisor I expect posters to follow the Code of Conduct, use Basic Etiquette, and avoid Poor Logic. If you don't follow these guidelines, I consider you to be disrespectful to everyone on these forums. If you respond to me without following these guidelines, I consider it a personal attack. I grew up in a bilingual household, which means I am familiar with the difficulties in adopting a different vocabulary and grammar. That doesn't bother me. Persistent use of bad capitalization, affirming the consequent, and flaming bother me a great deal.
Rule that I would change: 204.1b
204.1b Some effects change an object’s card type, supertype, or subtype but specify that the object retains a prior card type, supertype, or subtype. In such cases, all the object’s prior card types, supertypes, and subtypes are retained. This rule applies to effects that use the phrase “in addition to its types” or that state that something is “still a [card type].” Some effects state that an object becomes an “artifact creature”; these effects also allow the object to retain all of its prior card types and subtypes.
"Eight Edition Rules Update" We eventually decided not to change this template, because players are used to “becomes an artifact creature,” and like it much better.
Players were used to Combat on the Stack, but you got rid of that because it was unintuitive. The only phrase needed is "in addition to its types"; the others are misleading and unintuitive.
I've noticed that the majority of people who don't like 4e dislike some mechanical change that the majority of people who like 4e will state is one of the main reasons they like 4e. Generally, it is a simulationist vs. narrative debate or a similar distinction.

That said, I have to ask the OP, why bother starting a thread like this? You don't like that NPCs follow different rules than PCs. I do like it. No argument you make is going to change my mind. No argument I make is going to change your mind. More importantly, you don't want to have your mind changed. So, why start the discussion? What purpose does it serve?

This is a 4e board. How is it constructive to come onto a 4e board and criticize the system? I could understand if it was a rule that had a chance of being changed and you were trying to express your opinion for it to change. But, this rule is so core to 4e that it is clear it will never be changed (within this edition). So, I ask again, besides the potential to create strife, what purpose does a discussion like this have?

-SYB

Please note, I am trying to be civil and while tone does not show well online, there is no enmity in my post.
I think you mean definitely. :P

lol, how did I miss that?
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