Dragon 378 - Editorial: Mythbusting 4th Edition

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Dragon 378
Editiorial: Mythbusting 4th Edition

by Chris Youngs

Misconceptions about 4th Edition abound, even a year after launch. This month, we'll tackle one of the most common -- and most aggravating.

Talk about this Article here.
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"D&D has always been a game of heroic fantasy, and there's nothing about those two words that requires rules of any sort."

Man, if only I'd seen that before I shelled out several hundred dollars for 4th Edition rulebooks. But I can't wait to see what direction this new "D&D isn't a game of rules and dice rolls" business philosophy takes!
To bad most of the people this is a addressing will never read it.
We all know what he meant. I hope you did too. *shrugs*

I thought it was a decent article. The hate for 4E is waning now (at least where I live) and that is a good thing. In the meantime, I will continue to ignore the baiters and the haters.
I can certainly understand the frustration that Chris mentions. Reading this editorial I'm reminded (again) of the classic D&D advertising blurb: Products of Your Imagination. I'm glad to see the underlying sentiment hasn't been forgotten ;).
/\ Art
Reading this editorial I'm reminded (again) of the classic D&D advertising blurb: Products of Your Imagination.

Personally I'm reminded of it every time I wonder where the virtual tabletop is.

...

Oh man, look, I love 4th Edition, I'm enjoying the game hugely, I'm buying heaps of the 4E products and having a ball with them. But you can't feed me a straight line like that and expect me to pass it by. And it's wrong to assume that saying that 4E is less roleplaying friendly than previous editions or other games is 4E hate - it's not, it's a statement that 4E is a different game, which is not the same game as its predecessors, and needs to be assessed on its own merits. I've made that assessment, and decided I love it, whether it's a masterpiece of storytelling or not.
Personally I'm reminded of it every time I wonder where the virtual tabletop is.

...

I should have seen that coming :P.

Oh man, look, I love 4th Edition, I'm enjoying the game hugely, I'm buying heaps of the 4E products and having a ball with them. But you can't feed me a straight line like that and expect me to pass it by. And it's wrong to assume that saying that 4E is less roleplaying friendly than previous editions or other games is 4E hate - it's not, it's a statement that 4E is a different game, which is not the same game as its predecessors, and needs to be assessed on its own merits. I've made that assessment, and decided I love it, whether it's a masterpiece of storytelling or not.

I agree with you, this is a different game, and it should be assessed on its own merits. I don't think the new game is a masterpiece of storytelling ;), just that it has as much potential as any other in that regard.
/\ Art
I actually completely understand how rules can hinder roleplaying. For me the more complex a ruleset is, the more I concentrate on the rules and less on the roleplaying. That's why I personally agree with people when they say 4th ed is a lot simpler then 3.5e. It is. I like it like that ;) The other day we had a discussion on how a monster 40 feet in the air couldn't reach people vertically down from him because of pythagoras. I simply said "nothing in the rules metions pythagoras and in fact says diagonal is the same as straight so therefore it works. I don't care how realistic it is. Its a giant eye floating in the air and shooting lasers at you all. If you want to bring realism into this then we're going to have a lot more problems then whether or not he can reach you."

I also like the lack of roleplaying rules. Its why I dislike skill challenges as I consider them to be too structured for roleplaying. As a roleplayer who would often go months without using a single coded command beyond a simple perception check to overhear someone, I am more than happy to play in a game without combat or even many rules. Having said that I'm slowly starting to get a grip on skill challenges and find ways to use them to enhance the game rather then hinder the roleplaying. But its a very, very slow process.
I run (among other things) systemless games that have no codified rules. No rulebook, nothing I've paid for, just pure fun.

So when I go and buy a D&D rulebook for, what, $30 to $60 AUD, I have to ask, "Please show me how my experience is $30 better after having bought your product."

And when I get a defensive, lecturing editorial like this one saying, "The roleplaying's still excellent because you don't need rules for it" it rubs me the wrong way. It's like a supermarket selling me food and then taking credit for the table I eat it at. Whether or not there's good roleplaying in my game says nothing about the ability of Wizards' product to induce, encourage or support that roleplaying, and I'd appreciate them not on the one hand admitting their game is silent on the topic and then with the other suggesting that the silence is what's excellent.

I mean, I can sell you a game with no rules whatsoever for $60; there's no rulebooks so it won't use up valuable shelf space - essentially your money just buys you a licence to call your game "Greg's RPG Experience" but you still play exactly the way you would have before you bought the product. Logically, the game will be twice as good as D&D, right?

(Yes, yes, more rules does not equal more fun. I'm not making a quality of game issue here, I'm making a value for money issue here; paying for an absence of rules is equivalent to paying Wizards to not come to your mother's house and punch her in the face. The value of the product is in what we didn't already have, not in Wizards telling us we were doing it just fine without them.)
He doesn't seem to be taking credit here for roleplaying, rather he appears to be reasoning why roleplaying still has a place in the new game. In his own words: " . . . roleplaying was ultimately a result of the narrative brought to the table by the DM and players, not something provided by rules."

You say: "Whether or not there's good roleplaying in my game says nothing about the ability of Wizard's product to induce, encourage, or support that roleplaying."

Roleplaying has a place not because of game rules but because of the DM and players. You guys are saying the very same thing, at least that's how it seems to me ;).
/\ Art
He doesn't seem to be taking credit here for roleplaying, rather he appears to be reasoning why roleplaying still has a place in the new game. In his own words: " . . . roleplaying was ultimately a result of the narrative brought to the table by the DM and players, not something provided by rules."

Fair enough. Although wouldn't it be equally true to say, "Pizza is something brought to the table by the DM and players, which is what makes D&D such a great dough-and-cheese-based food source?"

I mean, there's a lot of stuff that happens at the table and not all of it is D&D; I think D&D only gets to put its branding on the parts of the experience that are caused or enabled by its ruleset.

It would be fair to say, "D&D - a great companion to any roleplaying experience!" or "D&D - rules to add to your roleplaying game!" But it's not really correct to say that D&D is a roleplaying game any more than it is to say that buying the Player's Handbook automatically entitles you to friends based on the fact that you need to have friends to get the most out of the Player's Handbook.

So to that extent I think that "there's no roleplaying in 4E" is a valid statement. A lot of roleplaying happens around 4E, at the same location as 4E and involving the same people as 4E, but it's not causally connected to the existence, ownership or use of 4E.
Does anyone else find it rather odd that this long after launch, they're needing to devote editorials to defending basic aspects of their game? Very tempting to jump to conclusions, which is ultimately not what the editorial itself wants to do. The topic and the tone at points I think act counter to making 4e look better to someone reading this.
Shemeska the Marauder, Freelancer 5 / Yugoloth 10
I can't say I agree with what you seem to be saying here: For there to be roleplaying 'in' 4e, there needs to be rules. Otherwise, roleplaying is peripheral at best; the game is not an actual fantasy roleplaying game, because there are no rules for roleplaying.

Roleplaying is a part of 4e in my opinion, if not by rules then by intent. When I create a PC I almost always ask these questions: What's the name of my PC? Is he or she good, evil, or does it even matter? What's his personality like? Any quirks or mannerisms of note? What's he look like? Where does he come from? These things are discussed on pages 18 through 24 of the PH; no rules, just some guidelines. I find that 'liberating' as the editorial says ;).

By asking and answering these few questions, I get a solid idea of how I might play this PC. Some games use actual mechanics like 'handicaps', 'flaws' or 'perks' to flesh out characters. That works but I can just as easily run with just a few ideas. Different games take different approaches.

We both have our own opinions, different enough that we could go back'n'forth all night. I may not understand your way a thinkin' but that's not a problem. Have a good one, GregT ;).
/\ Art
Does anyone else find it rather odd that this long after launch, they're needing to devote editorials to defending basic aspects of their game? Very tempting to jump to conclusions, which is ultimately not what the editorial itself wants to do. The topic and the tone at points I think act counter to making 4e look better to someone reading this.

4E has a lot to be proud of; it is a genuinely excellent game. I don't think it's odd that we got this column, just that it's misguided. Wizards could talk about all the things that are wonderful about 4E non-stop for a year without running out of material; they're wasting their time going on the defensive.

If nothing else, they should see this as an opportunity. Community thinks there's no roleplaying? Either (a) release one heck of a DMG2 (I don't think they're going to), or (b) announce the forthcoming "Roleplaying Power" supplement with a million and one house rules for replacing the skill challenge system, encouraging detailed character development, and rewarding and encouraging players for bringing their top-level creativity and imagination to your table.
I think D&D is getting a hit because of where they've decided to put their focus.

As an example of extremes, I'd like to point to the World of Darkness core book vs. the D&D's PHB.

You could fit the WoD rules in a pamphlet that would be maybe 10-15 pages thick. The rest of the book is what D&D fans would probably call "filler" or "fluff". Its all rather broad, but most of it is fodder designed on how to make it look or feel in the game - in a sense how it relates to the RP/storytelling aspect of the game. A given bit of game text may have one sentence of rules, and then 3-5 pages of a mini-story, journal excerpt, game examples, a detailed explanation of the "feel" or "look" of the said ability or the like.

The D&D PHB, on the other hand, is like looking at an encyclopedia. Even the RP sections are pretty dry. Powers and the like have a single descriptive sentence, then it's all mechanics. The PHB, and most of the other 4E D&D books I've looked at pretty much follow the same pattern - even the setting books, which read more like what you might find in an encyclopedia entry instead of a traveler's journal (i.e., compare it to many of the 2E Planescape supplements). While it gets you what you need - the rules - it helps to perpetuate the illusion that the authors are treating RP as a second class citizen, or shirking RP aspects altogether.

D&D's strength has always been that it is a generic FRPG, compared to the rather world-heavy games like L5R, WoD, Deadlands, 7th Sea and many other games. But it seems to me the rulebooks have gotten a bit too sterile trying to present the usable "crunch". The game's authors may very well have RP-heavy games of their own, but they're not conveying such to their reading audience and I bet that is actually having a detrimental impact on several people's games RP, especially the new generations who've never been involved in RP before.
I enjoyed the article. I thought that maybe with the timing that this was a safe topic for discussion. It seemed rather cruel to have black blocks at the end about what is coming. Seemed like my perception of what the article contains was not enough to pierce the fog. Maybe such is the way it is. I have enjoyed some of the sessions I have played in the LFR modules where we did not have the right skills for easy skill challenge and it opened up our imaginations for new ways to use a skill with the right DM. Felt much easier to continue with a characters persona at such times. I did not feel like I was missing rules to do so or that blocks of rules for doing something were needed. I much prefer the rules we have now than what was sometimes used before. Seemed like if one did not have the right book and know the right place to find the rules for how to do this or that then it was happening like the block of those rules had been blacked out.
I often enjoyed the short stories that White Wolf put in the front of their gamebooks.

My copy of Werewolf: The Apocalypse (Second Edition, 1994) even had a comic drawn by Tony Diterlizzi (of Spiderwick and Planescape fame).

Always thought it would be neat to get the same kinda treatment in D&D hardcovers, make the books a bit less vanilla fantasy. They wouldn't have to be world specific, 'Points of Light' would fit the bill I think.
/\ Art
I often enjoyed the short stories that White Wolf put in the front of their gamebooks.

My copy of Werewolf: The Apocalypse (Second Edition, 1994) even had a comic drawn by Tony Diterlizzi (of Spiderwick and Planescape fame).

Always thought it would be neat to get the same kinda treatment in D&D hardcovers, make the books a bit less vanilla fantasy. They wouldn't have to be world specific, 'Points of Light' would fit the bill I think.

The examples of play in 1E, 2E and 3E books somewhat filled the same purpose, though I have to admit that things like that comic in the Werewolf book, and the running story that was in the 1E L5R book really sold me on those game systems, warts and all.
Wow, if you're reading this you're surprised? Really? Most of the hate I hear from fourth ed, is from other insiders. Seems to me this one is out of touch. (The optimization boards are one of the problems; treating a role playing game like a ccg is never a good thing.)

The really big problem in this is the RPGA. Their stories, which is what brought me to 4th ed. from my secluded 2.5 (Skills and Powers version ... with skill points and spell points). I've been playing most of my life, and never got into 3.5, largely because I didn't have the money (I'd spent it on Magic, Warlord and dates). When 3.0 first came out I didn't like the limited character development. Now I like the no character development even less. Largely though because I see it in the black and blue eye glasses of the RPGA.

When I invite people to play RPGA, I tell them it is a fantasy minatures game set in a D&D world setting with little or no connection to its past. RPGA, the Role Playing Game Association, limits the time to role play in its modules. You have 4 hours to get in 4 (or more) encounters. Fights take just as long or longer (unless you are all very optimized and have good die rolls) as in previous editions. If each fight takes from an hour to an hour-and-a-half, you have little time to role play if the module has two fights (or more). Often times modules are played in a disjointed manner, with few people (locally) getting a way put modules together to make any cohesive story.

So you and these three to five people you've never met before are sitting in a bar when a child runs in screaming of monsters. Hooks are seldom more elaborate than that ... I think it is the RPGA which is draining role playing from 4th edition, not the rules.

Also ... Not being able to quantify ones profession (whether you ever used it or not) doesn't help. I ran a 2nd game for years, during which one of the mages became the best tailor in the kingdom. So good he had spells made to help him tailor, made spells inspired by his tailoring, had adventures and magic items because of his skill, and so on ... Without quantification who is the best tailor in all the land and how can my character who may have a passion for such be able to make himself famous because of his skills with needle point or cooking or carpentry or ... with out a quantification.

One of the things that originally set AD&D aside from Basic or Expert back in the early 80's was the complexity of realism (within a fantasy setting ... I know it sounds weird). This edition doesn't have that yet, and may never.
Fair enough. Although wouldn't it be equally true to say, "Pizza is something brought to the table by the DM and players, which is what makes D&D such a great dough-and-cheese-based food source?

Regardless of who and what is bringing roleplaying or pizza I know who is certainly bringing the straw to this argument!
I run (among other things) systemless games that have no codified rules. No rulebook, nothing I've paid for, just pure fun.

So when I go and buy a D&D rulebook for, what, $30 to $60 AUD, I have to ask, "Please show me how my experience is $30 better after having bought your product."

I don't need a book to tell me how to roleplay. I already know how to. I also know its something you can only read so much about and that dozens of books on the issue isn't going to make you a better roleplayer. Nothing but practice and patience will help you.

If nothing else, they should see this as an opportunity. Community thinks there's no roleplaying? Either (a) release one heck of a DMG2 (I don't think they're going to), or (b) announce the forthcoming "Roleplaying Power" supplement with a million and one house rules for replacing the skill challenge system, encouraging detailed character development, and rewarding and encouraging players for bringing their top-level creativity and imagination to your table.

I couldn't disagree more. House rules are not going to encourage roleplaying. They're going to encourage munchkins into min-maxing more and more.

The skill challenge is a good example of this. Once initiated, a character needs to make a certain number of successful skill checks before 3 failures. Therefore using insight on every single random person will result in a success if you beat a particular DC. Therefore you only need to roll for insight in order to succeed in a skill challenge.

I have seen the above. I am not joking. People dislike the skill challenge mechanic because when poorly used its arbitrary and stifles roleplaying. Increasing the rules related to roleplaying is not going to help this. At least, not at the tables I play at.

paying for an absence of rules is equivalent to paying Wizards to not come to your mother's house and punch her in the face.

I don't need rules to roleplay. I can do that just fine on my own (its also why I ignore the PHB's guidelines in making character backgrounds). I can't say the same for mechanics and so I rely on other people to create mechanics for me. If you can make your own mechanics, then clearly a D&D book is going to give you less value.
Regardless of who and what is bringing roleplaying or pizza I know who is certainly bringing the straw to this argument!

Ho ho! Good zing! But seriously, what's the difficulty in the argument? If (assumption) D&D does not mechanically support, encourage, or structure roleplaying, then (consequence) how can it take credit for any roleplaying that happens in its presence?

I couldn't disagree more. House rules are not going to encourage roleplaying. They're going to encourage munchkins into min-maxing more and more.

You're falling into the same trap a lot of people make. You're assuming that "rules regarding roleplaying" mean "bad rules regarding roleplaying".

I'll point (yet again) at 7th Sea's drama dice. They're awarded by the DM (or by peer acclamation), you only get them for good roleplaying, and they can be spent for mechanical benefit. There's no way to munchkin good roleplaying. The mechanic supports and recognises good roleplaying, is flexible enough to reward effort rather than result (thereby encouraging new or shy players), and says straight up, "Roleplaying is what we're here to do; if you don't do it you won't be as successful."

You see on the D&D boards threads saying, "How can I encourage my players to roleplay?" You don't see that for 7th Sea; the very first time a player witnesses a drama die get given out, they grok it.

Drama dice are a very simple example of a good rule that supports, encourages or structures roleplaying. There are many more such examples. None are from D&D.

7th Sea gets to take credit for roleplaying that happens during its game, because it created an atmosphere that mechanically encouraged that roleplaying. There's nothing in the D&D ruleset that creates that atmosphere; I fail to see how it gets credit for any roleplaying people happen to do while playing it.
If (assumption) D&D does not mechanically support, encourage, or structure roleplaying, then (consequence) how can it take credit for any roleplaying that happens in its presence?

I actually feel that 4E does so for numerous reasons, particularly in the streamlining of skills (which does encourage roleplaying IMO) and making skills more accessible across all classes (except for someone lucky enough to have a high int and skill points). Sometimes I view less as more when it comes to roleplaying systems.

I often found 3rd edition produced players who acted completely contrary to common sense roleplaying wise due to certain ways it was built. For example Paladins and the combination of forced Good alignment + detect evil being homicidal evil killing murderers. In fact, in my experience for all of 3rds attempt at simulation of things like skills I thought the roleplaying was worse than games like Vampire, Call of Cthulhu and yes, even 4th Edition. I can't perhaps explain that (maybe just the people), but it doesn't endear me to your argument being correct.

There's nothing in the D&D ruleset that creates that atmosphere; I fail to see how it gets credit for any roleplaying people happen to do while playing it.

What complete nonsense. IMO, having streamlined rules and clear mechanics for handling roleplaying challenges is such an example that creates that atmosphere for me. That I see it work at my table (both real and virtual) seems to help my impression that this is a solid way of doing things.

You're falling into the same trap a lot of people make. You're assuming that "rules regarding roleplaying" mean "bad rules regarding roleplaying".

So are you. You're assuming that rules that encourage roleplaying are required or even good. The irony is you don't realise your assumption is also a house built on sand.

I am going to tell you what makes good roleplaying, from playing systems from Call of Cthulhu to Vampire to Shadowrun to all editions of DnD.

Players.
Dm.
Table.

There you go. If the players and DM work together to roleplay the system will produce it. None of the systems that I've played people cite as "encouraging" roleplaying have ever done so in groups where the DM and players didn't want to.

Now that is not an assumption and is a solid fact. The only fact that matters.
I don't want to sound like Greg's cheerleader, but...

I found the editorial totally disingenuous. It's no big secret that the game's creators see it as primarily a combat game. 99% of articles and rules are geared towards this. In which case, just be honest about that and let people who prefer less combat-intensive games to stick to earlier editions.

4E's attitude to role-playing is the same as earlier editions had to playing evil characters: 'you can do it if you must, but we don't think you really should, and we won't encourage it in any way'.

For example, there's no XP given for role-playing any more, and 99% of 'encounters' are more honestly called 'combats'.

For players who like this kind of style, fine. For those who don't, there are other games and earlier D&D editions. I just wish Wizards were honest about that.

Yes, you CAN role-play all you like in 4E. But the game won't help you do it, and you get no reward for it as in 7th Sea or WW Storyteller games. It's purely an option.

All but two or three of 'adventures' in Dungeon are pure hack-and-slash dungeon crawls. That seems to suggest the style of play WotC wishes to encourage.

Yes, I can take the effort to rewrite them with memorable NPCs and interactive elements, but the adventures don't provide these for me.

For people who enjoy this style, fine. But some people will simply prefer something different. To give a comparison to recent computer games, some people prefer 'Mass Effect' or 'Fallout 3' instead of 'Left 4 Dead' or 'Gears of War'.

And if 4E is capable of adventures like DL3, 'Night's Dark Terror' or 'Assassin's Knot', then can we see some in Dungeon? Instead of snarky, sneering editorials like this one?
I actually feel that 4E does so for numerous reasons, particularly in the streamlining of skills (which does encourage roleplaying IMO) and making skills more accessible across all classes (except for someone lucky enough to have a high int and skill points). Sometimes I view less as more when it comes to roleplaying systems.

I think you're conflating "roleplaying" and "non-combat". If roleplaying were taken to mean "things other than combat", I will grant you each and every one of your points, and if you're happy with that you need read no further - we're in agreement.

However, I was taking it at its higher standard, seeing as (for example) Monopoly includes a range of challenges to players, none of which are combat, but the game is clearly not in any sense "roleplaying". Roleplaying surely has to include an element of storytelling and characterisation, and there's absolutely nothing present in the D&D rules that treats either of those things mechanically.

You're assuming that rules that encourage roleplaying are required or even good.

I've assumed that in other threads but it's not the argument here. Here, I'm saying that you can roleplay plenty fine without rules - you can create masterpieces of roleplaying without rules - and in fact, ruleless might even be a superior way to roleplay. But D&D doesn't get any credit for that; it can't bill itself as a roleplaying game because there is simply no part of the printed game that is roleplaying. It rises, at its height, to the suggestion that, "While using these rules, you should roleplay," which - coming back to my "straw man" - has all the mechanical force of, "While using these rules, you should eat pizza." We can do that, we'll have a blast, but it doesn't mean that you'll find pizza inside the D&D ruleset.

Let's be clear once again: my argument in this thread is the following, and only the following:

* D&D 4E doesn't contain mechanical support or encouragement for roleplaying (as conceded by the Dragon 378 Editorial)
* Roleplaying nevertheless can and should happen during play of 4E, and people enjoy it (as argued by the editorial).
* That roleplaying is not (as the editorial attempts to imply) causally connected to anything between the covers of the 4E rulebooks; it's a simultaneous activity, but not one caused, enabled, or supported by the 4E rules.
* D&D 4E therefore cannot (as the editorial attempts to do) take credit for the quality or existence of that roleplaying; it is, at best, a set of rules to enrich your roleplaying. There's no relationship, either positive or negative, between purchasing any 4E product and enjoying an excellent roleplaying game.

And, for argument's sake:

* Other systems do have good, simple rules for the kind of mechanical support for roleplaying that I'm talking about, which observably raise the level and quality of roleplaying at the table, particularly from new, unintelligent or shy players.
I love 4e, it's a great game and I really enjoy it and will continue to spend money on it.

I also loved 3e until the designers started pointing out it's flaws. I agreed at the time they were flaws but I wonder if some of those issues in 3rd edition helped with immersion. (I say that rather than roleplay).

One of the things that was talked about in the intro to the 3rd edition book was verisimilitude. That concept has been dropped for simplification which I feel means I have to work harder to achieve the feeling of immersion (which for me in turn leads to better roleplaying).

Take for example character generation. Now that point buy is the standard, if a character dies I can recreate exactly the same character as there is no randomisation this means I don't feel as attached to the character as I used too. I know you can still roll up a character but due to balance issues if you don't have a maxed out prime stat you really suffer.

I disagree with Chris when he dismisses the craft and profession skills. There are others missing as well such as ride and perform. I take the point that now the character sheet doesn't represent the whole of your character but some skills were useful in encounters and it was good to have a mechanical way of determining how good you were at them rather than just declaring it. Also some background skills suggested stories and adventures to me as a DM.

Apologies for the rambling post but basically I disagree with the article I think there are subtlties of game design which can encourage role playing and story telling and I think that a lot of the direction taken with the 4E design so far encourages games high on fighting and low on story (perfect for RPGA).

Again let me say i really enjoy the system and will continue to play it but I may take a look at Pathfinder as well to provide me with the deeper experience I sometimes want.

That is another oddity of 4E it has made me look back at 1st edition (via Osric) and I have picked up a copy of Dragon Warriors, I am not sure why but one conclusion could be that there is something missing from the current game that was present in previous ones.
That is another oddity of 4E it has made me look back at 1st edition (via Osric) and I have picked up a copy of Dragon Warriors, I am not sure why but one conclusion could be that there is something missing from the current game that was present in previous ones.

Man, Dragon Warriors! I played that for about a year back in its first edition and I'm hearing nothing but good things about the new one. If I was ever inclined to take a trip back in time to ye olde 1980s of roleplaying that's totally the system I'd use.

For me the fulcrum was really 3.0/3.5. 1st Edition and 2nd Edition (A)D&D were joyfully broken - the rules didn't make sense, and the designers didn't care. The crazy nonsense you could get up to was the whole point of the game. Absolutely everything was overpowered and finding a way to survive amidst the ridiculous power levels of practically everything you touched was half the fun.

4E is balanced, to an art. And that's great too.

It was that 3.0/3.5 era where they wanted to be balanced but couldn't quite get it right that really lost me.
Dragon Warriors... heh. Practically bleeds atmosphere from every page. I wish modern games had some of that.

But I have to disagree with your assessment of 1st edition, Greg. I played it for many, many years, and our experience doesn't remotely match yours. It wasn't well balanced at all, but we played it just fine without munchkinism or min-maxing.
Dragon Warriors... heh. Practically bleeds atmosphere from every page. I wish modern games had some of that.

But I have to disagree with your assessment of 1st edition, Greg. I played it for many, many years, and our experience doesn't remotely match yours. It wasn't well balanced at all, but we played it just fine without munchkinism or min-maxing.

Sorry, wasn't suggesting munchkining. I meant that there was absolutely no concept of a level-appropriate encounter and you could randomly encounter things that would eat you for breakfast just crossing the forest between your starting town and the nearby marketplace. +5 swords could, if you were lucky, turn up in the hoards of reasonable low level monsters and life with the rules-as-written was a constant parade of level drain / restoration and instant death / raise dead or resurrection. You could get sudden permanent stat boosts and permanent stat losses and you could have as few as 10 HP at level 10 if your rolls were awful and your CON was sub-par.

It was a game of highs and lows, is what I'm saying.
I think you're conflating "roleplaying" and "non-combat".

Actually I'm not, thanks for missing the entire point of my argument though.

Roleplaying can be done both in and out of combat, but one of the primary ways of roleplaying is outside of hitting things (albeit it can also be done during the hitting things part just as well).

However, I was taking it at its higher standard



Really.

seeing as (for example) Monopoly includes a range of challenges to players, none of which are combat, but the game is clearly not in any sense "roleplaying".



Roleplaying surely has to include an element of storytelling and characterisation, and there's absolutely nothing present in the D&D rules that treats either of those things mechanically.

And it is better for it because that is up to the players to decide on how they roleplay their characters. Not the system and it's one of the things I actually like about it. Call of Cthulhu for example enforces things like its sanity mechanic for a certain theme and feel: but it does not inherently produce better roleplaying.

Here, I'm saying that you can roleplay plenty fine without rules - you can create masterpieces of roleplaying without rules - and in fact, ruleless might even be a superior way to roleplay. But D&D doesn't get any credit for that

Who cares, you're making up an argument nobody made anywhere!!! Where on earth was this argument made in the thread or the article? Because quite frankly it wasn't made by anyone and it's really strange you think this is some particularly important point as a result.

it can't bill itself as a roleplaying game because there is simply no part of the printed game that is roleplaying.



I am going to tell you what makes good roleplaying, from playing systems from Call of Cthulhu to Vampire to Shadowrun to all editions of DnD.

Players.
Dm.
Table.

There you go. If the players and DM work together to roleplay the system will produce it. None of the systems that I've played people cite as "encouraging" roleplaying have ever done so in groups where the DM and players didn't want to.

I believe that settles that.

It rises, at its height, to the suggestion that, "While using these rules, you should roleplay,"

I would also suggest, at its height, a good argument would be "While arguing you should bring arguments and not straw".

* D&D 4E doesn't contain mechanical support or encouragement for roleplaying (as conceded by the Dragon 378 Editorial)

Who cares? I don't, because the game facilitates roleplaying because of the above principle you decided to ignore:

I am going to tell you what makes good roleplaying, from playing systems from Call of Cthulhu to Vampire to Shadowrun to all editions of DnD.

Players.
Dm.
Table.

There you go. If the players and DM work together to roleplay the system will produce it. None of the systems that I've played people cite as "encouraging" roleplaying have ever done so in groups where the DM and players didn't want to.

Seemingly missing the point of what was written in the article, which is making the above point. Something I agree with because I feel systems that don't try to "enforce" roleplaying on the game often do better. You assert otherwise, but you pretend this is fact and not just your own personal experience.

My personal experience suggests the complete opposite to me and it suits my style far better in the end.

* Roleplaying nevertheless can and should happen during play of 4E, and people enjoy it (as argued by the editorial).

And roleplaying doesn't occur automatically in systems just because it makes a few rules regarding it either.

* That roleplaying is not (as the editorial attempts to imply) causally connected to anything between the covers of the 4E rulebooks; it's a simultaneous activity, but not one caused, enabled, or supported by the 4E rules.

So? It's there for me because I am playing a roleplaying game, it allows people to roleplay characters in a world I create and if my players and myself want to, the system functions for that.

You seem to making the false argument that you need specific roleplaying mechanics to make a roleplaying game. Yet you have not actually supported this anywhere that I can see with solid fact. I find that it's the set of assumptions that a DM and player take into a game like Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun and similar that produce the roleplaying. Not the inherent system in my experience, as my example with Call of Cthulhu and G-string inspector based player characters shows.

* D&D 4E therefore cannot (as the editorial attempts to do) take credit for the quality or existence of that roleplaying; it is, at best, a set of rules to enrich your roleplaying.

Which is what I require. I do not require rules to tell me how to roleplay, I need rules to facilitate the parts of the game that require mechanics.

My problem with your farcical arguments is that you nowhere suggest why I need rules for roleplaying. I've played a lot of systems and I don't believe that rules for roleplaying inherently help people who aren't wanting to roleplay. I played CoC with people who decided to be the guy who shot birds at the airport, the guy who counted beans that go into the can at the factory and a G-string inspector.

Did supposedly "deeper" rules for roleplaying make those people who weren't interested in roleplaying do so?

No.

So I can't actually agree with or see your logic anywhere; because all your assumptions are built on sand.

There's no relationship, either positive or negative, between purchasing any 4E product and enjoying an excellent roleplaying game.

So?

I'm failing to see any coherent point you're making here beyond trying to assert (ridiculously) that 4E is no more a roleplaying game than monopoly because it doesn't suit your playstyle. I'm not really seeing your arguments support to be honest.

* Other systems do have good, simple rules for the kind of mechanical support for roleplaying that I'm talking about, which observably raise the level and quality of roleplaying at the table, particularly from new, unintelligent or shy players.

I disagree, because I've never seen people who want to roleplay do so regardless of the system. You make a bold claim here and pretend its objective truth when in my fourteen years of experience; it is far from it.
Actually I'm not, thanks for missing the entire point of my argument though.

(post continues, with much use of the "rolleyes" smiley and multiple self-quotes)

I'm happy to leave that there; I've made my best points, and if you feel that fifteen quoteblocks and some emoticons constitute yours then that's fine.

Let's leave the thread for anyone else coming along to make up their own mind.
I've made my best points

That we can agree with ;)
It was a game of highs and lows, is what I'm saying.

Gotcha! And yes, you're right. It wasn't balanced, and it DID require players to reign it in and not choose overkill combinations. But it worked just fine for us for many years.

And I liked the fact magic items weren't tied to the character. You could run a Lankmhar game where high-level heroes lacked any kind of magic, or a high-fantasy game where a fledgeling paladin had a holy avenger. You didn't 'have' to have items at a certain level, as in 3rd Ed or 4E.
Oh, and I actually liked the fact players could suffer permanent losses if they weren't careful.

The 4E idea that players will never lose items, be captured or disarmed, get burgled or otherwise inconvenienced isn't a good one for me.
You're falling into the same trap a lot of people make. You're assuming that "rules regarding roleplaying" mean "bad rules regarding roleplaying".

I'm covering that, but I'm not assuming those are the only rules that exist. Even if we assume WotC could produce good roleplaying rules (an assumption I don't feel is safe to make), that is still time I must spend thinking about rules when I could instead simply be roleplaying.

You see on the D&D boards threads saying, "How can I encourage my players to roleplay?" You don't see that for 7th Sea; the very first time a player witnesses a drama die get given out, they grok it.

There's two ways to interpret that. Either 7th Sea is somehow able to turn the worst roleplayers into the best roleplayers. Or its rules and games are structured in such a way as to discourage anyone from playing if they aren't good roleplayers.

I'd be inclined to assume the latter, but hey. Maybe 7th Sea really has somehow perfected some mystical art that allows people to suddenly become terrific roleplayers.

You're argument seems to rely on saying that any ruleset that can cater to people who don't like to roleplay cannot take credit for people who do roleplay using their rules. I doubt 7th Sea changes people into good roleplayers, but simply alienates bad roleplayers. I'd personally instead recommend a ruleset that can have as much or as little roleplaying as the players want.

But then again, as I've said a few times, I'm accustomed to roleplaying outside of the rules instead of relying on the rules to allow me to roleplay. This is long before I ever even considered playing D&D. Different people have different tastes.

There's nothing in the D&D ruleset that creates that atmosphere; I fail to see how it gets credit for any roleplaying people happen to do while playing it.

The point of the article isn't that 4th ed has perfected the art of roleplaying. Its that the new edition doesn't discourage roleplaying more then previous editions, and that in the opinions of the author they've in fact improved upon it from what was provided in earlier editions.

You see this editorial as a lecture. I see it as one person voicing their opinion. Regardless you still see animosity in it regardless of whether or not the author intended for there to be.

it can't bill itself as a roleplaying game because there is simply no part of the printed game that is roleplaying.

The entire point of the Eberron Campaign Guide is to facilitate storytelling and roleplaying.
You're argument seems to rely on saying that any ruleset that can cater to people who don't like to roleplay cannot take credit for people who do roleplay using their rules. I doubt 7th Sea changes people into good roleplayers, but simply alienates bad roleplayers. I'd personally instead recommend a ruleset that can have as much or as little roleplaying as the players want.

This is inherently the key flaw in his argument to me. Call of Cthulhu is still my favourite roleplaying game, but it doesn't turn my players who aren't interested in roleplaying into better roleplayers by magic (As Greg asserts).
This is inherently the key flaw in his argument to me. Call of Cthulhu is still my favourite roleplaying game, but it doesn't turn my players who aren't interested in roleplaying into better roleplayers by magic (As Greg asserts).

Aegeri - would you say it was true to say that CoC attracts a certain kind of player?

Would you say that many players who want a combat-only experience would be dissatisfied with the average CoC session?

Have you played Arkham Horror? Because that's how I see 4E. A fun, well-balanced co-operative game, but not a replacement for my sessions of CoC.
Its that the new edition doesn't discourage roleplaying more then previous editions, and that in the opinions of the author they've in fact improved upon it from what was provided in earlier editions.

Honest question, John.

If 4E has improved on the role-playing aspects, why aren't there any adventures in 4E that strongly encourage role-playing?

Where are the 'Dungeon' adventures like 'At the Spottle Parlour' or 'Nightshade', as in previous incarnations?

Where are the modules that encourage non-combat interaction? Off the top of my head, earlier editions had:

Dragons of Hope
Beyond the Crystal Cave
Castle Amber
Night of the Vampire
Assassin's Knot
Night's Dark Terror
Arena of Thyatis
Danger at Dunwater

I'm sure I can think of lots more if I dig out my old stuff. These are just ones that stick in my mind. In each case above, the above TSR adventures involve mostly role-playing rather than combat. A few can be completed withut ANY combat whatsoever.

All the existing modules (HPE series) and published 4E Dungeon adventures involve a majority of combat encounters.

If 4E supports role-playing as well as other editions, why aren't there more adventures that cater to this style of play? Why do 100% of published 4E adventures have to be dungeon crawls?

It's an honest question.
I will state this again for the record I enjoy 4e so I may be biased.

I think the main problem with recent adventures is the current layout they have addopted. If you aren't careful you can look at the book 2 of the published adventures and conclude there is nothing but combat. Every page is a combat encounter so it's an easy comclusion to leap to.

However (and this is something I have had to train myself to over the H series) you need to look at book 1 and run the adventure from there and then only use book 2 if an encounter develops into combat.

That said the book 1 info is a little light but getting better with each released adventure.
Honest question, John.

If 4E has improved on the role-playing aspects, why aren't there any adventures in 4E that strongly encourage role-playing?

That question is exactly why I said "the opinions of the author is". This isn't an opinion I share with the author, because I don't know enough about 3.5e to make such a judgment. I have played enough to know I certainly don't want to play any more 3.5e in the near future. But that's largely due to character creation and its combat rules. Not because of the roleplaying.

From my understanding, WotC's current model is to create game elements that can be plugged into any campaign a DM may be running. This means adventures are largely nothing but combat, because its intended for the DM to then customise it for his table. You can of course argue that a DM shouldn't pay money for that. And that's a fair comment for certain DMs. I am currently playing in a campaign using the H1 to E3 modules and the most memorable parts have been when the DM took the framework of the adventure and expanded upon it. And so there is one DM who does see value in having the combat encounters and the flow of the module predetermined, while leaving enough room for his own story.

For example I'm playing a stone golem who came into existence when a wizard gave life to a stone statue. I rock up to the first session and everyone is calling me an abomination or laughing at me. Its only after a couple of hours that I learn the statue that I animate happened to be a statue of a rather infamous king. Local legend says this king had a harem with quite a few members inside it. Then after completing the H1 module my DM gave me a letter (among other stuff) which had the local Lord say that while I did provide a great source of amusement when I first arrived, the town is grateful for my actions and that I will always have a home inside its walls. That was magnificent. And not a single part of it in the module. Had the module gone on at length about the history of the world, its inhabitants etc, etc the DM may not have felt quite so willing to run that storyline. But because of its modular design, he was able to expand upon it rather easily.

But all of this is simply to say certain people prefer 4th ed's current module because it helps them in roleplaying and telling stories in the manner they want to. Others who don't share these preferences will of course prefer other game systems.

And with the release of such books as Hammerfast, perhaps we'll be seeing WotC shift away from its setting-lite approach and so perhaps those who have been disappointed by 4th ed will see their concerns addressed. I personally hope they don't address them at the expense of my enjoyment though. It isn't an accident that my campaign I'm DMing is set in Eberron as I feel many of the design philosophies that have governed 4th ed so far were mirrored and expressed in Eberron.
Kudos to you for role-playing interesting characters in 4E.

However, that you choose to do so is purely optional, and there is no mechanic to encourage you to do so (beyond the fact you are obviously a good role-player).

Maybe some people are inspired by the 'less is more' approach. I'm certainly not inspired by the blandness of the 4E settings and its cliched NPCs. I would have imagined that most people would be inclined to use ideas like yours in a detailed system rather than a bland one.

For me, my best character ideas came in Planescape, as a direct result of how detailed and inspiring the sourcebooks were.

(The 4E version of Eberron isn't bad. But I dislike the idea you can now choose Dragonmarks just for the 'kewl powerz' rather than them tying in to a respective House. )