Reaction to the Living Forgotton Realms Preview Game

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I and several of my friends attended the preview module for Living Forgotten Realms, recently, and I thought it would be interesting to discuss the experience, and get feedback from others who may have played in it.

For some background, I played in Living Greyhawk for a while, but I fell out of it due to a combination of limited time and growing disinterest. I enjoyed it when the game felt like a real role playing game, but not so much when it felt like the tabletop version of an MMORPG. Since it was entirely based on the module and the GM running it which would be the outcome, it was too hit and miss, for me, to stick with.

When I read about LFR, everything sounded appealing to me. Wizards promised the game would be more open-ended, encourage more role playing and skill useage, and allow more room for both GMs and players to think outside the box, while still maintaining the shared world/official rules feel of LG. It sounded like a great combo, and I was interested in seeing how the preview module would go, since it would be, presumably, a showcase of these new ideals.

Not so much.

Somehow the module had *less* role playing elements than any LG module I'd played, literally starting you in a battle, and going directly from battle to battle, broken up only by entirely abstracted skill challenges.

The battles, I'd assumed at least, would be a way for new players who aren't familiar with 4th edition to experience the game for the first time and have some fun with it.

Instead, the battles were there to trash the party - challenges which (out GM let us know, since he was also pretty disgusted by it) were consistently 4 to 5 levels higher than the party. Also, the structure of the module entirely prevents the players from purchasing the consumables that *any* D&D game assumes you need to survive, and it even inhibits the extended rests which any party would need to even have a fighting chance.

Now some spoilers, so if you're going to play it... whatever, look away.

The module makes a lot of assumptions, and none of them make any sense. LFR requires that players be Unaligned, Good, or Lawful Good. The module begins with the players being told they are supposed to meet a contact they've been paid to deliver a magicaly sealed scroll to. They see the contact approaching, but they also see town guards approaching the contact. These are not fake town guards - they are real.

A party of largely good, and lawful good characters are apparently now supposed to leap into battle against agents of law and order in order to protect a man they don't know... for what reason? Because the man owes them money? The module makes it clear that the party has no idea as to the content of the scroll - it very well could be evil, the contact could be a terrorist, the players do not know. There is no reason that a *good* aligned group would automatically side with a relatively unknown contact over town guards... yet that is exactly what the module expects you to do.

The players are forced into this fight, and upon its resolution, the GM is to announce that they are wanted, and must flee.

Wait... wanted? Flee? If they're good, especially lawful good, wouldn't they simply stay, face justice, and clear their names, since they did nothing wrong, and were not actually associated with any wrongdoings the client may have done? If the scroll is evil, would they really risk keeping it from the authorities?

Keep in mind, in 4th ed, Law = Good, and Chaos = Evil; just the way "The Man" wants us to think... but that is the new ethos in the game. So, why would the game then go for this 180 degree change and pull this on the players? It doesn't make any sense.

In short, even less roleplaying than LG, a series of fights connected by skill challenges, little story, and even less in terms of characters - nary a single memorable NPC to speak of. This was the *showcase* for what LFR would be... and I don't have much enthusiasm left, after that.
When I read about LFR, everything sounded appealing to me. Wizards promised the game would be more open-ended, encourage more role playing and skill useage, and allow more room for both GMs and players to think outside the box, while still maintaining the shared world/official rules feel of LG. It sounded like a great combo, and I was interested in seeing how the preview module would go, since it would be, presumably, a showcase of these new ideals.

Not so much.

Somehow the module had *less* role playing elements than any LG module I'd played, literally starting you in a battle, and going directly from battle to battle, broken up only by entirely abstracted skill challenges.

The battles, I'd assumed at least, would be a way for new players who aren't familiar with 4th edition to experience the game for the first time and have some fun with it.

Instead, the battles were there to trash the party - challenges which (out GM let us know, since he was also pretty disgusted by it) were consistently 4 to 5 levels higher than the party. Also, the structure of the module entirely prevents the players from purchasing the consumables that *any* D&D game assumes you need to survive, and it even inhibits the extended rests which any party would need to even have a fighting chance.

That is unfortunate to hear. It doesn't sound too appealing. Are there other modules out already? Maybe you just ended up with a weakly written adventure and others could be better.


Now some spoilers, so if you're going to play it... whatever, look away.

The module makes a lot of assumptions, and none of them make any sense. LFR requires that players be Unaligned, Good, or Lawful Good. The module begins with the players being told they are supposed to meet a contact they've been paid to deliver a magicaly sealed scroll to. They see the contact approaching, but they also see town guards approaching the contact. These are not fake town guards - they are real.

A party of largely good, and lawful good characters are apparently now supposed to leap into battle against agents of law and order in order to protect a man they don't know... for what reason? Because the man owes them money? The module makes it clear that the party has no idea as to the content of the scroll - it very well could be evil, the contact could be a terrorist, the players do not know. There is no reason that a *good* aligned group would automatically side with a relatively unknown contact over town guards... yet that is exactly what the module expects you to do.

The players are forced into this fight, and upon its resolution, the GM is to announce that they are wanted, and must flee.

Wait... wanted? Flee? If they're good, especially lawful good, wouldn't they simply stay, face justice, and clear their names, since they did nothing wrong, and were not actually associated with any wrongdoings the client may have done? If the scroll is evil, would they really risk keeping it from the authorities?

Keep in mind, in 4th ed, Law = Good, and Chaos = Evil; just the way "The Man" wants us to think... but that is the new ethos in the game. So, why would the game then go for this 180 degree change and pull this on the players? It doesn't make any sense.

That actually sounds like a classic wuxia set up, but that doesn't work for everything.
This I think shows a weakness in the way they set up 4e. It appears to favor combat over story, because everything seems oriented to combat.

However a badly written module could still be saved by a good DM, giving options such as speaking/negotiating with the town gaurd, and letting you surrender, and discovering you were framed, allow you to escape, and then go from there. So it sounds like the problems were 50/50 in design and implementation.
If this is "Escape from Sembia", just keep in mind that this adventure was originally used in March to showcase the new 4ed rules, and so were designed to be combat sloughers.

IIRC, the new govt of Sembia is controlled by the Shadovar, so their town guard wouldn't be all that LG.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

Escape from Sembia is, in my humble opinion, not a proper introduction to 4E. My group of old-school gamers did not care for that one bit, and we really like 4E. Similarly, stay away from Keep on Shadowfell. On the other hand, the other two preview mods, Sagegloom and the desert one, are decent intros.

4E takes several events to grasp and enjoy. It is very different and the enjoyment is different. It also takes a judge many runs to understand how to really have fun with RP with the new system. A great example is how to have a skill challenge foster RP, vs. the initial feeling that it must replace it.

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This I think shows a weakness in the way they set up 4e. It appears to favor combat over story, because everything seems oriented to combat.

People(usually Vampire: the Masquerade players) used to say the same thing about second ed when I played it over 15 years ago. D&D's primary focus has always been combat, and it always will be. That's not to say combat is all there is though. They've put more effort into non-combat encounters in 4th than they ever did in any previous edition.
People(usually Vampire: the Masquerade players) used to say the same thing about second ed when I played it over 15 years ago. D&D's primary focus has always been combat, and it always will be. That's not to say combat is all there is though. They've put more effort into non-combat encounters in 4th than they ever did in any previous edition.

I agree with you that the non-combat element is there, and works well, but somehow it gets overshadowed by the combat, especially with the combat roles being central to character design.
Somehow the module had *less* role playing elements than any LG module I'd played, literally starting you in a battle, and going directly from battle to battle, broken up only by entirely abstracted skill challenges.

Tja, battles are omnipresent, it seems.
WotC's new policy ;)

LFR requires that players be Unaligned, Good, or Lawful Good.

WotC's new policy.

A party of largely good, and lawful good characters are apparently now supposed to leap into battle against agents of law and order in order to protect a man they don't know... for what reason?

In order to face more fights. WotC's new policy.

The players are forced into this fight, and upon its resolution, the GM is to announce that they are wanted, and must flee.

And then fight again :D

Wait... wanted? Flee? If they're good, especially lawful good, wouldn't they simply stay, face justice, and clear their names, since they did nothing wrong, and were not actually associated with any wrongdoings the client may have done?

No. Just no. This would make sense, so, no.

Keep in mind, in 4th ed, Law = Good, and Chaos = Evil

Did I mention that this is WotC's new policy?

nary a single memorable NPC to speak of

This very point doesn't surprise me in the least.
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LFR requires that players be Unaligned, Good, or Lawful Good.

WotC's new policy.

Is that new? I don't recall ever hearing of any RPGA campaigns that allowed evil characters.
Is that new? I don't recall ever hearing of any RPGA campaigns that allowed evil characters.

You've hit me hard with that. Copy and paste, from above.

But regarding the other points I'm sure my reason is valid.
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I believe it was escape from Sembia, yes. As to whether it "made sense" for the town guard to be corrupt is irrelevant because the players were *not* informed us this, and that makes a huge difference. It came across as entirely bizarre.

The law=good, chaos=bad is ridiculous, and entirely mocks the very literature that D&D originally took the ideas from. Moorcock's Law and Chaos struggle, for example. Hell, the man's an anarchist, or nearly... I'm sure he'd loathe it.

As for battle being the focus, I didn't want to admit that, but it's undeniable. It seems the 4th ed module design *has* changed... for the worse. It's somehow more combat focuses than before.

I have no idea why a module designer to kill entire parties would be a good introduction to the game, or even a good test of the system.

For many people, some at our table, this was their first introduction to the RPGA, to Living Games, even to the Forgotten Realms... and their first experience was an unpleasant, unwelcoming one. If anything, I would have expected a higher standard of quality from a preview module, if only to lure more new players in.

To us, it seemed the only players that sort of game would attract would be gluttons for punishment.
I had a similar encounter with the LFG Adventure "Flames of Initiation". We started with five players but one had to leave early which was not an issue because we still had a full set of character roles (Swordmage/Rogue/Wizard/Cleric). Our next encounter was 2 Otyughs and a Carrion Crawler, lol. We "won" the encounter but 2 players died (cleric and swordmage) and the other were in single digits. Because of the deaths, we couldn't even move on to complete the final encounter.

Sad sad adventure planning.
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WotC's new policy.

Regarding players having to be good, lawful good, or unaligned? Keep in mind that even the 3E core rulebooks stressed that evil alignments should be reserved for villains and it was recommended that PCs stick to some variation of good or neutral. So, the idea that PC's shouldn't be evil isn't that new.
I believe it was escape from Sembia, yes.

As for battle being the focus, I didn't want to admit that, but it's undeniable. It seems the 4th ed module design *has* changed... for the worse. It's somehow more combat focuses than before.

If you played Escape from Sembia, then that's not really a valid point, as the point of that particular module was to introduce DDXP players to the mechanics of 4E. The things which changed the most, namely the combat system. And the best way to do that isn't to run an adventure in which the PC's spend four hours engaging in political intrigue. Escape from Sembia had two goals in mind: Show off the new combat system, and give people a glimpse of the Skill Challenge system. An adventure designed to introduce people to a game system is naturally going to be far different than an adventure designed for actual campaign play.

I have no idea why a module designer to kill entire parties would be a good introduction to the game, or even a good test of the system.

The fact that it's designed to kill the PC's should be a pretty big indicator that it's not a representative example of the kind of adventures they're going for. Otherwise nobody would be able to climb levels in RPGA campaigns.

To us, it seemed the only players that sort of game would attract would be gluttons for punishment.

Like I said, Escape from Sembia is hardly representative. You'll always have bad modules in an RPGA campaign, but Escape from Sembia was designed with several specific goals in mind, which had more to do with introducing people to the way the new ruleset worked than introducing them to RPGA game play (which is doubly so as the characters were pregens, and not your own characters, as they would be in regular RPGA games).
Regarding players having to be good, lawful good, or unaligned? Keep in mind that even the 3E core rulebooks stressed that evil alignments should be reserved for villains and it was recommended that PCs stick to some variation of good or neutral. So, the idea that PC's shouldn't be evil isn't that new.

Yea, yea, GreenKnight already pointed this out to me. My mistake.

But they have plenty of other 'new policies'. :P
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To be fair, a lot of your comments aren't really "new policies".

Tja, battles are omnipresent, it seems.
WotC's new policy

As I pointed out, above, Escape from Sembia is an exception, not the norm. In addition, even if that were WotC's new policy, there's precisely as much or as little combat in a game as the players decide. That hasn't changed with 4E. If I'm running a game and I want an entire adventure to revolve around political back-and-forth, that isn't a less viable option under 4E than it was, before.

In order to face more fights. WotC's new policy.

Once again, a module in which the sole purpose was to have as many fights as possible in order to give players at DDXP plenty of exposure to the new combat system.

And then fight again :D

If I remember right, that didn't actually lead into another fight, but into a Skill Challenge, as PC's looked for all kinds of different ways to make a getaway.

This very point doesn't surprise me in the least.

The PC's weren't very memorable, either, as they were pregens, rather than characters the players created, themselves.
Yea, yea, GreenKnight already pointed this out to me. My mistake.

Well, I did want to elaborate on that point, but I didn't mean to "lecture" you--if I did, sorry.
I, however, did mean to lecture.

:P
As I pointed out, above, Escape from Sembia is an exception, not the norm. In addition, even if that were WotC's new policy, there's precisely as much or as little combat in a game as the players decide. That hasn't changed with 4E.

Or as the DM decides. And then the DM consults the books and looks for some NPCs to struggle with (politically) but cannot find one, for the new design philosophy says that good guys don't need published stats (as if the new minimalized stats give anything not combat related). So if the DM hasn't much time to figure out something good enough he maybe will go on with some fights instead.

If I'm running a game and I want an entire adventure to revolve around political back-and-forth, that isn't a less viable option under 4E than it was, before.

That's right, yes. But combat is given more respect than anything else, with the new rule set. (e.g. just abilities that matter in combat situations will be integrated in the stats; and the skills are too minimalized)

Once again, a module in which the sole purpose was to have as many fights as possible in order to give players at DDXP plenty of exposure to the new combat system.

If I remember right, that didn't actually lead into another fight, but into a Skill Challenge, as PC's looked for all kinds of different ways to make a getaway.

There was nothing serious about those two arguments of mine.

The PC's weren't very memorable, either, as they were pregens, rather than characters the players created, themselves.

Irrelevant. Just because the PC's are poor it doesn't matter if the NPC's are poor, too?
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Or as the DM decides. And then the DM consults the books and looks for some NPCs to struggle with (politically) but cannot find one, for the new design philosophy says that good guys don't need published stats (as if the new minimalized stats give anything not combat related). So if the DM hasn't much time to figure out something good enough he maybe will go on with some fights instead.

What does a DM really need, though? Does he really need a fully-statted out NPC, or does he just need to roleplay the NPC? Maybe DC's for skill checks and the like? DC's which're already built into the game. So there you go. Simple.

Not as if that's new, either. A great many DM's don't use published settings. They use their own homebrew worlds, and there are no NPC's in the core books for them to use. In which case they have to make things up for themselves. So it's not as if we're talking about a wholly new issue, here, as DM's have been able to run NPC's for years without having to rely on campaign setting books to give them NPC's for them to run.

That's right, yes. But combat is given more respect than anything else, with the new rule set. (e.g. just abilities that matter in combat situations will be integrated in the stats; and the skills are too minimalized)

A great deal of what PC classes could do in prior editions also revolved around combat. So once again, nothing new there. As for skills, a lot of them are more useful, and many characters get more skills then they could, before, so characters tend to be more useful in noncombat situations nowadays. Especially the Fighter.

Irrelevant. Just because the PC's are poor it doesn't matter if the NPC's are poor, too?

Not wholly irrelevant, as the adventure in question, Escape from Sembia, isn't an accurate representation of what they're going with. As I pointed out, it was designed around demonstrating the combat system and skill challenge system to PC's. Holding it up as an example of the way things are isn't an accurate assessment at all.
A great many DM's don't use published settings. They use their own homebrew worlds, and there are no NPC's in the core books for them to use. In which case they have to make things up for themselves. So it's not as if we're talking about a wholly new issue, here, as DM's have been able to run NPC's for years without having to rely on campaign setting books to give them NPC's for them to run.

So want me to believe that you (or whoever who uses his own world) flash-out every single NPC, from king to farmer, from archvillain to ally, and don't use some pre-generated stats? Not just for some unimportant thug or soldier?

Not wholly irrelevant, as the adventure in question, Escape from Sembia, isn't an accurate representation of what they're going with. As I pointed out, it was designed around demonstrating the combat system and skill challenge system to PC's. Holding it up as an example of the way things are isn't an accurate assessment at all.

I can live with this.
Anyway, origninally my point was, that I wasn't surprise that he found no interesting NPCs, because WotC's new way of handling NPCs and my disappointment with that. Nothing more, actually.
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Damn, I forgot this one.

A great deal of what PC classes could do in prior editions also revolved around combat.

A great deal may be right, but not evey single ability.

As for skills, a lot of them are more useful, and many characters get more skills then they could, before, so characters tend to be more useful in noncombat situations nowadays. Especially the Fighter.

Useful or not, it is too minimalisticaly. Skills and skill points were a big issue in 3e, but Pathfinder made a step in the right direction, even in regards to the Fighter. 4e went way too far, however.
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So want me to believe that you (or whoever who uses his own world) flash-out every single NPC, from king to farmer, from archvillain to ally, and don't use some pre-generated stats? Not just for some unimportant thug or soldier?

Well, who needs to? Unless they actually appear ingame, they don't need stats. And even if they do appear ingame, why would they need complete stat blocks? It's not as if the PC's are going to be fighting them, nor will the DM be needing to run a good many of those NPC's in combat. And even if they do, the books do have stats for farmers and the like (Human Rabble, Monster Manual, page 162).

As for important NPC's, once again, it depends on what you need out of them. If they're just there to set a DC for a PC's Diplomacy check, then all you need are the DC's out of the DMG, and set the difficulty depending on the NPC (Is the king a shrewd negotiator? Give the PC's a Hard DC for their Diplomacy check. Is the king a gullible fool? Give the PC's an Easy DC). And if you need the king actually statted out, well, easy enough to create your own NPC's.

And when it comes to archvillains, yes, many DM's do come up with their own. Doubt you'll find a single DM around here who hasn't. Hell, odds are, most DM's use archvillains they statted up themselves far more often than they use archvillains statted up in the books.

A great deal may be right, but not evey single ability.

And not every ability is combat oriented. You have skills, you have a good deal of utility powers, and you have Rituals. What else more do you need?

Useful or not, it is too minimalisticaly. Skills and skill points were a big issue in 3e, but Pathfinder made a step in the right direction, even in regards to the Fighter. 4e went way too far, however.

The point, though, is that it didn't take away from the other spectrum (aside from Profession skills), and in fact added to that end. A Fighter, for instance, had 2 Skill Points and had one non-physical skill, Intimidate. Now the Fighter has the equivalent of 3 Skill Points and also has Streetwise (Knowledge: Local) in addition, making him more useful outside of combat. And if he takes Athletics, then he's got the equivalent of 5 Skill Points. Other characters have also seen an increase in the number of skills they have. And because a lot of those skills have been consolidated, that makes the taking of skills like History and Religion more viable options.
Well, who needs to? Unless they actually appear ingame, they don't need stats.

Exaclty. And if they shall appear, in a fight maybe protecting the PCs, you don't have them at hand. So you begin to stat out the good guys.

And even if they do appear ingame, why would they need complete stat blocks?

There are not even short-stats in 4e, to begin with.

The point, though, is that it didn't take away from the other spectrum (aside from Profession skills), and in fact added to that end. A Fighter, for instance, had 2 Skill Points and had one non-physical skill, Intimidate. Now the Fighter has the equivalent of 3 Skill Points and also has Streetwise (Knowledge: Local) in addition, making him more useful outside of combat. And if he takes Athletics, then he's got the equivalent of 5 Skill Points. Other characters have also seen an increase in the number of skills they have. And because a lot of those skills have been consolidated, that makes the taking of skills like History and Religion more viable options.

As I said, Pathfinder made a step in the right direction. The Fighter for example now still has 2 points, but more class skills. And some skills were combined in order not to be overwhelmed by the countless number of skills. 4e on the other hand, combined skills which should be seperated, because the things you can do with them are clearly different, imho. Actually, I'm one of those guys who prefer more over less.
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Exaclty. And if they shall appear, in a fight maybe protecting the PCs, you don't have them at hand. So you begin to stat out the good guys.

A DM with a little bit of foresight knows to stat up any important NPC's if he thinks they may get into a fight. Or he could use the base stats for NPC's found in the Monster Manual modified in some way. And once again, how is this new? A DM who makes up his own homebrew campaign isn't going to have published NPC stats to fall back on, either.

There are not even short-stats in 4e, to begin with.

Again, is this new? I'm looking at the 2E Forgotten Realms book, and we got NPC's like "Learned Father Hasicor Danali (LN hm P12)", and Elminster CG Human Wizard 29. You're claiming these things are all new, when they're not. You think DM's didn't have to come up with NPC stats before the advent of 4E?

As I said, Pathfinder made a step in the right direction. The Fighter for example now still has 2 points, but more class skills.

Added variety doesn't mean much if you can't take advantage of it. They ought to give every class 4 Skill Points bare minimum. The 4E Fighter has more than the 3E Fighter, though. As I already mentioned, he's already got effectively more Skill Points. With Skill Training, you can become Trained in any skill of your choice, and it becomes the equivalent of a Class Skill in 3E. No cross-class skills or any silliness like that.

And some skills were combined in order not to be overwhelmed by the countless number of skills. 4e on the other hand, combined skills which should be seperated, because the things you can do with them are clearly different, imho.

...except that 4E combined many of the same skills that Pathfinder combined. Both games combined Move Silently and Hide in Shadows into Stealth. Pathfinder rolled Balance, Jump, and Tumble into Acrobatics, and 4E did the same with Balance, Tumble, and Escape Artist.

Actually, I'm one of those guys who prefer more over less.

Well, if you can't see that in many ways you're getting much more now than in prior editions, then I doubt that there's anything I can say to convince you.
A DM with a little bit of foresight knows to stat up any important NPC's if he thinks they may get into a fight. Or he could use the base stats for NPC's found in the Monster Manual modified in some way. And once again, how is this new? A DM who makes up his own homebrew campaign isn't going to have published NPC stats to fall back on, either.

To be honest, I can't remember what the original point here was. Either the battles or the NPCs. However, yeah, what shall be new with the concept of battle. And Rant_Casey said 'memorable NPCs'. So if you just take one found in the MM, it isn't very unique, is it? Only if the modification is a major one. Or an fancy one, for that matter.

I'm looking at the 2E Forgotten Realms book, and we got NPC's like "Learned Father Hasicor Danali (LN hm P12)", and Elminster CG Human Wizard 29. You're claiming these things are all new, when they're not.

Show me your 'CG Human Wizard 29' or any other short-stats in any 4e product released so far. (except that one in FRCG page 158). I don't claim that this is new or old or whatever. I'm just saying that with some short-stats it would be easier for DMs to build their NPCs. But there are none. So every single DM who reads a name in a 4e product comes up with another class or level or anything for this NPC.

Added variety doesn't mean much if you can't take advantage of it. They ought to give every class 4 Skill Points bare minimum. The 4E Fighter has more than the 3E Fighter, though. As I already mentioned, he's already got effectively more Skill Points. With Skill Training, you can become Trained in any skill of your choice, and it becomes the equivalent of a Class Skill in 3E. No cross-class skills or any silliness like that.
...except that 4E combined many of the same skills that Pathfinder combined. Both games combined Move Silently and Hide in Shadows into Stealth. Pathfinder rolled Balance, Jump, and Tumble into Acrobatics, and 4E did the same with Balance, Tumble, and Escape Artist.

The point is, and there I have to agree with you, that mechanic-wise 4e is an improvement over 3e (or 3.PF). However, I never said otherwise. Just that I don't really like it (yet)
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To be honest, I can't remember what the original point here was. Either the battles or the NPCs. However, yeah, what shall be new with the concept of battle. And Rant_Casey said 'memorable NPCs'.

Well, as I said, Escape from Sembia isn't exactly a definitive adventure to base ones judgments on.

So if you just take one found in the MM, it isn't very unique, is it? Only if the modification is a major one. Or an fancy one, for that matter.

How unique is a published NPC that the players have undoubtedly read the stats for several dozen times? :P Besides, it's not that hard to come up with NPC stats in 4E. I've come up with several just on a lark. It's fairly quick and easy.

Show me your 'CG Human Wizard 29' or any other short-stats in any 4e product released so far.

Nope, there aren't any 'CG Human Wizard 29', but then again, that isn't terribly useful, as there's a lot more to Elminster than just "Wizard 29". Yet people managed to run games in the 2E Realms despite only having a class and level for the listed NPC's. And the FRCG has a discussion on how to handle NPC's, which basically amounts to assigning whatever level is most useful to the DM. After all, if they're not appearing in your game, then their level doesn't really matter. And if they do appear, then the DM can come up with whatever stats he feels are appropriate. And even if they do appear, you can go a long way with an NPC with nothing more then an appropriate skill DC.

Incidentally, that section also stated that DDI will be releasing stats for some of those NPC's. Might it take a while? Sure. But the FRCS didn't come out til 10 months after the release of 3E. It was a good long while before NPC stats were released in any number for 2E, as well. 4E's only been out for two months, and so far only has adventures, dungeon tiles, and the FRCG in addition to the core books. Looks to me like things're coming out at a bit of a faster clip this time than before, as you won't have to wait 10 months, at least, for the campaign information.

So every single DM who reads a name in a 4e product comes up with another class or level or anything for this NPC.

Not entirely sure what you mean, here.
To be honest, I can't remember what the original point here was. Either the battles or the NPCs. However, yeah, what shall be new with the concept of battle. And Rant_Casey said 'memorable NPCs'. So if you just take one found in the MM, it isn't very unique, is it? Only if the modification is a major one. Or an fancy one, for that matter.

I'd like to cut in here and point out that how memorable an NPC turns out to be has more to do with how the DM plays the character than the stats the character uses (and of course, what types of characters stick in the minds of the players).
It is perhaps worth noting here that the notion of "Lawful = Good" opposing "Chaotic = Evil" is not something new. In the Basic/Expert/Companion/etc boxed rules of (Basic) Dungeons and Dragons, there were only three alignments - Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. Effectively, you were either Lawful Good, Neutral, or Chaotic Evil. In Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (aka "First Edition"), this was expanded to 9 alignments, giving us the familiar Law-Chaos axis and Good-Evil axis. It's worth noting though, that this version of (basic) D&D also only sported four classes - fighter, cleric, magic-user, thief, all of whom were human only, as well as three race/class combinations - Elf (Fighter/Mage), Halfling, and Dwarf.

Thus, this sort of thing isn't at all new... it is, however, a step backwards in terms of complexity. Whether that's a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion. Personally though, I would say that most of the complaints I've heard about the alignment system over the years centered around it being too restrictive - not too complex.
The Preview adventure, Escape from Sembia, as stated was written to demo 4E before all of the 4E rules were totally final. It was first run at DDXP end of Feb, beginning of March. I know, I was one of the DMs as was my wife. It was heavy on showing off how combat worked. It was much more challenging than the average LFR adventure. (I did ask the author if part of the purpose of the adventure design was to also demo the dying and death rules in 4E, and the way PCs pop back up with a healing surge. He did not deny it.)

If you want to role play a lot, may I be so immodest as to suggest you try the Waterdeep adventure, WATE1-1, Heirloom.

Unless a NPC becomes a major plot figure, it will probably only have a few sentences at most and no stats if not needed.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
Nope, there aren't any 'CG Human Wizard 29', but then again, that isn't terribly useful, as there's a lot more to Elminster than just "Wizard 29".Yet people managed to run games in the 2E Realms despite only having a class and level for the listed NPC's. And the FRCG has a discussion on how to handle NPC's, which basically amounts to assigning whatever level is most useful to the DM. After all, if they're not appearing in your game, then their level doesn't really matter. And if they do appear, then the DM can come up with whatever stats he feels are appropriate.

This argument works against you as well. That is, if they don't appear, because you just use some bits of lore out of the books or whatever, they don't need stats, yes. So tell me the purpose of the last section (threats) of the FRCG then.

Full stat blocks make it much more easy for the DM to come up with a NPC if he needs one. On the other hand, what if the DM feels they don't fit in the game? Then he could as well build his own ones, of course. So I was just claiming that if there were some short-stats (as were in 2e/3e - even in the campaign setting ;)), it would be easier for the DM to build his NPC and also the changes on the recommened level, class and so on would be the easiest thing at all.

And even if they do appear, you can go a long way with an NPC with nothing more then an appropriate skill DC.

Unless the PCs are supposed to be fighting against or with the NPC.

However, it occurs to me that this looks more like two seperate monologs with the same arguments rather than a real diskussion. :P
Someone saved a thread with my old signature by accident? Please PM me!
Some of the arguments aired around here seem to suggest the posters have not read the DMG all that well. There is a chapter in the DMG with a simple table which gives the hit points, defenses, attack rolls and typical damage output of creatures based on level and combat-role. The same chapter also include a couple of templates to be used to create elite creatures such as wizard or battle leader. Sure, coming up with the stats of a 28th level wizard is not going to be a few minutes work (especially not if you want to make the creature a little bit more unique), but it is certainly going to be quicker than it ever was in previous editions.

Of course, the whole discussion about the prevelance of combat, the ease with which to create NPCs and the arguments behind the various alignments (and not that good is a mix of neutral and chaotic good, I don't see any particular ruling that chaos equals evil) are generic 4E discussions. They are interesting, but they do not have anything to do with LFR.

My advice to the original poster is to run a real LFR adventure before passing judgment on the campaign. Make sure that your DM is also aware of the basic rule we use in LFR: the most important aspect of the game is for the players to have fun. A DM can change the adventure to fascilitate that fun. If the players want to convince the corrupt city guards to look the other way, but the adventure only mentions fighting them, the DM is perfectly within his right to add an imprompto skill challenge.
This I think shows a weakness in the way they set up 4e. It appears to favor combat over story, because everything seems oriented to combat.

This is a really tired argument. Do they have to put rules in the books to make a story or tell you how to roleplay? Or is that what the DM is supposed to do?

4e design philosophy was to get rid of the unnecessary rules for roleplaying and left in what was need for conflict resolution. Whether that be by the sword or via diplomacy. You don't need rules for playing in character or talking in a funny voice or using sock puppets, only for what requires a die roll.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
I believe anyone that has played both Escape and the new adventures will tell you they are different. There should be much more RP and background. Keith is correct that Waterdeep is a good example. There are others as well. Escape should simply be used for both a GM and new player to understand the new mechanics. How the powers work, what skills are used when, shifting, special effects such as bloodied bonuses or actions, how special mechanics interact (warlord healing when someone uses an action point, etc.)

I have yet to use a second wind because I always forget.

My only recommendation with Escape is that people take the pregenerated character and transfer it to a real character sheet so you know where to look and what to look for on the page when you actually play a real adventure.

Having now played all of the adventures (thanks Gencon) less Luru and the Previews. I can say my impression is as follows:

RP may be cut down for groups of newer players/GM's that are not familiar with the new system, more because of the time to get used to it, but also because HP's are larger combat can take longer. Yes you do more damage but the game is now far more strategic. Shifting players etc. can take a bit more time but can make for far more interesting combat. Ohhh you monsters that shift away....

I have also come to believe that the game now is moving more toward a collectable card game style. You don't need cards but you have a list of actions use them, set things up strategically (maybe only leaders but it seemed like more), and move to the next person. Power cards are definitely advantageous and just having them makes it feel more like a mix of D&D and say Magic.

A solid GM will bring back more of the RP and make it feel less like a strategic card game unless that is what the gamers are interested in experiencing. I have always felt imagination has slowly slipped away in how interactions/attacks/other actions were incorporated into PC game play, yet a solid GM can overcome many of the game "mismechanics" if that is what the players feel is an issue.

I would suggest getting some free powercards (see dragon9's sig for a link), play a couple of the LFR adventures and see if there is a change after a couple of them, at worst you waste 8 hrs of your life and have no fun, but I doubt that will be the case.

I have yet to play any of the WoTC published 4e adventures not LFR related so I cannot comment on how they play.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate. "Abandon all hope ye who enter here." A child of 5 could understand this, someone bring me a child of 5.
To the original poster, regarding the opening battle of Escape From Sembia:

It is unfortunate that, since your group was unfamiliar with the background of the Realms, or at least Sembia, that your Gm did not give you any background information on which to base your actions. This was not the fault of the author or the mod.

I played it at DDXP and have run it several times for local gaming clubs. I don't recall anyone at any of my tables having a problem fighting the "guards" who were clearly the bad guys.
Amy My blog http://mistimp.blogspot.com
It was the fault of the Authors that both the 4e Intros (Sembia and Scalegloom) where ridiculously tough. TPKs were the norm in both.

I recommend skipping both of them (though I believe Scalegloom's lethal encounter got returned to a semblance of sanity later).
This argument works against you as well. That is, if they don't appear, because you just use some bits of lore out of the books or whatever, they don't need stats, yes. So tell me the purpose of the last section (threats) of the FRCG then.

The book is intended for DM's, and threats are far more useful for DM's then stats for Elminster, Drizzt, and whatever other NPC's are running about Faerun. Besides, most of those stat blocks are monster stats, not named NPC's.

Full stat blocks make it much more easy for the DM to come up with a NPC if he needs one.

Full stat blocks also eat up a lot of space that could be better spent on describing the game world. Especially when the DM can come up with most of those NPC's on his own.

On the other hand, what if the DM feels they don't fit in the game? Then he could as well build his own ones, of course. So I was just claiming that if there were some short-stats (as were in 2e/3e - even in the campaign setting ;)), it would be easier for the DM to build his NPC and also the changes on the recommened level, class and so on would be the easiest thing at all.

Would listing "Wizard 29" next to a name really make a difference? If the DM's going to invent his own stats, then something like that is still pretty well pointless.

Unless the PCs are supposed to be fighting against or with the NPC.

In which case the DM can come up with his own stats. There's no need to stat out every possible NPC in Faerun, though, as more often than not, they won't see any use, in which case they're just eating up space for no good reason. Space which could be better spent on other things.

However, it occurs to me that this looks more like two seperate monologs with the same arguments rather than a real diskussion. :P

Looks more like me discussing and you monologuing, actually.:P
It was the fault of the Authors that both the 4e Intros (Sembia and Scalegloom) where ridiculously tough. TPKs were the norm in both.

I recommend skipping both of them (though I believe Scalegloom's lethal encounter got returned to a semblance of sanity later).

I think they were specifically made to be TPKs. As mentioned earlier, they were done like old school convention modules IE. your character is completley expendable.

I think you're right to skip these modules if you know 4ed and are using a character you'd like to keep.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

As others have mentioned, Escape from Sembia shouldn't be played as an intro to Living Forgotten Realms. It should be played as an intro to 4th edition combat. THAT is what it was designed for.
Didn't lose anyone in either of the preview modules - though one person dropped below 0 against the hobgoblins and one dropped below 0 against the dragon - the intro modules certainly showed off that 4e parties are a _lot_ more effective if they work together, though, so I can see where there were probably a lot of TPKs as people tried to figure things out.

Our DM RPed a fair amount in Escape from Sembia. We had a blast in the Skill Challenge in particular, but we got to intro to each other, find out what the deal was with Sembia (know the guards are working with an assassin, that there's a resistance to the evil rulers, etc), etc.

Quite honestly, neither preview module really has much to do with how LFR plays and I don't think they should actually be associated with it.

WATE-1 was indeed fun to play.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
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