Sunday, April 22, 2012, 4:40 AM
There have been three or four threads concerning ‘Class’ on the WotC Forums that I’ve wanted to reply to but have just been too busy. I think it’s a vitally important aspect of the game, and the fact that there’s no agreed upon definitions even for this one fundamental point should be all the proof we need that no one game can ever work for everyone. What follows is bits and pieces of my theory discussion on ‘Class’ from our version of the game, with a closing to directly address a few things about the 5th edition discussion. I think a lot of it applies.
Most would agree that D&D was created as a ‘Class based’ game. Now, we could argue about how since it was among the first roleplaying games and there really wasn’t a broad body of theory out there defining different types (class based, skill based, hybrids, etc) it would be unfair to categorize it. However, by our modern definitions the original couple versions of the game were more or less ‘class based’. So what is that exactly?
The easiest way to envision early D&D is to think of miniature war gaming simplified to something like the game Stratego or Chess. Each side is fielding armies of different types of pieces. The different pieces have different abilities within the game. Each unique set of abilities is therefore a ‘Class’ of piece. D&D evolved from games and hobbies with this mindset, so it retained a lot of the same preconceptions. This idea that
A) Classes are defined by a ‘Uniqueness’ of abilities
is generally what is meant today by a ‘Class based’ game. We could argue about rather or not ‘Class based’ games are even a good thing, but that’s a whole different argument.
We originally had Fighting Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics (Thieves were added later). If we explore this idea of Class defined by Uniqueness we run into our first problem. While Fighting Men fight with weapons and armor, all the classes can use some sort of weapon and most can wear some sorts of armor. You can say Fighting Men are better at it than the others and have more choices, but that seems a weak basis for a defining Class element. We also can’t say that Magic-Users are their own class because they cast spells. After all, Clerics can cast spells too. We’ve already lost our operating definition of Class and we’re only in the first ever version of the game. So what is it that defines these classes?
At this stage of development we have three other logical options, and one that requires a leap:
B) Classes are defined by their primary Power Source. Fighters get power from physical weapons and armor, Clerics from divine belief, and Magic-Users from arcane study.
C) Classes are defined by their primary Attribute. Fighters use brute strength, Clerics use the wisdom of faith, and Magic-Users use their intelligence for knowledge.
D) Classes are defined by their primary Role. Fighters tank, Clerics assist, and Magic-Users provide utility including nukes.
or to a lesser degree,
E) Classes are defined by their member’s Affiliations. Fighters hang with soldiers and in armies, Clerics hang with the people and in churches, and Magic-Users hang with academics and in schools/labs.
I don’t think there is a right answer because the game seems to embrace each of these in different ways. The Power Source idea is great, but gets ruined as soon as the game evolves to Basic and AD&D and adds other classes (even just the Thief). The Ability idea can absorb the idea of Thief well enough, but the other classes (and in Basic, races) destroy the argument. Role makes the most sense of the three honestly, but it receives the least attention until 4th Edition. Even then we end up with multiple classes in each Role, so we can’t use it as a defining element. Affiliations aren’t used openly too much, but they are hinted at fairly strongly in later editions (level titles, backgrounds, training requirements, etc) and don’t suffer many of the negatives associated with the other options. However, they’re more often used in other game systems (like White Wolf and Warhammer). Really, while all have strengths none seem to work as well as simple Uniqueness as the basis for what makes a class. We therefore reach one of two conclusions:
1) Class really is all about one of the five definitions above, it’s just that being the first big game to explore the idea D&D didn’t do it very well.
2) In D&D Class is some kind of artistic hybrid of all 5 definitions, rather than a scientific singular mechanic.
This illustrates why I believe the game has had so many issues over the years. Even in the first version there was no THEORY underlying the game mechanics. By not defining Class sufficiently they started a 30 year cycle of guessing, reinterpretation, and change that splintered the player base. IF they had established the theory right away, and chosen a definition of Class, then the various editions could have ran with that idea and perfected it. For instance, if they’d picked Uniqueness as the definition of Class (and given all the classes roughly equivalent abilities) then we could have a game with infinite classes so long as they all had new abilities. If they’d picked Power source we could have explored all the different sources cropping up lately. An Ability base would have led to at least 6 core classes, possibly with hybrids instead of multi-classes and Roles could have been handled much the same. A strengthening of reliance upon affiliation would have created a very different, but no less potentially enjoyable game. Any would have been fine for a game. Even accepting the artistic blending of all would have at least allowed methodical exploration of the ideas. Choosing none overtly, however, has proved disastrous.
Instead of trying to decide right now what Class is for all of D&D let’s look at the evolutions of the various editions and how they treated the class question differently.
The biggest shift in the Holmes/Moldvay/Mentzer Basic D&D was the adoption of races as classes of their own (and the bundling of the Thief class as one of the core). There were also ‘races’ in the early edition, but they were so limited (Halflings and Dwarves restricted to Fighting Men, Elves to Fighting Men or Magic-Users) as to essentially be meaningless. I’ve always been fascinated by this choice. It’s usually explained as a way to simplify the game, but to me it makes the idea of ‘Class’ that much more complex. In truth races were mostly hybrids of other class abilities (Halflings were Fighting Men & Thieves, Elves were Fighting Men & Magic-Users) but their abilities were described as cultural or genetic rather than chosen or trained abilities.
The net effect of this choice was to create an entirely new possible definition of class:
F) Classes are defined by how the world Interacted with the characters
due to their attitudes, beliefs, origins, etc. For instance, a Dwarf in Basic was simply a Fighting Man with slightly better resistances mechanically, but from a roleplaying perspective he was significantly defined. He was short, tough, dour, lived underground and was a master of it, disliked elves, etc. Now, any fighter could have made similar roleplaying choices, but the world wouldn’t treat him the same as they did a Dwarf who acted the same way. This racial difference defined their Interactions with the world, and therefore defined them as a class more than Uniqueness, Power Source, Attribute, Role, or Affiliation.
The only other way to interpret Basic’s handling of race as class is that it really was only about ignorance and simplification and everything else is just being read into it. That’s possible I suppose, but very VERY sad. People want things to be engineered…intelligently designed. Finding out that things suck just because they were randomly and haphazardly thrown together rather diminishes my respect for the game.
First edition is a bit strange in that it seemed to adopt three different theories regarding the new classes it brought to the game. First, that the additional classes were perhaps sub-classes of the main 4 now embraced, second that the new classes represented hybrids of two or more base classes, and third that each of the classes was unique and on its own. Then it made things even more jumbled by offering both dual-classed and multi-classed options. Of all of the issues created by AD&D this one is probably the most important from a game design perspective. How can anything else be clean and logical when such a basic building block is in limbo? Mind you, we still haven’t resolved the basic definition of Class itself, but now we’re adding more.
Looking at the sub-class idea we have a major issue right off the bat: Monks and Bards. Monks are listed as a fifth primary core class with no sub-classes, and Bards are a required tri-class (the only one allowed) who after becoming true bards have no ‘core class’ over them, or three, depending how you see it. We find Paladins listed as a sub-class of Fighter (ostensibly because they both fight), even though it receives Clerical magic and Clerical powers and obtains these through faith like a Cleric. Some point out that Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers can all use any weapons, armor, and shields…mechanical sameness. Yet a Ranger gets an 8-sided hit die (2 at level 1) while Fighters and Paladins share a d10. Clerics can use any armor and shield, but Druids (a sub-class) are heavily restricted. In other words, that argument doesn’t hold. We also know that all the classes have unique ability sets, so that’s not what defines them as similarly classed either. They don’t have the same affiliations (Rangers are solitary, or with other nature lovers or loners, and Paladins have more in common with Clerics and nobles than simple soldiers like Fighters), and they don’t have the same Power Sources (Fighters physical items, Rangers nature, Paladins divine).
The only ways they’re related are in their Role, and to a lesser degree their Attribute (though a bow using Ranger is a lot of Dexterity focus, and Paladins are heavily Charisma and somewhat Wisdom split). The other class groups are similar in both these areas (Thieves and Assassins based on Dex, Magic User and Illusionist based on Int and so on, and also that Clerics and Druids serve similar Roles just like the others). This means we have to assume that AD&D 1st edition is declaring that a Class is either a Role or an Attribute, and that there are sub-classes to most core classes. It seems like a pretty hit-and-miss definition however, with a lot of outliers.
Even though it’s clearly shown that some classes are to be considered sub-classes it’s clear that many of them hearken back to the Basic days where Races were generally nothing more than hybrids of two other core classes. With this in mind we can see a Paladin as a hybrid Cleric/Fighter, but because he obtains entirely new Abilities that are Unique to just his class he’s not multi/dual classed but his own class. Similarly a Ranger may be thought of as a Druid/Fighter, perhaps with a little Thief thrown in. The obvious problem is that this only applies to some classes. While it would be easy to imagine an Illusionist as a hybrid Thief/Magic-User they’re not portrayed that way, instead being treated purely as a sub-class. This sets the stage for 2nd edition specialty Wizards and Priests, but doesn’t fit the hybrid model. So again, we have a hit-and-miss definition.
It’s only when we again choose to view the classes as Unique on their own that we find a definition that can somewhat hold up. Fighter still throws us for a loop by having few Unique abilities over a Paladin or Ranger (or really ANYONE), and we still can’t concretely say why a Magic-User and a Cleric are unique from each other since both cast spells, many of which overlap. However, the Uniqueness idea deals nicely with Monk, Bard, etc. Since abilities have been more fleshed out in this edition than in the original it certainly makes the classes FEEL more Unique, even if mechanically they’re sometimes not. I always liked the following illustration:
Imagine a typical Fighter. He wears armor of some type, and uses various weapons, and is fairly tough. Now imagine four different people make a Fighter to play. One makes a tribal warrior, wearing natural armor, and using big two-handed weapons. The second makes a soldier called to the crusades by their God, wearing metal armor and using a sword and shield. The third makes a loner, wearing mixed armor and using hunting weapons like the bow, spear, and long knives. The final person makes a standard soldier, using various armor and weapons as they are found. Because there are no mechanical differences in those characters, they are all Fighters. Their power is all equally about combat. It’s roleplaying, luck, and choices that differentiate them.
Now imagine those four people roll up a Barbarian, a Paladin, a Ranger, and a Fighter to play. Suddenly it’s a HUGE difference in party makeup. There are actual game mechanic differences. Suddenly a four Warrior group has access to three of the four lists of magic, magic items, as well as Thief tactics and exploits. They still interact with the world through brute force combat, but they do so as if they were more people than they actually are. The sub-classes are still roughly balanced against each other because of the granted abilities, but the party itself is vastly altered in its dynamics with the rest of the world. This is the difference between Interactive differences and Unique ability differences.
Some of this can be gotten around by doing that artistic blending we mentioned before, and getting into Roles, Affiliations, Attributes, and so on along with their Uniqueness. Doing so is once again, messy.
We still haven’t addressed what’s up with multi and dual classing either. If ‘Class based’ games are about Uniqueness then why does it allow merging more than one class to get the abilities of more than one? Doesn’t that get rid of Uniqueness? If it’s one of these new definitions of Role or Attribute how is it that muli-classing uses only different Role combinations and different Attribute combinations, but dual classing allows both different or sameness? There’s no possible way that we can have a meaningful definition in a Class based game if we allow splitting off the classes like that.
The only way to maintain purity in definition (Uniqueness) is if we stick purely to Uniqueness of abilities as the definition and then don’t allow any classes to share many traits or have none. Class based inherently means being pre-defined in many/most mechanical ways. You can have a lot of pre-defined Classes, but each character should remain a part of that class under most circumstances. To allow them to mix and match any other way turns the game hybrid, or skill or power/ability based.
If we look at games like Shadowrun, where it’s assumed people will ‘make their own classes’ through priority assignments of mechanical traits and abilities, while you can make any combination you desire you’re still ‘stuck’ with the end result (barring extraordinary circumstances). Character ‘classes’ who don’t choose to be magical won’t ever become magic using, just like how in Star Wars if you’re not Force Sensitive you won’t ever become a Jedi. You don’t get to suddenly pick a whole new set of abilities that radically alter your character. To do so would defeat the entire purpose of the ‘Class based’ nature of the game.
With regards to Class, 2nd edition is nearly identical to 1st. They just clean up the language and reasoning a touch, and put it all down in nicer tables for you to look at. They even retain the crazy multi and dual classed rules. Then came the expansion books where they add the idea of Kits. Kits aren’t so much unique classes as flavoring to put on existing classes to somewhat reinvent them. They usually have only minor changes to ability, with most of the changes being about roleplaying and fluff.
Ok, they did a few other things, like cleaning up the Bard class, and initially dropping the Monk rather than try to figure out which of the core four it fit under as a sub-class. One other change was the advent of a more integrated skill system (called proficiencies). While it didn’t change things greatly in this edition it laid the foundations of the MAJOR departure of 3rd edition.
Ahh yes…3rd edition. Sneaky, sneaky bastards. On the face it seemed so familiar…so much like previous versions. All the iconic races and classes and aspects…just ‘made better’. The math is all cleaned up, control passed largely to player creativity, skills finally evolved, and cumbersome multi-classing fades away to seamless mechanical multi-classing. Many thought it was the epitome of D&D (well, at least by 3.5 or Pathfinder). What few realized at the time was that it was an entirely new game under the same old logo. Most importantly for this discussion, despite evidence to the contrary – IT WAS NO LONGER CLASS BASED!
It seemed to be ‘Class based’. After all, there were classes. Same classes from before, right? Wrong. While many classes retained Uniqueness of abilities, many LOST their abilities to the Skill or new Feat system. The problem with that is, ANY class could usually use those. Want a Fighter that hides in shadows and picks locks? No problem. Want a Magic-User who can use a staff really well in combat? Done. All these new creative controls and openness that attracted us with their shininess are, in reality, an abandonment of the very tenets of ‘Class based’ games. It utterly removes any Uniqueness from the class. How is a Thief a Thief when ANYONE can do almost everything he can do (if not quite as well)? It claims to do it in the name of creativity and player control, but in my opinion it’s really about turning the game mechanical.
Then along comes the new no-cost multi-classing system and HOLY COW! Choosing a class now only has one purpose – to obtain mechanical benefits previously restricted to other classes. Wizard with hit points? No problem. Thief with weapon specialization? Done deal. Add Thief abilities to any class cheaply? Can you say *4 Skill Points for 1st level Rogue? It was a min/maxers wet dream. It was internet builds r us. It was the absolute, total and complete end to any vestige of it being a ‘Class based’ system. It was now Skill/Ability/Build based.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually appreciate the system. It’s clean, it’s fun, it’s semi-well designed, etc. Problem is, it’s not REALLY D&D…and what makes me so mad is, I never really saw it at the time. I knew I still liked something about the older editions, but could never analyze it fully. There were a TON of fixes and improvements to the game that did nothing to break ‘Class based’. Saving throw overhaul, AC and general combat streamlining, etc. In fact, in one way it was actually superiorly ‘Class based’. Unique classes.
That’s right, even though they took away some classes abilities and made them available to everyone, and even though they let everyone be almost any combination of classes they wanted any time with hardly any restrictions, they got rid of the idea of class groups and sub-classes completely and tried to make every class unique and shine on it’s own (and then let you give it all the other skills and abilities you wanted and ruined the whole thing). They even cut down on the hybriding of classes somewhat. Oh, you can still see elements of Paladins being Fighter/Clerics, but with so many different abilities and restrictions and such it was no longer all it was. Paladins were DEFINITELY their own class finally. The same was true for most of the others.
It also did good in removing Kits as any kind of mechanical device. Classes were classes, and the rest (after multi-classing the feating/skilling the crap out of them) was roleplaying fluff. Sadly they then immediately made it even worse by creating Prestige Classes…which were kits with overpowering mechanical ability differences. On the good side they definitely retained Uniquenesses, but it was still a way to move away from the strictures of a truly ‘Class based’ game somewhat.
4th edition I know the least about. I’ve played it a little, but never enjoyed it enough to get into. In fact, at first I hated it. After spending time studying it, however, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of the theory and design elements that went into it. I don’t agree with the final product for my groups, but I totally get that it’s a viable game choice for other groups. Bottom line, it’s even more different from D&D than 3rd edition was.
With regards to class a couple major changes took place. First, they abandoned totally open mechanical multi-classing and went with a slightly more limited form of power-based multi-classing. While one could still argue this as exploitive to a ‘Class based’ game, it was far less so than 3rd edition.
Second, they finally brought up Roles officially and addressed them. Rather than use them as a singular definition of class however, they used them as a guideline when assigning and balancing class abilities. So, with both Fighters and Paladins being of the Defender Role we expect to see abilities relating to that. However Roles were not assigned Uniquely, so that one class may exhibit aspects of other Roles. In this way too Roles are less a strict definition of ‘Class’ and more of just another way to view and play a class.
They also finally dealt with Power Sources, though again not in a defining way. Initially keeping to Martial, Divine, and Arcane they eventually grew to other sources as well, but it was once again more of a categorical way of understanding a Class than as a singularly defining element of it.
Sadly not all was roses however. They kept, though altered, Prestige classes. While they reduced the impact of skills they retained the system in a way that still allowed some violation of Class Uniqueness, though not as badly as 3rd edition had done. Sadly they expanded greatly upon the Feat system, merging it with the idea of Powers (ie Class abilities) somewhat. This created an even worse breaking of ‘Class based’ mechanics in this regard. For many the worst thing about 4th was how, in turning to the Power system, they had altered the feel for a lot of us regarding Class Uniqueness. Fighters (and other non-magicals) suddenly seemed to have a magical flavor, and that chaffed with people greatly. The Uniqueness of Magic-Users compared to Sorcerers seemed somewhat diminished (rather true or not, that was the feeling).
No edition of the game really used Attributes or Affiliations effectively as a defining characteristic of Class, but nearly all mixed in at least portions of them. There are also clearly most of the other definitions evidenced at various points along the evolution of the game. For this reason I have to say that D&D, while thought to be ‘Class based’, has always been an artistic blending of class elements rather than a strict definition thereof. Not until 4th did they begin to openly address this blending and seek to use it as a balancing element. I don’t believe they got it right, but at least they tried it.
So now 5th edition is looking back and trying to bring the editions together, but improve and unify them. GREAT. Ideally that should mean a more scientific blending of all the various defining elements I’ve talked about behind the idea of making the best ‘Class based’ game they can. When I read their releases, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be where they’re going at all. They seem to be using a percentage rule…whichever methods were in use the most gain prominence, and the rest gets back burnered (if included at all). That’s not evolution, it’s devolution. The very idea of sub-classes denies Uniqueness (as well as bringing up a whole host of other problems as discussed in the 1st and 2nd edition reviews earlier), and that should be what we’re blending all the elements to obtain.
What’s even worse is my trepidation over continued focus on Skills and Feats. Saying they’re modular is a big step, but the bottom line is that they mostly belong in Skill or Power/Ability based games, not ‘Class based’ games…at least unless they’re VERY careful to keep them relegated to a separate function like they were as proficiencies in the earlier editions. We certainly don’t want to see large mechanical benefits from them that imitate or minimize unique class abilities. They can’t turn a Magic-User into a swordsman, and shouldn’t be where Thieves find their class abilities.
Now they talk about backgrounds and themes. I can see where backgrounds could be used in lieu of secondary skills or early character development. I can see where it might suggest packages of skills, or even replace skill checks in some way. I wouldn’t even get bent out of shape if it was a way to suggest possible different ways to play various classes (like the 4 fighter examples I gave earlier). I don’t think it’s particularly useful like that, but at least it’s not offensive and doesn’t break the ‘Class based’ mantra. UNLESS it’s used as they’re suggesting, in such a way that members of a class other than Thief might gain abilities Unique to Thieves.
Themes could have been much the same, but instead it seems like it’s going the way of kits or (*gasp*) Prestige classes. This just raises all those issues all over again. If they restrict themes to certain classes then maybe it’s not such a huge deal, but then instead of kits or prestige classes we’re getting sub-classes and back to all that again. If we strip out the ability granting parts then we’re left with nothing more than a roleplaying choice. That’s a fine thing to offer players, but is hardly ground breaking or necessary.
Another part of the whole background and theme debate is that both seem focused on skills and feats, which in no way need to be a part of the game. If they are included they need to be optional, and once they are then so are backgrounds and themes. That means that a huge percentage of the development of 5th isn’t about embracing ‘Class based’ gaming, but finding ways to exploit or escape ‘Class based’ restrictions.
This all forces us to deal with rather or not we want D&D to stay ‘Class based’. Personally I consider it at least as important as the 6 attributes, the main races, etc. I think maintaining the Uniqueness of long running classes is vital to the essence of D&D. I wouldn’t mind to see it cleaned up, and integrated (and even balanced) more with other parts of the game, but I want it to be ENTIRELY ‘Class based’. No more sub-classes, no more hybrids, no more multi-classing, no more class abilities as skills or feats, no more one class ‘feeling’ like another. Uniqueness through the balance of the other five elements and always keeping the goal of Unique flavor at the forefront. Embrace the original nature of the game…run with ‘Class based’. It’s one of the big things that keeps D&D different than other games.
For people who dislike ‘Class based’ games, why are you even playing D&D (except maybe 3rd edition)? Class based is what it is. I suppose if they manage to pull of absolute modularity in 5th edition it would be possible to have our class game and you do a skill game and so on ad infinitum. I’m skeptical however. I think the basic type of game it is requires core commitment. If you want skill based or whatever else wouldn’t you rather play a game that was designed entirely for that from the ground up? It’s not that I don’t want you in ‘my game’, it’s that I’m trying to be true to the nature and intent of the game, allowing for evolutions and improvements where possible to provide the best game of its type. If that’s done it couldn’t possibly be the best game of any other type, so it seems like other options would be better for that.
Saturday, February 18, 2012, 4:54 AM
This is part 1 of a 3 part series that's being posted in a forum thread on why people see the editions so differently. I'm just reposting it here for ease of location.
For the last 32+ years pen and paper roleplaying has been my central leisure activity. I've played with numerous devoted groups and had countless casual players introduced to the game (probably in the 50-75 total players range). Over the course of my gaming I've probably DMd/refereed about 3/4 of the time, and played the rest. In that time I've played dozens of games. Some were dismal one shotters, and some were much loved and played continuously through their editions and evolutions. None of them, however, have had the same importance and love that I bear the Dungeons & Dragons products. I, or my groups, have also written three full games that we play (the first was an original light hearted superhero game, the second a home rules version of D&D which is essentially our own 5th edition, and the third is a revision of the Boot Hill game).
While none of this makes me any kind of expert, I hope it provides enough background to avoid casual dismissal of my input. Nothing which I write here is meant to be 'the one truth'. It's based on our experiences and opinions, and naturally developed to accommodate our play styles and preferences. In no way do we feel that anyone else should agree with us, or feel pressured to play like us. All we ask is that in return you pay us the same courtesy.
There are three ways to analyze and compare the five main editions of D&D: by marketplace, by mechanics, and by feel. I'm not going to include the white box since it was such a limited game both in product development and distribution. Nothing against that version, since it is the progenitor, it just doesn't fit with what you're asking. Also it's important to note that Basic D&D was being developed alongside AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, not before or after them, so comparisons with that game aren't meant as evolutionary considerations (except in so far as Basic D&D was the evolution of the white box). That version had its own purpose and following quite apart from the AD&D line that continues through 4th edition today.
First let's look at market comparisons.
1st edition and Basic developed out of the shadows. There were hobby stores (mostly models), and there were comic shops, and there were book stores...but there were no (or very few at least) gaming stores at the time. The fantasy and science fiction section at our major book dealers was the size of a small home freestanding bookshelf, and contained mostly stuff dating back decades. Bradbury was given more focus than Tolkien, and Terry Brooks only had one book out when AD&D released.
D&D was a dirty basement secret, like alcoholism or transvestites. It was mostly understood by geeks...shut-ins, introverts, and dreamers. There was no mainstream nerd culture at the time. You could expect people involved in this interest to be highly intelligent, with similar fields of interest. Near the end of the run we experienced both the emergence of that culture, and the inevitable afterbirth of the opposition movement (mostly by the ultra-religious, surprise surprise).
The D&D cartoon entered the Saturday morning scene (which was about the only time cartoons graced televisions back then, other than the Disney family movie once a week). You also had the debut of things like Mazes and Monsters, which in my opinion caused more hysteria damage in this country than War of the Worlds and The Day After combined. Then again, maybe I'm biased.
My point is that while D&D (and a few straggling other games until the mid 80s) existed it was nothing close to mainstream, and as such it remained aloof and independent. People who were already geared towards this interest had to seek it out, and in so doing demonstrated a dedication to it before they ever played. Think of it as a LGBT support group when they first started forming in NY and SF coffee shops...imagine the emotions and relief when you first discover that there were others like you, and somewhere you could be yourself, and be safe.
While 1st edition was the ‘total package’, targeting the established members of the above demographics, basic was a bridge between white box and AD&D...an introduction to the game meant to simplify the rules. It was also somewhat ‘vanilla’ compared to the racier, more mature subjects and themes of its big brother. I have since read both that it was targeted at a younger audience, and that it existed only to solve legal disputes, but I can’t speak to the validity of either claim. I can say that it did seem like younger and newer players steered towards the box sets, while older or more experienced groups gravitated towards AD&D. It wasn’t until Mentzer’s edition of basic appeared in ’83 that this version developed into a fully formed game, rather than an introduction. When it did we saw an increase in more serious groups using the system. By the release of 2nd edition, basic D&D was every bit as complex and developed as AD&D…at least if you included all the optional published materials.
By the time 2nd edition arrived (with Basic continuing in full swing) things had changed somewhat. Oh, people still considered gamers geeks and nerds and dweebs (and, to be fair, that was the majority of the gaming population still), but there were a lot of companies of varying success that were established by now with many MANY games. You started getting hobby shops dedicating a good portion (or even all) their business to roleplaying games, and the emerging home computer/console video game markets. This created a public storefront for what had a few years earlier been a private, secret activity. Small home groups suddenly found other groups and individuals. Ideas and opinions were shared and exchanged. It became common to play in public, and have an audience. The business potential for the industry was limitless, and coincided with the economic boom of the 90s to propel the industry from mom and pops with limited consumers to major corporations offering their wares to every person.
It's also VERY important to note that 2nd edition came out after 12 years of 1st edition/basic D&D dominance (15 if you include the white box years). That's half a generation or more playing the same game; half a generation of people who were brutally labeled as defective and living isolated lives, with a sudden outlet into enfranchisement. For those new players to the game, they had only a few years of such being ostracized and alone before gaming became available to them. So, it was enough to empathize with previous edition players, but not quite so...broken.
Anyway, Saturday morning cartoons had given way to morning and afternoon cartoons, across multiple networks. In fact, entire networks started emerging catering to those looking for fantasy and escape. Hollywood started putting out more and more movies (with a bigger and bigger budget) to this niche. There was a dual effect from all this: on the one hand more people became exposed and were willing to engage with such activities, but on the other competition for gamer attention increased, meaning limited resources (time and money) had to be carefully managed and divided between all the options.
The game itself had also changed somewhat. It was now marketed to a slightly younger audience, and found itself more in compliance with intellectual property rules (and conversely, other games became compliant with TSR IP). Demons & devils and the like were initially removed, and later reintroduced heavily altered (remember that whole Mazes and Monsters, religious nuts lesson during 1st edition?). I include these items here as well as under feel and mechanics because I believe it to be mostly a marketing decision having impact on game system/feel design, which had not seemed to be a prominent consideration before this edition.
It’s important to see that despite some of these (and other mechanical changes) the game was a revision, not an evolution of 1st edition. It was far more about business and marketing than about game design. Many speculate this was about distancing Gygax, but I find their arguments unconvincing.
One final note, just for completeness, was the revised 2nd edition, and the addition of the Players Option line. It was released 6 years after the initial 2nd edition product line. The core was mostly supposed to be fixes, not changes, with the new options line being evolutions or new gaming ideas. I’m fairly certain that marketing played a major role in its development and release, but I can’t support my contention. Regardless, the version had a definite negative impact as enthusiasts and collectors were suddenly faced with a new potential investment, without a lot of new content (just repackaging). I say that even though I enjoyed much of what revised and the players options presented.
11 years after 2nd edition was released (this time frame is again VITALLY important) 3rd edition made its entrance. By now (26 years after the first white box hit the shelves) everyone had heard of D&D and it was no longer a sin to play it. There were gaming stores all over the world, as well as conventions, tournaments, and so on. The web was fully formed and available to all for sharing of ideas and products. Fantasy, science fiction, and gaming was fully embraced by media, the public, and entertainment. An entire ancillary industry had developed to support gaming (dice, digital devices, knick-knacks, etc). Previous stigmas had been replaced with research and common sense. This was also the time when the original game players had children of their own of an age to play the game, creating a double market to sell to.
This was the first edition released 'for the masses' in my opinion. Rather it was WotC’s influence, a market reaction, the result of mainstreaming, or the natural result of game designers having kids of their own, this edition was pacified considerably. It became far less dark and gritty than earlier editions, the art was even more ‘acceptable’ than 2nd edition had been (which was worlds away from 1st edition offerings), the ‘danger’ to characters was reduced considerably (or at least characters became much stronger), and so on. While it could be argued that much of this was driven by game design it seems far more likely that it was marketing that in some way drove the design towards these ends.
If we look at product marketing in general we see that the more generic something is, the more people it may be attractive to. If you sell a wrench set with only standard sizes, you keep metric item owners from buying it. If you instead sell both standard and metric in the same set, suddenly both owners will buy. However, having to include both types increases costs, and renders half the set useless to some people. Or to view it another way, if you make an excellent spicy dish, only people who like spice will eat it. If you cook a bland base, and offer spice or no spice options then more people will buy (though they’ll need to pick up an extra flavor packet to make it taste good to them). A final analogy would be horse riding. Many people want to ride a horse at some point, but lack any developed skill. These people need a gentle, well tamed mount and careful guidance to engage in the activity safely. Those of us who grew up on horses know that riding that way removes much of the essence of the activity, so we choose mounts more free spirited and ride off the beaten trails. A business offering only advanced mounts will have a small client base, while those who provide ‘starter horses’ can get most anyone on one. These principles became mainstream in the 90s business world, so it seems likely that WotC would have told the game designers – you need to make a product that most anyone can play and understand. This is VERY different from the game design mentality prevalent during 1st or even 2nd edition development.
We can argue chicken and egg all week, but whatever the impetus there is no question that WotC RAN with the outcome and marketed it to MUCH younger and broader audiences than ever before. I’m not claiming it was a good or bad choice, but it was DEFINTELY a difference between the editions. It was much the same as the old ‘I liked them before they were popular’ line regarding bands. Thus the marketing of 3rd edition split the game into pre-3rd and post-3rd as much as the feeling or game mechanics did.
Once again there was an interim revision to an edition, this time 3.5. Mechanics wise, and in terms of feel, this was still just the same edition for the most part (just like revised 2nd was still 2nd, and even in the way that 2nd was mostly still 1st). The big difference is, it came after only 3 years of 3rd being on the market. This release schedule is ESSENTIAL to the understanding of differences between editions. You need to REALLY think about what this means.
With earlier editions, a game was out for more than a decade before being replaced. That gives ten years for new players to find it and learn it, and many many years (depending on when they started playing in the cycle) to come to understand and love a game. It takes time to form a good group, play through all the levels, experience different settings, play different character types, etc. What’s more, as people mature their gaming experience changes DRASTICALLY. The games my group played in 6th grade were NOTHING like the games we played after a few years of college (and really learning about psychology, sociology, history, economics, etc). That let us experience an edition in all its possibilities before having a new one to sample.
Also, there’s a high cost factor in collecting these games. Even just the core 3 books is a bit of a hit to people whose primary source of income was probably a paper route or part time job after school for minimum wage. In a ten year time frame our earnings increased, and we could pick up most (if not all) of the parts of a game that were out there. This game is NOT like MtG, where a few dollars can get you access to decks and booster, or even buy the power cards singularly. You have no choice but to shell out the bucks for the whole book, even if you only like or want ten sentences and one chart in it.
So, when we look at Basic, 1st and 2nd editions, all being VERY similar in feel and mechanics, and having 26 years of market control, and compare that to 3rd edition (which was VERY different in feel and mechanics from previous editions) only being on the market for 8 years (with 5 of them being under a revised edition) before 4th came out, we have MAJOR split in the player base. Players barely had time to come to 3rd, and they were buried under 3.5. Then they barely had time to pick up books for that, and suddenly it was ripped away for something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. Players hadn’t had time to grow in the edition, or to explore all the options, or to collect all the products. I think it says something remarkable about the quality of 3rd edition that in such a short time, with a such an economic insult to adherents as the 3.5 switch was, it spawned such a loyal player base and a spinoff game (pathfinder) in order to continue it along a normal life cycle).
Of course, another major marketing factor surrounding 3rd edition was the OGL. This is an area I can’t really speak to with authority, but I’ve seen several great posts on these forums about it from insiders who dealt with it day to day and I suggest you seek them out. It appears to be a complex and pervasive enough issue to warrant a full discussion on. Suffice it to say this was yet another unique aspect of 3rd edition that set it apart from all previous editions, as well as differentiating it from 4th edition. As such it further added to the idea that 3rd ‘stands alone’ with regards to its player base.
After only 8 years on the market (5 for the revision), 3rd edition was supplanted by 4th edition. By this time, gaming and popular geekdom had been in the works for 34 years (well more than a full generation). If anything, people were now turning full circle back to seeing the dedicated intellectualism and escapism which drove the initial market push as other than desirable, and had fully claimed ‘mainstream gaming’ for the masses. While fantasy and science fiction are more popular than ever, there is widespread consensus that in many ways it continues to be delivered in a generic ‘glitz blitzkrieg’ lacking the purpose, foundation, and heart of earlier endeavors in the field. Of course, this may all be golden age fallacy, but then reality is in the perception. This has led to a revitalization movement of enthusiasts seeking to return credibility and craftsmanship to their art forms.
Perhaps this is just because most of the hobbyist/enthusiast focus of gaming (be it roleplaying, computers/consoles, or board and miniature gaming) had been usurped by business interests and capitalist models. This isn’t surprising, given the broad economic and corporate/political changes from the 80s til now. The only significant counter to this trend seems to be in the independent publishing and open source movements which, while significant, still take a back seat to the financial clout and media partnered advertising of the major corporate players.
We also have to look at the unrelated environment that 4th edition was released into. We’re talking about a world engaged in multiple wars, revolutions, economic collapses, social and cultural infighting, political divisiveness, etc. The rapid changes and gratification focus of the previous dozen or so years has created a generation with an entirely different mindset and set of values and expectations. What’s more, globalization has reached a point where competing cultural influences now take a major role in domestic productions (for instance, the popularity of anime/manga and Asian influences on entertainment). It isn’t too far flung to consider the analogy of Rome, and escalating forms of entertainment as a placation to a decadent and descending people.
Another major factor behind the 4th edition marketing (and to a lesser degree 3rd) was the importance of non pen and paper gaming. While computers and consoles have been growing in popularity since 2nd edition or a bit before, never before have they had the complexity and advances to allow them to compete directly in a largely merged field. MMOs have now been polished and perfected to the point where they’re ‘almost’ a fair replacement to table gatherings. Not just the games themselves, but the prevalence of social networking and digital distribution also has a HUGE impact on non-evolving book based rpg publishing. No longer is it just ‘publish or perish’, it’s now ‘publish to the new paradigms or perish’.
The emergence of independent or small publisher titles from multi-generational gamers have also helped to push game design theory to heights never before considered. Games like Burning Wheel aren’t just alternative games, they represent games based on critical game theory elements that had been dormant since D&D was first envisioned. This is leading to most games undergoing consideration for not just mechanical revision, but basic theory, purpose, and feeling revision. 4th edition was a product of these to a large degree.
Certainly the evolution of 4th has much in common with the advent of modern game design theory, and owes much to reverse engineering of other popular games and entertainment (the WoW factor). It has the benefit of being able to build on the shoulders of many giants, with decades to study and evolve the game into something it never was before. This is not wrong by any means, but is a clear example of why 4th is more of an isolated edition than a product continuation. Mechanically and by feel it is worlds different than pre 3rd edition games, and is even significantly different than 3rd edition. While this is covered more in later parts of my response, I want to note that it is majorly impacted by the business, marketing, and cultural environment of the day. Without question all of these factors have combined to make the 4th edition gamer a different beast than were earlier version followers.
When we now consider the rise of a 5th edition (*cough, cough* after only 4 years of 4th edition *cough*), we need to analyze it in terms of the previous versions as the old history adage about being doomed to repeat applies here. While the largely successful 3rd edition likely developed in large part from marketing and business decisions, it suffered somewhat from a glut of competition and short life cycle. To emphasize the life cycle bit one last time, 3rd and 4th editions together have only been around as long as 1st had when 2nd came out, yet they're already planning 5th edition. Moreover, the environment into which 5th will be released is similarly chaotic and disjointed to the 4th edition field, which has likely hampered its growth thus far (in stark contrast to the heyday production of 3rd edition). We also should consider that unlike previous editions of D&D, 4th (and 5th) are competing against the ongoing production of a previous edition line (3rd edition, as embodied in Pathfinder).
All of this stands largely separate from mechanical or feeling issues which are both of equal importance to those discussed here. I’ll tackle those issues in my next installment, if I ever recover from doing this one.
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 5:57 AM
As a joke I offered to compile a list of all the realism and simulation rules from early editions, in order to show that they reflected a much more grounded style of play…more low fantasy than high. Sadly, someone took me up on it and wanted to see the list. So here I am.
This will be taken from the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (easier than going box by box), and the 1st and 2nd Edition PHB’s and DMG’s. There’s a LOT more available, obviously. Periodical pieces, gazetteers, unearthed arcane, survival guides, complete books, settings, etc. But that’s a LOT of work. This gives an idea of how much was devoted to realism and simulation in the early editions without causing me an aneurysm compiling it all. After reading this, think about all the other books and magazines I didn’t include, and try to imagine how much more was there.
In choosing the items on this list, what I’m looking for is things intended to represent a real world equivalent (in history, fact, or common understanding) that aren’t necessary to have in the game (as proved by games existing that don’t include them). Often the item in question is ‘real’ only by virtue of its random determinate, or conversely that it is NOT random.
Finally, I may not repeat items which are true across all versions (like armor class being determined partially by armor type, or constant attribute bonuses like hit points from constitution). I think it’s enough to show them when they were first mentioned, then leave it to readers to know that they continued or died out. Frankly, there was little difference between Basic, 1st, and 2nd edition with regards to the focus on realism and simulation. I may end up including a few multiple times, only because I didn’t notice I already had. Ignore those.
armor class from armor, strength damage bonus in melee, intelligence language bonus, dexterity armor class bonus, constitution hit point bonus, charisma reaction bonus, alignment (I realize this one is arguable, but I stand by the idea that people have ‘types’, be they categorized as alignments or personality types or anything else), height and weight, classes in general, land-owning fighters (fealty system), knight allegiance, thieves guild membership, prime requisites (wis for priests, physical mix for fighter types, etc), Roll for money & buy equipment, missile ranges, encumbrance rules, ammunition requirements, weapon damage, set vs charge, weapon special effects, weapons, suit armor bonuses/penalties (damage reduction, movement, surprise, cost, etc), barding rules, item capacity, rations and water, riding animal niches, tack, movement speeds, water vessels (including crew, capacity, movement, strength, combat, etc), siege warfare (including weapons, crews, building costs and times, etc), weapon mastery (improved range, bonuses to ac, defensive maneuvers, special effects, etc), training time and costs (as well as finding a teacher), unskilled weapon use, opponent type damage bonuses, weapon using monsters, skills (existence, attribute bonuses, intelligence affecting, etc), optional language rules (reading/writing, difficulty of understanding, levels of mastery, etc), time (rounds, turns, days, etc), dungeon scale (feet vs yards), movement rates, exhaustion, becoming lost, food in the wild, swimming & drowning, wandering monsters, encounter distance, surprise, monster reactions, encounters by ecology, evasion and pursuit, initiative (and what impacts it), morale, combat maneuvers, attack rolls (though this is representative/aggregate and not specific, it does represent many real world factors all rolled into one), cover modifiers, range modifiers, unarmed combat (different types, effects, modifiers, etc), aerial combat (special attacks, etc), naval combat (strategies, etc), mass combat rules, (all sorts of stuff, including tactics, mercy, logistics, etc), paths to immortality (largely compiled from our own myths and legends), hiring of retainers, specialists, dominions (titles, dealing with authorities, forms of address, construction, upkeep, costs and time, staff, peasants, administration, income, confidence, etc), aging impacts, alignment changes (again, I know this is contentious, but I can support its validity through psychological examples), climbing, damage to items, door types, record keeping, retiring characters, monsters (many based on our animals, mythology, etc), size modifiers, environmental variations, immortals (meant to reflect religion, and based somewhat on our own mythologies), treasure weight and worth as well as determining it, gems, jewelry, spell components/magic item components (based on our own ancestral practices), setting guidelines (based on our own views of culture/society, and our own understandings of anthropology)
Attribute restrictions by race and gender, strength to military press conversion, intelligence controlling learning chances (for wizards specifically, but as an idea in general), initiative impacted by dexterity, dexterity impacting thief abilities, system shock survival, charisma impacting followers, level titles, druids (focusing on them for this line: “druids can be visualized as medieval cousins of what the ancient celtic sect of druids would have become had it survived the roman conquest.” Doesn’t get much more ‘simulates middle ages with a few differences than that), illusionist (both dex and int as focus, making them akin to real world illusionists), monks (just for the ongoing discussion about monks being barroom brawlers or alignment neutral: “monks are monastic aesthetics who practice rigorous mental and physical training and discipline in order to become superior” ), money changers, loansharking, limited weapon proficiencies, double damage on charge with some weapons, space required for weapon use, speed factors, armor class adjustments for weapons, light, vision, natural healing, successful adventure preparation & followup (equipment availability and upkeep, spell components, henchmen care, wills, formations, sop’s, mapping, evil player actions, dealing with treasure, injuries, training, local impacts, reputation, etc), bard colleges, Gaussian distribution of attributes, use of mathematics (statistics & probability especially), secondary skills, class impacts on age, parasitic infestation, maximum ages, percentage strength relation to lifting, intelligence as iq, racial tendencies, spying (time, resources, failure, etc), lycanthropy (not that it’s real, but it’s really from OUR literature and mythology), helm restrictions, lack of head protection danger, expert hirelings (types of soldiers, sage specialties, etc), time (this line specifically: “You can not have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept.” And yes, it was all in caps like that), maneuverability classes, dinosaurs, demons and devils from OUR mythology, hull values, ship sizes, wind direction and force rules, burning of ships, naval terminology, underwater rules (breathing, vision, movement, spell reactions, etc), planar travel (environments, etc), infravision, ultravision, invisibility rules, listening at doors, factors contributing to surprise, facings and engagement, attacks of opportunity, item saves, zero and negative hit point rules (maybe not perfect, but attempting to represent a real situation), intoxication, insanity/mental illness, climate & ecology primer, social class and rank, forms of government, titles by culture, economics primer (including taxation, etc), impacts of player territorial development, personae traits, monster organization, underground construction, integrating other game worlds/realities (showing how real life things like gunslingers or technology can integrate into game), spell research (based on common principles of alchemy or scientific research), alchemy and ingredient properties, gambling,
Class examples (paladins as Sir Lancelot, rangers as Robin Hood, etc), getting into armor, armor sizes/fits, specific encumbrance, modified movement rates, tournament mount encumbrance, mechanical impacts from encumbrance, illusion disbelief, casting time of spells, weapon type vs armor modifiers, expanded combat modifiers, expanded initiative modifiers, full parrying, expanded proficiencies (both weapon and non-weapon), letters of credit, coinage lesson, equipment by time period, lock qualities, horse quality, horse traits, weapon quality, spell book capacity, grenadelike bounce and effects, shields and frontage, pole arms and frontage, hitting specific targets, retreat options, firing into melee, boulders and large missiles, specific injuries, herbalism healing, scroll creation requirements and primer, terrain effects, care of animals
A quick note about 2nd edition since it appears it had few realism/simulation rules. By this time most of the previous rules were already and still in effect. In addition, 2nd edition was all about more books. While the core contained few revisions/expansions to 1st edition, the overwhelming piles of optional and expansion information was most about realism and simulation. This is where all the complete books fall, as well as players options books and so on. I almost was willing to go through a bunch of them as example, but it’s impossible to choose which ones rationally and would just be a ton of extra work.
Bottom line, while even the creators of D&D said it wasn’t supposed to be a realistic simulation of anything, the vast array of rules to do just that rather effectively dispels this notion. This is especially true if you look at later editions, and how few of the above rules were carried forward as a focus. The game is certainly not a perfect simulation, but it tried awfully hard to make the game realistic and believable (even if it was a fantasy rpg).
Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 9:59 PM
When we started writing our own version of D&D to address the failings of 4th (in our eyes) I decided I really wanted to go through every edition with my groups and try to understand them. What they were, what we liked and disliked or weren't sure about, etc. The following is that list.
I'll repost just the list (not the explanation/discussion). Note that a lot of it won't make sense without those because it's shorthand and often appears contradictory, but I can clear up any specific questions if needed. Also note that I only listed feelings about a particular thing on multiple editions if it was because something about it changed.
Also, this is just from the iniital core books for the most part. There are a couple entries from Unearthed Arcana, and a few from the players option series of 2nd edition, but only very few. We were more interested in what the core of the game was than what it could modified to be.
Like - Mapper/Caller (birth of roleplaying tradition), 3D6 Attribute rolls, Prime Requisites, Individual Classes, Equalized Money, THAC0, Delayed/Lowered Cleric Magic, Land Owning, Tiers, Wizard Restricted Weapons, Thief Skills %, thieves guild, Short Spell Lists, Weapon Mastery, Paths to Immortality, Setting, dwarves anti magic thief/fighters, elves magic fighter/mage, training requirements, unskilled weapon use, simplified aggregate combat, simple combat maneuvers, secret rolls, special weapons (custom magic items)
Dislike - Prime Requisites, Race as Class, Mystic & Druid but not others, adjusting ability scores, Saving Throw categories, Alignment, alignment languages, redundant bonuses/penalties (prme req exp ie), lack of theology (esp clerics), Land Owning, tier spacing (land own @ 9), limited fighter abilities, demi-human level limits, Halfling just thieves, combat sequence, experience from treasure, currency system (roe), magic item creation, planes
??? - Cleric Edged/Pointed Restrictions, 36 Level Limit, thief hps, inverted AC, intelligence relation to language, paladin/knight/avenger distinction, magist (ie court wizard), reversible spells, skills by attribute (rather than class), morale
Like – racial attribute modifiers, Dwarves Non-magical, Separate Druid/Illusionist/Bard Spell lists, Class Level titles, magic users proprietary use of magic items, M/S/V Components, Uniqueness of high level figures in each class, Thief Skill % gains, 4 Base Classes, gemstone value, druid/monk/illustionists/ranger/paladin, 9 Alignments, Limited Spell Slots, Limited Spell Lists, Bard Colleges, sub-races UA, Barbarian UA, Monk, Social Class UA, bards, variable ages, mundane treasures, magical component properties of items, spell scarcity/acquisition, focus on travel issues and encounters, artifacts/relics, gambling, traps/tricks/dressing
Dislike - Level Disambiguation, % Strength, Racial Class Restrictions, racial level limits, Halfbreeds, Gnomes Non-magical, Gnomes without niche, Halflings Hobbit-like but thieves, Multiple Hit Dice, Level Limits, Illusionist purely magical, Assassins, Multi-Classing, Money Breakdown, Distance in “, Poisons, Psionics, minimal shield usefulness, bards
??? - Humans have no bonuses, Attacks per round progression, Languages, Cavalier UA, Hirelings/Henchmen, Turns/Rounds/Segments, Different Vision Types, Saving Throws, Acrobat, Halflings Non-magical, attribute limits by gender/race, chance to learn spell, system shock/res survival, miniature reliance, secondary skills, sages, prepared priest spells, varied encounter mediums (air/water/planar), item saves from magical effects
Like - Class Groups, Fighter unique weapon specialization, paladin tithe, schools of magic, opposition schools for specialists, spheres, mythos requirements and benefits, limited druids of a level, having proficiencies, speed factor, weapon types, encumbrance and storage, spell components, different thac0s by class, simple unarmed combat rules, fighting styles PO, exceptional con regen, weapon type versus armor, horse quality/traits, itemized experience
Dislike - Fighter Auto-proficiency w/all weapons, ranger code of morality, ranger two weapon specialist, paladin alignment, mage no benefit from constructing holding, lesser divination, opposition schools for specialists, limited druids of a level, thief read languages, bards get mage spells, multi & dual classing, splitting proficiencies weapon & non-weapon, different proficiency slots by class and level, odd attacks/rnd, different money by class, different weapon damage by size, saving throws, combined spell lists, different spell levels mage vs cleric, equal spell distribution among levels, high number of spells, gnome magic item failure, multiple attacks and initiative, maneuverability classes
??? - Class Groups, rangers get druid spells, paladin get priest spells, d8 for priests, priests portrayed as church soldiers, minor/major access spheres, instructors/times/costs/availability of proficiencies, proficiencies by class, Character Points, spell immunity from high wis/int, dwarf trouble with magic items, paladins as good only, living expenses/maintenance/lifestyle, item quality, importance of tactics & combat maneuvers, mixed die use & mixed target #s
Like - equal ability modifiers, views of int/wis/cha & roleplaying, giving races bonuses in niche, differing base speed by race/size, gnome tendency towards illusion, size mattering, Halflings closer to kinder, expanded classes, single leveling chart, attribute increases with level, barbarians, bard spell list, bard countersong, druids, fighter bonus fighting feats, monks, ranger favored enemy, vital attack over backstab, sorcerers inherent power casting, wizard bonus metamagic, class unique powers, spell in armor restrictions, skill ranks, simplified skill check system, higher starting skills than per level, single religion based on setting, aging impacts, metric money, weapon sizes, armor impacts & limitations, masterworks, dying to -10, style choices, behind the curtain, degrees of success, variant power components
Dislike - scope of attributes (1-45+), blanket inability to use spells for low stat, human gets few racial advantages and no dis, gnomes aren’t unique enough, Halflings having no homeland, clerics too militant, too much weapon proficiency by classes (ie groups), paladin split focus (purpose, attributes, knight/priest, etc), ranger two-weapon, ranger weapon groups, loss of rogue % skills, sorcerers as dragon born, imbalanced skills per ability, skill point distribution, feats separate from class, lack of mount focus, prestige classes
??? - favored classes, inherent racial proficiencies (weapon especially), halfbreeding, multiclassing, BAB, unique classes/abandon class groups, bard ‘spells’, clerics all armor types, spontaneous casting, druid weapon list, loss of backstab, rogues only for trap detection, int spell level requirements, other than wizard familiar, class skills, DC for all die rolls, taking 20, trained only skills, some feat functionality, combat as miniatures, critical ranges and damage by weapon, double weapons, streamlined and unified rolling, action types, bard/sorcerer spontaneous casting, counterspelling, 4d6 for attributes, skills relation to classes
Like – The core mechanic (d20 roll high), three basic rules, unique classes, warlord, character role, classes unique, Standard array for attributes, background questions, three tiers, dwarven stand your ground, slightly larger halflings, power sources, no plate for clerics, take 10, traps, cooperation on skills, short rest/extended rest, ongoing damage, double move, campaigns, player motivations, building a party, dm style, kinds of games, table rules, chronicling a game, modes of the game, narration, pacing, props, diseases, posions, fantastic terrain, puzzles
Dislike – the core mechanic (d20 roll high), magic is everywhere, messed with races, parcels, dragonborn, eladrin, tieflings, messed with classes, character role, class powers, attribute powers (starting & ending), alignments, diety choices, speed in squares, power sources, paragon paths, blanket weapon allowance for clerics, few general skills having wide sub-skills, skills getting level bonus, skills one train only, thief abilities as skill, feats, no medium armors, simple/military/superior, magic item economy, item slots, base ac bonus, death threshold
??? – warlock, dual attribute saves, healing surges, personality traits, retraining, heroic tier (nothing lower?), dwarven encumbrance speed, more human powers, some prayers/powers if done as spells/abilities, weapon groups (2nd ed was better), implements, +-epic destinies, residuum, magic items (easy categories, but boilerplate), rituals, action types, level ac bonus, conditions, criticals, creature size and space, push/pull/slide, action points, bloodied, artifacts