Hail everyone! :D
I've been wanting to make some comments about all the discussion rolling around the net for a long time now, but kept postponing it to focus on other activities.
No more! Now, I'll add my voice and thoughts about all these interesting debates about my favorite hobby - RPGs .
Some background about me
Yeah, I know, ridiculous - but this is just to give you and idea of where my perspectives lie.
Technically, I began playing RPGs with AD&D about 14 years ago. However, I played very little of it and began to really delve into RPGs with D&D 3rd edition. I played 3.0 and 3.5 for years - and GMed Star Wars for just about as long as I played D&D. Eventually, D&D 4 was launched and I was hooked - basically, every complaint and problem I had with 3.5 was fixed in this edition. For some time at least - after Essentials launched, I saw to return to design decisions I did not like, and thus, stopped buying 4e books. I have been a D&D Insider member almost from day one, as my yearly subscriptions can attest. Even though I don't buy 4e books anymore, I'm still paying for the service.
So, if you need to label me - and I know some of you will do - you could say I'm your "4e Classic fan". As such, a lot of my opinions and perspectives will eventually support this archetype, but I like to believe my opinions and beliefs actually go beyond such simple categorization...
Much like every nerd on the planet, I have a lot of opinions about the stuff I like. Right now, the game I like is going through the exciting time of "edition change". And by that, I truly mean "exciting time" - edition wars may rage, doomsayers may proliferate, but this is still interesting and instigating .
So, I read a lot of good opinions and views around the net - on forums, on blogs, on the D&D website. And I don't think the "comments" section in most of these really allow for a good debate.
With that in mind, and with a desire to discuss these matters, I'll start these "so called" Reaction Blogs. In these posts, I'll pick an article, another blog, an annoucement and express my opinions about the topics engaged.
So, for better or worse, I'll be expressing a lot of thoughts here on Wizards from now on . I plan to talk about Legends & Lore, Rule of Three, The Jester's blog, and every blog, topic or discussion I think would be interesting to participate .
Reaction to Rule of Three 03/27/2012
So, this first reaction is to today's Rule of Three!
If you haven't read, you should do it now - I'll be tackling issues raised in that article .
1- How do you plan to improve Solo monsters in D&D Next?
A decent question, if you ask me. The answer also touches in a interesting topic of D&D Next. If you have been keeping up with RoT, you may have read this other article - and the first answer on that article touches on issues raised by the question above.
Back in another Wizard article - I believe I'm referring to one of the excerpts of D&D Experience, but I may need to confirm this later - the designers have stated that one of the underlying problems of 4e is the "mechanical jargon". 4e is very explicit about it's mechanics - it does little to hide them behind a veil of fluff or realism. "Solos", "minions", "surges", "short an extended rests", all these are gaming jargon that 4e embraces and promotes. In the designers opinion, to some people, this breaks immersion and remind them they are playing a game, in contrast to playing in a narrative.
While I can partially agree with the designers, this suggests that D&D Next is going to attempt to "hide back" all this gaming jargon. This answer is just part of a trend that is being exposed by the designers for some time now.
The answer to today's article suggests that while the "experience of facing a single monster" will exist and D&D Next and is, in fact, a staple of some D&D battles, the "Solo" designation for monsters will not exist. This is reinforced by last week's answer that suggest that the "minion" designation will also not exist - even though some monsters will eventually function as minions, as the game progresses.
In the end, the great intent behind this is to "hide the mechanics" and cut the jargon. Monsters will not be categorized as they were in 4e, since giving labels such as "solo, minion and elite" creates gaming jargon that has nothing to do with narrative presentation of these monsters or a basis in realism.
This attitude is reinforced by yesterday's Legends & Lore, where Mike Mearls defends the idea that while character roles may exist in the game, they should not be labeled so.
It is interesting to note however the general reaction in the comments section of this last Legends & Lore article - some people are strong supporters of the idea that classes are certainly going to have roles, even if the designers don't state them. People will still call the cleric a "healer", even if the rules don't clearly state that. So why don't be clear about that from the start, on the chance that a totally new player, who has no idea of what a cleric is, can easily recognize and categorize the class just by reading a single word defining its role in the gameplay?
To me, that's the same idea of categorizing monsters into "Solo/Elite/Minion". Let's take, for example, the beholder. If you search in the database, you'll see that they're divided between solo monsters and elite monsters. There's even a "minion" beholder - newly bred ones.
These categories help a lot when creating an encounter and tells the DM what to expect. Some beholders are intended to be used with other creatures, others are intended to be use as "boss fights". A Beholder Eye of Death should have some other creatures with it, while a Beholder Death Emperor is fine on it's own. I can easily tell that because of their respective elite and solo designations.
Take these away, and you suddenly have a harder time identifying what roles these monsters should have. Sure, you can write me a paragrpah or two about how I should use a monster, but without categories like Solo/Elite/Minion and even roles like Artillery/Controller/Soldier, etc, I'll have to read each paragraph of each monster everytime I come to the decision point of choosing monsters for a certain encounter.
So, while stripping away this jargon will appease past edition players who are offended by it, in effect, it removes a potent tool on the side of the GM - the ability to easily recognize and categorize monsters with a glance instead of reading through descriptive paragraphs and internalizing experience about the game.
I don't think the benefits of "hiding mechanics" and "cutting gaming jargon" outwheigh the benefits of creating good divisions and labels for the mechanics in the game. For me, it's fundamental that these exist to facilitate gameplay.
2- Can you give us any more insight into the multiclassing goals for D&D Next?
I'm a bit torn on multiclassing as well. On one hand, 3e-like-multiclassing allows a greater espectrum of archetypes to be built - wich is an interesting thing on a RPG. On the other, 3e-like-multiclassing is easily abused, and easily provides overpowered or underpowered characters. Eventually, 3e-like-multiclassing also begs the question - if you want to blurr the lines between classes and allow a player to mix and match abilites, why bother with classes at all? Why not go classless like so much other RPG systems?
I have experienced multiclassing in 3e and like most, found it wanting. It's prone to unbalace, and seeing its return would not be a good thing.
However, I've also experienced "3e-like-multiclassing" in a game where it worked much better than in its original form - Star Wars Saga Edition. At least using only the core book, the system remained pretty balanced. Evidently, classes and prestige classes lost some of their "identity", since they were less "this is a built archetype" and more like "this is a class with abilities that will reinforce this archetype". Class meant "less" in Saga - your character was defined much more by the array of abilites it gathered than the name of the classes he took. Star Wars Saga is a system where a character can have three base classes and three prestige classes and still be an elegantly designed character who truly represent one archetype as opposed to a character that seems like a schizophrenic salad.
At any rate, a "3e-like-multiclassing" that really works will undoubtly dilute class identity. Characters will not be defined by the classes chosen, but by the archetype created by the player. An interesting notion - and that's why most RPGs go classless and do away with class identity entirely.
However, that begs the question, is this what you truly want to D&D? I could live with D&D being classless. I could live with a D&D where multiclassing makes class identity effectively meaningless. Do you?
That's the question the designers should be asking themselves - if they manage to truly create a "3e-like-multiclassing" that works - as the one in Star Wars Saga does - class identity will suffer a severe blow. Cleric stops being a class with a fixed identity and becomes just a bunch of mechanical options that "clericlizes" a character. In other words, class becomes less of a "point" and becomes more of a "direction".
Interesting - but may very well upset the very people you're trying so hard to please - players of older editions...
Of course, let us remember that D&D Next is supposed to be modular - we may very well have multiple multiclass systesm. And in that case, I wonder at how feasible would be to expect ALL these multiclass systems to be balanced towards each other...
3- I love the Burst, Blast and Area spells in 4th ED, but I have to admit that I have been secretly praying you guys would bring back my beloved Cone and Line spells. Will you guys be bringing those effects back to mages near me?
The answer here raises an issue much greater than the question originaly sought to tackle. Apparently, "grid" will not be the default assumption of the game.
Having played mostly 3e and 4e, I can assure you that for my base games, I'll certainly go "grid" . However, I think it is fundamental that the game support a "gridless" game as well. There are some types of campaigns who pratically beg for a gridless approach.
The question is - is it easier to insert the grid into a gridless game or to take it out of a gridded one? :D
That one is thougher. My bet is that it is easier to add the grid to a game who does not make it the default, but there are other matters involved here. Let's suppose that 90% of the D&D player base uses grid. Let's suppose that adding the grid in D&D Next is easy, even though it's extra work. Is it wise then to ask 90% of your player base to do extra work for the sake of 10%? On the other hand, is it fair to ask 10% of your player base to have even harder work to take the grid out of the game?
As I said - though question. I wish the designers are able to solve it in a way that pleases most people...
As for the issue raised by the question itself, I've always defended the idea that, if you're using a grid, the game should go to lenghts to make the grid easy to use. That is not the case of D&D 3.X area spells and movement. I don't want realism - I want a gamism approach to the grid. I've houserule the 3.X grid to a more "grid friendly system" for ages before 4th finally came and made my rules the default assumption .
One last note - whatever you choose, please, include "squares" in the stat blocks. I live in a country where the metric system is used, and sometimes, the "feet" in 3.X were reeeeeally problematic. I've been accostumed to "think in squares" in 3.X exactly for this reason - it was easier to internalize the "squares" in the area than the "area in feet"...
So, that's it for the first reaction blog . I know its a little long winded, and you can bet that most posts will be just as long :P.
Hope someone out there will find it useful somehow :D.
Cya all, and goog gaming!