Sunday, January 25, 2009

4th edition: Commentary p1

Holy Toledo! Even the spiders have more legs in 4th ed!

Just kidding. Actually the picture to the right is of a Solifugae, of which the dreaded camel spider is one, even though it is really not a spider at all. However, it is still rather nasty, and I would not want to get bit by one.

A snippet from Wikipedia:

Solifugae is an order of Arachnida, containing more than 1,000 described species in about 140 genera. The name derives from Latin, and means those that flee from the sun. The order is also known by the names Solpugida, Solpugides, Solpugae, Galeodea and Mycetophorae. Their common names include camel spider, wind scorpion, sun scorpion and sun spider. Solifugae are not true spiders, which are from a different order, Araneae. Like scorpions and harvestmen, they belong to a distinct arachnid order.

Last night I was running my first 4th edition adventure using Brave Halfling Publishing’s The Ruins of Ramat as a base. My son has discovered my 4th ed books, and he has decided that he likes this better than C&C. I suspect that he likes the additional powers and abilities that the 4th ed characters have, and the perception of that they are more powerful than their earlier counterparts. While this is true, everything gets a massive bump in 4th ed. It’s a bit of inflation that I personally feel is not necessary.

This brings me back to my opening comment. The first encounter was a nerfed deathjump spider. I swapped out the crab spider for the 4th ed version spider, which prompted me to look for the above mentioned camel spider, and this proved to be a bit of a challenge for the two characters that my son was bringing through the adventure. He is still working on coordinating attacks with his characters, and has not quite mastered the finer points of 4th ed combat, but I am sure that will come in time.

One of my earlier blogs, I was ranting on a bit about the inflation bloat that is present in 4th ed, and I have been meaning to revisit the topic. I have enclosed a chart of some randomly selected weapons and have charted how the damage has changed throughout the various editions. I know that the picture is rather small, but you can double click on it to see the enlarged version. As I claimed in my earlier post, there is a noticeable weapon damage inflation that is present.

As time has gone by, some would say that inflation was going to happen. While I agree that a little is ok, by the time we get to 4th ed, it is a tad too much. I grew up on 1st ed, and have only played a little bit of OD&D. As a player I enjoyed the inflation from OD&D to 1st ed, and I believe this was a modest increase. However, we are a point now where it is really too much.

As weapon damage goes up, monster HD and HP’s go up as well. For example, let’s look at a couple of monsters. A grey wolf, which is a level 2 skirmisher, has 38 hp’s! Let’s look at another example. A level 1 kobold skirmisher has 27 hps. Now I realize that minions only have 1 hp, and I actually like this idea, but as you move beyond minions, the monsters themselves have a lot of hit points.

I realize that combat is one of the more interesting points in the game, and I think everyone likes to roll the attack dice and lay down some smack, but I personally do not want every combat going two hours. It feels like the intent of the game is to have combat be an epic affair. I am not sure that I am fully aligned to this concept. I think there should be some epic combats, but most combats should be resolved fairly quickly, otherwise the entire game bogs down. Count me in the group that likes to streamline things, and minimize the dice rolls, as the more dice that are rolled, the longer things will stretch out. I would much rather role play an encounter than perform numerous skill checks to figure out what happens. The same goes for combat.

As I get more exposure to 4th ed, it feels like a miniature’s game rather than a true role play game. Some folks may take this to mean that I am not a fan of 4th ed, and that is not true at all, although I am ranting a bit here. It is just moving a bit far from its original roots, but it is still a fine game in its own right.

As it appears that my son can produce a character or two a day, I suspect that I will be playing more 4th ed, and I will be providing additional commentary as appropriate. All things considered, this is not a bad thing!


Anonymous said...

A tiny nitpick: Damage moving d6+1 to d8 is hardly an increase; the mean and median both remain static.

Also: Spear should be highlighted, as the damage increased.

Nitpicking aside, I too think that pointless inflation in numbers is a negative. It should also be noted that in 4e healing surges play the role that hit points used to have, as a measure of how long the characters can keep on going.

Ryan said...

My group's biggest problem with 4th edition is that every combat seems to take at least 45 minutes to an hour to resolve, unless you have them fight nothing but minions. Every battle does feel epic, and sometimes that felt out of place when they were fighting a group of goblins or kobolds.

Lior said...

Starting with the 3rd Edition, the publishers have been trying to make the game approximate a Hollywood fantasy film. I think this is because the younger players are imagining their players based on different sources. They imagine their characters can do what Aragorn and Legolas can do in Peter Jackson's movies (which have had an undue influence), rather than what the same characters can do in Tolkien's novels. This is a fine idea; it doesn't appeal to me personally but the game system should simulate whatever game world the players are imagining rather than impose its game world on the players.

This seems to me to be the of all those impossible "feats", but also led me to predict before seeing the table that weapons that featured heavily in Jackson's films (staff, longbow, battle axe) would have their damage go up,

Mr Baron said...

Thanuir: I made an update on the chart, as I agree that d6+1 is roughly equal to 1d8, and I have high-lighted the spear, which I missed.

Ryan: Exactly! Fights with kobolds and goblins should feel very non-epic, and should not take 1 hour to resolve. I suspect that most game sessions last between 4-8 hours, so having minor battles take an hour, is a significant amount of time in a session.

Lior: Agreed!

Anonymous said...

I agree that 4e combats do take quite some time. One thing I've had some success with, if I want less epic combat, was to have critters with less hit points. A bunch of kobolds aren't going to be in tip top shape all of their lives, especially if they're rooted in a dangerous area.

So I often have my minor critters having taken some damage already, perhaps from bad falls, cave-ins, run-ins with animals while hunting, things like that. So rather than 27 hp kobolds, you have things like 17-19 hp kobolds, led by the kobold boss who didn't do anything before, and therefore has his (many) hit points at their prime.

But for stuff like Dragons, sometimes I give them even more HP than normal (by adding a level or two) to make them extra hard and epic, and compensate for fodder.