Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twinking out

Despite having aims at redesigning D&D 4th edition I actually have played it very little.  I ran in a couple of fairly short campaigns fairly early on in the game's life and then didn't play at all for a few years.  Last weekend we had a hack and slash type campaign running through the Thunderspire Labyrinth module and had a blast.  We talked a little about the changes in the game since launch and it seems clear that DnD is moving in the right direction.  The new classes seem really interesting and much less ridiculous than the ones in the book at launch - they are going far beyond the old archetypes of rogue / warrior / mage / cleric but the numbers look a lot better.  The rewrites for clerics take the very good tack of nerfing their overpowered abilities into oblivion and the warrior rewrite (which I am playing) is much better.  I lack the excess of 'damage without a roll' abilities and am much better at controlling the enemies and bashing people.  It looks like now if people choose to ignore my tanking abilities I get to do a ton of damage and be really tough and if they just beat on me instead then I do some damage and get to focus a ton of enemy damage through the tough guy... which is also good.

The trouble is that there are some mechanics issues that they can't just modify slightly to fix.  We still have lots of big problems to deal with, namely the brutal straightjacket that the current stat mechanic imposes on character design.  It is obvious that any character that does not maximize their one important stat is simply going to be terrible and that every class has a tiny number of viable builds due to this situation.  I don't mind there being bad ways to play but I sure don't like it when there is only one possible way to be good.  There aren't very many different styles of characters or impactful choices during character creation for some classes and this is a poor design.  Thankfully combats are pretty interesting affairs anyway - even though my class had very few activated abilities I had many interesting choices in terms of where to go, where to stand, who to hit and how to use my abilities.  Just the simple mechanics of flanking, shifting, terrain and attacking generate lots of fun dilemmas so playing the tactical game is good fun regardless of the stat mess.

The other issue I have was made very clear:  Magic items are not working in a way that I approve of.  This is less of a clear cut issue than the stat issue since there are probably some people who think that magic weapons should be absolutely necessary to move along and that high level characters should be helpless without their magic weapons.  I think that magic weapons should be interesting and impactful but it shouldn't be in a way that wrecks the numbers.  It would work well if magic weapons simply added damage or gave characters interesting abilities because then lacking them wouldn't make things untenable but when they add 6 to attack rolls it means that lacking a magic weapon makes fights pretty much unwinnable.  You can't go from hitting 60% of the time to hitting 30% of the time and have the game play even remotely the same.  I like magic items having fun one shot abilities, adding to skill checks, giving new combat options or other bonuses but large bonuses to the most basic role in the game is just the wrong way to go about it.

1 comment:

  1. Something that just occurred to me is that everything seems to be backwards between games and stories when it comes to magic items. In a story you would expect a relatively inexperienced person to be able to do incredible things because they got their hands on a magic weapon, whereas a legendary hero could do an awful lot with a toothpick. In RPGs, a level 3 character who doesn't have their magic sword is definitely at a disadvantage but it is unlikely to turn the tide of a battle while a max level character without magic items can't take on trivial challenges.