Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Thoughts on 4e

I've been reading through NewbieDM's thoughts on helping your players in 4e, and it ties in quite nicely with my thoughts for fleshing it out a bit.

My group went way off 4e, mainly because of perceived power creep, lack of "depth", the generic nature of powers and the counterintuitiveness of skill challenges. If that's a word.

Maybe we were playing it wrong - I think a lot of bad feeling bubbled up from the progressively weirder race/class combinations being thrown in by a couple of players, simply as ways to max damage. Powers had cool names, but were never described. Skill challenges went wrong because players either a) has no skills as they'd maxed out for combat, or b) declared "I'm using my History skill to..." which just feels weird.

It does sound like things have changed, and maybe we were too harsh on 4e. In addition to reminding players of the things NewbieDM mentions, I'm considering:

* Limiting PCs to a maximum of 16 in any stat before racial modifiers?

* Getting players to describe their powers. "My sword bursts into green flames as I strike down the closest bugbear," rather than, "I use my Green Flame Blade on bugbear 3 - it is number 3 that's bloodied, right?"

* Giving generic XP rewards for any successful skill check in a skill challenge - making it a less formal process?

4e was the first tabletop RPG I ran - or indeed played - so I guess with hindsight we could have done things a little differently... Any thoughts?


  1. Monsters (and to some extent - skill challenges) are designed assuming that most people max out their primary stats. If you put a limit on their stats, they might ask that you do the same with monsters and enemies (a -1 penalty to all the monsters attacks).

    Personally, I think you should find a way to say yes to the players instead of telling them "no" to their character builds.

    4E IS a tricky game to run, just because it is so different from its predecessors. Sit down with your group for a good discussion on what you AND the players want out of the game.

    Power creep and optimization is the name of the game. Focus more on story and character development. If you don't like it that a bugbear is a part of the party, but the player wants the bugbear's stats, just reflavor the bugbear as a really big human, or dwarf, or whatever.

    With all of the optimization associated with 4E, we kind of have to go overboard with flavor and creativity.

    Skill challenges are a bit wierd, and hard to get used to. I think the trick is to alter the skill challenge concept so that it best suits you and your group. Don't make only certain skills apply, allow anything, as long as it helps accomplish the challenge.

    Anyway, that's my two copper of rambling.



  2. Thanks Tourq, that's kinda where I was heading anyway...

    The main problem was that the players got fed up with each other (well, with a couple of the others...) but I guess it's worth re-playing in the future!

  3. Oh definitely. From the DM's perspective, it can be more fun to run than other games - the tools available online for it (as well as monster stats/powers) make it a breeze.

    The next 4e game I run will have only traditional races (to keep the traditional feel), but the players are free to reflavor any race they want.


  4. It is the powers in the game that lack detail, and some members of the group had a habit of just shouting out power names and giving the damage details but not explaining what was actually happening, this is a real let down in a game based upon shared imagination.

    I mean its not like any single player or DM in the group decided that was it the wrong game for our group, it was a gradual falling out of love with the system, it just feels somewhat like a video game to me.

    The game does have some great features don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it fits our Idea of what D&D should feel like.

    Maybe we should revive it again and play it more, after all I’ve got the books but maybe its just one of those games that just doesn’t suit the group and we should just put it on the shelve and find something that does fit us better.

  5. @ Fantasy Fish

    John Lewis has only good things to say about Warhammer Fantasy. Check that out.


  6. Fantasy Fish said they might just shelve the 4e books and find something else that fits better. I suggested the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game.

    My buddy (John Lewis, who has several articles posted on has been really excited about the Warhammer game. He and two others (all who have experience with Warhammer in some fashion) have just convinced me to run them through a Warhammer Fantasy campaign. Mind you, I have zero experince with the game, setting, and rules. It should be fun!

    John just set up a Warhammer website, It's brand new and is meant to be a chronicle of our experiences, and eventually a resource for Warhammer Fantasy, Dark Heresy, Deathwatch, and Rogue Trader.

    It's all a lot for me to take in, but it's a nice breath of fresh air. If Fantasy Fish is looking for something different (and I mean different), maybe one of those games will do.


  7. Ah!

    We've got a department store over here called John Lewis - hence the confusion, I assumed I'd been spammed!

    We've played (FanatasyFish is also known as "Dave") WFRP & enojoyed it, I think he got into HarnMaster (which is awesome for medieval fantasy - and may be good for your proper high fantasy stuff?) while trying to improve on it..?

    Our "current" fantasy genre system is FantasyCraft, which I believe is based on 3.5 DnD, but I could be wrong... I really love Harn, but that may just be that I really love my cahracter - some of the other group members went all out for combat types (including an albino soldier and a violent priest) while I rolled someone clever but weak, and decided to be a manipulator instead...

    Warhammer seems to be worth looking into - in a similar vein it seems to involve starting out as "the common man," which appeals to me in high fantasy games.

  8. Thanks Tourq for the input, I have the Warhammer system and it is a great system, I've played the Enemy Within Campaign and it really took its toll on the body count but it really was fun, I just wonder if it can sustain a campaign long term. It really does gritty fantasy very well.

    What we need is it sit down as a group and really work out what it is we really want to run and play. Maybe I should bring back our 3.5 based setting that was so popular; all I know is that we really need a campaign to get our teeth into.


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