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sunshadow21's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 3,435 posts (8,308 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 29 aliases.


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houstonderek wrote:

The whole "you can house rule it" is a cop out. If you have to house rule something to make the game work, the game is messed up to begin with. We didn't have to house rule anything to limit a magic user's impact in 1e, since the rules themselves, if followed, made casting in combat difficult.

3x, and, after they had a chance to fix it but didn't (and basically banned everyone who was mechanically correct but rude to the "we can just house rule it" cheerleading squad), Pathfinder, has the imbalance built in. 3x took away every mechanical limitation to spell casting AD&D contained, and took away a lot of what made non-magical characters competitive.

I hope they decide they don't need to be restrained by "backward compatibility" when Pathfinder 2e becomes necessary. Maybe they can actually fix everything (or at least a lot of) what was wrong with 3x.

The system actually has a lot more balance than most people realize. The biggest thing they need to do with PF 2.0 is rework the feats (not the feats concept, just the feats themselves), rework the spell lists for what each class gets (again, just the lists; most of the spells themselves and the core system is actually not that problematic), and completely reorganize the books from scratch. 3x has most of mechanical strengths and limitations that late AD&D as it was actually usually played had, they just completely botched most of the presentation, hiding the previously clear stuff unnecessarily and burying the previously hidden stuff even deeper. Reworking the spell lists to fit the assumptions made in the rest of 3rd edition rather than holding them to the assumptions of the original classic party would get rid of a lot of the lingering problems that PF inherited. Streamlining and reorganizing the book would take care of the vast majority of the rest, leaving a pretty solid system that could be fairly easy to pick up the basics up right away and learn the rest as the campaign progressed.


thejeff wrote:

I don't know. Thor's always been pretty angsty, along with the kicking butt. At least the classic Thor, I don't know so much about the recent years.

Always fighting with his father. Always being torn between Earth and Asgard. All the usual woman trouble, whether it's a mortal not being good enough for dad or Sif not wanting to stay on Midgard.

Has his personality really changed? Other than the whole thing about being unworthy, there's no mysterious persona change right? He's just troubled and upset.

This goes beyond his usual temperment swings and women troubles that I'm aware of in either the myths or the earlier comic stories. Norse gods even in the traditional stories aren't known for their mental stability, but the usual response is usually to go hit something, not go all introspective or whiny the way Marvel tends to have their superheroes do far too often for my tastes. And the traditional stories definitely don't have the gods standing idly by while others are taking their powers and names out from under their noses.

I've always scratched my head why Marvel would think that some of what has been done in the past was a good idea, but they have up to this point remained more or less in the realm of the believable, even if only just slightly. This just blows all of that out of the water in terms of extreme changes being made; they aren't even trying to use anything but the names of the characters and locations at this point. It's not a bad story in and of itself, but it definitely does not fit with this character. Add in the fact that it doesn't really do the new character any justice in the long run either, and it really just falls flat for me. They end up telling one decent, but not particularly great, story instead of telling two really good stories that actually fit the characters involved.

If I were a suit at Marvel, I wouldn't be concerned about it being bad; at least if it's bad, it would still generate buzz. At best, all of this is a wash where different people buy the comic for a while until they finish this story arc and then go back to selling the comics to those that liked the old Thor better; at worst, they lose the old readers and fail to get any new ones. I just don't see how it's worth it to Marvel long term. The fact that the writer obviously cares about the story line is right now the only reason I haven't written it off completely, as it's still possible that it could be saved, but for right now, it's very much underwhelming and it's going to take some absolutely amazing writing and story twists to hold people's interest for very long.


Aranna wrote:
In the author's defense he said Thor is a story about transformation, that has been his story from the start so his fans seem a fair bit fickle when they turn on him just because he dared let a woman wield the hammer, especially since other characters than Thor himself have done so and without the fan backlash.

The problem is that his story of Thor has been about transformation, but the story of Thor overall, in both the original myths and the comic book history, hasn't been. Even fans that liked his story up to this point and suddenly turned have good reason to be a bit peeved. At least before, Thor was still Thor. A transformation story is fine, but you can't completely gut the original character concept and not expect a major backlash. I know he claims he hasn't, but really, he has. What was once a story about a tough Norse god of thunder that kicked butt is now a mystery novel and teenage coming of age story mashed together. Now, not only is there a second "Thor" running around complicating things, but the original Thor is essentially the same teenage angst ridden mental case that a great many, if not a majority, of Marvel superheroes already are. All the things that made Thor Thor are largely gone; his original personality is gone; his hammer is gone; his place in Asgard is gone; heck, even his name has been taken over by someone else.

It would have been a perfectly fine story for the alternate universe, but for the main universe, it's going to be a wash at best. All the new interesting bits are going to be matched by the old interesting stuff lost. People who like the angsty, mystery driven story line already have most of the rest of the Marvel universe to read, and people who liked the former kickass god of thunder have completely lost the original reason they had for reading it. The idea isn't bad, but in this case, it's going to take a lot of really, really, really good storytelling to make the effort worth it in the long run. Thor will eventually have to get his hammer and self worth back to make this whole story line something other than a gimmick, at which point, he or the next writer is going to have to figure out what to do with this new "Thor." I don't see it turning out bad, but I do see it turning out to be not nearly as interesting or as well liked as either the writer or Marvel hope it to be.


From what I've seen, I have to agree with the underwhelmed sentiment. It's not bad, but so far at least they haven't shown any reason why they couldn't have done this with a brand new character without messing with the old Thor. From what I've read about what the writer has to say about it, it comes across as "I want to tell my story and don't really care a dang about what the readers want to read." It's not a bad concept, but it could have been written a lot better in a different context in my opinion. Messing with an existing character was completely not necessary and negates most of the interesting aspects the storyline could have provided.


Tequila Sunrise wrote:
However, all the quirks and dare I say it, outright problems which PF has makes it much more interesting to discuss and debate than my current favorite game. Which is great fun to play, but is too well-made to generate many hot-button topics -- within its own fandom, at least.

5E is still new, and the DMG isn't out yet. I suspect that book will end up generating more than it's fair share of hot button issues, most of which are simply on hold right now until it comes out. Also, for many people, it's less that the system is well made and more that it tends to be play or ignore, which is a double edged sword. The fact that PF and 3.5 is easy to debate about actually helps it's survival by keeping it in the conversation; even those that don't play it still frequently talk about it, making it more likely to get heard of by those that might be interested in playing it. 5E could very easily end up like 4E and not be talked about at all outside of fairly limited circles, which is good in limiting problem discussions, but not so good in generating excitement and buzz for the system long term.

5E, for all of it's strengths, is going to be much, much harder for WotC to sustain than PF will be for Paizo, especially with a limited release schedule; without the name brand to help them, WotC wouldn't really have much of a chance. It's a good system, but it's not a system that is going to generate it's own publicity and buzz, and it's not one that on paper is going to readily appeal to players, making it entirely dependent on DMs to sustain support for it. The organized play network, a key factor for both 3rd edition and PF is going to be of limited success with a system that relies so much on DM on the fly judgments.

As much as I really would like to see the system succeed, I just don't see it generating the amount of long term support it will need in a large enough base for it to be a major player going forward, especially if they are going to limit their book production to the least amount possible that won't completely kill it off, which seems to be their strategy right now. It'll hold it's own in the niche market of tabletop games for a while, but even there it will likely fade away sooner rather than later, just like 4E, and it's not going to have any long term impact at all on the wider entertainment market. Unless WotC and Hasbro can pull off a miracle and actually create a movie or a game that will lift the brand out of this niche, I see the brand continuing to be underdeveloped because they keep choosing to largely ignore the one market it has a strong following in.


Nicos wrote:
Well, IMHO, that is like the 20% of the problem. THe other 80% is that magic have little restrictions. "yes golem are inmune to magic, except, they are not".

Magic has plenty of restrictions remaining in the system, both in the system and in the spells themselves. 3rd edition just removed the obvious ones, not just in the magic system, but in the related system of managing wealth. It is a complex, poorly presented system that requires both the DM and the player that wishes to use it to read quite a bit and parse together sentences that really should be by each other and not in separate chapters on opposite ends of the books, but the restrictions are there. Simply cleaning up the presentation of the entire book would make both the restrictions on the magic system and the actually fairly simple rules guiding everything else much easier to find, making it easier to balance the system at the table where time is limited.


Zalman wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
magic being rare and mysterious is fine as a literary concept, but loses its luster quickly when a person is devoting an entire play session to being a wizard and nothing else

See, for me, that's exactly as it should be. It took a rare player that wanted to struggle through to become a powerful wizard ... just like a typical fantasy narrative suggests. It meant that in game, just like in fantasy literature, wizards were rare compared to fighters and thieves. Only the players who were seethingly patient and clever were ultimately rewarded with the terrible power of high-level magic.

Later, players came along and wanted to be wizards without any of the work, and they were gratified, so of course nowadays there's no reason to be anything else. Power with no effort -- that's what lacks all fun for me. Where's the challenge? Frankly, I'm glad to see folks realizing the folly of easy wizardry ... again.

While it can be fun for some people, and fits into novels well enough, it fails miserably in a classic assumed D&D party. Had the assumed party configuration been different, it might have been alright, but making magic both that hard and yet seemingly common at the same time (most parties were assumed to have a mage) didn't work. When you are consistently asking some player to be a magic user and than make it near impossible for that character to be effective for a long time, whether it be at magic or anything else, something is going to break down very quickly. Raistlin in an actual tabletop game would probably never reach the level he did in the novels because both the party and the player would lose interest in that character well before that point; some groups and players might get him that far, but not most. Heck, even in the novels, early on, his only real role was to be a foil for his twin brother.

The problem isn't that players don't want to do any work to use magic; the problem is that the work required must be equal to what they get out of it. This is where pretty much every D&D system has failed. Things are either way too harsh or way to lenient. There is little point in running a character for 10-12 levels only to have him be more than slightly useful at the last two or three and the campaign ends because that's typically where most campaigns end for a wide variety of reasons. It's just as bad as a system where there are no constraints at all. Authors don't have to worry about how boring a particular character would be to actually play exclusively; game designers do. Paizo and PF has actually done quite a bit to make magic users less of a problem, an impressive feat given the chassis they started from. Interestingly enough, the biggest help I've seen has been changing the assumptions on a default party, making the original 4 classes generic roles rather than having to be specific classes in their own right. No other changes to the core system had nearly as much impact; just giving more options beyond no magic or all magic has done more than all of the early restrictions combined.


Zalman wrote:

The second issue is "what is the origin of the market pressures"? As both you and sunshadow21 suggest, it wasn't from complaints about the current system from players that had used it, but rather from new players who approached gaming with a different initial attitude. Of course game designers cater to the prevalent attitude, since attracting new players is key to a successful game publishing business.

New players, raised on different literature, and a different gaming culture, thought "less restrictions would be more fun", and Zeb, et. al. responded with a product that gave the public what it wanted. Reading this thread, it seems that same public is now complaining about the consequences of what they wrought.

Those new players probably aren't always as new as you might think. Many groups would have had to deal with "new" players pretty early on and if those "new" players noticed that clerics tended to be healbots and wizards needed system mastery to be playable at all, as would have been the case in many, many groups, then the groups affected would have had to start adjusting those restrictions pretty early in order to retain players. It's more than reading different literature, it's also the matter of adjusting literary expectations to a table top environment; magic being rare and mysterious is fine as a literary concept, but loses its luster quickly when a person is devoting an entire play session to being a wizard and nothing else. As interesting as Raistlin and Gandalf are to read about, very few players would eagerly embrace playing them in tabletop game; they make far better NPCs than PCs. That would have been just as true early on as it is now. I don't think anyone at first was asking for 3rd edition power levels, but I bet a lot of folks were saying they needed something more than what the initial wizard offered.

I do find it funny that people chose to completely remove the restrictions and are now complaining about the same problem from a different angle, but the removal of the restrictions didn't cause the base problem; it simply highlighted the difficulties in taking expectations from literary works and translating them into an interactive environment.


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Zalman wrote:
Charender wrote:
So what would you say about a level 6 spell like say Scrying can be defeated by a something that isn't even a spell.
Even better! And another good example of how magic acts in a believable fantasy narrative -- that is, it has limitations. And what self-respecting BBEG would spend years creating a lair, and not put a sheet of lead lining in the walls? Of course, if your players read every detail of a spell, and use it to their advantage, that's "good play". If a BBEG does the same thing it's called "DM Fiat". Makes no sense to me.

I do agree with you on this. Way too many players think it's cool when they manipulate the details of the magic system and the individual spells, but get huffy when the DM tries doing exactly the same thing. I also think that far too few DMs actually run spell users as a player would, feeding the viscous cycle.


Zalman wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Most of these limitations were lifted in various house rules because they slowed the game down unfunly (no one used speed factors, for example) or because people thought it would be more fun (item crafting is fun, because you can actually play with all the cool trinkets listed).
That wasn't the way I saw it happen at all. I never once heard a single complaint about the limitations to wizards being unfun, or slowing the game down. I believe that was a social phenomenon that came later, and was perhaps retrofitted into history. Not the way it actually happened, from my observation.

That wasn't what happened with your group perhaps, but other groups clearly had it happen. Even if it didn't happen with the original players, it probably started as soon as the challenge of recruiting new players came up, which would have been fairly early because a lot of those who originally tried didn't bother complaining, they just quit playing what was at the time nothing more than a strange new fad, leaving gaps to fill. When it came time to fill those gaps, you can bet the new blood started asking why the old players stopped playing. At that point, the restrictions would have become a major problem for a lot of groups trying to build a complete party.


Zalman wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Not to mention extremely unsatisfactory to a great many players that wanted to enjoy using magic without being flimsier than a piece of paper.
Yes, that is exactly the phenomenon I'm talking about, and it is a social issue, not a narrative one. The narrative value of magic being difficult and dangerous to use is repeated in almost every fantasy story ever written, from Lord Dunsany to J.K. Rowling.

The problem is that most writers acknowledge that it's usually the implementation of magic that can be difficult or dangerous, not the concept. And even Tolkien included effects that would amount to PF cantrips that both Gandalf and the elves used routinely. Rowling also had Harry and his friends routinely using small spells from the very get go as well. So it's not narratively sound to say that a level 1 wizard can barely get a magic missile off, but that is precisely what usually happened in most games. Also, the social issue very quickly becomes a narrative issue when the player of the wizard is forced to manipulate the rest of the game just to have a chance of getting even a 1st level spell off successfully. At least with PF, a fighter at higher levels can still be effective in the right circumstances. Before that, a low level wizard that didn't seize narrative control was simply dead or doing so little that the character was functionally not there. Personally, I find the view that magic must always be this terrifying and mysterious thing a large part of why D&D will never find any balance on the issue. I much prefer a more scaled approach where common magic is common and understood, but higher level magic is rarer and harder to study and control. Eberron, to this day, is still the best world I've seen created, because it embodies this perfectly; magic as a concept is able to be used in the game, but players don't feel entitled to every high level effect the system provides for.


Zalman wrote:
Of note is that in early editions it was very, very difficult to keep a magic-user alive long enough to gain any real power. This was both good for game-balance and narratively sound.

Not to mention extremely unsatisfactory to a great many players that wanted to enjoy using magic without being flimsier than a piece of paper. So not very narratively sound if you're still losing the interest of a large number of the players at the table, and balance is still iffy at best, with the most likely result in both cases being that magic users finding ways to manipulate the system even further to get anything out of the game. It's unfortunate that the response was to completely swing the pendulum the other way and just accept the all the manipulations required before as a necessary part of the game. In neither case was the system particularly balanced and casters always had the upper hand in controlling narrative power because they always had firm spells and clear powers to feed off of, and known limitations they could learn to work around. To me, all 3rd edition did and what PF does is lay bare the underlying problems in the root system. Nothing more and nothing less. I personally like this because it means I can actually see the problem and fix it before it becomes an issue at the table. Others don't and that's fine, but I will never buy the argument that 3rd edition or PF created the problems; they were always there, even if they weren't always as visible.


Mordo the Spaz - Forum Troll wrote:

Actual problem -- teamwork not required.

First Edition:

Fighter usually kill
Wizard nova when needed
Cleric heal and turn undead

Fighter usually protect Wizard
Wizard protect Fighter and Cleric with nova
Cleric keep others going

Mandatory teamwork! Good teach pimply youth.

Pathfinder:

past tenth level even sorcerer do all while flying invisibly

No teamwork needed.

Problem not spell list. Problem mages not like Raistlin coughing frail lungs out.

Mandatory teamwork was as much a problem as it was a solution though, the same way that not needing teamwork at all is as much a problem as it is a solution. If I had to pick a happy medium, I would go with late AD&D and design an updated system from that. The concept of the restrictions are still there but there was an awareness in the community that the traditional implementation of most of the rules was starting to show severe weaknesses. I would love to see what Paizo would have done with PF if they had used that as a jumping off point instead of 3.5.


Zalman wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
D&D at its core has always to some degree been about system mastery and revolving around the magic system.

Can't really agree with you there. Yes, it's true to some extent in all versions of AD&D, but not nearly as much as in earlier editions as in later ones, and not true at all in OD&D, where there was hardly any "system" to master at all. D&D, by the way, was clearly created with S&S style stories in mind -- one only needs to look at Appendix N to see as much.

And then, all the things that curbed magic in the early versions of D&D have been eliminated in Pathfinder, 'cause, you know, it's not fair (or fun??) to players if they can't operate without restriction. I'm the opposite -- a game without restrictions on uber-powers is pointless, IM0, in fact, not a "game" at all.

D&D may have been designed as a S&S game, but it didn't stay that way for very long; it had the seeds for what it came to be later firmly, if inadvertently, from the beginning. From what I've seen of the earlier editions, they were so unstable, it was pretty much inevitable that more hard coded rules would be developed, making it harder to use anything by magic to drive story twists and overall plots. 3rd edition did with most of the limits earlier systems had on magic because most people were ignoring them by that time anyway for a wide variety of reasons. I'm not saying that the removal of the restrictions was all good, but it clearly wasn't all bad either; it was closer to being a formal recognition of which rules that players were choosing to use and choosing to ignore than anything else. Trying to act as though you can just plug simply those restrictions back into the game and everything will be solved is dreaming. All you'd be doing is reintroducing the problems that led to them being removed in the first place, and you would still have people complaining about the magic system and it's unfair weight on the system. The only real difference is that different people prefer different solutions; the base problem was there from the very start.


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Zalman wrote:
And here I believe you have more correctly identified the real source of discontent with Pathfinder: it is a game based almost entirely on system mastery, to the point that the story must revolve around it. I don't disagree that this is a major problem (and why I prefer other games); I just don't think it's about magic per se.

The first part isn't quite true. The problem is more than just the magic system, but it's not unique to PF or the 3.x chassis. D&D at its core has always to some degree been about system mastery and revolving around the magic system. They all break down in the same way at some point for the same reasons, most of them involving magic, with only some minor variation in the level it breaks down. Magic has always been at the center of the core setup and always will be; at some point, to keep going, the system requires some kind of magic or technology or similar system, and that aspect can easily take over the rest of the system if not controlled from the start. It's never been something a party could get away with ignoring until level 10 and suddenly find a good solution for it. Most of the stories that people want to tell with PF but can't weren't actually all that good with in earlier D&D editions either if people were running them largely as written in the book. When you're ignoring at least 1/3 of the book, you aren't really telling a story within the system laid out in that book. The only real change is that 3rd edition and PF made it significantly harder to ignore the book, forcing people to actually accept what the system actually was rather than what they wanted it to be.


wraithstrike wrote:
If you could just run the story as it folds in a neutral setting with no special rules, and without GM fiating things then you could say magic did not have an advantage, but you are wanting to say "Well I can ___ to keep magic in its place, so they are equal."

This does have to happen, you are quite correct, but there is a difference of the effect it has based on when this happens. Magic will always have an overbearing presence in the game system as a whole, but it does not have to have an overbearing presence in an actual campaign. If it comes down to magic destroying multiple encounters, than it's too late to contain it, and the DM may as well run with it. If, on the other hand, care is taken to incorporate many perfectly legitimate limitations (WBL, not guaranteeing access to every scroll and magic item in the book, etc.), than it is entirely possible to have magic users in a campaign that don't make the martials look completely useless without a lot of extra work overall by the DM. Trying to fight the reality that the magic system is a core system to PF and D&D is not going to get you anywhere. Nerfing the magic system in an attempt to create balance isn't going to help anyone and will probably piss off a fair number of people. Embracing it for what it is from the very beginning of campaign designing is necessary, but far from the multiheaded beast that some people make it out to be. Dealt with right, it's just one of many concerns that goes into designing a campaign, nothing more and nothing less.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
This would require a lot of reworking, because the classes that get an effective number of skill points (wizard, magus, bard) are also among the more powerful casters. So you'd need to completely re-jigger the skill system. But something like this is roughly how non-weapon proficiencies worked in first edition -- wizards could cast spells but couldn't do much else, while fighters could learn all sorts of other non-combat tricks. Basically, if Hedge Magic were a useful skill somehow restricted to tier 4 or below, that would help quite a bit.

This is actually the one area of the game I would completely change. Change skill point allocation to be based somehow on the attribute that drives each skill and put in skill tricks from 3.5. The thing I tried in one campaign that the players seemed to like was granting a number of skill points per attribute to skills for that attribute. For Con and excess points from Dex or Str, they became action points that could be spent in a number of ways to enhance the character's performance. It worked well in that it increased overall skill points for everyone while enforcing specialization of skills based on attributes. Wizards that dumped everything for Int could have a ton of knowledge skills, but would be severely limited in everything else. Even if a fighter didn't end up with a lot more skills than the default system, they still got action points, allowing them a bit more influence over the outcome of their actions, evening out their larger reliance on the dice for success. For those that wanted a simpler mechanic, but the same effect, averaging physical stats for points for physical skills, and mental stats for mental skills would work as well. Skill tricks, while I haven't had an opportunity to implement them personally yet, would have a similar effect; I really liked them in 3.5 and am working on converting and expanding on them for PF. The result of both of these is reducing the dependence on magic to begin with, making most of the problems there far less likely to develop in the first place.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Neither the fighter, the rogue, nor the wizard want to traverse the forest to get to the BBEG's tower. Now, none of them need to.

The story does have to be constructed to make the journey relevant. If the journey isn't relevant, I'm probably going to mostly hand wave it even if they don't have access to the teleport spell. The spell doesn't actually give the caster that much more power than the martial, because I'm not going to make anyone sit through what I believe is time waster and not much else.

If, on the other hand, I know that the journey matters, and the party doesn't, and the party skips over it via teleport because they don't want to waste time on it, that's their decision and I am not going to hold their hand. That part of the story is still part of the campaign and still part of the assumptions made in designing the encounter at the end of the journey. It didn't suddenly disappear because the caster chose to bypass the journey; that spell did not change how the villain and other NPCs are set up in the world.

That is what takes narrative power away from spells and magic. It doesn't take nerfing the spells; it doesn't take nerfing the magic system. It takes running the world realistically and letting the PCs deal with the consequences of the prepared story whether or not they took the time to learn all of it before facing the big villain.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
But the key word is appropriate. He should also have the BBEG respond appropriately to the plan in the first place, and making up an imaginary and arbitrary restriction on the use of teleportation magic is not appropriate.

This is where things get tricky. Depending on how you introduce things like this, it could be perfectly appropriate or a blatantly obvious block. In the world I'm developing, it would be completely appropriate because I've built those kinds of things into the world and players will be aware of those considerations long before they actually have an impact on the campaign. If the DM is scrambling to stop the derail, and introduces it as a stopgap measure, it could still be fine under the right circumstances and in the right group. It could also very easily be a complete disaster if it's clear it's a desperate stopgap measure.

All of this really gets to the heart of keeping magic from being an overwhelming force in a campaign or encounter; consideration for how the magic system can be disruptive really needs to be made for it before the potential problem spells come into play. Making up solutions on the fly can sometimes work, but a DM that fails to plan ahead on this critical aspect will be just as singed as the player being affected. Understanding that magic is part of the game and it's uses and limitations will need to be addressed at some point is absolutely crucial, and the sooner this is understood and addressed, the less of a problem it is. It's not a perfect magic system, but there are a lot of controls baked into the system and lots of ways to set up the story that can easily be incorporated into the story if addressed early on. If you wait until the party is actually using those spells, it will be a problem, no matter how good the DM is at incorporating on the fly decisions into the story. Managing expectations is the number one solution to containing this. In the early planning phases of the overall framework of a campaign, it does have more power than martials; that I will give people. In actual play and in designing actual encounters, it's power is significantly more limited if you laid the groundwork properly. This would be true of any magic system in any framework, though. If you don't take the time to understand how magic fits into the greater whole, it will always be a problem; if you do take the time in advance to understand how it fits, the problems usually disappear.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
I've not yet seen an in-game reason why it's smarter to take the long road across the desert on camel-back than to teleport in.

You assume that the characters know everything about the BBEG and his lair to know that they safely avoid that trip. I, as a DM, don't write adventures that way, nor, if I am using an AP, do I present the adventure that way. The trip is as much about recon and building up local allies as it is getting from point A to point B. The BBEG may well be prepared for a direct assault, but too arrogant to take the risk of infiltration via the servants quarters seriously. He also may well be assuming that most credible threats will simply teleport in, and not bother watching the desert to see what is happening down there. That approach may also give them an idea of how to stop others from simply taking the place of the dead guy and completing his plans. There are plenty of good in-story reasons for why such a trip is smarter; unwise shortcuts usually end up creating more problems than solutions in the long run.

The direct approach at times may be perfectly warranted, but just as often, it's a very bad idea. I tend to throw a mix of challenges at the party, and no two foes are going to react the same way. In some cases, the use of teleport may be the only way to solve the problem; in others, it may be the absolute worst idea. In all cases, a PC making assumptions that the magic solution will always be the best solution is likely to get burned fairly quickly. In the end, using teleport may be a shortcut across the desert, but they still have to get the necessary intel some other way if they don't want to find themselves in over their heads, and that will require more than just magic. If they choose to skip both the desert and the investigation, that's on them, and when they find themselves in over their heads, I as DM feel no compulsion to bail them out. In the end, I don't expect people to not use a spell they memorized, but I do expect them to understand that using it blindly is usually a very bad idea.


wraithstrike wrote:
The point you are missing is that the GM has to go out of his way to shut magic down by changing the background of the story or contriving situations. That alone speaks to the power of magic. You don't have to plan or worry about so many "what if" scenarios for martials. If a GM has to actively oppose the caster then that is all that evidence that is needed IMHO.

Magic is definitely powerful; I have never denied that part. But it only breaks a campaign if the DM lets it. There are a lot of little things a DM can do within both the rules and the story itself to keep it from being abused. If the party wants to keep using teleport, then incorporate that into the story. This is admittedly harder to do for APs, but still perfectly doable without too much effort. I usually go with the idea that anything can be done once without too much repercussion, but if it becomes a routine tactic, the party will become known for it, and NPCs will respond accordingly. That, along with inserting a certain amount of magic regulation into the world usually handles the world aspect of the problem quite well. Couple that with a thorough reading and following of the spells and the magic system in general, and most of the problems people complain about never materialize.

In the end, good planning reduces most of the concerns over magic to the same level that worrying about martial tactics requires; magic is powerful, and always will be, but the counters to it are not that hard to develop while being believable if you start doing so from the very first adventure of a campaign. The real problem is that most DMs don't even think about it until the levels it starts to be a problem, at which point, trying to insert proper counters is really, really difficult.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Saruman the wizard doesn't like the king's behavior, so Saruman takes control of him with a spell -- that's what the various spells do.
And it works right up to the point that someone actually challenged him on it,

If by "someone" you mean another, more powerful caster, yes. Tell me again about how Eowyn managed to "challenge" Saruman's spell?

Quote:
Magic in LotR is not as all encompassing and powerful as a lot of people make it out to be.

And yet even with weakened magic, only another caster could affect Saruman's control.

The underlying control was only challenged by a fellow wizard, but actual impact of the control was fairly limited. The tainted advisor was still just one of many, and the day to day affairs of the kingdom didn't really show much impact at all. The second that larger affairs came up, another caster noticed and acted. In the end, it was a ploy, but by itself, it wouldn't have come to much. It took other actions supporting that one to make it mean anything. The same is true for any D&D spell. No spell by itself will grant narrative control or power unless the DM wants to happen.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
a lot of stuff

All of that is true, but how much of it is really necessary? What makes you so certain that a fighter can't achieve the same results with a lot less effort and/or resources? All of those options make the wizard fun to play for a lot of people, but it doesn't really increase his ability to interact with the world. And there are lots of ways for a DM to take those abilities and turn them around very quickly without resorting to being "I want to screw the caster" arbitrary. From my point of view, I take everything players put out there and use it. If you want to put that much stuff out there, it will be used, and it will not always be in ways you expect or want. Ultimately, they don't have any more control or even power than the fighter that only give me two hooks instead of 20; they may put out more hooks, but it's still entirely up to me which ones are interesting and which ones aren't.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Saruman the wizard doesn't like the king's behavior, so Saruman takes control of him with a spell -- that's what the various spells do.

And it works right up to the point that someone actually challenged him on it, and even then only to a certain degree. After all, it took the help of the scheming advisor to sustain, and it didn't really stop Gandalf from carrying out his own plans. Magic in LotR is not as all encompassing and powerful as a lot of people make it out to be. Most of it was created and sustained with a great deal of effort and was nothing like the cast and forget spells in D&D.


Kolokotroni wrote:
So, the lord of the rings is a bad story right? Also game of thrones? That's a crummy story right? Because martial characters cant break those stories. Magic characters can. If the orcs, lanisters etc are the same level as the party, story remains the same in the face of any level of martial character. If elrond was a 20th level wizard, lotr takes about 30 seconds.

You are correct, for a tabletop adventure, those are actually not very good stories. For a book, they are great, but for something like D&D, they don't work after a while. You have to find stories that fit the genre and level you are working within. I won't say that I like everything about the D&D magic and combat systems (I don't and have largely turned away from the entire D&D family tree for new systems as a result), but they are what they are, and trying to change the system to fit the story rarely ends up well unless you basically start from scratch and rewrite the whole system. I don't know a lot of people willing to do that. If people really truly have that much problem with how the system disperses narrative power, they need to find a system that fits their needs better. D&D (and all of it's spinoffs) will always favor magic, for better or for worse, and trying to remove that is pointless. One can limit the effect, but that's about all you're going to do.


Kolokotroni wrote:
I didnt say narrative control I said narrative power.

The fighter decides to challenge every armored stranger he encounters; the rogue wants to get into bed with every female NPC. Plenty of power there over the narrative; it may not be codified as thoroughly, but it can just as easily be abused and manipulated. The caster ultimately has no easier or harder time to pull that sort of thing off; it's written out, but they still have to read the book to do it. The caster has as much power in that arena as the DM and the rest of the party give him; no more, and no less. In 3rd edition, and to a certain degree in PF, way too many people just assume that the caster read the spell, is following it precisely, and has the best intentions of the party at the heart of his actions. That assumption and free pass being given to casters is the real problem, not with how the magic system is actually designed and written.


PIXIE DUST wrote:
You are aware that martials are much more gear dependent and GM dependent than casters right? And if your GM feels like being a knuckle-head and giving you trouble with finding spells you can just as easily play a Human Sorcerer... between The "shadow X" spells, the Human FCB, and Eldritch Heritage (arcane) you can very easily run around with nearly every spell you will ever need...

Right up until the DM throws you into a situation where highly specialized spells are required, and you don't have them. The sorcerer has it's own limitations that a good DM can use without stretching anything or being arbitrary. In the end, I have yet to see a case where magic can flat out break a world or campaign unless the DM is willing to play along. Individual encounters or stories, yes, but any story that could be broken by magic probably wasn't a very good story to play at that level to begin with for a host of other reasons.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:


I never said ignore class mechanics; I said don't use them for controlling story narrative. It's not that hard to do. Magic is really, really good at solving immediate, concrete goals, but that's about it.

Except that magic is also awesome at solving long-term abstract goals, if you simply read the spells. Simulacrum is a very good example -- as a matter of fact, given the casting time, it's not actually very good at immediate goals. But as a long-term buff, it gives you a mini-me that can do more or less whatever you like (and at a fairly nominal cost) permanently.

You can crank out an army of golems one at a time until you have enough to sack the bad guy's castle and leave no two stones touching. You can even do this before you know whose castle you wish to sack.

You can create a private sanctum to which you can instantly retreat any time you feel the need.

The problem with the longer term spells is that problems and the world evolve and change. Everything the PC does is happening at the same time that hundreds and thousands of other NPCs are also acting, and the net result is not usually what anybody expects. Creating a private sanctum or plane may help in some ways, but it doesn't stop the world from turning, and it doesn't stop NPCs from acting. What usually results from a character, whether it be a PC or an NPC, trying to shape the world is that the immediate changes may or may not happen as expected and that character will probably lose control over the effects if they try to take on long term and/or abstract goals. Therefore, that character can create a certain amount of chaos, and can reshape the narrative in unexpected ways, but control is another matter entirely. That is much, much harder, and will almost always require more than casting a few spells.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

Shrug. The martial is also at the GM's mercy, as the martial doesn't get his equipment either automatically, either. A 13th level wizard (the level that would be casting simulacrum) has 140,000 gp in wealth by level according to the guidelines -- a simulacrum of a 14th level fighter costs 7,000 gp. So I could make ten of them and still have enough left to kit myself out reasonably.

If you're going to complain about giving a wizard a 7,000 gp minion and not complain about the archer's 8000 gp bow, then you're being unfair. And, more to the point, you're doing exactly what Kolokotroni described "restrict[ing] the narrative power of casters," in a way that you're not restricting the narrative power of martials.

The point is that the fighter is actually likely to go through all of the expected hoops to get the expected treasure, therefore giving him legitimate access to it. A wizard constantly taking shortcuts is going to have to find other ways of getting that treasure, effectively negating the benefits of the shortcuts. A wizard that takes the shortcuts and expects the treasure without any extra effort anyway is going to be out of luck at my table, the same way a fighter trying to do the same would be.

Making shortcuts and cutting the story short has costs, costs that both the player and the character need to be willing to accept. It's not about complaining about the caster and not complaining about the martials, it's about making everyone earn what they get. Casters are far, far more likely to expect magic to solve all of their problems with no effort, no cost, and all the reward than a martial is to expect similar treatment. That expectation is what built up around 3rd edition that caused a lot of problems. The rules themselves still had the balancing factors; DMs just stopped using them. Actually reading and following all of the rules for magic already in the book eliminates the vast majority of the complaints.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
No class has an inherent advantage in shaping the world as a whole
Are we playing the same game? In Pathfinder, a caster can make his own world, once he gets tired of shaping the existing one.

At which point, he can play in his own world and forfeit any control over the world that everyone else is playing in. He then becomes an NPC and the player gets to make a new character. At no point is his ability to shape the greater world all that different from anyone else; he can change it faster, but the changes can be undone at an equal rate or create additional changes that are beyond his ability to control, limiting the overall impact.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

I'd just like to point out -- I know, responding to my own post -- that this illustrates a way out of another "classic" DM trick, the "how do you transport Smaug's hoard" method of limiting treasure. I've seen estimates of 6000 cubic feat of treasure in Smaug's hoard, which will have a lot of DM's cackling evilly about "so, what are you going to do with all this?" That's about 3.6 million pounds of copper, for example, so just over 100,000 gp worth even if it's entirely copper pieces.

At 50 pounds per teleport, it will take a hound archon about 70,000 minutes to carry it away, seven weeks of service. I can easily offer to split the money with the archon. Alternatively, I can buy a portable hole (he can easily pick it up for me somewhere), lend it to the archon for ten minutes, and it's all in my castle at home.

Because casters bypass problems.

And players of casters assume a lot when it comes to setting up the perfect conditions. The archon may not ask for payment in coin, but in service, or may refuse payment entirely and do it (or not) based entirely on the overall alignment of the party. Or, he may start the process, and deliberately drag it out or twist it to test the caster and the party. In the end, just because the player has a grand idea of what the caster can do, the world is in no way obligated to cooperate and carry out the plan exactly and it may often dissent just for the sake of dissenting. Enemies will rarely give the party time to fully buff on a routine basis. NPC wizards are not going to just allow a PC to copy a spell out of their spellbook without some kind of very hefty payment, which will not always be coin. If anything, the king is going to be far more likely to trust the fighter acting as a general than the smooth talking bard that looks and sounds far too much like the constant schemers in his court. In the end, the plans and actions of casters are only as good as the reaction the world has to that plan.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
You do that, and suddenly, the wizard doesn't have narrative advantage because you're not basing narrative control on class mechanics.
Sure, everyone agrees that if you just have a Magical Tea Party, everything is hunky-dory. The issue is that some people want to actually play the game using the actual rules, which include pesky things like "class mechanics."

I never said ignore class mechanics; I said don't use them for controlling story narrative. It's not that hard to do. Magic is really, really good at solving immediate, concrete goals, but that's about it, just like martials are really good at killing things immediately in front of them. The goals may be larger in size, but they are still concrete, limited goals with more or less the same scope.

No class has an inherent advantage in shaping the world as a whole; casters can do a lot, but it can be undone just as quickly by parties that are more powerful and have a vested interest in keeping things from going off kilter. Kings will have their own powerful casters; most regions will have magic police forces with rules on when magic can be used and sold. It's a very simple matter of extending the type of government responses to martial classes to the threats that casters pose.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

Shrug. So I bring another martial. Hell, I can bring a dozen martials, all created as magic simulacra.

Alternatively, I find easier ways to get loot (planar ally again; I simply need to rent some equipment from the higher planes) and kit the fighter out, again with minimal risk.

All of those options require DM help and support. The wizard gets none of those automatically. At the very least, it requires the DM to give the party enough treasure in previous adventures to afford all the simulcra. If a player tried that in a game I was DMing and seriously thought it would happen exactly as he wanted it to when he wanted it to, I would laugh out loud. There are costs, consequences, NPC reactions, and secondary effects related to all of those things, and the player controls none of them; they are all firmly in DM territory without any metagaming or stretched explanations required.


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Kolokotroni wrote:
But again, it means dm's giving up some of their narrative power to a mundane ability.

No, what it means is that everyone needs to look past simply what the class abilities say that character can do, regardless of the class, and actually put that character in the world. Mechanically, a wizard and a fighter will never have the same potential; that difference is far too engrained into the D&D dna for that ever to change. There are things that could be done to limit that difference a bit better, but it will never, never disappear. What made it work early on, and what makes it work in 3rd edition as well as any edition, is to look past the class mechanics and embed the characters in the world itself, giving each character their own allies, enemies, and resources beyond the WBL, which in my mind only governs access to immediately available adventuring resources, and let the world be the vehicle that drives the story for everyone. You do that, and suddenly, the wizard doesn't have narrative advantage because you're not basing narrative control on class mechanics.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

Not a problem. The caster simply handles transportation, and lets the martial kill the bad guy and take all the credit. Caster gets half of the loot and a small fraction of the experience in exchange for none of the risk.

If the caster's motivation for adventuring is money and loot, this is a much more efficient way to do it. If his motivation for adventuring is killing the BBEG, it's still much more efficient.

But if the fighter was relying on the loot and/or xp found along the way to actually defeat the BBEG, than instant transportation doesn't actually help, since no one gets any loot or xp when the BBEG ultimately is rendered unbeatable by the party's own actions, making it a losing proposition for the caster as well.

As for the second part, rarely does a good story end with the killing of a single BBEG, nor is that usually as simple a process a single climatic battle. Campaigns usually center around entire organizations or groups, even those that feature a final big boss at the end. If I were a DM and the party managed to kill the BBEG that quick, they would find out that skipping ahead to the BBEG without dealing with the rest of the group was counterproductive, and now they had to deal with an even bigger problem that may or may not have a clearly distinguishable solution.

Again, the assumption is being made that the dungeon crawl is the desired story and adventure mode at higher levels. That doesn't work, and most of the people having problems are those that are not willing to accept this very basic detail. Adventure types must change as PCs level; low level adventure scenarios will almost always break down at higher levels, regardless of the party.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Yes, this. If you're designing a cross-the-desert-and-reach-the-temple adventure for a party of tier 3 characters, you don't need to pay attention to this, because the tier 3 characters can't break your adventure. (And, no, one-shotting the BBEG doesn't count as "breaking the adventure," since the bulk of the adventure was getting to the BBEG in the first place.) They'll either use mundane transport (I foresee lots of Ride checks) or they'll use some form of magical transportation that you yourself put in as a shortcut.

At higher levels, though, the party is still going to make short work of the traveling aspect of the adventure. Whether it be hand waving away a lot of Ride and Fortitude checks that are basically auto successes, so not worth rolling, and mostly skipping over the vast majority of random encounters because the party can steamroll over them in one round, or the caster casting a single spell, the effect is likely going to be the same, save that the first example still has the party getting at least some xp and loot, while in the second, the party doesn't actually gain anything save time. Their ability to deal with the BBEG hasn't improved any and chances are that if the DM planned for them to go through the desert, he made the encounters in the temple harder to compensate for the additional expected xp and loot. The DM doesn't lose by having a caster bypass the desert; the caster actually made it harder for the party to ultimately succeed.

A large part of the problem is that a lot of people want to have a traditional traveling and dungeon crawl type adventures at level 10, and that just doesn't work, at all, for any party. And it's the same for the stories that these people so often reference; how often do you see tales of the struggles Hercules went through to get to his challenge? Almost never, and for good reason; he either shrugged them off or paid someone to deal with them, just like a high level party of martials would. The desert trek would still end up being a very dissatisfying story for everyone involved, and largely hand waved as a result.


PIXIE DUST wrote:
You are aware that simply "defeating" an encounter earns you XP right? You don't need to kill something to earn XP. Getting a golem stuck in a pit and walking right by it is sufficient enough... sure you lose out on loot maybe but the XP is not much an issue...

You first have to actually have the encounter, and most of the complaints here have been about wizards bypassing encounters entirely, as in, they never happen. That means no xp. And for the encounter ending spells, the loss of loot may not hurt once or twice to the caster, but it will to the caster's party members, and after a while, the caster will start to feel it too when they can't afford any more scrolls. Add in the fact that many DMs will give less xp for an encountered bypassed that easily, and the loss of xp also will become noticeable over time at most tables. In the end, magic is not the silver bullet or campaign destroyer that many people try to make it out to be. It's great for that one time you really, really need to do something quickly and without using many resources, but over time, over reliance can become a liability that enemies can and, under a smart DM, will exploit.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
DrDeth wrote:

Nothing a fighter can do to render a entire adventure irrelevant? Ha. " while he's talking I fire an arrow at him. Hmm, natural 20, confirmed." BBEG is dead, one shot, one kill.

Adventure over.

The BBEG isn't the adventure. He's at best part of the adventure, and getting to him is the other part.

.... unless you're a caster, of course, and can simply bypass his guards and wards.

And the caster (and his party mates) also misses out on the experience and any loot that may have been gained by doing it the longer way. He better hope he now has the necessary spells to deal with the BBEG, because that's all the party has at this point, since the martials were denied access to the upgrades they needed to fight the BBEG. In short, the caster can do what you say, that is true, and in the process, actually help the DM by making it harder for himself and the party who all now have to face the end dungeon with none of the resources that the DM had prepared for them on the journey there. All it will take is getting burned once, and the caster may find the rest of party unwilling to join him in his shortcut.


Kolokotroni wrote:


The issue isnt that there are not negative consequences for the caster's action. The issue is that they can do this. That they have power over the story. They have narrative power. They can alter the circumstances in both small scale and large scale.

The issues you mention are entirely metagame constructs designed to limit that narrative power, but they dont change it's existance. The fact that the party will pick up loot and xp as they travel to a place is part of the adventure design, it has nothing to do with the character's choice of how to travel to their destination. And unless he knows ahead of time that he needs a macguffin at location x in the desert, again that is a contivance of the dm/adventure writer.

I love how everyone complains that the DM's job is made much harder because of magic when those tricks actually hurt the party and caster far more over the long run than the DM, and that's assuming that the caster has the necessary trick available at the right time. The party could very well have needed those levels before reaching the temple and now the party as a whole is screwed because they don't have the necessary power and resources to deal with the temple itself. You don't always have a day to wait for the cleric or wizard to reprepare spells and the wizard may not have the needed spell in his spell book. Magic is precisely as overpowered as the DM lets it be, no more and no less; the DM controls access to gold, time, and other materials, such as scrolls. At higher levels, PC casters face rival NPCs that keep most of the scenarios that people use to show how broken magic is from ever actually developing. There's a reason that Elminster rarely uses his magic directly; the raw power of higher level magic is just as likely to be turned against the caster as it is to solve the problem the way the caster expects, with a myriad of possible results in between those two extremes as well. It simply is not easily controlled and creates a lot of secondary ripple effects beyond what the caster even knows about, and a good DM will take advantage of that very quickly.

At certain levels, the type of adventure that the DM has to design changes, but that is just as true of martials as it is for casters. In all cases, at higher levels, a single adventure or encounter is not going to have much impact, even if you're an all fighter party. Using magic and plotting long term strategies take on greater importance than winning a single battle or defeating a single enemy. This is nothing new to 3rd edition; it's always been present in all editions of D&D. People who love traditional dungeon crawls and treks through the desert should never play above 7th or 8th level in any edition because they will break down at that point. Martials will blow through them easily enough they aren't worth playing through in most cases, and casters will ignore them; the end result is the same. The types of adventures and encounters that work at lower levels will not work with any party at higher levels. Stand alone adventures or encounters in particular are going to fall flat very quickly at high levels; the emphasis, whether people like it or not, must move beyond the raw class abilities of the character and focus on how that character interacts with the world and it's inhabitants. The precise level may differ from a caster heavy party to a martial heavy party, but the basic reality is still there regardless.

To me, the problem with magic is in how the entire D&D family tends to handle magic, not a problem with any one of the several systems within that family. It's more apparent in 3rd edition and requires different solutions than what you would do in other editions, but at it's core, it's no better or worse than any other edition. There will never be an edition of D&D where magic is balanced with martials; the two systems are designed with two completely different goals in mind and therefore use two completely different approaches; any attempts to try to change the goals of either system to allow for a balanced system are not going to be met with open arms (just look at 4E for proof of that; many fans of both martials and casters united in disliking that approach).


Ffordesoon wrote:
Oh, and it's worth noting that 5e does have a fairly robust set of rules for common play scenarios, not to mention a table that lists common DCs for all skill checks. It might be simpler than 3.x, but the safety net you speak of is still pretty generous in comparison...

How robust that actually manages to be long term is going to be important given the role that organized play is going to have and the increased mobility of society today. The biggest concern I have at this point is how much those actually get used and how much of them being present is empty lip service. With 3rd edition, it was impossible to ignore, which was probably a bit too much; 4th edition was difficult to do casually, but easy enough for those that wanted to, which made it hard as a player to set expectations. Older editions didn't even attempt to provide support in that area.

Where 5E ultimately needs to land is somewhere in between, where there is a clear baseline, making it possible for the players to establish some kind of consistent expectation (and I'm not sure that 5E has this with an awful lot of abilities referring the player to the DM to make a decision), while providing DMs built in tools to change the baseline in ways that don't break the game or leave players completely guessing.

It's too early to really tell how everything will ultimately work with the DMG not out yet, and everyone still getting used to the new system, but the DMG is going to have to be one of the absolute best books they have ever put out and the system in practice is going to have to be a lot more robust across multiple tables in a full campaign environment than it looks like on paper. They have a decent start, but they haven't yet proved that they've learned their lessons from earlier editions.


Adjule wrote:

A bad DM is a bad DM, regardless of edition. DMs can, did, still do, and will make terrible rulings, whether something is written a certain way or not. A good DM does the same thing with good rulings. It is fairly easy to tell if a DM is trying to be a control freak, in any edition.

3rd edition didn't remove anymore control from a DM than was previously present. DMs have always had ultimate control of how the game runs, and was always the last say on any form of ruling. The only thing that changed was that 3rd edition wrote so much down, that people ultimately just went with "I swing my weapon at it" or "I cast *name of spell* at it".

But by giving players a certain amount of ability to see the behavior and a variety of ways to respond, it did limit the ability of a bad DM to completely ruin it for someone else. Even if someone didn't like the experience as a whole, even brand new people could usually tell what aspect they didn't like, whether it be the DM, the group, the system, or a combination of those things. That is the real difference between 3rd edition and the other versions. DMs could still be arrogant, stupid and/or dumb, but it was much, much harder to mask and much easier for new players to identify; this in turn made it much harder to get away with. Many players are fine with merely inexperienced or inadvertent mistakes, but not so much with deliberate choices, regardless of what system is being used. 3rd edition made it easy to see the difference where other versions of D&D did not.


Alan_Beven wrote:
Quote:

This actually might be a selling point for me. It's an answer to the decades old question of "If your customers can play for years with just the core rules, how do you survive as a business?" That's plagued RPGs since the beginning.

The general answer since the mid 2E days has been to produce system bloat. Paizo's has been to focus more on APs,but even they have a strong focus on new rules. The 3.x system is designed for new rules expansions.

The idea of trying to use the RPG to establish the brand rather than as the actual money-maker is an interesting one.

I agree with this. The modern world just generally seems to be geared to cross media publishing. Look at how many kids toys have movies and board games released for them. Honestly Paizo is an exception in even the RPG world in that they can sell through the volume that they do. Most RPGs cannot achieve the volume that Paizo does, so relying on that strategy of business does not seem to be particularly long term thinking.

I don't disagree, but for now, the rpg is the only real thing the D&D brand has to build off of. It has some good novel writers and a few decent computer and board games out there, but none of those are going to be usable as a foundation. Treating the rpg as something that eventually will be a secondary product in a greater brand of proven products across multiple markets is one thing; acting as though that day is already here, which is what WotC seems to be doing right now, is foolish. People can speculate on movies or cross media promotion on a scale that would render the rpg insignificant, but speculation doesn't make a brand money. To achieve what they want to achieve, they need a foundation and a plan to build on that foundation. Right now, they don't have either; they just seem to be throwing darts at a dart board hoping enough of them hit the bullseye to allow the brand to reach the critical mass the brand needs.


MMCJawa wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:

And that approach worries me, a lot. For one, they've tried it twice before, and it has yet to actually work. For whatever reason, the brand doesn't have the cross platform appeal that WotC wants it to have. Second, no matter how insignificant tabletop gaming is, it's still the...

WoTC's major profit earner is not DnD, it's Magic. DnD is just an ancilliary source of income. How much effort should they devote to it? How much effort do you expect Hasbro wants them to devote to it? There are something like...what? 6 designers dedicated to DnD, with the first adventure given to a 3pp to do. How many releases do you think 6 developers could by their itself, which are not simply rehashes of 4E and 3E books?

A slow and steady approach probably is the most viable avenue for them right now.

As for Brand, one really successful movie could more than make up for all of DnD sales in a year. That is at least one avenue Hasbro seems to be interested in pursuing, given their current legal fight with Sweetpea.

First, I'll believe that a good D&D movie can be made when I see, not a second before. Even if they get the movie rights back, it's still an uphill battle, and Hasbro's record of success is mixed at best.

Second, they are going to need a really good license if they only intend to have 6 designers working in house. Someone is going to need to be able to create enough content to keep the system from becoming just another book on the shelf, and WotC isn't going to do it, they need to make sure someone else can. So far, we haven't seen such a license.

In the end, support, or lack thereof, is going to be what determines the fate of the system. Having 6 people going from product to product with no real game plan on future direction or growth is not going to suffice. They don't need a ton of splat books, but they do still need some kind of consistent plan, and it's very clear they don't have that right now. A handful of short story arcs is not a business plan. That is the part that worries me; I'm not worried about quantity, I'm worried about the lack of a clear direction going forward. WotC has shown in the past that it's far to easy to end up creating a confusing mess without some kind of plan, and they are basically repeating the exact same mistake they made with 3.5 and 4E in that regard. Given how long they've been doing this, it's a ridiculous mistake to still be making, and shows that WotC execs don't really care about the brand when it comes time to actually invest time and money into it to make it better, and that isn't likely to change even if they find success in other markets.


MMCJawa wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Ffordesoon wrote:
Have you played 5e yet, sunshadow? Honest question.
Haven't had a chance, and frankly, will be very, very picky about the group I choose to do so with. It has a lot of potential to be really good with the right group, and I will wait for the right group to try it; no point in doing anything else. I just don't believe that WotC can afford for everyone to take that approach or worse, try it out with the wrong DM and hate it.
I am confused on how this is any different from any version of the game. A bad DM experience is going to turn you off the game; it doesn't matter what edition you play.

A bad DM could not flat out destroy interest in 3rd edition on their own. A bad DM could make it boring, dull, and uninteresting, but not make it into a complete disaster without help from the rest of the group. Even if it did turn people off from the systme, it was rarely enough make them want to poison the well for other people in the process or make them flat out refuse to ever try the system again with a different group. Aside from system burnout, I've rarely seen anyone who actually hated 3rd edition, and even most people with system burnout were simply tired of it, not hating it. Every other edition of D&D fully has the capability of turning people off not just for a specific group or for a short time, but permanently and in a way that makes them actively hate it, and they can do so in the span of a single session. It's a big difference.


Kthulhu wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
And if you and everyone else here are still saying the same things a year from now after the shininess has worn off, it will mean something. For now, it's not unimportant, but it's being said with most of the true tests of the system's strengths and weaknesses having been faced yet. The result they must avoid this edition is what happened with 4E, where the same handful of folks (almost exclusively DMs with virtually no pure players in the bunch) repeating almost exactly the same things over and over after the initial surge ended. So far, they seem to be doing good in that department, but I'm still seeing a lot of folks that are waiting on the DMG, so opinions now are still subject to change.
Perhaps, but I've seen very little negative reaction to 5e. Some here (mostly by people who will actually admit not to having played it...or even looked at the rules), and some on a much smaller board that seems to pile hate on everything that isn't 4E (it gets plenty of it's own hate as well there, however).

Negative reaction isn't the only bad outcome for WotC. Of far bigger concern to me if I were a WotC exec would be the lack of long term reaction beyond standard talking points, positive or negative. 4E is a very good example of this. Negative reaction from 4E probably actually helped keep it alive a bit longer simply because it was still better than no reaction, which is what largely was happening by the time Essentials came out. By that time, the same small number of people still actually talking about it had settled into one of two camps with the same talking points being thrown around. The lack of meaningful conversation around it hurt the system a lot. 3rd edition and Pathfinder, for all their faults, manage to keep an actual balanced conversation going, even today; there are a few common complaints but rarely do they all come up in the exact same combination and rarely are they countered by exactly the same positive counter points. 5E has to do the same thing; it has to provide enough talking points, both good and bad, that 1)a large base of people want to have a conversation about it rather than simply ignoring it and 2)no one combination of talking points can truly dominate the conversation the way they did in 4E.


Kthulhu wrote:
Adjule wrote:
Last I saw, Pathfinder was the "industry leader", and regularly beat out D&D as the top selling rpg for quite a bit of 4th edition's life cycle.

Paizo has sold more books in that time that McDonald's, too. Why is that relevant? Because both WotC and McDonalds have published about the same number of books over the past couple of years.

My point? Selling more books than a company that isn't publishing any books isn't quite the amazing feat that some of you are making it out to be.

This is why I say that Paizo isn't ready yet. They have the selling books aspect down well, but being an industry leader is more than just that. Paizo is getting there, and getting there a lot quicker than most, including Paizo, would have expected, but they still need a good couple solid years of overall development and growth to be a legitimate contender.


Steve Geddes wrote:
Adjule wrote:
As for them not having a release schedule after the DMG, I don't know what to say. I am not an employee of WotC. But they are apparently going more for quality over quantity, which makes me feel that way since they delayed the DMG because they wanted to polish it up better.

I was glad they pushed the DMG back. Although I don't know why they did it, it can't have been a response to D&D sales, so I think it was probably a good decision (or a forced one). I think the chance of them having "no plan" is negligible - one of the advantages of a corporate structure is their discipline around planning and strategic thinking. Whether its a good plan or whether its successful is another matter, of course.

As for future releases, their website seems really clear to me - its becoming more and more obvious that they're not thinking of D&D as a TTRPG any more, but rather as a much broader brand. That makes sense to me having recently learned just how insignificant tabletop gaming is in the gaming industy. (It also clarifies for me why they pushed the board games and online gaming so much during 4E's run).

The more I read, the more confident I am predicting that the release of books will be much slower than previous editions. Their big push is cross-platform promotion. I don't think they care if you play the MMO, read the books, play the RPG or participate in the organised play - they want you to be part of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen storyline in some way.

It doesn't seem to me that they're planning to produce anywhere near the content that paizo do (unless they continue with the PDF focus of 4E - that seemed comparable pagecount-wise, I guess although I never really used it).

And that approach worries me, a lot. For one, they've tried it twice before, and it has yet to actually work. For whatever reason, the brand doesn't have the cross platform appeal that WotC wants it to have. Second, no matter how insignificant tabletop gaming is, it's still the biggest strength of the brand, and to not play up existing strengths is foolishness. Third, I don't expect or want the same output they had before, but they need something, and they need it in writing more than 3 months before putting it out. I can understand the desire to look beyond, but that doesn't mean abandoning the only known commodity the brand has to put out is a good idea, and that is dangerously close to what they are doing right now.


Ffordesoon wrote:

Sunshadow:

That's what I thought.

Well, I can't help you find the right group, but I can tell you from experience that playing is believing. It's a LOT more fun than it seems when you just read it. I was mildly impressed with it when I first glanced at the rules, but nothing jumped out at me as being particularly cool.

After I played my first session (with a DM I'd never met before that day, BTW), I was practically vibrating with excitement, and I spent the next week or two jabbering about it to anyone who made the mistake of allowing me to talk at them. I've been a steadfast evangelist for the system ever since.

I can't guarantee you'll feel the same way, of course, but it seems like plenty of other people in this thread have had a similar experience.

And if you and everyone else here are still saying the same things a year from now after the shininess has worn off, it will mean something. For now, it's not unimportant, but it's being said with most of the true tests of the system's strengths and weaknesses having been faced yet. The result they must avoid this edition is what happened with 4E, where the same handful of folks (almost exclusively DMs with virtually no pure players in the bunch) repeating almost exactly the same things over and over after the initial surge ended. So far, they seem to be doing good in that department, but I'm still seeing a lot of folks that are waiting on the DMG, so opinions now are still subject to change.


MMCJawa wrote:
thejeff wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:

Does a DnD movie need to define itself as being completely different from all other fantasy movies? I don't think so, or at least I don't think it needs to in order to be successful. There are lots of genres and sub-genres...what generally makes a movie stand out from other movies of its type is the directions, plot, and characters, and in genre flicks the world-building and special effects.

If they make a good movie and market it well, it will stand out. Especially since big-screen fantasy movies have been so hit and miss.

I would like it to have something to do with D&D other than just being a fantasy.
What would distinguish a DnD movie from a typical fantasy movie? The only distinctive elements I can think of are monsters (Mind Flayers, rust monsters, etc), Vancian magic (maybe...), and using setting elements, such as setting it in Forgotten Realms or Grayhawk, or something. Perhaps we are talking past each other. Would the use of those above elements be sufficient?

Honestly, I don't know. Forgotten Realms might, but no sure bets on that; any other lesser known worlds would be even less likely to do much. Vancian magic, if you could translate a clear description might, but getting a full description out there in way that doesn't bore the audience would be tough. Monsters would be your best bet, and even than it may not mean much to most of the audience.


Adjule wrote:
Giving release dates, and then having to push them back, has proven to create rage directed at the company for not giving something they "promised" when they "promised".

Giving specific release dates is not what I am asking for; that would be silly. It shouldn't be that hard to block out rough ideas for quarters, though, unless the team is really so far cut down that they truly can't handle more than one product at a time, which is itself a major problem for a brand that is supposed to be the top of the heap. Either way, complete silence is a problem, especially when taken with recent statements basically admitting they had no idea what they were going to do next or when in regards to at least one much called for product.

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