If this was an actual essay: to be honest, the article has too little research to it. It takes no account of the considerable work that has been done on the formation and behaviour of subcultures over several decades, nor does it really address the work on "fan culture" that is nearly two decades old. There are some interesting links, especially with the general open-source movement and the copyright debates, but even these are not researched sufficiently within the Role-Playing community. I'd recommend this to accepted, but only with serious revision.
Although, to be fair, this isn't actually an "academic" essay. It's a symposium, which means it's essential a short opinion bit approved by the editorial of the journal. Kudos for Professor Bryant for raising the issue and possibly inspiring more research. I'd love to do up an essay on the topic as well, but sadly, this summer's writing is very well spoken for.
Malachite Ice wrote:
Many of the (usual) provisions that people took issue with in the case of the GSL are here as well: at any moment Paizo can change the agreement, terminate it if they wish, and you agree to not counter-sue if they claim you are in breach of contract and demand you destroy your inventory. Just pointing out irony, here.
What's to stop White Wolf from suddenly not supporting Exalted, or the Vampire card game? or Green Ronin, Mutants and Masterminds? or West End Games, the d6 system? or Palladium, say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? or FASA Shadowrun, Battletech, or Earthdawn?
For that matter, what's to stop any business from suddenly not supporting a product? Some go out of business, some are unable to maintain funds--look at the big banks and loan providers who just went under less than a month ago.
I think the OP contains a bit of fearmongering and some unreasonable expectations about how businesses work and expresses a large amount of entitlement-syndrome. Remember, Paizo could suddenly experience a capital shortfall and go under (I hope not!). If they suddenly stopped producing Pathfinder, wouldn't their world be just as "unprotected" as the DDM sets are?
Goth Guru wrote:
I played and ran the Realms for around 17 years before taking a break. I understand that some might have negative feelings about the changes that have been made, but I can see why they felt the need for mixing up the setting. I think the fans need to realize that when you hitch your games to shared worlds beyond your control, things are going to happen that you don't care for.I stopped buy Realms stuff becuase of the meta-plot and its increasing role in the settings development. I can't follow L5Rs meta-plot becuase it moves too darn fast for an RPG, and so ignore it when I run that game. It seems like you emphasis the metaplot--"All the important characters..." refers to the NPCs of the setting, whereas I think the PCs should be the important characters.
Also, I can't help but point out that the people who worked on the new setting are all long standing Realms writers, including Greenwood and Salvatore, who are obstenibly the most important. Only Sean K Reynolds is the one writer I think should have been paid his weight in gold to work on the book...sorry I don't have it on hand to check the credits...
So...is chess unbalanced, or full of meaningless choices?
Actually chess is unbalanced in two ways: first, white always goes first. Second, the pieces move in a number of different ways. While the composition of both players chess pieces is the same (8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 1 queen, and 1 king) the challenge of chess derives from making the right choices from a range of deliberately sub-optimal pieces. You have to move your weakest pieces to reveal the power of your army. The imbalance between pieces in a contained environment (8x8 board, equal armies, same goal) makes chess full of meaningful choices.
Polaris is dead on. This is why decks of playing cards work the way they do--a random range creates an unbalanced set of hands. Same with TCGs. Magic: The Gathering has prospered by maintaining a solid mix of optimal:average:suboptimal cards. Same with L5R.
Game balance is often an illusion, and RPGs rely upon a sense of cooperation between players and between the DM and players to guide the balance of a game. That's why a group can play a fun low magic D&D game, and the group next door can Monty Haul it up.
Four sessions to full proficiency seems good for a RPG. That was about the time my players started to work out combos (one of my favorites is the rogues Set-up Strike, Action Point, Sly Flourish sequence which is great).
One of the nice things is that with only a little effort on the DMs part, everyone get proficient about the same time, rather than the casual players getting left behind...although there are still clear benefits to being an involved player.
The trickiness of comparing abilities is something I find works out well in 4e. I like the division of attack and utility powers. This way characters always have a relatively equal and wide range of combat options and non-combat options. Sure, a lot of utilities work in combat, but generally only to assist the PC or an ally and don't do damage directly. The mix of combat-non-combat powers in other games can be a bit dodgy (say, a wizard vs. a companion in Ars Magica, although that is the admitted goal of that game).
I've got a group with two strikers, but I can't imagine how tough a group with two defenders would be to budge. That must make for some awesome fight scenes.
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
If their response to this class is unrestricted glee, then the spiral of ever increasing power in classes seems to have started disappointingly early.
I was pretty relaxed about this class, but it would fit my setting like a charm, so I read it. My immediate reaction was it reads as very, very evocative; I'd play one, but I don't see it being overpowered. No way a first level swordmage could cover anyone elses job except the defenders. It will be great to throw a few of these at my players in the main plot arc of paragon tier.
Stedd Grimwold wrote:
I wonder if there any "permanent" reagents. Something that has the same effect as a black pearl, maybe daily or an encounter use, but isn't consumed. It would have to fill a slot for balance I would imagine.
Hmm, could themed implements do this as well? An orb enhances divination rituals, or a rod that enchances charm powers. I think that would make for interesting material in a pre-existing design space.
So, yeah, if you're into the character building, 4E won't be your cup o joe.
Well, a certain kind of character building...I think 4e provides the same amount of room to build what a consider a character--that is motivation, background, mannerisms, appearence, and other such aspects of role-playing. There is a little going to be a little loss of mechanical options because that's the nature of a new edition. I dearly love David Chart's brilliant 5th edition of Ars Magica, but it is sorrly lacking in clear guidelines to create new monsters, as well as lacking a good range of beasties. Similarily, 3rd ed. Legend of the Five Rings suffered a lack of information about the culture of the setting and role-playing advice, something that the 1st edition game had in spades (I paraphrase John Wick: L5R shouldn't be about playing in a different history, but a different culture). I haven't read the new ed of Shadowrun, but that game always lacked for monsters in the corebook.
The point being any game limited to its core book(s) is limiting. Or on the other hand, freeing in the sense that your imagination does the work...that's in part why I stopped using a lot of supplements in 3e and part of why I'm enjoying 4e. I'm looking forward to Adventurer's Vault though, as there's far too many arms and armors in the PH and too few potions and wondrous items.
As an aside, this was a very polite conversation before some disruptions above. Could we avoid such things? I'd be interesting on hearing how people are speeding up their games and if DMs currently running 4e games have any interesting experiences they'd like to share.
Admittedly, the character sheets were a big fumble, but I didn't by them anyway. Wizards really hasn't put out a good set of sheets since the orginal 3e sheets in 2000, which were nice. I have no clue as to why WotC can't get a good sheet made when so many fans seem to whip one up...anyway, I tended to house rule 3e around so much it didn't matter, and I like having setting themed sheets anyway.
The DM screen however, is excellent. I'm pleased with that purchase and even more pleased by the speed with which WotC errated one small section. The pdf they provided was a very quick fix. I'm pretty neutral about the art and the info is laid out logically.
One thing I have noticed is how responsive WotC has been about products. Players complained about "setting-like" feats like "Golden Wyvern Adept" and they were dropped from the PH. Player's complained about the cover of the 4e PH, so they got a new cover (neither cover was/is good in my opinion, but not for the reason player's complained about). Back when Eberron was released a lot of players complained about the mixture of DM knowledge and player knowledge. Now all setting books are being divided into a DM-book and a Player-book. That's good news. Now, I don't use their settings, but it seems that they are responsive...And the product seems a bit better. I bought 2 3.5 books beyond the core and some setting material for the Eberron game I ran (MMIII and Heroes of Battle), but I thought very little of WotC's offerings from around 2004-2008. The 4e material seems to be stronger, with more clarity and room for individual DMs to do their thing.
The problem with power cards is that they seem to make people forget about their other options (grapple, bull rush, environmental interaction, etc)...but maybe that's just my crew.
I actually found they'd do the opposite, especially the casual players, they'd forget the variety of powers and fall back on the ol' I attack with my sword kind of situations and not use their encounter and daily powers. So we stopped using cards and listed all their powers on their sheets (I did up a setting-specific sheet for us). I do give out magic items on card (because I think its fun), and those were being forgotten about by some of the players...so I also started a little "training" program now that they're 5th level and have a new daily power. It goes like this:
Each character has a checklist of all the special options they can do, such as their powers, class abilities (hunter's quarry, etc), and general combat options (action point, second wind, trip, etc) and when they use the option they check it off. If they get to 5 different options used in a linked combat, or 8 in an isolated one, they add a small XP bonus to the encounter. At first there were cries of "more bookkeeping!" but after last session they all agreed it helped them get a sense of the game and reminded them to use the special magic item powers they had. One PC managed to get up to 4 different checks in a round (hunter's quarry for minor, move, Shadowwasp Strike for standard, use Elven Accuracy to avoid a miss (free), activate weapon power (free) (fear attack; even better because the weapon is called the waspblade and hums like a wasp and themes nicely with the special attack). I still think she should have blown an action point and used another attack, but the PC was excited, and she's a reliable, long-running casual player.
My question for you, because I have not had the opportunity to play 4E as much as I would have liked, is ... do the battles get LONGER as you level up, or does the timing remain about the same? I would expect as the lethality of the attacks vs. the increased efficiency of the defense would leave the timing about the same across the board, regardless of the level played at, but what has been your experience?
This is a really good question; of course, my party has only just reached 5th level. We do play once a week, and have played 4e since it came out. I can only say that it appears to progressing smoothly. I don't notice any combats taking longer, in fact the more basic encounters seem to be going quicker--say some goblin cutters mixed with a few archers and a skullcleaver--while the elite and solo encounters are getting more and more interesting.
I whipped up a Dark One Master Spy to be a solo encounter. He was a hit-and-run assassin who could generate fields of darkness (adding a bit of controller instead of just increasing his ability to attack). He was great, effective in paralysing the party's heavy hitters by remaining hidden, trapping PCs in darkness, and attacking from the shadows. It took a while for the PCs to take him down, and they had to regroup at one point and seriously considered retreat as an option.
For better or for worse, the wizards attempts to use Thunderwave to blast him out of his darkness field kepts failing, but it was a sound plan (darned luck o' the dice). They eventually took to hurling lit oil canisters into the field he was currently hiding in. We randomized the hit locations as that seemed most fair, but it did force him out of the field and into the waiting swords of the ranger and paladin. Of course, with classic tradecraft, the Master Spy killed himself rather than be captured. But the battle went very well.
My experience is that combat move swiftly after the first few games. The rounds are much shorter and as the players learn the game, their characters, and the capabilities of the party it really smoothes out.
A DM's primary role in a new system is to teach it. I've been trying out different models to familiarize ourselves (of course, the basic of advice that one should play any game three times in a row--same characters if its a narrative like an RP, or three times over three weeks for a card/board game).
To this end, I designed our first two adventures to be short, without too much linked combat. This allowed the players to digest their new round-to-round options. My more casual players have taken a while to adjust to the new options becuase there are simply more of them. The shorter adventures also allowed me to learn how to design encounters in 4e better. It really made me realize how encounter design is more prosaic, that is, benefiting from a mixture of monster roles.
After those two adventures, we proceeded into a longer one, with a more extensive "dungeon." I deliberately used goblins as a classic villain and found we can move quite quickly through encounters. Some battles take longer than others, but what I find rewarding is that I have been able to reliably design them as such--smaller, lighter encounters go fast, while the major set-piece battles are satisfyingly difficult. From a narrative point of view, there's less randomness in how an encounter goes and I can build up tension nicely. I also find the overall pacing of an adventure's action sequences go well. Depending on the pace I've set, we can get through 4-6 battles in a combat heavy night and with a normal 3 hour session.
This week we played a 2.5 hour session, in which 1.25 hour was just straight RP between the PCs and NPCs, as well as travelouge details. The two combats were: a battle against 13 bandits on the road, which lasted two rounds while the PCs used a combination of skills (Intimidate, mostly) and well-placed strikes (the rogue and wizard proving very effective) to cow the ruffians; and a second battle against an Oni Night Haunter--a battle I deliberately wanted to be tough. The fight lasted 9 or 10 rounds, flowed around the battlefield nicely, saw PCs being knocked unconscious (one even suffered the Oni's powerful Devour Soul power), and was generally an awesome, big encounter. I estimate the bandits took about .5 of an hour (mostly due to pre-attack planning--the cleric wanted to intimidate, the wizard just wanted to charge), and the Oni took .75/hour. I consider this reasonable.
I've finished the next major dungeon, and am excited about running it. I've also prepared my first mega-adventure, or at least mega-to-my-mind, that will take the PCs from 6th to 10th level. It's going to be a lot of fun!
I am on the other side of the pond and agree.
Paul Watson wrote:
I was wondering when NPC classes would enter into this disc. Even the most generic 1st-level Fighter is considerable more accomplished than a 1st-level warrior. Higher hit die and an additional feat is a big difference, and a second level warrior simply cannot hold a candle to a second level fighter. So, even in 3.5 characters are hardly wet-behind-the-ears. Now, you can play it as such, or start out as NPC classes, but those are group decisions, not assumptions of the game. Come to think of it, how many RPGs actually assume your at the absolute beginning of a power curve/career? I can't think of any at all...
Count Buggula wrote:
But, what would we be playing without WOTC? TSR's practices put them out of business and the game out of production. So no, the argument is not valid becuase it assumes an equal level of success on the parts of both companies. While WotC run on D&D is not over, and time may prove certain decisions (removing the magazines from print) mistaken, judging them by a history that would see the game out-of-print is invalid.
I appreciate you humor, Pneumonica. I found the ignorant use of such language (and rhetoric) in the original post monstrously offensive,as would all the users of this board. I am upset to see such disrespect here. I hope Paizo does not let such libel be directed towards them.
Or the weapon tables list the most common way of damaging an opponent with the weapon: you can stab (pierce) with a longsword, and you can slash with a shortsword, or dagger. A warhammer usually had a spike or claw on the secondary end that was used to pierce a foes vitals and chinks after the foe was knocked down.
While a few weapons--halberd, for example--list two kinds of damage, the system would be overly complex if every weapon had multiple damage types. Instead, a DM is able to easily adjudicate variant uses of a weapon. I recommend following the "Improvising Weapon" rule, but might be tempted to lessen the penalty to -2 becuase the weapon is not entirely improvised, just being used outside of its normal range of use.
Convince Mike Mearls to contribute the chapters on combat and skills.
I'm less enamoured about Mearls work (too much crunch for things a DM should be simply winging) and, tongue-in-cheek here of course, wondering if Bruce Cordell and Dave Noonan could be taunted into working for Paizo...or at least becoming freelancers.
[Insert Neat Username Here] wrote:
How can I reasonably get rid of the goblin? I've already had it try to run away; they stopped it.
My players similarily captured Tsuko (? it was a while ago) and interrogated him. There was some debate about summarily executing him, but I had the sherrif and mayor intervene: while he was certainly guilt of treason and conspiracy, he was made to stand trial and was then hanged as fit his crimes.
Goblins are a bit tricky, as they aren't citizens of Magnimar...summary execution might not be a issue. My players did catch and interrogate a goblin in town, but I stressed how violent and feral he was. Some of the players tried to befriend him, but again, the townsfolk didn't want the little monster around town after the first attack--so, public execution. If you want to get really realistic, it might be appropriate to crow-cage the little beast, or hang his corpse as a message.
I imagine it went like this: Paizo business planners "We need plans about what to do about 4E. You, you, and you brainstorm."
Jason: "I have this thing I've been fiddlin' with"
P.B.P.: "Run with it, we may need it"
As always, the person in the right place at the right time takes the prize. I'm an academic (English) and we often see interesting conferences and call-for-papers that journals put out. Being able to respond depends entirely upon what you might have written in your draw--of-essay.
This is a big reason to keep iterative attacks, and why 4e moved towards the 1:1 ratio between PC:monster and developed "elite" and "solo" monsters.
The other option is to say, damn Monster/NPC/PC equity and just allow high level monsters iterative attacks and deny it to class-based monsters, NPCs, and PCs.
Ultimately though, I don't see changing this to be in Paizo's interests (it also belies a problem: ask 10 different DMs what's need to "fix" 3e, you'll get 10 different responses. It's probably best to make minor changes to 3.5 and then let people house-rule away).
If Player Bob wants to play a Paladin, and they aren't available, Bob is denied his 'fun.' If Player Bob wants to play an Errol Flynn-esque swashbuckling Rogue who draws his initials in the air with his Rapier, or a woodsy sort of scout who plinks people with a Shortbow from the forest canopy, he can't, and, again, Bob is denied his 'fun.'
As a friendly, devil's advocate, isn't it reasonable to say that the former is a Fighter and the later a Ranger?
hellacious huni wrote:
I think, for me, the height change is fine, not for reasons of strength, but for reach and distance. Distance, and the crossing of distance, is a defining moment in combat, and quite simply, a 3-foot humanoid with a sword rushing a 5'8" humanoid with a sword is going to get hit far earlier and more often. One of my players used to joke about Valenar elves in Eberron going on "The Great Halfling Hunt!"
As far as the Tolkien connection, I have never been convinced of D&D's reliance or even the "influence" of Tolkien's work on the game. I think the aesthetic of Tolkien has been used, but none of his ideas and concept have been a common thread--even with a noted scholar like John D. Rateliff working for TSR. There is a similar disconnect with the supposed influence Tolkien has had on the "epic fantasy" model, I see little Tolkien in his supposed predecessors (although I do in a few, Guy Gavriel Kay, for example), just an mimicking of surface, or aesthetic conventions. Tolkien belongs to a tradition that precedes him, rather than one that realistically follows him.
Nicolas Logue wrote:
I agree wholeheartedly with the OP and Mr. Logue's desire for fewer mechanics. While I too have had trouble with DMs and arbitrary rules, those experiences have led me to give players a lot of latitude (the moment something sounds like a great movie-scene, I let the player(s) try it--and the times they fail are as awesome as the times they succeed...like the time a player climbed to the top of a lightning rail in a siberys shard storm and took a shard to the head, or the numerous times PCs have been lit on fire one way or another).
I'm concerned about the growing "rules" around terrain and such...I like a lot of the premises in Iron Heroes or the Book of Iron Might, but I don't need rules to adjudicate the stunts, just common sense and a will to have the PCs kick ass (and my villains, too!)
Hmm, I thought it would have worked like the Haunts (which were brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! So much better than typical traps).
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
As a counterpoint: the runewells are powered by vices, which suggests, on a fundamental level, that vices--and therefore virtues--actually generate a form of quantifiable energy that can be captured and stored. Therefore, the philosophy of the Runelords does have a basis in the natural environment--otherwise those who do not subscribe to their philosophy would not fuel them.
The issue here becomes one of epistemology, not ontology, which suggests that there may be variances, but the Thassilonian (sp?) system should be coherent. But this, after all, D&D...coherence is not its specialty--adventure is!
Mary Yamato wrote:
When I read the preview for RotRL, I thought runeforged weapons would be cool, then noticed later on that they are more sin forged weapons, which suits some game groups, but not mine...in fact, if a paladin or good cleric actual forged a sin-related runeforge weapon, well, that'd be the first time in 20 years that a character would be losing some deity-supported powers. [one common theme in Paizo's products is a bunch of evil, a lot of gray, but very little real good. I'd love to see a bit of emphasis on virtue and a few champions of good crop up]
I did two things to circumvent this problem in taste: first, I've had all of the PCs come into contact with runic magic somehow (two planetouched have been having dreams and are having rune-like markings emerge on their hands, the wizard suffered a critical hit by a matriarch to her eye and the pupil changed to a runic shape, and one character has a brace of daggers that was given to him by a romantic interest (the daggers hilts are carved to represent the four seasons, and their spontaneously become magic...i.e. the DM is turning them slowly into runeforged weapons).
Second, I'll be redrafting the forging of rune weapons to be based on a reconsecration of the runeforge. The cleric character gets to feel awesome and everyone gets suped-up items, so they'll be happy.
I personally think revealing a bit more in HMM is good. I've tried running three APs now: Age of Worms transmuted into an entirely different storyline (though similar) and Savage Tide ended early on a satisfactory conclusion, but one I wrote myself. The RotRL is the first that has been working out for me, in part because the adventures have been so well done, and because work has kept me so busy (curse you, Candidacy exams!). I've been thinking about what would make APs work better, and the best idea I've had has been a brief DMs guide to the major NPCs...no stats, but a list of the major plot-related NPCs.
e.g. the various Lamia Matriarchs, Barl, Mokmurian, The Runelord himself, and so on
The list would give the DM a brief background of the NPCs, notes on appearance, behavior, etc, but most importantly motivations and details on goals and some kind of an index of loyalty. I think the hard part of the APs is the fact that the major bad guys appear, but I don't have enough sense of an NPCs motivations to run them as effectively as those that I create myself...
If the preview gives away the "defeat" of the Runelord, you can always have him win! My PCs are half way through HMM and, thanks to a very effective use of stealth and strategy, have managed to capture and interrogate several foes (while Zone of Truth bounces off a few NPCs, Discern Lies doesn't...good players!) and I decided to add in a few wildly threatening statements by the NPCs as to the identity of the final villian...I just watched Legend again with my son, and it really confirmed the effectiveness of the partially obscured, but still super threatenuing Big Bad. The big reveal of a mastermind only works when the mastermind is unassuming. The BBEG of RotRL isn't. He's a dark lord style figure and needs to be a looming spectre and someone the PCs already fear. In fact, PCs seem to respond best to big bads who show up earlish in a campaign, wreck the party (maybe kill a one or two characters--TPKs are no fun cause no one is left to spread the fear) and then leave, haunting the players and the characters nightmares. That is hard to pull off in published adventures, but if the PCs don't handle AP six well, and the BB walks away, I've got a back-up plan.
I can see this guys returning to cause trouble numerous times, either to forward plans for conquest or to repay the PCs for an earlier defeat. I am not a big fan of undersea play, but in this case it is evocative to think of the players (eventually) planning a counterattack against their old foe, who has a convinient escape route in the ocean...
Honestly, while this is more encounter-ish than most, a lot of this round's entries strike me as more "bad guy" and less "villain"--there is a lot of Grand Moff Tarkin and Boba Fett instead of Darth Vader (or a lot of Blastarr and Doomsday instead of Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor to switch genres/mediums).
I think the main problem the authors encountered here is the focus on getting the stat block together. I might be a bit odd, but even when I read new monsters, I look at the stat block last. The picture and the description sell me on the creature, NPC, or in this case the villain, not the stat block. Without a graphic picture to help, putting the stat-block up front really mutes the excitment a character can create. Now, not every entry failed to provide a strong lead, or to create a villain, and I think this entry has merit as an example of what should have been done more. If it was a bit more villainous, it would have been a sure-thing. But before you dismiss this work, consider how many of the other entries are "bad guys" that would exist within the context of a single adventure or theme, instead of being "villains" who can hinge repeated, and varied, encounters or levels (do you see these NPCs as something that can evolve and grow with the PCs, which is something a villain should have done).
I had a similar moment in running Burnt Offerings: the PCs initially wanted to fortify and defend the town. Now, they decided against that, but I would have let them. No module will ever predict the number of solutions a small group of people will come up with. The fact that your players occassionally force a radical change in an adventure, whether homemade or published, is the great advantage of pen-and-paper RPGs. Good on your players!
Generally speaking, I pull punches, or fudge dice rolls as it were, in combats or events that are relatively inconsequential. Unless the PCs do something foolish, the thugs don't get to take heads. Big monsters or leaders take heads. I've crucified PCs near to death and usually maim a few per campaign (never underestimate a good maiming). John Wick wrote an article for the L5R RPG that argued (paraphrasing here), the more you punish your player's characters, the more the player's will love the game, and I believe that. Tonight my PCs are surrounded by thugs in the Seven's Sawmill. They might not be able to take the opposition, being out numbered two to one. Now, the bad boss might not be around, so I'll probably beat the PCs unconsious and then torture them (I just saw Casino Royale recently)! I might maim one, or all!!
Pull your punches with thugs, but punish your PCs.
Believe me, they'll be back next week on the edge of their seats.