Why is simpler better?


4th Edition

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It seems as if one of the major points touted about 4e is that it will be simpler to play. While I applaud a system that does not go into excruciatingly complex mechanics to resolve simple systems (anyone remember MERPS? My major impression was made when a player tried to duck for cover and failed some roll, failed another subsequent roll, followed by two or three more and died tragically), I feel that some games can become too simple or dumbed-down.

Allow me a little exposition. I was in middle school when AD&D came out, and reading those hardbook tomes taught me a fair amount of vocabulary (e.g., mundane and dweomer). The combat system was based on some logical algoritms, even if they had some realtively complex modifiers. I actually played in a game where weapon speed and type were used; being a fighter type, I had numerous weapons. I had a page and a half of typed definitions of what my attack would be with each weapon under each armor class type (and this before spreadsheets were popularly available). I played a lot of Shadowrun, where people complained about the complexity of figuring spell formulae and drain. But with a little investigation in all cases, the elegance of the system came out. The armor type modifiers for attacks made using different weapons in different cases highly relevant, with still only one die roll needed. The Shadowrun algoritms were marvelous and so easy to adapt once you understood the basic formula. The rich vocabulary was but one contributor to my phenomenal verbal scores on standardized tests.

Many people liked the complexity of the game. I think part of the trouble arose when designers tried to add options, but so through mechanics requiring additional dice rolls, which bog down the game and add complexity to play, but not necessarily to the gaming experience. Once the mechanics passed a certain threshhold of unwieldiness, calls came for revamping. I also witnessed to death of 2nd edition, and I can remember thinking there were far too many rules in far too many books and too many options for a cohesive game before it all came crashing down. My gaming groups generally stuck to the older 2e stuff.

3e was completely new. After some grousing, and some friends with more money than brains started bringing books to our 2e games, we tried it. And it wasn't bad. It was good -- good enough to purchase books. There were flaws, which were addressed in 3.5. I am still annoyed by the sudden revamp, but 3.5 was a more consistent game, though the wealth of supplements again threatens to make two differnet gaming groups unrecognizable as playing the same game (I speak of BoNS and ToM, though I rather like ToM; it is fresh air and something different, a module that could be added if the group agrees).

However much I like 3.5, my anger at the sudden turnaround and obsolescence of 3.0 combined with spite prevented me from buying 3.5 books from WotC (anyone want to buy some 3.0 books? I didn't think so). I managed to acquire the information I needed (I will say the SRD is a much appreciated resource), and I enjoy playing, but I do not enjoy seeing the milking of hobbiests. Perhaps it goes back to being akid, growing up poor, where hobby books were a great luxury; I certainly did not have disposable income to buy two new books every few weeks. I think DnD is now marketed to suburbanites, with disposable income, and to hell with providing an educational hobby to poorer folk. Hmmm, maybe I could start a civic campaign to introduce DnD to disadvantaged children...

Back on topic: I wait with very low expectations for 4e. WotC, and by extension Hasbro, does not seem to be what one would hope for in a gaming company. I suppose that is what happens when they sell out to the big boys. I almost long for the days of FASA Corp, against whom I and my gaming associates more than once threatened to make a Shadow-run. I particularly despise the rapid turnaround, after the glut of products. I loathe the shoddy PR (most of which I now ignore since the first bits were so awful). I like quality; 4e and WotC does not appear to offer that promise yet.

As others have written, I will likely investigate it, and it will likely be through someone eles's copy or acount first before I decide to consume. If it is so dum bed down as to be unenjoyable for me, then I will simply give it up. There are other games to play.

To my original point, I liked being challenged to read and understand the rulebooks. Figuring out the rules was never terribly obtuse, especially since DnD seemed the province of the nerd in my day. Now there is a need for a huge market base, and legions of less nerdy players and profit, profit, PROFIT! And we need it fast! Make DnD cools and trendy and easy, so the stupid kids can play. I despise dumbing things down, since with a little patience, almost anyone can learn to play the game. Some may delve deeply into the complexities, but most can ignore knowing all the rules and still have a great time. To take away 'my" complexity leaves me... well, without a game I would enjoy playing.

I could opine about why people seem to think making things easier is a good idea, and then opine more about a society bent on an instant fix to everything and general laziness of thought and action being bred into the cultural norm, but I have ranted too long. I hope 4e will remain a viable intellectual exercise. I hope DnD will not become just another pasttime, but remain a stimulant for young minds' creativity. I hope that DnD will add to society, and not detract from it, but I fear I will be wrong. I will be sad to see it pass though.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I've started playing with "Das Schwarze Auge", an unnecessarily complex and bogged-down game, before moving on for a long spell in the World of Darkness, Exalted, before finally moving on to D&D 3.5. In all these games, i guess only D&D has really managed to provide rules that allow the game to be played as a tactical game as well as a role-playing experience.

There is a spectrum of complexity in the "possible rules". It ranges from "Flip a coin, heads, you win - tails, you lose" to intricate systems using logarithm tables. The more complexity you add, the more potential for tactics and player choice you potentially add (it is entirely possible to add complexity which carries no benefit at all, but very hard if not impossible to improve these without adding complexity).

The second, competing factor is that complexity is also evil. Its no fun for most players to spend their evening going through a flowchart to determine which ring and which segment on the dartboard their character hit. The art of game design rests in finding the intersection between "good" and "bad" complexity, and writing rules that reside in it.

I'll keep my mind open about if its done right in 4ed, the Tome of Battle especially is giving me hope they might manage it, but some of their announcements sound... well, rather the opposite to me.


It is my opinion that "making it simpler" is not a genuine or sincere reason for 4th edition. I think "making it simpler" is mere marketing strategy designed to avoid the fact (that the original poster listed) that WoTC/Hasbro has cranked out a ridiculous amount of books & materials in the last 2-3 years for 3.5, only to now run out of room for much else in the game. And in an effort to make money to pay everyone's salary and please the stockholders, WoTC/Hasbro has come up with "we now can't handle this complex system of 3.5 that we (WoTC/Hasbro) have ourselves created in a mere 3 years; and must therefore start all over and have you (the consumer) purchase all new books all over again.
And don't think for a minute folks, that there won't be yet another vast array of new accessory/tomes/manuals/etc. for this new "Simpler" 4.0 edition game. Which truly begs the question, why do we need all these new books following the 4.0 PH/DMG/& MM (which will complicate the game the same way that 3.5 is now "complicated") if the main goal is to merely to "Simplify" everything.
The reality is, the goal of WoTC/Hasbro IS to sell new books, not to Simplify anything.


What is worse is that I am not convinced that things are going to be simpler.

Imagine yourself as a brand new player. You have never played before, nor even read any thing about it.

It may not be common anymore, but it used to be that new players were "wrangled" in at conventions.

Now imagine yourself sitting down at a table. No longer can you be handed the Fighter, which was easy to learn.
Now even the Fighter is as complex (some would say cool) as the spell casters.

You can't be indoctrinated in the basics of combat, because the weapons you use are likely to do something completely different in some one else's hands.

Without regard to 4th Edition being good, or bad, I am seeing an increasing amount of evidence contrary to WoTC claims as the goal of the new edition.

I find myself often wondering "WTF was WoTC thinking?"

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Make it simpler and it will be better is a misleading directive.

Grappling in 3.5 is a hindrance to the flow of the game at my table. So we use EN World's Grappling For Beginners: How to Strike, Hold & Throw!. In this case simpler is better.

The party wizard has to choose between saving the party's collective butt with his only fireball or try to come up with something clever. This is traditionally Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying. It's not difficult or broken. Fixing it does not make the game better. It fundamentally changes the game.

If you're a wizard-cry-baby, then try some of the myriad third party products, use house rules, play a flippin' warlock, give him a familiar and call it a wizard. Why do you have to change one of the foundational tenants of the game to make it more "fun"?

All fighters look the same? People have forgotten that this is a roleplaying game...the game is what you make it.


I don't think 4e is in danger of being too simple. Simpler in certain regards to 3e, sure, but not too simple.

That being said, I do not like that the game text is becoming more modern and technical. I too learned a few words from reading my 2e books, but WotC doesn't seem to like using archaic words that may need to be looked up in a dictionary to be understood. Even little things like using "electricity" instead of "lightning" are annoying.

Overall though, the flavor which WotC chooses to write its rule text in is a small issue. The bottom line is that players who want to learn new vocabulary will be reading fantasy novels (not d&d novels, real novels!) and players who want to learn about algorithms will be paying attention in math class. These players don't need d&d to sate their educational hunger, while those players who couldn't care less about vocabulary and algorithms will just be turned off by a game system which requires them to learn such material.

Honestly, I'd rather have a dumbed down game that attracts all breeds of gamers than a steeper learning curved game that attracts only one or two breeds of gamers. Yeah, some of the new players will be hyperactive 13 year old munchkins, but most of them will mature with time and love of their new hobby.


dont mean to off topic; but i always wonder; T.S can you really mix a Tequila Sunrise? not such a simple drink to get the sunrise to float in the drink in the right place, but still good; not simple so simpler isnt better in this case.

I just think 4e is trying to get rid of the sit down at a table and game with your rl friends; a key ingrediant in the game for me.


Personally, I think the "simplicity" of 4e. is deceptive. If you read the previews carefully, every indication is that 4e. will require an incredible amount of bookkeeping during the course of play. So, where the rules might be more efficient, gameplay in all likelihood will proceed at a snail's pace.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I'll say it again, simplicity does not mean simplistic.

Take a step back and look at 3e. It is generally perceived as being simpler than 2e. Why? Because they consolidated saving throws and moved them to the class section where they belong. They made a single unified mechanic to resolve tasks (ye old d20). They dug out a lot of the weird loopy little charts and class abilities with their own wacky mechanics (e.g., fighter strength, thief skills, etc) and made the more general and simpler to use. A few systems escaped (e.g., cleric turning), but for the most part, the game was simplified.

Except combat and character options.

The number of combat options in 3e is far greater than 2e. So are the character development options (due to feats, skill points, better multi-classing, etc.) That's because the combat engine is the core of the game and the character classes are the elements with which most players interact most regularly. These systems can be slightly more complex and go directly to the heart of how the game is played. Plus, you can layer on complexity by staging things at different levels. Just like you don't start most video games with all the weapons and tools that you will eventually collect, so too will you not start D&D with the option of doing 30 different things in a round (I would expect).

Similarly, 4e can pick and choose the elements that are simplified to create a better gaming experience. If you flip through the Star Wars saga previews, you'll see that one of the changes they made was eliminating skill points. The reason they did so is because most people max out a few skills and only rarely do they spread the points out. Thus, they changed the system such that skills are a binary on/off system. If you're trained in a skill, your roll is d20+class level+stat modifier. If you're untrained, it's d20+half class level+stat modifier. There are certain things that can only be done if you are trained in the skill and there are ways to become a specialist in a skill through talents (mini-feats). The skill point system, particularly given synergy bonuses, is fairly complex. And, if most people play with a few maxed out skills, switching to the binary system will result in basically the same feeling, but without all the paperwork of keeping track of skill points.

Now, I know you want to respond and say "I never max out my skills. I like to take one or two ranks in Profession: Butt Pirate because that's what my character is." I'm proud for you, Mr. Outlier, fly your Butt Pirate flag high.

As unsympathetic as I am to Mr. Outlier, I am much more understanding of the person who says "simplicy is all well and good, but I like the granularity of the current skill point system. I like that I can spend some points and make a paladin who's not half bad at sneaking around." Here I agree. Part of the fun of the game is the extent to which you can customize your character and, skill points are an example of this. The question becomes whether that value exceeds the speed gained by loss of the skill points (particularly for DM's building higher level characters). I'm not sure that I can answer that question objectively, or even for myself, having not seen the system yet. I do recall being unhappy when they changed the cover rules from 3e to 3.5 and decreased the granularity there, but now I don't miss it at all (and, it's easy to add back in if I feel cover is sufficient to warrant the increased bonus). It's entirely possible that I will feel the same way about the death of skill points once I see that the net effect is positive.

The thing that worries me the most is that they are talking about decoupling the monster rules from the player rules. This was always something I really liked about 3e as compared to 2e. The fact that everyone followed the same rules made it easy to translate between the two sets of actors (PC's and monsters). In 2e, monsters lacked ability scores, so you would end up with a subset of abilities that were effective against PC types (e.g., those that lowered strength), but there interaction against monsters was questionable.

That being said, I must admit that having all the complexity and options for PC character generation can be a bit overwhelming for monsters. I'd be interested in seeing what they develop, but believe me, this is an area where my feelings on simplicity are mixed.

In the end, I think you need to understand why you play the game and what you like about it to figure out if you want simplicity or not. If you are a simulationist, and given that D&D leans more towards simulationists than most other games, you're not going to be as happy with the decrease in granularity. If you're a tactician, you will probably like the increase in combat and player options that appear to be part of 4e. And, if you're a die hard storyteller, you're probably playing white wolf anyway. ;-)

So to answer the question, as with most things in life, it depends.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

My post is so freaking long. I just wanted to add, that off the top of my head, these are things that could be simplified:

1. Magic items. It's a point buy system nailed on the back end of the game. They're cool, but there's got to be a better way of doing them.

2. Spells. Ditto. There's too much information in spell blocks. They need to figure out a way to make it so that most of what you need is in the summary and not buried in the text of the spell. Anything more complex than fireball is hard to run at the table.

3. Turning. Nuff said.

4. Experience/CR.

5. Buffing. Want to see combat stop to a crawl? Hit the party with Dispel Magic and watch them calculate what spells they have up. Or, a Disjunction and have them recalculate their stats from the ground up. This is, of course, assuming that they correctly layered their bonuses and did not stack incorrectly or apply them to the wrong attacks.

I'm not sure that I have solutions for any of the above, but I know that I'm not happy with the way they do work.


I don't want to start a Holy War over any one point of D&D, to each their own... But I have a hard time grasping certain claims.

Every time that EN World article on grappling gets posted, I look at it. The first thing that catches my eye is "7 page." 7 pages is supposed to make grappling (and unarmed combat) flow better than 2 pages from the PHB? Closer to 1.5... But what ever.
If any of you enjoy it more, good. The bottom line is your enjoyment. But I have a difficult time buying it myself.

Sebastian wrote:
3. Turning. Nuff said.

I don't get this either.

Maybe it was because I have played Clerics, but I can't see this getting any simpler.

Step 1) Level check: 1D20 + Cha mod. Result = modified Attribute Modifier calculation. (Attributes are [Stat - 10]/2 {round down} = Mod.) [Roll - 10]/3 {round down} = level Modifier.

Step 2) Damage roll: 2D6 + Level + Charisma.

I am not saying people don't get bogged down on these points...

I just can't fathom it myself.


To add to my earlier post, I am of the opinion that 4.0 will be a GOOD thing. I am in favor of it. I do NOT like having it released after only 3 years of 3.5, nor am I eager for a heavily on-line component to the game, but I do look forward to the improvements that 4.0 will make in the overall game.

Let's face it friends, as much as I REALLY DO ENJOY 3.5; it is drowning in a sea of Rules, useless support books, and mediocre quality. 3.5 is no longer the game we loved in 2004. For example, we have two DMG's in 3.5, while they managed to get everything you needed into one in all past editions. All of this DILUTING down of the game through new rule books/tomes/manuals/etc. have made the game extremely difficult to comprehend in its entirety, and every munchkin player I know is continually jockying to make use of the latest fad race/prestige class to create the 'indestructible character' that I have to try in desparation to keep up with. Ultimately I am finding that D&D is begining to resemble the YUGIO card game type of mentality with players trying to "create" the most "Uber" type of indestructible card, to the detriment of the game as a whole. WoTC is feeding directly into it.
I have players in my group that stagger into my game sessions with more game books than lawyers drag into court. And if most lawyers don't know the ins and outs of the state law code books, than your typical d&d players certainly don't, myself included. The Munchkins now "own" 3.5, and it's sadly time to SCRAP it. I don't like that it is time for 3.5 to go. I believe that WoTC/Hasbro is to blame.

I sincerely hope that the designers of the game and whoever is making the decisions regarding product development and production will learn how to correctly PACE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME. The reason that 1st edition lasted 12 years is that you didn't get expansion books EVERY MONTH which eventually will convolute the game beyond recognition. An example is Gardening: if the leaves and fruit of a tree develop beyond what the roots are capable of sustaining, the tree is in trouble. This is what I believe has become of 3.5; and what I hope will not happen to 4.0. It's something of a viscious cycle, where the game designers crank out endless product to 'improve' the game, hopeless complicate the game, and then arrive with a new edition to 'salvage & simplify' the game, and then the cycle repeats itself again. Let's learn from out past actions and make a better product rather than repeat the same repetitive behaviors we've already tried, WoTC/Hasbro:)


Allen Stewart wrote:
For example, we have two DMG's in 3.5, while they managed to get everything you needed into one in all past editions.

Umm... You do realize that WoTC plans on releasing an add-on version of the PHB, DMG and MM every year, right?

I forget where I saw it, but that is part of their release schedule.

EDIT: I see. It is an unconfirmed report. EN World link here.

My mistake. It might not be true. But I fear it is.


Disenchanter wrote:
Allen Stewart wrote:
For example, we have two DMG's in 3.5, while they managed to get everything you needed into one in all past editions.

Umm... You do realize that WoTC plans on releasing an add-on version of the PHB, DMG and MM every year, right?

I forget where I saw it, but that is part of their release schedule.

Yes, I am aware of that. Part of the reason for my two above posts. I don't expect WoTC/Hasbro to learn anything from their past actions. My point all along has been that my favorite hobby has turned into a primarily cash-generating industry, and many of the, dare I say "core values" of the d&d game (quality, cohiesiveness & continuity) have largely gone out the window.


I am of the same opinion as Alan in that I believe this can be a good thing. While this is, no doubt, a money making venture good things can still come out of it. My main concern with 3.5 is the heavy reliance on clerics. While several other classes in the game do have healing capability it is in no way easy, in my campaigns at least, to get by without one. This is being addressed, and hopefully fixed in 4e.


Sebastian wrote:
I'll say it again, simplicity does not mean simplistic. SNIP

Hmm, Sebastian, I tried to get your whole quote in to respond to certain parts, but I couldn't get it all to show up. I'll have to do this from memory. And respond to some of your other posts while I'm at it.

I'm w/ you on simplifying Skill Points. You showed both sides of this but I think the pluses outweigh the minuses if they change it along the lines you suggested. Here's another benefit that might come of this: no more frickin' multi-page stat blocks for monsters at high levels! Do I really need to know what the BBEG's [fill-in-the-blank w/ skill that will never come into play during battle] stat is to run him/her?

As for uncoupling PC/monster rulesets, this could also be a net plus. While I liked the idea that an orc was no longer always that 1st level monster you could safely beat on ("Gulp. What if he's really a high-level barbarian?"), I think 3rd edition went too far w/ it. I'm ok w/ major humanoid races having "class levels", but when it gets to the point of "Ok, the Otyugh Warlock 3/Rogue 5/Blackguard 2..." then my suspension of disbelief gets a little challenged.

I don't have a problem w/ Turning rules, though.

Vancian magic. You've mentioned (I think) problems w/ this. Do you use 3.5 psionics? I think that power point system--w/ its built-in limitations--might be a better way to go. But I don't expect a lot of non-psionics fans to agree here...


I do not buy into "simple = better". Now efficient…

Maybe that is what Sebastian is trying to say. I can not tell. I could never understand lawyer-speak.

Scarab Sages

If you would Sebastian, please point me in the direction of these articles examining the design decisions behind the changes to Star Wars for SWSE.
Thanks.

Tam


Whatever happened to the "because it just is- OK!?" answer?

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Tambryn wrote:

If you would Sebastian, please point me in the direction of these articles examining the design decisions behind the changes to Star Wars for SWSE.

Thanks.

Tam

This is all stolen from ENWorld. They're really the best source for 4e news.

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview1
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview2
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview4
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview4


Tambryn wrote:

If you would Sebastian, please point me in the direction of these articles examining the design decisions behind the changes to Star Wars for SWSE.

Thanks.

Tam

Here is what I think you are looking for, numbers 100 and up. Pretty cool, actually. I have and enjoy Saga Edition (insofar as it compares to previous WotC editions).

Scarab Sages

Thank you sir.

Tam


Sebastian wrote:
Tambryn wrote:

If you would Sebastian, please point me in the direction of these articles examining the design decisions behind the changes to Star Wars for SWSE.

Thanks.

Tam

This is all stolen from ENWorld. They're really the best source for 4e news.

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview1
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview2
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview4
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=starwars/article/SagaPreview4

Oh. My link is different, but still cool. So... there it is.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

BenS wrote:


Hmm, Sebastian, I tried to get your whole quote in to respond to certain parts, but I couldn't get it all to show up. I'll have to do this from memory. And respond to some of your other posts while I'm at it.

With long posts, I usually copy the text and then when I do my reply, I past between the quote blocks.

BenS wrote:
I'm w/ you on simplifying Skill Points. You showed both sides of this but I think the pluses outweigh the minuses if they change it along the lines you suggested. Here's another benefit that might come of this: no more frickin' multi-page stat blocks for monsters at high levels! Do I really need to know what the BBEG's [fill-in-the-blank w/ skill that will never come into play during battle] stat is to run him/her?

Agreed. I also think it would be wonderful if they did away with spot/listen and hide/move silently and replaced them with perception and stealth. That's another change mentioned in the Star Wars previews.

BenS wrote:
As for uncoupling PC/monster rulesets, this could also be a net plus. While I liked the idea that an orc was no longer always that 1st level monster you could safely beat on ("Gulp. What if he's really a high-level barbarian?"), I think 3rd edition went too far w/ it. I'm ok w/ major humanoid races having "class levels", but when it gets to the point of "Ok, the Otyugh Warlock 3/Rogue 5/Blackguard 2..." then my suspension of disbelief gets a little challenged.

I think it will probably be a net benefit, assuming they don't do what 2e did and have two sets of spells/effects for PC races v. monster races. That just moves the complexity down river.

BenS wrote:
I don't have a problem w/ Turning rules, though.

They're needlessy complicated. You've got to do that wacky level check thing to get your modified level and then calculate HD and then figure out who is in the radius and whether they flee/die. And, it doesn't interact well with the rest of the game. A successful turning at low levels turns an interesting encounter into "let's find where all the undead are hiding, figure out the shaken rules, and then kill them." It's just not a very good mechanic.

BenS wrote:
Vancian magic. You've mentioned (I think) problems w/ this. Do you use 3.5 psionics? I think that power point system--w/ its built-in limitations--might be a better way to go. But I don't expect a lot of non-psionics fans to agree here...

I think something vaguely like the warlock is more the way to go. I'm not a big fan of spell memorization. Again, the time it takes to do it right is not worth the game benefit (and, not worth slowing the game down for the memorized casters to figure out their list). Plus, it's just not very fun to play a wizard who can't do any magic for the day. I'm not sure that psionics fixes the problem because you can still burn through all your powers, completely dominate an encounter, and then be a commoner for the rest of the adventure (assuming you can't talk the party into resting for the evening).

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Riskbreaker wrote:


Oh. My link is different, but still cool. So... there it is.

Yours is good though. I think issue 104 seems pretty on point:

Q: Are you trying to "dumb down" the new game?

A: No, we aren't. While some have perceived the changes as simplifying or "dumbing down" the rules, the truth is that our objective from day one has been to streamline the rules, for two reasons. First, we wanted to speed up gameplay so it's less plodding and more cinematic in feel. Second, we wanted to speed up the "bookkeeping" part of the game so you could spend more time actually playing and less time auditing character sheets.

Let's look at these two objectives one at a time. First, streamlining for the sake of speeding gameplay: Why is this important? Well, put simply, for a game to feel like Star Wars, it doesn't merely need all the background details of the universe, such as lightsabers, Wookiees, and Star Destroyers. It also needs to capture the same pace of cinematic storytelling that makes Star Wars so engaging. While it would be impossible for a roleplaying game to move as fast as a movie, we still want it to move as quickly as it can. We don't want you to spend an hour simulating 30 seconds of combat, and even half an hour is really pushing it.

"I do wish this game was faster . . ."
To keep the game moving, we looked at mechanics that add extra rolls, asking if they were really necessary or if they could be combined into a single roll. A good example of this is the way that area attacks (such as grenades) work. Instead of making an attack roll, determining scatter on a miss, rolling damage, and then having everyone in the burst radius make a Reflex save for half damage, we've cut it down to two rolls -- one attack roll against every Reflex Defense in the target area, and one damage roll. Mathematically, this doesn't change the outcome very much, but it drastically increases the pacing of the fight.

In fact, we eliminated iterative attacks for similar reasons. At higher levels (that is, a base attack bonus of +6 or higher), virtually everyone has an incentive to stay in the same place and make multiple attacks. That slows down the game by making each player's turn take longer to finish. But it also makes combat less dynamic because hardly anyone will take more than a 2-meter step each round as long as they have a target to attack. The new rules speed up gameplay and encourage movement to try to capture the cinematic, swashbuckling feel of the movies. (Sure, there are still reasons to stand in one place and/or make multiple attacks, but they're designed to be a matter of deliberate choice, with appropriate tradeoffs, rather than the default best response.)

Second, let's look at bookkeeping. Certainly, some rules are simpler in the most basic sense. You don't have to keep track of a hundred or more skill ranks over your career, all Defense scores advance at the same rate, and class progressions are generally simpler (that is, you get a talent on odd levels and a bonus feat on even levels). Did we make these changes because we thought players weren't smart enough to handle a complicated system? Not at all. If there's one thing we know about gamers as a whole, it's that they can handle the nuances of extremely complex rules systems quite well.

However, that still leaves an important question: How much time do you want to spend keeping your character sheet up to date? If the average game session lasts from three to six hours, how much of that time are you willing to devote to going up a level? In developing Saga Edition, our goal was to simplify the mechanics of advancement (such as implementing new bonuses and abilities) so that you could spend more time focusing on the choices of advancement (such as choosing which classes, prestige classes, feats, and talents you'll take).

This change also promotes variety and versatility in a group of characters. With the new system, you can have a party of four heroes who all have the same class but who are completely different from one another. For example, an "all Jedi, all the time" campaign can be much more interesting than it might have been in the past.

Of course, the other major beneficiary of this change is the Gamemaster. Because it's now easier to construct new characters, even high-level ones, the GM can spend less time rolling up NPCs and more time building good encounter settings, adventures, and campaigns. Every hour the GM doesn't have to spend crunching numbers is an hour he can spend weaving the background and story elements that help the game come alive.


I admit that I didn't read the Jedi Counseling reports before, but I find the following:

Sebastian wrote:
...the truth is that our objective from day one has been to streamline the rules, for two reasons. First, we wanted to speed up gameplay so it's less plodding and more cinematic in feel. Second, we wanted to speed up the "bookkeeping" part of the game so you could spend more time actually playing and less time auditing character sheets.

to be a mighty bold statement considering everything they were aiming for, WoTC stripped from the D6 WEG version when they went D20.


Disenchanter wrote:

I admit that I didn't read the Jedi Counseling reports before, but I find the following:

Sebastian wrote:
...the truth is that our objective from day one has been to streamline the rules, for two reasons. First, we wanted to speed up gameplay so it's less plodding and more cinematic in feel. Second, we wanted to speed up the "bookkeeping" part of the game so you could spend more time actually playing and less time auditing character sheets.
to be a mighty bold statement considering everything they were aiming for, WoTC stripped from the D6 WEG version when they went D20.

I might not have all the facts straight, but I believe Bill Slavicsek has overseen most of the Star Wars rpg for WotC, which he also did for WEG, so one gets the sense that maybe they just wanted change for change's sake (along with supporting the d20 system) when they originally took over for WEG, then handed the d20 product off to others who had their own ideas.

I could be wrong, though.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Disenchanter wrote:

I admit that I didn't read the Jedi Counseling reports before, but I find the following:

Sebastian wrote:
...the truth is that our objective from day one has been to streamline the rules, for two reasons. First, we wanted to speed up gameplay so it's less plodding and more cinematic in feel. Second, we wanted to speed up the "bookkeeping" part of the game so you could spend more time actually playing and less time auditing character sheets.
to be a mighty bold statement considering everything they were aiming for, WoTC stripped from the D6 WEG version when they went D20.

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? It's not as if WotC acquired the license to use the d6 system when they acquired the Star Wars license.

But, assuming you were the WotC executive, and you had the right to publish the d6 system, would you really have done so? WotC was trying to show that the d20 system was a platform for any type of game; the Star Wars game was one of the flag ships of that system. One theory is that people who liked the movies would play Star Wars, perhaps become gamers, and then move on to D&D. Why would you want those two systems to be incompatible?

So yeah, maybe its bold to say "we took the license, made a new game engine when the existing game engine to which we had no rights generally worked fine, and then subsequently improved that new game engine." Or, maybe it's more bold to say "you know what guys? I know we just got this Star Wars license, but why create a new system when we can just license the old one and continue publishing books for that system. Sure, it'll make it harder for people who play Star Wars to also play D&D, but there's no way we can make the two generally work on the same basic system. We shouldn't even try. Yeah, we won't sell as many books, but hey, who cares. It's not as if our salary is paid by the products we make and sell."


Gee Sebastian.

Did I strike a nerve?

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Disenchanter wrote:

Gee Sebastian.

Did I strike a nerve?

No more so than any other inane unreasoned post. But, if you want to feel special, Mike's the guys with cookies. He will probably give you one if you ask nicely.


Sebastian wrote:
No more so than any other innane [sic] unreasoned post.

Trolling again?

I'm not going to fall for it anymore Sebastian.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Disenchanter wrote:


Trolling again?

I'm not going to fall for it anymore Sebastian.

Good for you.

Scarab Sages

Thank you for the links both Sebastian and Riskbreaker. I am even more excited about 4th edition now. I think I will run a one shot of SWSE to give my players an idea of what 4th could be like.

Tam


Sebastian wrote:

It's not as if WotC acquired the license to use the d6 system when they acquired the Star Wars license.

...

Is that what happened? I thought WotC acquired all rights from WEG pertaining to the Star Wars game. Then again, I remember the remnants of WEG (or perhaps WEG prior to dissolution?) putting out a d6 gaming manual - I think I even picked one up from them during their "going-out-of-business sale". Of course, I am far from an industry insider (and now I am curious who holds the d6 license).

But to relate the rather nasty exchange above to my original post, I think WotC did a horrible job of capturing the flavor of Star Wars with the d20 Star Wars game. I say this from personal experience; I played WEG Star Wars avidly, with a cadre of similarly excited players. The d6 algorithm had its complications, and had an interesting bias for force-sensitive characters (sacrifice one-sixth of your ability dice to gain the ability to use force powers), but aside from choosing "true/false" for force powers, once you learned the system it flowed remarkably quickly.

Learning that system was not intuitive; I recall we made one major gaffe that we didn't correct for nearly a year, but the highlight of the gaming sessions was the cinematic action. We could not get enough of the game. However, the new WotC version... was dull. Perhaps it was the lack of freedom in developing the character (i.e., dozens of classes versus "use the force or not"). Perhaps it was the addition of levels and hit points, adding a greater sense of "power level" to the game. Perhaps it was the clunky combat system. Most probably it was a combination of all these and more. All I know for certain is despite investing in the Star Wars game line, my groups played only three campaigns, and each of those was very short-lived. The game simply wasn't fun anyhmore. I am certain we were not the only ones to feel this way, as I recall teh Star Wars Gamer magazine folding after only 10 issues. Somehow, Star wars as d20 just didn't work for myself and many others. When someone talks about starting a Star Wars campaign, only the "kids" react with any excitement.

Comparatively, Star Wars is much simpler and more streamlined than DnD. But even with all Lucas' flavor, it gives (me) the impression of being flat. I worry that this is what will happen with 4e. I have always felt the mechanics to be odd (I much prefer Shadowrun or the d6 system), but DnD is what it is, and that inherently includes levels. DnD was fun in part for leveling up and gaining power. DnD was the genesis of all role-playing games, and having somewhat of a traditionalist outlook, I think it should retain its roots. Change it too much, and it is no longer the granddaddy of all games (mayhap like "The Other Two" was a far cry from "New Order"). The phrases about simplifying and streamlining the game worry me that the game will not remain the same.

Of course, if it changes too much, I will simply not change with it. AS I have gotten older, my gaming time has diminished, and there are games on the market I enjoy. I sincerely hope DnD remains one of them, but if not, I will have fun elsewhere, even if I get a bit nostalgic now and again for all my fun DnD characters.


Allen Stewart wrote:

To add to my earlier post, I am of the opinion that 4.0 will be a GOOD thing. I am in favor of it. I do NOT like having it released after only 3 years of 3.5, nor am I eager for a heavily on-line component to the game, but I do look forward to the improvements that 4.0 will make in the overall game.

Let's face it friends, as much as I REALLY DO ENJOY 3.5; it is drowning in a sea of Rules, useless support books, and mediocre quality. 3.5 is no longer the game we loved in 2004. For example, we have two DMG's in 3.5, while they managed to get everything you needed into one in all past editions. All of this DILUTING down of the game through new rule books/tomes/manuals/etc. have made the game extremely difficult to comprehend in its entirety, and every munchkin player I know is continually jockying to make use of the latest fad race/prestige class to create the 'indestructible character' that I have to try in desparation to keep up with. Ultimately I am finding that D&D is begining to resemble the YUGIO card game type of mentality with players trying to "create" the most "Uber" type of indestructible card, to the detriment of the game as a whole. WoTC is feeding directly into it.
I have players in my group that stagger into my game sessions with more game books than lawyers drag into court. And if most lawyers don't know the ins and outs of the state law code books, than your typical d&d players certainly don't, myself included. The Munchkins now "own" 3.5, and it's sadly time to SCRAP it. I don't like that it is time for 3.5 to go. I believe that WoTC/Hasbro is to blame.

I sincerely hope that the designers of the game and whoever is making the decisions regarding product development and production will learn how to correctly PACE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME. The reason that 1st edition lasted 12 years is that you didn't get expansion books EVERY MONTH which eventually will convolute the game beyond recognition. An example is Gardening: if the leaves and fruit of a tree develop beyond what the...

You should keep ion mind that the same people who bogged down 3.5 are the B team that's bringing you 4.0. You'll be in a rule quagmire in 3 years with 4.0 as you are with 3.5.


You should probably read my review on Star Wars Saga Edition before you pick up those Polyhedron dice for an evening of blaster fire.

In short, there were a LOT of things they got right, except the most important part - the part thats supposed to make it feel like an epic Star Wars Roleplaying game.

The rules are a vast improvement over the old (and revised old) d20 game. I couldn't help thinking how it would translate to D&D as I read it. I thought much of it would be great, but in order to make it work, you would have to change things significantly (e.g. allowing constructs and undead to be subject to critical hits).

Saga Edition would make a great D&D update in my opinion. It just doesn't make a great Star Wars game.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

the Stick wrote:


Is that what happened? I thought WotC acquired all rights from WEG pertaining to the Star Wars game. Then again, I remember the remnants of WEG (or perhaps WEG prior to dissolution?) putting out a d6 gaming manual - I think I even picked one up from them during their "going-out-of-business sale". Of course, I am far from an industry insider (and now I am curious who holds the d6 license).

I could be wrong, but I believe all that WotC acquired was the license to publish a star wars rpg. Now, it's entirely possible that under the original WEG license, the rights to any rpg developed by WEG would be the property of Lucas, including the underlying mechanics, but it's tough to say for sure. The point is that license to publish a star wars rpg is not the same as the license to publish the star wars rpg created by WEG.

As for the fate of WEG, according to Wikipedia:

Wikipedia wrote:

However, despite appearances West End Games did not disappear. A European company invested in them, and produced a game using the D6 mechanics for the Metabarons setting, a popular French comic story. Unfortunately the game never found a following with American audiences and did not lead to a resurgence of the company.

West End Games persisted, and in 2004 it was bought by Eric J. Gibson. Currently, their flagship line is a generic version of the D6 system, which has met with general approval from gamers and has led to a line of regularly produced supplements. West End is also expanding back into board games, beginning with a new edition of Junta.

the Stick wrote:
Comparatively, Star Wars is much simpler and more streamlined than DnD. But even with all Lucas' flavor, it gives (me) the impression of being flat. I worry that this is what will happen with 4e. I have always felt the mechanics to be odd (I much prefer Shadowrun or the d6 system), but DnD is what it is, and that inherently includes levels. DnD was fun in part for leveling up and gaining power. DnD was the genesis of all role-playing games, and having somewhat of a traditionalist outlook, I think it should retain its roots. Change it too much, and it is no longer the granddaddy of all games (mayhap like "The Other Two" was a far cry from "New Order"). The phrases about simplifying and streamlining the game worry me that the game will not remain the same.

Have you played Saga at all? Is it any better?

As much as I love d20, I think there are better systems for certain genres. In particular, if you want characters who basically start out pretty good and then progress more organically, as in Shadowrun or White Wolf or any other game with looser/no classes and no levels to speak of, d20 is not the right system.

It'll be interesting to see how 4e comes out. D&D tends to attract a much more war-gamer type crowd. One question is whether the gain in more cinematic types will exceed the loss of war gamers if the game moves from tactical to cinematic play style. My guess is that those with a strong bent for cinematic action probably play Exalted or the like, and aren't particularly interested in playing D&D, even a juiced up D&D. So, the gain would need to come from growing the auidience rather than stealing from Exalted.

A possible comparison might be Final Fantasy v. the Final Fantasy Tactics series. The former is a much more cinematic experience, particularly in the later games. The later is much more focused on a tactical battle with a party of characters. In the video game world, the former is much more popular than the later, but I'm not sure that's relevant to the rpg world.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I’ve Got Reach wrote:


In short, there were a LOT of things they got right, except the most important part - the part thats supposed to make it feel like an epic Star Wars Roleplaying game.

They don't have stats for midichlorians?!!?!? NOOOOOOOO!!!


Ok, Sebastian, I'm trying this again. But I can already tell I'm screwing up the quotes...forgive me if this looks doofy.

[You] Agreed. I also think it would be wonderful if they did away with spot/listen and hide/move silently and replaced them with perception and stealth. That's another change mentioned in the Star Wars previews.

[Me] It sounds like they're trying out a few things from Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved for 4th ed. He combined hide/move silently into Sneak. And he's also got racial levels.

BenS wrote:
I don't have a problem w/ Turning rules, though.

They're needlessy complicated. You've got to do that wacky level check thing to get your modified level and then calculate HD and then figure out who is in the radius and whether they flee/die. And, it doesn't interact well with the rest of the game. A successful turning at low levels turns an interesting encounter into "let's find where all the undead are hiding, figure out the shaken rules, and then kill them." It's just not a very good mechanic.

[Me] I was coming at it from the point of figuring out who gets turned/destroyed, but you're right about the consequences of being turned leading to some strange dynamics.

BenS wrote:
Vancian magic. You've mentioned (I think) problems w/ this. Do you use 3.5 psionics? I think that power point system--w/ its built-in limitations--might be a better way to go. But I don't expect a lot of non-psionics fans to agree here...

I think something vaguely like the warlock is more the way to go. I'm not a big fan of spell memorization. Again, the time it takes to do it right is not worth the game benefit (and, not worth slowing the game down for the memorized casters to figure out their list). Plus, it's just not very fun to play a wizard who can't do any magic for the day. I'm not sure that psionics fixes the problem because you can still burn through all your powers, completely dominate an encounter, and then be a commoner for the rest of the adventure (assuming you can't talk the party into resting for the evening).

[Me] I suppose you could "nova" a psion just as easily as a wizard, and then be stuck w/ your light crossbow...I still think psionics and power points are a step up from Vancian spell memorization, though. You have more customization for a given encounter, as long as you have the power point pool left to support a power you know. I also like the scalability & augmentation options for most powers. But if 4th ed. tries something new altogether, I guess I'll judge it when it's more apparent. [I'm actually more worried about what they do w/ Psionics in 4th ed. than w/ what they do w/ magic. The EPH is one of my all-time favorite D&D books.]

Ok, I need to figure out how to quote/paste like an adult (wanders off muttering...). Thanks for your insights.


(((BenS quotes work like this: [ quote="quoted's name" ]quoted text[ /quote ] but without the spaces inside the []'s.)))

For all that is good with D20, the big problem is that it will never be very good for a cinematic feel. They tried, and failed, with Star Wars and L5R. (Fortunately, L5R went back to a dice pool system for 3rd Edition.)

And that stems from it's black or white, succeed or fail, basic system.

For all that is bad with a dice pool system, it will always be capable of achieving a cinematic feel because there are shades of success. (Not to mention the ability to avoid the fact that no matter how good you are at something, you always have a 5% chance of messing up - and messing up bad.)

The D20 Star Wars rules are not bad, particularly the Saga edition. But if you knew the D6 WEG version (and didn't hate it), then the D20 version will never feel right.

And then levels, and classes take away from a cinematic feel too...

No matter what improvements 4th Edition will bring for others, I can't imagine it will do anything to "fix" D20's inability to be cinematic.

Scarab Sages

I’ve Got Reach wrote:
In short, there were a LOT of things they got right, except the most important part - the part thats supposed to make it feel like an epic Star Wars Roleplaying game.
Sebastian wrote:
They don't have stats for midichlorians?!!?!? NOOOOOOOO!!!

Midichlorians are a disease (or at least they should be). Probably Lucas' worst move for the Star Wars saga.

I agree with BenS as far as vancian (sp?) casting. I really like a lot of the psionics. You can 'level' every spell. Currently as a wizard, if you cast fireball, it is automatically maxed for its level of damage dice and you can't reduce it. If you are 10th level, it will always be a 10d6 fireball. I have always had problems with that.

I'm not saying that psionics is a perfect system, but I would like to see wizards be able to do things more like psionics. (Or maybe similar things like the new feats that were in the Complete Mage.)

I'm still curious to see what they come up with.


One of the things that make d20 the best is complexity and realism if someone wants something simpler then play Monopoly.

Scarab Sages

Patricio Calderón wrote:
One of the things that make d20 the best is complexity and realism if someone wants something simpler then play Monopoly.

Yep. Nothing says 'realism' like the D&D D20 system.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

I coorespond with one of the d6 writers, and have suggested they talk to paizo about carrying their products.

I too fear what they're going to do to psionics. Then again, I've never found the Vancian casting system too out of wack for my tastes.

Yes, there's a fair amount of dross to sort through to find the gold in WotC and 2nd party products. Dragonlance, while expencive and setting specific is high quality and excellent. Goodman and Necromancer both produce excellent suppliments, and the Tome series (Horrors 1-3, Artifacts) are excellent as well. MoI was a failed experiment, as was Weapons of Legacy. And I'd not touch Mongoose with a 10' pole.

Other treasures are Dreamscarred, Troll Lord, and Malhavoc. I love Tome of battle, just wish I had a hardcopy to share.

Really, 3.5 fits my needs, and with RC being the last likely WotC purchase, fits my budget too.

Liberty's Edge

Simpler can be better, and it can be worse.

Complexity for the sake of complexity is bad.

Example, you want a system where hit location is important, and you develop a combat mechanic based on a map of the body, with a hex grid overlay. Depending on the to-hit roll you can deviate from your target point 0,1,2, or more hexes... (see The Babylon Project RPG)

Or you can use a system where you determine location using the reverse of your percentile to hit roll, where an 34 to hit hits location 43 (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay)

Both slow down the game, but the second not nearly so much.

Flip side, looking at skills, skill points (with all the permutations of synergy, feats, bonuses from this that and the other, class skills, cross class skills etc) can be rough for someone new to figure out.

On the other hand a purely boolean system of have it or not doesn't let people play a certain character type (cause some people enjoy playing ranger/rogue so they have all skills as class skills barring spellcraft).

So... maybe if they develop it into something larger like:
No Skill- can't use this skill untrained
Intuitive Skill - can use it untrained
Dabbled - you have had some training
Trained - full training

With a range of bonuses, they could end up in the middle.

I haven't picked up Saga Edition yet, simply because I am waiting for a second (rectangular) printing, with more stuff in it. But i read all the previes, and talked about how it plays with someone who does have it. Sounds like they were on the right path for a lot of stuff.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

oh, and as to the 'kids who want to know advanced math would be taking calculus' I know many parents, and teachers, who have snuck math and spelling and writing and other skills in under the noses of those same kids with D&D. I have to reject that arguement then. The kid who thinks 'Math is hard' can learn something from calculating their AC (or THAC0 for us old timers)


Dragonmann wrote:

Simpler can be better, and it can be worse.

Complexity for the sake of complexity is bad.

Example, you want a system where hit location is important, and you develop a combat mechanic based on a map of the body, with a hex grid overlay. Depending on the to-hit roll you can deviate from your target point 0,1,2, or more hexes... (see The Babylon Project RPG)

Or you can use a system where you determine location using the reverse of your percentile to hit roll, where an 34 to hit hits location 43 (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay)

Both slow down the game, but the second not nearly so much.

Terrible! That is to dig too deep. I always leave the players decide where they want to hit and it is really funny to imagine what happens when they hit: they declare the intention and I declare the result THAT IS A R-O-L-E PLAYING GAME. Besides that is what critical hits are suposed to be to. Critical hit means you reached a critical part of the body (head, heart, neck) so you inflict more damage and your enemy is soon to die.

Scarab Sages

Patricio Calderón wrote:
Terrible! That is to dig too deep. I always leave the players decide where they want to hit and it is really funny to imagine what happens when they hit: they declare the intention and I declare the result THAT IS A R-O-L-E PLAYING GAME.

I thought that role-playing was playing roles. And if that is true, then the mechanics shouldn't matter that much as long as it works.

Damn -- failed my Will save.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Moff Rimmer wrote:


Damn -- failed my Will save.

It happens to the best of us. Plus, some posts are masterworks of idiocy, which makes them much harder to resist than normal posts.


Matthew Morris wrote:
oh, and as to the 'kids who want to know advanced math would be taking calculus' I know many parents, and teachers, who have snuck math and spelling and writing and other skills in under the noses of those same kids with D&D. I have to reject that arguement then. The kid who thinks 'Math is hard' can learn something from calculating their AC (or THAC0 for us old timers)

For me, simpler is better because I can get more friends to play. Not many of my friends are hardcore gamers, so if I can get them to play without confusing them with 20 years of rules add-ons, that's at least a few more people in the hobby that otherwise wouldn't ever consider it.

That may not be a direct response to what I quoted, but it's true that the basic 3.5 system is far from being for everybody and isn't easy to learn. When I try to introduce it to people who aren't kids, they pretty much respond with 'why would I want to play that, it seems way too complicated'.

Maybe I'm out of my element and I should stick with playing this type of game with people who want to play a complex game with a complex rules system, but it seems better for the hobby overall if they can simplify at least character creation, so I can teach people the nuances of the game slowly instead of making them feel way in over their heads at the start.

That's why I like, for example, the Star Wars SE skill system. It accomplishes the same thing without being intimidatingly complicated to a new player.

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