Mike Mearls on the Red Box


4th Edition

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While I am happy with 4th edition and do not believe that Essentials is a sign that the game is struggling/desperate/dying/etc. ...

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
There came a day when I realized I was pining for the days of 1st and 2nd where the Undead Zombie Lord could lead armies of undead just because I friggen said he could and I'm the DM.

I was not aware that you lost this ability in 3rd edition, because I could certainly have done that whether I was running 3.0 or 4th edition.


Blazej wrote:

While I am happy with 4th edition and do not believe that Essentials is a sign that the game is struggling/desperate/dying/etc. ...

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
There came a day when I realized I was pining for the days of 1st and 2nd where the Undead Zombie Lord could lead armies of undead just because I friggen said he could and I'm the DM.
I was not aware that you lost this ability in 3rd edition, because I could certainly have done that whether I was running 3.0 or 4th edition.

I could of course because I can choose to ignore the rules. Still it really was ignoring the spirit of the rules and I had to go above and beyond in some manner. There are rules in 3.5 for make an undead dude that controls undead via spells and its pretty clear that I'm throwing that out when I head down this path. It seemed pointless to have a such a rules robust system designed so that the DM and players where actually playing by the same rules if I was not going to play by the rules anyway. In 1st and 2nd the rules for the DM and the rules for the player where clearly different but in 3rd that was no longer the case.

If I was going to play under 3.5 I generally wanted to keep to the fundamentals of that system. A good example of that for me is in the CotCT sub forum. In there you'll find a thread where Kirth Gersen, Mary Yamato and myself make a pretty passionate argument that the cut scene where the Queen pulls the crossbow bolt from her body and stabs her lieutenant (I'm being a tad vague here to avoid problematic spoilers) was a bad move by Paizo because you simply can't do that in D&D (or more specifically 3.5).

I felt strongly on this point at the time but if I ever convert the module to 4E I'd have absolutely no problem with this scene - after all NPCs have or do whatever the hell it is I need them to have or do to further the story and that's core concept within 4E.

In essence so long as I was playing in a rule system designed from the ground up to be stimulationist then I wanted the stories to follow from the rules. Once I started playing in 4E I was now in a rule set designed to bend and twist to whatever my needs where as a DM with reference to the internal reality only insofar as it happened to align with my agenda or directly effected the characters.


sunshadow21 wrote:
My sense of 4th edition is that it was a gut reaction of a bunch of developers at WOTC who saw a lot of things in 3rd edition they disliked, and so they decided to completely shift gears even if the community wasn't really telling them that something that extreme was needed. In a case like that, a dominant personality in the position of lead designer can have a far greater, for both better and worse, impact.

Well its not accurate that the company was not telling him that something that extreme was needed. This was one of a few commandments from on high. WotC could not release 3.75. The fans barely contained their anger at 3.5...there was no way they where going to do it again - the fan base would throw a conniption fit.

So 'push the boundaries' was definitely a concept out there and I suspect its one of the reasons Rob Heinsoo became Lead Designer for the edition. I suspect he had a vision for where to take the game and no one else either did or could sell it so compellingly. WotC tells us that there where three Design teams for Dungeons and Dragons and the only common name in all of them was Rob Heinsoo. I don't know if he was lead design on any of the first two - I got the impression that James Wyatt was Lead Design on the first try but I could easily be wrong.

In any case by the time we get to team number three with Andy Collins and Mike Mearls, Rob Heinsoo has not only been tapped as Lead Design he's probably got the nod from a significant number of others in the organization which feels that if the game plan is push the boundaries then he's your guy. I read (and Rob Heinsoo jokes about this in one of the interviews) that what Andy Collins and Mike Mearls found themselves doing as often as not was reigning him back in. It was their job basically to make sure that Rob Heinsoo's vision was still D&D at the end of the day.

Now none of this is to say that they did not discuss things they did not like about 3rd. There must have been dozens, probably hundreds of meetings and I'm sure they went over that concept with a fine tooth comb. Mike Mearls says somewhere that his favorite period playing 3rd was early on when he was essentially still playing 2nd edition using 3.5 rules. Its not completely clear what he means by this but the example used was that it really did not dawn on him and his group for some time that you could and in fact should be using ye olde magic shoppe extensively. So we see a revamp on how magic is done in 4th (and then a revamp on the revamp with Essentials).

I want to emphasize that what I'm contending Rob Heinsoo's contributed to 4E was not the details but the overall vision for the game. Once we are down to the nitty gritty of who the Gods should be in the PHB or how the planes should work or the specifics on any given power that's much more spread out and is heavily influenced by both design and development.

Instead its from Rob Heinsoo that we get a game that is less based on the simulationism, especially of 3rd but really of all previous editions. From him comes evil elf bounty hunters with a power called 'Storm of Arrows' which can only be used once per encounter and hit everyone in a 5 by 5 square no matter if there happens to be 2 people to target or twelve. Why can the elf do it? Because the elf is cool and a resident of a high fantasy game...or maybe its just because Legolas can do that kind of stuff in the Lord of the Rings movies. Why can one of the players, once per encounter use some power to fall extra distance and another to do crazy slides and such? Because that was one of the most awesome scenes in Garden's of the Moon and they are supposed to be like these characters.


Very interesting posts Jeremy, and I always appreciate insight on how games develop, especially since I wasn't playing during the 2.0/3.0 transition. The few things that I did get from what I have heard about it though, is that at the very least, the concepts and base outlines of many of the key systems were already roughly in place and somewhat tested by the time that transition occurred. That cannot be said for a lot of the major systems in 4th edition. The powers system, by its very nature was going to be a major point of contention no matter how they did it, and many of the other systems, like the skill challenges, were good in concept, but had some execution problems that made it look like the system had been slapped together. It also didn't help that in all the books that previewed 4th edition had a lot of developers comments of "I made this change because I didn't like the old version." The fact that they may well have been told to make those decisions by higher ups is one that I have always tried to keep in mind, and thus most of my criticism for the game tends to be directed at the people ultimately making final calls about game design and marketing.
As to the sheer amount of continuity disruption, I agree that they could not release 3.75 under the distribution model they had in place at the time. That doesn't make the break any less disruptive in the short term, and it nearly broke the game for a lot of people for a wide variety of reasons. To me the value of the essentials line has been that I can at least see that the designers of the game have been able to work around those short term disruptions and focus on the long term success of the game. The success of the line as a whole, to me at least, will be how will it can convince enough other non4th edition players that at the very least they should let other people give it a chance before they bad mouth it.
Again, these are observation from someone who doesn't have a lot of historical background on previous transitions to go off of. If you think I am off on any of my base starting points, I would love to hear more civil and polite (vs some of the knee jerk I must defend 4th edition at all costs) responses.


sunshadow21 wrote:
It also didn't help that in all the books that previewed 4th edition had a lot of developers comments of "I made this change because I didn't like the old version." The fact that they may well have been told to make those decisions by higher ups is one that I have always tried to keep in mind, and thus most of my criticism for the game tends to be directed at the people ultimately making final calls about game design and marketing.

I think, again, this is a biased view of what happened. WotC has been very focused on listening to what the player's are looking for since the beginning. I don't think that changed with 4E. I don't think the developers set out to make changes that they alone were concerend about - I am confident they made changes that they genuinely felt would improve the game, in areas that they had heard a lot of player feedback about.

Now, that doesn't always mean the execution of those changes was great. I think a good example is crafting skills - in 3rd Edition, many felt that crafting skills were a problem because in order to mechanically represent roleplaying elements, you had to actively undercut abilities more relevant to adventuring. So 4E took the approach of removing those RP skills entirely, and instead indicating they should be figured out via backgrounds and purely through RP.

For myself, I still found this an improvement over the previous system, but would have much preferred an approach where they still had mechanical representation of crafting skills, just kept seperate from other primary skills.

And it sounds like that is what WotC is going to be aiming for in upcoming products - there is a book coming out in 2011 that supposedly has stuff along those lines. I don't think that's an admission that they screwed up with 4E... I think it is recognizing that the improvements they made had unintended consequences or couldn't encompass everything they wanted in the game, and that now they feel ready to reintroduce these elements in a balanced fashion.

I think the same is true of Essentials and the current approach. They've finally gotten enough experience to be able to move farther from the core, and reintroduce classic elements, without unbalancing the careful design of 4E. They aren't saying that PHB1 was a failure - just that there is room for more options in the game, and WotC has finally figured out how to make those options work.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I could of course because I can choose to ignore the rules. Still it really was ignoring the spirit of the rules and I had to go above and beyond in some manner. There are rules in 3.5 for make an undead dude that controls undead via spells and its pretty clear that I'm throwing that out when I head down this path. It seemed pointless to have a such a rules robust system designed so that the DM and players where actually playing by the same rules if I was not going to play by the rules anyway. In 1st and 2nd the rules for the DM and the rules for the player where clearly different but in 3rd that was no longer the case. ...

I would say that would be similar in 4th edition to saying that the only ways to make a zombie that casts magic missile is to give him the wizard template (and even then it would be "forced" to deal low damage because of the zombie's low intelligence) or to ignore the rules and go above and beyond in some manner. 4th edition also has clear rules for making monsters with class powers and I would be ignoring the rules there if I were to create the Undead Zombie Lord that leads armies of undead.

It feels like you are applying special, unwritten, and largely unenforced rules for the different editions. The only thing barring the actions you have noted for a 3rd edition game is your own self imposed rule. 4th edition doesn't grant anything new in this territory aside from not being 3rd edition and therefore not impacted by your rule.

That is fine, but then you seem to keep on saying that you dislike that rule and emphasizing how much you are enjoying not playing with that rule in 4th edition.

The argument too me seems very similar to posts claiming that role playing is harder in 4th edition and that they are glad to be playing in 3rd edition with role playing. I would say the major reason that role playing is harder would be just going in with self-imposed "because this is 4th edition" rules similar to your "because this is 3rd edition" rule. In my mind, it is your problem and not an issue with the edition you are complaining about.


It's important to note that 3e literally had "concepts that weren't as good" that were intentionally designed to be bad. Toughness is quoted as an example by Monte Cook himself. They wanted to openly reward "system mastery" which is what lead to CharOps - that's what they wanted out of the game.

Claiming 4e was just design by committee doesn't fit. At all. Just about every part of 4e you can trace back to feedback given in 3e. They did listen to their fans. Some people just didn't want them to.

If you'd read the full interview, you'd see all this, which is why this is so frustrating. The truncated interview is incredibly biased and poorly written and edited together. Hell, even the full interview is full of leading questions and terrible interview practices. I don't care what The Escapist claims - they walked in there with an axe to grind, and any neutral third party would see the same.

As for "similarities to older editions," have you seen the "conversion guide" to bring 2e characters to 3e? It's worthless. It's a waste of paper. It doesn't help at all, it only makes things worse. The difference between 3e and 4e there is that in 4e they said "Let's not try messing around with our fans and giving them a conversion guide that honestly just doesn't function."

In many ways, 4e is closer to 3e then 3e was to 2e. You can see the makeup of the design philosophies. The practice of having non-static attributes was a huge contributer to some of 3e's changes, and 4e keeps that. Non-static attribute upgrades through items, removal of attribute requirements for classes, getting rid of the 10% exp bonus for higher attributes - all of those orginate from that one design change. Having a processed and understood mechanic for monster level? That was a strictly 3e thing. Feats? Go on and guess :p

Likewise, 4e most definitely has things that are more in line with earlier editions. People angst a lot over crafting mechanics, but 3e was the only edition to have those. In earlier editions it was perfectly fine and normal to go "My dwarf makes armor" and the DM just goes "Oh, ok." If formulated fighting monsters are a 3e-ism, then non-formulated NPCs are a pre-3e-ism. NPCs that don't have combat stats or set abilities because they're there to talk to? Yeah, that's earlier editions. How about NPCs and PCs working the same? That's another 3e-only thing that 4e dropped, returning to older edition design philosophies.

And the thing is, all of these can, as I mentioned, be rooted back to problems in 3e that were either demolished or refined. Take the NPC-PC the same bit. The original design for that was to allow for CR, and for DMs to be able to update or upgrade their monsters to achieve different levels of threat. The problem: CR was a mess. The solution: return to PCs and NPCs working differently, but establish a new modularity for combat NPCs. Heck, the rarity system with items combines 3e and pre-3e ideals - common items can be bought (3e) while more rare magic items are intended to be found (pre-3e).

Neither 4e nor 3e was made in a bubble.

Liberty's Edge

ProfessorCirno wrote:
NPCs that don't have combat stats or set abilities because they're there to talk to? Yeah, that's earlier editions. How about NPCs and PCs working the same? That's another 3e-only thing that 4e dropped, returning to older edition design philosophies.

+1 for 4e.


I've enjoyed this lovely discussion despite the sometimes extreme defensiveness of some of the responses, and I apologize if I seemed to a little rough on 4th edition at times, but sometimes someone has to play devil's advocate. I've learned a lot about the development and current state of a game that I've never personally had the opportunity to get to know, and I thank you all for that. As for the future success of both 4th edition and Pathfinder, may they both prosper and spawn even more games for future generations to play (and probably argue about).


Pathfinder owns, 4e owns

420 play D&D everyday.


ProfessorCirno wrote:


In many ways, 4e is closer to 3e then 3e was to 2e. You can see the makeup of the design philosophies. The practice of having non-static attributes was a huge contributer to some of 3e's changes, and 4e keeps that. Non-static attribute upgrades through items, removal of attribute requirements for classes, getting rid of the 10% exp bonus for higher attributes - all of those orginate from that one design change. Having a processed and understood mechanic for monster level? That was a strictly 3e thing. Feats? Go on and guess :p

Likewise, 4e most definitely has things that are more in line with earlier editions. People angst a lot over crafting mechanics, but 3e was the only edition to have those. In earlier editions it was perfectly fine and normal to go "My dwarf makes armor" and the DM just goes "Oh, ok." If formulated fighting monsters are a 3e-ism, then non-formulated NPCs are a pre-3e-ism. NPCs that don't have combat stats or set abilities because they're there to talk to? Yeah, that's earlier editions. How about NPCs and PCs working the same? That's another 3e-only thing that 4e dropped, returning to older edition design philosophies.

And the thing is, all of these can, as I mentioned, be rooted back to problems in 3e that were either demolished or refined. Take the NPC-PC the same bit. The original design for that was to allow for CR, and for DMs to be able to update or upgrade their monsters to achieve different levels of threat. The problem: CR was a mess. The solution: return to PCs and NPCs working differently, but establish a new modularity for combat NPCs. Heck, the rarity system with items combines 3e and pre-3e ideals - common items can be bought (3e) while more rare magic items are intended to be found (pre-3e).

Neither 4e nor 3e was made in a bubble...

Damn, dude. If these message boards had a rep system I'd bump ya twice for this. Well said.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game, Rulebook Subscriber
Abbasax wrote:
I know that this isn't a perfect representation at all, but if you look at the bestselling RPGs on Amazon.com at any given moment, it's dominated by 4th ed stuff.

Actually, every time I've looked at Amazon over the past six months or so, Paizo is pretty much holding their own in Amazon's Best Selling Gaming List. Essentials is currently 1, 2, 4, and 5; which is what you would expect as its the newest release from the market leader. But Paizo is 6, 7, 13 and 15. And while the 4e books at the lead fluctuate according to which is their newest release, every time I've looked Paizo has been near the top with the Core Rulebook, as have the various Warhammer 40K RPG books.

Maybe I'm just looking on the days Paizo manages to hit the list, but I kind of doubt it.


Blazej wrote:
I would say that would be similar in 4th edition to saying that the only ways to make a zombie that casts magic missile is to give him the wizard template (and even then it would be "forced" to deal low damage because of the zombie's low intelligence) or to ignore the rules and go above and beyond in some manner. 4th edition also has clear rules for making monsters with class powers and I would be ignoring the rules there if I were to create the Undead Zombie Lord that leads armies of undead.

I'm not sure how accurate this is. 4E also provides some solid guidelines for just copy-pasting powers to creatures you want to have them, or building new powers or abilities from scratch, not to mention just assigning plot elements (like zombie hordes) where needed. While you absolutely can make a zombie with some magic powers via the wizard template, there is very much an encouragement to feel free to just give it Magic Missile with a level appropriate attack/damage bonus if that is what you want to do.

Now, you are absolutely right that you could do the same things in 3rd Edition. You could just let a zombie cast magic missile if you wanted to.

But while the system didn't forbid such DM fiat... I definitely felt that it discouraged it. Now, I'm only speaking from my own experience here. But during my years of DMing 3rd Edition, I very much got the impression from the game that the DM was expected to play 'by the book'.

I can still remember the breakthrough, 5-6 years into the edition, when I finally realized I didn't have to do it that way. I finally just gave up on spending hours statting out monsters and NPCs, and carefully calculating skill ranks to get them where I wanted them. Instead... I took some of the basic guidelines, and just gave out the abilities I wanted them to have. I went through the key steps of the formulas, hit the highlights, noted key abilities, feats and magic items, and ran with it.

And it worked. Mostly. Not perfectly, but then... the formulas and CR system botched plenty of times on its own. Then downside of such free-form design is having to take responsibility as a DM if something does go wrong, rather than being able to rely upon / blame the system. But the time saved and the freedom for more easily creating the encounters you want to see... it was very much worth it, to me.

So could you design by DM fiat in 3rd Edition? Absolutely. But I definitely had to discover that on my own - I can't claim a universal experience, but for me, the rules definitely discouraged that sort of approach. In 4E, stepping the monsters back to a more abstracted state provides a framework that largely embraces it. You can see it in the monster design guidelines in the DMG, and in the options available in the Monster Builder.

And of course, the cost of this is that monster design is slightly more of an art than a science, and the system relies a bit more on the DM to know if what they have will be a good encounter for the PCs. But I honestly think that is usually the case anyway. So for me, the change in approach was definitely welcomed. And I think it hard to deny that there is a difference in approach between the editions.

Neither is an extreme that doesn't allow for the other method, but 3rd Edition felt like it was very focused on interlinking everything together and putting the players and DMs on even ground, while 4E has felt like its approach is a return to more free-form DM design. Both approaches have pros and cons, and both approaches can be taken within either edition, but for me, at least, the bias of each one is pretty self-evident.


Wicht wrote:
Abbasax wrote:
I know that this isn't a perfect representation at all, but if you look at the bestselling RPGs on Amazon.com at any given moment, it's dominated by 4th ed stuff.

Actually, every time I've looked at Amazon over the past six months or so, Paizo is pretty much holding their own in Amazon's Best Selling Gaming List. Essentials is currently 1, 2, 4, and 5; which is what you would expect as its the newest release from the market leader. But Paizo is 6, 7, 13 and 15. And while the 4e books at the lead fluctuate according to which is their newest release, every time I've looked Paizo has been near the top with the Core Rulebook, as have the various Warhammer 40K RPG books.

Maybe I'm just looking on the days Paizo manages to hit the list, but I kind of doubt it.

I wasn't trying to say that Paizo doesn't sell well there, just that I suspect that Pathfinder sells better on their own site then on Amazon (though I could be very wrong about that). I was mostly trying to say that 4th ed may be selling better then some people think it is. (Though this is just based on amazons list, which I completely admit is flawed and incomplete data).


I just wanted to mention that I have seen some of the reported income over several quarters for Hasbro and for WotC....

WotC has taken a hit to their total income in the past two years, not enough to drop D&D, but a big hit. The company has lost as much as 20% to as little as 10% of their income quarter to quarter since 4th ed release.

I don't have anything that I can actually show you, you might be able to google some information on this, but I am not able to share anything at this moment.

I believe this shift has left Paizo holding more of the market than it had before, a lot more of the market.

The above percentages are the entire company, not just the D&D brand, which could mean they took a really big hit.


Bigmancheatle wrote:

I just wanted to mention that I have seen some of the reported income over several quarters for Hasbro and for WotC....

WotC has taken a hit to their total income in the past two years, not enough to drop D&D, but a big hit. The company has lost as much as 20% to as little as 10% of their income quarter to quarter since 4th ed release.

Yeah it's probably paizo and not the crisis that caused the hit.

WAT.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Bigmancheatle wrote:

I just wanted to mention that I have seen some of the reported income over several quarters for Hasbro and for WotC....

WotC has taken a hit to their total income in the past two years, not enough to drop D&D, but a big hit. The company has lost as much as 20% to as little as 10% of their income quarter to quarter since 4th ed release.

>>snip<<

I believe this shift has left Paizo holding more of the market than it had before, a lot more of the market....

How much of that is the general state of the economy, though? (ETA: Or what Malaclypse said, pretty much.) This is admittedly a handwave, but Paizo could be doing relatively better than WotC only because its clientele on average still has a bit more discretionary income than WotC's.

All IMHO, etc. I don't even know what Paizo's sales figures look like, only that they seem to be doing well enough to make new hires and avoid layoffs.


Matthew Koelbl wrote:
A whole bunch of stuff...

Matthew, it's uncanny how much you and I think alike, and this is yet another example.

Late in 3.5's life cycle, I had a similar epiphany regarding monsters and NPC's. I went a little farther than you did, from what I gather. I quit statting monsters altogether. Instead, I'd come up with a target D20 roll based on how often I thought the PCs should be hitting, and that served as AC. I didn't even bother with a number for attacks. A high D20 roll (15-20 or so) was a hit, everything else was a miss. Damage was whatever seemed reasonable. I didn't even bother with hit points; I simply mentally assigned a certain number of successful hits. I basically ran paperless combats. The biggest eye-opener for me was that my players never noticed.

Gary Gygax said it in the first DMG.


Bigmancheatle wrote:

I just wanted to mention that I have seen some of the reported income over several quarters for Hasbro and for WotC....

WotC has taken a hit to their total income in the past two years, not enough to drop D&D, but a big hit. The company has lost as much as 20% to as little as 10% of their income quarter to quarter since 4th ed release.

I don't have anything that I can actually show you, you might be able to google some information on this, but I am not able to share anything at this moment.

I believe this shift has left Paizo holding more of the market than it had before, a lot more of the market.

The above percentages are the entire company, not just the D&D brand, which could mean they took a really big hit.

Probably true - but its not just WotC and Paizo. There where a ton of other 3rd party players that combined had a small but reasonable piece of the market and it appears as if they really got hit, So some of their market share went to Paizo and some went to WotC. The thing is The relitive sizes of the company's, at start would make this a rounding error for WotC and a nice bump for Paizo.

If its overall numbers that does not tell us as much about D&D as well becuase its really Magic thats WotCs flagship brand. If less people go out to draft because the money is tight or less people enroll in games on Magic Online then that hurts WotC.

The other factor would be whether or not WotC would have seen better numbers if they had gone with 3.75. They could not stay with 3.5 and hold numbers - the line was pretty tapped. So would have putting out 3.75 seen their numbers hold? I doubt it.

WotCs decisions probably did nice things for Paizo because it allowed Paizo to release 3.75 without a backlash - in fact with extreme excitement...from a fan base that would probably have crucified WotC if they had tried the same thing. Hence WotC likely did the only thing they really could do - make the best 'its not 3.75' game they could. If they lost some market share...well it may be that there was no alternative - it was more a question (even if they did not realize it) about how to loose as little as possible. They have a pretty good game for newbs and maybe that strategy will still pay off for them - we'll see.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastrd wrote:

>>snip<<

Late in 3.5's life cycle, I had a similar epiphany regarding monsters and NPC's. I went a little farther than you did, from what I gather. I quit statting monsters altogether. Instead, I'd come up with a target D20 roll based on how often I thought the PCs should be hitting, and that served as AC. I didn't even bother with a number for attacks. A high D20 roll (15-20 or so) was a hit, everything else was a miss. Damage was whatever seemed reasonable. I didn't even bother with hit points; I simply mentally assigned a certain number of successful hits. I basically ran paperless combats. The biggest eye-opener for me was that my players never noticed.

Gary Gygax said it in the first DMG.

Question for you: Do you think you would have been able to do that earlier in your experience with 3.5? It sounds as though this approach depends on having previously worked through a lot of opponents, to get that level of intuition regarding how a monster should behave.


Blazej wrote:


I would say that would be similar in 4th edition to saying that the only ways to make a zombie that casts magic missile is to give him the wizard template (and even then it would be "forced" to deal low damage because of the zombie's low intelligence) or to ignore the rules and go above and beyond in some manner. 4th edition also has clear rules for making monsters with class powers and I would be ignoring the rules there if I were to create the Undead Zombie Lord that leads armies of undead.

It feels like you are applying special, unwritten, and largely unenforced rules for the different editions. The only thing barring the actions you have noted for a 3rd edition game is your own self imposed rule. 4th edition doesn't grant anything new in this territory aside from not being 3rd edition and therefore not impacted by your rule.

That is fine, but then you seem to keep on saying that you dislike that rule and emphasizing how much you are enjoying not playing with that rule in 4th edition.

A big part of this is why play with a rules robust system in the first place if I don't intend to use the rules?

I recall reading an article in the 3.5 era, I think over at the WotC site but maybe one of the Paizo guys that said pretty much "We Love Gnolls!" Its certainly true that there was some major gnoll love out there in 3.5. It was probably (after Kobolds) the most popular humanoid in the the edition and there is no way that was true of 1st or 2nd. It was one of the less popular humanoids. The love for it is in its stats That bonus to strength and especially the bonus to Con made it the perfect humanoid. It just had the right stats for the job. Notice that their riegn seems to be over in 4E - without the mechanics to make them the best humanoid they are not necessarily more interesting then Orcs or Hobgoblins (and of course they can't touch kobolds).

A similar, and probably more telling, segment came up out of the Paizo guys when they where considering the Dark Elf AP. Essentially the problem with Dark Elves is they are Elves and villains. From being an elf they get a penalty to con and thats really bad for a villain because hps are basically the barometer for how long your bad guy gets to be on stage. So why didn't the Paizo guys just say 'hell with this' and cross out -2 and replace it with +8 to con in all the stat blocks? Certainly solve the problem. Obviously the answer is they felt they could not violate the system like that and remain authentic to it and its ultimately the same answer I had.


Bigmancheatle wrote:
I don't have anything that I can actually show you

You have 25 posts and now you're claiming you have exclusive info that nobody else seems to have, but you can't show us.

Folks, please do not believe this random anonymous person on the internet just because he claims to be legit?

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I recall reading an article in the 3.5 era, I think over at the WotC site but maybe one of the Paizo guys that said pretty much "We Love Gnolls!"

Are you remembering this article by Jesse Decker and David Noonan? they're not Paizo guys, but they did a terrific series of columns explaining the nuts and bolts of the 3.5 rules system.


Chris Mortika wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I recall reading an article in the 3.5 era, I think over at the WotC site but maybe one of the Paizo guys that said pretty much "We Love Gnolls!"
Are you remembering this article by Jesse Decker and David Noonan? they're not Paizo guys, but they did a terrific series of columns explaining the nuts and bolts of the 3.5 rules system.

Oddly enough I'm not so sure that is the gnoll article I was thinking about but I'm completely certain that the drow article I was thinking about is the one linked on the page. Maybe the Paizo guys just mention the issue with their second darkness campaign? Or maybe I'm just misremembering them saying anything on the issue at all. Anyway my point remains the same whatever the source of the articles are.


I know gnolls were one of the subjects of this rather hilarious articles

Boom

Liberty's Edge

John Woodford wrote:
Sebastrd wrote:

>>snip<<

Late in 3.5's life cycle, I had a similar epiphany regarding monsters and NPC's. I went a little farther than you did, from what I gather. I quit statting monsters altogether. Instead, I'd come up with a target D20 roll based on how often I thought the PCs should be hitting, and that served as AC. I didn't even bother with a number for attacks. A high D20 roll (15-20 or so) was a hit, everything else was a miss. Damage was whatever seemed reasonable. I didn't even bother with hit points; I simply mentally assigned a certain number of successful hits. I basically ran paperless combats. The biggest eye-opener for me was that my players never noticed.

Gary Gygax said it in the first DMG.

Question for you: Do you think you would have been able to do that earlier in your experience with 3.5? It sounds as though this approach depends on having previously worked through a lot of opponents, to get that level of intuition regarding how a monster should behave.

That would only matter if you weren't willing the tweak thing on the fly.


Matthew Koelbl wrote:

I'm not sure how accurate this is. 4E also provides some solid guidelines for just copy-pasting powers to creatures you want to have them, or building new powers or abilities from scratch, not to mention just assigning plot elements (like zombie hordes) where needed. While you absolutely can make a zombie with some magic powers via the wizard template, there is very much an encouragement to feel free to just give it Magic Missile with a level appropriate attack/damage bonus if that is what you want to do.

Now, you are absolutely right that you could do the same things in 3rd Edition. You could just let a zombie cast magic missile if you wanted to. ...

I have having a hard time getting past the point where you say that you say that you felt that 3rd edition discouraged just letting a zombie have magic missile as a spell like ability and 4th edition encouraged just letting the zombie have the power with an appropriate amount of damage. Both of these seem to be unwritten rules that you are imposing on the systems rather than rules that the systems are forcing on you.

There isn't a rule in 3rd edition hampering granting magic missile to zombies or undead armies to zombie lords and I really don't recall anything in 4th edition that grants me any new ability to give magic missile to zombies or undead armies to zombie lords. But it seems like you are treating that as not the case.

I find that that argument you are using is analogous to someone saying, "But while the system [4e] didn't forbid role playing... I definitely felt that it discouraged it," and otherwise arguing that role playing could be hampered by the rules of the system, when the systems [3rd and 4th] never really seemed to never really gave or removed that ability because it remained with the GMs and players. I feel the same way with claims that 3rd edition hampered zombie lords with undead armies and 4th edition didn't, because neither edition gave or removed that ability in the first place.

Edit: I do agree that 3rd edition monster creation worked different from 4th edition monster creation and that they each have bias to how things worked. All I argue is that granting unique abilities to unique monsters is incredibly impacted by those biases.


Sebastian wrote:
(...)but this interview strikes me as substantially different in tone and content as compared to prior communications from WotC regarding the launch of 4e. (...)

I got that feeling too. Even from the long article, even from knowing that he (Mearls) was answering subjects he was pressed on (it wouldn't be the first time he or one of his colleagues is pressed against that type of questions), Mearls did have different answers to those we've become accustom to.

I see that as a good thing


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
John Woodford wrote:
Sebastrd wrote:

>>snip<<

Late in 3.5's life cycle, I had a similar epiphany regarding monsters and NPC's. I went a little farther than you did, from what I gather. I quit statting monsters altogether. Instead, I'd come up with a target D20 roll based on how often I thought the PCs should be hitting, and that served as AC. I didn't even bother with a number for attacks. A high D20 roll (15-20 or so) was a hit, everything else was a miss. Damage was whatever seemed reasonable. I didn't even bother with hit points; I simply mentally assigned a certain number of successful hits. I basically ran paperless combats. The biggest eye-opener for me was that my players never noticed.

Gary Gygax said it in the first DMG.

Question for you: Do you think you would have been able to do that earlier in your experience with 3.5? It sounds as though this approach depends on having previously worked through a lot of opponents, to get that level of intuition regarding how a monster should behave.

I've been doing this from day one of playing 3.5. Admittedly I have many years of playing many different systems (having started with basic D&D and moved through various different phases), so perhaps I have a baseline of "how tough this should be". Nonetheless, it's possible to not follow the "NPCs use the same rules as PCs" approach. I never really realised it was peculiar until I started reading the Paizo boards (people spending hours 'statting up' a BBEG seemed impossible to me at first).


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:

A big part of this is why play with a rules robust system in the first place if I don't intend to use the rules?

I recall reading an article in the 3.5 era, I think over at the WotC site but maybe one of the Paizo guys that said pretty much "We Love Gnolls!" Its certainly true that there was some major gnoll love out there in 3.5. It was probably (after Kobolds) the most popular humanoid in the the edition and there is no way that was true of 1st or 2nd. It was one of the less popular humanoids. The love for it is in its stats That bonus to strength and especially the bonus to Con made it the perfect humanoid. It just had the right stats for the job. Notice that their riegn seems to be over in 4E - without the mechanics to make them the best humanoid they are not necessarily more interesting then Orcs or Hobgoblins (and of course they can't touch kobolds).

A similar, and probably more telling, segment came up out of the Paizo guys when they where considering the Dark Elf AP....

I believe that another section of the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP that you mentioned earlier is relevant and probably even more telling. Specifically the third adventure in the series dealt with the problem of a particular monster being particularly weak compared to the enemies it would be facing. In that case, they took a different route than the one you mentioned and just lowered the CR of all instances of that monster by two levels.

That way the monsters would be a better match for the adventuring party.

Reading the articles, that seems to have been the largest problem the writer was having and not really because of the ability score mods on the drow and gnoll, but the fact that the CR given to drow was too high.

Even then, I don't really think that it would be that outlandish to take a drow that was intended to have a lot of hit points and say his Constitution score is 10 higher than the average drow because of proper alignment of the stars at birth/she is the daughter of a deity/accidental exposure to gamma radiation/etc. There isn't a rule really for it, but I don't recall a rule against it, just like in 4th edition.

Just because there is a rules robust system, that doesn't mean I can't ignore parts of it or make new rules if they get in the way of a fun game.


John Woodford wrote:
Question for you: Do you think you would have been able to do that earlier in your experience with 3.5? It sounds as though this approach depends on having previously worked through a lot of opponents, to get that level of intuition regarding how a monster should behave.

I don't think it necessarily required experience with the 3.5 system as much as it required familiarity with DMing combat in general. An experienced DM will have a general idea of what a particular monster needs to accomplish, and it's easier and more effective to throw out system rules and build around that idea.

Spoiler:
For example, I really like the concept of the skull lord. The rules, whether 3.5 or 4E, present him as a fairly squishy monster. His minions, on the other hand, tend to have more hit points and fewer special abilities because of the way the CR system works. Basically, you end up with a glass cannon type main bad guy that goes down early, and your PCs are left slugging it out with a bunch of ridiculously durable zombies/skeletons that have nothing to do but full attack round after round.

So what I'd do is scrap the monster creation rules altogether and just build from need. I like the skull lord and his cool abilities, so I'll start with that. I want him to stick around for a while, so I'll say the PCs need a 12-15 to hit him (depending on individual combat prowess) and need to hit him for average damage 6 times per skull. I also want his cool abilities to actually affect the combat, so I'll say he hits on a 10 or better for lvl+1-10 damage. The other undead are just minions and I don't want them to get much screen time or take the spotlight off of the skull lord, so I'll make them squishy. I'll say the PCs hit them on an 8-10 and only need 3-4 hits for average damage to take them out. Maybe a hit less for basic zombies/skeletons, maybe a hit more for more exotic undead like ghouls or vampires (all depending on what type of undead minions I add to this particular encounter). I do want the minions to at least pose a danger to the PCs, so I'll say they hit on a 10 or better for lvl+1-6 damage. That's it. Done. The cool thing about this combat is that the EL is totally irrelevant. No matter what the PCs level, this encounter is appropriate.


Blazej wrote:
Even then, I don't really think that it would be that outlandish to take a drow that was intended to have a lot of hit points and say his Constitution score is 10 higher than the average drow because of proper alignment of the stars at birth/she is the is the daughter of a deity/accidental exposure to gamma radiation/etc. There isn't a rule really for it, but I don't recall a rule against it, just like in 4th edition.

This is actually unnecessary. There is already precedent set for monsters having a feat that increases their hit points. For example, a lot of incorporeal undead have a feat that gives them bonus hit points based on their Charisma. Instead of giving your drow a ridiculous Constitution (which, depending on the drow's hit dice, might not actually do a whole lot), just give him a feat that grants a bunch of hit points.

Spoiler:
Destined for Greatness

(Ex): Creature gains an additional 20 hit points. This creature has been chosen by fate to achieve something extraordinary and has increased durability to ensure it survives to complete its task.

Problem solved, and you don't even have to break the system to do it.


Blazej wrote:
I have a hard time getting past the point where you say that you say that you felt that 3rd edition discouraged just letting a zombie have magic missile as a spell like ability and 4th edition encouraged just letting the zombie have the power with an appropriate amount of damage. Both of these seem to be unwritten rules that you are imposing on the systems rather than rules that the systems are forcing on you.

Like I said, 3rd Edition didn't actually have any rules that stopped you from doing it. And when I realized that, it was a very freeing experience as a DM. It's possible that because of this, when 4E came along, I saw that same freedom into it since my eyes were already open to it. I can't say for sure.

Still. I think it hard to deny there is a level of bias in each system. 3rd Edition was all about standardized formula. Characters and Monsters were built on the same structure, and that implies that Players and DMs are playing by the same rules. 4E takes a step back from there. Different elements are built differently. The monster creation rules specifically talk about just skimming through monster abilities and copying existing ones or making up your own as appropriate. There are guidelines to keep all the numbers about right, but the rules for what a monster can do are much less tied to specific formulas or stats. The "say yes" philosophy, the guidelines for quick ways to adjudicate any actions the rules don't cover, all of those seem to encourage a freer approach to the game.

Ok, here is an example. In 3rd Edition, I wanted to build an ogre who was good at tripping people. So I figure I can just take a standard ogre and rearrange his feats so that he has ones focused on tripping. But Improved Trip requires Expertise. Expertise requires Int 13. Ogre doesn't qualify. If I give him the feats anyway, the players might wonder why he gets to cheat the system when they can't. If I just give him a random +4 bonus to trip checks, they might wonder where that comes from.

Now, I eventually realized I could just give out abilities like that. The DM has that power, and not everything has to be subject to player analysis. But for most of the edition, I thought the 'proper' way was to instead try and find some obscure combination of classes/feats/items that would let me have the ogre qualify for Improved Trip 'legally'. And that if I didn't do so, I was doing something wrong.

Like Jeremy said, one of the biggest strength's of 3rd Edition was having this unifying system of rules. Rule 0 is still in there, but it suddenly felt a lot less kosher to bend the system - if you could just do so, what was the point of having the unified system in the first place?

Again, all just my perspective of how things fell into place for me. Not necessarily everyone's experience. Whatever bias each edition may have had, there certainly weren't hard and fast rules forbidding other styles of play. But it definitely felt to me like 3rd Edition was about putting DM and players on even ground and a unified system, while 4E moved back towards a more classic, free-form approach.


Sebastrd wrote:
Problem solved, and you don't even have to break the system to do it.

Exactly. I am pretty sure that is what I have been arguing for.

Liberty's Edge

Sebastrd wrote:


This is actually unnecessary. There is already precedent set for monsters having a feat that increases their hit points. For example, a lot of incorporeal undead have a feat that gives them bonus hit points based on their Charisma. Instead of giving your drow a ridiculous Constitution (which, depending on the drow's hit dice, might not actually do a whole lot), just give him a feat that grants a bunch of hit points.

** spoiler omitted **

Problem solved, and you don't even have to break the system to do it.

Well said sir!


Sebastrd wrote:


I don't think it necessarily required experience with the 3.5 system as much as it required familiarity with DMing combat in general. An experienced DM will have a general idea of what a particular monster needs to accomplish, and it's easier and more effective to throw out system rules and build around that idea.

** spoiler omitted **...

This actually touches upon the core tenant of any good, nay great DM, which is of course

RULES ARE FOR PLAYERS

THe first time I heard this, back in 1990, it was from the mouth of one of the best DMs I have ever played for. His games were exciting, dramatic, funny and even dealt with morality. There were never easy choices, just choices, and I have tried to live up to the standard he showed me He said the above was the guiding principle in making such incredible adventures - don't let the rules, or even the process of following the rules, get in the way of making amazing adventures.


Matthew Koelbl wrote:
Like I said, 3rd Edition didn't actually have any rules that stopped you from doing it. And when I realized that, it was a very freeing experience as a DM. It's possible that because of this, when 4E came along, I saw that same freedom into it since my eyes were already open to it. I can't say for sure.

I do not disagree that there is a level of bias in each of the systems and, in the example you mention, the initial reaction I would have would probably been the same. I would have looked to Improved Trip first off. Once that didn't work, I would have just given him the necessary Intelligence or just granted him the ability to trip people. In 4th edition, I would have just skipped the first step and went straight to giving him the attack to trip people.

"...if you could just do so, what was the point of having the unified system in the first place?"

Just because I work slightly outside the unified system a fraction of the time, it does not render the unified system worthless. When I run those games, I will use the system when it works, but I will create new stuff when I hit a barrier. That seems more reasonable to me than insisting that the rule system is to be used while complaining about how you are forced to use that rule system.

I am not really trying to argue whether keeping monsters rules more separate from the player rules has an impact, my reaction was to the brief statement by Jeremy above that claimed that you couldn't do GM fiat in 3rd edition (And then revised that it was merely against the spirit of the rules).

From the arguments, I would say that the attempt has been made to argue that it is against the spirit of the rules of 3rd edition to create new monsters, feats, spells, special abilities, etc, because if that were not the case, then I can't see the problem in making a zombie that casts magic missile, a zombie lord that can command an army of undead, or an ogre that knocks people down without finesse and intellect.

Dark Archive

Have you ever thought about giving spceial Monsters/NPC full HP instead of the average?
I mean for a 10th level Fighter NPC this is either 55HP on average or 100HP.
Pay it with a Feat "Here to Last"

And all is Hunky Dory!

Dark Archive

Blazej wrote:
From the arguments, I would say that the attempt has been made to argue that it is against the spirit of the rules of 3rd edition to create new monsters, feats, spells, special abilities, etc, because if that were not the case, then I can't see the problem in making a zombie that casts magic missile, a zombie lord that can command an army of undead, or an ogre that knocks people down without finesse and intellect.

Off the top of my head, and the wording needs improving. By creating a feat, its not DM fiat anymore - its available for PCs as well, but won't be much use to most of them.

BRUTAL TRIP (General, Fighter)
Prerequisites: Strength 15
Benefit: When using a two handed melee weapon appropriate to your size, you can make trip attacks against creatures at least one size category smaller than you as if you had the Improved Trip feat
Special: This overlaps with (does not stack with) the Improved Trip feat

Of course, if the players question the monster's abilities I normally just say "he's got a feat that allows him to do that" - its only if they are interested in doing it themselves that I bother to stat it up. (So actually it is GM fiat when you come down to it.)


Really the one thing the DM must pay attention to is designing creatures ahead of time, versus creating one on the fly. Whether there is a unified system or seperate systems, I see no problem with stretching the barriers and mixing things up, as long as I adhere to my first comment and design it in advanced (mixed in with some common sense).

It would be unfortunate if a table resulted in an argument over what a creature can do in comparison to a PC, or vice versa, taking into acccount special cases like it is obvious the troll can not start tossing lighting bolts out of its rear end (common sense factor).

As to Mike's interview he is just stating where 4E is headed. The only item I would request from 4E developers is some type of beta phase, or a feedback mechanism via the player base. There are a multitude of great ideas that can be applied to the system, without a major overhall, that would bring it more in line with their intended goal of placing the game somewhere in between old school D&D and 3.5.


Blazej wrote:

"...if you could just do so, what was the point of having the unified system in the first place?"

Just because I work slightly outside the unified system a fraction of the time, it does not render the unified system worthless. When I run those games, I will use the system when it works, but I will create new stuff when I hit a barrier. That seems more reasonable to me than insisting that the rule system is to be used while complaining about how you are forced to use that rule system.

Again, note that eventually that was the very conclusion I came to. My complaints haven't been that I find the structure restrictive while accepting its boundary over me - it was that it took me so long to realize that it was indeed ok to go beyond those boundaries. The quote above was an example of the type of thinking that took time and experience to move past.

It seemed the intent, in 3rd Edition, for the DM to be tied down by the rules as equally as the player's were. At least, more so than was the case in 2nd Edition, and more than is the case now in 4E. Eventually I realized that even if that was the goal, it wasn't an unbreakable one, and was more designed to inform the system than to limit the DM.


Blazej wrote:


Just because I work slightly outside the unified system a fraction of the time, it does not render the unified system worthless.

Correct, but also keep in mind what the unified system brings to the PCs. A unified system that both the DM and PCs are using allows the PCs choices to matter. If a player is spending skill points in the Listen skill he means to give his character the ability to hear things others won't. The player does this assuming the DM will be using the unified system to make Listen checks as described in the rules. If the DM decides to use his own mechanic instead of the one the system describes or use no Listen mechanic at all, he invalidates the PCs skill point choices.

This type of thing used to happen all the time in Pre-3E D&D. Since the DM and the PCs were essentially playing different games the choices PCs made could be immediately invalidated by the DMs whims. Post-3E D&D has a contract between the Players and DM that guarantees both are using the same rules and that the game mechanic choices you make will matter in the way the rules describe. I assume 4E is the same but here I am specifically speaking of 3E.

DM and PC playing the same unified mechanic game allows strategic choices to be made on both sides and guarantees those choices have the desired impact on the game. To me 3rd edition is all about strategic sacrifice: I won't be able to "Hide" well but I will be able to "Listen" better. I won't cast all my spells in this battle but I will have something left for the next one. This creature will be able to "Trip" opponents but won't do much melee damage.


cibet44 wrote:


This type of thing used to happen all the time in Pre-3E D&D. Since the DM and the PCs were essentially playing different games the choices PCs made could be immediately invalidated by the DMs whims. Post-3E D&D has a contract between the Players and DM that guarantees both are using the same rules and that the game mechanic choices you make will matter in the way the rules describe. I assume 4E is the same but here I am specifically speaking of 3E.

I would argue that for 4th edition the answer is no. The DM is not using precisely the same rules here as the players. There are definitely guidelines but setting a DC is more often then not a matter of the DM choosing between an 'easy', 'moderate', or 'hard' DC level appropriate to characters of X level.

Mathew makes the point above that this is really pretty often DM choice and when the DM screws up and makes the wrong choice its all the DMs fault.

In fact I did exactly this in the last session I played - walking on the slippery planks is moderate DC for their level (and it only gets real bad if they fail that by 5). Oops,..look at all those armour penalties, a moderately challenging encounter suddenly became really hard. I screwed up - I was so focused on making sure the acrobatic rogue would need to at least roll that I missed that this would make things nearly impossible for the rest of the party and I have no one to blame here but myself. Considering all the other challenges in the room (flying invisible stalkers) the penalty for blowing the roll (pretty bad) and the amount of planks that would need to be crossed (quite a lot) the correct answer was to use an easy DC for their level, maybe going with moderate if the players tried to be fancy or if they where hit by the Invisible Stalkers.

In 3rd the DMG would have a set DC for this. If the encounter went south I could point to that DC as the explanation for what went wrong.

Notice the parallels between this and your 2nd edition example? The rogue was good I nerfed the rogue, my bad, and the encounter went wrong.

Now this is not all bad - I learned something from this, concretely I was reminded not to focus to much on the best player when setting challenges unless it would only be the best player dealing with said challenge. Its my job, as the DM, to learn from such mistakes and make sure they work better in the future.


amethal wrote:
Blazej wrote:
From the arguments, I would say that the attempt has been made to argue that it is against the spirit of the rules of 3rd edition to create new monsters, feats, spells, special abilities, etc, because if that were not the case, then I can't see the problem in making a zombie that casts magic missile, a zombie lord that can command an army of undead, or an ogre that knocks people down without finesse and intellect.

Off the top of my head, and the wording needs improving. By creating a feat, its not DM fiat anymore - its available for PCs as well, but won't be much use to most of them.

BRUTAL TRIP (General, Fighter)
Prerequisites: Strength 15
Benefit: When using a two handed melee weapon appropriate to your size, you can make trip attacks against creatures at least one size category smaller than you as if you had the Improved Trip feat
Special: This overlaps with (does not stack with) the Improved Trip feat

Of course, if the players question the monster's abilities I normally just say "he's got a feat that allows him to do that" - its only if they are interested in doing it themselves that I bother to stat it up. (So actually it is GM fiat when you come down to it.)

This feat looks stunning for a 3.5 Half-Giant tripping build. Now you don't have to waste your build points on stats other then strength and con.


As far as skill DCs go, it's important to note that they're intended for challenges of the PC's level. So climbing a wooden wall of a building is a, let's say, medium difficulty challenge at level one, an easy challenge by level 5, and once they hit paragon they don't even need to roll for it, because at that level a challenge of their appropriate level is a seamless wall made of ice.


ProfessorCirno wrote:
As far as skill DCs go, it's important to note that they're intended for challenges of the PC's level. So climbing a wooden wall of a building is a, let's say, medium difficulty challenge at level one, an easy challenge by level 5, and once they hit paragon they don't even need to roll for it, because at that level a challenge of their appropriate level is a seamless wall made of ice.

It never specifies that so far as I'm aware. When that effect is the case the appropriate answer is not to use the easy, medium, hard section for setting the DC but instead to use a static DC.

Static DCs always, eventually, become auto successes for everyone in the party (unless they are very, very, high).

Otherwise I disagree. Gaining levels does not necessarily make players better at doing things. My Barbarian thats dumb as a box of rocks does not necessarily have an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the Abyss simply by virtue of him being 15th level. That kind of knowledge should be the domain of high intelligence characters, preferably with Skill Training and Skill focus.

I'd be watching the 'tone' of such encounters so that you don't fill epic 15th level adventures with tasks that seem trivial but there are no hard and fast rules on pulling this off and its the type of thing that can easily vary from campaign to campaign and DM to DM. It may be that we can use Dungeon Magazine for guidelines on what is considered appropriate at each level but I have my doubts that even WotC has a unified answer to this question.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:
As far as skill DCs go, it's important to note that they're intended for challenges of the PC's level. So climbing a wooden wall of a building is a, let's say, medium difficulty challenge at level one, an easy challenge by level 5, and once they hit paragon they don't even need to roll for it, because at that level a challenge of their appropriate level is a seamless wall made of ice.

It never specifies that so far as I'm aware. When that effect is the case the appropriate answer is not to use the easy, medium, hard section for setting the DC but instead to use a static DC.

Static DCs always, eventually, become auto successes for everyone in the party (unless they are very, very, high).

Otherwise I disagree. Gaining levels does not necessarily make players better at doing things. My Barbarian thats dumb as a box of rocks does not necessarily have an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the Abyss simply by virtue of him being 15th level. That kind of knowledge should be the domain of high intelligence characters, preferably with Skill Training and Skill focus.

I'd be watching the 'tone' of such encounters so that you don't fill epic 15th level adventures with tasks that seem trivial but there are no hard and fast rules on pulling this off and its the type of thing that can easily vary from campaign to campaign and DM to DM. It may be that we can use Dungeon Magazine for guidelines on what is considered appropriate at each level but I have my doubts that even WotC has a unified answer to this question.

I don't really get that logic.

By level 15 your barbarian has been out and about, adventuring and killing monsters and fighting demons for a long time. Of course he'd have better knowledge of the Abyss by that time. It's not by virtue of him just being level 15, it's by virtue of him gaining 15 levels. Level gain doesn't happen in a vacuum, he's been out adventuring, defeating baddies, assaulting towers of evil wizards, banishing demons. He wouldn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the Abyss, but he'd have picked up a few things in his time.

At level 15, the party should find scaling a house wall no problem. By that time they're fending off lesser demons and younger dragons. The idea that they can defend themselves against an archon but are defeated by a wooden wall is absurd.

As far as DCs go, I don't have my books on hand, but I'm positive it says either on the table or in the text about the table that the numbers set are for challenges of the PC's level.


ProfessorCirno wrote:

I don't really get that logic.

By level 15 your barbarian has been out and about, adventuring and killing monsters and fighting demons for a long time. Of course he'd have better knowledge of the Abyss by that time. It's not by virtue of him just being level 15, it's by virtue of him gaining 15 levels. Level gain doesn't happen in a vacuum, he's been out adventuring, defeating baddies,...

I think the logic is pretty straight forward.

Not every 15th level Barbarian has fought a demon and not every 15th level Wizard can climb a wall (with no magic assistance). If 4E flattens out the DCs as described above that would seem to be quite a stretch, but I'm sure that's not the case. Why would the game assume all classes can do all the same tasks just because they are the same level? What would be the point of choosing a specific character class? I doubt 4E made such a drastic change to the skill system.


Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Reasoned stuff.
ProfessorCirno wrote:
Reasoned stuff.

You both bring up good points in my mind, as I've struggled with these same questions in regards to the skill progression and DC progression.

I have found how this is addressed in the Essentials Rules Compendium to be rather helpful. It notes that some things are static, some things are based on opponent's level or DC roles, and some things depend on character level. I agree with ProfessorCirno that a paragon level group should not be hampered by a wall. But I also agree with Jeremy that just because someone has achieved a certain level, they shouldn't gain extra ability with jumping over chasms when they are studious, not very athletic wizards.

The Essential rules makes it more of an art. You as the DM and adjudicator should set the DC for what makes sense, using both the static and adjusted DC levels given in the rules compendium as guidelines. I like the idea of a static DC for, say, breaking down a door. By 15th level, doors shouldn't really be an issue anymore. By epic level, when a person is fighting exarchs and gods, even a wizard should be able to bend bars open. You can flavor text it to anything - perhaps the wizard is magically amplified to bend those bars. Regardless of how you flavor text it, if you are almost a deity, a common jail cell shouldn't be a problem for you regardless of your class.

At the same time, some things should always be difficult regardless of level. And a DM can always determine what he considers to be "Easy," "Moderate," or "Hard" depending on the characters. For example, influencing a crowd to take certain actions might be "Moderate" at the Heroic level, but "Easy" at the Paragon level.

It is an art, but I think once one gets the hang of it, it works pretty well.


Whimsy Chris wrote:
I like the idea of a static DC for, say, breaking down a door. By 15th level, doors shouldn't really be an issue anymore. By epic level, when a person is fighting exarchs and gods, even a wizard should be able to bend bars open. You can flavor text it to anything - perhaps the wizard is magically amplified to bend those bars. Regardless of how you flavor text it, if you are almost a deity, a common jail cell shouldn't be a problem for you regardless of your class.

Would an epic wizard be able to skillfully fire a bow? Would an epic fighter be able to cast a magic missile? Sure you can flavor text it to anything but man that seems to destroy the point of leveling and choosing a class. A common jail cell should not be a problem for an epic charter because of his epic abilities not just because he is "epic". An epic barbarian would break the bars with pure strength, an an epic wizard would use a spell or magic ability.

Does 4E really flatten out DCs like this? From what I read it didn't seem to but I've never played. It seems very odd to me. Maybe I'll borrow the essentials stuff from someone who has it and read the rules. I'm not sure how the game would work like this. Once you hit 20th level suddenly you can bend any kind of bars? Weird but I guess it works for some.

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