Chad Perrin: SOB

30 April 2009

unsolicited IMs from a friend, about D&D 4E, today

Filed under: Geek,RPG — Tags: , — apotheon @ 02:26

This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.

(13:46:03) [redacted]: i finally got around to looking at the 4th edition players handbook. it’s a fucking travesty

(13:47:50) [redacted]: the aggro mechanic they gave fighter types blew my friggin mind

(13:48:12) [redacted]: they essentially took the thing that makes mmo’s fail to be anything like rpg’s and added it to their rpg

85 Comments

  1. @apotheon:

    >> “4e is like HERO: it gives you the mechanics, and you provide the flavor.” You decide what your mark looks like.

    > That’s a fucking cop-out, and you know it.

    That’s built right into the 4e rulebook. It’s a default assumption of the game.

    It’s also part of, you know, roleplaying.

    >> Do you use expert foot- and bladework to “stick to” your target, so that no matter where he turns, it seems like you’re always in the way?

    > No — because if that was how it worked, other people who use expert foot- and bladework to “stick to” the target would be able to achieve exactly the same effects. Part of explaining how an ability a character has works so that it doesn’t detract from suspension of disbelief is explaining how it doesn’t work for others.

    Who says it doesn’t? Anyone sufficiently trained in combat (ie. possessing the correct feats and/or class features) can achieve the same thing. This is no different than, say, Evasion in 3e.

    >> Do you plant a magical compulsion on your target, so that it finds itself “wanting” to attack you?

    > No — not if you’re a Fighter.

    Why not? Is there a rule I’m unaware of saying that no Fighters can ever use magic? Besides, we were talking about marking, not Fighters’ marks specifically. Paladins, Warpriests, Swordmages, and Wardens could all use this explanation.

    >> Does your endless litany of bad puns enrage and distract your opponents?

    > Why would one class be able to do that, but not another?

    Another class could, if they were equally good at it (had the right training).

    >> Is your silent glare so intimidating that enemies become rattled and overestimate the threat you pose?

    > More of the same! See my above objections. What you seem to be lacking is the aspect of the explanation that justifies a particular class getting to perform a particular Marking maneuver as an exception to the rule that other classes can’t do it.

    The reason is the same reason that a Fighter can’t sneak attack, a Wizard doesn’t start with heavy armor proficiency, and a Rogue doesn’t start with rituals: in a class-based system, some classes will have abilities that others don’t. In-game, this is usually explained by a focus on those aspects that they do possess, to the exclusion of others — that is, a Fighter learns footwork and bladework to entangle an enemy along with the use of a large number of weapons and armor, a Rogue focuses on using light weapons to precisely strike undefended vital areas, a Wizard concentrates on magical studies.

    There’s nothing stopping any of them from picking up the other abilities, too, but they have to work harder at it (spend feats, multiclass, pick up the right paragon path, whatever).

    If you’re arguing that everyone should be able to do everything equally well, then you’re playing the wrong game. You want something without classes.

    > I think you’re bending over backwards trying to justify it, in much the same way the game was apparently designed first as a series of tactical rules, and only later fitted to a roleplaying paradigm of game play. Roleplaying feels like an afterthought in 4E, and this “Well, we’re giving you rules for exerting influence over who your enemies attack, and if you want a roleplaying justification for it you have to make it up yourself!” crap just reinforces that sense that roleplaying was bolted onto a tactical miniatures game.

    > I’ve run across a few wiseacres claiming that 4E is actually more “old school” D&D than 3E, which I thought was a load of crap when I considered all the editions of the game I’ve played, from OD&D on up to 3E. I see now that I was too hasty, though; it’s actually a lot like what I’ve heard about the immediate ancestor of D&D, which was Dave Arneson’s modification of a tactical miniatures game, with a single-character playing style and the concept of a “character” rather than just troops bolted onto the game.

    Actually, you have it backwards. It was Arneson who was more invested in the roleplaying, back in the day. It was Gygax whose games were more a matter of strategically assaulting a dungeon, and who tended to focus on player knowledge and tactical skill, rather than on in-character gaming. Read his book “Role-Playing Mastery” if you don’t believe me.

    D&D itself was designed first as a set of tactical rules, with roleplaying bolted on, as you put it. This is the same through all editions. It’s the emphasis on roleplaying that’s changed. 3e was the first to begin to “officially” support re-fluffing, as far as I’m aware, but 4e goes much further with it — but it’s something we all did back in the day. When I played Basic, my magic missile was rarely a glowing arrow; it was an enchantment my elf whispered over a regular arrow, a flaming skull that shrieked through the air and exploded on impact, a tiny sliver of pure elemental darkness, and about a hundred other things, but rarely what the text described.

    That’s pretty much the essence of roleplaying.

    >> All the book needs to tell you is what the mechanical effect of the mark is. And if you’re an experienced enough GM, there’s nothing stopping you from changing that, too.

    > By that standard, even checkers could be considered a roleplaying game. I’d rather play something with the traditional flavor of the D&D editions I’ve actually played, though.

    Then… do so?

    You’re writing about 4e, though.

    >> Pretty much the exact opposite, sport.

    > Then why don’t you just fucking try to be reasonable? The only way your argument about Charm Person makes any real sense is if you’re trying to use it to argue against the use of magic in the game. Otherwise, it’s spurious nonsense. Sport.

    No, not the only way. Look up Devil’s Advocate and get back to me.

    >> The mark is no more outside the game world than the charm spell is.

    > Really? Where in the implied setting of the game does it become inescapably obvious that some reasonable behavior by a nonmagical character causes creatures to suffer bizarre, harmful effects if they attack the weakest, most efficiently damage dealing enemy rather than the most sturdy, melee-effective enemy with their melee weapons? You haven’t provided any explanations. All you’ve given are excuses.

    You’re making a lot of untrue assumptions there. But let me grant them to you.

    To illustrate: You’re in a fight. Conan is standing next to you, wielding a greatsword three times as long as you are tall as if it were a dagger, and shouting exhortations to the blood god to torture you in a variety of interesting ways once he, in the not very distant future, separates your intestines from your belly. Even if Gandalf is standing 30 feet away, and even assuming that you rationally know that he’s the greater threat, do you seriously think, in the heat of combat, that you could simply ignore Conan and waltz over to Gandalf without so much as a twinge of doubt or uncertainty?

    > The Charm Person spell grants flavor to the game. Marking is just an arbitrary battlefield control mechanic that you’re expected to excuse based on wild suppositions and crazy, half-baked justifications, such as trying to explain away how an entire family of wizards can be so poverty-stricken in the Harry Potter books, since the author never deigned to do so, or even provide any setting characteristics that imply an economically reasonable explanation.

    Charm Person grants flavor to the game if you roleplay it. Marking grants flavor to the game if you roleplay it.

    Just out of curiosity, why exactly couldn’t a family of wizards be poverty-stricken in Harry Potter? Bearing in mind that this is a very large family of honest wizards, none of whom has much idea how the mundane world works.

    Comment by Scott — 6 May 2009 @ 11:25

  2. I gotta run some errands so I can’t absorb the most recent salvos entirely, but I wanted to comment two things that caught my eye:

    apotheon:

    > . . . but I’m willing to entertain other explanations if they aren’t full of crap.

    (This will be a psych answer, because that’s where my training lies. So, grains of salt if you need ’em.)

    The alternative explanation I have for Shad’s different responses to the same argument is that the arguments are differing in their emotional payload, or stakes. I’m not emotionally vested in the 4e/3e edition war anymore, so I’m easily avoiding defensive barbs in my arguments. Those are easier to swallow by someone who disagrees with them simply because their fight/flight reflex isn’t getting in the way. With apotheon’s arguments there’s the additional emotional payload, which can be blinding despite the intellectual payload being nearly identical.

    I mean, I don’t begrudge you the shouting, apotheon, since I know exactly what it feels like to be in your position. I know that once I go into scorched-earth argument mode I’ve lost though, not because I’m wrong but because there can be no middle ground anymore to meet on—I’ve nuked it. I do find it extremely satisfying though, and sometimes it’s all that’s left, so, yeah, I’m no saint. I just don’t have the investment in this conflict.

    Scott:

    > > > “4e is like HERO: it gives you the mechanics, and you provide the flavor.” You decide what your mark looks like.

    > > That’s a fucking cop-out, and you know it.

    > That’s built right into the 4e rulebook. It’s a default assumption of the game.

    Yeah it is. That’s pretty much the core of the objection. That why it looks like a cop-out.

    Comment by d7 — 6 May 2009 @ 12:03

  3. I’m not going to go into a really detailed thing here at this point. I will, however, apologize for my initial post. You’re right, apotheon, my first comment was ill-conceived and I shouldn’t have made a first impression like that. (Directed “badly” because the tags I used to quote your comment didn’t show up when I submitted the comment, and there’s no way to preview or edit, so I couldn’t change it afterwards, or I would have.)

    I don’t mean to come into your blog and get into a finger-pointing contest about who is being hypocritical or passive-aggressive or insulting or whatever. I think there’s evidence enough that we both have been. If you want to continue that line of discussion with me, you should now have my email and we can take it up there.

    I’m not sure what contradiction you see in me saying “WotC supplies the crunch, you supply the fluff” and me saying that 4E may induce more “WTF” moments than other systems. That’s one of the dangers of a crunch-heavy, fluff-light system. People will interpret things in a number of different ways which may or may not initially meld with additional rules as they come into play. I thought the difference of opinion we’ve been having has been whether it’s possible to smooth out those WTF moments in-character or not. I’ve been saying ‘yes’, you’ve been saying ‘no’.

    Saying that you believe Fighters should be able to do things in combat that other classes can’t, because toe-to-toe melee combat is their thing, doesn’t explain why this thing in particular is something that only Fighters should do. I require a justification from an in-character perspective. All you’ve offered is a justification from a rules balance perspective. “The rules indicate that Fighters should be able to do in-your-face melee combat better than anyone else. I choose this as an example of what they do better.” How can you not see that this isn’t justification from an in-character perspective? My only recourse here, unless you’re just playing dumb for some reason, is that you can’t (or won’t) wrap your head around the idea of separation of in-character and out-of-character perspectives.

    Ok, I think I’m seeing the crux of the issue here. I’m trying to give an in-character explanation for a mechanic. “This is the rule, so here’s how I interpret it to make sense in-character”. And you’re asking for an explanation of why this has been included as a mechanic in the first place. I’m not the one “choosing this as an example of what they do better”, WotC did. I’m just looking at it and going, “How does this actually work, in terms of my character?”

    I’m not trying to argue that ‘marking’ as a concept flows immediately and naturally from the concept of a Fighter. It’s a mechanic that has been introduced to add flavor and interest and ability to the class. I’m sure it’s all part of that mythical ‘game balance’ people talk about. (I would, however, argue that while Rogues are sneaky and dextrous, I don’t see anything that would make advanced anatomical knowledge flow immediately and naturally from the concept of a Rogue, either. But since it was introduced several editions ago it’s become ingrained as part of the Rogue’s set of abilities.)

    When faced with someone pointing out a clear flaw in the verisimilitude provided by the D&D system I use, something that can serve to break suspension of disbelief, I say “Yeah, I can see how that’s a problem. When I’m playing this game, though, I’m willing to ignore that in the name of having fun.” When you are faced with someone pointing out a clear flaw in the verisimilitude provided by the D&D system you use, something that can serve to break suspension of disbelief, you say “There’s nothing wrong with it! You’re a bad person! Fuck off!” except of course that you spend a lot more words on saying that than in my example, and take a much more passive-aggressive approach to it (rather than the strictly aggressive approach in my contrived quote).

    Admittedly, this is the only thread I’ve read on your blog. This is the only impression I have of you and your gaming style, so I’ve not seen you previously mention being willing to ignore flaws in the system. I’ve only seen you say that marking is too big a flaw to overlook. My impression has been that you have a stricter threshold for suspension of disbelief than I do, and I’ve been trying to explain how I continue to suspend my disbelief in the face of this particular mechanic. (And I’m pretty sure I never said 4E was flawless, or that you’re a bad person. Said or implied, aggressively or passively.) The point I was trying to make with bringing up hit points and class levels is that we BOTH are willing to suspend disbelief and ignore flaws in order to play the game and have fun, just to different degrees.

    Obviously, marking as a concept or mechanic crosses a line for you that it doesn’t cross for me. And not because I lack in-character perspective, but because I come at that perspective from a different starting point than you do. I start with (in this case) the 4E rules as written, and map the mechanics to in-character abilities and reasoning. You (I believe) start with a more global character class concept, “This is what a fighter is like”, and map the ruleset and mechanics to that concept. I take the pieces I’m given and see what happens when I put them together, while you have a blueprint in hand and use the pieces to build the blueprint. And ‘marking’ is a piece that doesn’t fit that design.

    Comment by Shad — 6 May 2009 @ 12:24

  4. Scott:

    “4e is like HERO: it gives you the mechanics, and you provide the flavor.” You decide what your mark looks like.

    That’s a fucking cop-out, and you know it.

    That’s built right into the 4e rulebook. It’s a default assumption of the game.

    That may well be, but I thought I was arguing with you — not with an inanimate rulebook. It’s the fact you’re saying that in response to a request for some kind of demonstration of how the rules don’t suck from a suspension of disbelief point of view, not your explanation for why the rules don’t include flavor text, that’s at issue here.

    Your attempt to avoid answering the challenge set before you by saying it’s my responsibility as the player to come up with excuses for the broken-ass rules myself is a cop-out. Period.

    It’s also part of, you know, roleplaying.

    Perhaps you’re not aware of it, but “roleplaying” isn’t a magic word that makes the roleplaying-hostile rules of a game evaporate with nary a trace. There’s a reason I don’t use chess as my “roleplaying” game of choice, and that’s just a more extreme example of why I don’t use 4E as my RPG of choice.

    Anyone sufficiently trained in combat (ie. possessing the correct feats and/or class features) can achieve the same thing. This is no different than, say, Evasion in 3e.

    The difference is that what was described as in-character justification for the rule wasn’t a “feat” kind of thing — it was a “you know combat” kind of thing.

    Why not? Is there a rule I’m unaware of saying that no Fighters can ever use magic?

    What are you arguing here?

    1. Are you saying that all Fighters, in all D&D campaign settings, use magic?

      I think it would be pretty difficult to argue convincingly that Fighters aren’t generally understood to be nonmagical, thanks to thirty years (give or take) of them being presented that way in various editions of D&D.

    2. Are you saying that all classes in 4E are basically just special cases of the Wizard?

      This might be a stronger argument. Considering the homogeneity of the mechanics for Wizards and Fighters in 4E, a strong case could be made that the various classes in the game (and all their powers) are just magical abilities, essentially identical to spellcasting (since spellcasting is the same thing in the context of the rules). That would easily solve the problem of justifying the Fighter’s Mark from an in-character perspective, but something tells me that’s not what you’re suggesting.

    Besides, we were talking about marking, not Fighters’ marks specifically.

    It works for some types of marking, but not for others. Try explaining the “others”.

    Another class could, if they were equally good at it (had the right training).

    Holy crap. Now you’re claiming that you have to be specially trained to tell a pun. Please try coming up with explanations that don’t make me laugh outright at their stupidity, please — or just concede the point.

    The reason is the same reason that a Fighter can’t sneak attack, a Wizard doesn’t start with heavy armor proficiency, and a Rogue doesn’t start with rituals: in a class-based system, some classes will have abilities that others don’t.

    Thank you for, again, ignoring the fact that this is about in-character justifications.

    In-game, this is usually explained by a focus on those aspects that they do possess, to the exclusion of others

    True — but there’s an assumption that the reason one class can do something that another cannot is somehow directly linked to what makes the classes different from each other in terms of that focus. So far, I haven’t seen any explanation for how the Fighter’s Marking ability is exclusive to the Fighter’s focus. Not just explained by it — exclusive to it. If it’s just explained by it, and can also be just as easily explained by the focus of another class, you haven’t effectively explained why only a Fighter can do it.

    If you’re arguing that everyone should be able to do everything equally well

    I’m not, which should be blindingly fucking obvious unless you’re not arguing honestly. Please avoid the straw men.

    Actually, you have it backwards. It was Arneson who was more invested in the roleplaying, back in the day.

    I wasn’t saying that Arneson wasn’t invested in roleplaying. Please stop assigning arguments to me that I didn’t make. I said that the game was a miniatures game with the concept of a “character” (instead of “troops”) bolted onto it. It was Arneson’s interest in roleplaying that resulted in the concept of a character being bolted onto the game in the first place. If anything, all your statement that Arneson was interested in the roleplaying aspect of the game proves is that Arneson had motivation for bolting the concept of a character onto the game in the first place, thus setting up exactly the situation I just described as being similar to the way roleplaying feels like it was bolted onto 4E as an afterthought.

    D&D itself was designed first as a set of tactical rules, with roleplaying bolted on, as you put it. This is the same through all editions.

    Not exactly. Each edition provided more roleplaying oriented variation in the game, up to 3E. Each made more sense from an in-character perspective. You can’t just brush that away.

    3e was the first to begin to “officially” support re-fluffing, as far as I’m aware, but 4e goes much further with it — but it’s something we all did back in the day. When I played Basic, my magic missile was rarely a glowing arrow; it was an enchantment my elf whispered over a regular arrow, a flaming skull that shrieked through the air and exploded on impact, a tiny sliver of pure elemental darkness, and about a hundred other things, but rarely what the text described.

    There’s a difference between what you call “re-fluffing” and what I’m being told 4E is meant to encourage — which is making up everything from scratch except the combat modifiers. At that point, I have to wonder why they bother calling something “Marking”, rather than “aggro penalties” or something like that. Why not call everything an [adjective] [modifier], if everything’s just supposed to be a modifier with no in-character context, where players are supposed to invent all the in-character context from scratch.

    That’s pretty much the essence of roleplaying.

    Really? Why do you think that “the essence of roleplaying” is spending all your time trying to figure out how to justify the way the rules work from an in-character perspective? If that’s the case, this whole discussion has been “roleplaying”, more so than an actual 4E game, since we’ve been trying to figure out how to justify some of the rules from an in-character perspective.

    Somehow, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been playing a roleplaying game here.

    By that standard, even checkers could be considered a roleplaying game. I’d rather play something with the traditional flavor of the D&D editions I’ve actually played, though.

    Then… do so?

    You’re writing about 4e, though.

    Thank you for ignoring the fucking point.

    No, not the only way. Look up Devil’s Advocate and get back to me.

    A devil’s advocacy excuse for what you did would be arguing against the use of magic in the game. You look up the meaning of the term.

    Even if Gandalf is standing 30 feet away, and even assuming that you rationally know that he’s the greater threat, do you seriously think, in the heat of combat, that you could simply ignore Conan and waltz over to Gandalf without so much as a twinge of doubt or uncertainty?

    I believe that, if Gandalf was the greater threat in the immediate future, Conan in this situation wouldn’t cause me any more doubt or uncertainty in my decision to deal with the frailer, but greater threat, among opponents than a scrawny pencil-necked accountant with the same sword — at least, not to the extent that I would suddenly be unmanned by this doubt and uncertainty and be unable to stab Gandalf through the gullet.

    Now, with that in mind, add in the possibility of a rogue who looks exactly like Conan, wielding a greatsword three times as long as I am tall as if it were a dagger, shouting exhortations to the blood god, et cetera, and tell me why he doesn’t have exactly the same effect you propose the (presumably Fighter classed) Conan would have.

    Charm Person grants flavor to the game if you roleplay it. Marking grants flavor to the game if you roleplay it.

    You can’t handwave away the difference between how the Charm Person spell has a reasonable justification from an in-character perspective and how the Fighter’s Mark mechanic doesn’t by saying “you roleplay it”. Maybe that’s sufficient for you, but it isn’t for me, because the whole point here is that roleplaying is (for some of us at least) interrupted by incidents of rules lacking reasonable explanations from an in-character perspective.

    Just out of curiosity, why exactly couldn’t a family of wizards be poverty-stricken in Harry Potter?

    Why the hell couldn’t they use magic to produce value that can be traded for other value in the mundane world? The only explanation for that, as far as I’ve been able to see, is that the entire family has an a collective IQ of about 35 — but I don’t think their behavior is entirely consistent with that explanation.

    d7:

    (This will be a psych answer, because that’s where my training lies. So, grains of salt if you need ’em.)

    No problem.

    I mean, I don’t begrudge you the shouting, apotheon, since I know exactly what it feels like to be in your position. I know that once I go into scorched-earth argument mode I’ve lost though, not because I’m wrong but because there can be no middle ground anymore to meet on—I’ve nuked it.

    I understand what you’re saying, but when the other party started lobbing nukes first, I figure the middle ground has been annihilated already. When others start using scorched-earth tactics against me, I tend to stop coddling their tender feelings.

    Shad:

    I will, however, apologize for my initial post. You’re right, apotheon, my first comment was ill-conceived and I shouldn’t have made a first impression like that.

    Thanks for the apology. Assuming you’re willing to start over fresh and make reasonable arguments rather than employ argumentum ad hominem (and other) fallacies, I’m willing to do the same.

    Directed “badly” because the tags I used to quote your comment didn’t show up when I submitted the comment, and there’s no way to preview or edit, so I couldn’t change it afterwards, or I would have.

    It also didn’t address something anyone else actually said. It addressed an assignment of bad faith to someone else’s words, which — because it wasn’t an accurate assessment of what anyone said — was thus uncertain in its intended target. I couldn’t even reasonably infer that you addressed me with any certainty, because it assumed that a motivation I didn’t have was indisputably established as my motive.

    As for the tags, I’m not sure why WordPress is fighting me. The thing is a mess of spaghetti code under the hood, and I’ve been fighting with the problem of whether it would be easier to navigate it all to fix a few serious issues I have with it (including this issue), to just write my own Weblog application from scratch, or to migrate to another and fix whatever problems it has. I apologize for not having selected my Weblog application software more carefully when I first started SOB.

    I’m not sure what contradiction you see in me saying “WotC supplies the crunch, you supply the fluff” and me saying that 4E may induce more “WTF” moments than other systems.

    I don’t remember saying that was contradictory. If I did say something to that effect, please quote it — maybe there’s some context that changes the character of my statement. If not, quote where you think I said so, and I’ll explain what I actually meant.

    I thought the difference of opinion we’ve been having has been whether it’s possible to smooth out those WTF moments in-character or not. I’ve been saying ‘yes’, you’ve been saying ‘no’.

    Well, I’d say it was more a disagreement about how much one can reasonably smooth them out, since every RPG I’ve seen has those moments as far as I recall. The difference that bothers me about 4E is the frequency of that kind of problem coming up and how easily it can be brushed away — and, of course, how well such a brushing away holds up to later tests. In essence, though, you’re right; that’s the core of the discussion.

    I’m trying to give an in-character explanation for a mechanic. “This is the rule, so here’s how I interpret it to make sense in-character”. And you’re asking for an explanation of why this has been included as a mechanic in the first place.

    Not exactly. I need a in in-character justification that is good enough to have justified including the mechanic in the first place — not necessarily assurance that this was the reason it was included in the game. It may seem like a fine discinction in some respects, but it’s an important distinction, if only to avoid the possibility of the discussion being dragged off-plot into the realm of trying to figure out what the game designers were actually thinking or saying that it’s absurd to try to argue about what the game designers were thinking.

    I’m just looking at it and going, “How does this actually work, in terms of my character?”

    So am I — but I’m trying to do so within the larger context of an entire world with other characters, including answering the question of “Why doesn’t this work for other characters?”

    It’s a mechanic that has been introduced to add flavor and interest and ability to the class.

    The most important thing for me, in adding flavor and interest and ability to the class, is that it adds a sense of “realism” to the character, and that it gives me a way to explore and develop the persona of the character. Something that only adds tactical “interest” from a perspective so abstracted from the in-character perspective that it feels more like a rule in chess than a rule that separates RPGs from chess isn’t going to serve that purpose, and may even hinder it, as in the case of Marking (thus far).

    I would, however, argue that while Rogues are sneaky and dextrous, I don’t see anything that would make advanced anatomical knowledge flow immediately and naturally from the concept of a Rogue, either.

    I understand that you brought up the “flow immediately and naturally from the concept” thing is just an attempt to understand what I’m saying — but it’s off the mark. That’s not a necessary part of my criteria for the suitability of a rule for roleplaying purposes.

    My impression has been that you have a stricter threshold for suspension of disbelief than I do, and I’ve been trying to explain how I continue to suspend my disbelief in the face of this particular mechanic.

    I think I do have a higher threshold for suspension of disbelief, because I’m trying to achieve something that requires greater suspension of disbelief when I play the game.

    I’m also happy to concede that the explanations that have been provided are good enough for the people who provided them. What bothers me about all this is that, when I explain why they don’t work for me, everybody tells me I’m wrong. Well, fuck that.

    And I’m pretty sure I never said 4E was flawless, or that you’re a bad person.

    Your very first statement to me essentially implied I was a bad person.

    When I say that the weaker explanations for why mechanics like Marking work don’t satisfy me, and people keep arguing against that because they think I’m just being silly and not accepting the ultimate wisdom of the 4E game, I’m basically being told that all the flaws I perceive in the system don’t really exist — that I’m just hallucinating, or something.

    The implications are there, whether you see them or not.

    The point I was trying to make with bringing up hit points and class levels is that we BOTH are willing to suspend disbelief and ignore flaws in order to play the game and have fun, just to different degrees.

    It’s a good point, but it doesn’t make the problems with the verisimilitude of the system’s effects on play that we’ve been discussing go away.

    I start with (in this case) the 4E rules as written, and map the mechanics to in-character abilities and reasoning. You (I believe) start with a more global character class concept, “This is what a fighter is like”, and map the ruleset and mechanics to that concept.

    I think that’s a pretty fair characterization of how I develop a character. Technically, I guess I start with as much of an understanding of the world in which the character will live as I can already access, and develop a character concept based on that — which depends on the GM, of course (and when I’m the GM, that means the ball’s entirely in my court). Part of this involves having an understanding of why the world works the way it does, to some extent. Rules that violate a consistent understanding of the world bother me, and too many such rules overcome my ability to suspend disbelief.

    The hit point system damages suspension of disbelief as much as the Marking system, but the hit point system is to some extent a core assumption of D&D as an archetypal RPG. When choosing which rules to tolerate, it takes a much higher precedence than Marking for that reason.

    House rules are an option, of course. The requirements of game balance in 4E are strictly tied to combat, though, which means that keeping characters sufficiently balanced in power level requires a lot more care than in a game where characters are balanced more by having entirely separate areas of expertise, even outside of combat, because the value of a socially oriented character’s power isn’t damaged as much by a combat oriented character’s power getting a slight boost, or buy losing a minor ability that pertains to that social specialization when other characters still can’t compete effectively in the social realm.

    As a result of all that, removing, replacing, or adjusting the Marking power — or any other combat rule — is much more treacherous in 4E than a similar change in 3E might be, much more prone to throwing things out of whack. This increased likelihood of failure to keep the game within a reasonable range of “balance” when making changes, coupled with the higher incidence of problems of verisimilitude thanks to the way many rules appear to be conceived for purposes of tactical balance and tactical options, without (much) regard for roleplaying concerns per se, makes 4E a non-starter for me.

    Any time I try to explain some part of this, unfortunately, I end up with a discussion like this. A crap load of 4E fans descend like harpies to attack me with their filthy talons for having the temerity to suggest that something like the Marking mechanic or the Own the Battlefield power interferes with suspension of disbelief, makes the game feel more like a poorly conceived tactical miniatures game than an RPG to me, and is emblematic of a lot of the design philosophy of 4E.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 May 2009 @ 01:44

  5. At the risk of bring Forge theory too close to D&D and triggering an antimatter/matter explosion, Ron Edward’s essay on the components of imaginative roleplay might be enlightening. (It’s really short, and only the first section is relevant to this anyway.)

    Scott, when you say that making up the flavour of Powers, or what a Magic Missile looks like, are roleplaying, you’re technically right. They’re just not necessarily a part of roleplaying that everyone thinks is important when weighed against the other components of roleplaying.

    Imagining what my Magic Missile looks like or what exact hoodoo is happening when Own the Battlefield happens is what Ron defines as Colour: “any details or illustrations or nuances that provide atmosphere”. Atmosphere is great, and I love generating appropriate colour for my games on-the-fly. I consider it a part of storytelling, not necessarily roleplaying. When I roleplay, it has much more to do with the role of a character (bolded to indicate a technical term from Ron’s essay) being portrayed within a setting and an interesting or challenging situation.

    The defining line between setting and situation on one side and colour on the other, in my mind, is whether they present interesting choices: setting/situation does, colour doesn’t. Why I dismiss flavour text in 4e as meaningless is because it’s mere colour—the system doesn’t let me make decisions based on the flavour text, only the mechanic. The flavour text is just window-dressing, and the system doesn’t make a stronger tie between setting and mechanic than this throw-away window-dressing. There’s this disconnect between the mechanic and the setting that mere flavour (or worse to me, reflavouring) doesn’t bridge.

    Put another way, the only reason for me to care about the mechanics is for being able to skillfully manipulate the mechanics themselves. If I’m only interested in mechanics I play a board game or a wargame (or Magic). When I want to roleplay, I want the mechanics to make me care because of what they mean, entirely in setting terms.

    I’ll agree that there is an amount of freedom granted by the system because it doesn’t tie a specific mechanic down with a specific in-world meaning. It’s a trade-off; you can’t have both. It’s a lot of work to reflavour mechanics that are tied closely to the setting. (Earthdawn, anyone?) For myself, though, that’s not a good trade-off—I’d rather play Earthdawn than 4e D&D. I want to play D&D, but the current edition left off bit that I think are vital.

    Comment by d7 — 6 May 2009 @ 02:42

  6. I’m Chad, and I approve d7’s message.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist the lame joke — I’m just saying that d7’s latest comment is an excellent addition to attempts to explain what we evidently both feel is missing from 4E.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 May 2009 @ 03:03

  7. @apotheon

    > Did you fucking read what Venlar said? He opened with a fucking insult. Take a step back and realize that the > fact he agrees with you doesn’t make him a victim or a hero. Not only that, but it’s the kind of insult that > involves playing stupid. If it wasn’t meant as an insult, he really can’t understand putting oneself into a > character’s shoes.

    I’m sorry, remind me again? What part of the beginning of my post was an insult? Was it this?

    > So, having read through the thread here and found myself wrestling with some self-evident truths of my own, > I really find myself wondering if the following is the case…

    Or this?

    > Apotheon and LiveFromHell can’t wrap themselves around the Marking concept of a Fighter because the rule > in the 4e PHB lacks flavor text.

    I will certainly concede that my post ended with a level of inflamed rhetoric that I didn’t initially intend to include, and I apologize. To be fair, though, as I read through the first 30-odd posts in the thread, I found myself put off by your ad hominem attacks…

    > Obviously, that’s not what I was saying. Shithead.

    …after you’d earlier relied on not taking stock in an argument that failed to refute your own from a logical standpoint…

    >> In general, I find the “4e destroys imagination” attacks to be… well… unimaginative. > > I’m more impressed by arguments that point out how someone’s statements are logically invalid than > arguments that claims someone’s statements are “unimaginative”. You have failed to make anything like a > valid point with that statement.

    …so by the end of my response, it felt like responding in kind might have been the appropriate thing to do. It wasn’t, and in the more recent vein of the comments thread tending toward civil discourse, I’m done with that. Again, I apologize.

    More generally…

    Anyway, it’s clear that this entire discussion is a microcosm of a bigger issue – there are some rules in place that break everyone’s immersion. For me, and for everyone I know and have spoken with, Grappling does it in previous editions. Every previous edition I’ve played, from Red Box on up to several post-3rd Edition variants, has made Grappling a pain. Although it’s tended to come up less often in the groups I’ve played with, Mounted Combat tends to be this same way with me. Mechanically, they seem to be bolted on to the side of the rules, instead of flowing with them.

    So when I see something like the Marking mechanic in the game, which alleviates a number of issues that I know I’ve personally struggled with (“Why play a Fighter, when all the other Melee classes have more flavor and abilities?”, “As a non-squishy melee combatant, how do I get the right things to pay attention to me at the right times during combat?”, “As a squishy caster, who doesn’t have access to any sorts of illusion- or charm-type spells, how do I make things not pay attention to me without simply standing around with my finger in my nose?”), and which has such a broad number of examples as those generated here in the thread for potential options (to the point where every Fighter’s version of Marking could look and feel fundamentally different from all other Fighters’ versions), I find that it doesn’t break my own immersion in the game.

    In fact, if anything, it enhances it.

    If I want to believe that a Fighter’s training enables him to repeatedly slap an enemy in the face as part of his combat maneuvering, and that this gets the enemy’s attention just enough to cause him to break the fragile and tenuous hold of a Paladin’s Challenge compulsion effect (the weakest and most fleeting of all possible geases, in my estimation), in part due to the Paladin allowing his ally to do it… Well, great! It’s something I can hold in my mind as a possibility, and roll with as combat moves forward. When the Paladin re-applies his Challenge mark, his compulsion regains the attention of the enemy combatant in much the same way. Perhaps the fighter stops slapping at that point. Perhaps the first hundredth of a second of the Challenge is the really important part, and that’s enough to pull the enemy’s attention away enough to get it to ignore face-slapping for a moment. Whatever.

    Why can’t other classes do the same face-slapping routine and get the same results? Well, in part, it’s because the Fighter is simply really good at it. He’s been face-slapping for years, and has honed his technique so keenly that it actually works in the midst of combat. In a separate, but equally important part of the explanation, it’s because the other classes simply don’t want to. Oh, they may think they do. But deep down, in the most primal parts of the backs of their brains, they enjoy having hands. And slapping an enemy’s face in the midst of combat is a good way to find oneself slightly less well-endowed in the “hands” sense. Maybe not this time, but next time or the time after. So, they hesitate a tiny little bit, and whatever they’re slapping knows it. It’s not fooled.

    With only the above Super Face-Slapping Technique in his bag of tricks, a Fighter could still find himself at odds when trying to influence a broad variety of opponents in the greater DnD mythos. Intangible creatures, fire elementals, level-drainers, things without faces, etc. all come immediately to mind as particularly bad opponents to try slapping in the face.

    That’s why the Fighter’s not limited to face-slapping. In much the same way that no seasoned adventurer in previous editions would think of leaving home (inn, tavern, whatever) without a piercing, a slashing, and a bludgeoning weapon, as well as some form of both Melee and Ranged option with which to combat anything he or she comes across, so too does the Fighter stock up on various implementations of attention-getting, Mark-inducing options.

    Roaring at the enemy, kicking his shins, insulting his mother, flashing hideously mal-formed pre-dentistry teeth, glaring fiercely, kicking pebbles and sand underfoot, repeated feints to the face and groin areas, fervent quasi-religious exhortations, suggestive eyebrow-wiggling, a particularly nasty-sounding cough, close-talking, engaging the enemy in an at-length discussion of why the fight would already be over in a previous edition of the game (Okay, that one’s just for the OOTS-like characters who understand they’re in a game world whose rules change occasionally for arbitrary reasons), etc., etc., etc… Fighters might not be the most cultured and eloquent characters in the game, and they probably haven’t spent years and years poring over arcane tomes and learning the exact incantation that will make green flames shoot out of their fingers, instead of blue or red ones. But they haven’t been idle, either. It takes more than knowing how to swing a sword to distinguish oneself from the rank-and-file of the town’s militia. Any clod can learn to put the pointy end of the stick in the soft thing. Finesse and technique come along as the Fighter trains his art, but so does something else — an innate knowledge of how to get things done, and in the case of protecting his or her companions from harm, sometimes that means slapping a few bad guys in the face.

    Comment by Venlar — 6 May 2009 @ 03:59

  8. To be fair, though, as I read through the first 30-odd posts in the thread, I found myself put off by your ad hominem attacks…

    I find myself regularly put off by the way people tend to misuse the term “ad hominem”.

    …after you’d earlier relied on not taking stock in an argument that failed to refute your own from a logical standpoint…

    Uh . . . what? What does that mean?

    Again, I apologize.

    Your “apologies” strike me as far less heartfelt than others in this discussion. If you could refrain from undermining the appearance of sincerity after this point, though, I’d be willing to grant the benefit of the doubt.

    For me, and for everyone I know and have spoken with, Grappling does it in previous editions.

    Grappling is a huge problem in both 2E and 3E. I don’t really remember in 1E, and I don’t think there was such a mechanic at all in OD&D. Anyway, my point is that you’ll get no argument from me on this, in general.

    More specifically, I think 3E’s could have been great if the core explanation of the mechanic was clarified, because of the fairly comprehensive coverage of special cases, but the incoherency of the core 3E grappling mechanics presentation destroyed all that. Both 4E and Pathfiner RPG improved significantly on the playability of grappling over 3E, but I think PRPG did a better job of improving the playability without sacrificing the basis for more comprehensive coverage.

    Every previous edition I’ve played, from Red Box on up to several post-3rd Edition variants, has made Grappling a pain.

    I wouldn’t say 2E’s was “a pain” — it was very quick and simple, making even 4E’s look overly complex by comparison — but it sucked for other reasons. 2E’s grappling rules were more “an annoyance” and “a bore” than “a pain”, in my opinion, even if the Overbearing mechanic (a small part of the whole) worked pretty well.

    “Why play a Fighter, when all the other Melee classes have more flavor and abilities?”

    This has never been much of a problem for me, probably because most of the “flavor” in the games in which I’ve played and that I’ve GMed was in the roleplaying interactions and characters’ decision making qualities rather than in combat maneuvers no matter what class anyone was playing.

    “As a non-squishy melee combatant, how do I get the right things to pay attention to me at the right times during combat?”

    My answer to that has always been coming up with ways to make it difficult for enemies to get close to the squishy party members, rather than to add abstract mechanics to the game that semi-magically affect the motivations of enemies without direct relation to the actual actions of the characters as causative factors. Placing meat shields in front of doorways is great for that kind of thing.

    “As a squishy caster, who doesn’t have access to any sorts of illusion- or charm-type spells, how do I make things not pay attention to me without simply standing around with my finger in my nose?”

    Well, that’s a conundrum. Have you considered the notion of thinking about how your character might solve the problem, if he were a real spellcaster, without thinking about things in terms of rules?

    every Fighter’s version of Marking could look and feel fundamentally different from all other Fighters’ versions

    . . . which tends to raise the specter of questions like “Why can’t my third level kebab vendor use that tactic? Why should the rules arbitrarily prevent him from doing so?”

    a Fighter’s training enables him to repeatedly slap an enemy in the face

    See . . . I don’t get that. It seems like such an absurd excuse for the Marking mechanic — that Fighters have specialized training that makes them effective at bitch-slapping people in such a way that they irresistibly cannot avoid taking penalties when attacking others, and that one cannot achieve the same effect without such specialized training — should definitely interfere with immersion.

    Well, in part, it’s because the Fighter is simply really good at it.

    I have never, ever, conceived of a Fighter-type character concept that involved “consummate expert at slapping people in the middle of combat”.

    In a separate, but equally important part of the explanation, it’s because the other classes simply don’t want to.

    I guess you’re just trying to convince me that I really don’t want to play 4E now. My choice of class, apparently, determines whether or not my character will ever want to be able to use a Marking technique like the Fighter’s.

    Congratulations. Your vision of the game strikes me as so inane that, if I were to accept it as the canonical explanation, I would never want to play any game that had that mechanic in it ever, regardless of how great the rest of the game might be.

    Your explanations of how Fighter’s Marks work, both up to this point and following it, read more like something that would appear in The Onion than in a serious discussion of game design.

    Sorry. I simply don’t buy it. If you’re really just a sock puppet trying to make 4E fans look ridiculous, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 May 2009 @ 04:42

  9. > Perhaps the fighter stops slapping at that point. Perhaps the first hundredth of a second of the Challenge is the really important part, and that’s enough to pull the enemy’s attention away enough to get it to ignore face-slapping for a moment. Whatever.

    The key word there is “whatever”. You don’t care about this because it’s irrelevant to your game. Any ol’ explanation will do. And since obviously all games in the world are played exactly the same way… Well, sarcasm aside, do you see the problem?

    It’s kind of like the difference between prose and poetry. Poetry is evocative, full of movement and brilliant imagery, but doesn’t describe the actual action in concrete detail. Prose says “this happens, then this happens”, describing it in more-or-less detail. My imagination provides the brilliant imagery by putting together the details, while poetry does it the other way around. 3e and earlier D&D felt like prose to me, while what you’re offering above is evocative but insubstantial poetry. They’re just different, and when I want the one I won’t accept the other as a substitute no matter how good the poetry is.

    Comment by d7 — 6 May 2009 @ 05:08

  10. apotheon:

    >> To be fair, though, as I read through the first 30-odd posts in the thread, I found myself put off by your >> ad hominem attacks… >I find myself regularly put off by the way people tend to misuse the term “ad hominem”.

    From Miriam-Webster: > ad hominem > Function: adjective > 1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect > 2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

    Calling someone a “shithead” certainly falls within the definition.

    Making the implication that I’m a poor role-player because I fail to understand your point does as well. But that came after I made my first post, so I wasn’t really referring to that in my second.

    Also, you haven’t told me where in the beginning of my first post the insult lay. I’m still waiting.

    > Your “apologies” strike me as far less heartfelt than others in this discussion. If you could refrain from > undermining the appearance of sincerity after this point, though, I’d be willing to grant the benefit of > the doubt.

    If you choose to misinterpret my sincerity, that’s your issue. I didn’t have to write that out, and wouldn’t have if I didn’t feel it.

    On to better subjects!

    > Both 4E and Pathfiner RPG improved significantly on the playability of grappling over 3E, but I think PRPG > did a better job of improving the playability without sacrificing the basis for more comprehensive coverage.

    I agree that 4e improved the playability of Grappling. Pathfinder tried to do that, and instituted the CMB derived-stat that was intended to improve the playability of grappling amongst other non-standard combat maneuvers. I’m of the opinion that the haphazard implementation of CMB didn’t really help things, though. Grappling, Bull Rushing, and all the other one-off cousins remained special-case rules that followed their own convention and didn’t flow from the rest of the rules. It traded one special-case complexity for another, and ended up no better for it.

    > Well, that’s a conundrum. Have you considered the notion of thinking about how your character might solve > the problem, if he were a real spellcaster, without thinking about things in terms of rules?

    Again with the implications that I’m a poor role-player, and that I don’t look at things from my character’s point of view. I’m really not sure where you think this is coming from. If I were to re-word the general case of “My lightly- or non-armored characters can’t figure out how not to get hit in combat”, it doesn’t evoke the actual point that I was trying to get across. I chose to state it from my point of view because my characters aren’t posting here; I am.

    >. . . which tends to raise the specter of questions like “Why can’t my third level kebab vendor use that > tactic? Why should the rules arbitrarily prevent him from doing so?”

    Once again, we’re back around to the rules of the game giving a level of abstraction from reality. Your kebab vendor probably cooks lamb in a way that no fighter would be able to, either.

    > See . . . I don’t get that. It seems like such an absurd excuse for the Marking mechanic — that Fighters > have specialized training that makes them effective at bitch-slapping people in such a way that they > irresistibly cannot avoid taking penalties when attacking others, and that one cannot achieve the same > effect without such specialized training — should definitely interfere with immersion.

    Okay, now I’m calling shenanigans. You’ve asked over and over in this thread for a rationale for Marking which did 3 things:

    1) Explained why the Fighter could do it. 2) Explained why nobody else could do it. 3) Explained why it superseded an in-place Paladin’s Challenge.

    I gave you that.

    > Congratulations. Your vision of the game strikes me as so inane that, if I were to accept it as the > canonical explanation, I would never want to play any game that had that mechanic in it ever, regardless > of how great the rest of the game might be.

    And because you didn’t like my whimsical (and purposely-chosen to be whimsical because it was exactly that — an example) description of it, you’ve found yourself backed into a corner and now have to throw away the entire game system because you don’t like it.

    > I guess you’re just trying to convince me that I really don’t want to play 4E now. My choice of class, > apparently, determines whether or not my character will ever want to be able to use a Marking technique like > the Fighter’s.

    > In short, the problem isn’t that we can’t wrap our heads around the arbitrary nonsense that is the Marking > system, but that the characters can’t, and this breaks suspension of disbelief when playing a roleplaying > oriented campaign.

    Well, when you’ve already pre-supposed that your character will not be able to understand one of his core abilities, I don’t see why you’d want to use the ability anyway. Maybe you should play a Wizard instead.

    d7:

    > The key word there is “whatever”. You don’t care about this because it’s irrelevant to your game. Any ol’ > explanation will do. And since obviously all games in the world are played exactly the same way… Well, > sarcasm aside, do you see the problem?

    Absolutely. I don’t need everything nailed down to a particular level, and some role-players need things specified to a much lesser or greater degree than I do. If I needed it more nailed down,

    > Perhaps the fighter stops slapping at that point. Perhaps the first hundredth of a second of the Challenge > is the really important part, and that’s enough to pull the enemy’s attention away enough to get it to > ignore face-slapping for a moment.

    would become…

    > The fighter stops slapping at that point. The first hundredth of a second of the Challenge > is the really important part, and that’s all it takes to pull the enemy’s attention away enough > to get it to ignore prior face-slapping.

    But that does, as I’m sure someone will comment, suppose that the Fighter is aware of the Challenge happening. One can easily find edge-case scenarios when the fighter would be unaware of its occurrence, and would keep laying the smack down, so to speak. At that point it becomes a GM ruling. Smart players will endeavor not to have this ever come into play.

    Regardless, I take your meaning. It’s a degrees thing.

    On poetry vs prose… I can see what you’re trying to get at, but in my own perspective of battles in 4e, I disagree. I completely agree that 3rd Edition and previous versions of D&D fit your definition of Prose. But for a system that’s so fundamentally built on a tactical battle simulation as 4e is, I don’t see the Poetry comparison. Things happen, actions lead to reactions, people and creatures move around the battlefield in interesting and often unexpected ways. In this, I don’t see the fundamental paradigm shift from 3rd edition. (Please don’t construe the last comment as the much broader “I don’t see how 3rd and 4th edition D&D differ; I’m an idiot.” You know that’s not what I’m saying just as well as I do. ;)

    Out of combat and away from the battlemat, there is certainly an interesting difference in that socially, players are often going to find fewer uses for their Powers and other abilities, simply because they’ve been couched by the book in such a hard-hitting, combat-flavored style. Therefore, players will be less likely to look for interesting ways to use all the tools available to them. A prime, and classic example of this is the Grease spell. It was only just re-introduced to a Wizard’s options in the Arcane Power supplement. The description is basically “Here’s what happens when you cast this in a fight — oh, and it makes things slippery, too”. For anyone that’s used Grease as the go-to spell for 1,001 uses in previous editions, that’s an obvious let-down. When I read it, I kind of slumped, and said to myself “Well, I guess I won’t re-train to get it, then. Oh, well.” (Yes, I currently play a Wizard in my 4e campaign) And then I re-read the description and realized that there wasn’t anything technically there that would keep it from being used in the majority of ways that I’ve either used it or seen it used in the past.

    Getting back to Poetry vs Prose, though, none of that says Poetry to me. If anything, it says Prose even more.

    Comment by Venlar — 6 May 2009 @ 06:49

  11. > I don’t see the Poetry comparison. Things happen, actions lead to reactions, people and creatures move around the battlefield in interesting and often unexpected ways. In this, I don’t see the fundamental paradigm shift from 3rd edition.

    The difference to my eye is that the Things That Are Happening in a 4e combat are mechanics first, fiction second or not at all. In 3e, things were muddier, but the Things That Are Happening during a combat were an equal blend of fiction and mechanics, neither overruling the other. If you go back as far as AD&D, the Things That Are Happening in combat were fiction first, mechanics second.

    Why that is comes from what role the mechanics filled in the system. In AD&D the mechanics were an attempt (however abstracted) to represent a fantasy world. The world was the inspiration for the mechanics during every moment of play.

    In 4e, the role of the mechanics are to provide an interesting tactical game. The mechanics come first during play, and whatever is happening in parallel in the fiction is an afterthought. The fiction is whatever you want it to be, refluffable, replaceable. The mechanics have tactical meaning but lack fictional meaning.

    Consider this AD&D action declaration: “I grab the tree branch overhead and kick the orc in the skull.” (I did this in my first game ever.) Compare with this 4e action declaration: “I use Knockdown Shot.” AD&D actions can be declared without un-immersing from the fiction and without even referring to mechanics, while 4e actions must be declared in mechanical terms. In 4e you have to think in mechanical terms to Get Things Done, while in AD&D you have to think in fictional terms to Get Things Done.

    As another example of the disconnect I see between 4e rules and the world, compared to prior editions’ rules, consider the Rogue attack “Sand in the Eyes”. This Power’s only requirement is that the Rogue be wielding a light blade. There’s no mechanical requirement for there to be anything actually on the ground in order to use it, and a player would rightly be annoyed by a DM who said it couldn’t be used because they’re fighting in a spotless marble corridor of the palace. It’s only flavour text, right?

    In AD&D it’s not the mechanics that determine whether someone could try that, but the world. Are there pebbles or aren’t there? If there are, you could try to blind your opponent. If there aren’t, you can’t. Do something else. Smash them with a priceless vase. (And, before you say that you could refluff “Sand in the Eyes” to be smashing a priceless vase too, consider that blinding is not an obvious or likely consequence of this different action.) The world, interpreted by the DM, determines what players can and can’t attempt. In 4e it’s just the rules, regardless of what the world is like.

    Comment by d7 — 6 May 2009 @ 11:52

  12. “Cram your latent judgmentalism up your ass.”

    Nah, I like it out in the open… easier to keep an eye on. Plus, I have a hard time typing while standing.

    “the problem isn’t that we can’t wrap our heads around the arbitrary nonsense that is the Marking system, but that the characters can’t”

    After making an offhand comment to a friend about this all, I’ve sort of had an epiphany. It’s like you are a “method actor”, or at least that’s what you seem to be describing. You’re not just playing a character, you’re becoming that character. And that is, in fact, odd to me. Not in a bad way, but it’s kinda outside my experience with anyone I’ve played with. And I don’t think that means I’ve not played with Rpers, just not ones that are of the same style as you. I suppose this doesn’t really add much to the conversation. It just occurred to me, and i don’t really care to engage with the rest of this conversation at this point…

    Comment by justaguy — 7 May 2009 @ 12:37

  13. Calling someone a “shithead” certainly falls within the definition.

    Bah.

    The term “ad hominem” is used to refer to a logical fallacy. In that fallacy (as the dictionary definition you cited hints), on attempts to advance an argument by assaulting the opposing person rather than the opposing argument. You seem to have missed a key part of this: “rather than”.

    If I call you a shithead, it’s because I think you’re a shithead. It’s not an attempt to advance an argument. If you read the word “shithead” within the context of one of my comments, and you pay attention to what does or does not read like an attempt to advance an argument, you’ll see that “shithead” doesn’t fit those criteria.

    Imagine for a moment I say something like “Correlation does not imply causation. Oh, yeah, and it’s past my bedtime.” Would you think I was using the statement that it’s past my bedtime to advance the argument?

    If not, maybe you should consider why you’re using a term (ad hominem) that means “you’re improperly using that to advance an argument” to refer to the second sentence a statement like this: “Correlation does not imply causation. Oh, yeah, and you’re a shithead.”

    Making the implication that I’m a poor role-player because I fail to understand your point

    Making inferences that you’re a poor role-player because you’re inclined to look for offense in everything I say is your problem — not mine.

    Also, you haven’t told me where in the beginning of my first post the insult lay. I’m still waiting.

    Are you serious? That wasn’t sarcasm? Are you really so thoroughly blind to the character of your own behavior that you can’t tell? Criminy, I thought you were being facetious. Yes, it’s when you tried implying that LiveFromHell and I are too dull-witted to figure out how the Marking mechanic works.

    If you choose to misinterpret my sincerity, that’s your issue.

    I didn’t “choose to misinterpret” anything. I doubted it, because your “apology” was couched in terms of statements to the effect of “It’s all your fault, but I’ll apologize anyway.”

    I guess, if you aren’t aware of your own insults, you may not be aware of your equivocations when apologizing, either — which would mean you’re sincere in the intent, even if you can’t help undermining its presentation.

    I’m of the opinion that the haphazard implementation of CMB didn’t really help things, though.

    I’m of the opinion that it’s not haphazard, and it fixed things rather nicely — but then, I’ve actually used it, and I’ve noticed how it unifies the systems for about thirty different actions.

    Grappling, Bull Rushing, and all the other one-off cousins remained special-case rules that followed their own convention and didn’t flow from the rest of the rules.

    I’m of the opinion that having systems for handling a number of special cases is a good thing — rather than 4E’s approach, which is to pretend those special cases don’t exist.

    Well, that’s a conundrum. Have you considered the notion of thinking about how your character might solve the problem, if he were a real spellcaster, without thinking about things in terms of rules?

    Again with the implications that I’m a poor role-player, and that I don’t look at things from my character’s point of view.

    Again, with the assumptions of bad faith and inferences based more on your own biases than my statements. . . .

    I’m really not sure where you think this is coming from. If I were to re-word the general case of “My lightly- or non-armored characters can’t figure out how not to get hit in combat”, it doesn’t evoke the actual point that I was trying to get across. I chose to state it from my point of view because my characters aren’t posting here; I am.

    This pretty clearly demonstrates that you have no clue what I’m talking about.

    I don’t think you’re a bad roleplayer. I’m increasingly of the opinion that you don’t give more than half a shit about roleplaying, though.

    Your argument takes the form:

    1. explain why the Fighter can do it by offering half-baked excuses that sound more like satire than a serious attempt to give some in-character justification for how the action plays out

    2. completely abandon any pretense of reasonable in-character justification when explaining why nobody else can do it

    3. offer a surprisingly good explanation of why the Fighter’s Mark supersedes the Paladin’s, though it’s predicated upon the assumption that the Fighter’s Mark works from an in-character perspective as if it were designed by a satirist rather than conceived by a writer of swords-and-sorcery fantasy

    Okay, now I’m calling shenanigans. You’ve asked over and over in this thread for a rationale for Marking which did 3 things

    Implicit in those criteria was the requirement that it not be fucking absurd — and you clearly know it’s absurd. You even went so far as to end it with “whatever”, as d7 pointed out, indicating your utter contempt for such roleplaying concerns as suspension of disbelief.

    And because you didn’t like my whimsical (and purposely-chosen to be whimsical because it was exactly that — an example) description of it, you’ve found yourself backed into a corner and now have to throw away the entire game system because you don’t like it.

    I asked for something that would help suspend disbelief, and you gave me something that actually damaged suspension of disbelief, and now you’re trying to claim you somehow made a point there. What’s your point? Is it that I’m an idiot for wanting suspension of disbelief in the game?

    Well, when you’ve already pre-supposed that your character will not be able to understand one of his core abilities

    Holy fuck, stop playing stupid.

    Maybe you should play a Wizard instead.

    Maybe I should play a game that was designed by people who give a shit about suspension of disbelief instead — and aren’t defended by people who have such an obvious low opinion of those who give a shit about it.

    I don’t need everything nailed down to a particular level, and some role-players need things specified to a much lesser or greater degree than I do.

    Not exactly — at least, not in my case. I don’t necessarily need it nailed down. I need it to be something that could reasonably be nailed down, and immediately suggests a path to that end. Something like “you can make people have a -2 penalty to hit simply by wanting it to be so, make up your own fluff if you want any, ’cause we don’t care” doesn’t really fit that description.

    Things happen, actions lead to reactions, people and creatures move around the battlefield in interesting and often unexpected ways. In this, I don’t see the fundamental paradigm shift from 3rd edition.

    The shift that I see is that the way I’d describe the action in combat in an earlier edition doesn’t sound like a tactical miniatures game. Instead, it sounds like an RPG.

    I keep running across 4E players that seem to think that roleplaying is what happens outside of combat. I don’t like my RPGs divided into artificial little boxes like that. I prefer the combat to be roleplaying, too — playing the role of the character. For my gaming preferences, the combat rules (and other rules — but that’s not really relevant to 4E) should support playing the role of the character, and provide a means of adjudicating the effects of in-character actions. They should not supplant in-character actions once battle is joined, the way they do in 4E.

    Clearly, you prefer a different approach to playing RPGs, and that’s fine, but I really wish you’d grasp the fact that my reason for preferring a different gaming style than yours isn’t a case of my ability to understand how 4E rules work is defective. Dismissing my distaste for a supposed “roleplaying” game whose mechanics treat roleplaying as an afterthought, as what happens between combats to give players an excuse to get to the fighting, as something unimportant to the core mechanics of the game themselves, on the basis of my supposed inability to wrap my head around a mechanic that only consists of a simple arithmetic expression — well, that’s just asinine.

    For anyone that’s used Grease as the go-to spell for 1,001 uses in previous editions, that’s an obvious let-down.

    It’s weird how you get that, but don’t get how 98% of the rest of 4E looks that way to some people, too. Actually, much of it looks worse than that, because it doesn’t even get to the point of having an obviously evocative name like “Grease” or a descriptive statement like “it makes things slippery”. The Fighter’s Mark and the Warlord’s Own the Battlefield are my current favorite examples of that.

    Frankly, I don’t know how one could even begin to offer serious suggestions for how Own the Battlefield works. What — do strings descend from heaven, attach themselves to combatants’ limbs, and literally move them around like puppets?

    Getting back to Poetry vs Prose, though, none of that says Poetry to me. If anything, it says Prose even more.

    I think, when he introduced the word “Poetry”, d7 was referring to the fluff players can add — where you might make up descriptions of the action, and you call that roleplaying. Meanwhile, d7 and I expect roleplaying to include the poetic turn of phrase, the evocative color and flare added to the game, but we also expect it to include stuff like an actual explanation of how events progress.

    Notice that prose can contain poetry, or be as evocative as poetry, but it must also include narrative, character-driven action, and so on. By the same token, roleplaying in the style of d7 and me can contain a description of what someone does, but must also include a reason for doing it, and assumptions about how the campaign world works.

    For you, meanwhile, it seems like roleplaying consists of the poetry only — a description of how a character performs some action — and ends the moment you pick up your dice.


    On the subject of accusations that I’m saying you’re a bad roleplayer:

    I have no idea. I haven’t said I have any idea, either. For all I know, you might be great at it. Your tendency seems to be to sideline it a lot, though. I’m a pretty good shot with an M-16, but I haven’t fired one in a while — and, by the same token, it seems like if you’re pretty good at roleplaying, that doesn’t have to mean you do it all the time, and if you don’t do it all the time, that doesn’t have to mean you’re not any good at it. You’d rather deal with “interesting” movements of miniatures on the grid map when combat is engaged, apparently. To you, just as to the designers of 4E, it seems that the abstract tactics of the representational combat system is “the game”, and the rest is superficial stuff that just exists to get the characters between combats.

    I actually rather loathe the use of the term “fluff” to refer to roleplaying concerns. It implies that roleplaying is just insubstantial stuff that doesn’t really matter, that it’s all interchangeable and unimportant.

    It’s not unimportant to me. If it was, I might still be playing a game, but it wouldn’t have to be a roleplaying game. Think about that — it’s a roleplaying game, by name. The roleplaying is so important it’s in the name of the gaming genre. It’s not unimportant. It’s not “fluff”.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 May 2009 @ 01:19

  14. @apotheon

    >> I’m not sure what contradiction you see in me saying “WotC supplies the crunch, you >> supply the fluff” and me saying that 4E may induce more “WTF” moments than other systems.

    > I don’t remember saying that was contradictory. If I did say something to that effect, > please quote it — maybe there’s some context that changes the character of my statement. > If not, quote where you think I said so, and I’ll explain what I actually meant.

    You quoted me as saying (where I was talking about ‘WTF moments’): >> You may be right that it will happen more with 4E than with some other systems, as the >> focus with 4E seems (to me) to be the mechanics.

    And you replied: > I’m curious why, when you’re talking to d7 here, you say this — but when (apparently) > responding to me above you basically took the position that there was nothing about 4E > that gave that impression at all with statements such as “WotC supplies the crunch, you > supply the fluff. I don’t really see what the issue is.” Your self-contradiction may be > overlooked by people who are willing to make the Diplomacy roll, but I just don’t feel > inclined to coddle your self-contradictions right now.

    I’ve read it over several times and I still am unsure where you see a contradiction, so any further explanation would be helpful.

    > Well, I’d say it was more a disagreement about how much one can reasonably smooth them out, > since every RPG I’ve seen has those moments as far as I recall. The difference that bothers > me about 4E is the frequency of that kind of problem coming up and how easily it can be > brushed away — and, of course, how well such a brushing away holds up to later tests. In > essence, though, you’re right; that’s the core of the discussion.

    Well, like we’ve already discussed, I believe it will come up more frequently in 4E than in some other systems. Partially because it’s just newer and everyone’s running into these WTF moments for the first time, and partially because it’s more concerned with ‘crunch’ that fits together than with creating or inspiring a setting. We do seem to differ on the opinion of how easily it can be brushed away, and on how difficult it is to adapt that brushing to future tests.

    >> I’m trying to give an in-character explanation for a mechanic. “This is the rule, so >> here’s how I interpret it to make sense in-character”. And you’re asking for an >> explanation of why this has been included as a mechanic in the first place.

    > Not exactly. I need a in in-character justification that is good enough to have justified > including the mechanic in the first place — not necessarily assurance that this was the > reason it was included in the game. It may seem like a fine discinction in some respects, > but it’s an important distinction, if only to avoid the possibility of the discussion being > dragged off-plot into the realm of trying to figure out what the game designers were > actually thinking or saying that it’s absurd to try to argue about what the game designers > were thinking.

    I don’t know what you find acceptable as justification for including a mechanic. I don’t honestly see why Rogues having an innate knowledge of internal organs gets a free pass, but Fighters knowing how to distract or threaten or engage someone in combat (more than non-fighters) is unrealistic.

    (And I’m not a mind-reader and I never bothered to read any of the 4E designers articles about why they chose or didn’t choose certain things, so I have no idea what they were thinking on pretty much any topic, and I won’t pretend to.)

    >> I’m just looking at it and going, “How does this actually work, in terms of my character?”

    > So am I — but I’m trying to do so within the larger context of an entire world with other > characters, including answering the question of “Why doesn’t this work for other > characters?”

    Which makes it sound like I’m working in a vacuum, which of course I’m not. It’s not like I’m coming up with ‘because my fighter’s god distracts the enemy FOR him!’ and stepping on a paladin or cleric’s toes. The thing I don’t get here is… why should it work for other characters? You seem to be completely fine with the idea that Wizards study hard and spend time training themselves to cast spells. And that Rogues study hard and spend time training themselves in anatomy. But not with the idea that Fighters study hard and spend time training how best to comport themselves on the battlefield. How is it in any way unrealistic to think that someone who spends all their time fighting can pick up and learn little tricks that people who spend their time doing other things (spellcasting, hiding in shadows, praying, whatever) haven’t learned?

    Even if you see combat during the adventures as ‘training’ for melees, that doesn’t mean every little thing fighters do is immediately accessible to other classes. That improvement in combat is already accounted for by the levelling system. A 15th level wizard is better at combat than a 1st level wizard (or a 1st level fighter). And if you (or your character) really wants to learn that neat little trick the party fighter just pulled, you can. That’s one of the reasons multiclassing rules exist.

    > I’m also happy to concede that the explanations that have been provided are good enough for > the people who provided them. What bothers me about all this is that, when I explain why > they don’t work for me, everybody tells me I’m wrong. Well, fuck that.

    Well, I can’t say anything I’ve read in this read has convinced me you’ve been ‘happy’ about any of this. ;) And coming from the other… well, I hesitate to use the word ‘side’… coming from another point of view, I’ve basically read your statements as telling other people they’re wrong, too. For example, using words like “pathetic and weak” to an explanation of mine doesn’t really come off as a ‘happy concession’ followed by an explanation. It comes off as a dismissal.

    >> And I’m pretty sure I never said 4E was flawless, or that you’re a bad person.

    > Your very first statement to me essentially implied I was a bad person.

    No, I implied that you implied that venlar (I think that’s who you were replying to) was a bad roleplayer, because if he couldn’t understand your point, then he couldn’t be very good at putting himself in his character’s shoes. Any idea of you being a bad person came from your interpretation, not from my words. I was dismissing your comment, not judging your person. I may think you’re something of an SOB, but I can get that just from reading your blog title. ;)

    > When I say that the weaker explanations for why mechanics like Marking work don’t satisfy > me, and people keep arguing against that because they think I’m just being silly and not > accepting the ultimate wisdom of the 4E game, I’m basically being told that all the flaws I > perceive in the system don’t really exist — that I’m just hallucinating, or something.

    And in return, I’m not seeing some of the explanations for why mechanics like Marking can work in in-character ways as ‘weak’, and I get the impression that you reject them all out of hand because you are just so opposed to the idea of 4E that you need to hold on to these specific things you’ve pointed out as huge gaping flaws. I’m not saying it’s NOT a flaw, I just don’t see it as a gamebreaker.

    In my mind, in the Generic Fantasy Setting, Fighters are the masters of one-on-one battlefield combat. Face-to-face, knockdown, drag-out melee combat masters. That’s their niche. Their job is to wade into combat and hit things, and stop things from hitting the people they’re protecting. It doesn’t seem like a ‘weak explanation’ to me to expect Fighters to have specialized knowledge, abilities, or training for one-on-one melee combat that no one else has. It seems perfectly logical and natural. Why does no other class? Because they don’t put the time and effort into learning the same things that the Fighter does. The same exact reason that Fighters don’t know how to sneak attack someone. They’ve not spent the time learning where to stick a knife between the ribs. Instead, they’ve spent that time learning how to make themselves perceived as a threat, or perfecting that battle-howl that they use when they see someone just about to attack the fighter’s ally, or learning how to take advantage of every moment their foe pays attention to someone else to hinder them in any way possible – tripping, or pushing, or hitting the enemy’s blade with their own – not enough to damage or move or disarm them, but just enough to put them off their game.

    > The implications are there, whether you see them or not.

    And when you say things like that, you imply that I’m blind or willfully ignoring you, neither of which is true.

    > Any time I try to explain some part of this, unfortunately, I end up with a discussion like > this. A crap load of 4E fans descend like harpies to attack me with their filthy talons for > having the temerity to suggest that something like the Marking mechanic or the Own the > Battlefield power interferes with suspension of disbelief, makes the game feel more like a > poorly conceived tactical miniatures game than an RPG to me, and is emblematic of a lot of > the design philosophy of 4E.

    And here, I get lumped in with ‘harpies’ with ‘filthy talons’ because I’m defending a 4E mechanic that I don’t have any issue with. No bias there.

    I don’t see myself as a ‘4E fan’. Or at least not solely as a 4E fan. I play the game and I enjoy it. I think it works well. I also play Pathfinder, and I enjoy that, and I think it pretty much works equally well, overall, just differently. The 4E focus on the tactical rules really cleans up combat, but Pathfinder is more lenient to a wider range of character concepts (in my mind, at least). I have issues with both games, but that’s what house rules are for.

    I’m ‘defending’ marking because I don’t have an issue with it, and I’m perfectly capable of coming up with a number of explanations for why and how it works for me, which I’ve done. I do understand that they may not work for you (even if I don’t fully understand why these explanations are unsuitable to you).

    > the higher incidence of problems of verisimilitude thanks to the way many rules appear to > be conceived for purposes of tactical balance and tactical options, without (much) regard > for roleplaying concerns per se, makes 4E a non-starter for me.

    I have no problems with a statement like this. I find this explanation much more convincing and understandable than comments about 4E being “trite, superficial crap.” Personally, I’ve always seen D&D (and RPGs in general) as a combination of tactical and storytelling games. Combat tends to be on the tactical side of things, and everything else tends towards the storytelling side. Roleplaying can/does happen in both aspects.

    Comment by Shad — 7 May 2009 @ 08:40

  15. jsutaguy:

    > It’s like you are a “method actor”, or at least that’s what you seem to be describing. You’re not just playing a character, you’re becoming that character.

    I can’t speak for apotheon, of course, but this is very-close-but-not-quite true. It’s like I’m a method actor and need to become my character to roleplay, but not quite. I don’t want to get inside the character’s head, I want to get inside the character’s world. If I can do that then getting inside the character’s head is sometimes not necessary. But, for the way I play, getting inside the world—getting a ground-level view of what exactly is going on—is the whole point of the exercise.

    Suppose my character is a storm wizard and I’m looking (through his perspective) at a particularly spectacular waterfall cascading into a pool. There are orcs gathered in the pool for worship, and my wizard has been trying to hunt down and eliminate this tribe. I have Lightning Bolt at my disposal. Do I fry one orc, or maybe a handful if I can line some up? Hell no! I blow that sucker straight into the pool and watch them all meet Gruumsh.

    Can I do that in 4e? Not by the rules. “Lightning Bolt”, the Power, doesn’t let me do that. The GM might give it to me anyway, but that’s a very slippery slope for 4e. Imagine if every Power fired off, only to hear the player say “and remember, my ‘Sand in the Eyes’ Power is actually a burst of blinding fire from my Flamerogue Guild Tattoo, so when I use it on this wolf he should have a chance of catching on fire as well as being blinded. Why not? You let me set that tapestry on fire with it!” As Scott helpfully pointed out, that the fluff is replaceable and doesn’t have any game effects is an inherent assumption of the system.

    By contrast, in prior editions of D&D this was just how the game worked. The abilities of each class were explained via the fictional effects of their use (there are exceptions in 3e, and few to none in 2e and before). It was an inherent assumption of the system that the characters did things in a fictional world, and then the GM and players figured out how to adjudicate that.

    The point of that comparison is that getting down to eye-level with my character doesn’t really work in 4e. I can use that Lightning Bolt against the orcs directly, but I can’t do anything else with it. If I get down to eye level anyway I start imagining a conversation between the wizard and fighter like this:

    W: “Well, that’s one orc disposed of, now you can…” F: “Why didn’t you use your bolt of lightning to strike the water? In fact, why didn’t it go through that one orc and into all the rest?” W: “The arcane magicks are too strange for you, I see. This power of the storm that I command can only be aimed at one enemy at a time and…” F: “That’s a fool’s spell, then. They’re standing in a pool, in copper armour, with their swords raised in salute to Gruumsh. If there was a storm and real lightning struck that one’s sword,” he points at a very angry, live orc, “then the whole lot of them would be crisp and blackened, and pleasantly floating face-down in yonder pool. What kind of charlatan are you?”

    Considering that this is where my mind goes when I try to roleplay anything involving 4e Powers, you might appreciate why I don’t enjoy the system.

    Comment by d7 — 7 May 2009 @ 09:41

  16. @d7

    > Can I do that in 4e? Not by the rules. “Lightning Bolt”, the Power, doesn’t let me do > that. The GM might give it to me anyway, but that’s a very slippery slope for 4e.

    I think that’s a slippery slope in any version of D&D. I don’t think a direct interpretation of 2e or 3e or 3.5 or Pathfinder would let you use one lightning bolt to kill an entire group of orcs (unless they were lined up..). I don’t really see this as a valid argument for singling out one version of the rules.

    (As a GM, it would be a very situational thing for me. I tend toward the lenient side of things, because I like encouraging that sort of thinking. But I don’t see myself making a significantly different ruling on this whether we were playing 3E or 4E.)

    Comment by Shad — 7 May 2009 @ 10:28

  17. > The key word there is “whatever”. You don’t care about this because it’s irrelevant to your > game. Any ol’ explanation will do. And since obviously all games in the world are played > exactly the same way… Well, sarcasm aside, do you see the problem?

    Mmm, there’s a difference between ‘any old explanation will do’ and ‘any old reasonable explanation will do’. If an explanation was irrelevant, there’d be no need to make one in the first place. (And yes, I realize this hinges on the word ‘reasonable’ and that there’s a sliding scale for what different people and groups find reasonable.)

    I suppose I just find leniency to work on both sides, from the GM and from the player. It’s a fantasy world, so I don’t require a physics-based explanation on how casting a fireball works. It’s magic. Wizards have abilities beyond those of people in our reality. (I do require the magic system to be consistent, though. Or as consistent as I can get it.) All the characters are heroes. They all can do things that surpass people in our reality, including the fighters. They’re not just good at combat. They’re really good. Preternaturally good.

    Comment by Shad — 7 May 2009 @ 10:37

  18. > All the characters are heroes. They all can do things that surpass people in our reality, including the fighters. They’re not just good at combat. They’re really good. Preternaturally good.

    Ah, okay. This is probably where we’re walking different paths. I rather liked that in 3e and prior (again, 3e was muddy on this, but just consider the core books for now) the character’s weren’t preternaturally good. They were naturally good, by training and experience. Fighter’s aren’t sorta-supernatural in my home setting, and 4e makes them sorta-supernatural.

    > I don’t think a direct interpretation of 2e or 3e or 3.5 or Pathfinder would let you use one lightning bolt to kill an entire group of orcs.

    Sure it does. To quote from the PHB 2e (original cover art), page 51:

    > Since this isn’t a combat game, the rules are not ultra-detailed… Too many rules slow down play (taking away from the real adventure) and restrict imagination. … To have the most fun playing the AD&D game, don’t rely on the rules. … The trick to making combat vivid is to be less concerned with the rules than with what is happening at each instant of play. If play is only “[mechanical action declaration after mechanical action declaration]”, then something is missing. Combats should be more like, “One orc ducks under the table jabbing at your legs with his sword. The other tries to make a flying tackle, but misses and sprawls to the floor in the middle of the party!” This takes description, timing, strategy, humor, and (perhaps most important of all) knowing when to use the rules and when to bend them.

    Are you familiar with the rulings vs rules dichotomy? That’s what I’m getting at, here. Rulings-based systems inherently allow a world-first, rules-second approach to roleplaying. Rules can allow world-first roleplaying, but only if they’re designed to follow from the fiction, not dictate the fiction. 4e is designed so that rules are first and the world follows the rules, and further leaves it up to us to figure out a plausible explanation for any fiction-free mechanic (such as the Fighter’s fish-slapping dance). You’re also, if considering bending the rules, exhorted to “Before … designing a house rule, ask yourself how necessary it is.” (DMG4e, p 189)

    These are very different paradigms. I can see how someone who started with 3e and went to 4e wouldn’t see much difference, but for someone like me who started with AD&D 1e (or apotheon, who started with OD&D), the difference between 4e and what went before is really clear.

    Comment by d7 — 7 May 2009 @ 11:36

  19. Shad:

    I’ve read it over several times and I still am unsure where you see a contradiction, so any further explanation would be helpful.

    I see now what happened.

    When you said:

    I’m not sure what contradiction you see in me saying “WotC supplies the crunch, you supply the fluff” and me saying that 4E may induce more “WTF” moments than other systems.

    . . . there was no context for me to understand how I would have pointed out an apparent contradiction. The context was attached to the crunch/fluff statement. I said that, as far as I could tell, your words amounted to:

    WotC supplies the crunch, you supply the fluff. I don’t really see what the issue is.

    The key there is the second sentence. In talking to d7, when you said “4E may induce more ‘WTF’ moments than other systems,” then saying to me “I don’t see what the problem is,” you appear to be contradicting yourself (at least according to my impression of what you meant). It’s a bit like calling Comcast about unreliable Internet connectivity, and having the tech on the telephone say “Well, the router that handles your connection on our end is old and flaky and prone to dropping its network connections, so that’s why that’s happening. I don’t see what the problem is.” The problem, my friend, is that my Internet connectivity is unreliable — or, in this case, that the WotC approach of saying “we supply the crunch, you supply the fluff” makes the game more prone to WTF moments, which just prompts me to prefer a game that doesn’t dump WTF moments on me on a regular basis.

    In summary: if you say to d7 “I can see how this cause leads to that problem,” then recount the cause to me in a vacuum without any implication that it gives rise to a problem, and say “I don’t see what the problem is,” it looks contradictory to me.

    We do seem to differ on the opinion of how easily it can be brushed away, and on how difficult it is to adapt that brushing to future tests.

    I think d7’s reference to the unsuitability of 4E rules to on-the-spot rulings outside of the crunchy rules themselves are pretty explanatory of why I feel that eliminating the WTF moments, even when one can do so at all, doesn’t tend to stand up to future incidents very well without essentially dismantling the “game balance” house of cards.

    I don’t know what you find acceptable as justification for including a mechanic. I don’t honestly see why Rogues having an innate knowledge of internal organs gets a free pass, but Fighters knowing how to distract or threaten or engage someone in combat (more than non-fighters) is unrealistic.

    What about my explanation involving martial arts above as surrogates or analogies for the difference between a Rogue’s Sneak Attack and a Fighter’s Mark didn’t make sense to you?

    So am I — but I’m trying to do so within the larger context of an entire world with other characters, including answering the question of “Why doesn’t this work for other characters?”

    Which makes it sound like I’m working in a vacuum, which of course I’m not. It’s not like I’m coming up with ‘because my fighter’s god distracts the enemy FOR him!’ and stepping on a paladin or cleric’s toes.

    This is true, but my point was more about why what one person can do cannot be done by another when there’s no obvious “special training” restriction from an in-character point of view. It wasn’t so much about whether a Fighter is stepping on a Paladin’s toes.

    The thing I don’t get here is… why should it work for other characters?

    For example . . . if an explanation is something like “you flex and growl at him, and he feels intimidated into believing you the greater threat and the guy that must receive all your attention,” I have to wonder how that is different at all from the Intimidate skill (as I said earlier). Since anyone can learn to be intimidating, regardless of his or her class, I don’t see what makes Fighters so much more special in terms of their ability to attract aggro.

    It seems like, beneath any attempts at explanation, every single suggestion I’ve seen of why a Fighter can but a Rogue can’t is tied to a circular argument like “because the rules say so”. The closest anyone made to a reasonable argument for allowing that exclusivity of the Marking power was the claim that just as a Rogue might learn Intimidation and thus achieve the same thing as the Fighter’s Mark, a Fighter can learn Heal and thus achieve the same thing as the Rogue’s Sneak Attack. As I pointed out with my example of Bob and Jane, the martial artists, these are not equivalent examples, though.

    You seem to be completely fine with the idea that Wizards study hard and spend time training themselves to cast spells. And that Rogues study hard and spend time training themselves in anatomy. But not with the idea that Fighters study hard and spend time training how best to comport themselves on the battlefield.

    I’m perfectly fine with all those things. I’m just not perfectly fine with the way the Fighter’s Mark works being part of the results of the Fighter’s study, exclusive of what other characters can do, without a reasonable explanation. There’s a ready-made explanation, obvious within the rules and flavor text and a general understanding of how real life works, for the Wizard and Rogue abilities of spellcasting and sneak attacking respectively; casting spells for a Wizard is a scholarly pursuit that obviously requires a lot of focused study, and the sneak attack in and of itself is predicated upon assumptions of specialized knowledge.

    The Fighter’s Mark, meanwhile, is so far predicated only upon the notion that Fighters know how to fight, but for some reason other fighting abilities are fair game to other classes. Claiming that the only reason Fighters get that Marking ability is because they’re good at fighting is inconsistent with a lot of the other rules considerations in the game, especially when the Mark seems in most explanations offered to be more of a social effect than an actual fighting skill.

    I’ve basically read your statements as telling other people they’re wrong, too.

    My intent was to tell people they’re wrong about my preferences. Everybody’s telling me that their explanations are good enough for everyone, and not just “Well, they’re good enough for me, so I don’t care about your concerns when I play.” It’s more “Your concerns are obvious bullshit. Why can’t a Fighter have a power prohibited to a Rogue?” when it seems obvious to me that I’m not saying Fighters don’t get to have powers prohibited to other classes — they just need their powers to have explanations that make it clear why other classes can’t have them, just as other classes need to do the same.

    Remember, all this disagreement about the Fighter’s Mark started with the idea that Fighter’s Mark is just an example of a problem throughout the 4E game, and not any notion that Fighters shouldn’t get any Fighter-only powers.

    For example, using words like “pathetic and weak” to an explanation of mine doesn’t really come off as a ‘happy concession’ followed by an explanation.

    As a response to what I actually asked, it seemed pathetic and weak. The fact you don’t care about the question I asked, for your own gaming preferences, doesn’t change the fact that your explanation doesn’t answer what I asked. I’m sorry that I chose phrasing that was hostile in character, but the underlying message is still valid: that totally doesn’t provide a reasonable solution to the problem I brought up.

    Your very first statement to me essentially implied I was a bad person.

    No, I implied that you implied that venlar (I think that’s who you were replying to) was a bad roleplayer, because if he couldn’t understand your point, then he couldn’t be very good at putting himself in his character’s shoes.

    I said:

    The reason you’re having so much difficulty putting yourself in our shoes, apparently, must have something to do with your inability to understand what goes into putting oneself into a character’s shoes.

    This (in the context of earlier discussion) just means “Since you don’t appear to ever do so, you probably don’t have any experience with what goes into it.”

    Your response was:

    Yes, that must be it. If someone disagrees with you, it’s because they suck at roleplaying.

    This implies that whenever people disagree with me, I throw away all logic and reason and simply insult their skill at the tasks for which they believe themselves well-suited.

    Roleplaying can include other things than putting oneself in one’s characters shoes. Note, for instance, that justaguy referred to me as being the RPG equivalent of a “method actor”. Like d7, I’d say that’s not exactly right — but it kind of serves as a halfway decent analogy for helping him understand the differences in playing style, apparently. An actor who just reads from the script and doesn’t go into all that “method acting” stuff is still an actor, and may be very good at it, but he doesn’t really put himself in the character’s shoes. If he has never tried method acting, he probably doesn’t understand what goes into putting oneself in one’s characters’ shoes the way a method actor does.

    Now, imagine that a method actor and an epic theater actor are discussing a play. The method actor may point out that he prefers scripts that do not break the fourth wall, because that tends to interfere with his ability to stay in character, since he finds it difficult to incorporate a knowledge of the fourth wall into his in-character perspective (noting that not all method actors have this problem, but let’s just roll with it as an analogy for the discussion at hand). The epic theater actor might at some point exclaim “Just make up an explanation that works for you! What’s the problem?” After this, the method actor may say something like “You obviously don’t understand the process of putting yourself in a charcter’s shoes,” by which he means that the epic theater actor doesn’t understand method acting.

    Your statement was equivalent to saying that the method actor just said the epic theater actor was a bad actor, and that he habitually does so whenever any actor with a different perspective on the art disagrees with him on matters of acting technique. How could the method actor not take offense at that characterization?

    How could I?

    I’m not seeing some of the explanations for why mechanics like Marking can work in in-character ways as ‘weak’

    That’s because they suit your roleplaying style. If I had asked for an explanation in the spirit of your roleplaying style, the answers would be “strong” answers for that purpose. When I have spent thousands of words trying to get people to answer the question for my roleplaying style, and people keep answering it for yours, those answers are weak. They simply don’t answer the question effectively, and the problem appears to be that nobody can figure out why I’d want a more meaningful answer than one that loops back around to “because the rules say so” when taken to its logical extreme. Not being able to understand why, nobody bothers to try coming up with a more meaningful answer than that (or just accept that none they can think of exists).

    I get the impression that you reject them all out of hand because you are just so opposed to the idea of 4E that you need to hold on to these specific things you’ve pointed out as huge gaping flaws. I’m not saying it’s NOT a flaw, I just don’t see it as a gamebreaker.

    This is a huge part of the problem, right here, that keeps leading to flame wars. The second sentence is key when it comes to motive; the first sentence is key when it comes to the offense a lot of 4E fans seem incapable of avoiding giving to others.

    Yes, it’s a flaw. No, you don’t see it as a “gamebreaker”. The reason you don’t see it as that big a deal is that you have a different roleplaying style than I have. We have different goals when it comes to roleplaying. That’s fine. You’re welcome to accept flaws that I’d reject out of hand because, to you, they aren’t important, and this in and of itself doesn’t cause me any consternation.

    You take this difference of opinions, of motivations and goals, as some kind of indication that my reasoning is defective, though. You assume that my rejection of flaws you don’t reject are a result of me having some kind of attachment to 4E sucking, rather than being a result of the fact that these flaws are, collectively, a huge impediment to the achievement of my goals in playing a roleplaying game.

    I don’t know how you actually feel about using miniatures with a bunch of miniatures-focused tactical options to resolve combat, but let’s say for argument’s sake that this is a key, necessary component to the game for you. How would you feel about a game that didn’t provide any miniatures support at all, and when you tried to use miniatures with it you found it incredibly boring?

    How would you feel if I said “Well, sure, I guess that could be regarded as a flaw, but it’s not a big deal. I think you just hate the idea of this being a new edition of the game for some reason, and your biases are clouding your reason. You just reject all the rules of the game out of hand because you are just so oppposed to the idea of No Miniatures Edition (NME) that you need to hold onto these specific things you’ve pointed out as huge gaping flaws.”

    No, that’s not the case, and you’d be rightly upset with me for dismissing your preferences as so much bullshit, just excuses for hating something with unreasoning prejudice. The things you would be pointing out about NME that you dislike because they’re incompatible with, or at least a hindrance to, miniatures based play would collectively be the problem with NME for you, but for some reason all the NME fans would be saying “I don’t see what your problem is. NME is clearly superior to ME. Sure, I guess the tactical stuff could get a little more detailed like you say, but that’s just not important.”

    It doesn’t seem like a ‘weak explanation’ to me to expect Fighters to have specialized knowledge, abilities, or training for one-on-one melee combat that no one else has.

    When the question requires an in-character explanation, the out-of-character assertion that Fighters have to be good at fighting to fill their niche in the game system is a weak explanation in answer to that question. Oh, sure, it’s a great explanation in answer to the question of why Fighters can do this stuff from an out-of-character, metagaming perspective about game balance, but that’s not the question that was asked.

    The same exact reason that Fighters don’t know how to sneak attack someone.

    It’s the same reason from an out-of-character perspective, but not from an in-character perspective — or, rather, the same answer from an in-character perspective just becomes an excuse, rather than a good reason, because it doesn’t satisfy the in-character verisimilitude required.

    They’ve not spent the time learning where to stick a knife between the ribs. Instead, they’ve spent that time learning how to make themselves perceived as a threat, or perfecting that battle-howl that they use when they see someone just about to attack the fighter’s ally, or learning how to take advantage of every moment their foe pays attention to someone else to hinder them in any way possible – tripping, or pushing, or hitting the enemy’s blade with their own – not enough to damage or move or disarm them, but just enough to put them off their game.

    I can explain, in excruciating detail if need be (especially with the help of Google), how the knife between the ribs action works (and works more than once, since he can keep using it), requires specialized knowledge to be particularly effective (maximizing the chance of puncturing a lung for instance), and why that effect takes place when used on an enemy. I can also explain how all of these aspects of the action contribute to the notion that a reliably effective Sneak Attack ability is part of a particular set of capabilities that are subject to the restriction that specialized training is required, all without any reference to the rules themselves aside from the basic assumption that the rules provide a unique means of representing the effects of that action.

    Can you do the same for the Fighter’s Mark?

    How exactly does the Fighter make an enemy perceive him as the threat on the battlefield, time and time again whenever he Marks a target? What specialized knowledge does that require to be particularly effective such that only Fighters can do it? Why, precisely, does that effect take place when the action you describe is used on an enemy? So far, the only explanation of an action at all is something like “growling and flexing”.

    How exactly does the Fighter discern the right moment to emit a blood-curdling battle-howl, and how does it work time and time again without inuring enemies to its effect? What specialized knowledge does the howl require to be especially effective such that only Fighters can do it? Why, precisely, does that effect take place when the action you describe is used on an enemy?

    How exactly does the Fighter hinder and distract an enemy with pushes, trips, and strikes to his blade enough to apply distinct disadvantages to the enemy’s fighting capabilities without taking away from the Fighter’s opportunities to attack normally, time and time again? What specialized knowledge does this tactic require to be especially effective such that a first-level Fighter can do it, but a fifteenth-level Wizard who has been in orders of magnitude more fights than the Fighter can’t? Why, precisely, does that effect take place when the action you describe is used on an enemy without having a similar effect on the fighter?

    I want explanations that include things like: the physics and/or biology of the actions, as I could give for sneak attacks; the reasoning for exclusivity to a particular class from an in-character perspective, rather than a rules balance perspective; and how a consistent, reliable power that supersedes another, similarly effective power, and can be superseded by it, results from this specialized knowledge.

    The implications are there, whether you see them or not.

    And when you say things like that, you imply that I’m blind or willfully ignoring you, neither of which is true.

    I don’t know what you want me to say. If you can’t see the same implications, there must be a reason. The implications aren’t simply absent because you haven’t stated you recognize them.

    And here, I get lumped in with ‘harpies’ with ‘filthy talons’ because I’m defending a 4E mechanic that I don’t have any issue with. No bias there.

    Bah. I said they “descend like”, not that they’re harpies, or that they don’t clean their fingernails.

    I don’t see myself as a ‘4E fan’. Or at least not solely as a 4E fan.

    I don’t recall using the word “solely”.

    I also play Pathfinder, and I enjoy that, and I think it pretty much works equally well, overall, just differently.

    You clearly have different goals for your games than I have for mine. I think we’ve established that.

    The 4E focus on the tactical rules really cleans up combat, but Pathfinder is more lenient to a wider range of character concepts (in my mind, at least).

    The 4E focus on the tactical rules also neglects the in-character perspective. That has, in essence, been at the core of this discussion all along. The Fighter’s Mark is an example of this problem — which, apparently, isn’t a problem for the way you play the game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem at all.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 May 2009 @ 12:11

  20. >> Also, you haven’t told me where in the beginning of my first post the insult lay. I’m still waiting. > Are you serious? That wasn’t sarcasm? Are you really so thoroughly blind to the character of your own behavior > that you can’t tell? Criminy, I thought you were being facetious. Yes, it’s when you tried implying that > LiveFromHell and I are too dull-witted to figure out how the Marking mechanic works.

    Aha, and here it is. You misinterpreted my words. Read it again, for me:

    > Apotheon and LiveFromHell can’t wrap themselves around the Marking concept of a Fighter because the rule in > the 4e PHB lacks flavor text.

    I never said anything about you being “dull-witted,” nor did I say you couldn’t understand the rule. I actually chose my turn of phrase extremely carefully to remove that implication from my message. And yet, you missed the point of it.

    I said that you’re unable to wrap yourselves around the concept. As in, being unable to fully embrace it. I’m certain that you understand it from an intellectual point of view, and that you fully understand why it’s in the 4e rules. My point was that you needed something more in order to to fit the rule into your world-view.

    > 3. offer a surprisingly good explanation of why the Fighter’s Mark supersedes the Paladin’s, though it’s > predicated upon the assumption that the Fighter’s Mark works from an in-character perspective as if it > were designed by a satirist rather than conceived by a writer of swords-and-sorcery fantasy

    > Implicit in those criteria was the requirement that it not be fucking absurd — and you clearly know it’s > absurd.

    See, now you’re really starting to put yourself in my shoes. I am, indeed, both a bit of a satirist and an absurdist at heart. I derive joy from shining light on things that have been taken to their extremes within a particular boundary system, and in so doing I allow both myself and others to find humor in it.

    The example of the Fighter’s own particular version of “Lay on Hands” that I gave you was intended not as an example of how a real medieval knight might have gone about it. It was designed, within the boundaries that you yourself had put forth, to satisfy a series of conditions for what makes the ability work for some, not work for others, and both supersede and be superseded by other effects of similar nature. Alas, despite being practiced at my art, my faculties at absurdist satire deserted me when it came to the third portion, and I had to fall back on a truly “good” explanation.

    The endeavor had less to do with the content of my example than it had to do with giving you what you’d said you wanted. In so doing, I had two possible outcomes: Either you’d be satisfied and we could then move on to discussion of other things that irked us about 4e (and in so doing, we’d find a different line drawn in different sand, and would quite likely find different people on different sides of it — all yielding a fresh and interesting path for the conversation to go down), or you’d throw my example out. In opting for the latter road, you demonstrate that you yourself don’t know with precision what you want out of this exercise, and you make me wonder what additional boundaries you’ll place on it down the road, should someone come up with a physical activity that now conforms to the 4-axis boundary system you’ve instituted.

    You keep returning to the “growling and flexing” example of what the Fighter does that embodies the visible portion of the marking action. It’s obvious from this that you feel that all the other options we’ve given you for what the fighter might be doing at that moment have no greater weight to them in your estimation, and thus you fall back on a somewhat comic standard in order to make your point. You and I are not that unalike, since I certainly see a bit of absurdity in your choice of repeated example.

    Might we find a happy medium instead, by choosing to couch our combat actions not in terms of “I grab the tree branch above me and kick the orc in the head!” nor “I use ‘Own The Battlefield’,” but instead something more hybridized? “…and after mercilessly slashing the Quasit, I then kick the Minotaur’s sword-hand and press my advantage against him, thus marking him with my attention”? I know this doesn’t fix the other 98% of the problems that folks have with the system. But at least we can then descend on something we all dislike about 4e, and turn our harpy talons to better use than mindlessly rending each other.

    Comment by Venlar — 7 May 2009 @ 01:54

  21. Aha, and here it is. You misinterpreted my words. Read it again, for me:

    No, I didn’t misinterpret your words. I may have misinterpreted your intent, but not your words. No matter how finely you try to slice the cheese, it’s still cheese. “Wrap around” is a common colloquial metaphor for “understand”. If you didn’t mean “understand”, you shouldn’t have effectively said “understand”. Period.

    There are times when talking about someone understanding something (or not) is perfectly reasonable, but this wasn’t one of those times, so don’t even start trying to defend an interpretation that relies on the accepted usage of the “wrap around” metaphor.

    You chose the wrong words. I got the right interpretation, given the words you chose. If that interpretation doesn’t match your intent, that’s great, but that would also mean that the words don’t match your intent. To have clearly indicated that your use of the “wrap around” metaphor was nonstandard would have required a far more significant departure from usual formulation than replacing “minds” with “selves”; it would have required something like “wrap your roleplaying styles around”, thus very obviously indicating that you’re not talking about understanding, but are in fact talking about something specifically else.

    Either you’d be satisfied and we could then move on to discussion of other things that irked us about 4e (and in so doing, we’d find a different line drawn in different sand, and would quite likely find different people on different sides of it — all yielding a fresh and interesting path for the conversation to go down), or you’d throw my example out. In opting for the latter road, you demonstrate that you yourself don’t know with precision what you want out of this exercise, and you make me wonder what additional boundaries you’ll place on it down the road, should someone come up with a physical activity that now conforms to the 4-axis boundary system you’ve instituted.

    No, that’s not right. What’s really going on, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is that I’m trying to avoid having to build an argument starting from premises as basic as “We have language. A general theory of language suggests a communicative goal, such that our choice of structure for a language must have some kind of systematic consistency and, perhaps more importantly, be a shared structure so that we can use a common language to convey concepts.” As such, I refer to the high-level, abstract set of conditions I require for a reasonable expalanation.

    Then, you come along and apparently decide to play silly buggers with the whole thing, apparently out of some misbegotten desire to find excuses to “prove” people wrong about something when they disagree with you — preferably about their motivations — even if you can’t prove them wrong in the disagreement itself. You do this by intentionally misconstruing my meaning, and throwing some kind of uninspired satirical regurgitation into the discussion and, when I don’t accept absurdity as “reasonable”, you hold that up as “evidence” that I don’t actually have any real desires with regard to the game that conflict with 4E’s rules, thus “proving” to your own satisfaction (but probably not that of anyone else who’s willing to be honest with himself or herself) that anyone who disagrees with you about the supremacy of the 4E system is just biased and irrational.

    That’s certainly how it looks to me, anyway, now that you’ve shared the secrets of your asinine little “test”.

    It’s obvious from this that you feel that all the other options we’ve given you for what the fighter might be doing at that moment have no greater weight to them in your estimation, and thus you fall back on a somewhat comic standard in order to make your point.

    All of them have been comic in nature, with the exception of the physical interference approach that has been hinted at, but not supported effectively — probably because the person who advanced that notion in the first place realized how easily that falls apart under scrutiny, but I’m just guessing at the reason.

    …and after mercilessly slashing the Quasit, I then kick the Minotaur’s sword-hand and press my advantage against him, thus marking him with my attention

    Sure, we could do that . . . if, like the “grab the tree branch” example, the intent in tying character action to game rule effect was obvious. It isn’t. How does “marking him with my attention” translate into “he takes penalties in combat”? I’m pretty sure that just ensuring I keep track of someone, in and of itself, won’t make him less capable of attacking someone else entirely. In fact, if anything, the only person against whom an enemy who has drawn my full attention should be burdened with attack penalties would be myself, since that implies that I’d be better able to react and avoid getting hit.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 May 2009 @ 02:54

  22. I think taking a quick moment to pause and think would be wise here. Consider the intentions of each person posting here. I have played Dungeons and Dragons since “Elf” and “Dwarf” were classes as well as races. I have awaited the release of each edition eagerly. I don’t think anyone here, though I can’t specifically speak for anyone but myself, woke up one morning and decided they were going to lambast the 4th edition of dungeons and dragons. Those of us arguing that we believe a mistake, or several…or MANY, mistakes were made with 4th edition aren’t doing so out of a desire to “Hate” on DnD. On the other hand, my “fanboi” radar is going off a bit, giving me the feeling that folks would have come to defend 4th edition regardless of the original complaint.

    Speaking of the original complaint, let’s revisit it by asking a few simple questions.

    1. Is the ability to “mark” something, regardless of how it can or can’t be explained in meta-game, anything other than an aggro mechanic?

    2. Does any table top role playing game NEED an aggro mechanic?

    More importantly:

    1. Does an aggro mechanic do anything other than LIMIT role playing potential by providing a means for “weaker” players to bypass intelligent and tactical approaches to combat?

    If you believe similar “crutches” existed in earlier editions, fine. That’s irrelevant to the point. Making mistakes in the past doesn’t excuse making similar mistakes in the future. As far as I was taught, you are supposed to learn from mistakes, not repeat them.

    If you believe such rules AREN’T mistakes, fine. State your opinion and go about your way. Apparently no one here can change your opinion, and I can assure you that the opinions I’ve read here aren’t going to change mine. Why continue bashing your head against the wall by continuously sporting the same argumentative opinion on another persons blog?

    Comment by LiveFromHell — 7 May 2009 @ 03:39

  23. > No, I didn’t misinterpret your words. I may have misinterpreted your intent, but not your words. No > matter how finely you try to slice the cheese, it’s still cheese. “Wrap around” is a common colloquial > metaphor for “understand”. If you didn’t mean “understand”, you shouldn’t have effectively said > “understand”. Period.

    No. You misinterpreted them. The colloquial metaphor isn’t to “wrap around”. It’s to “wrap one’s [head/mind/brain] around”. All three of those options are directly linked with a concept of cognition and understanding, and are used interchangeably in this context. There’s your cheese. Broadening the turn of phrase to include the heart, viscera, etc. was a direct departure from this, “thus very obviously indicating that [I’m] not talking about understanding, but [am] in fact talking about something specifically else.”

    > anyone who disagrees with you about the supremacy of the 4E system is just biased and irrational

    Let me clue you in to something here that you probably couldn’t have known. I don’t particularly like the 4e system as a whole. I have some serious issues with it. Most recently (say, in the last decade), I’ve enjoyed both the Pathfinder and Arcana Unearthed/Arcana Evolved 3rd edition variants better, from a system-as-a-whole sense. I’ve mentioned a few things in particular that I dislike about this system (Warlords’ charisma-based martial healing, Grease, and the paradigm of couching every ability of a character in its combat utility first and every other aspect secondary), and a few things that I do like (the Marking system chiefly, but also the streamlined Grappling rules). So, since I don’t really find 4e to be supreme in any significant measure, the people who “[disagree] with [me] about the supremacy of the 4e system” are the frothing fan-boys and your imagined harpies. I don’t actually care whether you yourself like or dislike 4e.

    I like the Marking system in 4e. As I’ve said, I like the fact that it fixes a few things for me that I’ve had issues with in previous editions. The 4e marking system has been the focal point of this whole thread’s discussion, but when you extrapolate my sunny disposition toward it outwards to encompass the whole of 4e, you do me as much a disservice as you do when you assume I need the tactical advice of “think like your character would”.

    For me, 4e is the game of the moment. My gaming group is currently playing it because that’s what our current GM has decided to run. Prior to that, we had a very successful stint of Pathfinder under another GM, and prior to that I ran a very brief and ill-fated game of Spirit of the Century with this group. SotC, for us, had some of the opposite issues to what 4e has, namely that it embodied a level of open-endedness that my players and I as GM found to be somewhat paralyzing. It was very freeing in the sense that everything you did came under the “grab the tree branch” style of description… And then trying to figure out what that meant in game terms became an issue.

    At some point, the pendulum will undoubtedly swing back, and we’ll give SotC another go. Maybe we’ll do a variant whose setting feels a little more germane to our experience than the Pulp 1920s of the default world. Maybe not.

    For the moment, though, 4e is what my attention is focused on, for better or for worse.

    > Sure, we could do that . . . if, like the “grab the tree branch” example, the intent in tying character > action to game rule effect was obvious. It isn’t.

    Sure it is. If you can’t figure out which game rule is being invoked by the latter two-thirds of that sentence fragment, then I have to revise my estimation of you. It’s not the “attention” that’s the important part, it’s drawing the tie between a physical activity, “kick the Minotaur’s sword-hand and press my advantage against him,” to the rule “thus marking him”. This character has already taken an attack action of some sort against a quasit, most likely with some form of bladed weapon, and then chooses to employ a method of causing an obvious physical threat upon the minotaur. At no point does he lose sight of the quasit (or the other zero-to-infinite attackers that might surround him to whatever depth of playing field we might arbitrarily choose), nor does he stop paying attention to them. There was no talk of his “full attention” being paid to anything in particular. He’s a Fighter; it’s his job to know what’s going on around him in combat.

    Comment by Venlar — 7 May 2009 @ 05:07

  24. A couple of interjections:

    > it’s drawing the tie between a physical activity, “kick the Minotaur’s sword-hand and press my advantage against him,” to the rule “thus marking him”.

    You’re importing rules-language into the fiction. If the only way to clearly connect the fictional explanation to the rules implementation of the action is to use rules language, then there isn’t really a clear connection between the pure fiction and the rules.

    Maybe it’s not obvious why that’s a non-starter. Here, let me change tack a bit…

    > The 4e marking system has been the focal point of this whole thread’s discussion

    It was easy to miss in the wall of text, but the discussion of Marking began with something to the effect of “There are a lot of holes in 4e; for example, marking…” Marking is only one symptom that (we hoped) would be illustrative of the larger perceived problem. If it’s not obvious why Marking is being used as an example of a larger problem, perhaps it should be abandoned for a clearer example.

    May I offer…

    Fighter: “Sir Ranger! Do that two-arrow trick again! It took the wind out of that ogre’s sails, to be sure!” Ranger: “I can’t.” Fighter: “I believe in you! You can do it! Just —” Ranger: “No, I mean I can’t. I can only do that again after we get into a different fight.” Fighter “… What the Hades?”

    To translate, Encounter Powers break my suspension of disbelief. I can’t think of a reasonable in-fiction reason for some of them to not be repeatable, especially the more mundane ones like Two-Fanged Strike, which (fictionally) just involves nocking two arrows at once.

    Is that more illustrative of the conundrum than marking?

    Comment by d7 — 7 May 2009 @ 07:42

  25. > my “fanboi” radar is going off a bit, giving me the feeling that folks would have come > to defend 4th edition regardless of the original complaint.

    Then your radar needs some fixin’, because at least two of us have recently stated that we’re not “4E 4ever OMG!” diehards. Surprisingly, I have the ability to enjoy multiple game systems (and even multiple versions of the same game system, if you want to split hairs), usually in different ways and for different reasons. I like 3.5, I like Pathfinder, and I do also enjoy 4E. I’ve also stated that I understand it’s not a system everyone can or should like.

    > Does an aggro mechanic do anything other than LIMIT role playing potential by > providing a means for “weaker” players to bypass intelligent and tactical approaches > to combat?

    Yes, of course it does. There’s been a lot of text, so maybe you’ve missed several different posts giving different methods for ways to role play the marking ‘aggro mechanic’. Which means it’s ADDING role playing potential for some people. Perhaps not you, and definitely not d7 or apotheon. (And I’m not attaching any negative weight to that. It doesn’t work for you. That’s fine.)

    Secondly, it doesn’t remove any of the previous role playing potential from combat. You’re still allowed to use ‘intelligent and tactical approaches’. The WotC police aren’t gonna come to your house and make you stop thinking outside the box. (And in fact, they’d encourage it. There’s a whole big section in the 4E DMG encouraging people to use the environment in combat, like swinging from a chandelier, etc. And suggestions on how to go about officiating those sorts of situations. See page 42.)

    Thirdly, 4E is indeed more focused on tactical combat rules, and aggro mechanics are an addition to those. Again, you may not enjoy the tactical side of D&D, so 4E is not your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean the rules aren’t useful for those who do.

    (And to go WAY back in the thread, if you believe ‘aggro mechanics’ are the only thing that separates MMOs and pen and paper RPGs, then I begin to doubt whether you’ve actually played both. I’ll assume it was hyperbole.)

    But obviously I’m not as “strong” a player as you, because I like the variety of both roleplaying AND tactical situations.

    > If you believe such rules AREN’T mistakes, fine. State your opinion and go about your > way. Apparently no one here can change your opinion, and I can assure you that the > opinions I’ve read here aren’t going to change mine. Why continue bashing your head > against the wall by continuously sporting the same argumentative opinion on another > persons blog?

    I don’t believe the ‘aggro control’ rules are mistakes, no. I believe that people can like them or not like them for various reasons. And I have continued to post here because I believed this was a discussion that both sides could take something away from, even if it’s just a better understanding of what someone else’s opinion on the topic is. (And the only person who should really be telling me to get lost is apotheon, not you, LiveFromHell, since unless I misunderstand, this isn’t your blog.)

    Comment by Shad — 7 May 2009 @ 09:10

  26. @d7

    > You’re importing rules-language into the fiction. If the only way to clearly connect > the fictional explanation to the rules implementation of the action is to use rules > language, then there isn’t really a clear connection between the pure fiction and the > rules.

    It’s not the only way to clearly connect them, but it’s the most obvious and clearest way for giving examples.

    > To translate, Encounter Powers break my suspension of disbelief. I can’t think of a > reasonable in-fiction reason for some of them to not be repeatable, especially the > more mundane ones like Two-Fanged Strike, which (fictionally) just involves nocking > two arrows at once.

    Yeah, I got nothing for this example. I’m sure some of the Encounter and Daily Powers can be explained by only having the energy or the opportunity to use those powers once per combat or per day, but the more mundane ones… I have no idea how to reconcile those without breaking suspension of disbelief.

    Comment by Shad — 7 May 2009 @ 09:15

  27. Venlar:

    The colloquial metaphor isn’t to “wrap around”. It’s to “wrap one’s [head/mind/brain] around”.

    I addressed that, when I said:

    To have clearly indicated that your use of the “wrap around” metaphor was nonstandard would have required a far more significant departure from usual formulation than replacing “minds” with “selves”

    See how I referred to “minds” (one of the three options in head/mind/brain) there, and how you need to replace it with something more significantly different than “selves”? Has it not occurred to you that, to many people, the head/mind/brain concept is the self? The use of “self” instead of “mind” could easily be interpreted as synonymous with “mind”. Your use of “yourselves” instead of “your minds” is, taking the obvious and common approach to understanding the “wrap around” metaphor, most easily and obviously interpreted as making no difference to the meaning.

    . . . and finally, the metaphor is to “wrap around”. What is being wrapped around is the head/mind/brain. Thus, you “wrap [something] around”. Because the “something” is variable, I shortened the phrase, but you could as easily have read that as “wrap [one's (brain|head|mind)] around”. Play it either way — the result is the same.

    Taking a step back, then:

    You misinterpreted them.

    No, I didn’t misinterpret your words. See above. Your weird distraction with objecting to my elision of the [your foo] from the phrase “wrap [your foo] around” doesn’t change that fact.

    Broadening the turn of phrase to include the heart, viscera, etc. was a direct departure from this, “thus very obviously indicating that [I’m] not talking about understanding, but [am] in fact talking about something specifically else.”

    There is no reasonable expectation that you could be talking about including heart, viscera, et cetera in the “wrap around” metaphor. What the hell do my internal organs have to do with the matter? I didn’t consider those as possibly included because that would be absurd. Would you, instead, prefer that I simply assume the most absurd interpretation of everything you say, rather than the most reasonable?

    Let me clue you in to something here that you probably couldn’t have known. I don’t particularly like the 4e system as a whole.

    So your motive is . . . trolling? It results in much the same sort of conversation as simply being a rabid 4E fan, I suppose. I was trying to avoid such blatant assumption of bad faith on your part, though.

    I like the Marking system in 4e. As I’ve said, I like the fact that it fixes a few things for me that I’ve had issues with in previous editions.

    I’ve noticed you like it for its mechanical conveniences in combat encounters, but I really don’t think that’s worth the damage to roleplaying related verisimilitude.

    you do me as much a disservice as you do when you assume I need the tactical advice of “think like your character would”.

    How am I doing you a disservice when I point out that I arrive at my problems with the Marking system by thinking about it from an in-character perspective, then ask you to do the same while trying to justify the mechanics from that perspective for me, and you repeatedly fail to provide a justification that satisfies the in-character perspective? I just tried to remind you to stop stepping out of the in-character perspective to end up tying the explanation back into rules balance concerns, and to stop betraying the spirit of the in-character perspective explanation by making a mockery of the whole exercise of trying to explain how the mechanic isn’t patent bullshit from an in-character perspective. Instead, you give me shit like (as d7 put it) the Fighter’s fish-slapping dance.

    Prior to that, we had a very successful stint of Pathfinder under another GM, and prior to that I ran a very brief and ill-fated game of Spirit of the Century with this group.

    Fine, you like other games. That:

    1. doesn’t mean you won’t rabidly defend 4E just because it’s 4E, and even if you won’t do that, it

    2. doesn’t mean you won’t rabidly defend a 4E mechanic because of non-roleplaying motivations even when the complaint against it is roleplaying oriented, and even if that’s not the problem here it

    3. doesn’t mean you aren’t just trolling

    There was no talk of his “full attention” being paid to anything in particular.

    The explanation from which I drew the inference that he was giving a particular enemy his “full attention” was the one that involved the words “marking him with my attention”. If it’s not a matter of giving a creature his full attention, I’m not sure what the hell that was supposed to mean from an in-character perspective (understanding that giving someone one’s “full attention” doesn’t mean one is fully incapable of noticing other combatants if they make nuisances of themselves).

    Anyway, even if you define it as “more than fifty percent of my attention”, my explanation about how giving a particular enemy one’s attention is unlikely to result in making it difficult for that enemy to attack someone else.

    Shad:

    I don’t believe the ‘aggro control’ rules are mistakes, no.

    I believe it was a mistake to integrate them so tightly into the game that they can’t really be rooted out without destroying game balance.

    And the only person who should really be telling me to get lost is apotheon, not you, LiveFromHell, since unless I misunderstand, this isn’t your blog.

    Yes, it’s mine, not LiveFromHell’s. No, I’m not inclined to tell you to “get lost” at this point. No, I don’t think LFH was telling you to “get lost” anyway. He was suggesting that much of this discussion may have been a bit unproductive, and asked why, if others agree with that assessment, it’s still going on — with special emphasis aimed at those who disagree with my perspective, since any comment here is in some respects directed at me, it being my Weblog (as you pointed out).

    Comment by apotheon — 8 May 2009 @ 01:08

  28. It helps if you play the game first.

    Its like… 4e’s the picture to 3e’s (or the desperate grab for money, 3P) thousand words.

    Comment by Grazoo — 10 August 2009 @ 01:20

  29. What helps is if you don’t assume everyone in the world has exactly the same priorities as you, Grazoo. Some of us like game systems with good support for roleplaying in the rules, instead of this asinine “You can roleplay with your imagination!” tripe I’ve been reading from 4E fans like you lately.

    It helps if you play the game first.

    What’s the point if the character creation process sucks the life out of the character in the first place?

    It also helps if you read the discussion so far.

    . . . and that crap about 4E being the picture is pretty silly. The picture it paints is paint-by-number and monochrome. I like a slightly more interesting picture than that.

    Comment by apotheon — 10 August 2009 @ 02:33

  30. fascinating read!

    Comment by M. — 10 August 2009 @ 07:59

  31. Haha. Enjoy your already defunct munchkin system.

    Comment by Grazoo — 12 August 2009 @ 10:11

  32. Additionally, I can’t believe you find it “asinine” that people ROLE PLAY with their IMAGINATIONS.

    Holy fuck, you deserve Pathfinder

    Comment by Grazoo — 12 August 2009 @ 10:16

  33. Haha. Enjoy your already defunct munchkin system.

    What’s that based on — the fact that as of this writing PRPG’s Core Rulebook is Amazon’s #1 bestseller in roleplaying games, even though it hasn’t even reached its official release date yet? Maybe it’s just based on some kind of irrational hatred of anything that competes directly with 4E.

    . . . and “munchkin”? What, now you’ve descended that far into ad hominem fallacies? Good job failing to make a point.

    Additionally, I can’t believe you find it “asinine” that people ROLE PLAY with their IMAGINATIONS.

    I believe the appropriate response here is “Whoosh.” That’s the sound of the point going over your head.

    The worst part of it is that you probably missed the point intentionally, thus assuming the role of complete moron of your own free will.

    Comment by apotheon — 12 August 2009 @ 02:27

  34. This thing is like an ant trap. People keep wandering into it.

    Grazoo: I don’t think you’re really all that surprised that apotheon spat venom when your first comment bashed 3e as a money grab and bloated. If you keep that in mind when you re-read the answers to your comment, you might see them in a different light. :)

    Anyway, on the subject of “ROLE PLAY” and “IMAGINATION”: There seems to be a lot of confusion about what people mean when they say the rules doesn’t support roleplaying. Have you only ever played D&D? If so, then I can understand where your confusion comes from. You have to admit that rules make your 4e combats more interesting, right? You don’t actually need them, but you’d rather have a set of fair and interesting rules than not? So, what’s so weird about wanting that for things that aren’t hitting people with sticks? A lot of (non-D&D) games offer rules to do two things in non-combat situations: a) take the game in unexpected directions so that it becomes more interesting; b) give the player interesting choices to make with a mix of fictional and mechanical tradeoffs.

    If you can’t picture that, you might try some non-D&D game sometimes. But even if you don’t care for that, you can at least agree that rules make all parts of our hobby more interesting and less predictable, right?

    Comment by d7 — 13 August 2009 @ 07:00

  35. This thing is like an ant trap. People keep wandering into it.

    I had to laugh at that. The imagery is comical.

    As for the rest of your commentary — you’ve done an excellent job of presenting a well-reasoned response. Keep commenting at SOB, please. You definitely help increase the signal:noise ratio in discussion.

    Comment by apotheon — 13 August 2009 @ 07:10

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