Chad Perrin: SOB

2 September 2009

Dead Letter Office

Filed under: — apotheon @ 05:39

The following trollish comments have been moved here so they don’t pollute otherwise reasonable discussions.

1 Comment

  1. Editor’s Note: This has been moved here from discussion following Mike Mearls explains my D&D preference.

    In fact, it’s just as easy to justify a character whose 40 years of experience isn’t related to adventuring skills as any other edition, and (more to the point) it can actually be reflected on the character sheet, just by house-ruling it away; say “You get X many extra skill points, with Y as your maximum rank in any of your noncombat skills — but Y doesn’t go up until your class level says it does. In exchange for this, your first level has to be in an NPC class.” Meanwhile, in OD&D or 4E, all you can do is say “Tough tittie. You’re first level. Just pretend in your head that your character isn’t incompetent.” At that point, the most “reasonable” approach is to just say your character has amnesia if you want him to be 40 years old, which is about the stupidest plot point that Hollywood uses

    So in 3e, houseruling is allowed but in 4e the only option is to use amnesia? Really? I simply disagree that a background has to be mechanically represented. Obviously, there are things that any edition can’t do well, I already said this. No, you can’t start a 40 year combat veteran as a 1st level fighter. You can start a 40 year blacksmith as one though, in any edition without modification except 3e. With houseruling you can do anything. We aren’t talking about what you can houserule. We are talking about the relative merits and faults of the systems. I prefer flexibility and openness to the rigid need for mechanical justification of everything from needlework to innkeeping. I find that severely limiting to what I like to do with my characters and character creation in my games.

    In both older editions and in 4e, background details do not require mechanical justification. They require background justification and DM involvement. That is how I prefer to play. More rulings, less rules. And if I ever need that mechanical roll, I can wing it easily with a level appropriate DC provided to me by the system. Even in 2e, taking the NWP is enough to simulate a background. Here 3e is the one that stands alone in requiring mechanical justification for basic background knowledge and tasks. I simply don’t like it nor find it necessary. It is not an elegant way to handle this as it forces players to choose between game-focused resources and background resources. I don’t think of this as good design.

    At this point you are basically arguing that 3e can solve all these problems inherent in its design with houserules but then refusing to afford the same luxury to 4e because you claim this cannot be done in 4e for some nebulous, unsupported reason. If I’m recalling your posting history correctly, you haven’t played 4e or have played it once or twice. Either way, your assertion that 4e is do delicately balanced that houseruling it will bring down the whole system like a house of cards is not supported at all by play experience, neither mine nor legions of other 4e players and bloggers who are happily houseruling the shit out of 4e just like we have every other edition of D&D. It’s not even supported by the designers, such as Mearls, who has written about his houserules nor the DMG itself which encourages houseruling and discusses it at length. I said some players tack on a background skills system, some that feel it is needed (3e players who mostly didn’t play previous editions). I do not feel it is needed at all and prefer the old school approach of background details. I think limited skills and fleshed out backgrounds is a great, loose and flexible way to approach character building.

    Why the hell not? (referring to the eladrin)

    Because that would be impossible to achieve mechanically at 1st level. You would need for a 1st level wizard, knowledge arcana, concentration and spellcraft, plus the background skills of craft – compisition and songwriting, knowledge music, perform – singing, instruments (lyre, lute, flute, etc) all at skill levels that far exceed max ranks for a 1st level character. That is my problem with mechanical justification for everything a character can do.

    In every other edition of D&D, this was not necessary. You could play this character, even if an older, accomplished character is not the default assumption, it was still a system supported possibility. It is in 4e because the 4e skill system does not purport to cover everything a character can do, only those things tied in to adventuring and class that need mechanical justification. I understand a lot of people find 3e to have a huge range of character possibilities. It does in some areas, but I often found it limited my options for the kinds of characters I liked to play. And it could never do one of my favorite class choices ever very well at all, the classic, with us practically from the beginning, fighter/wizard. I find 4e does it well.

    Look, I have a lot of experience with 4e at this point and know the system pretty damn well. I’ve played in and DMed a number of games online and tabletop with a number of players in the year and couple months it has come out. The game is balanced, but it is not a delicate balance that is easy to collapse. New monsters, powers, classes, 3rd party supplements, etc. abound and they don’t break the game. The math is printed plainly in the books for all to see which act as easy guidelines for modding the game and keeping things balanced. Adding skills does not upset the balance at all. Giving free background skills doesn’t hurt at all and doesn’t require a whole new subsystem that might muck up the works. It requires two sentences – Pick one or two skills not listed that represent your background. You have those as trained skills tied to their logical ability score. Nothing wonky or hard to fit about it at all. And again, I don’t use that myself, but its a simple add for those that want to mechanically justify everything. I prefer not to.

    judging by your example, the only thing that was not represented in the duel of musician skills was the fucking musician skills.

    Actually, it was represented. Read it again. The dueling was resolved with dexterity checks to cover their ability to out-complex the other player and int checks to cover the complex on the fly riffing. A separate skill is often not needed when you view the skill system as a broad umbrella and not narrow, rigidly defined singular skills. Pulling off a stellar performance is rarely about how technically proficient you are at playing. Kurt Cobain knew basically 3 cord by his own admission and the Rolling Stones have been rolling for 40 years and not a one of them is a highly skilled musician. They are all simply adequate and magical together. Performance is about all the things I listed and more, that’s the fun of handling it with a variety of creative skill uses instead of just perform check after perform check.

    The 4E system makes combat success more based on manipulating the rules and crunching the numbers than on in-character decisions.

    So does 3e, to a near ridiculous degree. No D&D system has been more ridiculously gamed than 3e, from sacks full of weasels to infinite gold loopholes with the crafting rules, to the trip fighter, it’s all rules manipulation and what the system allows. The problem with your quote is that Mearls was describing OD&D and it could describe the way things worked in BECMI and 1e as well. But 2e, 3e and 4e are modern D&D systems where the system determines the world. Your flaw here is that you think the example Mearls gives doesn’t apply to 3e. It does, in spades. 3e is all about asking what the rules allow you do. Hell, that’s what we’ve been arguing about back and forth. You are trying to both argue that somehow 3e is like OD&D and all about in character decisions, while defending the systems need to justify everything mechanically in ways that OD&D players find abhorrent. 4e isn’t nearly as bad as 3e with the simple addition of a flexible format for characters to attempt to do anything and have the mechanical support they need to do it (the much lauded pg 42). You can pull off any in character combat trick you want in 4e and the rules have the mechanics right there, from DC to damage expression.

    I honestly didn’t get that you were trying to exclude 3e from the assessment of Mearls that you quote above and now am amused that you tried. 3e is as ridiculously gamed as you can get, from the hundreds of prestige classes to the thousands of feats to the specific, focused skill system, its all about number crunching and what can be mechanically justified. It exceeds the excess that was 2e w/Options.


    I shouldn’t have used the word “inhibits”. 4E doesn’t really inhibit roleplaying, per se. It just fails to support it in ways 3.5 supported it — doesn’t encourage and enable certain aspects of roleplaying the way previous editions did, and creates some definite conflict between roleplaying and “gaming the system” at times in ways previous editions did not.

    But 4e – supports RP in ways 3.5 did not (increased freedom and flexibility) Encourages and enables certain aspects of RP in other ways the previous editions did not (I find it to be a good balance between social/RP mechanics of modern gaming and the freedom and flexibility of old school gaming, a nice compromise) And after a year of actual and extensive gameplay I have yet to find a way in which it creates conflicts between roleplaying and gaming the system. And again, no edition has been nearly as bad as 3e/3.5/3.75 in the gaming the system department.

    Comment by Thas — 2 September 2009 @ 05:42

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