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 Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals

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Garthanos
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PostSubject: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:10 am

I would like to see a nicely written in depth analysis of this and the methods which were used to approach those goals.

Or perhaps a bunch of opinions on it (and links to WOTC posts from back when) we could then congeal in to something coherent if not a consensus.

Hmm might be too much work but I would like it. tongue 

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:07 pm

http://wizards.com/dnd/Archive.aspx?page=142

This seems to be the page of where 4e talk begins over at the WotC website. Perhaps after us looking over some of this stuff we can figure out what some of the original intent/goals behind 4e was. But from what I can remember/tell it the developers put an emphasis on fixing the major problems that 3e had, improving combat speed, and giving everyone something interesting and balanced to do. I will begin looking through these posts though and seeing what I can get.

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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:42 am

I think a huge goal of 4e was to fix the caster vs. non-caster issues all the previous editions had.

Lots of people (including me) hated that casters generally started weak as kittens (levels 1-4) and non-casters, also at levels 1-4, had to do most or all of the wet work ie; killing stuff, and getting hit. And they were good at it.

Then, there was the 'magic hour' usually around levels 4-7, where everyone seemed kind of equal. Although, by level 5, wizards gained the bazooka known as 'fireball'...Everyone is doing 1d6/1d8/1d10...even the rogue with a good sneak attack maybe got a 3d6 in. And the wizard got a 5d6. To more than one monster at a time. BOOM. "ok guys, the rooms' clear." -Wizard.

Later, it just got worse. High level fighters got a few more attacks, true. But, even with several attacks (like in 3x) the drops in the + to hit made those useless against higher AC monsters. Wizards in 3x got to skip AC almost always, with 'touch attacks'. And their damage output just kept growing.

It sucked to be a non-caster.

I think they FINALLY grew up, and wanted to make the game fun for every class, all the time. From levels 1-30.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:55 pm

I am with Seti the class balance goal was an all the way back to 1e issue that needed dramatic shifts to happen and 4e was the first edition which had the nads to actually take a stab at it.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:53 pm

That's the main design goal I recall being discussed during the initial talks of 4E. As was mentioned, the "sweet spot" of mid-levels was something the design team wanted to achieve from level 1 to 30.

I recall the problems of low-level "squishies" (Wizards, basically) from back in 1e. It seemed like every single Wizard at level 1 was "Magic Missile!, Magic Missile!, okay guys, I'm out until tomorrow. I've got a crossbow..." And then the Fighter had to mop up everything.

And the inverse of the problem, when the party got up to around 9th or so, the Wizards had multiple Fireball spells and Cone of Cold, Ray of Whatever-Damage, and so on. The battle cry was "Get those Fighters out of the way because nukes are incoming!!!!" and when the smoke cleared, there may be a couple enemies left.

It got better in 2e and 3.x, but not much.

And Clerics became the only class to play in 2e. Once all of the Character Options books were in use a Cleric could be a better "any other class" than the class itself.

And that got better in 3.x, but again, not much.

I really liked 3.x because I felt it worked out a lot of the math issues from previous editions (goodbye THAC0!) and got all classes on an even XP track. But the casters were still clearly superior at higher levels.

I recall my 11th level Fighter/Rogue Duelist could hit pretty much ANYTHING the DM threw at us due to a ridiculously high BAB. And with dual-wielding and a high BAB, I had 5 attacks per round! But even if every attack of the 5 hit and did damage, a Wizard could use some "Rain of Blood" crazy attack spell and dish out 11d8+44 to multiple targets at once (minimum 55, maximum 132). My 5 attacks did 1d4+10 for 3, and 1d4+6 for 2, for a range of 47-62, IF all of the attacks hit a SINGLE target. Or something ridiculous like that.

The 4E classes REALLY leveled out the "squishiness" of the classes. While Wizards still typically had the lowest hp totals and lower defenses than the others, they still were quite survivable. And the Fighters, who had the highest hp and generally best defenses (until Wardens came along!) weren't so far ahead of everyone else like in previous editions.

So my long-winded response was really about balance across the levels AND across the classes. Not to make them all equal, but to reduce the disparity between the classes so that they could face challenges more readily.

I know that Grapple checks from 3.x was a BIG thing that they fixed with 4E. I recall being in the hall at GenCon in 2007 when they made the official announcement of 4E. Grapple checks were a very specific thing they were fixing!

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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:59 pm

Slightly off topic, but...Related enough:

I wonder why so many 4haters mention this. "I cannot like or grasp the idea of a fighter having a daily power. That sounds like a SPELL!" I couldn't understand how someone who plays ttRPGS could lack so much imagination...

I'd try to reason, and answer that; a) it helps balance the classes, and b) it represents some totally kick-ass stunt that a fighter would pull off once in a while. Like in movies and books. Without having to rely on random dice rolls to get a 20. It put more control of the action in the hands of the player. And it was super-mega-awesome when you pulled out a daily fighter power, AND rolled a 20...Oh, such fun. Smile I remember my wife did that once...It was something sick like 12+4D12+5 with a brutal 2 high-crit weapon (executioner's axe)....At 3rd level...

And, yeah...only wizards, and maybe clerics, knew that joy before 4e.

Another thing I noticed about 4e immediately was that they got rid of negative racial ability scores...ie: dwarfs weren't +1 CON, -1 CHA. No one had to take a minus-something anymore.

Power Sources were a brilliant addition to the game, IMO. Roles I can take or leave...but, power sources made me happy. Aside from that 'shadow' source that really felt under developed, and tacked on...To me, 'shadow' could have just been 'arcane'...And assassins could have been a martial class.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:06 am

Yes, the Martial powers were very awesome and gave non-caster classes the opportunity to have that "flair" every once in a while as well!

I really liked the fact that none of the races had an ability penalty as well. Although, it still sometimes feels like non-human races are still better than humans. In every edition of D&D, humans are said to be the most versatile and adaptable race. From this, it is typically presumed that therefore humans were going to be a better choice overall for PCs. But in editions prior to 3.x, this was accomplished by various means within the mechanics of the game. One of my favourite ones was the "level limit" rule. It cracked me up that elves, who have incredibly long lives and an innate ability in arcane magic, couldn't progress beyond a 12th level Magic-User in 1e...

But in 3.x, the extra skill points at starting (and at each level) and the bonus starting feat really did make humans more desirable to play in most cases. And they also had versatility in their "favoured class" under the multi-classing rules of 3.x as well. This thinking was continued in 4E with the bonus feat and trained skill AND bonus 1st level at-will power for a human. But even so, the 4E non-human races got a +2 to 2 skills and in most cases, one of them you could pick between 2 choices. It makes playing a human a bit less enticing...

I also loved the power sources. It allowed me to really get into putting some flavour behind what I was describing (as a DM). And it also helped to describe the thematic differences between some classes. I know in previous editions I often felt that there really wasn't any difference in divine and arcane magic. I realize that the spell lists as given were different, but in terms of game mechanics, there wasn't really a different "feel" to them. With 4E (and the keywords) I think that the power sources really did give a feel for the difference between arcane and divine spells. And it made the difference between those and psionic an even bigger difference in "feel" as well. Then, with the Primal power source I felt that they really rounded out the sense of difference between nature and the gods. I have a player in my current campaign that is playing a Dwarf Warden and he is really playing up the fact that he has more or less rejected Moradin in favour of the Primordials and the power they provide.

The Shadow power source really was under developed. I think if a full assortment of class roles for the Shadow source had been developed it could have become something more. But obviously it came at the end of 4E and so didn't get much of anything.

The Executioner Assassin was a dual power source class, martial and shadow. And it was really well done. Although the original "pure shadow" Assassin was really cool as well. I had someone play one in a Paragon Tier campaign for 2 levels and it was interesting. It could have been a fantastic Striker with a little bit of tweaking.

I've often thought of trying to make additional classes for the Shadow power source. We have the original Assassin and the Vampire classes for the Striker role. I think that a Shadow Caster, similar to the one that came in late 3.x from the Tome of Magic (I think) could be developed into a Controller. Either that or take the Nethermancy Mage and move it to the Shadow power source. I don't have a name for a Shadow Defender but I would think he would work somewhat like a mobile defender with some ranged abilities. The Mark and Punishment would maybe be a Shadow Strike that does damage at a range. As for a Shadow Leader, I was thinking that a twist on the vampire concept might work. Something that would take life from the enemies and give it to the allies.

I'm really off-topic here...

To bring it back, I'll say this: 4E did a LOT towards making the game more concise with clearer and more streamlined rules. I also think it did a lot with eliminating a lot of what I call "mechanics for fluff". I don't think that players need to expend resources for non-mechanical things like role-playing. Or, if the system wants to have a skill-point system for non-physical things (Insight, Diplomacy, Bluff, etc), those skill point resources need to be separate from the "crunchy parts" of combat and physical skills. Otherwise the players end up hamstringing their character which results in an internally unbalanced party.

And I think 4E did a good job to more or less fix this.

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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:05 am

To stay off topic for one sentence; A Shadow-sourced caster. Controller. F*ing necromancer.

4e needs a Necromancer, dammit :)Keep it in the 'controller' role by having most of its summons (skeletons, etc.) be mostly good at pinning enemies down, rather than doing lots of damage. Also, limit corporeal undead with corpses present, like Diablo 2. And limit the number of incorporeal undead by level and/or tier. A class that can bring forth minions to hassle and hinder the enemy would be fun. The necromancer could also have (maybe 1 per tier) more permanent summons that function like a beast master rangers' beast....

Ok, that was more than one sentence. Sorry.

They over-compensated for humans in 5e. +1 to all...that's racist. I actually thought humans were handled well in 4e. +2 to one ability score, +1 feat, +1 at-will, and +1 skill....also, +1 to each defense. That's pretty cool. Plus; many of the 'human only' feats rocked.

Another thing I feel they wanted to do with 4e was get rid of confusion in encounter building. 3e tried with its CR system...But, that didn't work. IMO, it didn't work at all. Building encounters in 4e is SO MUCH easier than in previous editions. I can take a brute, a few soldiers or artillery, and a leader monster...add some cool off the cuff terrain, and BOOM. I have an interesting encounter. My only major complaint is that solo's often have too many HP.

Speaking of encounters; the addition of minions was inspired. Little mooks that die in one hit are great. I've enjoyed making encounters a la 'The Walking Dead' several times. 20+ minions. Total bad-ass slash-fest. You couldn't do that in previous editions.

Lastly, I think 4e changed role playing for the better. By not mentioning it. Some took that to mean that role-playing was erased from the game. (This argument: 4e is roll-playing! I want ROLE-playing!!!!1!) You can't make rules for role-playing...It's part improv, part intuition, and part comfort with your gaming group.

I took that to mean that the rules were for concrete things, like combat. And, any role-playing was done by individuals at their game tables. Like it should be. Skill challenges, IMO, are just there for DM's and groups who don't feel comfortable winging it or totally RPing such things. Which probably comes up, especially in a group of strangers at some FLGS playing 'Encounters' for the first time.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:14 am

Overpowered magic-users weren't a problem when I played 1e since we rarely played past 6th or 7th level. But one thing I really like about 4e is that every class is cool from level 1 on.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:28 pm

underpowered magic users were also a problem when I played 1e.. my buddy wins the spell lotto and casts sleep to roll over encounter even ones up to a 4hd ogre... he is potent enough to inspire really hard attempts at the 5mwd. But this other mu is barely equipped to ping something minor once.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Sat Oct 19, 2013 7:51 am

A good place to look for the 4e design goals would be the 4e preview books that came out few months before launch. I have great memories of sitting around with friends in the local Barnes and Noble pouring over those books looking for any clue as to how X class would actually play or how Y mechanic would change. I'm sure those books are online somewhere and would probably be interesting to read now that 4e has had it's life support turned off. I don't remember details, but I think there were some major changes between what was in there and what we got.

For those of you who have no idea, there was a "Class" and "Race" preview book for 4e. Soft cover, round maybe 80 pages or so. There were almost like "alpha" versions of 4e (I sort of consider PHB/DMG/MM 1 all "Beta" versions of 4e) and had some real unique flavor in them.


Off topic: Shadow defender could steal the name Blackguard. Personally, I would like to have seen the Elemental powersource become a thing in addition to Shadow. Then we'd have a powersource for every Planar entity. Divine-Astral Sea, Primal-Feywild, Shadow-Shadowfell, Psionic-Far Realm, Martial-normal, Elemental-Elemental Chaos/Hell.
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PostSubject: Re: Synopsis of the 4e Design Goals   Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:26 am

I thought many of the powers which werent associated with skills... were actually tacitly using them... a Come and Get it is often really just a heroic caliber bluff (where you are leaving an opening) or alternately a charisma trick like a taunt (which should actually have better range) where you were playing off of there ego. There is actual fencing move called an invitation and I have seen real boxers use it recently (the main thing that makes it somewhat ot is that the cagi works against more than one oponent.. and in context of taunting that isnt ot either.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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