Author Topic: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E  (Read 3669 times)

Dragon Master

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[D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« on: November 08, 2013, 07:05:11 PM »
Coming to this discussion rather late, and I've only read about halfway through page 2, but I wanted to comment on something.

@Ron: Reading over your post about how you'd run 4E, it's definitely something I'd want to try. I don't have a lot of D&D background, so I'm sure much of the flavor is lost on me, but what draws me is the style of play. It's much closer to what I was expecting RPGs to be like when I first started playing, and also much closer to what I tend to mean when using the term Sandbox (though I may well be the only person using it that way). Limited on time right now, but I'll clarify when I get home tonight.

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2013, 12:05:42 AM »
Hey James,

As it happens, I've almost managed to organize a game, and I've had a ball preparing materials for it. Let me know what you're thinking, and we can discuss it here as well as check out my prep discussion. I'll post various documents when I get the chance.

Teaser (finalized version):

Character races = githzerai, shifter, minotaur, shardmind, wilden
Primary character classes = ardent, battlemind, psion, monk
Secondary character classes = barbarian, ranger, shaman, seeker, warden

You can play one of the primary classes as is, or hybridize one of the primaries with one of the secondaries. No other options besides these.

Best, Ron

Adding for clarity - the above was split from [D&D 4E] My goth guy is much tougher than yours.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2013, 01:22:36 AM by Ron Edwards »

Dragon Master

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2013, 12:32:10 AM »
Based on your brief description, I'm picturing a sort of post apocalyptic region. The races of Men, Dwarves, and Elves battling among the ruin of past civilizations, battling over scarce resources, and scarcer habitable areas. If the PCs were of those three races, then when they came upon a battlefield and saw their own race on one side, it would be an easy choice to fight on the side of their people. But if they are outsiders, then they have no such easy choice.

When I was younger, before I'd so much as picked up an RPG text, I had an image of how an RPG was played (no idea where I got it at though). I pictured a group of explorer/mercenaries who traveled in a setting with situations all around them that were reaching the tipping point between Chaos and Order. I pictured them traveling for a while, till they found a place they came to call home, then settling down to protect their plot of land, maybe eventually expanding their territory into a small kingdom. Over the years, whenever I heard someone talk about Sandbox play, that's what I pictured. A world full of plot hooks, some too small to concern yourself with, some too big to take on just now*. Thought I suppose this might be better described as a Buffet than a Sandbox.

After reading that post, and while thinking about how to word all of this, I came to two conclusions.
1. I need to borrow the D&D books from my buddy to see if I can work with the ruleset to run this setting (since no one else in my circles is likely to do it).
and 2. While I've always loved Story Now style games, and have heavily pushed those in groups I've gamed with, my play style, and the way I build and treat my characters might fit better in a Step on Up group where 5 and 6 are strongly enforced.**

*When I ran a Shadowrun campaign a while back using the Dunkelzahn's Secrets setting info, this is the kind of play I was hoping to get from the players, though I wasn't able to articulate that at the time.
** Though of course that's just speculation at the moment as I don't have patience for char gen in most systems that I've run into that are presented as catering to that style of play.

Judd

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2013, 12:54:11 AM »
Githzarai over Githyanki?! /nerdrage

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2013, 01:07:05 AM »
More details based on the posts ...

1. No Githyanki ever, never existed. Maybe mind flayers, heavily re-conceived.

2. No men, elves, dwarves, et cetera, never existed. Significantly, humans don't set a tacit gold standard the way they do in canonical D&D, so shifters aren't "half-human," and so on.

And in line with those, you can probably guess, no fighters, wizards, clerics, et al., never existed.

It was a sylvan paradise or at least quite nice world with shifters, hamadryads, that sort of thing, lovely trees ...

... then the horrible cataclysm hit, probably due to aberrant villainy. There's a reason the primary character classes are all psionic, no one else could excel in the new normal.

Moebius meets Ditko - this is the kind of whacked wasteland where you're sometimes adventuring in a blasted pit of horror, sometimes in a future that may or may not come to pass, sometimes in a particularly strong memory or hope, sometimes in a void between fragments of the physical world.

Erik Weissengruber

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2013, 08:28:45 PM »
Moebius meets Ditko - this is the kind of whacked wasteland where you're sometimes adventuring in a blasted pit of horror, sometimes in a future that may or may not come to pass, sometimes in a particularly strong memory or hope, sometimes in a void between fragments of the physical world.

A marriage made in the 5th Dimension.

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2013, 12:07:45 AM »
In another thread, Erik asked me:
Quote
What does your playing table look like, Ron. Do you have a barebones sketch, graphpaper, wipeable vinyl sheet, a full on pile of toys? Do you lurk behind a GM screen? What kind of play pieces and tangibles do you dole out when you run your dungeons? Secret rolls? Those were all practices I was immersed in back in '79-'80.
And then clarified:
Quote
What kind of play materials have you used for recent explorations of the D&D phylum, and what kind do you think will play a role in your upcoming game?

I think it makes more sense to answer the part about my 4E prep in this thread. Here is the first draft of the handout I'll be providing to players. I'm still fiddling with its exact wording, but I'm satisfied with the sections on the point of play and the rewards.

My current vision of 4E play does include a map space, but I think I'll get a whiteboard marked with one-inch squares (2.54 cm) and draw whatever I need to on it. Quite a bit of the game mechanics rely on such a grid, including many of the powers - much more so than Champions play ever did for me, for example. I don't plan to use representative miniatures and am considering forbidding them, and I won't use a screen or hide my dice rolls.

I'm also considering photocopying the characters' powers from the book, in color, and cutting them out to use as cards during play. I've found that I at least process their use better that way - one can, for example, productively arrange them to prepare for a given tactical sequence,* and set aside the ones that can only be used once per day or once per encounter.

Best, Ron

* In the current game, Hank can stalk a single foe to gain combat advantage, then gain an add-on power to his main striking power due to the advantage, then if he bloodies the guy (likely), he can gain temporary hit points, then he can burn temporary hit points to do extra damage ... it's sort of insane. Arranging the powers as cards really helps.

Judd

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2013, 12:59:45 AM »
My current vision of 4E play does include a map space, but I think I'll get a whiteboard marked with one-inch squares (2.54 cm) and draw whatever I need to on it. Quite a bit of the game mechanics rely on such a grid, including many of the powers - much more so than Champions play ever did for me, for example. I don't plan to use representative miniatures and am considering forbidding them, and I won't use a screen or hide my dice rolls.

Having a map of some kind is really important for 4E, where folks can push and trade places and do all kinds of shit with the battlefield. I have been enjoying taking pretty maps from online or my own hideous drawn-on-the-spot maps and marking little arrows and shit all over it when a battle occurs. Fun times.

I'm in love with the world and color described in hand-out you made for the game. My nerdrage at githzarai over githyanki is quelled and forgotten. I ran a game years ago where NPC minotaurs had a religious about choices and the labyrinth and I think your minotaur are clearly the distilled even better drink-from-the-firehose brethren. While reading over the pages I found myself wishing there was a glossy, WOTC high-production thing to go along with it.

Can't wait to read the AP. Is there a similarity between how you are setting this game up and how you used to set up the ole Champions games back in the day?

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2013, 03:14:37 PM »
One quibble:

Quote
While reading over the pages I found myself wishing there was a glossy, WOTC high-production thing to go along with it.

I find that thought pretty horrible. What I want to see, in that format and as supported by promotion as the current (bleah) Baldur's Gate mess is, is a methodology, tutorial, play, and assessment process for people to learn how to do it.

But quibbles aside, and on to your question, I'm doing what I should have done back in the Champions days in terms of setup structure. There are two "zones" of activity, both accessible to the player-characters and both mildly problematic to their interests: a battleground and a nearby vortex. Each one features an assortment of active participants tagged/built as encounters. But where they go, whom they choose to approach, and what they choose to do upon interacting with them, is open to the players' decisions. I will of course play the NPCs and monsters quite intensely, in that there is a solid range between straight-up hostile/dangerous vs. tricky or flexible, vs. potentially quite helpful. (The handout explains how this is related to leveling-up.)

Whereas in the Champions game, I set up and usually managed to follow a distinctive five-session chapter sequence throughout play, often pre-naming episodes, and about 75% of the action was imposed via Bangs rather than chosen or sought by the players.

The Champions game differed most specifically in being consistently Narrativist among all of us (although not always successfully, that being a matter of competence), whereas here I'm totally about the Gamism, itself embedded in relevant and fun imagined material. But since I've found that both agendas share a very broad overlap if structure/function techniques, your question is completely unhindered by that distinction. I only bring it up because I knew a lot of people who played Champs exactly like I'm intending to play 4E, so I'm avoiding confusion about that.

Hey Judd, make up a character for it. I'd like to see someone do that.

Judd

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2013, 05:47:33 PM »
When I say WotC production, I mean WotC money and Judd Art Direction.

If I can find someone who has the 4E books around, I certainly will. Right when I was moving from upstate, a friend of mine was starting to participate in a 4E game and I gave him the books in order to clear room for other stuff and make sure I didn't overwhelm our NYC apartment with gaming hard-covers.

:(

That said, I'm pretty sure a gaming buddy in NYC has the books and if so, I'll borrow one and make up a character. Which book(s) would I need?

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2013, 07:50:03 PM »
It turned out I had to get more than I wanted ...

OK, you need the Player's Handbook if you want to hybridize with the Ranger class. Otherwise it's only important for rules and for magic items, so not an issue now.

The PHB2 has the Shifter race and most of the other classes to hybridize with: Shaman, Warden, and Barbarian.

The main one is the PBH3, with the other races (Githzerai, Minotaur, Shardmind, Wilden) and the primary classes (Ardent, Battlemind, Monk, Psion) and one of the hybridize-classes (Seeker). If you wanted to stay simple, you could just use those races and classes with this one book.

I have just acquired the Psionic Power which is full of mostly gratuitous splat, but also with cool add-ons. My thought is to avoid overwhelming the introductory options, though, so I'd allow someone to use the stuff in it, but won't try to wrap all that new stuff into my handout.

Thunder_God

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2013, 03:17:39 AM »
Quote
I find that thought pretty horrible. What I want to see, in that format and as supported by promotion as the current (bleah) Baldur's Gate mess is, is a methodology, tutorial, play, and assessment process for people to learn how to do it.

What do you mean by this, including the reference to the Baldur's Gate framework we operate under?

Ron Edwards

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Re: [D&D 4E] Psychedelic ectoplasmic barbaric 4E
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2013, 02:04:19 PM »
Where to start.

1. Baldur's Gate and the entire framework of setting in which it is embedded is outrageously bad and stupid fantasy. The rest of my points do not rely on this one but it must be said. If one is to re-tool, re-imagine, and re-design whatever-it-is we do under the aegis of "TSR" and "Dungeons & Dragons," then there is no reason to preserve this repulsive artifact. Let it die with THAC0.

2. My current experience with this material is publisher-directed, mandated, and scheduled play in perfect accordance with what I've described as orthodox play: (1) co-opting the homogeneous textual directions across multiple tables from competitive tournament play, plus (2) imposing a sequence of setting events and pre-fabricated encounters and calling it a "story," to be delivered by the insider/knowledgeable DM to the gawking, helpless, compliant group of appreciative players. It is literally a terrible play experience lightened solely by the enjoyment of on-the-spot fight tactics, at least until you understand that the DM is also completely in charge of the consequences of the fight, for your characters, for his or her NPCs, and for the so-called "story."

3. The real people playing contribute nothing. The real people playing learn nothing. The real people playing are culturally coded as, and internalize themselves as, nothing but customers, or technically speaking, consumers.

It is horrible.

4. Play materials can teach differently. They can show people how to cherry-pick compelling material from the vast array of options, starting at any point (monsters, character options, item lists, whatever), to use as a kernel of constraint and inspiration, from there to build utterly unique play, utterly unique settings, and utterly unique sequences of emergent events. They can show people how to develop an array of possibilities for scenarios and encounters rather than a linear sequence. They can show people how to learn from what happens at the table, both to get better at managing the option-heavy mechanics and to become better inter-actors/participants in the activity itself.

4E had the unique opportunity to do this because its design, for the first time in the history of D&D publishing, is a fucking great game.*

That would be amazing. But as long as we get this programmed-play Baldur's Gate shit instead, we dig deeper into the hole of idiotic, teat-sucking, twenty-minutes-of-fun-in-four-hours confirmation of our identity as captive customers.

Best, Ron

* 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder does not suck, but neither is it great. It is, as Tweet said so accurately, "the ground-breaking innovative game of 1987."