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Author Topic: [D&D 4e] Combat and Reward Systems  (Read 4219 times)
Chris_Chinn
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Posts: 280


« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2011, 02:11:17 PM »

Hi Nate,

I've only listed gamist games.  I'll leave it to other folks who are more versed in sim games as to which ones are coherent.

I agree it sounds like your group has incoherency issues going on.  I haven't kept up with the ever-expanding list of supplemental D&D4E books, but, basically the initial book spread I possessed didn't have that problem.

That said, sometimes a coherent set of rules can help a group coordinate, sometimes it doesn't.  It highly depends on whether the group meets where the rules are, or whether folks end up cherry picking and creatively interpreting the system to favor what they assume "all roleplaying is like this".

I don't necessarily recommend this for your group, but this might shed some insight into areas of conflict for you to look at:

http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-same-page-tool/

Or, Jono's flowchart is also an excellent example of common problems in these cases:

http://www.evilbrainjono.net/blog?permalink=864

I mention this a lot, but basically it's like getting together with a bunch of friends and saying, "We're playing cards!" without any indication of what card game you're actually playing.   Everyone's playing the game they THINK should be played, talking past each other, and saying, "Hey, you're playing wrong!" when one person is playing Poker, another Hearts, and a third is playing Go Fish.

A common set of rules is crucial, but the other step to that is making sure everyone is committed and actually interested in the rules.   A lot of our hobby has been built on "one-way-ism" where people have been told "the RIGHT way" to roleplay, and then attempt to use that for every rpg in existence.  Which is also part of the reason you find a lot of blame and argumentation- the expectation is that everyone should be playing "right" without ever agreeing to a common "right" way in the first place.

If your group can step back and consider trying to playing a single way, then a coherent game can work.  The flip side of that, though, is that single way may not be for everyone involved- and they'll decide it's not what they're into. 

Effectively, the guy who only wants to play Poker is only going to be interested when it's Poker time, and the guy who only wants to play Hearts will only be interested in Hearts time, and the people who are more flexible will be interested accordingly.

Figuring out what that means for your group might be an easy, "Oh, ok, this is easier" or it might be a rough social situation if everyone imagines sticking together is more important than actually having fun.   There's a lot of geek self esteem tied up into having a stable group rather than actually having fun.

Chris
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LostSoul
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2011, 06:38:46 PM »

Well lets start there- how come 4e doesn't support Step on Up play very well? I mean, using standard encounters and treasure parcels it sure doesn't- but what about a campaign with an indifferent world of varying level? Or a megadungeon similar to Diablo or Torchlight?

Hi Nate;

I've been rolling this around in my head for a while.  I'm not sure that it doesn't support all sorts of Step on Up play well.  I came to the game expecting the sort of Step on Up play I experienced playing D&D - B/X, AD&D, and 2nd edition AD&D - and I think that's where it falls down.  I think it might support another type, but I'm not sold on that idea.

Anyway.

The biggest issue I can see is that the DMG doesn't talk about restricting Extended Rests.  As you know, an Extended Rest is what replenishes your Daily Powers - your ability to "nova", to use all the resources you have to overcome an encounter.  If Extended Rests are easily replenished - and in the modules and the DMGs I don't believe there is much pressure put on the conditions of when you can take one - it seems to me that you've got an optimal solution to the game.  Encounter - Extended Rest - Encounter - Extended Rest - repeat.  No encounter within the range the DMG suggests will provide a challenge; in addition, only Encounter-based healing matters, thus Healing Surges per day are meaningless, what you really care about is the number of Healing Words or Inspiring Words that you have access to.

So that's the first issue: Extended Rests are an optimal solution.

(A little bit of AP here: I was playing through one of the Dungeon Delves as a one-shot.  In the course of the first encounter, I totally screwed up and brought the second encounter down upon us.  After we defeated them - at the cost of many Daily powers - I thought, "Why don't we just take an Extended Rest?"  That would have made the next encounter a breeze.  We decided not to because it would have been cheap.  I don't thing the game should reward that kind of "cheap" play.)

The second issue is that rewards are not tied to player ability.  This manifests in two different ways: XP and treasure (both GP and magic items).  If your PC does die, it's not a big deal: you return to the game at the same level as all the other PCs.  (What's the point of spending 500+ GP to raise a dead PC if you can build another one at the same level?)  That means that there isn't a failure for screwing up at the player level.  Treasure comes into it because it's based on PC level; you can't get more treasure than expected for your level by playing "smart", or less by playing poorly.  If you do manage to kill that level 5 solo dragon at 1st level, your rewards will be the same as if you defeated 500 XP worth of goblins.

So that's the second issue: There are no rewards for playing well, and no penalties for playing poorly.

(Of course there are social rewards at the table, but the game doesn't highlight them.  You can play Step on Up and decide to take out that 5th-level solo dragon with smart play, but the game doesn't provide a feedback loop if you do so.)

3rd issue: the DMG advises you to balance encounters to the abilities of the party by removing or adding monsters.  Smart play - and this can be seen explicitly in the advice on how to use rituals - isn't supposed to have an effect on how the encounter plays out.  The encounter is supposed to be exactly as challenging, or not, as the DM has pre-determined.

4th issue: Now this is where I am waffling.  While smart play within a tactical encounter can display the prowess (or lack thereof) of different players, in the end it doesn't really matter, since the DMG encourages only using encounters that are easily defeated.  Combine this with the fact that Extended Rests are easy to come by and it doesn't matter if you defeated the "hard" encounter by spending all your Daily resources, or wasted your Daily resources on an "easy" encounter.

What I think the game is set up to provide is the Right to Dream - you are D&D heroes in a setting that needs you, provided with lots of neat abilities and colour that you can draw on when you feel the time is right; you're never really going to be challenged, and if you do somehow lose face, the game treats it as if it never happened.  No smart play can make things easier, no poor play can make things more difficult.

It says on the box that the world needs HEROES, and heroes you shall play.

I think this is why the "powergamer" in your group made mincemeat of the encounters you put before him.  Smart players will chew up the expected 4E encounters, spit them out, and ask where the meal is.

There are a lot of different ways to solve this problem; my hack is one.  I know you're calling it simulationist, but the changes I made were to explicitly challenge the player to Step on Up.  The exploration-heavy features are there because 1) nostalgia and 2) a consistent setting allows for the kind of meaningful player choice I was looking for - if there's a dam upstream from the gnoll lair, destroying the dam might be the best way to deal with those demon-worshipping bastards.
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Dave Lucas
Erik Weissengruber
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Posts: 601

Designing "In this Sign, Conquer:


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« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2011, 03:11:52 PM »

Not to reduce Step on Up Play to wargaming, but ...

Time is a resource to be spent intelligently.

I liked early RPGs that gave you the option to sit out from direct conflict but then put you at risk for other happenings.  It reminded me of wargames that integrated tactical and strategic levels, or differentiated skirmish from full battle.

You might cop to an Extended Rest but watch out where you do it.

If you want to take a breather in the Swamps of the Vampire Necromancer, don't whine when the zombie mudshark comes to get you.

If, however, you spend the night on a plateau above the plain and set watch, cool.  But in those 8 hours stuff should be happening ... a friend gets closer to sacrifice, the mangonels get wheeled up to your mama's fortress, the dragon egg nears hatching, etc.
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Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2011, 05:46:23 PM »

Today's game was interesting. 4 PCs, 1 DM, 4.5 hours of play, level 3-4 party.

Things began normally with the PCs attacking some orc ships and murdering a big group of higher level orcs. Then one PC fell overboard, so another jumped in the water to save him. Having both "evil" PCs in the water simultaneously the "good" warden set sail and left them to drown. They narrowly survived (no fiat, this was in the wake of a boarding attempt so the wet PCs stole a lifeboat from the burning orc ship).

We decided the party would never reunite, and that the warden assumed the other PCs were dead and gone. The warden holed up at the inn for a few days to heal up while the other 2 PCs went to the dragon to get his cooperation in revenging themselves against the warden.

Seeing as the dragon had no interest in eating an undead guy, and had never eaten a goliath, the dragon agreed to minorly help them in exchange for a good meal. The dragon awoke the Warden and the PC that had allied with him with a blast of lightning through the inn's window, then stood aside while the psion and ranger attempted to get their revenge.

The psion spent most of her actions either rolling death saving throws, or pleading with the dragon to help her. She rolled really well, a 28 diplomacy, so the dragon hesitantly agreed to intervene. The warden was eaten with the other PC.

It was a good fight. Compared to the 12 orcs, the PCs are good enemies for one another. I had no idea how things would turn out.

I'm using the opportunity to reboot the campaign a bit but I need to work out exactly what sort of game will be fun for me to run.
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stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2011, 03:41:32 PM »

I like your fame idea, as long as it doesnt prevent the party from going on quests at all.  the game is about fighting monsters and getting their stuff in order to be able to fight bigger and more dangerous monsters then take their stuff.  Thats the game.  If you dont like it, play a different game, there are tons out there!  So yeah, add fame seems reasonable as another variable in that equation that might highlight certain peripheral skills, but not if it stalls the real meat of the game from happening at all.  Players gotta fight!

the game is about fighting monsters and getting their stuff in order to be able to fight bigger and more dangerous monsters then take their stuff. -- thats why your idea of taking XP away from fighting and putting it somewhere else is just breaking the game with a massive sledgehammer.
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stefoid
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« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2011, 03:49:19 PM »

And there is nothing wrong with min-maxing, its a perfectly valid design choice!    Strong in one area, weak in others is just a design choice, its not cheating or wrong.   By all means underline the consequences of being weak in those areas in battle by poking those weak spots, but dont hack the game to force people to jump through hoops and modify their designs in ways that dont concern what the game is about.   
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Callan S.
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« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2011, 04:34:03 PM »

I don't think D&D is about anything to begin with - the lack of a connection between char gen and monsters is one major indicator of that. Stefoid, I don't think Nates disrupting anything that is actually physically present in the texts.
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stefoid
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« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2011, 04:57:54 PM »

Its definately about tactical combat. 

What connectedness between char gen and monsters are you looking for?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2011, 05:21:57 PM »

I'm not sure I understand the question? A point where the author introduces generated characters to monsters.
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stefoid
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« Reply #24 on: March 22, 2011, 06:07:10 PM »

I don't think D&D is about anything to begin with - the lack of a connection between char gen and monsters is one major indicator of that. Stefoid, I don't think Nates disrupting anything that is actually physically present in the texts.

I dont know what this means, can you give an example?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2011, 06:45:24 PM »

In the warhammer quest board game, for example, the wizard rolls 1 on his power roll the author's given a written a rule saying you draw a card from the random monster deck.
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Kevin Vito
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« Reply #26 on: March 23, 2011, 04:33:07 AM »

In oldschool D&D, some of the classes have an incentive to seek out and destroy enemies of a certain type through features that make them well suited to the task. Clerics and Paladins are highly effective against undead enemies such as vampires thanks to their Turn Undead feature.Rangers are highly effective against goblins, orcs, and giants as they have a feature that gives them bonuses when attacking enemies of the giant type. Elves and dwarves get a similar bonus against that type.
4E doesn't really have that so much...

Is that what you are talking about Callan?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: March 23, 2011, 03:09:41 PM »

Hi Kevin,

Well, no - what your describing still doesn't include where the games author tells you to bring in a monster. In terms of combat/conflict, that's a pretty pivotal absence. I mentioned this to nate on his blog, and he said (quoting myself first)
Quote
"It never, ever draws that line from build character to kill stuff. It never, anywhere in the rules says when to bring in a monster."

That's kind of weird come to think of it. It's not in the rules, though it is suggested in the encounters part of the DMG. Not a rule though.
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stefoid
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« Reply #28 on: March 23, 2011, 03:26:19 PM »

Yeah, I think the authors thought it was so obvious that they didnt need to say it though, like - you might feel more comfortable if you play at a table using chairs.

No as to whether they should have thought that -- whole other debate.
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #29 on: March 25, 2011, 09:56:39 PM »

Sorry for so long with no reply. School's crazy!

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Well, I can speak for myself.  I've been DMing a D&D game for, oh, six months now or so, roughly once every two weeks (down at the Sentry Box -- woo!); the PCs just hit level 4.

Yay Sentry Box! Another Calgarian ;D

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[4e] Is definately about tactical combat.

In 4e a particular point that bothers me is the importance of stat blocks. Most fights are contests between stat blocks more than anything else, even more than tactical combat (assuming basic proficiency with tactical combat).

For example, when goblins attack the party... the PCs slaughter them! As long as the PCs aren't level 1 or maybe 2, it doesn't even matter how many goblins there are- I've extensively tested this :D The reasons the PCs are "destined to win" is because their stat blocks are just so much stronger. It's foremost a game of contesting stat blocks- that's why character creation matters so much, and many of the most important player decisions are made when building the character.

As a house rule I'm considering doubling all the situational modifiers- for example, +4 with combat advantage instead of +2, -8 for heavy cover instead of -4. That way tactics matter more. In-game player decisions would carry more weight!

To relate this to my other thread, the relative importance of stat blocks over tactics is another factor prejudicing the game towards DM passivity- the DM can't really challenge the PCs with tactics, he has to challenge them with encounter building ahead of time :p

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In oldschool D&D, some of the classes have an incentive to seek out and destroy enemies of a certain type through features that make them well suited to the task.

That would be a neat mechanic if it was woven deeper into the game design :D Especially for sandbox play.

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And there is nothing wrong with min-maxing, its a perfectly valid design choice!

Agreed. It makes sense for 4e. There's an advantage of premade modules over self-made modules because of how the module doesn't take the particular characters into account- they're pretty objectively neutral! (if easy).

Now if only the modules were any good... :)

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your idea of taking XP away from fighting and putting it somewhere else is just breaking the game with a massive sledgehammer.

...sort of agreed. The major problem, to me, is the lack of supporting mechanics for non-combat activities. There's very very few rules for travel, sneaking and exploring except for skill challenges, which I sort of dislike.
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