Thursday, April 01, 2010

Asinine Statement

Rarely have I had my disdain for 4th edition articulated half so well as by one Rick Moscatello who, in a recent issue of Knights of the Dinner Table, offered up a guest editorial attempting to defend 4th edition from all the "haters."  For those of you who didn't read the article let me provide you with some highlights.

"Granted, one can claim all the classes play more or less the same (a Mage can hold a sword as well as any Fighter), and balance is achieve by simply removing quite a bit from 3.5... Even if a Fighter is now pretty much the same thing as a Wizard, at least all players are always playing an even game." 

Why the hell would I want to play a game where all classes were the same?  How is that a selling point?  Is this where the pursuit of game balance has lead us?  If so get me off this train immediately! 

Maybe instead of focusing on balancing each class at each level designers should focus on balancing them over the life of the campaign.  Sure fighters might shine at low levels, while at higher levels Mages shine.  That's the way it used to be, and while it wasn't perfect, it worked a hell of a lot better than this sloppy mess that this guy is describing. 

I am all for game balance, but what this guy is talking about is simply asinine and, as he himself points out in the article, not D&D. 


Skeletor01 said...

1st let me say A-MEN!

2nd where do I get one of those shits! hahahaha

Labyrinthian said...

Skeletor - You can get it here!

Jeremy Murphy said...

Indeed - almost as asinine and ignorant as commenting on something you clearly don't comprehend. Perhaps you could lecture us on how ignorant theoretical physicists are next.

DeadGod said...

*shrug* I disagree with Moscatello. Your wizard has to spend some feats to use that sword. And even after that, the fighter is still going to wail on the wizard in a stand-up fight because the fighter is going to hit more often and harder.

The fighter plays completely different than the wizard.

But then, maybe I'm preaching to the wrong crowd here.


Well said!

Wait! Now I disagree...

Ah hell... I don't know.


Labyrinthian said...

Wickedmurph - Thanks for the Sarcasm. Perhaps it would have been a better use of your time to make a counter point rather than acting like an ass. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion please keep any and all douche comments to your own site.

DeadGod - Your opinion is completely valid. I too disagree with him, albeit for different reasons. Those who provide rational statements are never preaching to the wrong crowd here though douchebag arguments by 4th edition zealots (see above) certainly are.

Graham said...


First, re: the shirt. I don't know if you made it or someone else did, but whoever did must hate 3e, where a Wizard could pick up a level of Rogue to get Sneak Attack, and 1e/2e, where you could have a multiclassed elf mage/thief who could backstab.

In 4e, as in 3e, a Wizard can hold and swing a sword just fine, but they are far worse at using it than any Fighter, as they are not proficient. As in 3e, they can take a feat and become proficient. Or if they are a 4e eladrin they are automatically proficient with longswords, just like a 3e elf.

Just saying, it's not like it's anything new to D&D to have a Wizard who can backstab or use a longsword. In fact, both of these situations are no easier to bring about in 4e than they were in 3e. (Actually, they're probably harder to bring about, since multiclassing doesn't give weapon proficiencies in 4e, but that's beside the point.)

I've got to go with DeadGod on this one. The person who wrote the original editorial either didn't know what they were saying, or didn't communicate it well.

When building a character, yes, it will be a very similar process for every class. Fighter, Wizard, whatever, you pick race, class, stats, skills, feats, powers, and equipment, all in a very similar manner.

As for why this is a selling point, it allows newer players to try new classes without having to learn a completely new ruleset. (I know one player I had, upon trying her first 3e caster, had a heck of a time getting used to spell selection, vancian magic, and that she rolled for some of her spells, and didn't roll for others. It turned her off of casters for some time.)

In play, however, the classes play very differently from each other, with the exception of the same things that were the same between classes in previous editions (HP, AC, etc), plus the time when powers recharge between encounters (daily, encounter).

The one change that I can say actually brought them closer in play is that Wizards get to roll for their powers now, as attacks against Ref/Fort/Will defenses, instead of Ref/Fort/Will saves. (Mathematically equivalent, but increases mechanical consistency and lets the player feel as though they have more influence over their own spells.)

Honestly, I don't expect everyone to like 4e. I do, you obviously don't, and that's fine. It is different from older versions, after all, and not everyone will like that.

But this editorial? I'm sorry, but if the rest is like the part you quoted, he obviously doesn't know the game he's trying to defend.

As an alternative to having some guy (whose name I don't recognise) support your dislike of 4e through not knowing what he's talking about, I would like to make you an offer.

If you would like answers to some of the questions you obviously have about the new edition of the game (I say obviously, because you explicitly/implicitly asked a few of them in this post), I'd be glad to have a frank, open conversation with you about them. I am a sane, non-zealot fan of D&D 4e, and I'd like to think that I can explain whatever you might be curious about, from design decisions to why we like the game in general.

I'll watch these comments for a while, if you want to ask me things here, or feel free to email me. My email address is:

Again, I have nothing against people who dislike 4e. But I'd rather have them dislike it for valid reasons (and there are valid reasons to not like 4e), rather than based on the uninformed ramblings of a bad editorial.

Anonymous said...

"balancing them over the life of the campaign."

To start let me state that I think balance is a good thing on the whole. From that perspective the reason I don't agree with your statement is that (especially in older editions) the life of a campaign (or specifically the character in question) is a pretty sketchy gamble. I would much rather have a game where the majority of the people have something to to do the majority of the time, as opposed to one where one class is the star for the early levels (where in my experiences I spent most of my time in older editions) and then fades as another class becomes godlike.

And much like Graham I don't really care if you like 4e in particular, but the quote doesn't really make me think that the article as a whole is a very good example to use. Well. I mean it is if you want to cherry pick on 4e, but it's a really crappy defense of the game.

Labyrinthian said...

Graham - Thank you for your rational arguments in support of 4th edition. I would love to hear what you feel are the better aspects of 4th edition that make it a fun game to play.

Anonynos - I think there is a difference between balance and having something to do. I certainly am not suggesting that it is good when any character is unable to contribute toward the party's goals. That would be frustrating and no fun for that player. Does a mage need Magic Missile as an at will ability to be useful? I don't think so, but perhaps you do.

In summation my post was in reference to an editorial about 4th edition. I didn't write that editorial nor do I know its author personally. I encourage people to read it for themselves and let me know if they think the writer presents a fair picture of 4E. Some certainly feel the answer to that question is no. I appreciate those who have (and hopefully will continue) to present lucid and rational arguments for either side of the debate.

Labyrinthian said...

Re: The Shirt

lol No I didn't make it. Further I don't believe that the makers intended to comment on game mechanics with the words printed on this shirt. Rather I think they sought to voice the opinion of many who felt betrayed or "backstabbed" by Wizards (of the Coast) by the publications of 4th edition.

I don't make the shirt, nor do I own one... I just thought it was funny.

Graham said...

Re: shirt -

Ah, that makes far more sense. I was just assuming things about it based on the editorial quote, I guess. That makes more sense.

I do find it telling that they call it a propaganda shirt, though...


So far as the editorial goes, I'm not sure where I'd be able to access it. Suffice it to say, this small excerpt is not a fair picture of 4e, but I can't comment beyond that.

Re: not being able to contribute to the party's goals (2 comments up, in reply to Anonynos) -

Actually, I think that if you delve into the changes that 4e made, the majority were to combat the "not able to meaningfully contribute at times" issue.

Let's take the Magic Missile at-will example.

Is it fun to be able to fire off at-will magic missiles? Well, sure, but that's not the main reason they did it.

They made Magic Missile at-will because, essentially, it wasn't before. Or, more specifically, it wasn't before, and this caused two interrelated problems.

1) Your Magic Missiles ran out quickly. At this point, you were down to hiding in the corner or shooting a crossbow. Neither of these feels particularly "wizardy" to me. I don't remember Raistlin in Dragonlance ever drawing a crossbow, for instance. In 3e, you could toss out a few Acid Orbs, but not a lot else. Not feeling like you're able to play the character you want to, because to contribute you have to break out the crossbow, isn't a lot of fun.

2) When you did run out of Magic Missiles, you stopped meaningfully contributing to combat. If you bring out the crossbow or sling your Dex is probably mediocre at best, and your BAB in 3e is crap, so you're mostly just wasting arrows. If, instead, you hide in the corner, you are literally doing nothing. This can, of course, be mitigated with a very good GM using terrain and skills effectively, but if you have a new GM, or are a new player, you tend to feel like you have nothing more meaningful to do.

So yes, even making Magic Missile an at-will spell is all about enabling characters to meaningfully contribute to the party's actions and goals more often.

So, is there anything in particular that bothers you about 4e? Those big things that just make you go "Gah! Why did you do that?"

Anonymous said...

I haven't played a campaign to any appreciable level in a long time.

Modern gaming groups either aren't interested in long drawn out campaigns or, more likely, can't hold a gaming group together for that long.

The campaign time scale is a secondary concern these days.

Graham said...

@Anonymous -

While I disagree that only Modern groups did such things, that's a very good point.

Many groups will play short campaigns at varying level ranges. If we have a short campaign that only goes from levels 1-5, and the Wizard is comparatively useless at those levels, the player won't can that he'd be awesome at level 15, because he'll never reach it.

Many groups decide to "play an epic game", where they jump in at level 20 for a campaign. If the Fighter is constantly outshined by the Wizard at said level, he similarly won't care that his character would have been useful at lower levels, as for this campaign he is relegated to being a blob of hit points standing in front of the mages.

So, yes, the characters should be balanced over the life of the campaign.

But just what the "life of a campaign entails" can not be assumed as "levels 1-20".

As such, making every class able to contribute at every level became a primary design goal for 4e.

Labyrinthian said...

Graham - posted some of my concerns about 4th edition in a post and would love to hear your thoughts. As I mention there I have never played the game only read the books so maybe some things play differently than they read.

Doom said...

This snippet really has been taken a bit out of context, and some folks clearly demonstrate inexperience with the game in their replies.

Not counting feats and powers and magic weapons, a level 20 wizard that starts with 18 strength and increases it the same way a fighter would, would be around +16 to hit with a sword (not counting proficiency bonus).

A fighter would be at +17. So, yeah, the author is a bit off here, but that's not that much of a difference, and by level 30 it's relatively narrower, of course.

The author is probably arguing more more a mathematical point of view than a subjective one, is all. Considering it's just a snippet and not intended to be an extensive discussion, such a small error is hardly worth the name-calling.