17 September 2010

Hear, hear!

I would like to point out a very good statement by a fellow old-schooler at Discourse and Dragons:

All I'm trying to say here is that the whole thing is a damn shame. It's my game too, and I really dislike what has been done to it and the shameless use of classic art recently to sell their lame excuse for D&D.

 Wizards has dropped the ball so goddamned bad that not even half of the community that was playing its 3rd edition have jumped ship. They've completely dropped production on games that are still selling, that still have interest in them in order to focus on their bizarre miniatures/roleplaying game that I really hesitate to call fantasy. They're flooding their own market with low-quality books, and promoting a dependant playstyle where they control everything about your game, from the settings to the "adventure paths" down to the damn rules. It's absolutely insane.

Like the quote above says, the game isn't D&D. This is not an opinion. There is almost nothing intact from old games save the very most superficial similarities. You roll a d20, and there are dwarves, elves, and halflings. There are fighters and clerics and paladins and wizards. And that's where the similarities end. There is absolutely no way you can convince anybody that it's the same game.

I can't place where I got the quote, but it was something about how "the guys who designed 3rd edition are good at rules design, but have no idea what fantasy is." And that's doubled for 4th edition. It's a very tight, rules-heavy system, and some people are into that. But I can't think of a single more boring game than one where your every action is defined either in terms of one of twelve hundred pre-defined combat powers or one of like five skill challenges.

Some people like it, sure. But it sure as hell isn't for me.

Allow me to rebut a post real quick that sums up the gist of the problems with these differing perspectives.
paladin in the citadel, you can't have it both ways. You're claiming that the degree to which a system encourages combat can be deduced from the amount of rules devoted to combat, and whether xp can be obtained from non-combat actions.

It is obvious that earlier editions of D&D had the most focus on combat in the rules. From within the rules as written, how can there be a focus on non-combat methods for getting treasure (for xp) if there are no rules for adjudicating stealth or social interaction? 

The answer, of course, is that the amount of such rules doesn't tell you how much a system encourages combat. By which measure, you can't say that 4e encourages combat.

Alternatively, you can drop your original claim. But you just look silly claiming that a wargame with some acting tacked on is somehow not primarily about combat.

Oh, and have you noticed this argument style of yours, "you disagree with me"="You don't understand the game" or "You are doing it wrong"? You might like to ask yourself how that is helping you make your points.

Firstly, we have a claim that earlier editions of D&D had the most focus on combat in the rules because the system didn't have a method for adjucating stealth or social skills. This reminds me of an enworld thread, where the original poster claimed that being dead didn't have any penalties. Hey, Sherlock, being dead means you're dead. You can't do anything, you're dead. If you need the rules to spell out for you what, exactly, happens when you're dead, then you're either being willfully ignorant, or you are a genuine idiot. And the same thing is here.

Do you know how to adjucate stealth? It isn't by having a pre-formed skill system where you roll dice and then say, "You managed to hide or something." Describe the area, and then let the dude decide where to hide at, and then you go from there. Similarly, with social skills. Your character doesn't have social stats because hey, guess what, you don't need them. You don't roll dice to decide if the dude believes you, you do something called "roleplaying."

Apparently, real roleplaying comes from having systems that do everything for you, so that you just roll dice and then your character does cool stuff. Apparently, roleplaying = rollplaying, to use a horrible phrase. Apparently, the more the game tells you how to play and what to roll in every situation, the more free you are and the better the system is.

But before I digress too heavily, let me point out that the fact that older editions of D&D don't tell you how to roleplay or to hide from things doesn't mean that 4e doesn't encourage combat. Or, to put it in simpler terms: These two things are unrelated.

Guess how you encourage behaviors. Protip: It's by rewarding people for your desired actions. The rewards you get in roleplaying games are experience and treasure. They both make your character stronger. In older editions, 80% of your experience was from treasure. 20% was from slain monsters. This means, in case your head is fuzzy and full of shit, that avoiding monsters and stealing their treasure when they weren't looking, or talking them into giving it to you, or distracting them and luring them away was the best way to get it. Which means that non-combat methods were the safest and easiest ways to get treasure, which is where the majority of your experience will come from. This is leaving aside the fact that treasure is its own inherent reward, of course.

Alternatively, in 4e, you get experience for killing dudes, and then a tinier amount for completing quests or using skill challenges. Other bloggers have detailed this better than I have, and I'll update my post when I figure out the url. But, essentially, you're rewarded for slaying as much as you can, and then you get a much smaller chunk from doing what the DM wants you to do and for rolling a series of dice how the DM directs you to. Sounds a lot like 4e encourages combat, since it's the primary way to gain experience.

And then of course, the obligatory, "It's not fair to tell me that just because I disagree with you, I'm wrong." In this case it is, since you're making claims while getting the facts wrong. Congratulations, you're wrong. Older editions of D&D actually encourage looting, not killing, and 4th edition encourages killing almost exclusively. You can't damn argue facts. This is not opinion.

Like I said above, there's nothing inherently wrong with liking a different style of play. I'm actually a pretty tolerant dude. But 4th edition encourages combat to the extent that it's nearly the only method of reward and older editions do not. We're talking rules as written here, not individual DM decisions, since I've heard of those DMs in older edition games who reward their players primarly for combat and for story and 4th edition DMs who only reward for completing quests. This is irrelevant, and on par with your decision that your version of Monopoly is better than mine because your group decides to give out $300 instead of $200 when you pass Go.

1 comment:

  1. You might be interested in a post I made on my blog recently about what I think is the cause of the flame wars and what WotC should do for 5e to bring the community back on the same page.