Thursday 18 November 2010

4e is grinding my gears

Don't get me wrong, folks, I love me a slice of 4e and my players really enjoy it, so I would never quit on them. But lately I've been finding niggles in the system that have grown into giant puss-filled growths that are about ready to explode.

For one thing, combat can really drag. Yes, monsters have some pretty nifty powers, but strategic players can often reach points when they take a long time to decide what the hell to do; and this isn't their fault. The system is just too rigid: "Well if I swap my movement for a minor then I can draw my crossbow, but I need to shift to see the target. If I just move I provoke an attack of opportunity and then I can only put my sword away but not pull out my crossbow." I much prefer combat to be fluid, like in Tunnels and Trolls. I get that some people enjoy the tactical wargaming aspect of 4e, but it can slow a game down quite a bit.

I've also been finding that checks are replacing roleplay. This is a big complaint in 4e but has only recently been annoying me. "I check for traps", rolls dice. But how are you checking? Where are you checking? "I use history to see if I know anything about this place". Should this not be knowledged uncovered in-game from roleplaying?

I don't know. To be honest it's really the way you DM the game and how your players like to play. Some of mine like roleplaying and others prefer the tactical thinking in combat, no matter how metagamey it can be. In the end, the things that annoy me aren't necessarily the things that my players are getting irritated with. If my players are enjoying themselves then both me and the system are doing our jobs.


  1. Um.
    --Does that dragon-chick have breasts?

    Sorry; okay, back on task.

    Do your 4e Players also play T&T?
    --Would a brief 'your 4e characters find themselves in Trollworld' scenario where you have their characters converted to T&T beforehand, and then run them through a session under the T&T system (which do you run: 5.x or 7.x?).
    ---You and they may be surprised at how much transfers easily, and how teamwork and the T&T combat mechanism work well together. Perhaps even keeping the grid (not so much for movement, but once engaged in melee)?

    I prefer much of the older D&Ds, but had to replace the d20 combat with something more T&Tish, and it is working well -- much faster, and often rather challenging.

    I wish you well,

  2. "--Would a brief ... 7.x?)." should have included:

    7.x?) be possible, or would the Players revolt at the mere suggestion?

    Sorry about that.

  3. I run T&T with them every now and again. They really enjoy it. I play 7.5 with them. Curious about your D&D/T&T hybrid mechanics. Sounds like it could be cool.

  4. I'm there. Just posted my notes on how I converted level 1 D&D characters to level 1 T&T characters.

    What I left out was something I haven't written yet, but have been considering for a while for the martial powers & feats: favored tactics. Favored tactics would list a few SR-based stunts martial-type characters might try in combat when things are going against them; any delver could attempt tactics from anyone else's list, but the list would serve as training wheels for helping them grok what's possible with Tunnels & Trolls.

  5. One thing I've noticed is that the 4e format in the books is condusive to a rigid mindset. Everything has a yes/no answer and is neatly defined.... which is totally unrealistic. If you happen to use 4e rules, but maintain a loose mindset, then all is well, but not a lot of gamers do that. My 4e game is fun, and technically follows 4e rules, but the DM lets the story unfold and most of the players are new to RPGs so they don't realize how loosely we follow the rules.

    I think it's great!

  6. On rolling without roleplaying :

    One rule i added to my 4e game is "Describe/roleplay your action first, then roll the dice *-*IF*-* the DM asks you too.
    If you roll before i ask, i ignore the roll and ask you to describe/roleplay your action."

    My players now get it and do it .. this cuts alot of rolling since i will give them the info/action/whatever without rolling if they have a high enough passive score (I check if they are trained in the skill mostly).

    I hate that players limit themselves to the dice since they don't seem to get that they have a 40-60% miss rate.

    When they describe/roleplay their action, they get 100% "success" since i just keep the action flowing, unless there's a consequence on a "miss". When a situation with a miss consequence happens, then the dice is out and makes my job easier to describe the miss since i know what they tried to do.

    And for long combats.. well, i have a few ideas :
    -have easy battles (level -1, level or level+1 encounters for "non-critical" battles. Since harder battles = longer rounds. I've been lucky for now and my easy battles are only 2-3 rounds maximum. But i do have an optimized rogue and heavy-hitting barbarian that can easily dish out a combined 50 damage per round at level 5.

    -More minions, less soldiers - makes a good show for a battle, without alot of management or time dedicated

    -Have "end-games" ex.:
    if more than ½ die > the rest surrender or flee
    if leader dies > the rest stop
    if they down 1 PC > they have done their job.. etc etc..

    -Should not be used often, but a time-limit (1-2 minutes) on a decision or the player delays is action for later.

    After a while, they should know their character and have established group tactics.. but that's not everyone bag since one of my players is still asking if he can change his move action to a standard action after 2 years of playing 4th..