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Default Spiderweb Games - My Life's Tour Through D&D, Part 2

February 18th, 2012, 14:05
Jeff Vogel continues his journey through D&D and, as usual, takes a contrary position to many:
And then, after an absence of over a decade, I returned to D&D, only to find that the universe has completely changed. People say that Fourth Edition is trying to copy World of Warcraft, but, to be honest, I don't see it. I really don't. Instead, it feels like the hardcore wargames I played way back when I started gaming. With all the good and bad that comes with it.

It's very detailed and tactical. Everything has been formalized. Nothing is left to chance. Every movement, every action, even the act of role-playing, has been codified and given its own rule-set. It's Dungeons and Dragons and Control Freaks.

Old gamers have a reputation for only loving the version of D&D they grew up with and hating everything else, but I went into 4E determined to enjoy it. I played in a single campaign of it for over a year and had really quite a lot of fun. Dense rules? Piles of cards and abilities to keep track of? Tons of algebra? My brain was made to handle this stuff. It was great. For a while.
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February 18th, 2012, 14:05
I've never been a tabletop gamer, but I've found it interesting in this & the previous piece to hear about "proper" D&D (rather than the CRPG variety) and how people have received the different editions.

I initially hated the shift to 3/3.5 rules in IWD2, NWN and TOEE after getting used to BG's 2E combat, but I quite like it now and fighters are definitely more interesting to play. Will be interesting to see if any 4E games get made - it feels almost like D&D has been abandoned by CRPGs at the moment.
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February 18th, 2012, 15:47
Originally Posted by coaster View Post
I initially hated the shift to 3/3.5 rules in IWD2, NWN and TOEE after getting used to BG's 2E combat, but I quite like it now and fighters are definitely more interesting to play. Will be interesting to see if any 4E games get made - it feels almost like D&D has been abandoned by CRPGs at the moment.
There's Daggerdale! Well.. ehrm.. yeah, it definitely seems that way. That said, with a 5th edition already in the works, I'm honestly doubtful we'll see any major project at this point, unless some have started already and they're super-secret, since by the time they'd be release the 5th edition would probably be released too.

I think Neverwinter (Cryptic's title) is going to use the 4th edition ruleset though.

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February 18th, 2012, 15:54
Creating a computer game based on the D&D 4 ruleset might be quite hard. Auto-attacking is no longer really an option, you are meant to use an ability every single turn, which would make the game rather awkward to play unless its turnbased, and we all know the current stance on turnbased in the industry.

And I agree with Jeff Vogel in regards to D&D 4 not being WOW the roleplaying game. While class roles have become more obvious (in particular tanks, you now have proper tanking abilities, not just more HP and armour, like in previous editions), which in part makes the party setup more similar to that of a WOW party, the game plays more like a tactical board game along the line of HeroQuest or Descent (but with more rules).
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February 18th, 2012, 21:12
The reason people say it's like WoW is because it relies heavily on the Tank/DPS/Healer trinity roles that came out of MMORPG power-gaming. Denying this is just silly since it's written right in the 4E rulebooks.
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February 19th, 2012, 04:04
The trinity roles are as old as RPGs themselves. Even in the original Wizardry 1, you had your tanks up front absorbing damage, your healers healing them, and your dps dishing out damage from the back. They have also always been part of D&D to one extent or another.

Originally Posted by darkling View Post
The reason people say it's like WoW is because it relies heavily on the Tank/DPS/Healer trinity roles that came out of MMORPG power-gaming. Denying this is just silly since it's written right in the 4E rulebooks.
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February 19th, 2012, 05:15
Not really, no. The "trinity" came from MMO powergaming and simply put, didn't exist as a concept beforehand. You can pretend they did all you want, but the system wasn't built around them.

When 4E came along, they took the trinity (and the bonus role 'crowd controller') and built all the classes so they firmly fit into one of them. That limited the concept of gameplay for those character types. Gone is the Dexterity based warrior, gone is the front line warrior-priest, gone is the strength based thug rogue. Those character archetypes simply don't fit into the roles.
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February 19th, 2012, 07:05
Originally Posted by fadedc View Post
The trinity roles are as old as RPGs themselves. Even in the original Wizardry 1, you had your tanks up front absorbing damage, your healers healing them, and your dps dishing out damage from the back. They have also always been part of D&D to one extent or another.
I agree. I can't speak for pen and paper games, but in CRPG terms, one big difference in older games is the larger party size. This allowed the player some freedom to customize their party beyond the pre-requisite "trinity roles," and this led to party variety that could make the player's set-up feel unique. In the few party-based games made from the "modern era," the reduced party limit of 3-4 has had the unfortunate side-effect of not being able to experiment much outside the "trinity." I'd say that smaller parties is more responsible for the rigid trinity roles in cRPGs than a change in rule systems, as it's always existed to some degree that you need a healer, tank, and a heavy damage dealer or rogue.
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February 19th, 2012, 16:56
You seem to be confused. The very first book in 4th edition had front line warrior priests, and strength based rogues. It also tried to put in options for dexterity based warriors but they weren't all that well fleshed out until the second book (though arguably no worse then 3rd edition dex based warriors who were also pretty poorly fleshed out).

As for the concept of needing a front line fighter and a healer not existing before MMO's, I'm not sure what games you played but they were considered essential in every D&D game I ever played all the way back to 1e. I had definitely heard the term "trinity" used back in 2nd edition to describe the fighter/cleric/mage combo that every party needed.

Originally Posted by darkling View Post
Not really, no. The "trinity" came from MMO powergaming and simply put, didn't exist as a concept beforehand. You can pretend they did all you want, but the system wasn't built around them.

When 4E came along, they took the trinity (and the bonus role 'crowd controller') and built all the classes so they firmly fit into one of them. That limited the concept of gameplay for those character types. Gone is the Dexterity based warrior, gone is the front line warrior-priest, gone is the strength based thug rogue. Those character archetypes simply don't fit into the roles.
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February 20th, 2012, 18:35
You can pretend all you want that this concept was codified before MMO's. It doesn't mean it was.
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February 20th, 2012, 19:44
All trinity arguments aside, I think his impression of 4th Edition is pretty spot on. Fun and engaging, but way too gamey. I left it pretty quickly and started looking at more indie rpg efforts. Anyone ever mess with Riddle of Steel? It wasn't perfect but it had some really great ideas for combat.
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February 20th, 2012, 22:00
Originally Posted by darkling View Post
You can pretend all you want that this concept was codified before MMO's. It doesn't mean it was.
It was not as clearly defined before MMOs, but it was still there. Pre-MMOs you still had your heavily armoured warrior who would stand in the front and take damage, your cleric-type character who were responsible for keeping the party alive and your mages & rogues who were responsible for dealing damage. The roles did allow for a bit more than just their narrow focus, clerics could (and should) still deal damage, warriors did also deal damage, and mages & rogues had a fare amount of "utility". This is still very much the case in D&D 4, by the way, the roles are not as narrow as they are/were in MMOs, you are still expected to do more than just heal as a cleric, or tank as a warrior.
The first time I played AD&D (1998) we did design our party based on the trinity. We had our warrior, our cleric and our mage (and a rogue), and we expected them to work like tank, healer, damage dealer. We did not call them that, but that how they were meant to work.
Also, you don't have to bring the trinity when playing D&D 4, it is just recommended. In the last campaign that I participated in my party consisted of 3 strikers and a controller, and we did just fine (when the encounters were designed for parties of our level).
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February 20th, 2012, 22:25
Yeah 4e is actually less reliant on the "trinity" then other editions, because it's more feasible to survive without a healer. Your still more efficient if you have a healer of course, but unlike previous editions not having one doesn't mean that your dead in the water.

Originally Posted by Fnord View Post
Also, you don't have to bring the trinity when playing D&D 4, it is just recommended. In the last campaign that I participated in my party consisted of 3 strikers and a controller, and we did just fine (when the encounters were designed for parties of our level).
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February 21st, 2012, 19:03
I've often criticized things that Vogel has written on his blogs, but I have to agree with this 100%:

If a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons doesn't have an option which enables it to be easily played by a moderately inebriated person who isn't good at math, it is a failure.
One of my complaints when they went to 3e (and on) was that there were simply too many choices. Not that 2e was simple, but playing NWN2, I was overwhelmed by the various ways that you could customize your character. It seems like AD&D was trying to be all things to all people.

I compare that to playing BG, which was my first experience with AD&D at all (I never played the table top nor the gold box games). While I did need to read the manual, I was able to grasp it fairly quickly and get going with the game. With NWN2, I was constantly searching online trying to figure out how I should level my character (and if it even mattered between different choices) until I finally just gave up caring.

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February 21st, 2012, 19:09
Originally Posted by darkling View Post
Not really, no. The "trinity" came from MMO powergaming and simply put, didn't exist as a concept beforehand. You can pretend they did all you want, but the system wasn't built around them.
The system may not have been built around them, but that's how I was playing Ultima III in the mid 80's.

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February 21st, 2012, 22:23
The concept of a "trinity" has been around since 1st edition DnD. It wasn't called that back then, but it was well known and accepted good party composition. Except, of course, you also needed a thief for chests and traps…

WoW may have condensed it down to less and codified it as "trinity", but simplification is not invention…

I must be one of those types that like a complicated ruleset. I must have spent hours poring over the manual and thinking and spreadsheeting the build for my NWN 2 Arcane Trickster. Loved every minute.

But what works for a singleplayer CRPG is NOT what works best in a PnP session with a few friends and alcohol. Should be apparent to someone as smart as Vogel.
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