Friday, December 21, 2007

Heals for everyone! Huzzah!

Just read over the free pdf on the 4e version of the cleric that was offered by WotC recently.

No real meat to it (ie, no stat blocks or tables, just vague essays) but it was enough to send Crwth and myself into panic mode. Maybe not "panic" mode, but some kind of mode for sure.

The one thing that struck me, and surprise surprise, ticked me off was that every class will get some limited self healing. The logic behind this new mechanic is apparently to free up the cleric to do other things.

Now, I've only really played one cleric and he was a reluctant healer at best, so for me "giving up a round" wasn't a big deal. I can however understand that players who run a cleric might resent doing nothing but cast healing spells round after round. It's the same thing with the Bard, where the first round or two is invariably "wasted" on casting buffs and singing.

Um, if you resent "wasting" actions on buffing and healing, then why the fuck are you playing a cleric or a bard? Are you fucking retarded?

In the PHB there are 11 core classes. The PHB2 has another half dozen or so. The Completes and other add on books throw even more classes into the pool. Surely amongst all that chum in the water players can find something that fits their play style and their idea of fun.

Personally, I'm in the "I hate wasting actions on healing chumps who shouldn't have gotten so badly hurt in the first place" boat. So I choose my classes accordingly. Luckily the others in our group seem to like being the support classes for my stealthy warriors and sorcerous blasters. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Still, if you're in a group where no one ever wants to play a cleric. A group full of Griffs for example (you lucky bastard, to be surrounded by such handsome and witty friends). Well, here's an idea. Play without one!

I know. I know. Years of MMORPGs and computer games have conditioned us into the false belief that no cleric = TPK. But guess what? DnD is not a MMO or video game.

At least it wasn't before 4th edition.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The disadvantage of disadvantages

The blog by Mike Mearls from Dec 12th worries me. (Sorry, I can't link to the Gleemax abomination. Partly out of unwillingness to go there, and partly to spare the innocent reader some pain.)

In it, he discusses at length the pros and cons of having Disadvantages in a point based game. For those who have never seen the Disadvantage mechanic in a game, basically you give your character certain disadvantages (such as night blindness, an arch-enemy, a phobia, vertigo etc...). In exchange your character gets points to spend on whatever. Extra skills, feats, or even Advantages.

I'll admit that it's an interesting game device in that it gives a little flavor to a character's background. Namely in things that I might never have thought of, but also in terms of things I'd kinda like to try, but don't because the drawbacks are too great. After all, a major point of the game is to have a viable character that'll survive the challenges of the adventure. While a blind monk might be cool on paper, being unable to hit the broad side of a drunken orc might not be so much fun.

Putting richer character backgrounds and concepts aside, the power gamer in me loves Disadvantages. That right there is a danger sign. More than anything else, the fact that I like it as a player but hate it as a DM says that Disadvantages are inherently broken.

Broken in that they are nearly impossible to balance. Any player with a shred of creativity can pick a few disadvantages for the points they give, and then fiddle them around so that they'll never really impact the character. ie, an ancient family enemy who is hunting the character might be worth 3 points, but what are the odds that this will ever come up in the game? If the DM really has his/her act together it might show up once in a while. However I think most DMs will either chose against changing the campaign or story arc or simply forget about it. Even phobias, in the heat of battle can be conveniently "forgotten". Talk about a free lunch.

So, my concern over Mike's blog is this. Is he he just testing the water to see how this mechanic might be accepted by the DnD community? Is he just doing the online equivalent of thinking out loud? Or is he bracing us all for the inclusion of Disadvantages in 4e?

My gut instinct is that it's one of the first two guesses. I might be reading too much into his tone, but his writing didn't strike me as overly committed to the idea. Then again, why bring it up at all if they aren't at least pondering the inclusion of it into 4e?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Warlord. Why play anything else?

This has been bothering me for a while now.

Every playtest we see has a Warlord and a Warlock in it.

Okay, this is playtesting and these are new classes (although the Warlock has been around for a while in 3.5) so obviously they need to playtest them a lot.

I get that. Still, the more I read the more it seems that the Warlord in particular is getting a lot of love. So much love that I'm wondering if it will beat out the cleric as the class every party has to have.

I mean, the Warlord boosts fighters. It gives casters extra uses of their spells. It slices. It dices. It never rusts and is guaranteed for as long as you avoid a TPK.

It certainly sounds pretty good on a 3:00 a.m. info-mercial, but will that be the case when it arrives in 6-8 weeks (or June 2008)? Well, that remains to be seen.

I'll cast Magic Missile on the darkness

Theft of my thunder aside, I do have a few opinions on Rodney's playtest report.

Get the fuck out! Griff has an opinion? Seriously?

For true! And I've even purged all of my venom and bile, so we should be good to go.

So, they tweaked magic missile. Um, what? WTF?!

How do you "tweak" magic missile? That spell hasn't changed since the red box edition. It's the go to spell. Whether it's the last ditch kitchen sink spell for your epic level wizard, or the only way your 1st level noob sorcerer can hit the broad side of a sleeping kobold, magic missile is the must have spell. I can't even imagine an arcane caster without it. The iconic Fireball I can, and have, skipped but never magic missile (and shield). It's so automatic that I write it on every character sheet whether it's a caster or not.

They've already leaked that fireball won't do d6 damage in 4e. Okay. Weird but I'm open minded. To a point. Now that they're fucking with my magic missile... well, that's a whole new ball game.

I mean, what kind of 'tweaks' are we talking about here? Did they change it's damage die too? Do you need to roll to hit? Is there a push/bull rush type effect due to the force? Is it even a force type spell? This is killing me!

Ask Wizards. Why bother?

Okay. This has nothing to do with 4e. I admit that right up front. I'm honest and make no excuses about that.

Which separates me from the Ask Wizards "article" that appears every other day on the dnd4 webpage.

My understanding is that Ask Wizards is supposed to be some kind of font of knowledge. It's to clarify rules and how the game mechanics apply to certain obscure or unusual circumstances. The questions answered don't always have to be eye opening jaw droppers. Sometimes the mundane needs a bit of explaining too.

For instance, "A natural 20 is 'always a hit' but can it be negated by concealment? Or does a natural 20 overrule the miss chance in concealment?"

Instead we get...

"Ask Wizards: 12/07/2007
from DnD 4e Home page by Mike
I was curious: on average, how many questions do you receive a day?"

You know what? I don't give a flying fuck how many questions they receive! In fact, I'd be surprised if they receive any.


Because for months that "article" (and I use the term very loosely) has denegrated into nothing more than a thinly veiled series of advertisements. Ads for their shitty minis game. Ads for their even shittier Inn-Fighting game.

I hope it's boosting their sales of those two offerings, because WotC is dangerously close to losing this customer. After all, 3.5 is pretty damn fun.

Footnote: I sent in the above question on concealment and the nat 20 last week. I also sent a letter to Santa Claus and to God. Guess which of the three I expect to get a reply from.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More playtest hints

Rodney Thompson's latest blog post about their 4th edition playtest had a few things to pull out...

Ray of frost slows targets down. Is that figuratively (slowed down from killing you because they have to pause and heal), or is that a side-effect of the spell, after the cold damage? Interesting.

The eladrin short-range teleport we had seen before, and it sounds like a good tactical ability. I'm assuming it's an eladrin ability, anyway, but could be a wizard one too.

A copper dragon appears on the scene in the playtest, and gets attacked by the party. Aren't copper dragons Good? Is the party Evil? Has alignment gone by the wayside so much that none of this matters? Not to say that Good can't attack Good, but... well, I guess I expected a copper dragon to be a little more forgiving when Diplomacy was tried, but in the end they slew it...

...after some luck and an "instantaneous magic missile". Is "instantaneous" a new 4e phrase, similar to free/swift/immediate? This was "bestowed" by one of the warlord's abilities, and Thompson goes on to say "...letting me use magic missile at some unexpected times." Does that mean extra times per day/encounter, or just lets the wizard use the given amount at new and interesting times.

Oh, and just to steal Griff's thunder: tweaked magic missile?