Thursday, July 3, 2008

A rant on class

I seem to have touched on something based on the comments on my last post, so I’m gonna use it to pad my post count.

For starters, I’ll be the first to admit that my opinions are colored by the 3.5 past. I will not however apologize for that.

When I got a new car I did the same thing. The new one has more horsepower and a better air conditioner, but the old one had a better dashboard layout and cornered better. Comparing old to new and apples to oranges is just human nature. Still, point taken Adam,.

As for being patient and giving WoTC time to put out more material, well, I’ll concede that one too. I have no doubts that over the next few years we’ll be swamped with numerous offerings (or depending on how you look at it, schemes to pry our cash from our hands and pad their corporate bottom line). I’m also sure that the upcoming FRCS and certainly the PHB2 will be chock full of new powers (whether martial or arcane or divine). That’s all well and good. In the meantime while I wait for the main entrée I’ll make due with the bland soup of the day.

My bottom line point is that 4e classes all “feel” the same to me. No one has anything that really makes them stand out anymore. I’ve yet to see anyone in our party do something that made me do a double take. There has been no “oh wow, that was cool” moment.

The rogue has a ‘piercing strike’ that does some extra damage coupled with a move. The paladin has some kind of ‘smite’ thing. The cleric a ‘radiant strike’. My wizard the ‘scorching blast’. At first they were each on their own an intteresting effect to see in combat. Done every other round they lose their edge and become just another attack.

In 3.5 every class, every character, felt unique. They had their special flavors, their quirks, their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe it’s just me but I thought that was a beautiful thing.

Each class had it’s role in 3.5, only they were subtle and unspoken. They weren’t slapped down in stone and used like chains to lock us into a certain playstyle. It was understood that sorcerers and wizards stayed in the back while the fighters and paladins stood up front. Clerics and bards laid out the buffs and healing. Rangers and rogues crept around the edges and got in their damage when an opportunity opened up.

However, if you wanted to push a class into a different role, it was possible. A few feats or some multiclassing and my sorcerer could wear a chainshirt and step up to melee with the best of them. For sure it cost me a level of spellcasting and that arcane failute check bit me a few times, but that was part of the fun. I could get creative and experiment and revel in the failures.

True. The old multiclassing rules opened up some abuses. But when did “powergaming” become a bad word? If I want to take a level of fighter for the free weapon and armor proficiencies, or start as a rogue at 1st level solely for the skill ranks, well… where’s the harm? Who am I hurting? Some chump who’s playing the game in Yakima? No. I’m just having some fun. Last time I checked that’s the whole point of any game.

As another example the 3.5 ranger fought with two weapons or mastered the bow and could track. That was his thing, his role. For sure any other 3.5 class could do that with the proper feat selections. Same goes in 4e where a feat or two will do it. The difference was that in 3.5 feats were a precious commodity. Did your paladin really want to ‘waste’ a feat to track? Not bloody likely.

In 4e however nothing is off limits. Wanna learn to raise the dead? Spend some of the plethora of feats and learn the ritual. For all intents and purposes class no longer matters. In their mad quest to make every class equal to every other at every level (no more fighters outshining the wizard at low levels, only to have the tables turned in the high levels) they've given us vanilla throughout. Might as well just have "Adventurer type A" and "Adventurer type B" and get it over with.

Strategy seems to be a thing of the past as well. Sure, positioning your mini on the grid is more vital than ever, but past that there’s very little to think about. It’s a simple case of MMO style button mashing. Pick your at-will and your target and role a d20. No longer do you need to worry about meting out those special abilities or spells for a crucial moment. Fire away my friends! Plenty more where that came from!

Personally, I liked the angst over every decision. Especially when it came to spellcasting. I loved the whole “do I cast this or save it?”, or “do I try a spell that has a Will save because that giant seemed to slough off my Fort save based spell last round?” Those were the tactics and strategy that I really enjoyed. And when I ran out of spells, I loved to have my sorcerer grab her sickle and jump into melee. Puny hitpoints be damned! She wore that magic mithral chainshirt for a reason dammit!

That’s a thing of the past it seems. Now my dragonborn wizard is going to take the feats needed to wear chainmail only because there’s nothing else to spend them on. He’ll continue to grab his bastard sword and hack away at the bad guys despite having scorching blasts at his beck and call. He’ll keep on breaking out of his role because that’s the way I play. That’s called fun.

Ps. Despite my tone, I really am having fun with my new character. It is still DnD after all.

Pps. I am going to try out the multiclassing feats, just to try them. I’m also keeping an open mind. I can’t stress this enough. My opinions six months from now might be a total 180 from today.

3 comments:

theinternetisbig said...

I concur about the sameness of the classes. I think that this is a strange feeling, primarily because balance has been so poor in 3rd ed (well, beyond 3rd really, with all the BS that was added to it.). Balance was completely thrown out the window as soon as the first add-on book was out (swords and fists is BROKEN!). Powergaming is (and always has been!) a bad word, because it suggests that character elements are less important than combat. You seem to be a proponent of character outweighing sheer power Griff, you should get this.

Even the core books for 3rd ed had serious balance issues. Bard vs. Cleric... Anyone?

I think that pushing classes into other rolls is completely possible as 4th stands. Most classes inherintly cover two types of their roll. Ranger or warlock are great examples. Warlocks can easily become controllers with the proper power selections.

I feel that character flavor should come from just that. Background and other flavor selections (attitudes, characteristics, habits...) NOT from how you chose to make your guy a bad ass. Ideally, you didn't simply make the character to kill a bunch of stuff and take everything they own. Hopefully you are interested in role-playing a character who has motivations and goals.

It is easy to see the new roles as defining your character, but 3rd ed characters were just as regimented. Having low HP regeminted your sorcerer into paying close attention to it's hp, and forced it to depend on a cleric/potions for healing. I doubt you could have succeeded in your melee aspirations without a cleric holding your hand the whole way.

Clerics in general are now not nailed down to healing every moron who decides to get rent. Although consequentially, they have given up being the hands down most awesome class, too bad for them.

You seem also, to be forgetting about daily powers. Strategizing daily powers is more vital than spells ever were. On top of that there are daily equipment powers.
1. everyone must consider their daily powers
2. there are far fewer than there were spells.
3. daily powers have a greater effect in combat than most spells previously.

Let me ask you this, how easy would it have been for a 1st level paladin to have an AOE attack in 3rd ed? Both the paladin and the fighter have powers much cooler than anything they ever would have gotten in 3rd ed. Excluding full attack, of course.

BTW having "full attack" be the coolest thing that half of the classes in the game can do is not so cool that we should be nostalgic about it.

You seem to be arguing against yourself at times here.

However, if you wanted to push a class into a different role, it was possible.
In 4e however nothing is off limits. Wanna learn to raise the dead? Spend some of the plethora of feats and learn the ritual.


Do you want classes more, or less variable?

My bottom line point is that 4e classes all “feel” the same to me.
Each class had it’s role in 3.5, only they were subtle and unspoken. They weren’t slapped down in stone and used like chains to lock us into a certain playstyle. It was understood that sorcerers and wizards stayed in the back while the fighters and paladins stood up front. Clerics and bards laid out the buffs and healing. Rangers and rogues crept around the edges and got in their damage when an opportunity opened up.


It sounds as if your pointing out the differences in 3.5 were less, while at the same time pointing out that in 4 they are less different.

ps. I think much of your feelings about this come from nostalgia, not wanting to turn your back on something you had so much fun with. Get over it, you can have the same fun with 4th ed! =)

pps. Let me know how they work for you. Nobody in my group has really played around with them yet, but we do have a half elf.

I'm done with this topic. I know there are lots of people who will have... difficulties with letting 3.5 go. Take it from someone who has been playing this stuff for a long time. 3.5 wasn't magic, it had plenty of flaws. There will be things you miss, and things you don't. Just remember to work with your DM on reinventing the things you DID like.

Joseph said...

To me, it appears that the competitive nature of MMORPG combat is causing the old D&D formal classes (cleric, fighter, etc...) to become superseeded by the new empirical classes (tank, healer, striker, etc...).

RandomRedMage said...

Now I started with 3rd edition when 3.5 was JUST coming out. What I had noticed is that they were refining each characters roles in 3.0 to 3.5, just making everyone fit into their nitch just a little bit more. That was a good thing to me, I do have to agree here and say that 4.0 though while I have yet to game using 4e from reading the books, I feel things are... bland... Of course I'm an MMO gamer, FFXI being my current past time, and Ragnorok before that, a Mage being your back line player, and your Fighter/rogue taking care of the front lines with rangers taking pop shots when they can.

With the new system, it feels like they tried too hard to please the "hack and slash" gamers rather than the Story/Puzzle solving gamers.

Being both a DM, and PC, I enjoy a little hack and slash, but a primary amount of my gaming, I like to have LOTS of puzzles where only certain classes should be able to perform the right actions. Of course this is assuming people aren't cross classing left and right. Something that in games I run is severely limited based on actual RolePlaying, because naturally, just because you leveled up doesn't mean you can suddenly become a little roguish outta nowhere.

My comments aren't tainted by a love, or familiarity with the old system, because I play more than just D20 system games, I also play the old Paladium books Robotech game, where each class had its role. I apologize as I run in circles here but, I really feel that this sudden seemingly complete change in the system bugs me... Though I can understand some of the changes... they made mages more combative because people needed a reason to be them more... not everyone likes to sit back and wait for a moment to cast a limited amount of spells. giving mages more to play with allows them to be more active... I dont know I guess I should give it a go several games through before I make a final review but this is just what I see happening from a glance. :3