Thursday, January 15, 2009

Powers for everyone

Having read the Warden and Druid classes, I get the feeling of a bit of similarity. True, the Warden doesn't have the burst powers the Druid has, and the Warden has its Marking. Perhaps it's just the effect that Griff and I have mentioned in the past, how all of the powers seem to be the same thing, for every class, with just a little change here and there -- it's like there's a formula for making powers:

Pick an attack ability (Wisdom)
Pick a defense (Reflex)
Pick a range (10 squares)
Pick damage (1d6 fire)
Pick one of the following extra effects: push, pull, slide, stun, daze, combat advantage, zone of effect (zone of effect: fire)

Based on the above, determine whether this is at-will, encounter or daily, based on some formula (at-will)
If Daily, determine the Miss effect, if any (none)
Based on the above, determine appropriate class for this power (Druid)
Based on that, determine the power's name (Flame Seed)

I wonder if every combination of every variable has been crunched into a database, and the last few steps just need to be done for the lifetime of 4e. New classes could be determined that way:

"I was browsing through the database, and found a Dex vs. Fortitude Range 5 2d6 + stun encounter power - what should we do with it?"

"Sounds like some sort of deftly-thrown implement that knocks someone out -- sounds like a Martial Controller to me. Let's call it the 'Flying Dagger' class. Next!"

Now I understand that, given the mechanics of the game, there are only so many combinations of things: we have six abilities to "attack" with, four defenses, four attack types (melee, ranged, burst, close burst), and then some creative damage and effects. So you might say of *course* they're going to start feeling similar.

And that's the point: in previous editions of D&D, those with "spellcasting" differed in large ways: arcane vs. divine, holy vs. nature, innate vs. learned. That let you easily tell the difference between them, and playing each of these classes was quite different. But now every class has spells ( any other name...) and that's what's making these classes blur together.

Even just having the 3rd edition fighters and rogues using Feats instead of Powers was enough. Even having one defense score and three saving throws was enough for the classes' abilities to feel different. And this is the feeling that we seem unable to shake - that I'm casting Divine Leader attack at the goblin, that Griff is casting Arcane Controller attack, then a Martial Leader attack, a Martial Striker attack, etc. And while my numbers might be slightly different than Griffs, probably not much so, because my Cleric has his best score in Wisdom, and his in Intelligence, and so our rolls are coming out the same.

I've mentioned in the past that I've not read all of the powers for every class, and that certainly goes for those in the 10+ level range. So perhaps I'm speaking too soon, and perhaps this similarity between the classes will disappear as we progress. The danger, of course, is that we don't choose to progress, but instead return to 3rd edition, because 4e can't keep our interest.

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