Monday, April 13, 2009

So you wanna play an Arcane Archer

Normally I don't pay a lot of attention to the "Character Concept" articles in Dragon, but the one from Issue #374 provides a perfect example of the one thing that robs the enjoyment from 4E.

The Arcane Archer.

Anyone who played 3rd edition is probably familiar with the Arcane Archer. It was a nice little prestige class from the DMG that was most likely overshadowed and forgotten under the deluge of later releases. Of all the prestige classes the Arcane Archer and Shadow Adept are the two that I'd most like to see as classes in 4E. Since we're going to get so many classes anyways, why not port some of the better Prestige Classes?

In the meantime this Character Concepts article offers up a way to build a makeshift version. All well and good so far.

If you are thinking at all like I was, you naturally assumed that they'd start with a Ranger. The author, Matthew Sernett, does indeed address that assumption. "When it comes to archery, no class holds a candle to the ranger, but the ranger doesn't have much that seems like magic in terms of ranged attacks."

Okay. Agreed. So what do you suggest Matthew?

"Fortunately, Arcane Power provides the bard with a number of ranged weapon powers that hit the target."

What? The bard? Are you fucking kidding me?

This is precisely why the prospect of my gaming group sticking with 4E fills me with such loathing and dread. The whole I have character concept "x" but the only way I can come close to doing it is through some half-ass compromise. I might not want to play a bard but if I want my Arcane Archer, well... I've gotta suck it up because there's no other way to do it.

And it's not a question of whether the bard class is "better" than the ranger class. It's about options and choice and imagination. You know. The parts of DnD that are far more important than streamlined combat rules. The parts that make the game fun.

Say I want to play a rogue or stealthy type who likes to coerce enemies into following him around the battlefield. A taunting type with a splash of swashbuckling. In 3.5 I'd probably start with a rogue or bard and then work in some fighter levels for the feats. Easy peasy and fun.

In 4E this character probably needs to be able to "mark" so... what? A paladin multiclassed with bard? I honestly don't know. So I guess I'll shelve that concept and just cookie cutter myself a generic rogue or fighter or whatever. What difference does it make? Really?

Honestly, I could probably roll a die to generate a class, slap on a name, and start playing. If I want to put some thought into it I need to forget about the class name and focus on the powers it offers. It's the menu of powers that are important. So what if being a paladin makes absolutely no sense for my character concept. I mean, it's not like there's room for any sort of character development. God forbid that I should try to develop a backstory and personality for my character. Picking a name is about the limit of creativity allowed in 4E.

But I suppose that if we jump straight into combat it'll be fun. Right?


Carsonist said...

Ermmm.... no one is stopping you from calling your bard an "Arcane Archer". The name doesn't actually change anything.

It's true that the current classes are more constrained in function, and if you don't like that, it's a legitimate complaint. Personally, I like the fact that no character can fill 6 different roles.

Griff said...

I'll admit that I could bite the bullet and ignore that my Arcane Archer is actually a Bard.

But in that case, why have any classes at all?

Why not go back to 1st edition and just have Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Dragonborn etc... and then pick a pool of powers?

A rose is still a rose by any other name... unless you're ragweed.

theinternetisbig said...

Griff just stop posting here if you hate 4th ed so much.

Read the blogs title and get over it, or post this kind of junk elsewhere.

Your bitterness is ruining my enjoyment of crwth's insightful and thought out comments.

Do you think anyone cares if you hate 4th? We are here to read abouts thought an opinions about playing 4th not nostalgic overractions.

BTW Arcane archer was *always* a bard class.

Griff said...

I'll make you a deal.

From the end of this paragraph onwards you have my written permission to skip over anything I write, and I'll skip over your comments.

That way neither of us has to waste one another's valuable time.

The point of my bitter nostalgiac overreactions is that I'm trying to find ways to like 4E.

By putting my admittedly knee-jerk reactions online I can read over them later and weigh them again objectively. Sometimes I've actually found myself doing a 180 on certain things. Other times I get constructive comments like the one above from Carsonist.

His/her point on filling 6 different roles is a major bonus for 4E. I just don't see things like that because I take it for granted that no one in my tabletop group is a spotlight hog.

So, I think I'll continue to post my "thoughts and opinions" just like the title says. Thanks.

theinternetisbig said...

I really just fail to see how your relentlessly negative comments are supposed to help this blog at all.

If there is nothing you enjoy about 4th ed why do you even keep playing? Maybe you should all find a different game to play together on your game nights... Y'know to avert a little of what seems like your endless rage toward 4th edition.

Really, I'm just trying to challenge you to see if there IS anything you like about 4th ed; and if there isn't I'm questioning why you choose to share your comments on what SEEMS to be a PRO 4TH ed blog. Wouldn't there be a better forum for your negativity (4chan?).

Have you ever made a post with a helpful or positive theme? Ever made a post that could help another player or DM (aside from scaring them away 4th ed)? Have you ever posted any ideas for new classes, powers, items or anything that could POSSIBLY BE %&* USEFUL?

I think not.

I only hope this helps you see the light. You aren't a bad guy, and I wish I had players half as committed as you in my game. However my wife, her nephew and his girlfriend are rather casual.

good day sir

Please! Post something worth reading!

matthew-lane said...

Hate to say this Griff is right. Pointing out flaws in a system is different from trolling.

In the past D&D was about creativity & fun. 4E is all about combat smoothness. As any game theory mathematician will tell you the best (class based & by best we mean "those with a long life expectancy) RPG game is one that has a few classess but a lot of options to specialize. 4E is the opposite of that statement.

Under 3.5 rules, it was possible to create a concept like "corsair swashbuckler" or "silent assassin" & then flesh these concepts out with class, skills, attributes & feats.

Now players just create whatever is the most optimal character for a particular role (as chosen from the two class choices).

In fact doing anything else usually gives your character the life expectancy of a diabetic mayfly in a blender.

Now i was one of the people who was happy to see a new D&D come out, but as i saw more of it, i liked less of it. Am i still going to play? probably.

Is this trolling? No. Its pointing out that this new system isn't perfect... neither was 3.5, but you could play the character concept you wanted to play under 3.5 & that is a perfectly valid complaint.

Also i have heard a lot of people say things like "I like the fact that no character can fill 6 different roles."

To this i agree, but i also want my character to be more then just a role. I don't want to be be shoe horned into a rut, after having just climbed out of my previous 3.4 generated rut.

As for the original post being of no worth, i disagree. Any "legitimate" grievance should be heard. Yes 4E is a little bit of an acquired taste. Yes it is different. No its not as creative.

If it doesn't fit you, try something else. You don't have to love the new D&D (i sure as heck don't). Their is no rule saying you can't continue to play 3.5, or try something new entirely. If you a looking for something more creative maybe you could try "Spirit of the Century"

Hope that help

Saint Matthew
Patron Saint of Gamers

Griff said...

Thanks for the props Saint Matt but theinternet does have a valid point. I am admittedly negative and arguably too harsh (at times) in my criticisms of 4E.

I've got my fingers crossed that when I begin playtesting the new hybrid rules will give me something to be positive about.

ps. although I'd personally be more than willing to try a new rpg system (I love White Wolf's Vampire games) the best I could hope for from my friends would be a foray into d20 Modern.

Yes. They're WotC zombies. Pity them. I do.

Reparte said...

Its like i always say....A bard by any other name can still do its job.

Bards Rule

Anonymous said...

"Say I want to play a rogue or stealthy type who likes to coerce enemies into following him around the battlefield. A taunting type with a splash of swashbuckling. In 3.5 I'd probably start with a rogue or bard and then work in some fighter levels for the feats."

Except in 3.5 the enemies have little to no incentive to follow you around the battlefield at all. Just because the class names sound more accurate to the role doesn't mean it's actually going to work. Unless you're using Tome of Battle (which is sort of 3.75 edition anyway), your battlefield control options as a melee combatant are limited to AoO, trip and grapple.
And should it really be a surprise that "building" a class that doesn't exist out of existing options is going to require compromise? It has in the current and previous editions both, in my experience.

Drake Wurrum said...

I think Matthew made a tactical error there, in saying to use a bard instead of a ranger. If I want to make a class that uses GUNS instead of bows, and maybe his backstory is that he accidentally found a portal to go back in time, then I could do that with Ranger no problem.

Ranger has nothing to do with the way a gunner would work other than the fact that they both are masters of marksmanship, and they both use ranged combat, but it would still work.

Matthew's style for Arcane Archer would be to base it on a Bard. Yours could be to base it on Ranger, and you could work it to your liking.
That's the freedom of D&D. :)

I think your swashbuckling type would actually work as a multiclass Rogue/Fighter just fine. Or, with the hybrid rules coming up soon, a hybrid Rogue/Fighter. That probably works out exactly the way you randomly thought up there. Maybe you could even make it Rogue/Swordmage, if you felt like using aegis instead of marking.
I know you were just providing an example, but well...this is an example too.

Griff said...

I'll concede that I definitely have to change my way of thinking. I have to start looking at the collection/tree of powers first, and then treating the "class" as little more than a vague title.

Instead of "I want to play a *class* and here's my concept...", I need to say "here's my concept, now what power source gives me the list of powers that fit the best".

I also need to keep in mind that we're very early in the 4e lifecycle, and that a year after 3rd edition we weren't exactly swimming in feats/PrCs etc...

theinternetisbig said...

Has "class" ever been more than a vague title anyway? "Ranger", naturey warrior, now naturey striker... Lets face it Rangers were ALWAYS strikers. They did more damage and took less punishment than fighters from the beginning.

Your 3rd ed ranger/sorcerer would have been very similar to a bard of equal level anyway, albeit with weaker spells, a lower BAB and better saves.

"arcane archer" itself is certainly a "vague title" as you put it. An arcane archer could be blasty, enchanty, a mix, etc. He could be a hero, a villian, a human or a dwarf... I really fail to see how a "Class" should be anything OTHER THAN a vague title.

Besides, the whole point of this is that a fully featured combat system that makes sense, with all the bells and whistles doesn't have to detract from creativity and imagination.

When 3rd ed came out, people saw the combat system making sense and keeping track of things like the location of the combatants and very similar reactions came out of the 2nd edition fan base.

"They have turned our creative high art game into a tabletop strat!"


No, they have given your creative high art game a combat system that is as much about simulation as it is about creativity.

Now, we have a combat system that is unabashedly about simulation (however it still obviously leaves plenty of room for imagination and creative description) and people have the same feelings of anxiety. Be comfortable in things making sense and being easy. When you accept it and use it, customizing your guy will be way easier!

A "Class" is just a template to get your imagination running wild. Robin hood stories are the only reason rangers exist today. Paladins obviously based on late dark ages poetry about gallant knights saving damsels in distress. Fighters, thanks to legends about glorious warriors who could take down hundreds alone (Achilles, etc). Classes are wide and generalized on purpose.

Now, at this point in the 4th ed cycle some classes are more customizable than others. Namely the options for classes aren't martial are limited. That will change.

I advise choosing a role (striker, defender, controller, etc.) and a power source (martial, arcane, divine, etc) then designing a character around that. (ranged or melee focus? Effect or damage concentration, maybe just sheer versatility?)

Seriously, once you get used to skill challenges, rituals (they still need some tweaking) you will feel at home again.

Funnel some creativity into coming up with new items, monsters, powers, etc and sharing them on 's cards? Creativity is merely being channeled to where it belongs. Instead of trying to imagine up the most bizarre and powerful character concepts and why they might exist. We can now focus on what our characters do, with whom and why...

Character maintenance (and lets not get into designing encounters) was needlessly complex in 3rd ed and I think we all know it. I really don't see how it's better to blend 3 admittedly vague "classes" into what is supposed to be one member of a team. Why on earth would a hero be that unclear about what they are doing in life...

I'll stop ranting on this now.

BTW I'm not a 4th ed fanboy. I feel that while the books were done well they were light on good fluff. I think skill challenges are the best idea in the history of D&D, however there wasn't enough space dedicated to them to really get our imaginations flowing. Rituals establish a boundary between daily spells and spells that should be only used now and then in a way I think the creators of D&D would be proud of (think material components), however they could have been executed in a more centralized and... cool way. Powers are neat, but an alternative system would have been nice. A chart of "default" powers that make up a ranger for example.


Just call your ranger a grenadier, and add explodey fluff to describe each of your powers maybe replace some of the ranger powers with mage AoO powers? (with your DM's approval of course) and BAM!

Really, Griff. Get over following WOTC's rules and work with your DM if you want to be creative. Presuming you aren't playing in some sort of RPGA event I don't see how it matters if you build your "Arcane Archer" with magic or just call him martial and give him affects that are like arcane effects.

Are you hung up on (fluff) making someone who uses a bow and magic effectively? If so, just play a bard.
Are you interested in (crunch) making something that uses ranged attacks to hurt/status affect enemies? Play a wizard and give 'em a bow.

How are concept and class different? Class is a part of the concept. Class defines how the character concept will handle itself in combat and if they will use a sword, wand, holy symbol in said combat. That is about all a class is Griff. A concept is so much more! Is your Arcane Archer a loaner living in the woods? Maybe they are a socialite who is afraid to get their hands dirty...

Still, your bitterness drips on ever word.

Pick a "Class" that has the powers you want to be able to use and fills the roll within the group that you want to fill. The power source is merely fluff, call it whatever you like. First