Friday, May 1, 2009

The Hybrid Experience, pt 1

This week I finally got around to re-creating my Dragonborn wizard as a Hybrid wizard/fighter.

Cliche, I know. I was tempted to go wizard/swordmage or even sorcerer/swordmage but I went the way I did for a couple of reasons.

First off, the wizard is still the only class that has powers that fit my storm theme. The sorcerer will have to wait for another day.

Secondly, as interesting as the swordmage is, I want to see if the Hybrid rules are capable of handling a less than optimal combination. I could have gone wizard/swordmage which is one of the combos suggested in the article, but power-gaming it won't prove anything.

Finally, the fighter and wizard are as vanilla as DnD classes get. They've been around since the beginning (more or less) and are icons for a reason. If they don't mix well, then there's something seriously wrong with the Hybrid rules.

Anyways, the character generation was pretty straight forward. The rules for creation are well written and clear. There was one spot where I was a little confused (sorry, can't recall the exact details) but after some flipping back and forth I eventually figured it out. Minor quibble there so overall the structure of the article/ruleset is good.

One thing that bugs me is in the proficiencies. The Hybrid character gets all the weapon proficiencies of each class. Fair enough. Simple, straight forward, makes sense. But, armor proficiency is the opposite. The Hybrid gets only those armor proficiencies that are common to both classes.

I've tried to think of the rationale for that, but so far I've drawn a blank. The best guess I have is that they wanted to give one or the other (armor or weapons) but not both, to avoid the Hybrid from being "overpowered". Considering characters are almost totally defined by their powers, the limit on armor proficiency is puzzling.

I ended up spending feats to get my character into his chainmail, so it wasn't a big deal. Like I said, it was just a little puzzling.

The selection of powers was a little more interesting with the Hybrid than my pure Wizard was. Having those few extra options was a noticable improvement. That said, there was only one instance where I waffled back and forth between a pair of fighter powers. Still, I'm all about options options options, so this facet of the Hybrid was nice.

In summary, I'm actually excited to see how he plays.


Crwth said...

Regarding the difference between weapon proficiency and armor proficiency:

I see weapon proficiency per-class as "what you've learned to use", and armor proficiency as "what you're learn to overcome".

Armor is something that, generally, gives you a penalty, with all that encumbrance, but also happens to give you a nice benefit -- the AC. To be effective in your class, you have to learn how to overcome the bulkiness of this armor, and while your fighter half does this with ease, your wizard skills haven't learned to work around the bulk. Since we don't have arcane spell failure anymore, you have this.

The weapons, though, aren't something that hinder, but something that solely give you a benefit -- if you've learned to use it on your fighter half, so too can your wizardy half use it -- the wizard didn't have certain weapons in the beginning not because they're hard to use in the role of a wizard, but because the wizard just hadn't gotten around to learning how to use it.

This theory flies in the face of 3rd edition rules with druids and their weapon restrictions, of course, but since we don't have those here, I can come up with any rationale I want!

Reparte said...

I had a quick question but it doesn't really pertain to your post. How long do your normal difficulty fights take? Mine seem to be lasting upwards of 25-30 minutes. We run a party of 4 with heavy dps in it, but we cant seem to move combat along quickly. I study the monsters and have everything planned out and im pretty sure i have the monster end down. Any suggestions?

matthew-lane said...

DPS? no totally not a WoW rip-off. If your encounters are taking to long drop the difficulty. Drop some of the minions. It would be easier to diagnose the problem if i knew what classes you players picked.

Isn't it sad though that we needed to introduce hybrid rules, because no one seemed to have bothered to playtest much out of the core PHB, especially the Multi-Classing rules.


Reparte said...

I have a sorcerer, warlock, warden, and paladin (uses the biggest weapons he can find and forsakes tanking). So 3 damage classes and 1 tank pretty much. At most they fight against 4 or 5 people though, and the fights are balanced for their level.

Drake Wurrum said...

Somewhat off-topic comment, but this is a pet peeve of mine with 4e.

The comment about "omg WoW ripoff" was just uncalled for, I think. Even in 3e rules, I have been referring to classes such as Rogue and Wizard and other heavy-damaging class as a "DPS" class.

He could have said "a party of 4 strikers" or something similar, but it's just not as easy to relate to as just saying "DPS." It comes to the mind quicker.

4e is nothing like WoW. I have yet to see any similar mechanics.

As to the on-topic bit about hybrids: I feel that they added in the hybrid system on top of the lame multiclass system as a way of balancing the min/max problem. Unlike Blizzard, WotC DOES believe you can have too much power, and 3e multi-classing gave players too much power. With 4e multiclassing, combined with Hybrid, you can still customize your character with tons of options in any way you choose, without being too powerful. I personally would prefer to be a Swordmage, over a Fighter/Sorcerer, but that doesn't mean everybody else should be limited to that. I just like to keep things simple.

I love options, but not at the expense of balance.

Griff said...

Sorry Drake, I disagree with you on this; "...and 3e multi-classing gave players too much power."

Specifically my beef is with the "too much power".

Who's to judge what "too much power" really means? Certainly not WotC, or at least not beyond the point where something is clearly broken (ie. the pre-3.5 Ranger with the free feats at 1st level).

IMHO, once the ruleset is cleaned up and ironed out WotC has no business getting up in my business (or the business of any gamer). It's the players and DM who need to decide upon what's "too much power".

Vorpal swords at 2nd level? Not in our group (dammit!) but at someone else's table... hey, why not? If that's fun for them I say go for it. It's not hurtin me in any way.

Which is where I feel that the 4e=WoW (or any other mmorpg) label fits. In an online computer game there is nothing to police players other than lines of code on a server somewhere. So you need all those checks and balances to ensure that players who know the exploits don't leave the others behind (with all other things being equal).

PnP rpgs don't need those caps or restrictions simply because the ultimate check is already built into the rules. The DM has the final say.

John said...

The problem they are referring to, Griff, when they talk about too much power is the case in nearly all previous editions where a spell-casting class was "too weak" until around level 5-7, at which point they became "too strong" as classes in relation to other classes.

In previous editions, players often complained about their characters being useless, would purposely kill their characters and reroll 'something useful,' or the DM had to go out of his/her way to balance things around a god-like Wizard, Cleric, or Druid but try to have at least a few minions the Fighter, Rogue, Ranger and others could take on so they felt useful.

In 4th, they are really trying hard to make each class useful throughout the level curve from low to high.

What you are talking about (vorpal swords at level 2), are really fluff items on top of the game mechanics. If the mechanics make all but a few of the character classes mostly useless, it doesn't matter if the Fighter has a vorpal sword at level 2 if by level 10 he's basically a grunt carrying the Wizard's stuff around. But in 4th, that Fighter can still do some amazing things that the Wizard can't, and the Wizard, while very powerful, still needs the Fighter at higher levels. If you still want that fighter to have a vorpal sword (or equivalent), you can make your game more fun and WotC won't "be in your business" about it. But they DO want to make sure those who play the fighter and those who play the wizard are both still enjoying the experience.