Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Insider Knowledge

I've talked before about how I don't really care for the fact that Dragon and Dungeon magazines are now all electronic, and that I no longer get a paper copy. This means that all of the articles go unread in a pile of bits instead of a pile of pulp.

But the news post from last Friday (see how far behind I am?) talks about how one of the articles in the lastest issue of Dragon has been re-issued. Of course, not having gotten to the previous article, I hadn't formed an opinion on it before, so was curious as to what the masses had found so wrong about it, as I certainly don't follow any of the forums where this might be discussed.

The article in question is on the Class Act: Ranger, which provides a variant path of powers for your ranger if they become a part of the Verdant Silence. The introduction text was changed a surprising amount, considering it's all flavour for this class path. Whether this was done because the Cordell had an opportunity to change things, or whether this was one of the focuses of complaint, I'm not sure; it still feels like it has the same idea; things like

" a furtive martial order that appears to safeguard natural forests and Feywild
crossings from corrupting influences."


" a furtive martial order that safeguards forests and Feywild crossings from corruption."

could have all sorts of things read into it, such as the "appears to" being omitted, the "natural" forests, and no longer "corrupting influences" but "corruption." Just a writer's fancy? Or were these all bones of contention with readers?

Even the flavour text in the Powers got modified, though the more interesting things are the Powers' effects themselves that changed. The Bending Branch exploit once gave a free basic attack, now just gives a bonus to the next attack. The Death Threat exploit got totally revamped, from dealing ongoing psychic damage to gaining combat advantage for a turn. Blood of the Fallen used to give you a +2 attack bonus by spending a healing surge; now it lets you regain hit points without spending a surge at all. And then others just had their wording changed to get rid of ambiguity, such as the confusion surrounding Confusion of Blades, which could be interpreted as 1[W]+Strength+1 for every adjacent enemy, instead of just the +1 for every adjacent enemy.

This kind of change would likely never have happened with a print version of Dragon - the only avenue for such a change would be through the magazine itself, in either an editor's note or a completely new article, wasting value space... and for that, the electronic version is definitely a boon. I do wonder, however, if the article might have been vetted better had it been going to print. I understand that the Sneak Peak articles are provided with every intention of the userbase to comment and help change the race, class or whatever, but this article is not presented as such, but as a published extension to a class. Are the writers and editors getting lazy with their new medium? Or is this just how the internet is changing publishing? We have the Compendium as a "live" source of the rules, in theory, so are the PDF articles now just introductions to new rules, with the final, current word always found online?

And will such a change to an article prompt the fanbois to be even more vocal about future articles, including all of the ones that aren't soliciting input? And will Wizards capitulate more readily? I hope not, and the wording of the news article definitely has the tone of apology, embarassment, and resolve to not have to make such changes in the future.

1 comment:

Francis Bousho said...

The moves were surely evidence of power creep, which I think is what caused such backlash from the community. Free ongoing 5 psychic damage (save ends) out of a 6th level utility power that triggers when you drop an enemy to 0 hit points.

That sounds awesome, and let me tell you, I like it a lot. But when I'm honest with myself, that's a huge bonus over most of the other utility powers that the ranger gets.

However, it's not better than some of the options opened up by Player's Handbook 2 or Arcane power.

Their are two encounter powers in particular, both level 6, that easily trump Death Threat. Both give the ability to deal 2d6 damage to a creature that attacks you in melee.

So,evidence of power creep in DDI is refuted, but if it shows up in a published book the audience is behind it.

I see it as the game evolving, and I am depressed that WotC changed those very engaging and interesting powers into more place holders with neat names.