Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hand me my crossbow.

As Crwth mentioned earlier I equated being down to nothing but At-will powers and a handful of healing surges to "grabbing the crossbow". It was an off the cuff remark and I'll readily concede that it's not very accurate.

For starters, the At-wills are better than the old 3.5 crossbow-shot-and-a-prayer fallback. If not "better" at least they're arguably more interesting/engaging.

Our rogue trotted out two of his at-wills before finally falling. The paladin likewise. The warlord made good use of his Wolfpack Tactics and the ranger steadily used Twin Fanged Strike (or whatever it's called). Of course that was pretty much the only power the ranger ever used. Still, it's effective.

My fighter/wizard should have been even more versatile with the at-wills, and to be honest I felt like I had more options. I got off a couple of Thunderwaves to try to get some breathing room (one time it actually hit!) and otherwise relied on Reaping Strikes (damage on a miss! Love it!). So, all in all, no real feeling of "let down" when left with nothing else in the tank, so to speak.

Instead, the downside comes in the lack of options beyond powers.

At several points in the battle I wished that I could counter-spell those damn controllers. Or use a resist fire potion. Or a neutralize poison. Something to alleviate the feeling of being powerless under those enemy's whims. It was incredibly frustrating being completely helpless to resist being blinded or knocked down.

Simply spread out so that the controller's area of effect powers can't hit everyone at once? Good idea. In theory.

In reality, we were hemmed into a dead end room (admittedly a bad tactical blunder and probably the biggest reason for our TPK) with at least one enlarged Duegar taking up even more room. Frankly, once we allowed ourselves to become trapped in that room we were at the mercy of the controllers. As they thoroughly kicked our asses all player ingenuity was effectively nullified. We needed to get incredibly lucky just to push our way back out into the hallway. As impressed as I was by the enemy controllers, I was ultimately just frustrated by them, and that took away from an otherwise fine fight.

Sure the at-wills kept the fight interesting, but no more so than 3.5's relatively banal "pot shots with the crossbow". Boiled down, the at-wills are still strike me as basic attacks with some flavor text attached.

So, does this mean that 4E sucks compared to 3.5?

I love 3.5 for a variety of reasons, but I can't say that it's hands down better; regardless of how one defines "better". It's all so subjective.

I will say that 4E has alleviated many of my earlier knocks. The variety of classes has opened up numerous options, so multi-classing isn't missed as much. The upcoming Skill Powers looks like it's gonna be all kinds of awesome. The encounters are a lot of fun, and even dying is exciting.

On the downside, I'm still not liking the concept of Reflex, Fortitude, and Will as defensive scores versus saving throws. I know the math and all works out more or less the same. I just miss the empowerment of making a saving throw versus simply being blinded or knocked down.

I'm also hating the dearth of magic items. There's a decent variety of them, but their usefulness is minimal at best. I miss the days of having that one trinket/potion/scroll that can be pulled out to use in some inventive way, or simply to save one's ass. I also miss the facet of planning that magic items used to bring. Knowing that we were facing fiery and poisoning Duergar we would have stocked up on fire resists and anti-poison potions/scrolls/spells in 3.5. In 4E we had nothing but our powers and luck to rely upon. When the former dwindled and the latter ran out, the results were fairly predictable.


Francis Bousho said...

You bring up an important point about 4th edition...there are no real weak/cheap/effective potions or scrolls or what have you in 4th Edition. And there should be, reading that encounter power from a scroll or drinking that potion (and not having to spend a healing surge) for a Fire Resistance 5 for five rounds. It seems obvious that these things are lacking, yet WotC has done nothing to alleviate the situation, and we are already on our 2nd Adventure's Vault.

I realize that Alchemy was created to deal with some of this, but let's be honest, not only is it not as useful or as versatile as potions should be, that still doesn't change the deep feeling of right that pervades me when I think about a wizard casting from a scroll.

Thanks for pointing that out, I'm going to definitely fix that in my campaign now.

Anonymous said...

One thing I've noticed about 4e encounters - as a DM - it's important to rethink the old 3.5 design ideas.

4e encounters should be about options the PCs can take. e.g. Multiple movement options (get up on the balcony, run through a different passage to flank) for both party and monsters to exploit.

Getting cornered in a room and hammered on by controllers might make tactical sense, but the DM should be giving the party opportunities to turn the tables by having an escape route or a way of blocking line of effect to those controllers to buy some time.

Anyway - I'll go on record to say that I moved to GURPS from AD&D because I appreciated it's simulationist approach. 3.5 moved a little closer to that, and I enjoyed it, although in actual practice the rules had too many problems to be easy to run. 4E is a woven from a different skein. I like it for very different reasons.