Sunday, October 18, 2009


As I mentioned before, we had a party wipe, and the decision was made that we would start our new campaign at 11th level, to see what more-advanced 4e characters were like in this edition; note that we have been playing 4e since it was released, and we died at fifth level. That should give you a sense of our pace, and of the likelihood of us having ever seen paragon tier "naturally". In fact, for the last three or four sessions, we had moved to half-the-encounters, twice-the-XP, just to try to ramp up our advancement. So much for that.

So what have we learned about the paragon tier so far?

Well, making a character is easy, which we knew: levelling up in 4e is almost trivial, since you make very few choices as you go, and the range of choice, while growing with the splat books that are coming out, is still small. However: choosing is one thing, knowing what you've chosen, during play, is another. Starting at 11th level is far different than advancing to 11th level -- as you advance, you get to know your powers at each level, only introducing one, at most, as you go. Maybe a new feat. Maybe a new magic item with a daily power. But you still have a whole level of adventure to get used to this newly available power. When you start at 11th level, especially with a class you've never looked at before (and remember, we've all only played on other 4e character), you've got a dozen or more powers available to you. Additionally, starting at a higher level means you start with magic items, again, likely ones you've never seen before, so have new abilities and modifiers there.

I do wonder how much of our tardiness was due to the new class, and how much to the large clump of new powers. While powers do define what you can do, in the end, the class does define the role, and thus gives you an overall sense of how your character is likely best played. Switching that up -- I went from a Leader to a Striker -- is quite the change (until, I'm sure, you've played them all, perhaps a few times), so we might have seen the same lack of coordination if we were to have started at 1st level with these characters. But I think we'd all agree that we would have caught on a lot faster, with just a couple of at-wills to get to know.

Two of our group was missing last night, but we decided that the party, sans deux, would tackle the first encounter without them, to take our new characters for a spin; if they won the battle, well hurray for them -- the other two would join the party later; if they died (because they were only four in an encounter designed for a party of five), then we'd press Undo, say, "that was fun", and wait until the rest of the group was available to really start the campaign, and re-do that encounter (without any metaknowledge of course!)

The reasons I wanted to do this were to let us get to know our new characters (which, as I mentioned above, is a real necessity), as well as to see if, as I believe the intent is, a paragon encounter takes no longer than a heroic one -- it's just more interesting, more involved.

Because of our struggles with our new powers and items, it's hard to say whether that test passed or failed; as the DM, I can attest that these paragon-level NPCs were no more difficult or time-consuming to run, but that's only half of the equation. And, our heroic battles could take many hours anyway (I've yet to decide if that's just us, or the game).

In the end, we halted the battle because it was after 2am, and we weren't going to finish it soon. We weren't losing, we were gaining ground, and I think we certainly would have won -- but not before a few of us would be waking to our children. And if we thought we were fighting trolls last night, we could easily imagine the trolls our wives would have been had we been up 'til 5am fighting them.


Griff said...

I think the learning curve for grasping the powers etc... is really the fault of the Character Builder. By doing all the math it removes the learning that used to go with manually crunching the numbers.

For the last month or so I've also been been wondering where the supposed quickening of combat has been. The last couple of fights have all taken 4+ hours. Granted most of them were a case of one encounter turning into a second as reinforcements have arrived on the scene, but still... if 4E is "faster to play" than 3.5, we must be doing something really wrong.

Francis Bousho said...

I don't know where this myth about 4e being faster than 3.5 came from. I played 4e from release, and we've only taken about a month break from our game so far (but I'm starting tomorrow as a player) and from my own experience with our group, combat runs about the same real time.

If you want a fast paced Wizards product, try Saga Edition Star Wars. I've been playing it for awhile now on the side, and I think I'll be making some house rules to make 4th edition run a little smoother.

For instance, Saga has the equivalent of encounter powers in their Force Power Suite. An interesting feature of the game allows you to regain your force powers if you roll a natural 20 when using one.

I'm considering allowing players to regain a spent encounter power whenever they roll a natural 20 on their attack rolls. Or perhaps a feat or paragon path feature that allows you to trade in your action point to return some spent encounter powers.

I'm still mulling the ideas over in my head, but I've seen, like you have, the grind that battles can become once you've expended your encounter and daily powers.

Francis Bousho said...

Ok, so I just joined in on a paragon tier campaign, we are level 12, and today we played for five hours. We did two battles, and that was after we had gamed for an hour.

It seems that a team that knows what it is doing quickens combat quite a bit. Not to mention that I rigged up my assassin for max dps. Against an enemy in the first combat I was able to deal 21, 56, and 44 damage to one enemy in a span of three turns.

With the the bard sliding us around the battle, and the cleric blinding enemies, granting bonuses to hit, and giving us CA against our enemies the fighter and I were easily able to defeat the first, and then the second battle with little difficulty.

I was the only one who slowed up combat, because I didn't know my powers. So you should be picking up in speed here soon.

Crwth said...

We replayed the first combat in the campaign, this time knowing our characters a little more, and with another party member.

I think combat did go a little faster than last time, so yes, I think getting a feel for being dropped into an 11th-level character (in a class you've never played, and/or the first time at that level) eventually speeds things up.

I still found that, after the combat, I was looking at my character sheet saying, "oh yeah, I get such-and-such when I do this-and-that! Doh!", where if I had progressed into this character from level one, I would have known each of these (new) abilities more intimately.

Francis Bousho said...

Yeah, it took me till two hours after gaming to realize I should have done an extra 4d6 damage two turns of combat...which is a pretty big deal when you think about it.