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- A Message From Thom, Part 2
Here's the second massive correspondence between Thom and myself. It took quite awhile to go through it and answer everything, and its possible that I might have missed something (or failed to fully respond at length to certain parts). Seriously, it took a long time to get through all of this. His messages are in bold, my responses are not.
B.) The classes and races in this product are nods back to the classics from the D&D of yesteryear. Even though this boxed set utilizes 4th Edition game mechanics, I can still easily visualize what each of them is supposed to be doing, and certain powers and abilities have been altered. This may not seem like much at a glance, but it's important. Fighters hit things with weapons, thieves steal, clerics heal, ect ect. If I were to actually step into this world I can easily tell what's supposed to be going on, and as an avid role player, that's the only reason why these sorts of games appeal to me. Having done work on video games, the magic of weird powers and unstoppable heroes has been lost on me long ago. I like a hint of realism even in the fantastic.
C.) It's cheap enough for anyone to buy, even a kid trying it out for the first time. I spent the last decade filling my shelf countless hardcover 3rd Edition books, and I saw no reason do do it all over again just because the last edition wasn't being supported any more (Which is a large factor in the popularity of the Pathfinder RPG.) But, 20 bucks for a boxed game that I can play by itself isn't bad.
D.) Wizards of the Coast has actually come forward and reached backwards to fans that they may have lost for whatever reasons. Previously, the tone of 4th Edition's marketing campaign has felt forced to me and many others. The slogan of 4th Edition could have been, "It's new and you'll like it." With the Red Box the slogan could be "Here is what you want."
“E.) The adventure feels classic, even cliched; but in the best way possible.”
“F.) It's possible to buy this product and then ignore the rest of 4th Edition. I call it the ‘Jar Jar effect.’”
G.) I'm tired of typing bulletin points, I just get a good vibe from this product, isn't that enough? I don't really need a reason to love the things I love.
The heyday of D&D occurred a long time ago, back when a media frenzy made everyone think it was satanic or something. That's when it was all over the news and people were eager to find out more about it. The broadcasts of celebrities playing 4e D&D today are mostly just marketing stunts by WotC's PR department, it's good business after all. But, MMOs stole D&D fire about the time that World of Warcraft came out, which is sadly more recognizable to the kids these days. Somebody at TSR or WotC really dropped the ball when it came to the MMORPG market, but that's a long-winded rant for another time. ; )
But, the action-adventure fantasy genre really isn't their own. There have always been other games and things that are miles ahead of D&D in terms of fantasy action-adventure. D&D is just the quintessential tabletop RPG and WotC really just needs to focus on this rather than trying to spin it in new directions. ( The D&D movie comes to mind while I'm typing this. )
Now, that's all fine well and good if that's the sort of game that you are looking for. In my case, I like it when players have to struggle at times. The players shouldn't win every battle, it's all part of the drama. If I wanted to make the PCs feel more powerful, it'd be a simple matter of letting the players start at a higher level and toning down the difficulty because that's part of the job of being a Dungeon Master.
I'll agree to disagree with you, but I personally felt that D&D's art quality hit its peak sometime around the launch of the Dragonlance books, and dropped back down again sometime around the launch of 3rd edition and has steadily continued to drift off in the opposite direction from my own personal tastes.
I’ve had more of a fondness for Tony DiTerlizzi’s works, especially in the Monster Manual and Brom. After that it was Todd Lockwood and Sam Wood, before Wayne Reynolds caught my eye in the early splatbooks with his black and white art. Michael Komarck is also badass (though it took me awhile to figure out who he was).
Going back over some past book covers, perhaps the Character Sheets would have been a better option? It looks virtually identical to the Pathfinder one (Wayne Reynolds and all), just mirrored. J I will say, however, that the covers did vary quite a bit. Sometimes you had people milling about, sometimes they were fighting a dragon, and sometimes it was just people doing stuff. In the end it’s a matter of taste.
In my experience, those demographics are made up mostly of awkward teenagers and the sorts of people who I don't want to play in a game with. With these races right there in the Player's Handbook it's doing a fine job of broadcasting that players can play an over-sexualized lizard woman, or a leather clad demon-goth. It's what I like to call "substitutional roleplaying". It's when players select a stereotypical fantasy trope and then act it out as if it's their own creation. The worst example of this I ever lived to see was the flood of angsty scimitar wielding drow outcasts that just happened to appear at every gaming table right after R.A. Salvatore released the Drizzt books.
The worst that such a player could do with the Red Box races would be speak with a bad Scottish accent while playing a dwarf, or name their elf "Legolas." In the past I have forced players to just shut up and play a human.
So, it’s okay to use some racial tropes, but not others?
I’ve read the article. He claims that Wizards is “on public record” claiming that the only thing they care about is what goes on during combat, but doesn’t cite his source. That seems contradictory in that they provide hard rules for skill challenges and arbitrating non-combat skills for out of combat scenarios.
For one thing, the Defensive rolls in Pathfinder are an optional ability that is for rogues only. It's localized to one class and there's still a chance that it could fail. Boxers and other martial artists are trained in real life to roll with punches, but I know from experience that no matter how well you roll with something hitting you it will eventually wear you down. So once a day, I could suspend disbelief long enough for a mythical hero to handle taking half damage from a battle axe... but twice? Not likely, I don't care how nimble they are.
I know a lot of 4th Edition abilities work under similar principals, and those are fine in my book, but there are a good number of them that just don't make any sense to me. Healing Surges are right at the top of the list, as they don't seem realistic at all. Every class can use them and many abilities in 4th edition revolve around the manipulation of Healing Surges. I just don't like the slant that they place on the game.
In the past, healing magic was treated like a great miracle that only a select few could call upon from the gods or what-have-you. Now, everyone can heal themselves just because the rules say they can. I know that this a personal quirk of mine, but a lot of people share it with me, so it's a valid point. I know that monks and barbarians and others in Pathfinder have limited self-healing abilities too, and that's fine because it's explained to me in a way that makes sense and it doesn't mess with the spirit of the game.
I use them all the time in my games, in fact certain trademarks of my campaign depend upon them. Horsemanship, seamanship, dancing, gun smithing, and more. I understand that these may be less important in certain games, but they are very very important in mine. Clever characters should be rewarded for ingenuity and simulation skills not only allow them to show better means to deal with a problem, it also shows creativity.
A friend of mine is a professional dancer in real life and she likes to implement this into the characters she plays in my games. It takes time and work to get that good at something and it's unrealistic to assume that the player is simply good at everything that comes up outside of combat. Some people can sing but not dance, or vice versa, which is why I favor the skill point systems in Pathfinder / 3rd Edition.
My complaint with 4th edition isn't the fact that they focused more on combat, in fact, I give a point in its favor because of it... I just don't know why they couldn't have worked out both combat and skills.
Read the articles again. He specifically mentions working with Monte Cook (who wrote an introduction in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook explaining exactly why Pathfinder was made) and why he respects Paizo. ( http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/writersroom/8115-Complete-Mike-Mearls-D-D-4th-Edition-Essentials-Interview.7 )
"One of the things I like is what Paizo does with Pathfinder, is they have these adventures about Path that are very identifiable." - Mike Mearls
Not so, 4th edition is not supported by the Open Gaming License like 3rd Edition and the Pathfinder RPG. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Game_License ) Anyone who wishes to produce D&D 4th edition material must first go through WotC themselves who can choose to edit or even deny 3rd party publishers the rights. Wizards has even been known to take legal action against fans who have posted 4th edition SRDs of their own. ( http://www.wizards.com/d20/files/4E_GSL.pdf )
Which is fine by me, because it’s their property. I see nothing wrong with Wizards telling someone that no, you cannot write up a Book of Erotic Fantasy for 4th Edition. I’m sure they would have had no problem with Paizo doing adventures for their system, or even their own campaign setting. I’ve done reviews for numerous third-party publishers before, from cities (Scarrport) to new class options (warlock pacts, druid theme feats) to entire campaign worlds (Amethyst).
Many people are still playing games based on the D20 System. I chose to go with Pathfinder because it's a superior product that I feel is carrying D&D in a fun and logical direction. Since its launch Paizo has released many new game mechanics and classes the likes of which were never before seen in D&D. I suggest you check out the Advanced Player's Guide they just released, which really goes to show what they're doing with the game. The new combat maneuvers alone have changed the pace of my games, Dirty Trick being my current favorite.
In my experience, people will buy 4th Edition products simply because it is titled "Dungeons & Dragons." They know the name, so they buy it hoping to find the gaming experience they expect from it. The Red Box is a good choice for those types of people because it's trying to emulate that feeling, which is a big part of the reason why I like it so much.
The spirit of a game is just as important as (if not more than) the mechanics.
I don't want to argue the finer points of which game system is seeling best in which market. I think we both have better things to do than that. Both D&D 4th Edition and the Pathfinder RPG are selling very well and making the people who sell them lots of money. I had to wait a long time to get my hands on a copy of the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide because it kept selling out.
What the new Red Box is however, is a simplified version of 4th Edition that is at the very least attempting to say "Hey, I'm still D&D!" and delivers an adventure designed to help new people play the game. And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm giving a 4th edition product a thumbs up; and I don't even like 4th edition.
4e feels like an MMO partly just because of the art, partly because of the goofy powers that make no sense, and partly because of the lack of skills that people do in real life but not in video games. These changes were intentional because they were made to appeal to an MMO playing demographic. The mechanics of the edition are the lesser part of the problem, I just don't want to play the game. Can't "you people" just accept this fact?
A troll by any other name will blog just as angrily.
I know that this is a pro-4th edition blog written by someone biased towards 4th edition. If any of my original message comes through all this it should at least includeinclude that...
A.) Larry Elmore is an excellent artists and a friend of mine, everyone should go to his website and order lots of prints of his work.
B.) The Red Box is a good product, go buy it.
C.) I choose Pathfinder, not 4th Edition. Deal with it.