D&D Limits Adventure Design?

This is going to be one of those ranty posts, so if you aren't a fan of those then I would just move along.

So over at Paizo's messageboards they for some reason have elected to keep the 4th Edition sub-forum, which means that from time to time I duck it and scope things out (sometimes they do adventure conversions, which are kind of nifty). A thread titled "Pathfinder 4E?" caught my attention, in which someone asks the question of whether or not Paizo would do an adventure path intended for Dungeons & Dragons. The immediate answer was a flat-out no. This was expected, as were the follow up comments of thank god, why would they, 4E is probably too boring to write for, etc.

Not far down, a poster (who is also a publisher?) pitched in the following:

From the trunk of D&D 3E has sprung two very different branches: 4E and Pathfinder. And more than just rules divides them. Design philosophy divides them. I dont think you could actually make the adventures Paizo makes using the 4E rules. The two just don't go together. 4E is all about set piece combats. Just see their adventures. Its so true they even changed the format of how they publish and present adventures. Gone is story and character and development and anything not related to the game table. Paizo is all about story and character. And there is a belief (that is clearly held, whether or not 100% true) that you can't do what the developers at Paizo want to do with the 4E rules.

While I agree that there is a design philosophy difference (ie, character balance and usability), I think that Clark is outright wrong in his observations.  I cannot tell if he is deliberately trying to misinform or is simply ignorant. Probably both. What is even more fucked up is that on the next page, he states that he does not intend to make absolute statements (despite making several), and is actually congratulated by Sean Reynolds two posts down.

Of course it all made sense after doing some research and discovering that this guy wanted to do 3rd-party material for Dungeons & Dragons. Since WotC didn't release a license permitting this for quite awhile (I guess since it was done in all of one Edition, that it must be a mandatory thing?), he was not able to do so and is now bitter about it. So bitter that he is resorting to disguising his heavily biased opinions as facts after they had already been challenged and refuted. Seriously. He isn't even being creative about his trolling; it is the same shit that was being slung back in 2008.

What I would like to know from an alleged publisher (with a website that hasn't been updated since 2009) is the same damned thing that I have wanted to hear from the haters since 4th Edition was released: why do you think the game limits character development and storytelling? What about Pathfinder makes it "all about story and character"? I'd heard from someone at Paizo that one of the purported reasons that they wanted to stick with 3rd Edition is that they couldn't do the adventures that they want. You know, those same adventures that people are having an apparently easy time converting, sometimes on the fly?

The truth is that there is no valid reason why Paizo couldn't make an adventure path for Dungeons & Dragons, except for perhaps spite and bitterness, which makes more sense because of the magazine licenses being pulled (despite giving them time to wrap up Savage Tide) and releasing a new edition. The fact that WotC did not include a third-party license probably just made things worse, but then they were never required to do so in the first place (and I am of the mind that most third-party content in 3rd Edition was ass, anyway). I know Clark thinks that Paizo hoisted the magazines to new heights, but I never used any content from Dragon, and only bothered with the adventure path content in Dungeon. Nowadays I use content from Dragon all the time, and have run plenty of adventures out of Dungeon, so at least for me it has gotten a lot better.

It is funny to see him throwing around comments like, "Paizo gets it" or that they are "gamers to the core". I guess Chris Perkins's Iomandra campaign wiki, and all those podcasts and videos don't mean shit? The best part I think, is where he goes on about how he is glad that he "cannot" support Dungeons & Dragons. Oh sure if he could he'd "probably have to"...except he then follows up by saying that even if WotC did make an OGL for D&D that'd still probably go with Pathfinder. You know what? I am also glad that he "cannot" support Dungeons & Dragons. I think we are better off for it.


  1. You are spot on. I too have been rather irritated by the comments, starting right away after 4E release, that this edition doesn't support "real roleplaying" etc. Where does it say that? What supports these claims? Has D&D ever really had any rules regarding "roleplaying your character"? Do you need rules for that? I started playing RPGs in the early 90's, RuneQuest, MERP, Cyberpunk 2020... I even tried GURPS and have played quite a lot of oWoD games. My first D&D was AD&D 2nd edition and I own the 3rd edition rule books. But what is the single roleplaying game that I have played the most ever? It's 4E, I have played it actively from 2008 onwards. I am a DM and this is by far the best rules set for high fantasy that I have tried. 3rd edition just wasn't as easy to run as a DM, the rules were not as balanced and they lacked the necessary streamlining. My opinion is that roleplaying doesn't need any rules as such (and 3rd ed. didn't have them any more than the current ed. has). What is important is that those situations that need rules (combat, different kind of skill challenges) are easy and streamlined to run. That is the reason for my 3rd edition books seeing very little action and my 4E gaming being so active.

  2. Of course you're right. It's all about the license, which is a considerably more potentially profitable deal than the license that WoTC offers for 4e.

    The D&D market is mostly "installed base". That is to say, the bulk of sales are made to existing rather than new customers. The 3rd parties apparently think that to increase market share of their products from a fixed pool of customers that it's necessary to discredit 4e and WoTC.

    Given that WoTC keeps giving them plenty of ammo, it's insanely easy for them to do so.

    And I think they're right; using social media to evangelize against the market leader is a winning strategy FOR THEM.

    For the customers, it's not nearly so clear that it's a winning strategy. Usually I am in favor of more choices but more niches in an already niche hobby that requires a group of people to play exacerbates the problem of finding people with whom to play --- which means that the products merely end up as reading, rather than playing, material.

    Note that Paizo goes to great lengths to make sure its stuff is fun to read....

  3. I'm not a fan of 4E. I have played it, and I did find it fun, but fun in the same way that playing a game of HeroQuest is fun. _FOR_ME_, (and that subjective measure is the only claim about 4E I'm making here), the game felt like adding characterization to a board game. I also like Pathfinder. I find it to be familiar to my 3.5 background, yet streamlined in a way that I feel improves gameplay. Simply put, I enjoy using the Pathfinder rules more than the 4E rules.

    Having said all of that, I am sick to death of this pointless nerd rage war between 4E and Pathfinder! Despite my personal preferences and impressions of the two games, I believe that either set of rules can be used to run any style of adventure. The structure of an adventure and the player-driven progression of a plotline are not encapsulated within the rules of either system, thus both should be equally be capable of running "adventure x" with only adjusting the stat blocks of NPCs or monsters being necessary - the rest of any adventure is dialogue and the rules aren't involved in that.

    When a player roleplays the personality and behaviour of his character, does it matter if he's rolling a D20, D10 or a D6? Does it matter if his character sheet is 4E, Pathfinder or even WoD? Ignoring the structured dice-play of combat, when the GM describes a scene and the characters and NPCs interact, just where do the rules get involved? In ANY rpg, the rules are only used to both randomize and arbitrate actions such as picking a lock, bluffing someone, swinging a weapon, racing a car, dominating the mind of another, casting a spell, aiming a laser cannon, etc. The interplay of those actions in the setting of the adventure are all performed using speaking. Just words. Arguing over the rules beneath the game is the purest of infantile bullshit.

  4. Look at where the 4e criticisms are coming from - the Paizo board. Paizo produces a competing product. It's only natural that they want to bash their competition, and try to drum up sales for themselves. IMO, the "edition war" is largely manufactured to sell product.

    I do think that Antioch is being a bit naive in his observations:

    "The truth is that there is no valid reason why Paizo couldn't make an adventure path for Dungeons & Dragons"

    Except that they're trying to sell their own game system, campaign settings, and adventure paths. If they sold adventure paths designed for a competing system, they'd be undermining their own sales. That's a perfectly valid reason not to write them.

    I'm actually shocked that Paizo allows a 4e board on their forums, and even more shocked that they don't go after people posting fan conversions of their adventure paths. That speaks to a certain level of tolerance on their part which I find commendable.

    I'm sick of the whole edition war mindset. As a DM, I prefer 4e, because it's simpler to design monsters and encounters the way I want to. Gone are the days where I would spend hours statting up a high level NPC. As a player, I could care less which system I'm playing.

    Arguments about which system "promotes roleplaying" or "is all about character" ring especially hollow, since it's not the focus of either system. If you want to promote roleplaying and character, play Mouse Guard or Burning Wheel, games which focus on those aspects of play, and provide mechanics for dealing them.

  5. @Paul: I should have qualified my statement. I know that Paizo doesn't want to because it is for a different game (and perhaps for other personal reasons), but Chris was trying to claim that the mechanics were somehow a barrier. I guess I'm kind of surprised that a publisher is actually using old edition war statements to try and make a point.

  6. Why do you need mechanics for role playing? Hell I can "Role Play" Monopoly.


  7. I will have to agree and disagree with you on some points of your rant.

    First, I will agree that any system can support any kind of adventure. I have played 4th edition adventures that have actually had no combat in them what-so-ever and they were still fun. No system prevents role-playing.

    I will also agree the 3rd-Party publish was probably bitter about his own personal dealings with Wizards, and that influenced his comments. His comment did seem a little angry and like he was just tying to start an edition war.

    I will have to disagree with your point of their being no reason for Paizo not to design an adventure path for 4th edition. There is an obvious reason for them not to do it; it makes no sense from a business stand point. Why would a company who has their own numerous game product lines to support make a product for another company's system? It would probably end up hurting them because it would take away from their own projects and help support their competitor.

    I also have to mention that your bitterness statement really doesn't make a lot of sense either. For one, a lot of the developers over at Paizo have said numerous times they are actually glad to be out of the magazine industry. Also, they have the 4th edition forum on their website and have been known to promote 4th edition products in their store blog. That really doesn't sound like a bitter company to me.

    I understand you don't like Pathfinder or Paizo, and that's perfectly alright. Everyone has their right to their opinion. However, it's not fair to accuse them of things when there really isn't any really good evidence of it. While I don't like some of the things that Wizards of the Coast is doing, I don't insult them.

    In the end, I have to side with Paul on the matter. While I think 4th edition is a well-made system and can be fun, I prefer Pathfinder. I will admit my reasoning is based solely on personal preference. I would be happy to play either system, but if I had the choice, I will always go with Pathfinder. I just have more fun with it. You don't, and that's perfectly fine.

    I'm just tired of the Edition Wars. In reality, they are utterly pointless because they won't change anything. There will always be one side who claims there game is better than the other, and the militants on the other side will jump at the chance to defend their precious game. I prefer to stand in the neutral (a.k.a sane) side of things.

    Also, I'd like to say if you felt like I was attacking you, I apologize. I just don't like it when someone attacks (whether it be deliberate or not) something that really doesn't deserve it. You have the right to your opinion, and so do I.

  8. As I mentioned two comments up, I get that one valid reason is that they do not want to write adventures for a competing company. I found it mostly surprising that a publisher (Clark) was spreading misinformation and actually being congratulated by another content writer for his trolling.

  9. I'm sorry for repeating a statement that you already replied to, that was my fault. I disagree with the publisher's statement as well, and Sean shouldn't have congratulated him, but he's the only Paizo employer on that thread who reacted positively to the publisher. The others were actually trying to keep everyone calm and not have an Edition War break out. Liz Courts even said, "I shouldn't have to say it, but I will: Telling other people that their game of choice sucks does nobody any good."

    Don't let the small minority define the majority. I was agreeing with your rant until you decided to insult a company with no basis for said insult. I can understand that it might have been someone written at the spur of the moment with unchecked emotion, but throwing around insults doesn't help anything. It just makes a situation worse.

    Also, since I repeated someone else's reason why Paizo wouldn't do a 4e adventure path, I came up with another one. Some of the developers, like James Jacobs for example, prefer 3.5 over 4e. Since they like 3.5 better, it would be harder for them to do a 4e adventure. It would be like taking someone who doesn't like Pathfinder and making them do an adventure for that system. While they might make a great adventure, they are working with a system they aren't a fan of and don't enjoy as much.


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