#RPGADAY: Old RPG You Still Play/Read

Is six years old enough? I am guessing the intended answer is supposed to be something like 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Rifts, or something even more esoteric, but honestly the only role-playing games I regularly bother with nowadays are 4th Edition Dungeons & DragonsDungeon World, or FATE.

I've already talked about this one recently, but since one of my future projects is a 4th Edition hack something I would be interested in knowing is what you love and hate about it, as well as what you wished 5th Edition would have done.

I'm sure someone will swing by and parrot out a bunch of misinformed circa 2008 trollshit about video games, board games, MMOs, "I win buttons", and the like, but I'd still be nice to hear some constructive criticisms.


  1. I have a lot of thoughts on 4e, but let's see what we can boil down.

    For the sake of biographical information, we play Pathfinder, but I've hacked the monster rules to work like a simplified version of 4e's.

    Stuff I like:
    Tactical Combat - I really like tactical combat and 4e delivers in spades.

    Throttled Healing - A party without a leader and a party with a leader still heal close to the same amount per day. Healers drastically shifting campaign pacing is a problem.

    One-Stop Stat Blocks - All combat abilities are in the stat block. No books of spells or anything like that.

    The Hackers - The online community for 4e developed good skill challenge systems and boss fights. Also, they're pretty cool people as long as you don't say stupid edition war stuff.

    Monster Vaults - The Monster Vaults are pretty slick, from having enough fluff for my tastes to grouping monsters by who they work with to giving the monsters some personality.

    Rituals - The ritual magic system never really felt fully developed, but out-of combat rituals are great. I always kind of wished they'd integrated skill challenges here more, but such is the way of things.

    I'll do a separate post with stuff I'm not as fond of.


    1. Okay, now for the flip side: Stuff I don't like.

      AEDU - This isn't a "martials are spellcasters now!" thing. I just don't find the resource management for AEDU interesting at all.

      Short-Duration Abilities - There are better ways to represent teamwork and reward tactical play than a bunch of one-turn buffs and debuffs.

      Official Skill Challenges - Even once the math started working, the skill challenge structure presented by WotC is a poor match for most skill challenges. The internet did a much better job here.

      Official Solos - One of the huge draws of tactical play to me is sweet boss fights. 4e solos, especially early-4e solos, fall far short of the mark.

      Monster Complexity - Call me old school, but I feel like most monsters just need a basic attack or simple rider. Running combats where you have multiple types of monsters, each with many abilities, mostly just results in me dropping the ball.

      Readability - I get a lot of flack for this complaint, but I buy a lot of RPGs to read and eventually end up running some of them. That's how new games get introduced to our group. It doesn't really matter how well a game plays if it never gets into our house.


    2. I agree with this post.

      The only thing I might disagree with is Monster Complexity, but out of all the points, this is probably the one that is tied closest to personal preference. The abilities are great on monsters when they are not abusive or overdone. One problem is when an encounter have too many 'elite' or similar monster than has more than 1 encounter and 1 reaction. Most mobs in a fight should probably stick to the rule of basic attack, encounter power, reaction or passive ability. From there, you make your elites have the cool powers. If you have too many of these, you need to make them into glass-cannons to avoid dropping non-stop encounter powers on the heroes.

      AEDU would probably be more interesting if it was different per role/power/class or whatever way you want to cut it. What I mean is, AEDU is what vancian spellcasting should look like in a tactical game. However, it is hard to think of a reason why a fighter has a daily power. (encounters maybe.) "I can only cleave a guy in half once per day, it is part of my moral code." It would made more sense if they gained powered from items that granted a one-shot bonus, or needed blood to charge up. The excuse that doing a Daily is 'tiresome' is a joke. Take a 30 minute nap and have some apple slices, you'll feel better. In Dungeon World, you may not be able to triple your damage for one attack, but you can be a badass any time of day.

    3. In case you are wondering why Encounter powers might be okay, Encounter powers for fighters are typically a powered up version of an at will. By this reasoning, while fighting, you may occasionally be able to capitalize on one of your normal attacks and bump up the damage a bit or also make him bleed. These are things which you got 'lucky' on during your attack, though mechanically, you are choosing when the 'luck' happens.

    4. I remember in a Dragon Magazine (i think is 424..) have some House Rules to uses Encounter and Daily Powers more times, using Healing Surges or Action Points as Fuel.

      Its can be a option.

      I have problem with D&D 4th having to much levels, and always uses the D&D 4/2 house rule, from Greywolf'Lair (sadly, the site is down), and the max level is 15th, and i don't like Feats at all.

    5. @Cory:
      > The only thing I might disagree with is Monster Complexity, but out of all the points, this is probably the one that is tied closest to personal preference.

      Agreed. And with monsters, as with classes, there isn't anything wrong with having a range of complexity.

      Mostly, I just don't want monsters to be more complicated then their schtick needs. If the schtick is "hits things" or "really durable," then a basic attack is probably fine. If it's "strangles enemies with their own shadows," then it's probably going to end up being a touch more complex.

      > What I mean is, AEDU is what vancian spellcasting should look like in a tactical game.

      That's an interesting way to put that. And it might be appropriate, because I end up disliking them for about the same reasons.

      You get a ton of complexity prefilling each "slot" with a spell or power, both because you need to plan it all out in advance and because there need to be a ton of spells/powers to support it.

      And all it really buys you is diminishing tactical choices over the course of the encounter/day. Which is fine if it fits that class's flavor, like an alchemist who mixes stuff in advance, but isn't something I'd shoot for as a defining feature of my system.

      Really, I just don't play either AEDU or Vancian classes. So my options at 4e release were... somewhat limited :)

      > I remember in a Dragon Magazine (i think is 424..) have some House Rules to uses Encounter and Daily Powers more times, using Healing Surges or Action Points as Fuel.

      Yeah, any sort of pool system helps a lot. And the Essential classes largely sidestep the problem as well.

      David's talked about an Essential-ized warlord before, which would be right up my alley.

      I have at least one friend who'd still be willing to play 4e if it'd launched with Essentials options.


  2. @Kinak:

    Rituals: I wish some spells would have been bumped to rituals, like summoning creatures. It would make more sense than per-day summons. Also, yeah, better integrating them into skill challenges would be great.

    AEDU: Your criticisms are well thought out that there's no way I would think you were pulling a "zOMG FIGHTRS R MAGIC!1!1!" I think the system works, but "it works" is a bare minimum. Honestly I would have preferred each class having a resource management system that made sense for it.

    Short-Duration Abilities: Any examples, or exmaples of games that do this in a way you like? I only ask for design purposes.

    Official Skill Challenges: I recall them getting good somewhere around The Elder Elemental Eye which, if I use a kind of skill challenge system, would be my baseline.

    Official Solos: I recall the MM3/Monster Vault ones being great. Any particular design faults? Again, asking for design purposes.

    Readability: What about it, specifically? This would be useful for me to know in terms of layout and such.

    @Cory Alfaro: Yeah, having lots of diverse monsters could bog the game down since you have to read a bunch of stat blocks and guage their abilities. It's like having an ever-shifting micro party on tap. I like your idea of having the "standard" monsters having maybe a core thing, with the elites or bosses having more complex blocks.

    As for the martial stuff, the encounter and daily powers are essentially narrative control. It's not that you can only chop a guy in half once per day, it's that you as a player can only declare that this is what is going on once in an adventuring day. This is similar to action points: they allow you as the player to declare that you get to take an additional action. Not only has virtually every edition of D&D had encounter and daily powers for mundante types, but there is a precident in other games for players having narrative control (including FATE and Dungeon World).

    @Darcy: Oh shit, I need to snag that issue, then!

    1. AEDU: Yeah, something that brings out each classes flavor is far preferable. And then you get variety for people who like different things mechanically as well.

      Short-Duration Abilities: In general, I think location-based buffs are great for tactical games as long as they’re large enough to care about (read: not +1 for high ground).

      I half remember Iron Heroes having a great leader system for this. I’m at GenCon now, though, so away from my books. As I recall, you had a pool of tactics points you could spend to grant bonuses to your allies’ actions.

      Mechanically, it works very similarly to a one-round buff, but since you’re using it the same moment the bonus will be applied it’s infinitely easier to keep track of.

      Official Solos: I’m going to opt for a bit of heresy here. 4e solos aren’t videogamey enough for me.

      When I have a boss fight, I want a dynamic fight that goes through several distinct phases and isn’t afraid to play off the terrain. The fight as a whole hinging on a puzzle or special challenge is a bonus.

      The Monster Vault dragons start to get there with their changing tactics on hitting bloodied.

      Readability: I know a lot of people complain about the white space. I don’t think that’s the problem I had.

      For me, it was mostly that I don’t find fragments of text in stat blocks readable. So, the header information for spells or the blocks for monsters basically never got read. And that was fine, because there was so much fluff.

      But with 4e’s leaner approach, skipping everything that wasn’t a paragraph means you’re skipping most of the PHB and the MM. It’s also more noticeable in the PHB because the blocks aren’t all in the back. For comparison, I found the Essentials books slightly readable and the Monster Vault to be at a pretty good point.


  3. A lot of interesting thoughts here, will monitor this thread.

    @Darcy: I think it's in Dragon 423, thanks for the info btw.

    1. Its kinda both, 423 and 424 have House Rules. But in fact, you are right.


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