Gaming Tonic
9Jan/1227

After Playtesting: What I Want and Don’t Want in 5th Edition

As some of you know last month I went out to Wizards of the Coast.  I had the opportunity to play an early version of a new or 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It felt a lot more like the games I grew up playing but perhaps with the wisdom that the designers have gained from the last two editions.  During a really candid conversation last month Mike Mearls head of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons made this comparison, "D&D is like the wardrobe you use to go to Narnia." It struck me so I jotted it down.

I have always attempted to keep my work for Gaming Tonic, EN World, and my opinions as positive as possible and attempt to look at both sides of every issue. With that being said I am going to let you know what I want in 5th Edition from each previous edition of the game. I am also going to let you know what I don't want to see from each of the previous editions. I have playtested only a small part of the game very early in the design process since so much will be dependent upon fan feedback. I am not allowed to discuss any of the mechanics at this time. Wizards of the Coast stated their goal of the new iteration of D&D was, "The goal of this project is to develop a universal rules system that takes from the best of every edition and get at the soul of what D&D is. What better way to do that than to look to the fans to help us in this effort?" The fact that the took a simple fan of the game and gave me a glimpse of what they were thinking tells me this is the truth.

The best thing about 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons in my opinion is the addition of options to "heal" a party that were not clerics or some derivative of cleric that came out in some third party or a later in the edition crunch book. The warlord and the bard are both obvious choices to fulfill this, one being social and perhaps a hint of the arcane thrown in and the other martial. I have played D&D since the basic edition and this has always irked me.

The best thing about third edition was the opportunity attack. It really allowed the front line types to defend the "squishies" a bit better than in previous editions. I never liked the idea of an opponent simply walking around my sword and board fighter simply because it wasn't my turn. Opportunity attack is an easy enough mechanic to institute and adds a flavor of realism to the game. If you design a simple rules system with more complex rules to suite different styles of players than this should definitely be in the first supplement if not in the initial release.

The best thing about second edition was the release of the Skills and Powers options book. It came out almost at the same time as the Combat & Tactics book but much of what each book contained was not easily compatible with the other book. Skills and Powers allowed the players to tailor their class to suite their character concept, role-playing style, and perhaps party need. If you were a bandit style rogue you could choose to not take pickpocket and Thieves Cant and instead take Move Silently and better combat abilities. This would also eliminate all the unnecessary crunch that stacks up and unbalances editions over time but we that is an article all by itself for another day.

From 1st Edition D&D I would keep the magic system. It was much more detailed than anything previous, the write-ups were incredible, the magic was earned, and no player wish lists were turned in. The function of each item was in the description of the item and unique to that item. Magic items felt magical instead of a very bland stat block with powers and feel similar to lots of other magic items, which is how 4th Edition sits with me. Magic wasn't expected but when you did get it you appreciated it. You might even find an item with a name or take the time to name your item yourself.  Bookkeeping was not necessary to make sure that each party member had a magic weapon/implement, armor/protective device, and neck slot item by a certain level.

From Basic D&D I would recommend reviving Mystara. Not only was this a fascinating and detailed campaign setting but the gazetteer books were specific to a more localized region than a lot of products today. The Dwarves of Rockhome were a force to be reckoned with and were not kicked out of their halls by humanoids. I am partial to dwarves, in case you were curious. The Mystara setting was very detailed but left enough space for the characters to spread out and do their own thing. In the Forgotten Realms and Eberron so much of the map is owned by one particular power or another and so ridiculously detailed that players and DM's alike shy away from changing the canon.

Now moving on to those things that I disliked from each editon I will start with 4th Edition. Now that I have had several years to play the game I think that healing surges are a clunky mechanic that doesn't add anything to the game from a realism or cinematic standpoint and therefore should be no more.  I think the game designers realized a few of the flaws with the healing surges and hence the artificer and the Healer's Sash.  Melee strikers seemed to run out of surges earlier than anticipated and especially at lower levels and in the hands of inexperienced player.  I don't think the mechanic had the desired effect the designers intended it to. Some sort of mechanic so a character can catch their breath is a good addition but the healing surge is not the answer.

I know this will cause a huge uproar and I will be thoroughly tongue lashed for saying it but D&D needs to do away with feats. This is a whole blog at some future time all by itself but I will hit bullet points here to support this.  Most feats add little bonuses that in previous editions the DM had just made up and handed out.  They were story rewards, the little boosts were appreciated by the players, and not subject to ridiculous stacking effects for which they were not designed. No two feats are the same and some are absolutely worthless anyway. They continuously gain more and more power and the older ones are never taken out of the DDICharacter Builder and it is a pain to make a character for the casual player.  Often I will just let a player do something and then later on there is a feat to allow them to do that. Be honest, is Skill Focus Streetwise even close to Dwarven Weapon Training in value? I think not.

My Second Edition beef is the ranger's favored enemy. As a player I always hated picking one not knowing what they DM may throw at me. As a DM I never liked feeling that it was necessary to add in something that fell into the ranger's favored enemy category. This feeling applies to anything that makes a class power apply in limited situations. It could be a rogue's back stab not working on lots of monsters in the game, especially as you began to climb in level. The cleric's turning ability falls into this as well since it only affects undead but with spells to complement their class abilities clerics suffered far less than some of the other classes that have these situation powers.

The first edition of AD&D suffered in limiting the options of the players when it came to selecting a class for some races. These class restrictions only restrained the ability of players to build the character that they could picture in their minds and in the story. Why were there so many dwarven magic items if the dwarves had no wizards to enchant them? I understand the idea to craft certain races to excel at some things and perhaps not be as naturally inclined or skilled at others but to restrict races from some things altogether is neither smart nor necessary. This actually flies in the face of most fantasy tales where the heroes are often the exception from their races and not the norm.

If we just leave out the clerics can't use edge weapons and allow clerics to have spells at first level from the basic edition of D&D then the game will be better. I know that is technically two things but I was the new guy to the gaming group and therefore had to play the cleric and was always disheartened at first level to not be able to wield a sword or cast a spell. I am also a fan of clerics and have long felt that they did not really feel like the gods were on their side. If my character's diety wields a battleaxe I want to be able to emulate that in my character. If I don't receive any spells at first level then I am a horribly armed and armored fighter only lacking in that classes combat prowess and hardy hit die.

I am sure you have your own lists and I encourage you to write them, to post them, to be active on the message boards. Here is your golden opportunity to make your opinions heard.  I do believe that those people who need to listen actually are listening.  Make sure you get signed up for the playtest and keep giving feedback on the Legends & Lore columns. I suggest voicing your opinion in a positive way. This news will stir up some fervor and Wizards of the Coast expects this.  This is exactly the kind of thing the gaming community can use to unite us in one common goal, making the next D&D game what we want to play.  If you want to check out more then see my enworld.org piece here.  Until next time, Roll Hard!

Comments (27) Trackbacks (3)
  1. I thought opp. attacks were older than 3e. I seem to remember getting smacked for trying to move around enemies in the old “gold box” computer games like Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds, but maybe I’m misremembering.

    Good article! Solid points.

    • You’re thinking of moving away from a melee opponent, which gave a free attack. This tied into the rules about “facing” which went away in 3.5. I’m on the fence about whether or not I like facing rules. There was also the “Guard” option in the gold box games, which was roughly equivalent to a modern held action, except you didn’t lose your place in initiative.

  2. This is great and some really well thought out wants and don’t-wants. Thanks for posting it.

    If I had to pick something to get rid of and something to bring back, it would probably be to minimize the requirement of grid based combat, at least in the core rules. I’d like to be able to run combat without a grid if necessary and pull it out for the set piece battles, much like I did in every previous edition. Getting out a map and minis is very jarring to the flow of a night of gaming and I’d rather not do it every combat. This has caused me to decrease the number of combat encounters and completely eliminate ultralight skirmishes, or run them as skill challenges which works but my group doesn’t find particularly satisfying.

    Second, I would bring back more class and racial abilities. I like the unification of the skill list but I miss each class and race having a small list of truly iconic abilities built into them.

    I’m a big fan of 4E but there is much I would change and I’m excited to have the opportunity to influence the next version. The idea of a D&D Greatest Hits Edition (I’m now coining D&DGH or D&DGHE) is great. You saw it here first. :)

  3. Here are some of my thoughts….

    I liked having a character and game that focused equally on combat and non combat situations. This means having spells and skills useful outside of combat.

    I disliked the way healing was handled in 4e. But I liked starting with more hitpoints.

    I liked a lot of what Conan represented combat wise…

    I disliked the lockdown of 4e (how can I make something run if everyone has a way to force a monster to stop…)

    I liked the ease of 4e character creation but dislike the cookie cutter feel about it (so much seemed the same)

    I liked having a real world to play in – 4e tried to handwave over the campaign setting.

    I like having tactical combat…but want the ability to have combat “in our heads” too. The battle grid should not be used every time we swing the sword.

    I like vancian casting (the ability to pick spells each day) as opposed to just “having” dailies etc.

    I liked races that have real distinctions, not just a plus and a minus here and there. I dislike arbitrary limitations.

    I like skills and feats. But I think there is a better way to do them.

    I like knowing that there is a basic scale for hitting an opponent who is wearing ‘x’ armor. (modified by dex). Modifying by Level seems weird.

    I HATE wish lists for magic items. I HATE a system that demands you have magic items to be able to be successful. I LOVE finding weird magic and trying to figure out what it means/does. And if it doesn’t help, selling it.

    I’m ambivalent about meta magic stuff. We never used it…never missed it. (Don’t choose another 3rd level to make your second level more effective…or brewing potions…or creating spells…)

    I like a leveling system that has multiple tracks …. Easy, standard, hard. Us older chaps like to level up because we play less often….

    I like standard races for start…Human, Elf, Dwarf, 1/2ling, ½ elf. For the most part, the rest can be optional or return them to the Monster manual.

    I would much prefer a game that can be played AS is with 3 books. DM’s Guide, Players Handbook & Monster Manual.

    I prefer a character sheet that can be 1 or 2 pages max. We are so killing trees these days.

    I want a game that allows for rolling dice for character abilities as the standard.

    I want my +1 magic weapon to be special.

    I do not want skill challenges.

    I’m sure there’s more….

  4. It’s weird, reading your comments, its sounds like you’re probably not a big fan of 4E yet I agree with most of what you said and I quite like 4E. I think it’s just kind of “its own thing” and what it is, is very good, but its just very different than what I expect.

    I’ll add my weight to the “we shouldn’t have to break out a grid every time we swing a sword”. I definitely agree.

  5. Well, here goes my impromptu list (if I took more time to think about it maybe some of these things would change, and I didn’t really play 2nd edition at all, so I’ll just skip over that one perhaps adding one to the list here or there…)

    What I love about 4e is the return to ease of DMing. I could easily say that about 1st edition instead, but DMing in 3rd is a giant pain. I wish that the milestone system worked to “fix” the 15 minute workday a bit harder (milestones just weren’t a ‘separate but equal’ choice compared to taking a 6-hour nap), and I wish that there were more X/day powers instead of just once/day and once/encounter powers (lay on hands is one of the few remaining multiple per day) because that lets a gruelling day show its pacing more readily. The same for always healing to full HP between fights and the somewhat wonky deal of healing surges. I just wish that there was a bit of a return to resource management, I guess.

    I don’t mind the modern reliance on the grid since I often integrate tech into my games (a lot of the time simply playing online entirely), so with a virtual tabletop using the grid is super easy – it snaps itself, it has easy to use condition trackers, etc. If such a tool was available from the start (like 4e promised but never delivered) then I absolutely would not mind such reliance on the grid for fighting. One thing I do wish, though, is that it was easier to handle lighter battles in 4e – level minus 1 is a little faster but poses basically no threat whatsoever, and even if it runs at a brisk 45 minutes, not many people have the chance to run eight 45 minute encounters to actually wear down the PCs. This brings me to 1e

    From 1e I love the briskness. If you follow the intent (do as I say not as I do…) from Gygax and ditch stuff like encumbrance and weapon vs armor tables then it’s pretty darn good. It has no magic item santa wishlists and it definitely doesn’t have “builds” as we know them today. Sometimes it even has cheap and cruel tricks, taking those magic items away, and it’s rather deadly. Perhaps a little too deadly. Each edition seems to have made the PC more robust but I think 4e is about the limit here.

    From 3e I like the level of attention to detail it tried to give to everything. It failed in a lot of ways, don’t get me wrong, not least of which is the totally fudged handling of magic (allowing wizards to increase save difficulties, eventually removing the concept of random encounters, giving wizards more potent ability score damage options while simultaneously increasing hit points across the board let wizards effectively attack 7 different hit point scores depending on which was lowest, etc. etc.), but the attempt to provide serious verisimilitude is one thing that I really enjoyed. I just wish that it knew when to say “you know what, maybe stuff like weapon vs armor tables from 1st edition weren’t the greatest thing ever made” and back off a bit. An a la carte options style D&D would cater to that desire of mine quite nicely.

    I think that the biggest thing that I don’t think works, though, is the result of a marketing blunder during 2nd edition. Material bloat. When TSR was experiencing financial difficulties it was an easy move for them to say “wow dragonlance really sold! Let’s make more settings!” or “wow, this player option book really sold! Let’s make more splatbooks!” Power creep and feature bloat in D&D have been a problem ever since 2nd edition. More than any of the mechanics I mention above that I love, hate, or love to hate, I absolutely loathe power creep and feature bloat. Does anyone need 3000 feats? Can you even remember them all? Or even most of them? Are most of them even relevant or have they since been replaced with something strictly superior? Did anyone REALLY take ranks in “use rope”?

    And, finally, one thing I’d love to see included that hasn’t been in any edition of D&D is an overhaul of the skills/ability system integration. Why does the wizard know more about religion than the cleric? Why is there no “strength AND dexterity” check to cover general athletic activity like playing a sport? Why are our ability scores numbers, but those numbers aren’t relevant 99% of the time, only the plusses (and occasionally minuses) they grant? Why is my rogue great at convincing people things that are false are true but when handed the truth is as effective as a wet noodle? I think that a lot of features like that need to be cut to the core and seriously given some imagining and thought to make them work in a truly satisfying way that perhaps no edition has ever really given us.

    And above all else I’d like to see a way to handle goal-based experience points in a more productive fashion. The narrative people have thrown out experience points as being useless while those with a rotating cast playing older editions still love them as they always did. My personal favorite example of this is the aspect system in Spirit of the Century, where players define what is important to their character and then both they and the GM have total transparency in the key aspects (eponymous, no?) to be manipulated. If you’re a reformed thief, maybe you should take the reformed thief aspect, and then when you’re tempted with money the DM can give you a faustian bargain between fortune and experience.

    All in all I think there’s a LOT to learn out there, from the older editions of D&D to games that TSR and WotC never even had a hand in. I’d love dearly for this to be the “edition to end all editions”, and that seems to be the bar WotC is setting for themselves; I just hope they can handle it.

  6. I’m sort of surprised by the seeming dislike of the healing surges. Now that it’s been described, I understand the point about the melee types usually running out while the ranged types just hung on to theirs all day. But I do like the healing surges from the perspective of “everyone can recover a little on their own”.

    With that said, what about a hybrid? Every class gets maybe two to four healing surges between extended rests, and you really only spend them on second winds (or something like them). The healers get a pool of “heal points”, which basically determines how many heals they can cast per day. Or maybe two kinds of points… one that recovers between encounters, and one that recovers with extended rest… so the healers will always have “normal” heals by resting between encounters, but have a more limited number of the big “oh crap” heals.

    Just throwing ideas out. I guess I just like that in 4e, healers don’t have to expend their other resources to have healing power available. Playing a cleric in 3.5 meant it was probable you’d have to loose other prepared spells to heal your group, and you’d have to hang on to the spells you prepared so that you could have a heal ready should you need it. I never liked that. Why penalize the healer?

  7. i think the 2nd wind mechanic is awesome and should be kept. the ability for a character to catch their breath in a fight, patch a wound and defend themselves for a second is a great mechanic. what should be dropped is a running count of how many times a character can be healed. sure 1 2nd wind per fight for each character, but after that let your healer tell you how the fight is gonna go. if he’ can heal everyone like crazy let the leader yell “charge” and get stupid. even if he heals the same character 10 times… the only count to your groups heals per day should be on the one doing the healing not some arbitrary # assigned to your character due to his role and a stat. A system that can make a party stop because the wizard failed a skill challenge then gets set on by wolves in a fight and the fighter still has 10 surges…. mehhhh.
    so drop the individual counts and let the healer keep up with the healing like it has been in every other edition but keep the 2nd winds so he doesnt have to nurse-maid the group as much. Oh and to agree with kdtipa, give the heals something on top so a healer can do more than heal. like small heal + def/att boost or just the big “oh crap” so they can affect the battle by doing more than keeping someone afloat.

  8. The biggest, most aggravating thing about 4E for me is the almost complete lack of mechanical difference between classes. In 2E & 3E, Wizard-types felt vastly different from fighter-types. In 4E, since everything is just “power cards” and everyone progresses the exact same way, they all *feel* the same, and the game is worse for it.

    As a Cleric in 4E, I feel less useful as a “healing class” because all of the characters can heal on their own. But as a non-cleric it’s nice to be able to heal.

    I *loathe* the MMO-ification of 4E. “These characters are Leaders and these are Strikers because we said so” makes 4E feel like Wizards is trying to tell me what my role is and how I should play it. That’s complete hogwash; let me play how I want. If ever another player tries to tell me I’m not playing D&D right because my rogue is “tanking”, then that player needs to go back to WoW and let me play how I want to play. There should never ever be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to play a character.

    In my limited experience, 4E really streamlined the work the DM has to do in a game, and that’s fantastic. That’s also the only thing I like about 4E. :/

    Personally, I don’t like Warlord as a class or Eladrin as a race. Warlord should return to being Paladin and Eladrin are elves. If you want to be a different type of elf, that’s what backstory is for!

    I’ve picked up the Pathfinder book with the intention of running it for my group, but I just don’t have the time to sit down with the book these days…

  9. I think 4e made things easier on the DM not because it produced a better system, but because it took everything from being (as a rough example) on a 9th grade reading and calculating scale down to a 6th grade one. Everything got simplified and homogenized and we lost things like level-based skill points and prestige classes – we lost options, in other words. As someone who loves playing jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none characters (and doing them well, and having them actually be useful to the party), I felt that 4e had nothing to offer me in my play style. It didn’t make it hard to play rounded characters and have them be useful…it made it impossible.

    On the other hand, Pathfinder, which a lot of my friends call DnD 3.75 is actually a really solid midpoint between 3.5 and 4.0 Dungeons and Dragons.

    It streamlined a lot of things, including giving you everything you need to run the game (except for monsters which deserve their own book) in one large Core Rulebook. Their DMG is full of nice tools and shortcuts for DMs but is not actually required to run a game.

    The archetype concept is one of the more interesting and innovative approaches to adding options without making a thousand prestige classes or new base classes. Essentially, each base class is now a mix-and-match. Want your rogue to be a bandit? Take the Bandit archetype. Mix it with other archetypes if it’s almost-but-not-quite what you want – a sane DM should have little trouble checking the power-balance.

    Sad that your wizard is a squishy and largely useless character until it gets Fireball? Frustrated that after about 10th level your fighter is at best a meat shield for the casters? Pathfinder bothered power-balancing all the way up the level progression (and did it up, not down, so your caster is more awesome than it used to be at low levels and your fighter is more awesome than it used to be at higher levels).

    Want to play a half-elf with a slightly different flavor? Racial abilities are modular – most things (except ability score adjustments, size, and senses – so the non-physical, training or culture-based abilities) have one or more other options in race entries in the Advanced Player’s Guide.

    Magic items are more interesting, including rules for actually building your own constructs and intelligent magic items and expanded rules for Ioun stones that make them even cooler.

    Want to make a healer that isn’t a Cleric? Paladins, Witches, and Alchemist all have viable healing options. Want a Cleric that can actually use the favored weapon of his or her deity? Done and done.

    Everybody has options. Nobody gets left out. All base classes have seen play in my games or my friends’ games, most in several different incarnations. The same base class can be played by two people in the same game and seem totally unique each time. Pathfinder did what 4e tried to do…and actually succeeded.

  10. I agree with your pro/con list (or at least the general concepts behind it) for the editions. I like the dimension of customization having feats and skills and class and race features gives to characters, so feats don’t bother me as much . I’m sure a better system could be devised, but given a choice between keeping feats or losing them with no replacement I’d like to keep them.

  11. I see some folks defending the healing surge mechanic. I’m sorry, I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would try to defend it. There are consumables out there that any class can use to self-heal. Healing surges are simply a band aid for players/parties who can’t practice resource management. I also don’t believe having clerics swap spells for healing is “penalizing” them. It’s part of the job so to speak. Picking and choosing when to apply my talents when playing a spell caster is half of the challenge (and enjoyment). I started out playing magic-users in 1e/2e so I suppose 20+ years of being a little stingy with magic has developed into a pattern.

    My group switched to Pathfinder almost as soon as the public beta was over and haven’t really looked back. Paizo did an excellent job freshening up 3.5 and bringing CORE classes back to the forefront. Couple that with embracing OGL and you have an easy winner.

    But this isn’t about Paizo. It’s about WotC. Personally I think WotC had zero business getting into the RPG world. But that’s a topic for another day.

    Regardless of how I feel about WotC, I REALLY want to see them knock this one out of the park. There’s absolutely no downside for another killer system to play with out there.

    My request is this: PC strengthening had its place, but it’s gone way overboard. Make the game deadly again. Think old-school Shadowrun deadly. Otherwise, levels will continue to feel like an eventuality, rather than an achievement.

  12. “But this isn’t about Paizo. It’s about WotC. Personally I think WotC had zero business getting into the RPG world. But that’s a topic for another day. ”

    It is about Paizo when you get down to it. Paizo forced WoTC to rethink their strategy. Had Paizo not had the success they had with Pathfinder, I doubt we’d be looking at a new addition.

    I am interested in what the new addition brings. I can see myself playing Pathfinder and the next edition of D&D (especially if it incorporates elements from past editions.)

  13. “Regardless of how I feel about WotC, I REALLY want to see them knock this one out of the park. There’s absolutely no downside for another killer system to play with out there.”

    This.

    This is the right attitude to have. Similarly, I have little to no interest in PF. I own the core book and have read it and will play it if asked, but I’m just not a fan. But I want nothing more than for Paizo to be incredibly successful. The more big, influential games we have going, the healthier the hobby will be. I really like 4E but if WotC can better it, or bring in more new players or bring back old ones, great, I say do it. I see no upside for wishing for them to fail. I think that’s an immature and short sided attitude. More options and a healthy industry are good for all of us.

    With regard to healing surges, I’ll give a bit of insight from my perspective. First, I’m neither here nor there about them. They are what they are. And that is basically a component of a new design philosophy that perhaps went too far in 4E. That being: take out all the stuff that doesn’t actually make the game better. In this case, it was potion hauling. In previous editions, you always loaded up on potions and then had to resource manage them as you adventured. They simply removed the buying of them. Now, each class basically has a belly full of potions with a somewhat limited mechanic to use them. The weird thing is, healing potions still exist. I will say that from my experience, player no longer bother with healing potions. Surges have simply replaced them and added a bit of mechanical interest to their use. I would actually say that there is an increased level of resource management to them than before, but that’s just me. I’m not defending but hopefully explaining them a bit. I could take them or leave them honestly but they do a decent job of removing a bit of tedium from the game in buying/stocking up on potions.

  14. “In previous editions, you always loaded up on potions and then had to resource manage them as you adventured.”

    In other words, as a player, you made CHOICES as you played and 4E’s healing mechanic is an erosion of those choices because the healing surges MAGICALLY COME BACK TO YOU. It’s like making a game for idiots who drank all their potions too early; just let the idiots die, for crying out loud. Next game they sure won’t do that again.

    Now if the problem is that there were too many potions being given out, so management of them became a pain, the solution would be to not give so many of them out in the first place. _Nobody_ would have ever complained about how hard it is to manage a potions if they only had one of them…

    One last point. All of this is being considered in the abstract (too many potions = resource management…) which is huge mistake. Consider it as what the hell you are trying to simulate and the mechanics then support the simulation. Considering the mechanics outside of this is nonsense. Potions simulate magic in a liquid form. To consider it a ‘resource’ to be ‘managed’ is a sure way to doom your games.

    • Typical knee-jerk reaction to surges, despite how long the rules have been out for someone to read them and understand how they actually work.

      Hint: They don’t equal free healing whenever you want.

      • You can run out of them, which is where you are quibbling, but that is only half the story. The other half is that they do come back to you automatically and they are about as far from rare as you can get.

  15. Sorry for the confusion, I wasn’t justifying it/defending it, just attempting to explain the thinking that went into it. I think they decided that “just let them die, they’ll buy more potions next time” wasn’t a design choice they wanted to implement. And healing surges saves you from saying, “we run back to town to get more potions” after every few encounters. Same with extended rests saves you from saying we go back to town and rest up for a few days and on each day, we blow all our healing spells until we’re full.

    I think they decided to remove “unfun” stuff. Yes, that includes dying and potion runs to town. Was it the right choice? Maybe not, but it’s hard to say. I would say that managing potions was never something that made D&D more fun for me personally so I would not care if it went away. But then again I’m not in love with the surge mechanic either. I think it was a solution to a quasi-problem that ended up being more of the same really. And 4E is definitely not trying to simulate anything. Quite the opposite end of the gaming spectrum. Like I said, you could still play the potion game if you wanted, there’s nothing stopping you, they still worked in 4E, as part of the surge mechanic.

  16. To clarify, I use “resource management” as a broad term for tracking consumables, spells, powers etc… I don’t try to turn my games into Eve Online sims. :)

    I’m not a “DM versus players” kind of guy, but I AM a fan of using attrition to challenge my players when I run. “Run out to rest and get more potions” is not generally and option for my players due to story design. BBEG’s don’t have to be massively overpowered when the party has already spent 60-70% of their “resources” getting to them. This is a big plus for me as I’m a stickler for sanity in dungeon ecology. If surges existed in my stories, a lot of the tension that comes from being low on spells/powers/consumables might go away. That makes victory much less satisfying IMO. When I’m on the other side of the table, I try to play like my own skin is on the line, regardless of class.

    I suppose what it comes down to is what someone considers “fun.” I’m sure there are many groups that love a good tactical combat sim and I think 4e provides that in spades, while sacrificing aspects others (like me) hold dear. Balancing all of us and our strange quirks is quite a tall order. It should be interesting to see if WotC is up to the challenge. I’d put the encounter level at about 35. :)

  17. Based on that, I think maybe you’re seeing a problem where there is none. Let me try to explain:

    ““Run out to rest and get more potions” is not generally and option for my players due to story design. BBEG’s don’t have to be massively overpowered when the party has already spent 60-70% of their “resources” getting to them.”

    This is still true. If you can disallow a run to town with story design, my guess is that you’re also disallowing an extended rest. In older versions, that means, no getting used spells back. In this edition, it means, no getting dailies back AND no getting surges back.

    In 4E, you do the same thing, you deplete their surges and dailies through the course of the dungeon and leadup encounters such that the BBEG doesn’t have to be so powerful because the heroes are running on encounters only and very few surges.

    I’m with you 100% that 4Es overly tactical nature came at the expense of some pretty important game elements for me and my group. We’ve worked diligently to overcome a lot of them but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of a new version that doesn’t go quite so far in that direction, or is at least, modular to the point that I can play the game the way we’ve always played it but with better and smoother rules and design elements.

  18. Better still is to not sell potions in the first place because anything you can buy smells distinctly unmagical. As has been said, this then helps to de-emphasise the difficulty of encounters and also the number of combats as a whole, which is good because variety is what makes experiences interesting. That includes roleplaying.

  19. I often use time sensitive goals or environmental factors to restrict leaving an area, but PF has spells that shorten resting requirements to 2 hrs or so; so the crafty party can sneak in an extended rest occasionally. I once had a party make an illusionary cave wall to hide behind and rest, betting entirely on the fact that they were in a loud room (waterfall) to mask their presence to passing monsters. It worked out for them.

    I see what you mean about adjusting the encounters to account for surges, but that seems to make for a lot more/harder “random” encounters. I -try- to keep the combat fairly light for non essential fights. I prefer to let the party work on the puzzles/traps I lay out for them.

    Differing styles I guess.

  20. @Recursion King: I am totally with you. Availability is a key factor in my games, especially for above-1st level magic items. My players quickly learn the value of a few item creation feats.

    Have we successfully derailed the comments section yet? :D

    • Yeah, probably. My bad. Anyway, great back and forth guys. Hope to see you both in the 5E playtest, your ideas would be great input!

  21. @RecKing, If you’re willing to say “no purchasing potions” you could just as easily say “cut your surge value in half”. But yes, I don’t want to belabor the point. It is what it is and while one can tweak it to get very similar results it isn’t exactly the same.

    @Token, I like the time sensitive goal myself. It’s a good tool. I’m not familiar with 4E having tools to circumvent the need for an extended rest, at least not on a party level and not down to 2 hours, but even so, that’s a long time to go uninterupted in a dangerous dungeon or the keep of the evil wizard.

    And you’re right about making for harder encounters. That’s an issue that 4E definitely struggles with. Non-essential fights are often best run as skill challenges and that’s different than people are often used to. I like it myself, but it’s not perfect for every instance and I’m sad that 4E simply doesn’t support the concept of the light skirmish type of combat, one that could be resolved in 15 minutes or so. Seems once you drag out the battle mat in 4E, you’re pretty in it for 45 min at least, if not an hour depending on group size and experience.

  22. I’m an avid MapTool user, so my battle mat is out most of the time. The vision blocking and fog of war mechanics make for amazing experiences, especially when a member of the party becomes separated from the group. This makes entering/leaving combat encounters pretty easy as well.

    I’ve been feeling nostalgic though. I think the next story I run is going to be a “mind’s eye” type rather than on a map.

  23. OK for me A very long time player started with chain mail back in 1979. All the editions have the good and bad things about them for me 4ed was the worse set out. with healing surges it for the most part gutted the cleric and trying to balance all the chars was not a good idea. I like the skill and feats from 2/3/3.5 I am part of the gaming testing for 5th ed like alot of you are and all I can say is that they are going in the right direction. One of my big things I didnt like about 4th also was power cards felt like i was playing magic the gathering and not D@D and with all the updates made buying the books a mute point. and having to have a subscription to use the char builder guess I am a dice and pen paper type of guy when it comes to making up a character. I did play 4th edition for almost a year but it was not the game it was the group i was with that i kept playing. If you have a good group you can over come alot of things bad about any system


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