Sunday, 16 February 2014

Day 16. Do you remember your first edition war? Did you win?

Edition war with D&D? I had them, in my mind. Did I win? Yes. By voting with my wallet.

As I pithily pointed out yesterday, I dislike 4E. While I won't fall on the common tropes of board gaming for WOW raids, I will cite instead Penny Arcade's Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik and PvP's Scott Kurtz talking to WotC's Mike Mearls in 2012, as D&D Next was being drafted, designed and internally tested, about converting their 4e "Acquistions Inc." PCs.

They ultimately call out 4e for a core problem, built into the game from the very beginning, by accident or design I don't know: the game becomes a deck building "living card game." Whether antagonistic to the DM or not, at your table or not, the problem exists and only got worse at paragon and epic play. 

Let's drop into the conversation:

MM Yeah, I think in some ways what happened was, between Healing Surges and Encounter Powers, like when people would look at their character sheets there's like two or three pages of just combat abilities.
JH I have a stack of cards in front of me actually.
crosstalk
MM Oh, exactly, the cards you cut out.
JH Yeah.
MM So I think what happens is just kinda of nudges people to think if they want to do something in the game their first reaction is look through their cards or look through their powers.
JH But they don't think about what they want to do from a character perspective.
MM Exactly! Right. It starts to...uh...it starts to kind of push its way up to the forefront. 'Cause when you think of it when people are playing D&D you only have so much processing power you know, so much bandwidth in your head. So if you're juggling to much mechanical stuff that might for some players...now, I'm not...there are plenty of players this isn't a problem with, but we're kind of looking at the entire spectrum of players...
JH Yeah
MM ...who [see the card mechanics start] to crowd out other things they might want to do.

They continue to talk about how Jerry's cleric's cards, "Omin Dran's" powers and abilities, might convince "an alien visiting Earth" that D&D 4E is "a game about combat." Jerry sums up the banter with, "This is a game about hitting people."

The reality of 4E as a card game becomes obvious as Mike Krahulik begins talking about his frustrations with game play and how house rules and DM spot bonuses to players having "their next action ready" helped, but only so much as the game reached epic tier:

MM So I have a question for the...so, when you think about fourth, like, what do you think...are there any specific things in the game that you're not happy with or that you have house ruled and wish you had bigger solutions too. I'm just curious to see, like, when playing the game. 
crosstalk
MK For me? As a DM?
MM Yeah
MK My biggest problem I would say is that, uh, by the time they reached level 20 or so I had a very hard time, I felt, challenging them...
JH Well the party was...they were...
MK ...within the rules of the game.
JH [The party] was a pantheon by that point
MK Yeah, I mean, I...I could definitely make up stuff and tweak rules and and cheat to hurt them [laughter], you know, by level 20 I really did have to cheat to hurt them. I felt like if I were to just use the math, boy, they were going to kick my ass every time, in every encounter.
MM Interesting. They were "bad"...
MK They were Bad News Bears. I mean, my group come, came, from card players. Like they, they like having cards and they like thinking about synergies between cards. And, you know, it's one thing to think about synergies in a deck, but this is a group of five card players thinking about synergies between five decks.
MM Yeah...
MK I mean they were setting themselves up for attacks and powers that were just insane.
JH I mean, it was like, it was like, five tournament Magic players that had created a single five-headed meta-deck.
MK Yeah.
JH It was spooky.

And this is why I never picked up 4E. I heard it being played. I watched the PAX events. I looked at the core books at the FLGS. And while I never saw World of Warcraft for the tabletop, something told me the game would become a deck building game of power and abilities. And I was right, if not, conscience about it.

Flame On!

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 AM in d10