Getting back on track…

So, over the past couple of months, I’ve been swamped in real life. As I mentioned before, April was murder. I worked 10 to 11 hours days for a while, and had no days off for three weeks. When I got home from a day’s work, if I had more than a couple of hours before bed so I could start the mess all over again, I just wanted naps and relaxation, or I worked on an article for DDI. I’m playtesting that before I submit it, but the core of the article is now in the can. May has been catching up with a lot of stuff I had on hold during April. Car servicing and lots of weeding (my house sits on an acre and a third, and is mostly open dirt lot), as well as job hunting and family stuff. So now, with the 5th Ed playtest out, I’m finally making time to write.

I looked through the 5e Playtest. (I refuse, personally, to call it an “iteration.” Iterations leave a bad taste in my mouth, both as villains in Mage the Ascension and interative attacks from D&D 3.x.) I am not impressed so far. I think there are some interesting ideas for house rules for my 4e game, but I think 5e shaping up to be a retrograde system with a hint of the redheaded stepchild that is 4e. This is more or less as I expected.

There are some ideas I like. I like the ideas of background being a framework to build your skills upon, and themes having a connection to your feats, but in both cases, they could also be called “builds.” By redefining them as they have, it seems to me they are knee jerk-reacting to the criticisms 4e got for being “an MMO.” I like the idea of the Advantage/Disadvantage system, but I have to wonder if it will create a “death spiral” for the disadvantaged character. I’m also concerned about things like equipment lists that force players to micromanage their possessions. Just this weekend, I just handwaved whether or not the party had a spyglass, rather than forcing them to have it on their character sheet. I’d rather tell a story than force my players to micromanage a slog through a dungeon. But this is the direction of 5e.

I’m also seeing commentary in a lot of places that tell me that 5e will likely fail to be the “healing balm” that it is meant to be where the community is concerned. D&D 5e is supposed to be bringing the gaming community back together. What I see already is 5e tearing the community further apart. OSR grognards are gloating how they seem to have won the edition wars, in an almost “now you see how we feel about 4e” sort of way, and the 4vengers are talking about either sticking with 4e as it is or coming up with some way to continue to support the game after Wizards ends publication. I personally am looking into those ideas and groups, as what I see in 5e is not a game I plan on spending money on. I’ve already spoken to the idea that I’m not interested in a retro-clone of older editions, and that’s what 5e looks like at this point.

In other personal news, I picked up the new Cortex-engine Marvel Heroes Roleplaying Game. I was fascinated by the presentation of the characters! Most of the “datafiles” characters is focused on roleplaying the character. Except the powers section, all of it describes the personality behind the powers. I haven’t gotten to the character creation rules (which at a glance don’t seem to really support creating your own character but rather is an engine for interpreting characters not in the core rulebook), so I don’t knw how they work, but I really like the character presentation and focus on personality. I’m sure any OSR grognards who might be reading this are wondering why I can say this and say I like 4e, but I have my reasons.

A good deal has been said recently about how the 5e rules supports roleplay, and 4e doesn’t. I’ve had that argument more than once. To you who think 4e doesn’t support roleplaying, look at the races in the PHB. They are presented on two pages. One is a half-page piece of artwork and a half page of mechanics. The other page is all roleplay notes. Anyone who can’t see that doesn’t get that RPGs should not be in the business of telling anyone how to roleplay. Maybe rewarding roleplay should exist, but that’s it. That’s kind of the point. You shouldn’t need a book to tell you how to play pretend. However, having mechanics that support roleplay is fine. I believe 4e does that, and I like what support for roleplay I’ve seen in MHRPG.

That’s it for tonight. I’m still trying to get back to the resource management being the core of RPG mechanics, and I’m hoping to get past that and get into some of the ideas I’ve had for other gaming soon.

Thanks for reading.


About docryder

I'm an experienced table top gamer with an open mind to new game systems. I'm looking to explore ideas I've got. Some are pretty meta, some are pretty mundane. Welcome to my world.

Posted on May 30, 2012, in D&D 4e, Metagaming. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Cortex game does let you make your own characters, but there are no hard rules for it. Just assign your solo, buddy, and group dice, pick a few powers, assign whatever dice you feel are appropriate, etc. The GM just has to set the boundaries, and the players are free to make whatever character they want.

    Apart from Clerics looking a little underpowered and the return of Vancian spellcasting, I’m liking the look of 5e. Especially the Advantage / Disadvantage system in lieu of calculating what bonuses apply to each attack. Sneak attack needs work, too – sneaking is your action for the round, so mobile rogues don’t fare well right now. Glad to see the At-Wills are being kept for mages. Now, they just need to give the Fighter something to do besides an extra action a few times a day.

    • Since MHRPG is so focused on the personality of the character, and comic characters are all over the place where power levels are concerned, maybe that creation system isn’t a bad thing.

      As to 5e, as I said, I’m thinking it’s an interesting source of house rules for 5e. The “opportunity attacks suck up your regular action” could go a long way towards speeding up combat. I was listening to Critical Hit, a Major Spoilers podcast (, and one opportunity action took up a large chunk of game time, as a ranger ended up shooting someone, moving and taking a healing surge, from one immediate interrupt. That’s a lot, and maybe that should have taken the character’s next action.

      Yeah, I think clerics are weaksauce right now, and Vancian Magic will scare away more new players than it draws in. I have one player who avoids all spellcasters in old editions because Vancian Magic is so much more time consuming in game than she wants to deal with.

      I’m just not sold on 5e, and I probably won’t be.

  2. My argument for the “4e doesn’t support roleplay” crowd is that it just divorced RP from dice-rolling. So many encounters in 3e got cheesed by the characters with their social skills maxed out, cloaks of charisma, and Skill Focus: Diplomacy.

  3. Chris Weatherby

    I’m in agreement on a lot of your points… it really bothers me that they are trying to force-feed this “D&D Next” concept down everyone’s throats. Lets face reality here people, it’s 5e!

    I also agree that there are some great concepts; advantage/disadvantage is a great idea, I really like the rules for bleeding/death saving throws compared to 4e (and will probably houserule those into my 4e game as well).

    It also feels like there is a LOT not there that is missing. Charging? Flanking? I’m not that much of a fan of opportunity actions and not that upset about not seeing them for the whole “slowing game play down” issue, but it’ll be interesting to see what they do; there’s a lot of outcry.

    With regards to roleplaying… a problem that I’ve personally seen in my gaming group(s) (not with you though Craig!) is that some players have felt no need to roleplay at all. None. To them (and I’ve felt this way at times), 4e has felt like another step into turning the game into a simple tactical character-based wargame. The thing is, it always really WAS and it was always based on that, people had to insert the roleplaying for themselves! For whatever reason though, 4e has seemed to be a reason for returning to boiling down to: here’s my powers, this is what I can do, and that’s it. If it isn’t on here, I can’t do it. Many people I play with don’t bother filling in their character description or personality at all. Alignment is as far as they get with regards to anything that doesn’t have a number next to it…

    Themes, builds, backgrounds, etc, do help to encourage roleplaying in 4e, and I’d like to see more of those. 5e does seem to make them more important. Background based skill training seems to make sense to me. I also believe that Class training should have some impact as well though.

    It’s a work in progress, and I feel this is a very rough draft. Makes me hope/feel that any final release is a long ways off. It’s like a block of wood or mound of clay that’s just started to form shape but there’s a lot of work still left to be done.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Chris! Good to see my readership grow.

      Lots of good comments there. One thing I thought of, while reading the criticism of 4e vs. roleplay: I get that a lot of people play the game robotically, where’s the DM in all of this? I don’t mean to cast aspersions on any DM, but the DM leads the game and sets the expectations. I have another post up today regarding the Catch-22 Effect, in I comment on how the GM needs to respond to player expectations while following his own plan. Lindelof refers to this as a dance. When dancing, one dancer needs to lead. If the DM isn’t leading, the game will show the results. If the DM isn’t leading his players to roleplay, they won’t. I’m doing this with the kids in my home game (not so much with the game at Crazy Squirrel, though). I’m leading them into roleplay slowly (as they’re kids and it bores them currently). I’ve seen similar with other systems, though. In the Camarilla, the STs often do little to encourage roleplay, and thus most games lead to becoming PVP-fests, eventually. Some STs do lead towards roleplay, and their players readily follow. My opinion is anyone who complains about a low roleplay game is really complaining about the DM.

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