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October 12, 2010 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Got a question about old-school Dungeons and Dragons? Perhaps you should consult this database of questions and answers from Dragon Magazine's "Sage Advice" column.
posted by Pope Guilty (144 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like question 4, where the Catholic Church is officially declared Lawful Evil.
posted by dersins at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


In ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, how much damage do bows do?

None. Bows do not do damage, arrows do. However, if you hit someone with a bow, I’d say it would probably do 1-4 points of damage and thereafter render the bow completely useless for firing arrows.


What a deliciously sassy answer
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm in the middle of a paper on the aesthetics of Barry Goldwater's rhetoric and therefore don't have much more to say than this is fucking awesome.
posted by griphus at 2:44 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This will be great for trolling the DM, our next session is on Saturday.
posted by ryoshu at 2:44 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like question 4, where the Catholic Church is officially declared Lawful Evil.

Heh.

Players who wanted to be Paladins always seemed to be min-maxer jerks as well.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on October 12, 2010


According to David Cook, designer of Oriental Adventures, the forest barbarian ’s rhetoric proficiency is the art of longwinded argument. Essentially, the two opponents sit face-to-face, take deep breaths, and talk nonstop. The first one who pauses for breath loses. This proficiency has nothing to do with logic or the elegant use of words, in spite of its name. It is strictly a barbarian proficiency.
posted by theodolite at 2:46 PM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is pretty sweet. Thanks.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:49 PM on October 12, 2010


Players who wanted to be Paladins always seemed to be min-maxer jerks as well.

Hey, it's not my fault I happened to roll a 17 Charisma, and at that point it's practically obligatory.
posted by Copronymus at 2:50 PM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know, since I don't play it I don't really have any right to be annoyed by any changes in 4e, but knowing that they've removed any meaningful alignment system still burns.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am having a romance with a god, but he won’t have anything to do with me until I divorce my present husband. How do I go about divorcing my husband?

I was kidding when I told my mom I was going to be the Dear Abby of D&D players. Oh, little did I realize . . .
so endearing! oh, and the following is QFT:
How can I spice up my D&D game? My players, as well as myself, are tired of going on dungeon and outdoor adventures. I don’t have any city maps and I really don’t want to bother with them, so what else is there left to do?

Well, you can ask your players what they would like to do. They probably have all kinds of ideas. In my campaign I had a similar problem, and now one of my players is trying to become Pope. So, just ask them. I am sure they would be more than glad to help. Remember, they are not the enemy. They are your friends and more than likely they will be glad to stick their nose into the campaign and give you their advice. It is only human nature to do so.
A lot of the other questions and answers were very 1E specific, but this one really can be sage advice.
posted by bl1nk at 2:55 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agreed. The best GMs in any game system are always the ones who create a world and let you do whatever the hell you want in it.
posted by dersins at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody in my group ever played as a paladin. It was seen as too restrictive for the way everyday adventures were run.

"Ahhh! Watch it. You can't do that. Your Lord and Savior generally frowns on ale and whores. I'll go see if the bartender at the Bawdy Mistress Pub has any information about the crypts beneath the city. Why don't you go check on the horses, Percival?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:01 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agreed. The best GMs in any game system are always the ones who create a world and let you do whatever the hell you want in it.

Simulationism Uber Alles, Uber Alles Simulationism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2010


Although the Players Handbook does not include them in the description of the Raise Dead spell, may elves and half-orcs be raised from the dead?

No, they cannot. They do not have souls, and therefore a wish must be used to bring them back.


Little human supremacy going on at TSR back then, I see.
posted by ConstantineXVI at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agreed. The best GMs in any game system are always the ones who create a world and let you do whatever the hell you want in it.

True. A corollary to that is to always being prepared for a player to roll a 20 on a snowball's-chance-in-hell roll. Otherwise, you're SOL when instead of stopping the Kobold invasion, a member of the party with a high CHA modifier and a 20 on a Bluff roll ends up leading the invasion and burning down the town.
posted by griphus at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paladins can be awesome; just depends what you do with them. One of my favourite iterations of Vault of the Drow included an excruciating exploration of evil through inaction. Heh.

Cavaliers, OTOH, are mostly just annoying.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:06 PM on October 12, 2010


So it seems as the pages get higher, the questions get more serious and less funny. (I didn't read through all of them, I skipped to the back and worked my way back)
posted by Deflagro at 3:06 PM on October 12, 2010


There's a guy who's been reading and reviewing every single Dragon Magazine ever (plus The Strategic Review, Dragon's precursor). He generally has strong opinions on the Sage Advice column.

Starts here, although it seems to be on a couple of different RPG boards.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:11 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like question 4, where the Catholic Church is officially declared Lawful Evil.

To be fair, the Catholic Church has formally banned the torture of Orcs since the Numinorian Encyclical of T.A 2769.
posted by empath at 3:13 PM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


My lord this is fabulous.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2010


Little human supremacy going on at TSR back then, I see.

As much as the lack of an elven soul might make you think otherwise, if you are suggesting that TSR made 1st edition humans superior to elves, then you have not played 1st edition.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:16 PM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cavaliers, OTOH, are mostly just annoying.

And somehow the annoying player always manages to figure that out pretty quickly. Either that or my friend from way back when was really, really into the role.
posted by GuyZero at 3:17 PM on October 12, 2010


OK I thought the nerdiest thing I'd do this week was spot an extra in a movie was wearing a Green Lantern symbol t-shirt but now I'm disagreeing with this guy. I got rid of my player's handbook years ago so I can't look it up, but I'm sure that Thieves could be Chaotic Good as I specifically remember the example of Robin Hood.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:17 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


the forest barbarian ’s rhetoric proficiency is the art of longwinded argument. Essentially, the two opponents sit face-to-face, take deep breaths, and talk nonstop. The first one who pauses for breath loses. This proficiency has nothing to do with logic or the elegant use of words, in spite of its name.

METAFILTER!
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:18 PM on October 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


The mind flayer’s psionic modes should be listed as A/FGH.

Oh god, 1st ed psionics. What a disaster. A beautiful, horrible, irresistible diaster.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on October 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


Is there such a thing as a lawful neutral Paladin? We have a dwarf who is one.

And troll gets an early entry into the Monster Manual.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2010


I got rid of my player's handbook years ago so I can't look it up, but I'm sure that Thieves could be Chaotic Good as I specifically remember the example of Robin Hood.

Yeah, they clear this up in Dragon #43:

97. DR043 Dragon #43 According to the Players Handbook (page 27) thieves can be neutral good, but Sage Advice (TD #35) says that thieves cannot be good. Which is correct?

The Players Handbook — but remember, good thieves should be very rare.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:24 PM on October 12, 2010


I'm sure that Thieves could be Chaotic Good as I specifically remember the example of Robin Hood

In which edition?

"In the 1st edition [of AD&D]...thieves can be a very noble class indeed, and this is reflected in the AD&D game rules, permitting thieves to be Neutral Good or even Lawful Neutral, but never Lawful or Chaotic Good."
posted by jedicus at 3:27 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think later that TSR said that some races (e.g. humans) had souls, while other races (e.g. elves) had "spirits." It had no bearing on gameplay apart from the raising of the dead thingy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:33 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah! It was Neutral Good... I remember now either Evil or Neutral, so that allows for Neutral Good.... not as nerdy as I thought then
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:34 PM on October 12, 2010


Yeah, Robin Hood is a bit organised to be Chaotic Good - isn't Doctor Who the example they give there? (it should be)
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on October 12, 2010


In GODS, DEMI-GODS AND HEROES it says that a forty-plus level character is ridiculous. In our game we have two characters that are at one thousand-plus level. This happened in “Armageddon,” a conflict between the gods and the characters. Of course, the characters won. What do you think about that?

Not much. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I will repeat: A forty-plus-level character is ridiculous. We feel that you must advance one level at a time, not a whole bunch at once. I don’t understand how or what happened or even if all the gods were in this battle, but if you enjoy playing this way, feel free to do so. I don’t want to spoil your fun.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:38 PM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why can’t demi-humans be Sages?

Demi-humans can be Sages. However, they are not as readily available as humans. Demi-humans are especially not interested in answering adventurers’ questions.

Hm. Um.

?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:41 PM on October 12, 2010


I recommend we each take a question and see if AskMe provides the same answers.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:41 PM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


isn't Doctor Who the example they give there? (it should be)

Examples given must have existed in Wisconsin in the 70's. THIS ISN'T FANTASY PEOPLE!
posted by GuyZero at 3:44 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


What a deliciously sassy answer

I found all the answers were improved by reading them in Comic Book Guy's voice, particularly in the "Extremely exasperated by your unconquerable idiocy" tone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:45 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, TBH the 2nd edition players handbook is the one most deeply ingrained in my mind.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "Sage," Skip Williams, is often disliked in the retro-D&D community because of he represents a play style that was part of early D&D but is against the revisionist slant of the retro/Old School community. I find his stuff fascinating because I've been using rigid rules as written AD&D as a starting point to hack my own version, and AD&D with all the rules is a very, very different game than many of us played when it was the main edition, and you just kind of glossed over a bunch of rules because you lacked the attention span/patience for them.
posted by mobunited at 3:48 PM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


As soon as we start giving characters and creatures attributes that aren’t specifically prohibited to them, the ruination of the campaign is not far behind.

Sager advice was never given.....
posted by lumpenprole at 3:48 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


AD&D with all the rules is a very, very different game than many of us played when it was the main edition

You know, this is actually why I kind of like 4e. It seems to me to be an attempt to have a structure that's within a framework, but still loose enough to allow the DM to be at their most creative.

Plus I always thought alignment based stuff was unbearably cheesy, so there's that.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:51 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recommend we each take a question and see if AskMe provides the same answers.

Dibs on #66!

Dear AskMe:
I want to be able to put my previously owned Apparatus of Kwalish inside my newly acquired Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. IYKWIM. AITYD.
posted by dersins at 3:56 PM on October 12, 2010


I found all the answers were improved by reading them in Comic Book Guy's voice, particularly in the "Extremely exasperated by your unconquerable idiocy" tone.

I did'nt actually go as far as 'fuckin noob' but I did just about tsk! a couple of times... Everyone knows it's an Efreeti on the DMG! And 'can my Thief wear studded leather?' Come on people this is basic stuff!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:00 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "Sage," Skip Williams, is often disliked in the retro-D&D community because of he represents a play style that was part of early D&D but is against the revisionist slant of the retro/Old School community.

This sounds fascinating, but I have no idea what you're talking about. Please elaborate at length.
posted by GuyZero at 4:02 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nobody in my group ever played as a paladin.

Our group didn't allow them. Also, any spell with a person's name was unavailable, because they were uniformly stupid.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:02 PM on October 12, 2010


On my shelf, in my living room, at this very moment, are copies of a number of classic dungeon modules, including A1-A4 (Collectively called 'Slave Pits of the Undercity'), which can be used to lead into G1-G3 ('Against the Giants'), which lead naturally to D1-D3 (The original Drow series) and conclude with Q1, the awesome "Queen of the Demonweb Pits."

Someday, I am going to run this whole adventure the whole way through, even though I haven't played D&D in about ten years. It matters not a whit to me if we use v1 rules or v4 rules because we're going to play it like one big, long glorious group told story.

That, for me, is what makes table top RPGs awesome. Indeed, this is the one way that they are entirely superior to MMORPGs (which I also love). You aren't bound by game mechanics or limited by sprites or forced to do everything basically the same way. You can do anything you want at all and if the story is good enough, everyone will be happy in the end.

Also, there will be Tab on tap.

(PS - great link)
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:12 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You just never played with a DM who let you invoke Bigby's Throbbing Wang.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:13 PM on October 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have to stop reading these; they're warping my mind. I was thinking about what I wanted to do next in minecraft when I realized that was suddenly thinking of my character as a dwarf.
And wishing I could craft a Deck of Many things.

on preview: dude, Leomund's Tiny Hut is almost never useful but is cool as hell. Later, L's Secure Shelter is a mainstay. It's all about the creator. Rary and Melf, functional. Bigby, Nystal, Otto, Serten, Tasha -- the big meh. Leomund, Mordenkainen, Evard, and Drawmij? Style points. Otiluke and Tenser? Oh yeah.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:13 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


knowing that they've removed any meaningful alignment [from 4e] system still burns. I just discovered that last week and went: WTF? I have a sentimental place in my heart for the ludicrous alignment chart of AD&D.

BTW, Q&A seems to be missing. :(

Durn Bronzefist: a recent campaign involved a Deck of Many Things in which one character inherited a castle (which has made a fun side game) and another was killed by the same card 3 times in a row. Hilarity ensued.
posted by epersonae at 4:27 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always saw Paladins as tragic idealists.

Quick road to making them cry: "Hey, have you ever noticed 'lawful' doesn't apply so much while we're out here adventuring where there are no laws and 'good' doesn't work in places where we do have laws?" *cries*

Conceptually, I like paladins. I like the holy warrior, but overall, they just seem like specialized clerics.
posted by yeloson at 4:29 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


epersonae: It's the magic item I hate to love (or is it the reverse?). Some see it as a potential campaign-killer. I prefer to see it as a likely campaigner-changer. Ok, ok, probably for the worse. That's half the fun.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:30 PM on October 12, 2010


I'm too interested in retro D&D - I found this thread on a retro community board, but it unfortunately doesn't provide the context or explanation I was hoping for. Can anyone give a brief introduction to the retro-gaming world?
posted by dd42 at 4:32 PM on October 12, 2010


The way I mainly saw them used was as fighters with a bunch of free extra powers in return for having to rules lawyer on how whatever they're doing is clearly in line with Lawful Good even when it isn't every so often. Face ripper Paladin would fit right in.

Were anti-paladins ever a real class? I like the idea of those.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on October 12, 2010


I'm just a sucker for randomization, really; the weirder the better. (Which is the other thing that burns me about 4e, seems like a LOT less randomizing.) The side-game castle is an online-generated random dungeon, found via MeFi, actually, and I love picking together a meaning/story out of the random bits.
posted by epersonae at 4:33 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: blackguard prestige class in 3.5; I think there used to be an anti-paladin. (I can't believe I knew that off the top of my head.)
posted by epersonae at 4:35 PM on October 12, 2010


If a turned monster is attacked by the cleric who turned him, will the monster fight back?

Wouldn’t you? Of course the monster will fight back. “Hostile acts” of any sort (DMG, page 66) will disrupt and negate the cleric’s effect on the turned creature. However, the monster will not necessarily continue to fight. The disrupt/on only lasts for the round in which it takes place, after which the cleric may again attempt to turn the creature.


Never kick a zombie in the ass!
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2010


From Wikipedia:

Later editions brought forward the more generalized concept of the "paladin" just being the pinnacle of combat related to a particular religious organization. This allowed "paladins" of various gods that were of an alignment other than Lawful Good. All "paladins" had a code or set of rules that must be followed but because of the differences in point of view between the alignments the rules governing behavior changed from order to order. This allowed for one of the more heinous villains in the game setting, the "Anti-Paladin" or "Blackguard". A complete and utter opposite of a proper paladin he is one of the dark champions of an evil order. Everything about him is a twisted visage of a paladin. Where the paladin is charismatic in a charming or trustworthy way, an anti-paladin's charisma came from being frightening or manipulative. A paladin's abilities were also mocked with the anti-paladin's abilities like "Harm" "Cause Disease" and "Cause Fear". These were never recommended as player characters.

Which sounds pretty awesome and Warhammerish.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Demi-humans are especially not interested in answering adventurers’ questions.

"Oh, great and wise sage ..."
"Gnome."
"... please help an intrepid traveler ..."
"I'm a gnome. You're a human."
"... who has traveled far and wide."
"Gnome."
"I crave an answer to a long-lost..."
"GNOOOOOOOME."
"... question."
"I swear to God if you ask me how many licks it takes to get to the center of a..."
"Three. I already know that one."
"Fine."
"I seek to find..."
"GNOOOOOOOME."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:42 PM on October 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


ANd in 3.5 there's also the Greyguard prestige class, which is literally a Paladin class where each level advancement gives you a greater level of "ends justify the means" trust in your actions.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:52 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fuck? That's a min-maxers dream!
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on October 12, 2010


I'm kind of amazed that "have you had sex? what's it like?" isn't there.
posted by jonmc at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, there are some nominal requirements, and you still are supposed to play Lawful Good, so...let's see, yes, here it is (Gray Guard, Complete Scoundrel):

Requirements:
Alignment: Lawful Good
Skills: Knowledge Religion 8 Ranks, Sense Motive 4 Ranks
Special: Lay on Hands class feature
Special: Must adhere to a code of conduct that prevents the character from performing evil acts.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:07 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was hoping to read about Head of Vecna. There's never a bad time to read about Head of Vecna.
posted by Justinian at 5:07 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


epersonae: "I think there used to be an anti-paladin"

Anti-paladins were introduced in Dragon #39 as an NPC class.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:12 PM on October 12, 2010


Justinian: "I was hoping to read about Head of Vecna."

Come on, Vecna's head isn't really canon.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:15 PM on October 12, 2010


Can anyone give a brief introduction to the retro-gaming world?

When D&D 3.0 landed, one of the things WOTC did was release the "Open Gaming License" (OGL) in an attempt to get more people to publish supplemental material for D&D. It specified a good number of ideas and mechanics as "open source" effectively, including some basic D&D concepts like the 6 core stats, hit points, armor class, etc.

So, a bunch of folks realized they could reproduce previous versions of D&D using OGL and re-launch those versions to be compatible with older D&D material.

What's nice is that we've gotten a lot of cleaned up, easier to read, versions of stuff like Moldvay D&D, OD&D, etc. sometimes with smart changes and even taking advantage of later design innovations to make the best of both worlds.

Grognardia is an excellent blog with a TON of links for retro-gaming.
Philotomy's OD&D Musings is a treasure trove of information, often giving insight into all the weird legacy rules that made it into AD&D, BD&D and later editions.
Matthew Finch's Guide to Old School Gaming is something I wish I had when I was 12 and pretty much what I consider the "missing text" from a lot of the older D&D editions.
Fight On! Magazine has a lot of new adventures and material being put out right now for retro gaming.
Swords & Wizardry would be one example of the retro-games that you can check out.
posted by yeloson at 5:19 PM on October 12, 2010 [23 favorites]


What I wouldn't give to know how this one came about:

Q. When an offensive spell’s range is “touch,” does the touch have to be with a hand?
A. Yes.


teehee
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:45 PM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Anti-paladins were introduced in Dragon #39 as an NPC class.

Also in Best Of Dragon #1 IIRC.

The Anti-Paladin either had extremely high Charisma or extremely low, being beautiful-outside-hideous-inside character or a hideous-throughout. It was actually a much more interesting concept that the vanilla Paladin.
posted by GuyZero at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2010


What I wouldn't give to know how this one came about:

Q. When an offensive spell’s range is “touch,” does the touch have to be with a hand?
A. Yes.


HEADBUTT!!!!
posted by GuyZero at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of amazed that "have you had sex? what's it like?" isn't there.

In the pre-internet 80's most D&D players had not even gotten as far as hearing about sex.
posted by GuyZero at 5:48 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah well, that 1st ed monster manual succubus was still pretty interesting.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:51 PM on October 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


GuyZero: "Also in Best Of Dragon #1 IIRC.
"

Best of Dragon #2.

Really giving the old nerd muscles a workout here.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:52 PM on October 12, 2010


I don't remember almost anything from AD&D, but one of the few bits I recall is that there was a Goddess of Sex, who my friend's character worshiped.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:56 PM on October 12, 2010


I don't remember almost anything from AD&D, but one of the few bits I recall is that there was a Goddess of Sex, who my friend's character worshiped.

One of the things we loved to do back in the early 80's in our little campaign group was to create gods who were thinly veiled (thin to the point of transparency) of real people.

Hence, for example, the cleric who served Zheen Zimonz - God of Thunder and Rolling Rocks.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


"thinly veiled versions"
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2010


Aww yeah, obsessive polearm classification!
posted by Artw at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


8-bit theatre summed up my experience with AD&D. I found third edition to be a lot of fun; had a good group for the 2 years we played that regularly. Sadly, I find that as an adult who can truly appreciate the game -- regardless of edition -- I no longer have the time, or the friends, to play it.

Great link. Thanks for the post.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:25 PM on October 12, 2010


Aww yeah, obsessive polearm classification!

I actually cited that article in a High School history paper, on the history of medieval warfare Got an A, surprisingly enough...
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:36 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, I just finished my increasingly houseruled but hardcore-base AD&D1e session tonight. Thought I'd come back.

1) Why do folks hate the Sage? Because the Old School movement is about a romantic time when it was about the musi . . . er freeform discovery, maaaaan, and have the tracts to prove it. Skip Williams is from a different tradition that is at least as representative of what was happening in the 70s and early 80s, where the rules were an engine that dictated very specific results that required creative engagement, patience to take care of, and included an edge of competition. Many old modules were actually for tournament play, where multiple groups were scored against each other. Now I don't do the "referee" style so much, but the tools are fascinating, and the restrictions create a kind of tactical-narrative bonsai, especially where the results are unexpected. Similarly, exotic elements such as 9-flavour alignment require deep creative engagement to bring forth benefits.

You can read ideological godfather of Old School gaming Matt Finch declaring Skip Williams to be a heretic here.

2) I've found the main things people miss are the social systems in AD&D. They're different from current attempts at social mechanics, which are basically will-to-power crap expressed through the character or some narrative control function. They also do *not* emulate what people seem to think D&D is about. The party in my game hangs out with evil dudes all the time.

Also, weapon vs. AC, initiative priority, surprise and encounter systems are really nifty to go all in with.

I was really struck by the way what I had thought would play like hacked together crap was really pretty well integrated. For example, the 1st level PCs encountered a frost giant because that's what the encounter tables told me -- I told you I was going hardcore. In a later edition of the game this wouldn't be allowed, but then again, there'd be this assumption that any encounter was a fight. In 1e, it was time for a reaction roll. The bastard wasn't too ill-disposed but, being a jerk, bullied them for some magic items. Through some fantastic chicanery the PCs used this opportunity to divest themselves of a cursed ring. No combat, but still a tense, rewarding scene very much driven by supporting game systems. Power levels are looser, but the game has more tools to upset your expectations.

3) Basically, at this point I find the idea that rules are all about regulating social conduct trite about trivial things and wrong about serious things. So Old School romance about how in simpler days we loved the DM and needed fewer rules is silly, and newer ideas about how to love one another we need rules to ration that love are also silly. When I talk game design with clients or shoot the breeze about it with friends, I'm mainly interested in how they work as *toys.* Some things are served by very plain toys like sticks and balls and rings, and we never want to banish them from play, but the idea that we should render everything down to them in worship of simplicity is wrong. The world has room for more elaborate toys -- dolls, toy castles and detailed imaginary places -- and they are only less flexible when we decide that something can only be played one way and build for that. Even then, though, good players can get the best of the asshole toymaker who decides to build an elaborate ramp and call it an "adventure playset."

Case in point: It's been a couple of months and my players haven't hit the main dungeon yet. The dungeon is supposed to be the emblem of D&D's "core story," but my friends don't give a shit.

Weird alignments, spirits vs. souls, weapon vs. AC, reactions, henchmen -- all of these are toys and widgets that provoke the players in a way that stick and ball systems don't, and lead to wonderfully strange stuff trumping routine.
posted by mobunited at 7:22 PM on October 12, 2010 [15 favorites]


Random giant?

My GM once inflicted a random Tarrasque on us. He rolled 00 on the encounter table, which was "GM's Choice," so he rolled a d12 (There were twelve charts on the page for the twelve terrain types) and ended up on the "Deep Underground" chart, where he once again rolled 00, which was the only percentage point that had the Tarrasque on it. The chart said the Tarrasque was asleep, but since we were on the surface, he ruled that the Tarrasque must have just woken up. Our campaign then became a quick run backwards through all the towns we'd just passed through, shrieking and trying vaguely to evacuate them in a semi-orderly fashion.

We also got "ambushed" by TWO TYRANNOSAURS on an OPEN PLAIN because of what the dice said.

Don't talk to me about freaking random encounters. Goddamn.
posted by Scattercat at 9:56 PM on October 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


The *only* chaotic good thief is, and will always be, Finieous Fingers.
posted by dragstroke at 10:16 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It could have been worse, Scattercat. It could have been ... flightless birds.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:18 PM on October 12, 2010


Speaking of Finieous, I once owned this, and it hurts me greatly that it is gone along with everything else in the estate sale. Along with a lot of other things that I've forgotten about. Le sigh.
posted by dragstroke at 10:20 PM on October 12, 2010


So I started playing my first real game about a year and a half ago - starting at level 1. I'm level 10 now. It's 3.5, set in Cormyr for the most part, and the DM just corssed the line from doing pre-written adventures to taking our training wheels off, so now the two groups he manages weekly are on separate (but related) quests to take out the Duke of Marsember. My Halfling Rogue/Swashbuckler (Holmes Blackacre, because I'm still a silly geeky law-student-kid through and through) is now finally the Dread Pirate he always wanted to be, throughout all that time. My group used a swan boat to plant magical tree-tokens with command word triggers in the warships in Marsembers harbor, used our Druid's "Call Lightning Storm" to destroy the ship in the drydock, and used the confusion to steal the last remaining warship in port, rechristened the "Fortune's Fool." We even designed a flag (A copper swan against a black backdrop, the chrome coming from the copper dragon sponsor of our group's dragon shaman.)

We are currently (kind of) in Suzail, awaiting our letters of license for privateering (the only way I could get our Lawful Good ranger in line with my Chaotic Neutral plans) and I just want to say how much I love this silly game.

It truly is a work of beauty and genius.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:43 PM on October 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not too hard to find the Finieous Treasury on eBay, is it? Seems like there's usually a copy around... though I didn't realize how much they go for. Guess I'll guard my copy a little more carefully now.

Congrats to all who are finally getting some good gaming in. RPGs are a great hobby, one I'm proud to be in.
posted by jiawen at 1:09 AM on October 13, 2010


Random giant?

We had Asmodeus turn up twice in one night once. Bloody dice.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:54 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


as a DM, I always tended to use random encounters as a way of 'running out the clock' during a game session whenever the PCs wanted to fast forward to something that I hadn't statted through* but I never did random encounter rolls, partially because I liked to nerd out in my world creation and plot out how different parts of the world had specific ecosystems that supported certain monster types. There's no reason why one should find a bunch of giant toads in a forest unless there were a similar number of giant insects for them to feast on, and the giant insects are mostly found on certain uncivilized islands where the giant flowers haven't been harvested to extinction by locals looking to harvest their rare and potent perfumes.

That and I tended to alternate with another DM who had a knack for turning every random encounter into a meat grinder. Three ragewalkers succeeded in inflicting confusion on nearly the entire party, and so most of us spent half an hour sitting around while our DM kept on rolling dice to determine creative and nasty ways of how our characters would wind up killing each other. That was an express train through SuckTown, only partially redeemed by the fact that the only surviving party member was our wizard, who cast animate dead to turn us into zombies so that he could get us back to town for a bunch of resurrections.

Navelgazer - the last campaign that I designed was a pirate themed thing in a Fantasy Earth where the PCs were a bunch of freelancers alternately working for the Bronze Dragon regent of Singapore, freedom fighters in Hanoi struggling against occupation by the Jade Throne of China and representatives of the Royal Geographic Society investigating rumours of the return of the once divinely exiled Greek Pantheon. It eventually resulted in them getting sent on a mission that involved having a specially designed skyship (designed by the Gnomes of Zurich) launched from a cannon at the moon to investigate a planar portal while also encountering space giants who traveled in asteroids that they propelled using the gravity wells of celestial bodies as massive slingshots. There was, of course, in the course of the campaign, the obligatory pirates vs. ninjas vs. zombies vs. robots (golems) fight; and it was and will continue to be the highlight of our friends' gaming careers. Also, yes, one of the main PCs was a Daring Outlaw Swashbuckler/Rogue (frightening combo, that) who looked really hard at the Dread Pirate PrC, but eventually decided that he just liked the straight base class combo more.

* - (and yes, if there is one thing that I am seduced by with 4E, it's the prospect of being able to trust in the encounter mechanics well enough to do more improv without inadvertently getting rules lawyered into a TPK, I agree with the camp that says that over-reliance on number-crunching detracts from the fun of the game, but I understand Skip's position with how players can only form intelligent strategies if the world is consistent and understandable. I envy DMs/Storytellers who can construct consistent, believeable and exciting worlds without resorting to a bunch of charts or screens because they're far more mentally organized than I.)
posted by bl1nk at 5:43 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Random dragon! My first experience as DM (2e, 1998 IIRC), and the players were off on their very first adventure with their new characters in my spiffy little world. Very first outdoor wandering monster roll...and they got the dragon. The players who were relatively new to D&D all ran & hid, but mr epersonae (then boyfriend of epersonae) had been playing since he was a little kid: his bold knight just ran up on his horse to attack. And both he & the horse were snatched up and carried away. :) Always been one of my favorite examples of someone playing a character all out.

bl1nk, IIRC that game in particular had specialized random encounter tables to match what was likely to be around in various parts of that world. They were fun to build.
posted by epersonae at 8:59 AM on October 13, 2010


I always saw Paladins as tragic idealists.

Quick road to making them cry: "Hey, have you ever noticed 'lawful' doesn't apply so much while we're out here adventuring where there are no laws and 'good' doesn't work in places where we do have laws?" *cries*

yeloson, I think you've misconstrued the nature of "lawful". Lawful != law-abiding. Lawful = structure & rule-loving, a person who believes strongly in the positive influences of societal control (even if all that control ultimately flows from himself, as in Lawful Evil). However, a LG person traveling in communist China wouldn't feel compelled to rat on democratic activists, just because they were breaking the (injust) law of the land. He might believe they are attempting to bring both greater good, and more stable (lawful) rule, to the country.

Tyr help me, I'm still such a dweeb.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:24 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Were anti-paladins ever a real class? I like the idea of those."

My first char was an anti-paladin, and I remember some kind of official looking paperwork on them. Bad char for a first timer, but I learned (with the herding guidance of the DM) that there is a huge difference between "evil" and "asshole."
posted by QIbHom at 10:25 AM on October 13, 2010


Synchronicity dept: Mightygodking just wrote today about the "paladins for every alignment" article ("A Plethora of Paladins," Dragon #106).
posted by Chrysostom at 10:52 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have clicked on at least four user names in this thread, hoping they'd be in the same city as me. I haven't played since I was a teen, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


yeloson, I think you've misconstrued the nature of "lawful"

No, what I mean is, it's easy to be good when you don't have to deal with a court system, corrupt officials, etc. When the general law of adventuring is, "We're being attacked! We fight in self defense!" it's a pretty easy law to uphold, and therefore, no conflict between law and good.

When your liege orders you to ignore the fact his cousin the Bishop is touching children, because it would upset delicate relations between the Church and the nobles, and your commanding officer in the Order, tells you the same thing... well, now, you're kinda stuck, aren't you?

This isn't to say that Paladins can't do both the law & good thing, but it's usually going to be on teh frontiers with small communities who aren't so full of power and corruption built on a lot of suffering and loopholes through laws or openly flaunting them.

Being good is easy when you don't have to fight a power system designed to prevent it, being lawful is easy if you don't have a conscience. Being both? Toughest job ever. (Better hit name level and build your own keep where YOU make the laws...)

Tragic idealists.
posted by yeloson at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, if you hit someone with a bow, I’d say it would probably do 1-4 points of damage and thereafter render the bow completely useless for firing arrows.

Meaning hitting a first-level magic user with your bow will kill him 62.5% of the time. Yes, I did the math

True. A corollary to that is to always being prepared for a player to roll a 20 on a snowball's-chance-in-hell roll.

That's a general problem with D&D; the impossible happens 5% of the time. In Runequest/Call of Cthulhu, which use percentile dice for almost everything, that only happens 1% of the time. Still a far cry from infinity, sure, but having wizards/Cthulhu does that sort of thing to a reality.
posted by JHarris at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meaning hitting a first-level magic user with your bklade of grass probably kills them 62.5% of the time...

(sucks for them if they've already done their spell of the day and were just tagging along with the real PCs until they can have their lie down)
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


JHarris, my roommate and the DM from the other game I'm in (I play a Human Fighter/Dervish specifically min-maxed to crit almost every round) has house-ruled the Natural 20 very nicely. If you roll a 20, it counts as a 30 (plus whatever bonuses, obviously.) If you roll a 1, it counts as a -10 (plus whatever bonuses.) It still makes an enormous difference, but keeps things within the realm of possibility.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, but what if the Paladin doesn't harm the Orc himself but rather gives the Orc to a Minotaur for enhanced interogation? Is he still a Paladin?
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think you'll find those were the actions of the previous Paladin administration.
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


In a world where there are provably multiple deities it might not really be considered so horrible to simply let someone else act in a way that violates your sense of ethics but that's Ok with theirs. Minotaur-enhanced interrogation would probably be OK.
posted by GuyZero at 1:18 PM on October 13, 2010


I've so far managed to resit hunting down that multi-Paladin article... but it keeps calling me. This thread is a more dangerously stuffed full of time-suck traps than the Minecraft ones.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:20 PM on October 13, 2010


This is one of the fluff things I do really like about 4E: Paladins, clerics, and everyone who gets divine powers cannot have them revoked after receiving them - the GM doesn't have to wade through the issues of "where is the line that displeases the deity and cuts off your powers" - which opens up a ton of fun area for heretic orders and schisms- which group is "correct" in where that line is? Harder to say.

It also means if you decide to do or not do any action, it's because you want to play that as your character's morality, and not necessarily because you've got loss of abilities (or, classically, level loss) hanging over your head.
posted by yeloson at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paladins, clerics, and everyone who gets divine powers cannot have them revoked after receiving them

Was this actually a rule in 2nd or 3rd Ed?
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on October 13, 2010


Defiantly a rule with Paladins, pretty sure with clerics as well.
posted by Artw at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2010


GuyZero: "Was this actually a rule in 2nd or 3rd Ed?"

All the way back to OD&D, I think.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2010


It is self-evident that a Paladin that violates the dictates of righteous action would lose his powers not because of the withdrawal of some external benediction, but because the violation is a form of spiritual failure.

One's duties can be troubling:

"I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness."

But:

"O son of Pritha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy."

Sometimes you have to rain arrows on the sages.

In my Etrusco-Vedic campaign the renouncer druids and the radical-atheist monks might disagree. but neither of them like the Lawful Evil God based on Jesus.
posted by mobunited at 2:48 PM on October 13, 2010


Yeah, the 1e alignment chart was alterantely a thing of nerdlike elegance and rule clusterfuckery, depending on the players and DM(s). I was actually a fan of the B/X alignment scheme of Lawful, Neutral & Chaotic myself. It did resolve a lot of the Paladin issues; either the Paladin was allowed to do something or he wasn't. His motivation ("good" vs. "evil") was irrelevent.

As far as Sage Advice went, I really don't understand the hate. What people seem to forget is that in those early days at TSR, they were literally making stuff up as they went along, and were conscious that players were going to create situations that fell outside the rules that TSR hadn't thought of yet. Sage Advice was kind of a MASH unit for rule interpretation; it was an honest broker to resolve a thorny issue so you can get back to playing the game, but me and my friends never treated anything in the column as Divine Law. As far as the "Oh but he makes you roll it out for EVERYTHING" complaints, yeah, well how'd you wind up in the situation that you had to write to Dragon in order to continue playing your game in the first place? Blame your DM and/or fellow players. You wandered into uncharted territory, realized you needed directions, and then you complain that you don't like the route he provided you? Figure it out yourself, then. House Rules were always the unspoken third leg of the game to begin with.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It also means if you decide to do or not do any action

I know this is out of context, but it perfectly illustrates why I hate 4e with as much passion as I do. For all the creativity I've heard that it grants to DMs, it strips it completely from the players. They are machines with a short sheet of options. These are the things that one can do.

I'm sure that dedicated players could use the system to play campaigns almost identical to any in 3.5, but the set-up seems designed to discourage it. "That's your enemy. With what do you hit it? Fine. Roll damage." Fuck that.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:31 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's the perfect summation of my problems with 4E, Navelgazer. I think most of my other problems with it arise from that one in some way.
posted by JHarris at 6:35 PM on October 13, 2010


They are machines with a short sheet of options.

Funny enough, I see it the other way.

Anything you want to do that's not on the sheet? You either roleplay, do a Skill Challenge (modified by the choices and roleplaying you do during it), make it a Quest, or go to pg. 42 for stunts in combat.

It's not any more or any less combat focal than 3.0 was, especially if you go read a bunch of the modules. If anything, because it's easy to construct encounters, it means I don't need to feel like I wasted a bunch of time putting together an encounter if the players just negotiate their way around it. (3.5: "Ah shit, I just spent 45 minutes putting together that Demon Prince's skill points, feats and spell list, nevermind statting his minions... ARRRGH!" 4.0: "Dude. Skill Challenge- how many territories will you give up to the Dark Forces? If any of the heroes offer their own souls, I'll toss in an auto-success...")
posted by yeloson at 9:06 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


yeloson, I get that, and since it's not like we don't still have the 3.0 and 3.5 books, I'm happy that 4e works for some groups. In the groups I've seen it has served to stifle group creativity, whereas the 3.5 system seemed to enhance it.

(Not like White Wolf has managed to do, of course. Good God, Mage is genius in it's all-consuming simplicity.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:09 PM on October 13, 2010


Edition Warriors, a plague on both (or all) your houses! I enjoy different versions for distinct play experiences. I played a thief-focused caper game that 4e wouldn't have done well. I play a badass dual-wielding machine-man in 4e who would be much less mecha-wuxia in 3e, and still have time to contemplate in character whether I, a thing built for violence by a death empire, possess the same moral obligations of truly living beings. I run 1e and its strangeness suits the dying Earth feel and grim and grubby tactics.

What folks *really* need to do is enter into play with an open mind. The dumb trend today is to be "I have a preset agenda about what I want to play, so I'll be really whiny until I find some dream game that serves my preconceived tastes back to me." Instead, the secret to enjoying RPGs is to pretty much run with games and see where the relationship goes. You might want to change things, you might find new avenues for enjoyment -- for instance, I was never big on miniatures play until 4e -- and you might have a creative response to the material that goes whether neither you nor the game can go individually.
posted by mobunited at 3:50 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Edition Warriors, a plague on both (or all) your houses! I enjoy different versions for distinct play experiences.

But it's not just about play experiences, is it? It's about how they discarded everything with 4E and changed it without regard for what went before, and then now claim that this is what the game means, meaning forget about getting new official 3.x material. It's about the history, the continuity of the game. It's about how they claim this upgrade is such an overall improvement in all ways, the way a Windows upgrade claims to be (NEW: D&D Vista!), when it's so obviously not, when it really is a very different game now, one that is much more like a board game.

This revisionism has happened (to an escalating extent) with every prior edition switch. This doesn't happen as much with other long-lived roleplaying game lines: Call of Cthulhu players can easily use first-edition adventures with the sixth-edition game. The mechanics are fundamentally the same, even if a few skills were combined and the mood and thrust are a bit different. (Earlier adventures tend to be much more D&D-ish, throwing in Lovecraft monsters as if they were orcs and dutifully reporting the resale value of diamond cufflinks and paintings to support dungeon-larcenous players.)

To get back to the original point, it's also about how 4E requires a group who wants to keep up with the game has to buy more and more books. (That's been a terrible aspect of D&D since second edition, but at least once you had the core books you were set; not even all the base character classes came with the first Player's Handbook.) And it's the sense of revisionist history arising from how they're mining people's memories of the early game with that "the box is back" promotion: outside, looks like Monte Cook's classic "Basic" D&D set, inside, not at ALL the same thing; the box itself is their selling point. And aesthetically, it's from the fantasy stew they've turned the D&D setting into.

But it is fortunate that this all hasn't turned into the issue it was shaping up to be. Paizo is keeping the flame of middle-edition D&D alive, and retro gamers seem to be much more capable of surviving 0 and 1E play than WoTC. So long as Wizards doesn't try to sue them out of existence it looks like old-school play is in no danger of dying out in the near future.
posted by JHarris at 9:24 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


To get back to the original point, it's also about how 4E requires a group who wants to keep up with the game has to buy more and more books.

How? If you want more monster, classes, or settings, you can buy more books. If you don't, you don't. If you have rules concerns, you download the free PDF errata. I really can't see how this is any different than 3rd edition, and minus the PDFs via internet, older editions as well.

4E is not the game you love and treasure. Got it. Can we drop the evil conspiracy talk about forcing purchases and magical history revision? A lot of folks are playing a different D&D than you, it's ok, they're not going to form a mob and burn your Fiend Folio or BECMI boxes.

Some newbies will try 4E and not like it, some will wander over to the OSR stuff and older editions. It's still feeding your hobby.
posted by yeloson at 10:38 AM on October 14, 2010


Can we drop the evil conspiracy talk about forcing purchases and magical history revision?

Not after I saw the new Gamma World. BLASPHEMY!
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


or all the creativity I've heard that it grants to DMs, it strips it completely from the players. They are machines with a short sheet of options. These are the things that one can do.

How is this any different at all from previous editions?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2010


How? If you want more monster, classes, or settings, you can buy more books.

If you accept this then D&D 4E is half the game 3E is; Fourth Edition left out many of the classes formerly considered "base."

Can we drop the evil conspiracy talk about forcing purchases and magical history revision?

They certainly do try to force purchases whenever they can without getting player ire up too high, just as has been done since TSR and the days of 2nd edition. There is nothing conspiratorial about that, it's an open secret. The problem is simply worse now.

Some newbies will try 4E and not like it, some will wander over to the OSR stuff and older editions. It's still feeding your hobby.

It isn't my hobby, not at the moment. The edition switch over so ailenated the players in our group we're playing Call of Cthulhu these days.

If by "hobby" you mean roleplaying games, then D&D is slowly edging out of the genre; it feels almost as much like roleplaying to play Arkham Horror as the newest edition. Of course, Arkham Horror is great. 4E isn't a bad game! The Castle Ravenloft game looks like it might be interesting. It just doesn't feel like D&D.

>>or all the creativity I've heard that it grants to DMs, it strips it completely from the players. They are machines with a short sheet of options. These are the things that one can do.

How is this any different at all from previous editions?


It is the difference between playing a pen-and-paper roleplaying game and a computer roleplaying game. Both are good, but it is a mistake to think that one is really like the other.
posted by JHarris at 3:13 PM on October 14, 2010


It is the difference between playing a pen-and-paper roleplaying game and a computer roleplaying game. Both are good, but it is a mistake to think that one is really like the other.

I don't understand this claim at all. How is 4E like a computer game?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:19 PM on October 14, 2010


Many of 4E's play elements seem to be directly lifted from World of Warcraft. I don't have any 4E books (and I certainly don't have them at work...) but looking at the character sheets at the WotC site each char has these once-per-day powers to do extra damage, getting back HP spontaneously but only a few times, etc. Very WoW-like mechanics. And this was pretty much the most common criticism of 4th ed - I'm not making this stuff up myself here.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2010


If you accept this then D&D 4E is half the game 3E is; Fourth Edition left out many of the classes formerly considered "base."

Ah, I see. You get to personally define D&D and the company is to meet the standard. Gotcha. We'll just ignore the previous editions that left out stuff like Druids, Monks, Barbarians etc. in core books and pretend this is the first time it's happened (*cough OD&D, BD&D, etc. cough*)

What was that about historical revisionism?

Or were you hoping I'd go "Rawrr! He called 4E half the game 3E was, Nerdraaaggge!"? C'mon man.

I'm still not seeing how anyone is "forced" to do any purchases. It's an open secret they want you to buy more books, but there's nothing that makes your books "stop working" or unplayable without further books - it's not an Apple update bricking your iPod.

Each edition does different things well. If you want to promote the kind of D&D you're into, making claims that aren't true and fall close to GlennBeckian logic doesn't make more people go, "Wow, I should stop playing 4E and try out those other games/editions", they make people go, "Wow, those old grognards are full of piss and vinegar and whatever they're on, I want none of it."
posted by yeloson at 4:22 PM on October 14, 2010


And this was pretty much the most common criticism of 4th ed - I'm not making this stuff up myself here.

"Common criticism" is not necessarily correct criticism ("Obama is a socialist. And Hitler."). You still can do anything you're smart and creative enough to put into play, you can still roleplay your way through an encounter, you can still decide what you do and your choices have persistent effects and don't "reset".

The two valid criticisms which people rarely talk about 4E when they're busy screaming MMO is:

1) The mechanics encourage blowing your powerful attacks early, which means the end of most fights is anticlimatic (other editions had this with spells, particularly). It would have been better to steal from fighting games where you build up your powers to end on the most powerful attacks.

2) The powers need more grounding in when and how they can be used. If a paladin has a teleporting combat power, does it work outside of combat? What does that mean if someone can teleport around regularly? Etc.

The second is only distantly related to videogames, though it appeared as a problem in earlier editions particularly with magic effects. ("Hey, can't all of you guys Speak with the Dead? Why are there so many unsolved murders in this city?")
posted by yeloson at 4:33 PM on October 14, 2010


JHarris, I can sympathize with what you're saying a lot. The way marketing influences the play community is a huge deal. It affects what you can have useful conversations about, how you get people together to game, and that ephemeral sense of being a part of something thriving that, while not having clear causal chains back to your group, still affects your attitude. If marketing was useless it wouldn't be used. I know that past D&D marketing has left a he'll of a lot of false assumptions about what people want, how they played the game, and stuff about gaming in general. When you're told belonging is about a brand, even though nobody can force you you still have to deal with bullshit.

I think this style of marketing has really come around to bite them on the ass, however. You can only hear that something blows away it's predecessor so many times before you get skeptical. RPGs have the blessing and curse that people can not make objective improvements as much as introduce cool new stuff that might fit your way of thinking better. So own your preferences, play what you want and shoot down notions that they could ever become obsolete.

Except for descending AC. That's wack.
posted by mobunited at 4:49 PM on October 14, 2010


And this why I hate Paladins.

Ugh. As someone who is just getting back into RPG'g after a 25 year hiatus (using the 4e Essentials rules, FWIW) this debate about 4E vs (insert name of edition you started playing with) is bordering on the insanity of religious sectarian conflicts.

Bitching about WoTC marketing strategy is pointless. As long as they're making money, they'll continue doing what they're doing. TSR was the same way. Deal with it. Be happy that the OGL exists. Yor are now free to continue playing and (more importantly) MAKE your own NEW materials for your personal favorite edition. Is that too much work for you? Oh, well, guess you'll have to wait for the next super spiffy rule set that they foist on you because you insist on having "branded" merch.

I was going to see if anyone near me wanted to play, but I think may pass (if this is typical of the current sate of gaming), as I have enough stuff to worry about besides the "purity" of the game I'm playing.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:14 PM on October 14, 2010


Ah, I see. You get to personally define D&D and the company is to meet the standard.

The company defined it that way in the previous edition! You're pretty much trolling now.

Or were you hoping I'd go "Rawrr! He called 4E half the game 3E was, Nerdraaaggge!"? C'mon man.

I was hoping you'd try to engage with what I was saying instead of picking something, (purposefully?) misinterpreting it in a perverse way, then saying something flatly dismissive about that.

One possible interpretation of there being only one third of the classes in PH1 is that it only offers one-third of the game. Maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but it doesn't seem that way to me.

What was that about historical revisionism?

I didn't say previous editions were perfect. I'm saying that PH2 and PH3 back in 3E were a hell of a lot more optional than PH2 and PH3 in 4E. You could play with just PH1 and DM1 and MM1, but it's not the same as playing with those versions of those books in any prior edition. (Except, maybe, 0E compared to its supplements... but no, the game was envisioned with just those materials. 4E was published around the idea that there'd be more core books.)

Each edition does different things well. If you want to promote the kind of D&D you're into, making claims that aren't true and fall close to GlennBeckian logic doesn't make more people go, "Wow, I should stop playing 4E and try out those other games/editions", they make people go, "Wow, those old grognards are full of piss and vinegar and whatever they're on, I want none of it."

1. That comes damn near to Godwining this thread, buster. If you're going to make that kind of claim then I suggest you back it up, in detail.

2. I didn't say anyone should stop playing 4E! You shouldn't stop playing 4E due to anything I say. I don't like 4E but I'm not going to proclaim, if other people don't like it, that they're wrong. I'm certainly not going to compare them to Glenn Beck. Sheesh.

I'm still not seeing how anyone is "forced" to do any purchases.

If you want to play with your friends who bought the books you do. If you want to stay current with the forefront of the game you do. If you want to play adventures that rely on material in them (say, which contain an NPC with one of the PH2/3 classes) you do. To extend your computer analogy, it's a bit like how Windows networking only really works well with comparable Windows machines. (That might be partly analogy fail, but there doesn't have to be a 1-to-1 mapping analogy for it to be true.)

1) The mechanics encourage blowing your powerful attacks early, which means the end of most fights is anticlimatic (other editions had this with spells, particularly).
2) The powers need more grounding in when and how they can be used.


Those might be problems, yes, but they're not nearly as profound as the problems that cause people to shout MMO. Those are not problems one can point to, line and verse, and say is wrong. It's the attitude of the game.

1You still can do anything you're smart and creative enough to put into play, 2you can still roleplay your way through an encounter, 3you can still decide what you do and your choices have persistent effects and don't "reset".

1. Can you take a door off its hinges and, standing behind it and moving into the room, use it as a shield against arrows? Laying the door against a barricade and using it as a ramp over it in order to gain access to those archers? I've been in a game of 3E in which I've seen that happen; it was the most memorable moment in the whole campaign, and probably saved all the characters' lives. It was a published adventure, but the adventure itself didn't explicitly lay out that option*.

If you can tell me, conclusively and convincingly, how that would work in a 4E combat, then, well, let's see. That would signify the rules may not be how I understand them, which is certainly a danger in all versions of a game as complex as D&D. How about that? I certainly have other problems with it, but that'd ease my concerns a bit.

2. That's the only thing that allows 4E to continue to stand by the claim that it's a role-playing game, so I'd hope so. The question is, what about when combat starts?

3. I don't know what you mean by this.

* The Call of Cthulhu rules are a treasure-trove of roleplaying advice. Here is one of my favorite passages, which is relevant:
"When the keeper sets a scene, his or her most important ally is invisible, one which no scenario-writer ever puts on paper. 'Reasonable deduction' consists of all which is in the room or cavern or aircraft or other physical setting which is not described as being there, but which can be logically inferred as being there."
This, I think, is the key. Doing weird things with doors, or doorknobs, or torches on the walls, or the stones of the floor or wall, or the books on shelves, or the table and chairs in the room. Places to string tripwires. The muck on the riverback. The branches of the trees.

posted by JHarris at 6:37 PM on October 14, 2010


Can you take a door off its hinges and, standing behind it and moving into the room, use it as a shield against arrows? Laying the door against a barricade and using it as a ramp over it in order to gain access to those archers?

The closest I've come to playing 4E is listening to the Penny Arcade D&D podcasts and reading Gabe's posts about his campaign, but I can't imagine this would be a problem.

Sounds like a strength check to lift the door, maybe another for holding on it while moving (doors are ungainly and aren't designed to be held like that), then simply treating it as a tower shield for AC / cover purposes. Depending on the degree of success of the second strength check, maybe dock a few squares of movement each round.

Laying the door down is automatic, but going up the makeshift ramp without it falling off might require a dexterity check. Depending on the strength of the door you might also check to see if it collapses under the weight of a particularly heavy character.

As far as I know there's nothing in 4E that would prevent that kind of thing.

The mechanics encourage blowing your powerful attacks early, which means the end of most fights is anticlimatic (other editions had this with spells, particularly).

I would've thought more abilities would provide bonuses when used against bloodied enemies or would behave like cleave (i.e. a bonus if you kill an enemy with the attack), thus encouraging saving them until nearer the end of a fight.
posted by jedicus at 7:46 PM on October 14, 2010


If you can tell me, conclusively and convincingly, how that would work in a 4E combat, then, well, let's see. That would signify the rules may not be how I understand them, which is certainly a danger in all versions of a game as complex as D&D. How about that? I certainly have other problems with it, but that'd ease my concerns a bit.

Yeah, the GM says -- "fucking awesome, roll a strength check."

Rules in RPG's are guidelines. If they get in the way of the players and GM doing what they want, you make up new ones.

I haven't played RPGs since Magic came out in the 90s and wrecked my RPG group, but it to me it seems like a tremendous step backwards to backport all the simplistic rules from WoW to tabletop gaming. The DPS/Tank/Healer verbiage from WoW is a huge turn off and wrecks all world building and reduces everyone to pure numbers. After the storytelling advances of the White Wolf games and it's progeny it seems like a huge step backwards.

RPGs should be about character and story, not grinding to get stat increases. The ability to be creative is what separates tabletop from CRPGs.
posted by empath at 9:15 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you people complain about feats like Spring Attack and Power Attack in 3E? I mean, you understand that that's what the 4E powers basically are, right? Just with limits on how much you can use them? You can describe what happens based on narrative convenience. It's your own lack of imagination that makes you think that using a power is just "I use this power. Now it's your turn to go."
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:32 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough of this! Y'all need to be playing Toon: "Your character jumps out of the plane without a parachute. Fortunately, his schtick is that he's too dumb to realize that this would normally result in death, so he's ok. Roll for Hi-Jinx"
posted by KingEdRa at 9:52 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Greg Costikyan isn't Jesus, he might be Buddha.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 PM on October 14, 2010


If you're going to make that kind of claim then I suggest you back it up, in detail.

You've claimed that there is:
a) history revision going on, how?
b) people are FORCED to buy books, how?

So far the only argument for b) is: If you want to stay current with the forefront of the game you do.

So... you do know no one is forcing you to stay current with the forefront of the game, right? "I want all the new stuff, therefore I have to BUY all the new stuff" isn't something you can really blame other people or companies for, right?

As far as your "How to do in 4E" it's a Strength Check. Perhaps modified by dungeoneering or similar skill, bonuses if you got special tools or training (+2, just like 3rd Ed). I'd treat it as a 2 handed Tower Shield. And laying it down as a ramp would be as easy as getting it to where it needs to go.

I mean, Page 42 of the DMG makes everything fit easy with the mechanics, "I want to throw the pot of boiling water into the eyes of the enemy" "Ok, ranged attack vs. their Reflex defense, and we'll call it medium damage from the chart, and they'll be stunned 1 round and blinded until they make a save, roll."

But, you're not even asking this question because you want to know, you're just throwing out a challenge, like it'd be all hard or difficult or prove something. All you had to do was read up to the 42nd page in the book.

Look, it's cool to not like any game, but the nerdrage about things that aren't true is stupid and pointless.
posted by yeloson at 12:18 AM on October 15, 2010


This thread is proceeding predictably.

Anyway, it is true that 4e has a decent framework to improvise on top of -- but it's also true that this improvisation has such a different character than the rest of the combat engine that it doesn't come naturally. I love 4e, but it has problems with sending cues through the system, which is a bit inconsistent. On one hand, it has explicit advice for you to make up cool maneuvers but on the other, it already fills the "cool maneuver" slot with its powers.

For example, for my current 4e character to stab somebody then surf down some stairs I could justify it with an improvised stunt or by using (IIRC) Resume the Hunt, which is a nifty Ranger move buff. This presents the DM with a quandary. Am I cheating by using a stunt to replicate the power after I blow the power? Is it unfair for our fighter Hallek to emulate my ability? It doesn't help that encounter and daily frequencies sure make those powers feel like "stunts," as one-off type things that happen infrequently.

So the WoW-like criticism seems to me to come from playing where the conservative best practice is to go easy on improvised actions to be fair to everybody -- and there are good reasons to go that route. Powers are easier to adjudicate and maintain character niches.

The connections between the skill check/challenge system and the combat engine are tenuous enough that 4e isn't always easy to deal with, but I still like it. You're not going to get 3e out of it though, and the fact that marketing is always "Remember that thing you loved? Well we changed it for the better into this new thing!" both exerts pressure and in this case, is misleading (4e is not a soft iterative change from the last version of D&D) and I can, while enjoying 4e quite a bit, appreciate where people are coming from.

But don't mind me. I believe y'all were busy arguing whether or not feeling alienated by an RPG made you an American fascist or not. Go nuts kids.
posted by mobunited at 8:50 AM on October 15, 2010


If you want to play adventures that rely on material in them (say, which contain an NPC with one of the PH2/3 classes) you do.

NPCs don't work this way in 4E. You don't have to build them with classes like they're PCs. Also, every encounter I've seen in a published adventure includes a full statblock for every creature in the encounter. You don't even need the Monster Manuals to run them.

To "stay current with the forefront of the game", all you need is for one person in your group to have a subscription to DDI, which can be shared between five computers and gives your group access to the Character Builder with all the PC info from all published books and the Compendium with all the item and monster info from all published books. Total cost is $72 a year, which you could split five ways.
posted by tricked by a toothless cobra at 8:52 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck me. A subscription?

I wonder how much my player's handbook would have cost me over the last 32 years.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2010


Fuck me. A subscription?

Well, you can subscribe for a month and then drop it. You still keep all the data, apparently, it just doesn't get updated. So if you don't mind the loss of physical books, it's actually cheaper to play 4E than other editions, in some ways at least.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2010


Ok, that's fair, if a month isn't too dear.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:54 PM on October 15, 2010


Ok, that's fair, if a month isn't too dear.

$10, I think.
posted by jedicus at 1:39 PM on October 15, 2010


Cheaper than WoW!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on October 15, 2010


Cheaper than WoW!

If you're book minded, the new Essentials books are $20 softcovers, and fit the classic 3-book format, which is effectively the same cost as the books were back in the 80's (yeah, not hardcover, on the other hand, 360 pages is pretty hefty).
posted by yeloson at 3:08 PM on October 15, 2010


It's hilarious that we've gone from slamming a dude for feeling pressure to keep current from marketing and community shaping forces, to fan-shilling based on price point arguments, which is essentially applying that pressure.

My 2 year old 4e game is on tomorrow. I'll see if I can spreadsheet a fun per minute per person breakdown of the costs for, y'know, the children.
posted by mobunited at 10:56 PM on October 15, 2010


For the sake of comparison we'll also need you to run a 3E game as well.

Oh, and to rule out bias from the DM being more familiar with one system than the other, it'd probably help if you had multiple different DMs each run a 4E and 3E game.

And of course we'll need to establish a baseline using some well-known game. Scrabble or something.

And finally you'll need a control group to make sure that any game is better than just sitting around, eating snacks, and talking for a couple of hours. Make sure to rotate the control through various locations and snack types, though. Wouldn't want some really tasty 7 layer dip to throw off the readings, you know.

Yep, I think we can have this sorted out once and for all in about three or four years. Just in time for us all to unite against the upcoming Fifth Edition.
posted by jedicus at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuck this. I'm sticking with Candyland.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2010


As a nerdy capstone on the thread, and to commemorate an edition war thread I had absolutely not part in (!yay!), this: The Wandering Damage Tables!

Funny coz, as they say, true.

(Player that ticks you off rolls a d20.)
Wandering Damage System Matrix
1. Your character has fallen down a flight of stairs; roll his Dex or less on d% or else consult the Limb Loss Subtable.
2. The monster your character just killed gets up and attacks him for 8d10 damage.
3. Your character smells smoke; his arm is on fire. Take 14 damage and save vs. gangrene.
4. Your character cuts himself while shaving; consult Limb Loss Subtable.
5. Your character's nose hairs catch fire; he dies of smoke inhalation.
6. Your character stumbles backward into a yawning chasm and disappears from view.
7. The next time your character says something, he eats his words, chokes on them, and dies.
8. Something cuts your character's nose off, doing 2d6 damage and really messing up his Cha.
9. Your character steps on a piece of glass; consult Limb Loss Subtable.
10. Your character suddenly catches a severe case of brain death.
11. Something invisible chews on your character, doing 6d6 damage.
12. Your character develops severe arthritis and can't hold anything with his hands; he drops whatever he's holding--and if it's a sword or axe, consult Limb Loss Subtable.
13-20. Consult the Random Damage Subtable if you feel like it.

(Players rolls d6 when appropriate, hee hee)
Limb Losss Subtable
1. Left leg gone.
2. Right leg gone.
3. Left arm gone.
4. Right arm gone.
5. Head gone.
6. Torso cut in half.

(Player rolls d% when you want him to)
Random Damage Subtable
01-05: Take 10 damage.
06-10: Take 15 damage.
11-20: Take 30 damage.
21-25: Take 10 damage and consult Limb Loss Subtable with a +5 modifier to die roll.
26-30: Take 10 damage and roll again on Wandering Damage System Matrix.
31-35: Take 15 damage, and then take 30 more.
36-40: Roll every die you own for damage.
41-45: Take 17 damage.
46-50: Take 42 damage.
51-55: Multiply your character's age by 5, and take three times that much damage.
56-60: Take 24 damage, and then take 31 more.
61-65: Take 1,000 damage and roll again.
66-70: Roll every die within 30 feet for damage.
71-73: Add up the total hp of the party, and take that much damage.
74-75: Take 3 damage, and consider yourself lucky...for now.
76-00: What? No damage? Impossible; this system is foolproof! Roll again!

posted by Sebmojo at 6:45 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Goddammit, Gygax.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:58 AM on October 18, 2010


Goddammit, Gygax.

The 12 Harlots of the Dungeons & Dragons Random Harlot Table Explained

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:05 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and I still use 'Paladin' to test dictionaries... oh yes '1 any of the 12 peers of Charlemagne's court. 2 a knight errant; a champion of a sovereign' you had better be in there.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:07 AM on October 18, 2010


You've claimed that there is:
a) history revision going on, how?
b) people are FORCED to buy books, how?


Have a sense of perspective!

- If you think I meant there was literal history revision going on concerning a stupid little roleplaying game then you are an idiot. I don't think that is the case, but I do think you might be looking a little too hard at this. What I was referring to, as I have said at least twice I think in this thread already, is it's the same thing as all the other times TSR has revised the game since 2E; all previous products are essentally un-products, this now is D&D as it's meant to be played. all hail the glorious future marching off to the eternal sunset etc OH BROTHER, HE'D GO NUTS OVER THAT

They don't literally say, to pick the extreme example, that 1E's rules were exactly the same as 4E. But they certainly don't publish even 3E adventures anymore, and only very very seldom reprint pre-current-edition material once a new version is out. (Instance that comes to mind was the 25th anniversary boxed set that sat in a local gaming store for years and years. At least that actually was old-edition material.)

Maybe this is to be expected, but when you publish as many RPG books as WoTC does the thick black line in their product history looks a bit obvious. And this version changed far more about the game than even 3E did. Obviously 3E still has a substantial player base, else Paizo wouldn't be able to make a go of Pathfinder. So I certainly can't be the only one with personal distaste for 4E.

- To play a game that can be described as 4E? Not forced (other than the initial purchases). This is the literal case.

But to play the game that everyone comes to recognize as 4E? To keep up with friends who are expecting a DM to have them so they can play their favorite class? A class that was part of the set in 3E? It's not forced, but it sure as hell ain't optional. This is the case as how, I believe, most people see the game.

Certainly it's how my game-playing friends see it, especially the two who had build up substantial 3E material. I was able to play with with just my 3E books, but they were always using new prestige classes and magic items and such things that I have no clue what they were talking about. It directly affected my enjoyment of the game; the game that came to be seen as 3/3.5E required buying a hell of a lot more books than "3E." And it seems to me, what with classes that have long been considered part of D&D from the beginning missing from the core books, 4E was cynically designed to exploit this.


Now I have to admit, when you directly compared me to Glenn Beck I saw red. Glenn Beck is a cultural loudspeaker; he doesn't subject his beliefs to revision in the face of new information, he doesn't care if he's right or wrong but whether he looks right or wrong. I had to step away from the thread for a few days to let my anger over that settle. I actually do know someone whose opinion of 4E is perhaps a bit Beck-like. I don't see him posting on Metafilter anytime soon.

But anyway, this works both ways. If you think I'm Glenn Beck-like, then I suggest you need to think a bit harder as to the nature of Glenn Beck, in all his multifarious horror.


On the door example given above:

Hmmm, my reading of the 4E rules seemed not to bear out the possibility of this. I may well be wrong here. Thanks for the correction everyone, will look a bit more closely at the rules later.


Goddammit, Gygax.

Heh heh heh.
posted by JHarris at 2:04 PM on October 18, 2010


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