Comments on: GenCon 2012 – The D&D Next Seminars: Why I’m going to continue Playtesting http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars A D&D 4e Blog Dedicated to Dungeonmasters & Players Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:54:57 -0400 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 hourly 1 By: D&DNext, Again « The Rhetorical Gamer http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-69816 D&DNext, Again « The Rhetorical Gamer Mon, 27 Aug 2012 18:08:51 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-69816 [...] packet came out. I have a few further observations to share but I’ll start with pointing to a good read from this past week about Next. The Neuroglyph Games post makes good points and I agree with most [...] [...] packet came out. I have a few further observations to share but I’ll start with pointing to a good read from this past week about Next. The Neuroglyph Games post makes good points and I agree with most [...]

]]>
By: Weekly Roundup: Decompressing From Gencon Edition | Roving Band of Misfits http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-69537 Weekly Roundup: Decompressing From Gencon Edition | Roving Band of Misfits Mon, 27 Aug 2012 02:54:44 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-69537 [...] Neuroglyph Games also talked a bit about the Gencon seminars, and why they convinced him to keep playtesting. [...] [...] Neuroglyph Games also talked a bit about the Gencon seminars, and why they convinced him to keep playtesting. [...]

]]>
By: Aegeri http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-67182 Aegeri Thu, 23 Aug 2012 08:01:28 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-67182 I am not saying that it's not easy to make modules, because it will be simple to just make a tactical module, throw a bunch of rules together and sell it in a book. What I am saying Wizards will struggle with is the concept that once you MAKE that book, you have to keep adding things into the game that use it. In essence, it's like converting an adventure from 2E to 3E or either of those into 4E. You're dealing with very different assumptions and game design: So whose going to bear the burden? Think of it this way, will Wizards provide adequate and sufficient tactical module assuming adventures or supplements for those who want them? Will they make adventures/supplements that use more of a 3rd edition assumption? Will they make adventures/supplements for the 2E style basic rules, which is the core of DnDnext right now? Will they make all three of these at exactly the same time? The answer is obvious. No. Compare the above to what happened to the tiers of play in 4E and what I'm getting at becomes clear. Your tactical module, which has the most complexity and requires the most demanding encounter design to be fun is your epic tier. Your midway point is the 3rd ed like game, which is more like paragon tier and finally you have your basic core rules - which ends up being your heroic tier. I will guarantee you, give DnDnext 2 years after its release and they will barely support anything outside of the basic modules. In essence, they will release the modules as a "fix" to the core problem - much like how MM3 finally fixed the maths of epic tier monsters making them challenging - but then utterly fail to support the DM who wants the tactical module. It will thus become disproportionate work and limit the material you will want/find useful - putting more and more onus on the DM. It's not even really about buying X, Y and Z to get what you want, but if wizards only goes as far as putting out X but forgetting entirely that Y and Z are needed to make it a truly legitimate choice. I loved 4E and running two games was something entirely feasible for me all the way up until high level. This had only one simple answer: There just wasn't the support for high level games I assumed was coming post-MM3. The more the game continued, the more work I had to do making everything by myself (including magic items and monsters, don't forget how badly they borked the post-essentials magic item system as well). Time rapidly became my enemy in terms of being able to run DnD games and particularly high level ones. The balance of 4E after MM3 was such that I could definitively challenge my epic level PCs: But the tools weren't there. The inspiration wasn't there. Interesting encounter maps weren't there. Example adventures weren't there. The amount of monsters outside of Demons completely shrivelled up into nothing. Essentially the lack of support just meant the preparation time went through the roof, DM frustration followed and campaign abandonment as well. I got through two 1-30 4E campaigns through sheer bloody mindedness: Not because of the fact wizards supported the playstyle I enjoy (which is high level DnD). I am not willing to do that again, especially with a system that has as many inherent problems to its core rules that DnDnext has that 4E solved or didn't have. I am not saying that it’s not easy to make modules, because it will be simple to just make a tactical module, throw a bunch of rules together and sell it in a book. What I am saying Wizards will struggle with is the concept that once you MAKE that book, you have to keep adding things into the game that use it. In essence, it’s like converting an adventure from 2E to 3E or either of those into 4E. You’re dealing with very different assumptions and game design: So whose going to bear the burden?

Think of it this way, will Wizards provide adequate and sufficient tactical module assuming adventures or supplements for those who want them? Will they make adventures/supplements that use more of a 3rd edition assumption? Will they make adventures/supplements for the 2E style basic rules, which is the core of DnDnext right now? Will they make all three of these at exactly the same time?

The answer is obvious. No. Compare the above to what happened to the tiers of play in 4E and what I’m getting at becomes clear. Your tactical module, which has the most complexity and requires the most demanding encounter design to be fun is your epic tier. Your midway point is the 3rd ed like game, which is more like paragon tier and finally you have your basic core rules – which ends up being your heroic tier.

I will guarantee you, give DnDnext 2 years after its release and they will barely support anything outside of the basic modules. In essence, they will release the modules as a “fix” to the core problem – much like how MM3 finally fixed the maths of epic tier monsters making them challenging – but then utterly fail to support the DM who wants the tactical module. It will thus become disproportionate work and limit the material you will want/find useful – putting more and more onus on the DM.

It’s not even really about buying X, Y and Z to get what you want, but if wizards only goes as far as putting out X but forgetting entirely that Y and Z are needed to make it a truly legitimate choice. I loved 4E and running two games was something entirely feasible for me all the way up until high level. This had only one simple answer: There just wasn’t the support for high level games I assumed was coming post-MM3. The more the game continued, the more work I had to do making everything by myself (including magic items and monsters, don’t forget how badly they borked the post-essentials magic item system as well).

Time rapidly became my enemy in terms of being able to run DnD games and particularly high level ones. The balance of 4E after MM3 was such that I could definitively challenge my epic level PCs: But the tools weren’t there. The inspiration wasn’t there. Interesting encounter maps weren’t there. Example adventures weren’t there. The amount of monsters outside of Demons completely shrivelled up into nothing. Essentially the lack of support just meant the preparation time went through the roof, DM frustration followed and campaign abandonment as well. I got through two 1-30 4E campaigns through sheer bloody mindedness: Not because of the fact wizards supported the playstyle I enjoy (which is high level DnD).

I am not willing to do that again, especially with a system that has as many inherent problems to its core rules that DnDnext has that 4E solved or didn’t have.

]]>
By: Editor-in-Chief http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66971 Editor-in-Chief Wed, 22 Aug 2012 18:04:18 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66971 @Aegeri - You hit the nail on the head, and you touched on many of the reasons that the "Trust" issue is probably the hardest one to overcome. I do disagree about the modules though - I think that in many respects, you can take a game like 3.5 and strip it down to where it mechanically plays very much like AD&D. Maybe the mechanics aren't exactly the same, like negative AC and hit tables versus positive AC and attack bonuses, but one could approximate the simplicity of AD&D play by tossing out certain complex rule sets. That's why I think, in theory, one could write a set of modules to take a basic system and increase its complexity to a point where it plays like a 3.5 or 4E game. The real question is whether or not the designers can write that set of modules - and will it be cost effective for gamers who want a complex game to buy the basic rules and all the modular rule sets to get where they want to be? @Aegeri – You hit the nail on the head, and you touched on many of the reasons that the “Trust” issue is probably the hardest one to overcome. I do disagree about the modules though – I think that in many respects, you can take a game like 3.5 and strip it down to where it mechanically plays very much like AD&D. Maybe the mechanics aren’t exactly the same, like negative AC and hit tables versus positive AC and attack bonuses, but one could approximate the simplicity of AD&D play by tossing out certain complex rule sets.

That’s why I think, in theory, one could write a set of modules to take a basic system and increase its complexity to a point where it plays like a 3.5 or 4E game. The real question is whether or not the designers can write that set of modules – and will it be cost effective for gamers who want a complex game to buy the basic rules and all the modular rule sets to get where they want to be?

]]>
By: Aegeri http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66749 Aegeri Wed, 22 Aug 2012 01:28:25 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66749 Personally, I find the concept that Wizards can support multiple playstyles by slapping modules onto the core rules to be laughable. Anyone who has followed 4E, as I am sure you have, will know they couldn't even support the three different tiers of play within the same exact core set of rules. There is utterly no way anyone can get me to believe that Wizards are suddenly going to turn around and adequately support your "Basic style", "3rd Edition Style" and "4th Edition" modules at the same time. Especially when it comes to how monsters are "designed" (I use the term very loosely there from what I have seen) and how adventures are set up. This really is an extension of the "Trust" issue there, as Wizards during 4Es lifespan went out of their way to systematically fail at or break every promise they made. For example, they ceased effectively supporting epic tier after essentials came out. They completely broke and then dropped support for the offline monster builder, in favor of an online one that for months couldn't even build monsters. Numerous classes failed to get significant or even relevant support, like the Seeker and Runepriest. The ridiculous limits on the online character builder, which made it a worthless resource in my in person games in comparison to how invaluable the offline version had been. The abject failure to provide the virtual table top and so on. Wizards are going to have to do a lot more than release a vague retroclone to convince me that DnDnext is going to be worth continuing to spend my time on. More importantly, they will not only have to release a decent system, but they are going to have to show consistent excellent support for that system. I actually view the second part as the insurmountable challenge that Wizards are facing above all the other mechanical issues, like the current illogical monster and encounter design rules, potential class resentment and other issues. Personally, I find the concept that Wizards can support multiple playstyles by slapping modules onto the core rules to be laughable. Anyone who has followed 4E, as I am sure you have, will know they couldn’t even support the three different tiers of play within the same exact core set of rules. There is utterly no way anyone can get me to believe that Wizards are suddenly going to turn around and adequately support your “Basic style”, “3rd Edition Style” and “4th Edition” modules at the same time. Especially when it comes to how monsters are “designed” (I use the term very loosely there from what I have seen) and how adventures are set up.

This really is an extension of the “Trust” issue there, as Wizards during 4Es lifespan went out of their way to systematically fail at or break every promise they made. For example, they ceased effectively supporting epic tier after essentials came out. They completely broke and then dropped support for the offline monster builder, in favor of an online one that for months couldn’t even build monsters. Numerous classes failed to get significant or even relevant support, like the Seeker and Runepriest. The ridiculous limits on the online character builder, which made it a worthless resource in my in person games in comparison to how invaluable the offline version had been. The abject failure to provide the virtual table top and so on.

Wizards are going to have to do a lot more than release a vague retroclone to convince me that DnDnext is going to be worth continuing to spend my time on. More importantly, they will not only have to release a decent system, but they are going to have to show consistent excellent support for that system. I actually view the second part as the insurmountable challenge that Wizards are facing above all the other mechanical issues, like the current illogical monster and encounter design rules, potential class resentment and other issues.

]]>
By: Editor-in-Chief http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66562 Editor-in-Chief Tue, 21 Aug 2012 20:03:51 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66562 @Jack - I don't see having a healer as insidious, but it is part of the classic D&D adventuring trope which goes right along with the design teams' paradigm for 5E. Next is being designed around four iconic characters heading into a dungeon, and <em>bounded accuracy</em> along with monster design are almost dictating that tactical healing is part of the game. You can't increase hit points significantly enough to make a difference unless everyone just takes the Survivor Specialty, nor will extra DPS stop the heroes from being mauled by a horde of orcs. Without a Cleric, the adventure will take the path of the "15-minute workday", and heroes will be forced to flee the dungeon to rest after a couple of encounters or traps. As it stands with the current rules, a Cleric is an expected team member if the players want to do serious delving - unless thay have a massive stock of healing potions! @Philo - You're right about the Long Term aspects of D&D Next, and it's why the Trust Issue had to be put down in the "dislike" category. Given how 4E and its fans are being treated right now, it's hard to be trusting of WotC when we know that Hasbro could force Next down the same path, and make it extinct in under 5 years too. Like I said, and Arbanax seconded, it's going to come down to being both a skeptical playtester and a D&D fan willing to take a leap of faith. I can be the former pretty easily with no risk, but the latter is going to be much harder. Thankfully, I don't have to make the leap until 5E is actually released, and if I get cold feet, I can always fall back on my 4E game! @Jack – I don’t see having a healer as insidious, but it is part of the classic D&D adventuring trope which goes right along with the design teams’ paradigm for 5E. Next is being designed around four iconic characters heading into a dungeon, and bounded accuracy along with monster design are almost dictating that tactical healing is part of the game. You can’t increase hit points significantly enough to make a difference unless everyone just takes the Survivor Specialty, nor will extra DPS stop the heroes from being mauled by a horde of orcs. Without a Cleric, the adventure will take the path of the “15-minute workday”, and heroes will be forced to flee the dungeon to rest after a couple of encounters or traps. As it stands with the current rules, a Cleric is an expected team member if the players want to do serious delving – unless thay have a massive stock of healing potions!

@Philo – You’re right about the Long Term aspects of D&D Next, and it’s why the Trust Issue had to be put down in the “dislike” category. Given how 4E and its fans are being treated right now, it’s hard to be trusting of WotC when we know that Hasbro could force Next down the same path, and make it extinct in under 5 years too. Like I said, and Arbanax seconded, it’s going to come down to being both a skeptical playtester and a D&D fan willing to take a leap of faith. I can be the former pretty easily with no risk, but the latter is going to be much harder. Thankfully, I don’t have to make the leap until 5E is actually released, and if I get cold feet, I can always fall back on my 4E game!

]]>
By: Philo Pharynx http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66556 Philo Pharynx Tue, 21 Aug 2012 18:38:24 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66556 Long Term D&D - While this may be the goal of the design team, I think that if it doesn't meet Hasbro's revenue goals it will be replaced. Whta's more, core rules sales peak and then fall off into a long tail. They have to work to make sure they can meet their goals with enough other quality products. DM agency - I look at this a different way than many people when I'm gaming. I like having a good rules structure. When I GM, I have lot's of things to focus on, and I don't want to waste time on making up rules. And when I have to make stuff up, I want to have lots of similar examples so I can make sure that what I make up is consistent with this reality. Advice is nice, but I'd rather have a module of rules that I can use for this. Long Term D&D – While this may be the goal of the design team, I think that if it doesn’t meet Hasbro’s revenue goals it will be replaced. Whta’s more, core rules sales peak and then fall off into a long tail. They have to work to make sure they can meet their goals with enough other quality products.

DM agency – I look at this a different way than many people when I’m gaming. I like having a good rules structure. When I GM, I have lot’s of things to focus on, and I don’t want to waste time on making up rules. And when I have to make stuff up, I want to have lots of similar examples so I can make sure that what I make up is consistent with this reality. Advice is nice, but I’d rather have a module of rules that I can use for this.

]]>
By: Jack http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66444 Jack Tue, 21 Aug 2012 13:17:48 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66444 Two more thoughts, much less impassioned than my bit on tactical healing. First, I think that class resentment is a thing that we can move beyond if we allow ourselves to. I think I agree with WotC here (that feels weird to type) that we need to get away from designing classes in the shadow of class resentment -- I kind of feel like that's one of the first places that 4E failed; because they wanted to avoid resentment, all of the classes seem to me to be really vanilla and uninteresting. It's all exactly the same, with small variations. I think that classes should have their specialties and their weaknesses. I think that Fighters should be THE BEST in combat, and if you want your character to be a combat character then Fighter is what you want. Similarly, I think other classes should shine in other ways, in situations where the Fighter has limited utility. Then players pick the class they want to play based on what they want to be good at; there's no need for class resentment because the classes don't need to be directly competing. (The catch is that the players and DM have to be honest about the kind of game their playing -- a Diplomacy-heavy character isn't necessarily going to have a lot of fun in a bloody hack-and-slash dungeoncrawl.) Second, I think focusing on DM Agency is a Really Good Thing. There's this notion that I stumble upon regularly that if it's in the rules, that's THE way to do it, and no alternatives are allowed. GMs I've talked to have mentioned feeling like the system had their hands tied, and that's ridiculous. Having suffered at the hands of crappy Killer-GMs before (they're why I didn't play D&D for most of my first two decades of RPing) I recognize that that's a concern -- but I think that coaching, mentoring, and freely available advice can go a long way to helping curb that. (Also, just make a rule not to play with jerks.) I don't think that either rules-light or rules-heavy systems have a strict advantage over the other in terms of young/green DMs. Rules-heavy gives you a sturdy framework to hang from, but it also requires (or implies) a lot of system mastery before you can do it well -- this is why I'm the DM in my group, because my players are intimidated by the complexity. But as you note, rules-light can leave a new DM hanging without any sound way of gauging what the "right" way to handle a situation is -- they are paralyzed by choice. Both of these can be overcome with a bit of coaching, I think, so it sounds like WotC has the right idea there (again, weird to type). Two more thoughts, much less impassioned than my bit on tactical healing.

First, I think that class resentment is a thing that we can move beyond if we allow ourselves to. I think I agree with WotC here (that feels weird to type) that we need to get away from designing classes in the shadow of class resentment — I kind of feel like that’s one of the first places that 4E failed; because they wanted to avoid resentment, all of the classes seem to me to be really vanilla and uninteresting. It’s all exactly the same, with small variations.

I think that classes should have their specialties and their weaknesses. I think that Fighters should be THE BEST in combat, and if you want your character to be a combat character then Fighter is what you want. Similarly, I think other classes should shine in other ways, in situations where the Fighter has limited utility. Then players pick the class they want to play based on what they want to be good at; there’s no need for class resentment because the classes don’t need to be directly competing. (The catch is that the players and DM have to be honest about the kind of game their playing — a Diplomacy-heavy character isn’t necessarily going to have a lot of fun in a bloody hack-and-slash dungeoncrawl.)

Second, I think focusing on DM Agency is a Really Good Thing. There’s this notion that I stumble upon regularly that if it’s in the rules, that’s THE way to do it, and no alternatives are allowed. GMs I’ve talked to have mentioned feeling like the system had their hands tied, and that’s ridiculous. Having suffered at the hands of crappy Killer-GMs before (they’re why I didn’t play D&D for most of my first two decades of RPing) I recognize that that’s a concern — but I think that coaching, mentoring, and freely available advice can go a long way to helping curb that. (Also, just make a rule not to play with jerks.)

I don’t think that either rules-light or rules-heavy systems have a strict advantage over the other in terms of young/green DMs. Rules-heavy gives you a sturdy framework to hang from, but it also requires (or implies) a lot of system mastery before you can do it well — this is why I’m the DM in my group, because my players are intimidated by the complexity. But as you note, rules-light can leave a new DM hanging without any sound way of gauging what the “right” way to handle a situation is — they are paralyzed by choice. Both of these can be overcome with a bit of coaching, I think, so it sounds like WotC has the right idea there (again, weird to type).

]]>
By: Jack http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66435 Jack Tue, 21 Aug 2012 12:48:19 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66435 I'm only about halfway through your post, but I came upon this note that stuck in my craw, as it's kind of a key issue for me: "a problem if a gamer is asked to play the healer for a group and doesn’t like the options open to him." The notion that a given group needs to have "the healer" is an insidious one, and it <i>doesn't have to be the case</i>. I mentioned it in <a href="http://jackstoolbox.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/the-next-dd-n5xt/" rel="nofollow">my post</a> about 5th Edition (it's toward the bottom), but the Angry GM addresses it more fully <a href="http://angrydm.com/2012/02/the-two-faces-of-healing/" rel="nofollow">here</a> -- specifically, <i>tactical healing</i> should be an option that can be weighed against other tactical options, such as another tank or more DPS. There should be the same cost-benefit associated with taking a Healer; this way, it's not NECESSARY to take a Healer. You can choose to bring characters that can endure damage, or characters that can heal damage, or characters that can simply out-race their opponents in the damage game (if you kill them first, you don't need to worry about taking more damage). In recent editions tactical healing has been assumed and in 4th Edition it was effectively 'free' as a tactical choice (you didn't need to give up an attack to heal), so it became mandatory. If healing is balanced against other tactical choices we will never have the situation where someone "has" to play the healer, so we won't have to worry about anyone being disappointed with limited options. I’m only about halfway through your post, but I came upon this note that stuck in my craw, as it’s kind of a key issue for me:

“a problem if a gamer is asked to play the healer for a group and doesn’t like the options open to him.”

The notion that a given group needs to have “the healer” is an insidious one, and it doesn’t have to be the case. I mentioned it in my post about 5th Edition (it’s toward the bottom), but the Angry GM addresses it more fully here — specifically, tactical healing should be an option that can be weighed against other tactical options, such as another tank or more DPS. There should be the same cost-benefit associated with taking a Healer; this way, it’s not NECESSARY to take a Healer. You can choose to bring characters that can endure damage, or characters that can heal damage, or characters that can simply out-race their opponents in the damage game (if you kill them first, you don’t need to worry about taking more damage). In recent editions tactical healing has been assumed and in 4th Edition it was effectively ‘free’ as a tactical choice (you didn’t need to give up an attack to heal), so it became mandatory.

If healing is balanced against other tactical choices we will never have the situation where someone “has” to play the healer, so we won’t have to worry about anyone being disappointed with limited options.

]]>
By: Arbanax http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/gencon-2012-the-dnd-next-seminars/comment-page-1#comment-66385 Arbanax Tue, 21 Aug 2012 08:58:38 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=7465#comment-66385 Hey Mike really appreciated your feedback on Gen Con, and I want to heartily concur with your last point. I think DnDNext to work and work well and even to restore trust has to have the highest level of scrutiny so that people can see that WOTC earned that trust. So to reiterate your last point - yes the playtest does needs sceptics, opened minded sceptics who can give affirmative balanced feedback as you have indeed just done on Gen Con. Glad you continue to be onboard mate. Hey Mike really appreciated your feedback on Gen Con, and I want to heartily concur with your last point.

I think DnDNext to work and work well and even to restore trust has to have the highest level of scrutiny so that people can see that WOTC earned that trust. So to reiterate your last point – yes the playtest does needs sceptics, opened minded sceptics who can give affirmative balanced feedback as you have indeed just done on Gen Con. Glad you continue to be onboard mate.

]]>