Deadly? More like Smedley!

March 16, 2009 at 6:00 am
filed under Roleplaying

Edit: This was supposed to go up on the 16th! I have no idea why it did not. I guess it’s not topical anymore, but who cares? Blog blog blog blog blog.

Yax is stirring the pot! 

Is 4E the deadliest D&D?

Shit, isn’t one of people’s biggest complaints about D&D 4th Edition that it’s too hard to kill players? I don’t pretend to understand but these people really miss things like save-or-die effects or ridiculous crits, I guess.

That’s all right, though. I will happily indulge Yax, and I’ll even try to be constructive about it.

heals plz

Any character in 4e who rests for 8 hours recovers all of his hit points. Any character in 2nd Edition who rests for the night recovers a single hit point. A 3rd level character in 3.5 recovers three.

In 4th Edition, a cleric with 18 in his primary can heal a quarter of a character’s hit points, at a minimum, twice per encounter. In practice, it’s closer to half or more, and more than once per encounter due to things like Healing Strike and Beacon of Hope.

Clerics in 2nd Edition can heal somewhere a few d8 per day. It’s a bit better for clerics in 3rd Edition, but this has its own problems (i.e., cleric as heal-bot).

Woe betide thee, child, for thou hast rolled a 1.

A 3rd level fighter in 4th Edition will have, at a minimum, 35 hit points. In 2nd edition, a fighter will have a minimum of 3 hit points. In 3.5e, a 3rd level fighter who rolled a lousy Con score could have as few as 11 hit points.

We can take stats out of the picture: assume that the fighter has something reasonable for Con, like 16. The 4th Edition character has 43 hit points. The 3rd Edition character has anywhere from 21 to 39. 

How can you balance monsters and traps with that kind of spread? Easy: you don’t. The guys who have the misfortune of rolling 1s and 2s just die a lot.

Expectations, my man! 

All right, so maybe Yax doesn’t really believe that 4th Edition is the most deadly. What he describes sounds like the DM spring too much complexity on the players all at once. The players were used to straightforward encounters until then, so when the DM changed it up, the players weren’t ready for it.

If you want to add new tactical concepts, you do it gradually, in small chunks. This is different from a “tutorial” quest in that you don’t hit players over the head with it. Think less along the lines of a traditional video game tutorial and more like Half-Life 2 or Portal: the players should learn new concepts by doing.

For example, if you want to introduce them to difficult terrain, construct an easy combat with difficult terrain as a minor element. Think out loud so the PCs can see how the terrain impacts’ monsters decisions. Point out situations where they can use it to their advantage.

Also, don’t let them forget about their abilities! If the elf keeps forgetting he can shift into difficult terrain, remind him. If they’re just double moving to get into melee, remind them that they move and charge. This can also get them across difficult terrain or simply a big battlefield. If night is falling, ask them why they’re hoarding their daily powers. Point out where they can set up a particularly effective flank, or where an Icy Terrain spell might make a big difference.

Of course, this assumes that the players really are interested in the same kind of gameplay you’re offering. Maybe they’re not, which means you have a bigger problem: you want a game with some amount of teamwork and tactics, and perhaps they just want to show up and kill things.

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