Comments on Mixed Messages

Just get the damn books already (in whatever way you want to get them) and play it… Then decide if you hate it or love it.

Yes I’m concerned with some of the design decisions. Chief among those the decision that monsters are to be killed, not to write novels about.

Look at your old D&D Cyclopedia monster stats… were they that complete and full of fluff?

As for Exception based design being bad because it’s full of exception? Isn’t that like saying water is bad because it’s wet?

Shall we agree to disagree and reconvene when we both tried it? :)

chattydm 2008-05-29 12:27 UTC


Sounds like a plan to me! :)

The thing about the D&D Cyclopedia was that it gave you the bare minimum needed, and trusted the GM to play the monsters how the heck you want. If you wanted (say) Kobolds using hang gliders to drop bombs from above, or Goblin Phalanxes or whatever you just ran with the idea, and had a blast. Now in 4e, each Monster has pre-set tactics and rules-dictated tricks. If you want Kobold Hang Gliders, that’s another “creature” with it’s own completely different set of stats. It had decriptions for the monsters too, and very few pictures of the critters because it packed so much darned goodness between it’s covers there wasn’t room for art :) What I’ve seen of the 4e Core Books looks too much like an exercise in Padding Over Substance. When art fills a double-page spread leaving only a narrow gutter for text, it smacks of lousy design. Sorry, but……

I don’t like exception-based design bacause it’s Bad Design. Imagine if you bought an exception-based Car where the chassis was a core component and the engine, suspension, brakes, etc were all additional components that were designed to be added to the chassis but work intependantly of all the rest of the system. Halfway down the road the engine would stall because you’ve applied the brakes and the suspension would seize up from all the strain. Systems should be designed as a cohesive whole rather than as many disparate parts. Sure, there’ll be exceptions to that – no system is perfect – but they should be just that – exceptions.

Classic Rolemeaster, Mutants & Masterminds and GURPS are all examples of systems with great, consistent design. They take one fundamental concept and apply it to as many situations as possible. It makes for fun play because once you know the rules, you know the rules. 3rd Edition D&D was a huge step in the right direction, and I’m increasingly feeling like 4e is a step backward to the Dark Days of AD&D when every action had it’s own subset of rules.

Anyhow. Yeh, I’ll get the books and give it a try.

GreyWulf 2008-05-29 13:06 UTC


Ah, GreyWulf, at least you keep giving me ideas for posts…

I think saying exception-based design is flat out bad design is disingenuous, and I don’t think your example really follows, but I think I’ll save that for an article.

And didn’t you say you liked Magic, which I would argue is a badly designed exceptions game?

Dave T. Game 2008-05-29 21:04 UTC


:) I like being article fodder!

Magic is a strange beast indeed. Yes, it’s exception based, but it works. I think it’s because the actual number of exceptions are fewer than first appears, and the actual mechanisms that the exceptions use are still controlled by the rules. What I’ve seen of 4e, the exceptions are mini-rules blocks in their own right. Add in 5 or 6 (or more!) shoddy quality supplements from Wizards and I can see it all spiralling out of control.

GreyWulf 2008-05-29 21:41 UTC

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