Bringing back that old school style

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11 Responses

  1. Jack Colby says:

    The biggest difference is presentation? You seem to be looking at superficial details and confusing that with an entire theory of design and belief in what a game should consist of and be about. Not to be difficult or cause trouble, but I could not disagree with your post more, and believe you’ve missed the point entirely. The very core assumptions of what an RPG is and how gameplay should proceed are different between these editions, and that is a pretty dang big difference if you ask me. Reading 4E advice on actually running the game is like looking at an alien language to me… I don’t see how it can be the same game as older editions at all.

    However, I am with you in thinking the 4E game would have been nice if it was cut down into smaller sections. I myself have wondered from the beginning of 4E why they didn’t make a book for *each* tier of play, so those who never got beyond lvl 10 could just buy the books for the Heroic tier, getting 100% content they could use, and leave it at that.

    I guess I’ve answered my own question though, haven’t I? WotC would rather you buy ALL books, not just those of one tier. Too bad, because I personally feel that 2/3rds of any 4E book is wasted material (my group is too casual to ever get past Heroic tier), so I can’t justify buying ANY additional books beyond the absolute core rulebooks, and have not done so. It’s simply not worth the expense.

    • Elda King says:

      @Jack Colby:Yes, the rules (and all the design behind them, assumptions on how an encounter is supposed to be) are completely different amongst 4E, 3.5 and older editions. However, the feel of the game is pretty much determined by visual presentation. Also, the same design choices and philosophy you mention were responsible for new presentations of old rules, as Greywulf showed in this post with monster statblocks.
      They labeled fighters’ powers as “Exploits” and wizards’ as “Spells”; however, many people saw them just as powers and claimed that “all classes are the same”. If they put Wizard spells in a separate chapter, and Fighter abilities in a different power box, people wouldn’t say that – this is how presentation matters.

      @Greywulf:I like 4E monsters (the way all abilities are listed in their proper places and not in a different chapter of a different book, for example), but I liked the shortness you achieved. Particularly, ommiting “obvious” information like “vs AC” or “at-will” is a good idea in my opinion.
      About the books, the single biggest problem with the 4E core books (well, and with almost all supplements too) is the lack of descriptive text. If the matter was space, move back the magic items to the DMG (shortest core book). But now that you said about “taking the Epic Levels away”, the book hardly presents any Epic Destinies; maybe they deserved their own book too.

      • greywulf says:


        While putting this post together I compared the monster description text between that in the Classic D&D Rules Cyclopedia and the 4e Monster Manual. In terms of wordcount, there’s not a lot between them – the Rules Cyclopedia is a beautiful thing of brevity, after all – but what changed was what those words conveyed.

        In the RC, a monster’s text primarily described the beast – their appearance, where they’re likely to be found, alliances, hatred of gnomes, etc. In the 4e MM, it covered how they fought.

        That’s a huge presentational difference, and another mis-step which skewed the impression that 4e D&D is nothing more than a combat-heavy boardgame.

        Maybe more fluff text isn’t the answer so much as good, role-playing hook text. Just a thought :D

    • greywulf says:

      I feel that the problem with the 4e PHB was that it gave us too much of the game, all at once. If they’d split it, as you say, into three books covering Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers they would probably have sold more books, not less.

      Everyone who currently has a copy of the 4e PHB would have no doubt bought the Heroic Player’s Handbook, so any sales of the Paragon and Epic Player’s Handbook would have been a Good Thing for WoTC’s profit line.

      Also, with more space to breathe, the books would have more fluff content, meaning all those decriers of the game for that reason would be more likely to jump on board as well. It’s a win all round.

      I suggested the compromise of 1st-20th in the PHB with Epic play separately as this would have kept it in line with Third Edition expectations. In some people’s eyes, Wizards can do no right so if they’re released a PHB covering only 10 levels, they just wouldn’t have been satisfied. give them 20 with a promise of 10 more Epic levels, and that’s one more pointless moan against the game shot down.

      I do feel that the core principles and essence of 4e D&D are much the same as they always have been – adventurers exploring the underground, defeating monsters for fame, glory and honour. What changed was the presentation, and that badly skewed perception of what the game is all about. That’s something they have had to work hard over the last two years (with varying degrees of success) to overcome.

  2. satyre says:

    You could do a one-page dungeon using this stat format and it would be neat! Now if NPC statblocks and power selections can be similarly reduced, we’d be in business!

    This is seriously good stuff G.

  3. Croaw87420 says:

    Did you just…microlite…4e?

  4. Stug3g says:

    I personally still play 1e AD&D or OSRIC over 4e. I enjoy the old school simplicity and feel of the game. My group played 4e for awhile but got tired of the complicated stat blocks and bland adventures, that seemed to be nothing more than going from one set piece encounter to another and waiting for out Icons to recharge before we could attack or heal again (oh sorry that was WoW or was it?).
    Anyhow we decided to just go back into the retro-clones and play OSRIC in the world of Greyhawk, so far its been allot more fun than 4e ever was, and far better than 3.5 or Pathfinder which we tried as well. Pretty pictures and full color books doesn’t mean a game is good, just expensive.

  5. Stug3g says:

    Well one thing I enjoy allot to with the retro-clones like OSRIC is the unlimited levels, I never really liked level caps be it 20 or level 30, they seem contrived. I recall and still have my character from when I was playing in a 5 year AD&D 1e campaign, he was a Human Fighter (his only class mind you) who reached level 36, I retired him and then said he died of old age as the King of his own conquered nation in Greyhawk. If he were in 3.5 or 4e, he would have been put out to pasture at levels 20 or 30, which I would not of liked at all.

  6. Sadrelahon says:

    Why did they remove all of the info on what the monster look (such as male and female, how much they weigh, and how tall they are), where it is found, and other stuff which the previous edition’s monster manual have? I really miss all that stuff. From looking at the 4th edition monster manuals it looks like all they care about is putting in stuff related to what the monster abilities and stats are. I also do not like how they handled the angels in 4th edition. I want my angels to fight on the side of good. Why did they change the up the alignment system for 4.5 to 4th edition?

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