Note: This post will make my Operating System preferences clear. However, it is not a post about Operating Systems, and any comments relating to an OS war will be ignored and probably deleted.
“I just think 3.5 feels a lot more like UNIX. You can do whatever you want.” That’s what one of my players said to me. That would be great, an gaming edition that lets you do practically whatever you want, writing scripts to let you perform any action, putting input in one end, and getting a phenomenal result on the other side. Hundreds of small single-purpose pieces that let you pipe input and output however you need to. You could have a wizard where you put components, casting time, and targets in one end of the equation, and get a a targeted mini-Fireball with each foe’s name on it out of the other side, telling you how much dice to use for each one so that it is balanced with your abilities and the other classes of the same level. You could have a paladin script based around how the enemy responds to his Smite Evil.
But, the more I think about it, 3.5 is not like UNIX. It’s kind of like DOS. It’s kind of clunky, and has pieces you never use (i.e. Rope Use), and pieces you overuse (i.e. Spot). You can do some things in it, and it works OK, but you will often find you can’t do what you want to, or what you need to. Push a boulder onto an enemy? Improvised weapon. You’re better off hitting him with your sword. Want to grab an enemy and throw him off the cliff? Maybe it will work, but after too many rolls, you find that odds are better that you would have been more successful hitting him with your sword again.
I have no delusions about 4e being UNIX. But, I do hope that is like Mac OS X. I mean, really, do we want the game that I just fawned over in the first paragraph? Sure it would be a neat simulation, but we’re trying to tell a story here. We need a system that has limited options, but has the options you want. And works like it is expected to. But, for the most part, we need a system that just gets out of the way, and lets the DM and the players do what they need to.
I’m not sure if 4e is like Mac OS X yet. It could be like more like Windows 95. Quite a few options, but none that you need. Things don’t work like you expect them to. Your audio driver’s IRQ needs to be reassigned because it is conflicting with your modem, but the OS just keeps setting it back to for you, and the Device Manager keeps showing the yellow question mark no matter how many times you re-load the driver. OK, that last one probably completely ejected you from the metaphor entirely, but you get the point.
Now that I have discussed both D&D and Operating Systems in one post, effectively squaring the geekiness of this blog (if only I could find some way to involve Star Trek…), I’ll enumerate my findings from my first session of 4e:
1) Players have to work together more - If you use a daily power, and miss, then you’re just out of luck. Players really need to maximize all the bonuses before one of the players goes mini-nova.
2) It is possible to kill the players - At first, I thought that with all the healing surges and such, that it would be nigh-impossible for the players to die. Not so.
3) Sometimes they should run away - As a corollary to #2. The players had no rest between encounters, and were given an option of a skill challenge or turning to face the Shadow Hounds chasing them. They chose to fight, although they were already wounded. Which leads me to #4.
4) Make Skill Challenges more obvious - Really, probably my fault. I’m not sure if everyone declares when they enter into a skill challenge, but that would have let the players know that they had a way to escape the encounter. Like how Picard escaped the Encounter at Farpoint in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (YES!! I did it!).