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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!).

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 4:03 pm and is filed under RPG, Tech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 comments so far


3.5 as DOS? Seriously? Dude, is way better than that. 3.5 does have flaws, and it requires you *know* the system to play it, but it’s hardly DOS. 1st Edition would be DOS. 3.5 isn’t UNIX either - you can’t customize enough - but it ain’t DOS.

The utterly modular game system we’ve discussed would be UNIX - no classes, just buy the stuff you wanna use - that’d be UNIX.

4e won’t be OSX … I don’t think there’s an RPG rules set yet written that works as well as that.

I think 4e is Vista. Pretty, and supposed to be better, but mainly annoying changes you weren’t sure were totally necessary to begin with. :)

January 10th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I don’t think I’m underestimating 3.5. I think you’re underestimating DOS. DOS was a good system. It did its job well. You could write batch files that did some things that needed to be done, but it wasn’t nearly as flexible as UNIX. It really took parts of UNIX (and CP/M), and made them accessible to the everyday user.

January 11th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Check out the D6 systems - UNIX in a box. No classes, no levels, you can add any skills hey don’t have, create any power, take away any disadvantage.


January 11th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

D6, as in West End Games??

January 11th, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Yes. I’d say just yes but then it flags this as spam and won’t let me post so - yes, twice.

January 11th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Interesting. I haven’t played d6 since WEG’s Star Wars game. It’d be interesting to look at again.

January 11th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I think of 4e more like a mobile phone OS it tries to do everything in one tight package, but when really put to task it is marginal at best at doing what you want it to do. I keep meeting players that were totally hyped up by 4e, but after a couple months have returned to 3.x because it holds there interest better. I like 4e as a DM but not so much as a player. two reasons: Once a day magic item usage, and because of skill challenges being played out poorly by inexperienced DMs and module authors; those two items break the fun for me. Maybe Pathfinder is like OSX. it is an opportunistic system taking advantage of the WoTC system change and slowly stealing gamers away by giving them something they are more comfortable playing. The D6 game keep popping up in circles too, is that like OS2 Warp?

January 11th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

It seems to be. West End Games keeps running into financial trouble so the game doesn’t get the marketing it deserves while being an extremely flexible system.

But like UNIX, it’s not for a beginner. It’s flexible because it’s rule-lite and leaves alot for a GM to fill in with his players.

January 12th, 2009 at 4:26 am

I’ve played D6 based systems - Star Wars and the like. I thought it was adequate, but I’ve found I prefer the D20 Star Wars based stuff. (I know, burn the heretic and all that). It’s certainly a viable game system, but it just doesn’t catch fire with me for a fantasy system.

– You’re right, I’m probably underestimating DOS. :) It was a pretty good system for it’s day.

Now I’m wondering when Avaril will post about last night’s 4e game … and what he’ll say about us. :-D

January 17th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

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