The Gassy Gnoll: The Tipping Point

Yes, the Gassy Gnoll may have mentioned a few times that he’s not a huge fan of 4E D&D and that it boils down combat into a nearly computer- or console-game like series of choices… But I have to say after playing with a few GMs (Justin, Mark, and Jason) who not only know the system and can work with it, but also can work around it or ignore it entirely when pure roleplaying is needed… Maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Blasphemy, I know. And how dare I actually change my mind about a topic I made my mind up about YEARS ago without actually playing the system for any length of time. However, like all things in life, we’re all able to change our position occasionally (just ask any politician) given more or better information and the time to consider it.

That said, now that I’ve changed my mind over the last year or so, I was curious why I did so. Ultimately it came down to one thing… Consistency.

I’ve played in three different campaigns now and no matter which campaign I’ve played in, the system is simple and stable enough to be used the same across all three. Sure, there are minor differences in application (different campaigns may use different styles of skill challenges for example), but overall the combats and skill checks are the same.

What this did for me was cut out having to re-learn things from month to month as I’ve done in other campaigns. I can look at my character sheet and those powers cards and know what I have available to play with whether I’m 1st level or 5th. Though I’ve been playing D&D for nearly 30 years, it’s changed edition to edition just like Pathfinder is a bit different than 3.5… Sure, they’re minor differences but I’d much rather go down my menu of potential actions quickly and pick something rather than try to remember why certain actions work certain ways in certain contexts and do the number crunching on the fly.

To support this, obviously consistent tools have made a big difference as well. Both GMs (and groups) have used the online tools (or early versions of the standalone character builder) to print off character sheets that all follow the same template. Details are on the first couple of pages and then powers cards and summaries of important details on following pages. I’m not forced to bring books to remind myself how certain rules apply in particular situations – all of my info exists already and we can just roll with it.

Though I’m sure that somewhere someone has done the “card-like” approach for Pathfinder, I haven’t seen it if they have. And though Paizo has done a great deal to market to new players and gamers with the Beginner Box, I don’t recall anything approximating this approach either.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m getting older and would rather focus on playing than dealing with rules. Or if the sheer number of rules is putting me off. Or if I’m just getting lazy in my old age. But the simplified approach of 4e (at least from a player’s point of view) seems to work for me.

That said, I find it somewhat entertaining that now that I’ve come to see that 4E has its benefits, that D&D Next is on the horizon. Will it be more like the Old School movement or more like 4E? Only time will tell…

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2 comments to The Gassy Gnoll: The Tipping Point

  • Philo Pharynx

    This is what we need – more people willing to give something different a chance and see the good parts along with the bad. I enjoy 4e, but I admit there are flaws in it as well. As for consistency, I don’t thing DDnext will be as consistent as 4e. Part of this is just abandoning the power concept. One of the advantages of the power concept is that it isolates many parts of the game. It reduces the number of cases where you have to say, “How does X interact with Y?” or “How does X interact with W, Q, R, Z, 9b and Epsilon?”

    • Fitz

      @Philo Pharynx – 4e has good and bad points, just like every system. The trick is finding the system you need that meets most of your needs with the fewest number of annoyances. :)

      But I’m also concerned about 5e. Will it be overly complicated simply because they’re trying to support everybody? Or will the modular approach work out? Only time will tell.

      Thanks for the comment!

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