Home » Ancient Posts » Design Theory and D&D: Why a Poor Design (According to Theory) May Sell Well    
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Philo Pharynx

I like 4e, but I definitely admit it's not a game that works well for everybody. I know that the group that's done the best for me with 4e all have a technical bent – an engineer, a physics teacher, an instrumentation analyst and a guy who used to fix nuclear ICBM's for the Air Force.

@instantapathy, Old school games often had short combats and it wasn't a one-hit affair. Part of it was that there weren't a lot of options in combat. In 4e you have powers, in 3e there are feats and maneuvers, but in older systems it was usually just a hit roll and damage. It's really just a playstyle that doesn't focus on the combat as much.


Well, I guess it's lost in the words but the point I was trying to go for, is that just because it doesn't do what you want doesn't mean it's a clusterfuck. I haven't played anything that would fit into an OSR model since like… 93? And I have no desire to, but that doesn't mean I think they are bad or clusterfucks just because it's not what I want…

And man, could you tape one of your 10 minute combats so I can see what you are talking about? I don't think I've ever seen one that short, in any game I've played, that didn't involve it being over after the first person went… I'm not being facetious, I would literally like to see that in action.


@Rachel: While I know people who love 4e, I really can't think of any innovations in the game that I would want to use in my games. There might be some, but if there are they were buried under all the things that turn me off: the "gamist" play, long combats that really can't be played right without minis and grids, skill challenges, complex character creation, classes that use traditional names but aren't much like they were in previous editions, too much stress on balance and pre-designed encounters, errata upon errata, etc. 4e is my least favorite edition of D&D by a country mile. I played in 4 sessions and basically said "never again". Now that I've had my silly rant, however, I'd be interesting in hearing what YOU would like to see from 4e in Next. BTW, I agree that Next is shaping up to be a clusterfuck — but that describes every version of D&D WOTC has produced, at least from my POV — so I'm not really surprised.


@instantapathy: No analogy is perfect, but I think my point stands — "well-designed according to design theory" often does not mean "best for everyone." Even a 2013 pickup that won every design award out there would not be able to replace my mini-van as pickups lack the enclosed and air-conditioned cargo area where I can put crates with dogs in them in 100+ degree weather while I transport them from place to place. All the great design and innovation in that award-winning 2013 pickup does not change the fact that it does not meet my needs. You could give me that pickup free with free insurance, free maintenance, and free gas and it still would not change the fact that it does not meet my quite legitimate transportation needs. One size does not fit all — no matter how well-designed that one size is.


Ah – I'm sure I logged in.
Not 'Unknown'.
Ah well.
+ASH LAW on google


Rachel Ghoul… you might want to check out '13th Age'. It has the balance and cool innovations of modern design on an OGL framework, and in many places is simplified back to early rpg roots. It is designed by Rob Heinsoo (lead designer on 4e) and Jonathan Tweet (lead designer on 3e).

(full disclosure, I work for the company)

Rachel Ghoul

Makes sense to me, at least on the surface. Next is still (at present) a clusterfuck, though. I really think that they could have pulled it off– a little of 4e's cooler innovations on a 3.x framework simplified to the point that it almost resembles 1e or B/X doesn't strike me as undoable– had I the time and the inclination I think I could produce a superior product along those lines myself.


I kinda feel like your analogy breaks down (as they are wont to do) a bit in that to me it's less 10 year old SUV to formula 1 racer, than it is 10 year old SUV to a modern pickup. It's not the same vehicle, but it has more similarities than not, and can do most of what you want with some modification.

Of course, to use that analogy some more(yay, more stretching) if the SUV you have works for you then there's no reason to invest in the new pickup. But that also doesn't mean that someone going and investing in the new one is wrong. Or that you can't have both sitting in the driveway.