Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A +3 Longsword, I Must Be 5th Level

So much for random treasure tables in 4th Ed D&D.

As I said elsewhere (edited slightly):

It's a streamlined, anticipated, expected payout, and I can't think of anything duller. Progression becomes more uniform. Its a constraining item that now has the expectancy of being used by virtue of being in the rulebook. It doesn't help that I love my random tables and charts. I want the unexpected. I want crazy randomness. I don't want to be sitting at a table with a bunch of folks waiting for their Magic Item C since they just hit 4th level.

Folks will always say, "Hey! You can just wing it! Make up random stuff--its your game!" Yeah, it is. But there comes a point--as I've found with my current campaign of Rolemaster--where you have to ask yourself, if you have to wing this much shit, what's keeping you tied to this game, this sytem? In the case of 4e, nothing.

I've been weakly negative up to this point, but I think this is the tipping point. Not because its anything I couldn't work past if I wanted, but because between my previewing of Keep on the Shadowfell this week (not impressed) and all the design decisions up to now I haven't liked, I know 4e and I aren't going to mesh. And that's fine. A little sad, but fine. Lord knows I already have more games lined up to run then I'll ever get a chance to. So here I am, another schlub adding to the 4e "probably not for me" sad-song melodrama. (Yeah, I'm tired of it, too, but here we are).

Honestly, I think I just may want a little more Chaos in my games than that. And a lot of what we've seen with 4e points towards getting rid of a lot of randomness.

I still will try out a demo, but with one in my paws right now and based on all this, it ain't looking good.


Rolf said...

I do not liek a lot of what I have heard of 4e, and this doesn't help. Still I hope it does well. I can get people over to Savage Worlds later. :)

Dull is right--dull as dishwater, isn't that the saying?

Brandon said...

Maybe I'm just a fanboi or overly optimistic - but the new treasure "parcels" say 1 magic item of a given level. Perusing my 3.5E Magic Item Compendium, there are around a hundred potential items at any given level, and those are just the ones they bothered to list in tabular form. One entry out of that list of one hundred is a "+X magic weapon" - not even representing the vast array of potential combinations of special abilities or different weapon types. Granted, the new edition probably won't have quite as many items at release as the 3.5 Compendium, but it will undoubtedly fill out over time.

Second, I'm not sure I see much of a difference with older editions. Characters of a given level still end up with a certain level of magic item (the minor/medium/major columns on the random tables) - they just aren't as neatly codified, which means players can end up vastly over- or under-equipped for their level, breaking the holy-trinity of Character (Level)-Monster (CR)-Magic Item (Bonus).

Building the assumptions of design into the system, rather than hoping that the players discover them in play is generally a good idea imho. It's possible WotC may not release massive tables to randomly roll items as was done in the past, but I don't think y'all are the only ones that like the random aspect so it seems likely that they will, even if only to appease consumer demand. Even if they don't, I'd expect it'll take all of an hour or two to generate some pretty impressive random treasure generation tables - including some potential for random wonkyness (e.g. getting a L15 item when rolling on the L5 table) if you want it.

Rolf said...

Brandon: Good post. But I think that its part of a larger de-randomization of 4e--starting with hit points and ending up here.

I think you CAN create all the random tables you want, but I think it becomes just another chore to those who already have a lot they were going to be houseruling.

Like Zach (or someone) said, you reach a tipping point. This might be it for some people. Like it seems to be for jeff of jeffs gameblog. And I can respect that--these are guys who have a certain playstyle they feel won't be supported with 4e. Its a second, more-informed wave of dissent.

Brandon said...

@rolf - I appreciate the sentiment, but I still don't think it's worth discounting for two reasons:

1) We don't know for certain that there won't be pre-generated random tables in the DMG/PHB (or wherever they decide to put items). It's entirely possible WotC has them built and included, we just haven't seen them as part of the preview material. Given that a list of items of a given level is almost necessary to use the new mechanic, I think it's fairly likely we'll see random tables (slapping some percentile numbers in front of each line is pretty simple).

2) Based on the information currently available, I suspect it will take a few hours, one time, to generate enough tables to keep me in random generation tables for potentially decades of play.

While a few hours may seem like a lot, I measure that in comparison to the many (countless?) hours I've spent agonizing over an adventure trying to decide how much treasure was appropriate. Three or four hours one time seems like a small price compared to 30-60 mins per adventure.

It could be this is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. I just think it's a pretty small straw.

Ed Ramseur said...

To me, its just another thing about 4e that doesn't seem to match my playstyle. Then again, neither did 3e. I haven't played D&D since 2e, a nd am pretty happy with Spirit of the Century and FUDGE right now. 4e isn't doing anything to make me come back.

Bartleby said...

I am singularly unimpressed by what I have seen of 4th edition D&D. In their efforts to be more relevant to the younger generation, they have alienated the older generation.