Monday, August 11, 2014

Miniatures tactics vs. roleplaying teamwork

A comment on an earlier post (hi Keith!) got me thinking about tactics and teamwork and the difference in how 4E and 5E encourage that stuff.

I agree with his comment, and disagree. (I'm not going to paraphrase or quote him here. Sorry, but you'll have to follow the link and check the comments section because I don't want to risk misinterpreting him or taking his words out of context.)

I agree that 4E was really good in that group tactics and teamwork were an obvious point of emphasis. There were a myriad of powers that stuck enemies in place, gave allies free attacks and moves, and synergies galore. Heck, there was an entire class built around controlling the battlefield. Can't recall the name of it, despite the fact that one of the guys played one. I guess I always just thought of it as the "Middle Manager"; a class built around doing nothing but getting others to do all the work.

Anyways, it worked great in a tabletop miniatures combat simulation game. It was also where 4E fell on its collective face for me.

All of the move-here-hit-that powers ultimately shattered my immersion with the game.

Every time our Middle Manager would use a power to move my character, I would wince. More often than not, his directions made perfect tactical sense. And in the action movie playing in my head, I would envision him yelling something like "Dragonborn (my fighter character at the time)! Shift to your left and pin down that hobgoblin!" I would move my mini and in my head yell back "Yeah yeah. I've got him. Why don't you go book a meeting or something."

Immersion was more or less in place. But, I still ended up feeling like a pawn. And that was in the best case scenario when I agreed with the tactical plan.

Then there were the times when I had other plans or goals. I didn't want to stop and pin down a hobgoblin because my next round was going to get me closer to the pesky spellcaster at the back. I would refuse and my Dragonborn would shout out, "No! Have the dwarf do it!", but then we'd stop and have a debate around the table about tactics and goals. Much more would be said than what I could fit into six seconds of mental action movie.

Immersion destroyed.

So, I'm glad that 5E has toned that back to a couple of feats and stuff under the Fighter Battle Master archetype. I'm glad because I think that teamwork and tactics should never be enforced by a ruleset. They should evolve naturally during play.

Although I've been playing D&D with the same group of friends for over a dozen years, every time we start a new group of characters, there is always a learning curve. Part of is that 1st and 2nd level characters are always pretty inept. But there's also the need to learn how everyone envisions their character. We don't start out as a well oiled orc killing machine. We bump into each other. We get in the way of that shot or spell. Until we've gained a few levels and learned character tendencies.

It happens every time and it's a beautiful thing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sorcery is afoot.

Read this Codename: Morningstar post and...

Sorcerers! Yay!

Sorcery points! Uhm, okay... yay. I guess? Sounds like quite the departure from the good old Vancian magic we all know and love (or at least tolerate because there's never been anything else).

Honestly, I'm intrigued and eager to see where WotC is going to take that. I mean, it's a system that other RPGs have done (sorry, too lazy to Google that for you, but know I've seen references. DragonLance?) and I always wished they had done something like it in 3E or 4E.

Now, I always preferred the Sorcerer over the Wizard in 3E; mainly because I didn't want to do a lot of bookkeeping (literally and figuratively). With the Sorcerer, it was all a very straight forward X number of spells known and Y number of castings of Z level per day. I never had to worry about selecting spells to prepare each "morning" and then feeling like a schmuck if a few weren't used that "day". The Sorcerer would simply use those castings on other spells in his repertoire, and rely on scrolls for those seldom needed but super useful when they are needed spells like Knock and Heroe's Feast.

Ideally, I think I'd love to see Sorcerers literally pulling pieces of magic together to craft specific effects. I want fire, in a straight line, doing 4d8 damage, with Dex save of 15 for half damage; that'll be 45 Sorcery points, sir. Paper or plastic.

Such a thing, in my mind, would really make the Sorcerer something far different than a Draconic Wizard without a book.

On the downside, that would not only mean a ton of bookkeeping (yuck!) but it would drag many a fight to a standstill. Even a decisive guy like me would occasionally hem and haw like that annoying person in front of you at McDonalds. It's the same fracking menu as last month! Just get what you always get, asshole!

So, the actual Sorcery points thing will probably be more about spending them to boost or alter your spells than magical currency. Judging by the bits in the Wild Magic section, at least. And, I'm okay with that.

I'm also hoping that the Sorcerer is an Archetype under the Wizard. I love the description of the archetypes as seen in the Fighter and Rogue classes, and I think that has real promise. Imagine, me, being okay with having just four basic classes. Has Hell frozen over?

Bards suck. Dragonborn probably suck. Tieflings definitely suck. Phew! Normalcy has returned. Good night.