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.

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