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Author Topic: Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features  (Read 4050 times)

Gunhilda

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« on: June 07, 2006, 06:40:50 PM »
All right, imagine, if you will, that the suits from Hasbro have just gotten tied up and stacked neatly in the next room.  While they wiggle and let out muffled grunts, we take over the D&D line!

It's time for the inevitable 4e and we're the ones who are in charge of it.  I'm design leader and Nutkinland is the design team.  While we build on the designs of the past we, ultimately, decide the future of the biggest RPG.

Since it's a new edition, we need to change some of the rules, but not change so many that the game is unrecognizable.  So, just as they did with 3e, we need to seperate out the sacred cows from the design features.  Which things are essential to making a D&D game D&D?  And which can make way for newer (hopefully better) ideas?

I will post my ideas after a few posts.  I don't want to monopolize things.  :)
 

Zalmoxis

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2006, 07:09:25 PM »
There have to be classes and ability scores. I don't mean to sound simplistic, but that's the first thing I thought of.

Maddman

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2006, 10:30:29 PM »
Fighters are guys with swords and armor.  Mages wear robes and cast magic missile.  Clerics heal and turn undead.  Rogues/Thieves are good at stealing and sneaking.  The world is pseudo-medieval full of environments where you will need all four of these skillsets to survive.  This is the default assumptions, a baseline that makes it D&D.  If it can't do the above, might as well call it something else.

I'd favor classless and levelless myself, along with metagame and social mechanics.  But the thread is make D&D, not make a game Maddman would like.  Overall my priority would be to allow the customization and detail in PCs that 3e produced, but have an asymmetric ruleset so game prep is closer to AD&D.  If your stat block can't fit on 2 lines, you need to try harder.  The full detail could still be given to important NPCs and antagonists, but for most monsters this could suffice.
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Thjalfi

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2006, 12:04:43 AM »
ok - one sacred cow that I think exists is Ranger two-weapon fighting. No matter that it came from (conan, I think?), the ability to wield two weapons has never screamed RANGER to me. I've been known to state that I think that the Scout from Complete Adventurer makes more sense as a "ranger" to me. sure it needs some modifications to get it really right, but that's ok.

Aside from that - I think that the Paladin's Mount and code of honor are sacred cows - with the heavy emphasis on dungeon crawling, having a mount makes little sense. the knight from PHB2 is a step in the right direction, but at the same time, I don't think that the solution should be a purely mechanical one. I also thoroughly dislike the concept of paladin as a core class, while blackguard/black knight is relegated to a prestige class. I think that is more a holdover from 2nd edition's anti-evil characters stance, and is another sacred cow.

I don't have any easy solutions, but I would like to point out - most of what I see as sacred cows come from the old-school attempts to make d&d into something like conan or lahnkmar.
 

Zalmoxis

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2006, 12:29:37 AM »
One thing I would insist on is a clearer line of distinction between arcane and divine spells. Basically right now the only difference between wizards and clerics is healing spells. I think the spell lists should be broken up along much clearer lines, likely giving clerics fewer spells overall, but perhaps more powerful spells. They do work on the behalf of deities, after all.

Xavier Lang

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2006, 11:57:37 AM »
First major change I would push for is a complete revamp of spell casting and magic items.

Currently each spell in D&D is a special case rule and everything has to be spelled out in the spell individually.  Toss that.
 
Create basic ideas such as Energy Attack.  Let players assign parameters to it, such as energy type, range, duration, shape, etc... at the cost of making it a higher or lower level spell.  

Instead of having feats that increase a spell level by increasing the range, for example, have feats that cheapen the cost to get better range with any spell or allow them to ignore the first x of increased cost when applied to range.
 

Xavier Lang

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2006, 12:07:26 PM »
Magic Item creation.

Allow for intelligent item creation the same way you do normal.  Let people pay for better intelligence, special abilities, etc...  It shouldn't be random.

Instead of EXP cost have a time/energy cost of magic item creation.
Allow modifiers of the gold cost, and depending on balance, the time cost based upon situation, materials, etc...

To make a +1 sword have it take the number of days to make that it would take to cast true strike or whatever spell you pick to be cast say 100 times.  If you can cast 5 first level spells, it takes 20 full days not just the time it takes to cast a 1st level spell 5 times.  Allow spell casters to work together on something.  So 3 wizards could finish it in 7 days but each has to cast all of there 1st level spells every day.  This would allow a mage's guild to build a magic item in a day or 2 if they have the incentive, and would allow apprentice mages to make low level items.  You could always restrict things so that one wizard, the one leading, has to have the feat of item creation but the others don't.  This would help explain why mages gather and why there are so many low level items for PC's to find.  If  while I'm doing research I can have a couple of apprentices make a couple of +1 swords a year, the apprentices can pay for themselves the way a journeyman or apprentice works with teh master on creating non magical things.
 

Gunhilda

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2006, 01:08:17 PM »
Quote from: Zalmoxis
There have to be classes and ability scores. I don't mean to sound simplistic, but that's the first thing I thought of.
I will disagree with the first and agree on the second.

As Colonel Hardisson's thread shows, the ability scores in D&D were seriously weakened in 3e.  Personally, I'd reverse that trend for 4e.  Having a Strength of 18 should have more meaning than just a +4 bonus.

I'm still thinking about what to do about this.  In 2e, the stats mattered *too* much -- that's basically all your proficiency scores were based one.  I think a happy medium between 2e and 3e has to be possible.  :)

Classes -- I think that the recent overproliferation of "base" classes shows that the class system doesn't work well.  If you need an entirely new class just to do a new character concept, I have a problem with that.  Sure, it gives WotC more material to pad out books with, but I don't give a shit about that.  I want a more elegent design.

My proposal is to replace classes with archetypes.  (You could still call them classes as a nod to tradition, I suppose.)  In Shadowrun, you could make any character you wanted -- but you could also pick a pre-made archetype, like shaman or street samurai.  With D&D, you could have something similar.  You could pick a fighter or a wizard, with your initial powers and all 20 levels planned out, or you could create your own class, using some sort of point buy system.

So all the classic classes could still be there, but you could pick and choose and make something new if you wanted to.
 

ColonelHardisson

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2006, 02:08:24 PM »
Quote from: Gunhilda
Classes -- I think that the recent overproliferation of "base" classes shows that the class system doesn't work well.


I disagree. Here's why: most of those new base classes are concepts that could have been achieved with multiclassing or even judicious and objective allocation of skill points and feats. There are a few exceptions, the warlock being the one that leaps to mind. Anyway, most of these "new" concepts aren't new, and could be handled by the game as is. WotC is just padding the books and not really explaining all this adequately to players. The problem, in my opinion, is a lack of imagination on the part of many players. There. I said it.

Quote from: Gunhilda
If you need an entirely new class just to do a new character concept, I have a problem with that.  Sure, it gives WotC more material to pad out books with, but I don't give a shit about that. I want a more elegent design.


Back when I was participating in the Middle Earth d20 threads on Eric's old site, I would often state that some things could be handled pretty easily. You didn't need to create a whole new ranger class, or I would point out that a certain creature could be handled with an already existing D&D creature, or one that had a template added to it. That didn't satisfy some, who replied they wanted fully statted-out, new material. They seemed to feel that what was already in existence and wasn't labelled as being specifically from Middle Earth was just not right. I think the same principle applies here. For whatever reason, the majority of D&D players just don't want to be told that multiclassing and skill and feat selection will give them the concept they want. It's more "sexy" to have a whole new class, regardless of redundancy.

Quote from: Gunhilda
My proposal is to replace classes with archetypes.  (You could still call them classes as a nod to tradition, I suppose.)  In Shadowrun, you could make any character you wanted -- but you could also pick a pre-made archetype, like shaman or street samurai.  With D&D, you could have something similar.  You could pick a fighter or a wizard, with your initial powers and all 20 levels planned out, or you could create your own class, using some sort of point buy system.

So all the classic classes could still be there, but you could pick and choose and make something new if you wanted to.


I don't have much of a problem with any of this, I suppose, but I think the basic D&D game needs to retain classes just to keep it recognizably D&D. Now, you could use the generic classes from Unearthed Arcana (warrior, expert, and umm, spellcaster, I think; they use them in True 20, by the way) as the base upon which to build the archetypes, and present the rest of the classic core classes as archetypes built upon them. Those three basic classes, along with the various customization options from the current DMG and Unearthed Arcana, could achieve what you propose and still retain classes, which are what I feel a very basic core concept of D&D.

I'd also include a very comprehensive, maybe even hand-holding, section on how multiclassing and skill and feat choice could achieve a wide variety of character concepts, including a number of examples.
"Illegitimis non carborundum." - General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell

4e definitely has an Old School feel. If you disagree, cool. I won't throw any hyperbole out to prove the point.

Gunhilda

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« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2006, 03:52:30 PM »
Quote from: Maddman
Fighters are guys with swords and armor.  Mages wear robes and cast magic missile.  Clerics heal and turn undead.  Rogues/Thieves are good at stealing and sneaking.  The world is pseudo-medieval full of environments where you will need all four of these skillsets to survive.  This is the default assumptions, a baseline that makes it D&D.  If it can't do the above, might as well call it something else.


I think those should be the default roles, yes, but I'm not so sure about the pseudo-medieval setting.  But I suppose that, for the default setting, you're right.  Personally, I'd do something like Karameikos, so you can have lots of wilderness and dungeons right next to what civilization there is.  And I'd also include the basics of the setting with the rule books.  Since I don't care about WotC's marketing strategies, I'm fine with hurting the sales of the setting books.  :D

Quote from: Maddman
Overall my priority would be to allow the customization and detail in PCs that 3e produced, but have an asymmetric ruleset so game prep is closer to AD&D.  If your stat block can't fit on 2 lines, you need to try harder.  The full detail could still be given to important NPCs and antagonists, but for most monsters this could suffice.


Having DMed for 3e -- and attempted to DM for epic level stuff -- I am SO there.  I never want to have to put a half hour into a monster, only to have it suck when it came to game time, ever again.
 

Gunhilda

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« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2006, 04:20:52 PM »
Quote from: ColonelHardisson
I disagree. Here's why: most of those new base classes are concepts that could have been achieved with multiclassing or even judicious and objective allocation of skill points and feats. There are a few exceptions, the warlock being the one that leaps to mind. Anyway, most of these "new" concepts aren't new, and could be handled by the game as is. WotC is just padding the books and not really explaining all this adequately to players. The problem, in my opinion, is a lack of imagination on the part of many players. There. I said it.


My problem has always been *too much* imagination.  I want a character who wields a halberd, does acrobatics, hides and moves silently, and casts both necromantic and healing spells.  And I don't want any extraneous crap, like backstab or evocation spells.  I came the closest to that with a 2e jongleur, but you CAN NOT do that in D&D.  Not exactly a superpowered character, and he'd fit perfectly well in D&D, but you flat out can't do him justice in D&D.

Quote from: ColonelHardisson
I don't have much of a problem with any of this, I suppose, but I think the basic D&D game needs to retain classes just to keep it recognizably D&D. Now, you could use the generic classes from Unearthed Arcana (warrior, expert, and umm, spellcaster, I think; they use them in True 20, by the way) as the base upon which to build the archetypes, and present the rest of the classic core classes as archetypes built upon them. Those three basic classes, along with the various customization options from the current DMG and Unearthed Arcana, could achieve what you propose and still retain classes, which are what I feel a very basic core concept of D&D.


Two problems: one, those classes SUCK (in the UA version) and two, they are *not* the iconic roles of D&D.  Those are fighter, wizard, thief, and combat medic cleric.  I'd have those as the basic archetypes, with ranger, warlock, bard, and druid as secondary archetypes.

Quote from: ColonelHardisson
I'd also include a very comprehensive, maybe even hand-holding, section on how multiclassing and skill and feat choice could achieve a wide variety of character concepts, including a number of examples.


Personally, I'd take a BIG ol' axe to the new 3e sacred cows of multiclassing, prestige classes, and feats.  Sure, the system works, more or less, but it's needlessly clunky.  Base classes and prestige classes are methods of delivering specific powers.  All of those powers could be delivered more easily and with more freedom of choice with feats.  If you want to have another layer of complexity, you could have feats and traits, like in d20 Modern.

I think all of the powers of D&D could be boiled down to skills, feats, and spells.  Spells are the only part that are really hard to deal with.
 

Sobek

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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2006, 04:22:13 PM »
Keep ability scores as 3-18.  I know some people want to make it just the mods, but I don't want to go that way.
 
Keep classes/levels.  First off, these are pretty much the defining feature of D&D.  Without them, you're definitely playing something else.  I do think the concept could be refined a bit, though.  I'd like to see them made into broad, but discernable, fantasy archetypes: Heavy fighter, light fighter, priest, studied arcanist, naturally gifted caster, etc.  PrCs should reflect specific applications within an archetype, and multiclassing should be set up in such a way as to allow the blending of archetypes.  Feats are for fine-tuning and customizing.
 
For ranger, go more toward 1E.  A tough borderlander who uses whatever tools are at his disposal (including spells).  TWF is just plain stupid as a core ability.  And scout is completely the wrong way for the ranger to be going.  My preferrence would be to hybridize the 3E ranger and the 3E barbarian, taking some of the features of each, but losing enough to be balanced.  One of my biggest WTFs is the d8 hit die.  Anyone who thinks that goes with ranger isn't even discussing the same concept as me -- or with prior editions, IMO.
 
Paladin as a base class, though, is a sacred cow that needs steak sauce.  It's pretty much a poster child for what a PrC should be.
 
I'm torn on Vancian magic.  On the one hand, the system sucks, strains suspension of disbelief, and runs counter to most fantasy fiction.  On the other, it's been then from the start.  Personally, I'd like to see it move toward a non-slot-based system (points is fine, I guess) and have scalable spells, like XPH.
 

Sobek

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2006, 04:26:56 PM »
Quote from: Gunhilda
I think those should be the default roles, yes, but I'm not so sure about the pseudo-medieval setting.

I think pseudo-medieval should remain the assumed setting.  Of course, I'm heavy on the pseudo, so it should include Conan, Arthurian, Dark Ages, Crusades, etc.  Planescape should so be considered a special case, and even Eberron is a bit odd for what should be "normal" (though I like it).
 
Spelljammer is an abberation best forgotten.  There was only one Highlander movie.
 

obryn

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Nutkinland 4.0: D&D sacred cows vs. design features
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2006, 04:38:16 PM »
Can we get rid of alignments and alignment-based effects?

This is pretty damn difficult to do in D&D as-is, and got even more difficult with 3.5.  It would take a major overhaul (like my fave, Arcana Evolved, or this hypothetical 4.0) to cleanly excise it.  It's a huge sacred cow, but I think D&D would become a better game for it.

A side-benefit of this change is that I'd never have to listen to a fatbeard describe himself as "chaotic good" in real life ever again.

-O
 

Sobek

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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2006, 05:00:46 PM »
I got rid of alignments by replacing it with the allegiences system from d20 Modern. They aren't gone, but they sure are marginalized.  It's been pretty balanced over the past ten levels of play, too.