Monday, 31 August 2015

Awarding XP in 5e D&D

I find that 5e D&D definitely seems to work best overall with a pre-3e approach to encounters - let the players with the 9th level PCs determine if they want to face the Balor and don't worry too much about what threat level it's supposed to be. XP - by-the-book generally works; it can be cut down if ridiculously excessive. BTB a Balor is worth 22,000 xp. Deadly for a 9th level party is 2400 each. You could halve the Balor xp award to bring it more into line with actual threat level (making it more like CR 14). Or you could just use the pg 82 chart and say 'this was a deadly encounter for my level 9 group, 2400 xp each'. Personally for my online 5e game though I'd probably just give full xp; maybe I wouldn't give much or any non-combat xp that session, and it'd soon
even up.
I generally find the main issue with 5e is to give reasonable xp for sessions
where the PCs are doing important stuff but there is no or trivial combat. Something like an easy encounter's worth per hour of play or medium encounter award per achievement (eg looting a treasure hoard) works well.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Running 4e - "Pemertonian Scene Framing"...

Just been looking back over this classic thread I started on ENW a couple years back -

I found 4e works best with what Ron Edwards called the "Driving with Bangs" approach, or open-resolution scene framing. I found it worked poorly with sandboxing, it is not designed for the world-simulation approach at all. It is also not a good fit for linear railroading because combats take so long, people get easily bored and exhausted (see pretty much every WoTC 4e adventure!). Ideally every 4e combat should be meaningful to the players.

Essentially, 4e works best as a Dramatist game where there is a good deal of player/GM cooperation in campaign direction, but not as a status quo sandbox world-sim, rather as an exercise in dramatic story creation. The 4e DMG2 advice by Robin Laws is good and worth reading, though could perhaps have made this clearer.

4e combat is best done with an eye to both drama and combat-as-sport Gamism; it's the only edition where I'd actually recommend using the encounter-building rules. I don't have a big stack of encounters ready to go - for a session I'll prep 1-3 encounter groups, and some possible encounter areas (ie I'll pack some Paizo & WoTC battlemaps, and maybe think a bit about the terrain) but the actual combat encounter(s) will normally arise in play as a response to player action.

Tools - I use battlemats, minis. I use the old offline monster builder pre-game to help stat up my monsters. I don't bring many books to the game, I'd rather bring more minis.

I generally edit all the monster stats, esp now my PCs are 25th level. I'll cheat a bit, eg I made a super-Balor Solo just by doubling all the stats of the MV elite Balor. Worked very well - killed a PC! :P

One major thing I do is halve all Elite & Solo monster hp, give Minions a Damage Threshold (Level+2, bloodied at half) and give Standard monsters PC-level hp, eg 5xLevel+5+CON for most, 6 for Brutes, 4 for the fragile ones. Even with that the fights easily take 2-3 hours, partly because they are rarely under Party Level+4 these days.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Which version of D&D best matched tone and rule?

From rpgnet

Quote Originally Posted by RadioMindFlyer
2e's disconnect between tone (heroic fantasy to high fantasy) and rules (sword & sorcery, via 1e and OD&D)[/URL]. Of course, this does not make 2e a bad game (if I start a non-5e game I am going to use 2e in a heartbeat) but it is something to work around. I would argue no version had a bigger divide than 2e, but what I am asking in this thread is what versions really captured the tone of the implied setting, via their rules.

Mentzer Classic D&D has this issue a bit too, the tone implied by the Larry Elmore high fantasy art doesn't mesh that well with the essentially OD&D sword & sorcery ruleset. Obviously Dragonlance for 1e AD&D has this issue in spades.

3e has a big problem focused around the kind of Greyhawk default setting described in the DMG, with medieval nation states fielding armies of 1st level warriors, which would be impossible given the 3e power demographics - one man can easily destroy an army. 3e fits a setting where superpowered individuals rule the wasteland, as in Way of the Exploding Fist or parts of the Wilderlands.

4e D&D's rules match the setting & tone closely, it's written as a "(super) heroes battle Evil" game throughout, not a 'dungeon looters' game. I would think this was the best integrated game in terms of mechanics & tone, though at the cost of a narrower ruleset than other editions - you can do high fantasy in 1e though it's not a great fit, you can't really do S&S hex-crawling in 4e at all successfully IME, and I gave it a good shot.

From what I've seen so far, the shallower power curve of 5e seems to make it fit traditional fantasy tropes better than other editions. 4e does Medieval Marvel Superheroes very well (NOT a criticism!), eg I just watched the new Fantastic Four movie and a lot of that would work very well in 4e. At Heroic Tier it does Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings well, too - for me it's very good at Hollywood Action Fantasy. 5e does not have this strong focus but seems to be good at emulating various tones from older editions of D&D. I'm using 5e specifically for a Swords & Sorcery Pulp sort of campaign (sub-Conan, sub-Lankhmar, more Thongor, Raven, Deathstalker) - PCs are 'adventurers' not 'heroes', but unlike in pre-4e they are good at not dying and getting out of scrapes, like pulp heroes.

So, I think:
4e has the best (narrow) match between rules & tone.
5e rules seem the most adaptable to a variety of tones.

Quote Originally Posted by Daztur  
For 3ed, what sort of tone were they trying for in the first place? Seems like the edition with the least distinct tone.

For 4ed the tone always made me scratch my head a bit since I can`t remember reading any books that hit the tone that 4ed goes for. Maybe I read the wrong books but the most fun I had with 4ed was with it reskinned kaiju/giant robot battle game. Worked perfectly for that.

I agree about 3e, WoTC said "Back to the Dungeon", and 3e certainly works better in the dungeon than in the city, palace or wilderness, but the DMG had a lot of world-building advice that IMO did not support this well at all. Personally I think 3e, not 2e, was ultimately the biggest failure in matching rules & setting/tone.

4e I think was clearly going for modern (1980s+) cinematic fantasy, not literary fantasy at all, and this shows very clearly in the design focus on cinematic combat - of course it's far slower to fight a 4e combat than to play the equivalent on screen, but I bet it takes more than 2-3 hours to create one of those Hollywood epic battles for the movie theatre, and that's what 4e does.