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.

No comments:

Post a Comment