Day 57: 4e Worries

September 22, 2009

Cross-posted on Tag’s Forum.

Right now I’m running Tag’s Folly as a 4e game, and doing it by the book – i.e. no handwaving – takes an awful lot of preparation work.  I’m largely OK with that because I’m treating it more like a big do-it-yourself boardgame.  I have gone very far back and forth on this one in the past, though, and the effort tax has already been very high with only one session played. 

So John “jenskot” of NerdNYC (basically TAG in New York) posted this, and I have to say I see how this happens in my 4e games.  I’m a bit worried about 4e for long-term play for adults without 8-hour blocks of time to invest in games.  I think the concern here addresses a very real problem. 

In D&D 4E, an average player (which the storygames crowd doesn’t represent) doesn’t have enough time to play the game by the rules, play situations that take advantage of those rules (playing 1 encounter doesn’t properly test your resources), and still have enough time to engage the game’s fiction in any deep way if you only play for 4 hours. This is discussed at length on forums and blogs dedicated to D&D. It’s a pretty wildly accepted problem and become more so accepted and talked about daily. Even people in the RPGA (who usually following the rules strictly) are changing more of the rules so they have more time to play.

The 4 hour time slot is key as this is less of a problem if you play for 8 hours (which we don’t).

(snip) Many people only play 1 game semi-regularly or infrequently. So more is on the line when they play. It had better be worth it. And when it isn’t, since they are playing only 1 game, it’s easier to hack that game till it fits their needs. Which makes sense.

Think he’s wrong?  Right?  Where are you at on the 4e question?

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7 Responses to “Day 57: 4e Worries”

  1. logos7 Says:

    Honestly, I think he’s blowing hot air.

    My Sessions tend to rank in the 4-5 hour range and while we take an extended lunch and occassionally have longer sessions, I really think jenscot is looking at it ass backwards.

    Forums and blogs and even RPGA play are not representative (althought RPGA play certainly has more of a claim then the first two). The Short story is lots and lots of people (like myself and yourself) are running perfectly fine 4th edtiion games. The Short Story I think is that Jen assumes that because a complete encounter takes an hour and a complete skill challenge takes an hour and a complete role play takes an hour leaves no time in a 4 hour session for two of all of the above.

    The Short story is that, amazingly, a game is perfectly fine either with only two combat encoutners or not dedicating an hour to ‘interacting with the fiction’ whatever the fuck that wad of a term means. Perhaps not surprisingly a person who doesn’t really like dnd4thedition doesn’t really like dnd4thedition.

    I noticed on some of your previous posts that you had prepared 10 encounters for a ~4 hour or less slot and then were really put off when the party didn’t even come close to finishing them. And I agree it does make it a bit harder or different when designing dungeons now. I would suggest you take a look at the delve concept. More like a minidungeon, with only 3 encounters.

    Now these are called minidungeon but when you figure that these delves can be expanded into a 10+ room dungeon fairly easily, you begin to see how it works. Just dont let your players know its a minidungeon, dont make an encounter a room and all that good jazz and I honestly dont think you will have a problem. Its going to take a bit of relearning but like most of the problems I have found in 4th edition , they go away when you stop trying to play old dnd with the new rules.

    I hope that helps ryan, Its a bit of a rant, which is why i didn’t post it on story games. but you asked…

  2. Mike R. Says:

    It’s just a matter of how much you want/need to get done in each session. If you’re looking to get through a major plot point in each session, you might need more time. Alternatively, you can cut out the cruft of truly random encounters, etc. and make sure that all the fights that occur are important to the story.

    Of course, this doesn’t quite apply to the West Marches style that you’re running. If you feel the games are bogging down, you just need to have the players (yourself included) work on their system proficiency. Simple things like keeping track of powers with cards, rolling attack and damage dice together, thinking ahead of their turn about what to do, etc. These things add up and can make a game run much faster.

  3. stoughton Says:

    Logos, I think John (Jenskot) maybe went a little far, but I’ve seen what he’s talking about at the table. I mean, 4 hours, 3 combats, ~5 rounds per combat, tells me the players are taking 15 turns each. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot when it comes to really working with everything on that character sheet. Particularly for a new player who’s concentrating on making learning what the legal moves are.

    I’d like to hear more about what your group is like. Have you been introducing new players to D&D through the 4e rules, or do you mostly play 4e with your other groups? I know you’re Toronto-local but I don’t know much else about your gaming.

  4. stoughton Says:

    Mike, I do want a three-hour game to feel meaningful, and I think that getting 1/5th of a level in that time seems like not that meaningful of an advancement, especially when the game doesn’t have explosive levels like the level wizards get Fireball in 3e.

    That makes me think I should double the XP I hand out, but so far I haven’t had much response on that.

  5. Johnny Oneiric Says:

    For my part, I don’t get frustrated by slow character advancement. I’m happy to trundle along at level-1 for as long as there are fun and interesting encounters and situations that a level-1 me can wade into.

    Of course, that outlook can change if we learn of monsters or locations that we can’t wait to tackle but that clearly are going to require some more fire power.

    Agreed with Mike: “random” encounters feel like set-backs; whereas encounters anticipated or specifically sought out by the PCs, and encounters that reveal important info or somehow move the story (whether PC- or DM-initiated) feel like progress, and are satisfying to play out.

    As a player, what do I want to accomplish at the table? It’s story progress, more than level progress. (by “story progress” I don’t mean role-playing; I mean discoveries, plot twists, achievements, wins against a long-term enemy, etc.).

  6. Dan Lynch Says:

    I play a lot of RPGA 4e, and I’ve never noticed this problem. We typically have time for three combat encounters, a skill challenge, and two to three RP encounters in a four-hour slot…and that’s perfectly fine. It’s enough to start and finish a satisfying episodic story, leaving perhaps a few loose ends to be addressed later. It works great, and we are playing D&D 4e precisely by the book.

  7. DavidR Says:

    John and I played the Return to Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. Over the course of 4 or so years, playing twice a month, there is a definite sense of progress. But it’s also a slog.

    I love the idea of the current Tag’s Folly adventures. Here’s what I think works about them:
    – it’s 1 or 2 nights for an “adventure” – a “delve” as someone called it.
    – I can come and go at will – no obligation to be there every 2 weeks
    – I’m learning 4e quickly and easily. I don’t really have to do a lot of prep or thinking outside of the game. Having been in the DM’s chair for most of those 4 years, this is a real treat!

    I think the world of Tag’s Folly and Husk has incredible potential. Any number of players can play in this world without committing more than rolling up a character and finding an available time. This is quite appealing.

    I also believe that as more players play, and more games are played, this world of Husk and the Surround will evolve into a living, dynamic place. That is what’s going to make this feel like an ongoing adventure instead of a series of encounters.

    Our group just got back from the Wastes. We posted info to everyone else, which now becomes part of their world. It’s really like a MMORPG…but in person.

    A dynamic, changing world, with different players and constant hooks is enough to get the game rolling. If it keeps up, it will attain its own momentum and develop a life of its own.

    That’s what I’m looking forward to. And as long as I get 1-3 combat encounters per night, that make me feel like I’ve progressed towards something, I’ll be happy.


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