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How You Play the Game

Last night, I posted what was supposed to be a positive post about what I like about 4th edition.  However, it’s clear to me from one of the more recent comments that some folks don’t understand that everyone plays the game differently.  Now, I may be calling maestrod out, which isn’t my intention, but it was a catalyst that forced me to realize that not everyone knows how I, and my group, play D&D.  I’ve mentioned before that I think a fair amount of the problem between we pro-3.5 folks and the 4e crowd is how we play.  So, in order to lay out why I feel the way I do about certain things, I’m going to lay out how we create characters and our approach to playing the game.

First, characters are created almost in a vacuum.  Each player is free to create whatever character they want to, with DM approval.  There is no pressure to take any particular class or skills.  Anything lacking has to be overcome in some other manner, usually by players being very creative or just praying like hell.  If we’re lacking a rogue or a cleric, so what?  In all honesty, we’re usually lacking one or both of those.  So far, we’ve been having a blast playing like that.

The idea of “party balance” is, to us anyways, a silly concept.  The party has always been balanced well enough for our enjoyment and we usually have a blast figuring out how to find traps without a rogue, to heal without a cleric, or whatever else we’re lacking.

In addition, the wizards can be hardcore damage dealers, and the fighters can be stealthy killers with archery skills out the wazoo, but none of the ranger’s nature-based skills.  In short, everyone plays their character as they see fit.  Party unity is typically done completely in character, despite differences and difficulties with shortages of certain skills.

In my opinion, this adds to the realism, since a perfectly meshed party is unlikely to spontaneously form.  There will be gaps in skills and knowledge, so why not role play that?  We do, and have a lot of fun with that way.  A rogue who’s a con artist rather than a lock picker is a blast, and doesn’t fill that niche at all.

The way we play is a blast for us, and until/unless something new and interesting comes out from Wizards of the Coast that makes us change our mind about how well 4e will fit our play style, nothing is going to change about what system we play.

September 3, 2008 - Posted by | RPG | ,


  1. Fairy nuff 🙂

    4e definitely plays differently to (or should that be “differently from”? I can never remember) 3e. We perhaps feel that moreso in our group because we never used minis in our 3e games, and feel we have little choice in 4e. That’s a paradigm shift which is taking some time to get over.

    Incidentally, it means we’re enjoying out Mutants & Masterminds sessions more. “Yay! No Minis!” has been said, more than once.

    Because we’re superhero gamers first and foremost, the idea of planning a team /as a team/ is second nature to the players, so we fit well with that concept. That’s got nothing to do with “balance” (in the horrible D&D meaning of the word), and more to do with practicalities – just as in M&M we wouldn’t want a team with 3 flyers and one guy who walks everywhere, playing in D&D with 3 rogues and no fighters (yes, it’s happened) is less fun too. Mind you, strange combinations do still occur, but this time they’re planned. Which is, we find, more fun.

    But 4e isn’t for everyone. I didn’t think it would be for me, and at least one of my players is still undecided about it. Interestingly, he’s the non-GM of the group, so doesn’t appreciate the improvements behind the screen quite as much.

    ‘s all role-playing though, and that’s the main thing 🙂

    Comment by greywulf | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. Agreed. Role playing is what’s important. I personally don’t care what flavor of role play it is, we’re all role players and in this together 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. My groups tend to play like you and party balance has never been an issue. It is up to us to make it work because as we see it there isn’t much balance in real life. You have to be creative and think on your toes. Granted we don’t fight dragons in real life, but in situations, such as work, the best person for the job isn’t always the strongest or smartest and that is how we play. Team work and ingenuity, that gets things done in our games.
    We are also not big minis users, despite 4e’s assumption that we all use minis and grids. Hell most of the time we don’t even have a map unless I jot something down real quick. Most of it is judgment calls on my part and since the group and I trust each other, important for any group, it works out fine.

    Comment by Geek Gazette | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’ve had great fun collaborating with the DM and/or other players when making a character, as well as making a character in a vaccuum. Both offer unique and interesting roleplay opportunities.

    On the rare occasion that I actually get to play, I tend to either a) try to push my own limits as far as RP goes, or b) accomplish an ideal character concept that I’ve been thinking of recently. Sometimes its great to start out already knowing one or more of the other players in the game. Sometimes its equally great forging new friendships with characters your own has never met (and possibly with classes/races your character has never even seen!). While I’m not above playing a stereotype (they exist for a reason, after all), I never stay within that stereotype’s line when I’m coloring my character.

    And now I’m way off-topic and have no idea what I’m doing 😀

    Comment by Liambic | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  5. @Geek Gazette: It’s always nice to know we’re not an anomaly in that way! Personally, I’ve always had more fun when the party was a bit out of balance, but maybe I’m a masochist 😉

    @Liambic: Even when we play characters that know one another, we tend to create the characters in our heads, not “what the group needs”.

    As for babbling, don’t sweat it. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  6. (maestrod = Plotter, btw)

    Tom, my original point was that the roles are just labels for what has always been present. All classes have a design intent. There are things that they’re good at. You have never needed to follow the design intent. That has not changed.

    If we went back into the 3.X books and wrote “Striker” in front of the Rogue, Scout and Ranger, it wouldn’t change how they worked. It might give some clueless scrub an little better idea of what to expect out of that class. I think that’s a good thing.

    In any case, I’ve certainly played outside the expected party composition both in 3.X and in 4e. But as a DM (this is my perspective) there need to be allowances for the “missing” pieces of the puzzle. I actually think that it’s easier to deal with the missing pieces in 4e. YMMV.

    Comment by Plotter | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  7. I think it’s a good thing to try to be part of a team when I play. That’s how I like it. Some games (Spirit of the Century) insist on group character creation, and I love that type of thing, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.

    Certainly, not all teams need to cover all the bases. I had some very enjoyable adventures in a “Guild of Thieves” campaign I played in a while back. In that case, the defining trait was the skills that everyone *shared*.

    Everybody started off as a level 1 rogue. Even then, after a few levels, the players all developed their characters in different ways. A few multi-classed. Some focused on particular skills. I think people like to have their own domain of expertise; it helps to define their characters.

    When it comes down to it, the defining component of the classic D&D party is how different they all are. I agree though, when does anyone actually play the classic party? Still, there’s always an awareness that there are gaps in the skills and abilities of a group and there needs to be a plan to deal with any of those gaps that are serious, whether on the player’s part, or the GMs.

    Comment by Plotter | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  8. Plotter/maestrod: Thanks for the comments and understand my intention with this post. However, I respectfully disagree with you about the roles merely serving as labels. While adding those to 3.5 will simple make them labels, the powers as written in 4e pushes each class toward that particular role that WotC seemed to feel each class should fit in.

    As for being part of a team when playing, i do that as well. What I don’t do is make character decisions based on that team during creation, and personally I prefer other characters do the same. Being part of the team doesn’t necessarily mean that the new guy should play a cleric because no one else can heal, for example, which has always been a pet peeve of mine.

    Comment by Tom | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  9. Disagreement’s ok.

    I assert that by the rules, it’s currently easier in 4e to have a party with no healer than it is in 3rd due to healing surges.

    Am I wrong?

    Comment by Plotter | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  10. Based on my limited reading, and assuming a lack of healing potions, then no. Of course, since healing potions are relatively common with most DMs I’ve played with, it’s really a wash.

    Of course, based on my impressions, healing surges can’t happen spontaneously either, something has to allow that. Is that understanding incorrect?

    Either way, my position still stands, as does yours I’m sure 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  11. As sort of a generalization, I’ve noticed people who are anti-4e tend to portray them as pigeon holes, while people who are pro-4e see them as helpful labels. I’m somewhere in them middle, I’m not rabidly pro either…

    Though, one thing I’d say is that coming into 4e with a 3e mindset doesn’t really work well. Or at least, leaves you prone to saying “I can’t do this.” But often you can, you just have to approach it from the other side. A fighter that is sneaky and uses bows? Okay, yes a “FIGHTER” in 4e doesn’t match that. But a ranger does. And really, it’s just fluff that is getting in your way. A ranger isn’t about nature, really, he’s about 2 weapons or bows. A Rouge isn’t about traps and stealth, necessarily, he’s about dexterous and opportunistic combat. There are aspects to the class that make it easy to map them onto those traditional roles, but it’s not what they are about anymore. At least, IMO.

    Actually, in most cases in 4e, I find that the fluff is largely irrelevant. You can change it as much as you like and so long as the mechanics are the same, it makes little difference aside from how you RP it. I’m currently contemplating a character I played briefly in 3e… he was a dual wielding fighter/ranger who’s off hand weapon was his shield. By the strict mapping, that doesn’t match up to anything. However, as I thought about it I started two separate paths of ways I could do it. One as a fighter, and just changing the fluff text to represent his shield as a weapon. The other as a ranger, with largely the same thing. It just depends on if I see his shield use as mostly an offensive (ranger) or defensive/battlefield controlling (fighter) thing.

    I think a lot of it is just mind set…

    Comment by justaguy | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  12. Folks, I do NOT want this to turn into a 3.5 vs 4e discussion. That is NOT what this post is about. While I like free discussion, I simply wanted to explain why *I* disliked 4e because of my play style. I have tried very hard to NOT blast 4e, because it’s not a bad system. It’s just a system that doesn’t fit my play style.

    Comment by Tom | September 4, 2008 | Reply

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