The Tyranny of Fun is baloney post over at Chatty DM was good at dealing with his frustrations. (The main post was about his frustration with people labeling the other D&D editions of “fun” as wrong. Deep in the comments, though, there was some well presented discussion. It was a little sharp at first, but looking closer it highlighted a fundamental difference between the editions and gives a good guide to predicting which players will like which editions.
Donny’s comment kicked off the good discussion:
What is the biggest change in 4E? It’s not really the rules per se, its that there is no longer any place for a lone wolf character anymore. You see a little of that in the default party becoming one larger (it was 4 from 2nd – 3.5) now it is 5. The tactical aspect HEAVILY encourages teamwork and balance above all other considerations. Unfortunately, this means no parties of say, three strikers, one defender, and another defender…it probably wont workout too well, it is too over specialized. In 3E, as long as one of the defenders was a cleric No problem!
This was 3.x’s strength. It not only allowed, but encouraged any character to really have a shot at filling any role. Barbarian trapspringer, Rogue diplomat, Battle bard, War priest, all tropes that defy the “box” the class begins in. Multiclassing just adds more flavor. I’m digressing again dammit! […]
John Lewis continues the discussion:
I think Donny makes a great point that has just shed some light on what is polarizing my group. My “lone wolf” players don’t like 4E, my team players do. One of my players who thinks everything 4E is totally screwed up and evil is a player that is only truly happy (having fun I guess) when the spotlight is on him. That’s why in previous editions he always played the wizard, once he was higher level he did most the damage and executed the big flashy effects. I’m not saying he has ever been a spotlight hog, just that when it’s on him that’s when he’s happy.
As I write this it dawns on me that this is what I think is part of the underlying “divide” in this edition and why it seems a little more heated then previous change-overs (besides the fact that there are a lot more forums and message boards to rant on).
I think about the hundreds of people I’ve gamed with over the years and I analyze what seemed to make them happy (have fun) and I realize that I could probably easily divide them into 3E or 4E people based on said happiness. On the same note I could pick out the 1E and 2E people.
Mike Mearls chimes in:
Donny – no offense taken. I think you’ve done a good job of outlining why people might prefer 3e to 4e. The lone wolf issue in particular is a big one. In 3e, I tend to play casters in a lone wolf mode, loading up on spells like fly and expeditious retreat that let me get out of trouble.
There are a ton of changes between 4e and 3e, and that leads to reasons to prefer one over the other. I’d never be so arrogant as to claim that 4e is perfect, or that everyone who dislikes it is wrong.
Ninetail’s comment at the (current) end of the thread is a great conclusion.
Donny: Your point about lone-wolf vs. team-player types of characters is well-made. Even though one of my favorite parts of 4e is that the fighter is no longer useless after level 7 or 9 or so, and another is that the power framework and the tactical nature of combat encourage teamwork, I hadn’t managed to formulate it in quite that way.
You’re on to something here: 4e puts the emphasis on the characters as a party of adventurers, rather than as adventurers who happen to have formed a party.
My groups have always played with an eye to the former, so perhaps that’s why I managed to miss the comparison. Thanks for pointing it out.
I thought the discussion was interesting… and unlikely to be seen by many since it started at the end of a comment thread. Though ChattyDM proved me wrong with Moderates have fun too, where he mentions the splinter posts (including this one) that came from his rant.
Meanwhile, over on A Butterfly Dreaming, Ninetails(Scott) writes a good review of the 4e books, starting by reviewing the PHB chapter by chapter.
PHB: Overview, Making Characters, Races, Classes, Skills and Feats, Equipment and Adventuring, Combat and Rituals, DMG and Monster Manual.
I found his blog due to his trackback to the ChattyDM about The Absurdity of “The Tyranny of Fun”. Rodrick the White looks like an interesting character to play.