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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3503 Posts

Posted - 14 Oct 2011 :  22:23:33  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Hey all,

Basically I'm starting this thread with the hopes of discussing game theory, mechanics, and thoughs that pertain to RPGs and the systems that drive them. This is a thread designed to share ideas and opinions on how to make a great RPG. Since my experiences is limited to D&D, PF, and d20 Modern I'm going to try to stick within those means but feel free to bring in your own ideas and experiences with other games and systems. I'd like to keep it Edition-War free as great ideas can be gained from all walks of D&D and no one edition/game is perfect.

So with that introduction finished I think i'll start with Magical Items. In the last Legends and Lore column by Monte Cook, he talks about how iconic magical items are in D&D. Yet, as the editions expand, it seems as though they've become less of a cool, mysterious, and awesome treasure and more about character builds and integrated resources within the game. I couldn't agree more. Which brings me to my question, How Required Are They?

Now of course adventurers want magical items. It's only a given that through hard work and putting their life at risk do we reward players with magical treasure. But when that magical treasure becomes a requiremnt of basic character advancement, it looses it's mystical side and becomes just another note on the Character Sheet. This style, I feel, really became popular in 3rd Edition and later exploded with 4E's tiers of play. But it's not so much the magical part of the item that's the culprit, it's the additive bonus (+1, +2, +3, and so on) that have made me question their needed existance?

What I'm getting at is that in pre-3E D&D, magical items were seen as a boon...a gift to fight tougher enemies. It was still going to be hard but that magical item might be the key to success. Now, it's the simple fact that if you don't have a +X items by Y-level your going to fail...hard. That to me is a problem. 4E tried to put in an alternative method called Inherant Bonuses (with the DMG 2) and I think it's a pretty big success, but the underlying problem remains, that additive math is needed for progression.

So what do you, as the community think?

  • Do we need enchantment bonuss to weapons as a requirement of D&D?


  • Do we use magial items as a nice bonus that isn't factored into the leveling math of the system?



  • 4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

    "If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."

    Hawkins
    Great Reader

    USA
    2130 Posts

    Posted - 14 Oct 2011 :  23:07:05  Show Profile  Visit Hawkins's Homepage Send Hawkins a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    On your second point, magic items (at least in 3.x and PFRPG) are definitely factored into the leveling math, since there is an expected wealth for characters to have at the beginning of each level. That being said, I understand the caveat about them being numerable and expected rather than rare, exotic and cool. I also suggest that you maybe read Trailblazer, a 3.x supplement that breaks down a lot of the math of the game.

    Errant d20 Designer - My Blog (last updated January 06, 2016)

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    Edited by - Hawkins on 14 Oct 2011 23:07:34
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    Farrel
    Learned Scribe

    United Kingdom
    238 Posts

    Posted - 14 Oct 2011 :  23:12:41  Show Profile Send Farrel a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Excellent topic!

    Are they required? I'd say yes. The Forgotten Realms setting is inherently magical and if your campaigns use the setting there are some things you can't ignore.

    But I think it all depends on how you play and what your player/players expect. I enjoy seeing a player having fun connecting with the character, and enjoying the story, that's what drives me as a DM, magical items are a reward not a necessity.

    In my earlier years of DMing I went pretty crazy with some of the stuff that I handed out. At the time it appealed to the group that we had, and was very consistent with the world-shattering nature of our campaigns.

    As i've become more experienced as a DM my choice of treasure has become more selective and alot more thoughtful. In my current campaign I like my magical items to be special and reasonably rare, to be things of exquisite workmanship, and with a history (whether the owner is aware of it or not). I try not to powergame and throw magical items about like mad.

    One thing that has tempered my distribution of magical items was playing WoW for a few years (I thoroughly enjoyed it and was part of a great guild). When Diffan mentions them being a requirement it reminded me of WoW and the Purples! Every encounter was scaled when you raided so if you had a poorly geared group you were already at a disadvantage. I think the elitism was the thing that turned me off playing in the end. I had a good GS and knew my classes, I learned as much as I could but it just wasn't fun anymore. I see it mirrored with encounter levels in 3/3.5 and just ignore it if i'm honest. I run the encounters that build the story... I do whatever I fancy and what fits.
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    Ayrik
    Great Reader

    Canada
    6623 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  02:41:37  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Magic items aren't wondrous and mysterious anymore, the unknowns have been removed, they're sitting right in the Player's Handbook along with their gold/xp prices ... anyone can easily obtain magic items built to exacting custom specifications.

    Low-magic and no-magic campaigns are still playable and enjoyable. Obviously the balance between classes and builds would be shifted.

    [/Ayrik]
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    Therise
    Master of Realmslore

    1265 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  03:46:57  Show Profile Send Therise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    This is one of the reasons I prefer playing low level (1-10) and low magic campaigns. Once you start requiring magic items, and expecting them, then the game shifts away from needing to rely on wits, cleverness, situational tactics, negotiations, and interactive roleplay. At higher levels, it becomes increasingly more important to think about powers, power combinations, using the right magic items at the right time, having stockpiles of assistive magic (heal potions, scrolls, wands, etc.), and the like. It's almost a different game.

    Plus, at higher levels, the need for those magic items makes players expect certain rewards at certain times. If the DM doesn't deliver, then the player often saves up to buy various items. They really have to, in many cases. Not getting an expected item can make some players really huffy.

    It is a lot like WoW in some respects, but different in other ways. In WoW, you have to learn the right "fight dance" for each boss. It becomes a test of memory and appropriate button mashing, and the purplez! will eventually come to you as long as you have a good guild. Purplez! are necessary for progression, they just are and there's no escaping that fact. With D&D you have a bit more breathing room because "progression" is somewhat less of a concern and really just means leveling (for which there's theoretically no limit, except in 4E). Really excellent DMs can do high-level adventures that don't focus on the need for items, running adventures that involve negotiations, complex puzzles, and the like. But ultimately, players still want their phat lewts!

    If there was a way to get rid of the need for magic items, it might help. But to my way of thinking it would involve a lot of DM training. Making DMs better hasn't been a focus of D&D in a long time, IMO.

    4E Realms was awful, but it's water under the Boareskyr Bridge. Let's make 5E Realms truly shine!
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    Ayrik
    Great Reader

    Canada
    6623 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  04:57:19  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    I've never played WoW, but I suppose "purplez!" basically means leet drops, similar to the gold/unique items and rarest/best runes or goodies which dropped in ancient Diablo 2. The problem with computer MMORPGs is that experience and leveling is really just a natural consequence over time, death is only an annoying setback, anybody can make a level 50 character if they play long enough, and make the exact same stat allocations/decisions, and end up with a level 50 character that's interchangeable with any other ... what sets the characters aside, what really takes time (and thus overwhelmingly dominates the bulk to the playtime) is the accumulation of items and equipment resources. Players in the highest echelons have (largely identical) perfect godlike gear (improved and maximized in the same perfect ways) which allows them to easily walk through and dominate anything the game can possibly offer except similarly equipped PK/duelling opponents. Once you've beaten everything the game throws at you (routinely, over and over again, since it's the way to powerlevel and get the best drops) there's really nothing left to do and the endgame content becomes trying obtain the 1-in-a-million perfect items or battering your way up some kind of competitive scoreboard ladder or trying to collect trophies from killing other players.

    It would be substantially different if MMORPG players had to contend with a few standard D&D rules. First: character equipment is not freely shared, heroic characters do not aspire to exist only as idle mules who can hold junk for complete strangers. Second: death carries significant and usually permanent consequences, far more than a minor time-wasting frustration.

    Imagine WoW gaming with just one character on one account, where it's basically game over when you die. I personally think it would be a better game, though all the softcore players (which is ~99% of the player population and revenue) would violently disagree.

    [/Ayrik]

    Edited by - Ayrik on 15 Oct 2011 05:30:50
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    Therise
    Master of Realmslore

    1265 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  05:38:37  Show Profile Send Therise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Ayrik

    I've never played WoW, but I suppose "purplez!" basically means leet drops, similar to the gold/unique items and rarest/best runes or goodies which dropped in ancient Diablo 2.

    Yep, that's exactly right. Purpz, or Purplez!, same thing really: the "best in slot" items for each type of equipment one can obtain.

    quote:
    The problem with computer MMORPGs is that experience and leveling is really just a natural consequence over time, death is only an annoying setback, anybody can make a level 50 character if they play long enough, and make the exact same stat allocations/decisions, and end up with a level 50 character that's interchangeable with any other ... what sets the characters aside, what really takes time (and thus overwhelmingly dominates the bulk to the playtime) is the accumulation of items and equipment resources. Players in the highest echelons have (largely identical) perfect godlike gear (improved and maximized in the same perfect ways) which allows them to easily walk through and dominate anything the game can possibly offer except similarly equipped PK/duelling opponents. Once you've beaten everything the game throws at you (routinely, over and over again, since it's the way to powerlevel and get the best drops) there's really nothing left to do and the endgame content becomes trying obtain the 1-in-a-million perfect items or battering your way up some kind of competitive scoreboard ladder or trying to collect trophies from killing other players.

    It would be substantially different if MMORPG players had to contend with a few standard D&D rules. First: character equipment is not freely shared, heroic characters do not aspire to exist only as idle mules who can hold junk for complete strangers. Second: death carries significant and usually permanent consequences, far more than a minor frustration.

    Imagine WoW gaming with just one character on one account, where it's basically game over when you die. I personally think it would be a better game, though all the softcore players (which is ~99% of the player population and revenue) would violently disagree.


    Yep, I totally agree.

    Even in cRPGs you can save-game before major events. The allegory to cRPG "reload now" (in something like Baldur's Gate) is the "death and walk from the graveyard" in most MMORPGs like WoW.

    I remember once playing Baldur's Gate on the "core rules" option and it was HARD, heh! But oddly enough, after many deaths, I got the hang of it and it really seemed quite a lot like tabletop playing. I think it actually made me a better roll-player in tabletop D&D, as I really got to learn D&D with a pretty harsh non-fudging DM (the computer).

    But ooh yeah, the QQing (crying, whining) would be blown off the charts if people in MMORPGs had to re-roll a new character on death. But oddly enough, I wonder if it might make for better players in WoW. Some people were just painfully bad, even at the highest levels, standing in fire or acid when they could move out of it... just abysmal.

    4E Realms was awful, but it's water under the Boareskyr Bridge. Let's make 5E Realms truly shine!
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    crazedventurers
    Master of Realmslore

    United Kingdom
    1073 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  11:08:29  Show Profile  Visit crazedventurers's Homepage Send crazedventurers a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Ayrik

    Magic items aren't wondrous and mysterious anymore, the unknowns have been removed, they're sitting right in the Player's Handbook along with their gold/xp prices ... anyone can easily obtain magic items built to exacting custom specifications.


    Spot on Ayrik, as soon as WoTC put the rules into the players handbook, the role of the DM became 'lessened' in my opinion. The players rightly have the option to say: "I can make this item / I can afford this item as I have the rules in front of me and I have the right spells and feats or am the correct level to have this value of gold value of items" etc.

    There is no mystery anymore in creating any magic item, in 0E, 1E and 2E there was no 'one way only' as there is in 3E+ to make any item so the players had a mystery to solve if they wanted to create an item, (do I use a wyvern sting or a giant scorpion sting when I make my ring of poison resistance?). Players had to go and do research, taking up game time, materials and gold, experimenting and looking in dusty libraries and speaking to sages for any piece of information. They had a reason to go out and adventure to find specific materials, all they need to do now is have the appropriate feat, cast the requisite spell(s), spend some gold and XP and hey presto I can have any magic item I want/can make.

    The removal of names attached to spells and items to make the game generic also lessens the mystery and magic of the game. Magic should be special, it should have meaning and importance and a YIPPEE factor when you finally get something, not just something that you need for your character build, once you are character building, you are playing a console game, not a face-to-face RPG.

    The mathematical design principle of 3E+ doesn't sit well with me and is not conducive to role-playing, but is great for roll-playing.

    Just my thoughts

    Cheers

    Damian

    So saith Ed. I've never said he was sane, have I?
    Gods, all this writing and he's running a constant fantasy version of Coronation Street in his head, too. .
    shudder,
    love to all,
    THO
    Candlekeep Forum 7 May 2005
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    Farrel
    Learned Scribe

    United Kingdom
    238 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  11:21:27  Show Profile Send Farrel a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Ayrik

    Magic items aren't wondrous and mysterious anymore, the unknowns have been removed, they're sitting right in the Player's Handbook along with their gold/xp prices ... anyone can easily obtain magic items built to exacting custom specifications.

    Low-magic and no-magic campaigns are still playable and enjoyable. Obviously the balance between classes and builds would be shifted.



    I firmly believe it depends on the campaign and what the players and DM want to achieve.

    I used to throw out items like sweets and it would occasionally just be a case of the players grabbing everything and just upgrading their gear (alot like WoW). The "magic" of magical items had been lost somewhere along the way, they had become too prevalent, too expected, and too freely available.

    That was my fault as the DM... I freely admit it. But it was suited to the group at that time so that they had fun. Magical Items were expected because it had become the norm. I look back now and cringe, but the fact it was fun tempers my memories. I put it down to our age and level of maturity at the time (blimey I feel old!).

    My campaign that I run now and the games that my friend DMs for me are very different to what we used to play. Instead of just lining up monsters, magical items, and encounters for a hackfest we are far more story driven. The characters and NPCs personal motivations are the driving force behind the story and there isn't the need for having magical items in abundance, they are a reward, a plot hook, a chance to introduce some lore, or an NPC. They're part of the story.

    I prefer low-level characters and campaigns. I've run games at higher levels and sometimes it just turns ugly quickly due to things beyond your control. The influence of magical items can do that to a game and sometimes it becomes a bit like an arms race, which is a shame.

    I've noticed that some player characters posted on various forums are built with magical items in the forefront, every item is perfectly tailored to the build and feat choices, is that realistic? I'm not sure what the odds of acquiring said "Best in Slot" equipment is in reality? That would be one of the reasons I left WoW, most raiders of the same class were equipped the same and looked the same.

    There's nothing wrong with this approach and in my opinion it's all down to personal preferences, I could imagine seeing a player that likes to optimize their own characters start foaming at the mouth if they saw my own fighter character.

    Everyone plays differently, that's for sure. Is one style better than the other? I say no. Do what makes it fun for you and your group.

    Noth the Plaguebringer, oh how I loved waltzing with thee
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    Farrel
    Learned Scribe

    United Kingdom
    238 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  11:56:10  Show Profile Send Farrel a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by crazedventurers

    quote:
    Originally posted by Ayrik

    Magic items aren't wondrous and mysterious anymore, the unknowns have been removed, they're sitting right in the Player's Handbook along with their gold/xp prices ... anyone can easily obtain magic items built to exacting custom specifications.


    Spot on Ayrik, as soon as WoTC put the rules into the players handbook, the role of the DM became 'lessened' in my opinion. The players rightly have the option to say: "I can make this item / I can afford this item as I have the rules in front of me and I have the right spells and feats or am the correct level to have this value of gold value of items" etc.

    There is no mystery anymore in creating any magic item, in 0E, 1E and 2E there was no 'one way only' as there is in 3E+ to make any item so the players had a mystery to solve if they wanted to create an item, (do I use a wyvern sting or a giant scorpion sting when I make my ring of poison resistance?). Players had to go and do research, taking up game time, materials and gold, experimenting and looking in dusty libraries and speaking to sages for any piece of information. They had a reason to go out and adventure to find specific materials, all they need to do now is have the appropriate feat, cast the requisite spell(s), spend some gold and XP and hey presto I can have any magic item I want/can make.

    The removal of names attached to spells and items to make the game generic also lessens the mystery and magic of the game. Magic should be special, it should have meaning and importance and a YIPPEE factor when you finally get something, not just something that you need for your character build, once you are character building, you are playing a console game, not a face-to-face RPG.

    The mathematical design principle of 3E+ doesn't sit well with me and is not conducive to role-playing, but is great for roll-playing.

    Just my thoughts

    Cheers

    Damian



    I've played all editions of the game, except 4E (nothing whatsoever against 4E i'm just happy with 3.5 and some snippets of 2e), and I was quite glad to have some definitive guidelines for item creation.

    I'm lucky with my player (yep, singular) as he's patient, creative, and not at all grasping and demanding. He enjoys the obstacles that I put in place to creating items, it's never a case of just spending the gold and waiting a few days before the item just comes into existence.

    I reckon it's down to your own interpretation of the Rules, whatever edition you use, and that these rules should be deemed guidelines.

    I think I was 11 or 12 when my older cousin introduced me to 1E with The Keep on the Borderlands. It was one christmas when we visited them for a few days, I was hooked from that moment onwards. I can remember my cousin having as much fun as I did. At some stage my player received a Handaxe of Hurling and it was an exhilarating feeling to have fought so hard and earned it.

    It's largely down to playstyle. I might use 3.5 but they are guidelines for me to be creative and to have a sense of consistency.

    I do agree that a certain amount of "genericness?" has crept into the rules, I think that's down to the different settings and the decision to include them into one core system. They don't have to lose their unique flavour, that's down to the DM, I still use the original named spells in the Realms because of their origin there.

    Rules? Who needs rules? I like guidelines
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    Marc
    Senior Scribe

    618 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  16:55:04  Show Profile Send Marc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    I like for the PC's to focus on one or two magical items, and they grow with them like the weapons of legacy, possibly even into artifacts. Instead of magic items I usually give art objects or strange magic devices that are not useful in combat, but in everyday life.

    .
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    Wooly Rupert
    Master of Mischief
    Moderator

    USA
    31300 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  17:08:04  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    That was my one real complaint about 3.x: the way magic was handled. I liked having named spells, and in my mind, the magic item creation method in Volo's Guide to All Things Magical (formerly a suppressed work ) is the best we've seen. If I was running a 3.x/PF game, I'd use the notes for magical item creation from that edition as a guideline, but still require research and exotic materials. Or, alternatively, have the research and exotic materials be used to either make the crafting easier, or to make the end result more powerful. Perhaps any old stick could serve as a wand of lightning (not lightning bolts; the 2E wand was better), but if the stick was from a tree struck by natural lightning, and was then soaked in the ichor of an electric eel, then it would toss maximized lightning bolts. Or maybe a regular stick would be the wand of lightning bolts, but the specially prepared one would be the better wand of lightning...

    I also noticed that 3.x was oddly silent on the topic of recharging charged items.

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    idilippy
    Senior Scribe

    USA
    417 Posts

    Posted - 15 Oct 2011 :  19:44:40  Show Profile Send idilippy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    I agree with a preference for the pre-3e approach to magic item creation, as well as a preference for named spells and spells being more rare and individualized instead of all freely available for the taking at any shop. In my games magic item creation, outside of the most basic +1 sword or suit of armor, requires work, research, and especially exotic materials or events. I much prefer a wizard laying, for example, a bane enchantment on a fighter's sword that will take hold only if he heats and quenches the sword in the blood of a powerful member of the species he wants the sword to hate, than the wizard simply saying "I have all the spells and the caster level needed so I'm spending the gold and making a bane sword."
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    Ayrik
    Great Reader

    Canada
    6623 Posts

    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  01:53:34  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Marc

    Instead of magic items I usually give art objects or strange magic devices that are not useful in combat, but in everyday life.
    Art objects are the best treasures in the game. Because unless the PCs have proper skills and knowledge to appraise the art, and find some kind of market, they usually end up liquidating stuff at horrible ripoff prices. Many side quests and distractions and inconveniences have resulted from trying to find the right sort of collector or participate in auctions, etc ... and the party is stuck holding some semi-fragile object until it sells.

    The vast majority of magic items in my games are not weapons, armor, blasting wands, etc. They are tableware and cooking utensils, tools, compasses and maps, quills and inkpots, clothing and grooming gizmos ... my logic is that most magical items are created by wizards, and most wizards have a lot more use for magical spellbook bindings than a longsword or suit of armor. Sure they can make anything, including weaponry, when commissioned to do so - but I'd think that most people who can pay the steep prices for magical weapons would try to hang onto or recover them.

    [/Ayrik]
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    Diffan
    Great Reader

    USA
    3503 Posts

    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  04:30:09  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Very interesting thoughts, thanks guys. As a DM I give out magical items as treasure parcles (using 4E) or equip magical items on the enemies they're attempting to kill (3E) and it has worked out well. But I think my main beef is the core design behind the enhancement bonuses that weapons, items, and armor dole out. For example, a Fighter in 3E who specialized in Greatswords currently uses a +2 flaming greatsword and during the dungeon crawl, picks up a nicely crafted +3 disruptive Flail. Since all his specialization is geared towards Greatswords, the flail is an option not much to his liking. Sure, he can keep it as a back up weapon but what if the dungeons is designed for him to use that +3 bonus because it's mathematically superior to a +2 bonus?

    That's pretty much where I'm getting at. Magical bonuses have become more of a required mechanic than a nifty, interesting buff that flavors a character. So were I to create another edition of D&D or create my own rules, I'm definilty more in favor of keeping varying and unique weapon properties (flaming, sundering, frost, radiant) yet leave the benefits of the "Pluses" to some other inherant benefit that is build in to character advancement.

    As for magical items in general, I'm much more a fan of 3E's style of quirkiness, fun, and intriguing powers and not the rigid (Daily, Encounter, etc) of 4E. They do a great job when compared to other aspects of that game, but to prior editons I feel that they only permit a character to go so far with their uses and limit creativity for players. I do, however, love that anyone can take the Ritual Caster feat and grab rituals that allow them to make magical items. It wouldn't be as easy to make one in 4E, but I feel it's better when the option is open for all classes, not just the primary spellcasting ones.


    4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

    "If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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    Diffan
    Great Reader

    USA
    3503 Posts

    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  04:59:33  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Reading over most of your posts, it's clearly visible that most people love magic items at the table, just not with a direct correlation with character advancement. This style, generally seen in 3E, 4E, and various video games sorta takes out the mystery of magic and how it effects the over-all world.

    Using those ideas as a spring-board, I'm jumping into my next idea of Game Theory- Character Options: Horizontal vs. Vertical advancement. Let me explain a bit what this means. Vertical advancement is basically increasing your character via stats. An increase of BAB or Attack Mod, Saves, Feats, HP, Proficiencies, etc. thorough a gain of XP. It's a pretty big staple point (or Sacred Cow) in D&D and has been seen in most iterations of the game (and in video games too). This design (more or less) opposes Horizontal Advancment, which is "fleshing out" your character. Skills like Profession, Perform, Craft or Feats that give your character a more robust pool of options to choose from can be gained in this sort of character advancement yet the numbers you use in the game stay relatively the same, like a tree that's topped out it's height but then branchs out. An example of Horizontal Advancement is that, during a "level up" you could gain a feat or skill points or choose a few more spells but the numbers behind the scenes remain untouched.

    I feel that higher bonuses, higher saves, and general vertical advancement is needed because monsters at higher levels require them to be. But the only reason their AC, Saves, Damage/Attacks are that high is because PCs advance in that manner. So what if you were to cut out that part of the game? Yea, I'm talking about Axing BAB and Progressive character traits (saves, HP, ability scores) in lieu of more resistance, Armor as DR, and a more lateral advancement in character design.

    Of course this is based off the idea that you don't need HIGH and Impressive numbers to make the game more Epic or more deadly or even more interesting. If you think about it, the precentages of your attacks are going to remain within the 45%-55% range regardless of level, so why incrase them to begin with? Or is the vertical advancemnt there to explify the idea of my character gaining strength, cunning, and profession with battle when compared to the commoner?

    See, I think you could do a more horizontal advancement and keep the game really interesting. Monsters are going to be tougher, their AC acts like DR so you could hit them a bunch of times yet the damage is absorbed from energy displacement. HP adjusts will be needed to accept the fact of direct damage spells and the like but I feel that's minimal. And as you level up, you gain more feats, maybe more swings with your weapon (with no decrease in attack modifier), more skills, a few more HP, and more class/chracter/regional traits that exhibit your character.

    Your guys thoughts?


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    Therise
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    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  06:12:47  Show Profile Send Therise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Honestly, in my games I like a bit of both vertical and horizontal advancement. Vertical gives one a sense of raw power, and horizontal is about depth and richness. Preferably, vertical should be slow, or at least much slower than horizontal.

    A lot of the time, horizontal advancement blends in very well with roleplay. By this, I mean doing things like going to a training hall and learning new moves (or spells). Or getting your character to invest in the economics of the community: buy shares in a trading coster, buy a home or property to lease, investigating a mine and laying claim to it, not just typical things like learning new professions or skills (although that's cool and important too). If you could "spend" XP on horizontal advancements and not just rely on gaining levels, you'd increase the depth of your game a thousand fold. And I love that kind of stuff.

    One of the biggest problems with relying just on vertical/leveling advancement is that monsters and villains tend to scale with you anyway. As you gain proficiency, you actually NEED that increased bonus in order to hit through the monster's more advanced defenses. Suddenly you're dealing with damage reduction, immunities, and similar kinds of things, which actually make the game feel like it's spinning wheels. Sure you have more raw power, and you COULD attack a lower level monster or villain... but why? So advancing a level doesn't feel that special anymore.

    In old, regular AD&D (back in the dawny mists of time), gaining a level really meant something. But it took way, way longer to gain that level unless you had a Monty Haul DM. There were plenty of those, of course. But when you had a really good DM, the leveling experience was made into a real roleplaying experience that took in a lot of "horizontal" things as well. It wasn't just the magic items that made you special at higher levels, though they helped. Being high level meant that you were a clever player and had the luck of avoiding (probably many) save-or-die fights. In 3E, high level was just sort of expected with completion of 10-15 sessions.

    4E Realms was awful, but it's water under the Boareskyr Bridge. Let's make 5E Realms truly shine!
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    crazedventurers
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    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  10:12:38  Show Profile  Visit crazedventurers's Homepage Send crazedventurers a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Therise
    A lot of the time, horizontal advancement blends in very well with roleplay. By this, I mean doing things like going to a training hall and learning new moves (or spells).


    Snipped the post for brevity however I agree 100% with all of what Therise posted.

    The essence of the game for me is simplicity, I don't understand the need for rules to explain/decide whether my fighter can tumble or not, I rely and trust on the DM to make that judgement call, just as my players trust me to do the same.

    Level advancement is important as it gives a sense of achievement and the instant reward of new abilities (to hit, saves, spells etc) however like most things if you get the 'prize' when you want it and/or very regularly it becomes stale and meaningless. Rapid level advancement is less meaningful for me and the group of players I game with. There is less a sense of satisfaction to the reward if you get it after defeating 13 encounters of the appropriate CL and advancing one level every month.

    The horizontal advancement comes from role-playing, contacts made, decisions taken and the repercussions from doing, or not doing something etc. I certainly reward characters with bonuses to abilities if they have performed heroically or made a fantastic effort to roleplay themselves out of a situation; i.e. The 4th level Knight PC makes a heroic charge against rampaging giants to save the threatened children from being crushed, he makes excellent ride rolls and saves versus being unhorsed as the giants batter him to strike a telling blow at the lead giant shaking the giants morale and allowing the children to run away and hide - so to reward the player he now gets a +2 bonus on any mounted combat check and even more important he is known by the NPC community as the knight who charged a dozen giants and forced them to flee saving Aelfred's the Traders 3 children from being eaten by giants. This legacy is more important than the +2 bonus in my opinion and most of my players would agree with that (this is how legends are made )

    Similarly PC's get favourable reaction bonuses with NPC's whilst we roleplay (no diplomacy, bluff an sense motive checks in my game, you talk to NPC's instead!). So some NPC's like one PC character more than the others and are more willing to talk/negotiate/do a favour for them. This is based on the initial reaction the first time they met and the ongoing interaction between the PC's and NPC's. There are no obvious dice bonus for this but horizontal progression in the form of people you can rely on and go to for help and advice is invaluable, as there are also the blockers that the NPC's put in the PC's way when they fall out/dislike each other. This makes for excellent roleplaying situations as the PC try to find out who at court is spreading rumours about them and why these rumours have resulted in them losing the crown contract to fell tress in the Hullack etc.

    I am not sure how spending XP on horizontal advancement would work. I am trying to figure out why a Wizard PC would give up XP going to 5th level and getting a third level spell to be able to know more about the esoteric nature of the Selune's influence on lycanthropes and tides etc? In my opinion if the PC wants to know how the moon influences tides that is done by roleplaying and research, not by spending XP on it?

    Intrinsically the game is based on the risk to reward ratio and the easiest most obvious way to reward players is by level advancement, gold and magic items. If they take bigger risks, they get bigger rewards (taking a beholder on at 3rd level hey? ) I don't see a problem with this method of advancement.

    Cheers

    Damian
    ps this is a very interesting thread

    So saith Ed. I've never said he was sane, have I?
    Gods, all this writing and he's running a constant fantasy version of Coronation Street in his head, too. .
    shudder,
    love to all,
    THO
    Candlekeep Forum 7 May 2005
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    Diffan
    Great Reader

    USA
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    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  14:45:15  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Therise

    Honestly, in my games I like a bit of both vertical and horizontal advancement. Vertical gives one a sense of raw power, and horizontal is about depth and richness. Preferably, vertical should be slow, or at least much slower than horizontal.

    A lot of the time, horizontal advancement blends in very well with roleplay. By this, I mean doing things like going to a training hall and learning new moves (or spells). Or getting your character to invest in the economics of the community: buy shares in a trading coster, buy a home or property to lease, investigating a mine and laying claim to it, not just typical things like learning new professions or skills (although that's cool and important too). If you could "spend" XP on horizontal advancements and not just rely on gaining levels, you'd increase the depth of your game a thousand fold. And I love that kind of stuff.


    Oh I agree. I'm not even sure if the DMG for 3E even discussed owning land, getting involved with Trading Coastes, Investing and other non-combative things in much detail. Not that there needs to be huge rules for doing this sort of stuff but a set of guidelines wouldn't have hurt either.

    What 3E did bring us, which I that was pretty awesome, was Organizations and ranks within that organization (DMG 2 PH 2). When you entered the guild, organization, club, whatever you were given an initial rank. This was based on level, class features, and acts you might have done that furthers the group's cause. Usually the higher the level and more adventuring you've done, the higher your rank. And as you did more quests you gained a higher rank and got some additinal "goodies". Now that's not the only incentive of joining an Organization, but I think it's a nifty little sub-category that meshed well with the game.

    What I'd like to see is more of this style in future RPG games. This is definitly on the Horizontal axis for advancement and not just pure numbers crunch, which frankly has gotten a bit stale for me over the years. But you mentioned spening XP and I wasn't sure if you were talking about actually losing that XP for a gain in something. While I'm all about character advancement and fleshing him/her out, I'm not a fan of spending the biggest resource in the game for those benefits. It was a major detractor for me in 3E for making magical items. Doing all the other stuff was fine like finding that precious stone to put atop the Rod, using Angel-Hair for crafting a sacred ring, to using a pure Ruby (no less than 1,000 gp) for the activation stone in a wand of fireball but to do all that AND spend your hard-won XP was just a bit too much. I think it's a reason why Pathfinder took out that requirement.

    quote:
    Originally posted by Therise


    One of the biggest problems with relying just on vertical/leveling advancement is that monsters and villains tend to scale with you anyway. As you gain proficiency, you actually NEED that increased bonus in order to hit through the monster's more advanced defenses. Suddenly you're dealing with damage reduction, immunities, and similar kinds of things, which actually make the game feel like it's spinning wheels. Sure you have more raw power, and you COULD attack a lower level monster or villain... but why? So advancing a level doesn't feel that special anymore.

    In old, regular AD&D (back in the dawny mists of time), gaining a level really meant something. But it took way, way longer to gain that level unless you had a Monty Haul DM. There were plenty of those, of course. But when you had a really good DM, the leveling experience was made into a real roleplaying experience that took in a lot of "horizontal" things as well. It wasn't just the magic items that made you special at higher levels, though they helped. Being high level meant that you were a clever player and had the luck of avoiding (probably many) save-or-die fights. In 3E, high level was just sort of expected with completion of 10-15 sessions.



    Exactly. Leveling is fun and gives you a sense of accomplishment (I feel regardless of speed) but what I'm starting to question is the nature behind it. Leveling was designed to show results for the tasks you completed. It's how a veteran fighter or an accomplished wizard differentiates themselvs from a rookie guard or a hedge mage. But are higher numbers required to show this difference? Couldn't it be done through a showing of magical treasure, new and difficult maneuvers, advanced spells, better feats, and/or a better use of skills? Does it have to be represeneted via Attack Modifiers, Saves, and HP?


    4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

    "If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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    Farrel
    Learned Scribe

    United Kingdom
    238 Posts

    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  15:13:11  Show Profile Send Farrel a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Therise

    Honestly, in my games I like a bit of both vertical and horizontal advancement. Vertical gives one a sense of raw power, and horizontal is about depth and richness. Preferably, vertical should be slow, or at least much slower than horizontal.

    One of the biggest problems with relying just on vertical/leveling advancement is that monsters and villains tend to scale with you anyway. As you gain proficiency, you actually NEED that increased bonus in order to hit through the monster's more advanced defenses. Suddenly you're dealing with damage reduction, immunities, and similar kinds of things, which actually make the game feel like it's spinning wheels. Sure you have more raw power, and you COULD attack a lower level monster or villain... but why? So advancing a level doesn't feel that special anymore.




    I think that's one of the main reasons I favour lower level campaigns. There isn't the arms race feel to the game and the need to beef up the player with magical items. The player doesn't feel the need to be superpowered as everything is reasonably clear at that level range.

    I've not heard the term horizontal levelling before but I think you are spot on, I suppose i'd always thought of it as the story's depth within the campaign.


    quote:
    Originally posted by Therise

    In old, regular AD&D (back in the dawny mists of time), gaining a level really meant something. But it took way, way longer to gain that level unless you had a Monty Haul DM. There were plenty of those, of course. But when you had a really good DM, the leveling experience was made into a real roleplaying experience that took in a lot of "horizontal" things as well. It wasn't just the magic items that made you special at higher levels, though they helped. Being high level meant that you were a clever player and had the luck of avoiding (probably many) save-or-die fights. In 3E, high level was just sort of expected with completion of 10-15 sessions.




    My name's Farrel and I admit, I was a Monty Haul DM, I've been Monty Hall free since 1995 and am doing well

    I think this is a superb thread and the ideas expressed have really make me think. I'm going to take a good look at Volo's Guide to all Things Magical to try and add more depth to my games.
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    Diffan
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    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  16:03:46  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by crazedventurers


    [snip]Level advancement is important as it gives a sense of achievement and the instant reward of new abilities (to hit, saves, spells etc) however like most things if you get the 'prize' when you want it and/or very regularly it becomes stale and meaningless. Rapid level advancement is less meaningful for me and the group of players I game with. There is less a sense of satisfaction to the reward if you get it after defeating 13 encounters of the appropriate CL and advancing one level every month.

    Intrinsically the game is based on the risk to reward ratio and the easiest most obvious way to reward players is by level advancement, gold and magic items. If they take bigger risks, they get bigger rewards (taking a beholder on at 3rd level hey? ) I don't see a problem with this method of advancement.


    Though mechanically a 3rd level group would be hard pressed, pretty much down-right impossible through the rules to take on such a creature without great ingenunity (which I see would be the key). I can understand the thrill of advancement with certain character aspects and even the bonuses to hit, ability scores, HP, saves is exciting. But those tend to go away after you start fighting something that those benefits are required to overcome. It's almost like you got really no benefit since the monster's AC, saves, and damage output just scaled up to match.

    But maybe I'm looking at it wrong. It could be interpreted that those bonuses now unlock encounters to overcome that you couldn't handle previously. Look at WoW for example (for those who've played), everyone knows that low-level adventurers that start off in the Elwynn Forest NEVER EVER go across the river to Duskwood because you'll face horrors there that will automatically get you killed, plain and simple. But when you hit a certain level, that place opens up new possibilities to adventure in. So maybe Vertical Advancement can be seen as a positive for fighting new monsters, though I feel this is a very Meta-gamey idea. It's somehow divorced from Role-Playing in order to grab more power IMO.


    quote:
    Originally posted by Farrel



    I think that's one of the main reasons I favour lower level campaigns. There isn't the arms race feel to the game and the need to beef up the player with magical items. The player doesn't feel the need to be superpowered as everything is reasonably clear at that level range.

    I've not heard the term horizontal levelling before but I think you are spot on, I suppose i'd always thought of it as the story's depth within the campaign.


    This is why I'm only going to run E6 games when using 3rd/v3.5 Edition. The way in which leveling still occurs after 6th level is solely on a Horizontal Axis, with only a few bits of Vertical Progression. The best part with this style is that you can still take on monsters that are in the teen CR-wise but low level monsters can still be threats. And magical items really mean something again. Weapons and Armor that have +2, +3, or +4 enhancement bonuses are exceedingly rare and have been crafted by the heroes of old or extreamly powerful creatures such as Liches or Titans.


    quote:
    Originally posted by Farrel


    My name's Farrel and I admit, I was a Monty Haul DM, I've been Monty Hall free since 1995 and am doing well

    I think this is a superb thread and the ideas expressed have really make me think. I'm going to take a good look at Volo's Guide to all Things Magical to try and add more depth to my games.



    I'm glad the thread has sparked questions and a pondering of the mechanics behind the game. I've been known to have Monty Haul moments in my games but my player's are generally good at over-coming obsticles of level-appropriate challenges, so maybe that's a good thing ?


    4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

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    Therise
    Master of Realmslore

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    Posted - 16 Oct 2011 :  16:09:51  Show Profile Send Therise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Oops, I should explain what I meant by "spending XP" on horizontal advancement. In 3E, my group absolutely hated XP-sacrifice requirements for things like wizards creating certain magic items. We hated it so much that we created houserules. (Perhaps it's more accurate to say that I played wizards and I wheedled them relentlessly about the great unfairness of things, but memory is hazy.)

    Anyway, that's one route for "spending XP" in a sideways manner. It really puts wizards at a disadvantage, though, losing XP for something their class is designed to be used for.

    The alternative we came up with was sort of unusual, and it grew into something that the DM could use for all characters. In addition to regular XP, we separated out a second kind of "development XP". Regular XP would be untouched, and only used for leveling. You could still get XP from roleplaying, but anytime you -did- RP you'd get these "development points" that you could then spend on things like item crafting, training, all sorts of things really. We had a list of all sorts of things available you could spend those on, and it often enhanced our roleplaying. People who were shy about it, suddenly they were in there acting up a storm and doing all sorts of things beyond regular combat.

    You couldn't buy things that broke the game (if I made a wand, I'd still have to pay all the money and such), or things that gave combat-specific enhancements, but in addition to spell research and item crafting there were things like buying minions (I mean henchmen), getting involved in various town investments, hiring people to make a fort or castle at high levels, learning new songs and legends for bards, making really effective contacts in the black market, just tons of stuff. We stole the idea of "reputation with various factions" from Warcraft and stuck that in there also.

    A third way of "spending XP" is if you play games that freeze levels at a certain point (see Diffan's E6 thread, for example). Once you get to level 6, there's no more vertical leveling, but you still gain XP. You can spend that XP on things like extra feats or various combat enhancements, or other types of things that enrich the character's options. I haven't tried that, but it does sound really intriguing.

    Anyway, sorry I should've been more specific about what I'd posted originally. Hope this helps.

    PS: Farrel, I think many of us took a plunge into Monty Haulism. There's a kind of dark, naughty appeal there, getting powerful items and lots of extra wealth, and the temptations are great. Someone here had Blackrazor waaaaay before it was level-appropriate for her, and I'm not going to name names to protect the innocent (*cough* myself *cough*).


    4E Realms was awful, but it's water under the Boareskyr Bridge. Let's make 5E Realms truly shine!

    Edited by - Therise on 16 Oct 2011 16:14:19
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    Ayrik
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    Posted - 17 Oct 2011 :  00:58:37  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Players get rather seriously disgruntled when you take their magical items away. I once ran a module wherein the method of escaping an enchanted island was to sacrifice all magical items and permanent auras. Much arguing ensued, many creative proposals to circumvent the absolute cost were attempted (and failed), I even permanently lost one player (who is, I suppose, still imprisoned on the island), and that after I magnanimously reduced the price of escape to instead only being each character's single most powerful magical item. Years later my players still glare at me with seething anger whenever this "sucky" module is mentioned.

    Let's not even go into the endless anger expressed by players of online CRPGs and MMORPGs when they notice that something has been "unfairly" removed from their character's inventory (or, just as likely, it's been nerfed), no matter how useless and inconsequential the lost item might've been. As I said above, these games are really just about accumulation of perfect character sheet, so anything which obstructs that goal is judged with blatant harshness.

    [/Ayrik]
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    Wooly Rupert
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    Posted - 17 Oct 2011 :  04:34:58  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    It's not always about having the perfect character sheet -- there's also the factor that magical items are rewards for doing and killing stuff. You take that away, it's like they did the work for nothing.

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    crazedventurers
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    Posted - 17 Oct 2011 :  09:20:31  Show Profile  Visit crazedventurers's Homepage Send crazedventurers a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    quote:
    Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

    It's not always about having the perfect character sheet -- there's also the factor that magical items are rewards for doing and killing stuff. You take that away, it's like they did the work for nothing.



    @wooly: I agree entirley, you have adventure to get certain items and they mean something, so of course as a DM I would give them a chance to retrieve/rebuild the stolen/drained items, makes writing the next series of adventures much easier for me

    @diffan: interesting you should look at my beholder scenario as metagame/powergaming, to me it is purely about keeping the game world as 'real' as possible. Why does the beholder sit in its cave 10 miles from the heroes village and not make an appearance until they are 8th level? Its hungry and scheming and evil and will saunter down whenever it likes, so if the players are 3rd level well then.....
    I would assume that the players would have a go at defending their village and then run away very very fast after it disintegrates the side of the barn to get at the livestock inside and turns the yapping guards dogs to stone with a blink of an eye. To me it reinforces the verisimilitude of the game world as well as providing a magnificent roleplaying goal for the heroes to 'advance' and be able to defend their homes from the monster and ultimately take the fight back to its lair and defeat it.

    I am old school, I don't do balanced encounters or balanced magic items and I abhor combats in which a player gets one go every 20 mins or so. I prefer a quicker rule-light games with player interaction with each other and NPC's (no one gets to make a diplomacy roll in my game, you have to talk to the bandit king and convince him to let you go). I prefer creativity and spontaneity and fast action so its more sword & sorcery than wargaming (even though D&D emerged from a wargaming ruleset). So to me +1 level advancement is easier to resolve, quicker and more direct. Advancement via special manoeuvres and more feats and more skills rather than the +1 level is going back to the tactical wargaming roots of D&D as re-coded in the 3E+ rulesets requiring extra dice rolls/opposed rolls and more bookwork to remember what characters and NPC's can do.

    I do encourage goals and dreams and schemes from the players as a way of rewarding them and work with them to achieve their dream (as well as NPC's working against them ). I also know that games are fun so we have lots of laughs and remember all the great things they did as well as their disasters (and the bad guys in my campaign do seem to have a habit of building themselves back up and looking for revenge against those pesky adventurers )

    Just a few random answers to some excellent posts on this thread

    Cheers

    Damian

    So saith Ed. I've never said he was sane, have I?
    Gods, all this writing and he's running a constant fantasy version of Coronation Street in his head, too. .
    shudder,
    love to all,
    THO
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    Marc
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    618 Posts

    Posted - 17 Oct 2011 :  10:34:53  Show Profile Send Marc a Private Message  Reply with Quote
    Use both ''horizontal and vertical leveling'' with gestalt, everybody in the party takes levels in expert, noble, master (from Dragonlance) and so on, gets noncombat bonus feats and skills

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