Escapist Podcast - Tabletop: 003: Basic D&D and the 5th Edition Launch

003: Basic D&D and the 5th Edition Launch

Jon, Justin, Paul and Alex talk some more about the upcoming Dungeon & Dragons. Also, death to halflings.

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I'M HERE TO GROGNARD IT UP!

First up, the schools you were confused about were Evocation and Transmutation. Evocation is all about summoning raw elemental energy or creative constructs of pure force, whereas Transmuation is as the name suggests all about making changes happen, and it includes fancy things like Disintegrate but also a vast array of buff spells.

Second, the game WILL feature multiclassing but it's gated and toned down in such a way as to make it more or less equivalent to straight-classing. Every class has multiple powerful mechanics gated deep down inside of them to be appealing. If you DO want to multiclass, there are ability score restrictions (You can't be a wizard with 8 int) and you don't get access to all of a class' core features until you take three levels in it. Also, the progression of your attacks, saves, skills, etc is determined by total character level rather than by your combination of classes meaning that you aren't splashing three fighter levels into rogue just to hit that mythical four attacks a round. Spellcasters are especially interesting with how they function as so long as you are taking full 9 level caster classes you still get full spell slot progression, but NOT full access to spell lists, meaning you get lower level spells with less impact but you get more variety of them and you can make them powerful. If you take five levels into wizard and fifteen into cleric you can throw your fireballs as 9th level spells.

Third, my personal favorite DnD story:
I was running an epic level campaign. The party used magical means to enter into the palace of Shar on the plane of shadow. They found themselves in a square room with one door and no light. The walls were all jet-black obsidian and were utterly indestructible. The door did not have a handle. The party spent thirty minutes attempting to locate secret levers, attempting to reproduce the magical effect that got them into the palace, attempting to pick locks that didn't exist, and otherwise freaking out and rolling dice hoping they'd win. Eventually one of them had the bright idea to push on the door and it opened. Sometimes the best traps are easy solutions put in front of overthinkers.

I heavily disagree that 3.5 multiclass was the worst aspect of the system. I'm quite the opposite, I believe it's the best feature of the system. It allows your character to grow more based on whats happening in the campaign. You can start of as a Rogue and over the course of the campaign fine himself becoming more devote and finding himself needing to toughen up and be more martial incline and become basically a Paladin. You can start of as a Wizard and but eventually become more martial incline and eventually become more of a spell sword if you wish.

I just felt that 4e makes multi class too restrictive and doesn't basically allow your characters to grow naturally.

If I can make a necromancer that ain't batshit crazy evil, I'm fine with that. <_< 4e kinda... messed up that to me. No real schools, just spells with funny names.

During my campaign, I had one guy that never brought his character sheet, and want to ad-lib everything. He never wanted to use his sword when he could try to use the corpse of the fallen. Plus he was constantly trying to hit on this one girl whose husband was in the group as well. Needless to say he was pushed out. That was our Chad

Akisa:
I heavily disagree that 3.5 multiclass was the worst aspect of the system. I'm quite the opposite, I believe it's the best feature of the system. It allows your character to grow more based on whats happening in the campaign. You can start of as a Rogue and over the course of the campaign fine himself becoming more devote and finding himself needing to toughen up and be more martial incline and become basically a Paladin. You can start of as a Wizard and but eventually become more martial incline and eventually become more of a spell sword if you wish.

I just felt that 4e makes multi class too restrictive and doesn't basically allow your characters to grow naturally.

I think that's the ideal implementation, but in practice it was mired with reams of prestige classes and other narrative and mechanical issues. I think a lot of it was systemic from a lack of incentive to max out character levels in a given class, with a few rare exceptions. There was no give and take with multi-classing really, it was always better to abandon your base class at a certain point or risk falling behind mechanically. This in turn forced narrative disconnects rather than reinforce them.

Slycne:

Akisa:
I heavily disagree that 3.5 multiclass was the worst aspect of the system. I'm quite the opposite, I believe it's the best feature of the system. It allows your character to grow more based on whats happening in the campaign. You can start of as a Rogue and over the course of the campaign fine himself becoming more devote and finding himself needing to toughen up and be more martial incline and become basically a Paladin. You can start of as a Wizard and but eventually become more martial incline and eventually become more of a spell sword if you wish.

I just felt that 4e makes multi class too restrictive and doesn't basically allow your characters to grow naturally.

I think that's the ideal implementation, but in practice it was mired with reams of prestige classes and other narrative and mechanical issues. I think a lot of it was systemic from a lack of incentive to max out character levels in a given class, with a few rare exceptions. There was no give and take with multi-classing really, it was always better to abandon your base class at a certain point or risk falling behind mechanically. This in turn forced narrative disconnects rather than reinforce them.

While it does happen in forums where people optimize, but from my anecdotal experience vast majority don't min max and multi class was just an option. It's like saying that we should remove Wizards because they totally broken in 3.5 with all those spells and combinations making other classes look obsolete.

Nevrus02:
I'M HERE TO GROGNARD IT UP!

First up, the schools you were confused about were Evocation and Transmutation. Evocation is all about summoning raw elemental energy or creative constructs of pure force, whereas Transmuation is as the name suggests all about making changes happen, and it includes fancy things like Disintegrate but also a vast array of buff spells.

YES. That's the one. For some reason, spells like Cone of Cold are in Transmutation - because they transmute the air to cold! Which I guess makes magic-sense, but not game-consistency sense.

bdcjacko:
During my campaign, I had one guy that never brought his character sheet, and want to ad-lib everything. He never wanted to use his sword when he could try to use the corpse of the fallen. Plus he was constantly trying to hit on this one girl whose husband was in the group as well. Needless to say he was pushed out. That was our Chad

Man, I'm glad that has a happy ending.

I want to now buy ACK and create a tribe of hobbit/halfing gypsies to explain why they are adventuring. And the players would get 2 hobbits a piece so they have a chance in combat.

Akisa:

Slycne:

Akisa:
I heavily disagree that 3.5 multiclass was the worst aspect of the system. I'm quite the opposite, I believe it's the best feature of the system. It allows your character to grow more based on whats happening in the campaign. You can start of as a Rogue and over the course of the campaign fine himself becoming more devote and finding himself needing to toughen up and be more martial incline and become basically a Paladin. You can start of as a Wizard and but eventually become more martial incline and eventually become more of a spell sword if you wish.

I just felt that 4e makes multi class too restrictive and doesn't basically allow your characters to grow naturally.

I think that's the ideal implementation, but in practice it was mired with reams of prestige classes and other narrative and mechanical issues. I think a lot of it was systemic from a lack of incentive to max out character levels in a given class, with a few rare exceptions. There was no give and take with multi-classing really, it was always better to abandon your base class at a certain point or risk falling behind mechanically. This in turn forced narrative disconnects rather than reinforce them.

While it does happen in forums where people optimize, but from my anecdotal experience vast majority don't min max and multi class was just an option. It's like saying that we should remove Wizards because they totally broken in 3.5 with all those spells and combinations making other classes look obsolete.

A broken clock is still right twice a day, but it's still broken. If it only worked well in the two extreme cases of a group of all min-maxers and no min-maxers then that's hardly high marks and leaves everyone else in an awkward situation. Personally, the worst was when you'd have someone wanting to start leveling up their obscure prestige class while out in the middle of no where. "And where exactly or from who are you learning Arcane Archery from?"

Heh, and magic in 3rd is a whole other conversation.

So how about a GMs' Podcast? Just once a month a come together of GMs to talk about their work how they handle situations their campaigns and players. I am one of the little percentage of GMs you identified as people whose campaigns run logner then a year. My last one ran two years the ones before even longer and they would've run longer if it wasn't for job/ exam reasons. I am toying around with that idea quite some time and I think you guys might be able to pull it off. A Dungeon Masters Phlisophers Stone Podcast where you get all the questions to the awnswer you wanted to get ;). You all agreed it is difficult to be a "good" GM. So why not combine your experince and offer some insight on being a GM for different groups and diffrent philosophies of doing your job. I know there is a row of articles but I think it would be easier to listen to a discussion then reading through the article and the following forum discussion.

Time for a D&D story:
My group was in an isolated dead vulcano jungle, where a group of Mindflayers and a Beholder brought "customers" from other planes to hunt pray they set loose in the jungle. They did not know what it was because it was once a sacred burrial ground for a race I created and they where tasked to resurect their once great leader. Long story short the party walks through the jungle hears a rustle. The Half-Ork Babarian chrages into the wood no clue what is in it (the cleric already facepalming) I do not know the name of the monsters they look like Rhino-Men and they can breath a cone of cold. It was seven of them they basicly turned the Half Orc into an Ice Statue and picked up his keen vorpal great axe and heads started flying...

Slycne:

Akisa:

Slycne:

I think that's the ideal implementation, but in practice it was mired with reams of prestige classes and other narrative and mechanical issues. I think a lot of it was systemic from a lack of incentive to max out character levels in a given class, with a few rare exceptions. There was no give and take with multi-classing really, it was always better to abandon your base class at a certain point or risk falling behind mechanically. This in turn forced narrative disconnects rather than reinforce them.

While it does happen in forums where people optimize, but from my anecdotal experience vast majority don't min max and multi class was just an option. It's like saying that we should remove Wizards because they totally broken in 3.5 with all those spells and combinations making other classes look obsolete.

A broken clock is still right twice a day, but it's still broken. If it only worked well in the two extreme cases of a group of all min-maxers and no min-maxers then that's hardly high marks and leaves everyone else in an awkward situation. Personally, the worst was when you'd have someone wanting to start leveling up their obscure prestige class while out in the middle of no where. "And where exactly or from who are you learning Arcane Archery from?"

Heh, and magic in 3rd is a whole other conversation.

Actually it's more like a Car can be death machine if I decide not use it for driving from point a to point b and drive on the sidewalk to attempt hit people. I look at classes to reinforce the flavor of my classes with mechanics of the other classes. In most cases unplanned multiclass is actually is ok toward not so good. It only becomes deliberate

In the case of the Arcane Archer, I've been practicing my archery shooting at specific point on a tree or something, and later in the day use my Arcane magic to some effect. On other days my character is doing some calculations is it possible to combine Archery and Arcane magic in some manner. Through trail and error my character can't learn how to become a Arcane Archer?

In the case of my Rogue Paladin, I started as a Level 1 Rogue who was a real typical rogue doing sneaky stuff, charismatic but not really religious. However as the adventure went on she was getting knocked out in fights, as she was nearly always in the front for damage and the fact we had lack of true front line combatants(aka no barbarian, fighters etc). So by second level she was always looking to on how to become better at fights and became receptive of the clerics deity as she had picked a rank of religion and began praying to same deity. About a day or two on the road we level to 3, this is where she picks up level of Paladin. Paladin provided the best flavor and mechanical fit for what was happening in the campaign. From there on she continued to level up as a Paladin, but at the same time this does bring up issues similar to the Arcane Archer Prestige class.

Where would she learn all her Paladin skills from? Learning Smite Evil is one thing, but how would she learn to use a longbow, let alone heavy armor and the vast majority of other marital weapons. Should I hold off leveling until we reach town? Should I roleplay entering monastery for a couple years putting the campaign adventure on hold? Should I simply just make a new character. At the same time as how does level 3 rogue become a level 4 rogue and learn uncanny dodge? Who teaches him this ability? Should that Rogue really be looking for a level 4 rogue or higher to teach them how not to be caught flat footed?

In more restrictive multiclass game (like 4ed) my Rogue Paladin would have been a feat at first, and than an eventual complete remake. And that is why I like 3.5 Multiclass as it allows character evolution more freely rather than be restricted to a set predefine path that classes uses.

In the case of my Rogue Paladin how would you handle it? Would I have to make a new character, a remake, or simply allow the multiclass to occur?

Akisa:
snip

On some level I think there's no great answer to it. It's a byproduct of trying to force a class structure, and all that entails, into a living world. It's adding structure and rules into the abstract, and that's just always going to cause some issues. Classes are however very useful which is why we continue to work within this mess. Skill based systems, while arguably more realistic, have their own issues of not having fixed points for players to identify with and just being cumbersome during play.

Where it really gets into a tangle, as you mentioned, is when you get into things that can't be hand-waved. It's reasonable enough that say a Barbarian learned how to be a better angrier Barbarian after that tough fight with the trolls earlier in the day, but if your Rogue wants to take a level in Paladin there's a bunch of proficiencies and other baggage that's a lot harder to justify, especially within the compressed time that characters are advancing.

I think where the system really ran aground was by trying to think of classes to much like jobs or professions. "Well I spent some time as a Fighter in the town watch, hung out in the woods for a few levels as a Druid and even dabbled as a Wizard for a semester before finally settling into Arcane Archer."

Akisa:
In the case of my Rogue Paladin how would you handle it? Would I have to make a new character, a remake, or simply allow the multiclass to occur?

For systems that I prefer playing, it would be entirely handled within the world itself. I'd rather the world be consistent. If the Rogue wanted to become more devout then that's something that would be RP'ed, ie the character is simply a religious Rogue. And if the party really needed another frontline fighter, well that's why you hire henchmen and mercenaries. Or maybe the character is removed from the game for a set time returning as a newly inducted level 1 Paladin. If anything changing classes should be a major endeavor with some real drawbacks. Alternatively, I think the best middle ground method is where multiclassing is restricted to picking up a specific aspect of the multiclass or through selective picks of perks or equivalent. If you want a Rogue that fights with a longsword and tower shield you're going to need to invest into that. This allows you to bridge some gaps, but not necessarily jump over them.

JonB:
[quote="Nevrus02" post="6.851716.21057596"]I'M HERE TO GROGNARD IT UP!

First up, the schools you were confused about were Evocation and Transmutation. Evocation is all about summoning raw elemental energy or creative constructs of pure force, whereas Transmuation is as the name suggests all about making changes happen, and it includes fancy things like Disintegrate but also a vast array of buff spells.

YES. That's the one. For some reason, spells like Cone of Cold are in Transmutation - because they transmute the air to cold! Which I guess makes magic-sense, but not game-consistency sense.

Cone of Cold is actually an Evocation spell! The only really inconsistent spell I can find in 3.5 is Acid Arrow under Conjuration, which does a blast of elemental damage. Everything else about the school is about teleportation, summoning creatures, or summoning field effects like Web. Trasmutation tends to have a lot of spells that utterly take one dude out of the fight, such as Baleful Polymorph turning them into a squirrel or Flesh to Stone going all Medusa on their butts. Disintegrate and Reverse Gravity are the only spells that Transmutation has that do lots of direct damage, but both of them have way more utility than Evocation's flashy army-blasters.

Needless to say when I make a spellcaster I take Spell Focus Transmutation. Other than the spells I mentioned, just about everything that does direct damage falls under Evocation, at least for wizards. Necromancy and Illusion have a couple save or dies and Abjuration has a couple damaging traps you can place, but for big sweeping effects that damage multiple targets Evocation is king.

Slycne:

For systems that I prefer playing, it would be entirely handled within the world itself. I'd rather the world be consistent. If the Rogue wanted to become more devout then that's something that would be RP'ed, ie the character is simply a religious Rogue. And if the party really needed another frontline fighter, well that's why you hire henchmen and mercenaries. Or maybe the character is removed from the game for a set time returning as a newly inducted level 1 Paladin. If anything changing classes should be a major endeavor with some real drawbacks. Alternatively, I think the best middle ground method is where multiclassing is restricted to picking up a specific aspect of the multiclass or through selective picks of perks or equivalent. If you want a Rogue that fights with a longsword and tower shield you're going to need to invest into that. This allows you to bridge some gaps, but not necessarily jump over them.

5E is attempting to solve that with its minimum ability scores. Want to be a paladin? You better have 15 strength and 15 charisma then! You don't? You're going to have to invest your ability score upgrades into achieving it before you can take on that new class.

I also strongly suspect that the proficiencies will be doled out over the course of taking three levels of the class. Want all the weapons? Here you go. Take one more level for armor. Take one more level for saves. Stuff like that.

The talk of burn out on MMORPGs is understandable as I feel it myself and the majority of my friends are sick of MMORPGs to the point where the only mention of a new MMORPG coming out is met with bets on how fast it will flop.

However the draw for D&D filling the gap I am not sure will fill the gap for me and my friends because there is a bit of the same burn out. We tried to get a D&D game going last year but it seem to quickly die due to lack of enthusiasm with people showing up late, canceling last minute, or just not showing.

I can't speak entirely for friends experiences but I know from personal experience that D&D is one of those games I hear a lot of other people having fun playing and is right up my alley in terms of interest, yet I have never really had a great time playing through a campaign. There have been a few gaming sessions scattered across multiple campaigns where I really enjoyed it but never the campaign as a whole.

I can't seem to find a good group and often seem to get stuck with a horrible DM. Some examples are as follows:
1) DM with NPC Character that leads the group around by the noise and it's so powerful it could wipe out the group.
2) DM with no sense of scaling. Patrol man outside bandit camp die in one hit, mobs in side camp kill players in one to two hits at level 10.
3) DM who hates player meta-gaming so much he does things like, Frost Giants immune to fire but weak to Frost.
4) Several DMs that give NO FEEDBACK on resistances so players are clueless monster is taking very little or no damage.
5) DM that don't know the rules correctly and rule against key features in your character design to the point where the concept you were going for is ruined. While allowing other people to do things that aren't allowed (such as Sorcerer who can learn any spell like Wizard yet still cast like a Sorcerer)
6) DM who tries to meta-game. All monsters charge the wizard and other squishy targets every encounter. All while ignoring fighter and giving out opportunities attacks, flanking bonuses, and etc. like crazy. Yet claiming it's "realistic" as monster were go after the weak and heavy damage deals first even if it meant turning their backs on a guy in full plate with a giant two-handed sword. Then ups the monster level because he thinks we are too strong since we are getting all these combat bonuses from his terrible tactics.
.... and so on.

I recall reading a list of Dos and Donts for DMs, or perhaps it was a list of top 10 worst mistakes a DM can make. And I recalling how everything on that list I had seen a DM I played with do, with some doing multiple things.

The problem I've noticed with the majority of DMs I've had is they seem to have this adversarial relationship with the players. They often talk as though it's a Player VS DM. Many talk about how they hate how players meta-game the rules and make uber character, while talking to a group of novice players like myself who have never made an uber character and not even really sure how as we don't own the dozens of books for mixing and matching feats & classes. While others insist on keeping the monster data hidden but providing no feedback.

Now I know there are two schools of thought on monster info. Some think it's a good idea to keep it hidden because knowing it reduces the immersion factor. While this is true to an extent the immersion is equally ruined when players have no clue how a fight is going. For example shooting a fireball at a room full of fire resistant monsters, the DM rolls some dice marks something on his sheet, says "Ok." and then tells the next player it's their turn. Casters turn comes around and he uses another fire based spell because without access to the stats and no mention of descriptive events the player doesn't know his spells are fairly ineffective, so the fight goes much worst then it's CR rating would indicate. But worst of all is I've often heard defense for hiding monster data as "Well most players already know all the monster stats anyway." Sure maybe some very experienced players have a really good idea on monsters stats but those are not set in stone.

I've told this story many times over the years and it's sometimes suggested that I try my hand at DMing. Well besides the fact that I would prefer to be a player, I don't really have a good literary sense. I am good at statistics and tactics but horrible at story telling and dialog. I gave DMing a try once and my friends told me they really like the interesting and challenging encounters that I made which they thought were well balance. However the story they said was really flat and bland. And that's fine as the parts I knew I'd be good at I did well in but there also needs to be an engaging story. Because statistical analysis on player to monster abilities and well designed tactical encounters only go so far, because at that point your basically playing a miniatures game. Which might be one of the reason I liked 4th ED slightly more, since the rules were so clearly defined it was a lot harder for bad DMs to screw up encounter balance and misinterpret abilities.

Given all that my interest is mildly peaked with D&D 5ed. However all those groups with the bad DMs has soured me a bit. Even though I don't know any of the people in them anymore, since it was back in highschool, college, or players from local gaming stores in cities i use to live in. And though I play various games online with a regular group they once tried to do D&D 3ed on Roll20 but interest seem to die off quickly. So I don't really know who I would play with other than checking the local gaming stores.

But it seems like people with a lot of fond memories of D&D often play with the same groups and thus don't often go looking to recruit new players. Where as people like myself often end up bouncing around trying to find a good group but the reason the groups people are actively recruiting for is because they have a high turn over due to bad DMs.

Spyre2k:

6) DM who tries to meta-game. All monsters charge the wizard and other squishy targets every encounter. All while ignoring fighter and giving out opportunities attacks, flanking bonuses, and etc. like crazy. Yet claiming it's "realistic" as monster were go after the weak and heavy damage deals first even if it meant turning their backs on a guy in full plate with a giant two-handed sword. Then ups the monster level because he thinks we are too strong since we are getting all these combat bonuses from his terrible tactics.

This one is a charge I would handle with care. In practically every fantasy game I DM, everyone (including players) knows rule 1: Wizards Die First. Any reasonably intelligent enemy is less worried about the guy with the two-handed sword, and more about the girl with the pointy hat and staff who will, if you give her about 6 seconds, make your skin peel off and begin forcing itself down your buddy's throat (or gate in reinforcements, or shroud the battlefield in mist, or do any one of a thousand other unpredictable things that will make the monster's life hell). Especially with 4th Edition, it provides the tactical thrill of having the defenders actually defend something, rather than just standing there while people rush them, get beaten up, then rush again while the other characters do the fun stuff.

Then again, it does rely on the DM having good tactics, beyond everything bum-rushing everything wearing a bathrobe.

OT:
Hobbits and Halflings: I always got the sense that hobbits filled the "fairies before they were myth" niche; a retiring race that is relatively unknown, stays out of people's way, and sneaks around the edges of the world. Instead of having them as the wisecracking characters, they can take on a more semi-mythical aspect, good for a world where magic was leaving.

The PHB2: It seems like the smartest thing would be to not release more classes, but more specializations. As you point out, 12 classes is plenty for most archetypes, and things like the Hexblade and the Arcane Archer are better suited for specializations or some equivalent of prestige paths. I wouldn't be surprised if they skipped the PHB2 altogether, and released The Complete Fighter, The Complete Wizard, etc. The only class I think might be added later is the Psion.

Making a Good DM One of the reasons I'm frustrated that 5E is moving to the Realms exclusively is that 4E had a great setting with the Points of Light. I've seen plenty of campaigns that have a Winterhaven, Nentir Vale, etc., because they started using the basic adventures and vaguely-sketched setting, and they expanded into their own thing as the players and DM worked out what they wanted to play- did they want dungeon-crawling, politics/investigation, high magic or low, the gods (or lack thereof) that existed, etc. It was a wonderful way to have someone grow into being a DM: They had a comfortable base in the module, when odd questions arose they answered as best they could, and over time they learned to anticipate those questions and weave the answers into the story.

Of course, 4th had the advantage in that it knew what it was, while 5E seems to want to be all things to all people, which means giving them the tools upfront rather than letting them developing on their own. Still, I do think that Points of Light could work with a 5E game as a basic setting, rather than the weight of the Realms and it's kitchen sink.

EDIT: On the topic of non-angsty white-haired characters, I've got one:

While the freedom of 3E multiclassing was nice it also was horribly implemented and, like everything else in the system, not tested at all. Multiclassing without knowing the system or having someone tell you typically led to your character being far, far worse than you were before, and that's shitty game design.

Give me something more restrictive that won't screw over my character if I don't know the difference between a 1/3 BAB and full BAB class. I've never had a problem asking my DM if I could rebuild a character to make it more enjoyable, and no DM I've played with steadily is the type of person who'd flip out and refuse it because at the end of the day we're playing a game for fun, not playing THIS MUST HAVE CONSEQUENCES JUST LIKE REAL LIFE like some DMs I've known.

 

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