Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Super-Daily" Powers

In 4th ed. it's been a while since I played a Wizard, but after a recent session where the "Arcanist" was complaining, amongst other things about the change of the name from Wizard to Arcanist, their insight in the what was wrong with the Wizard caused me to dwell on some of the deeper issues in 4th Ed. D&D.

We've all heard the complaints about how "Every class is the same", especially from the non-4E gamers that we know, and to some extent these are very true.  One class may have a Str vs AC power that deals [W]+Str and immobilized or knocks target prone, while another one will have a Dex ve Reflex that has the exact same game effect, but different flavor text.

This is the biggest complaint I heard from the 3.5/Pathfinder crowd about 4E classes.  They really liked the vast differences in each class, with its strengths and weaknesses.  In 4E the game tried to give these distinctions by the Role of the characters, Leaders vs Strikers and Defenders vs Controllers, which seemed a great way to distinguish what the strength and weaknesses were...but now after so many power books have been released the lines are blurred greatly from the classes original intent.

Good for the players, that want a Striker/Controller or some other combination role.  Though, I think this speaks directly to what I'me trying to do in Open Gateways, I think die hards can argue what-ever side of this that they want.  What I think players really want is the customization factor to make the character that they want.

Taking this back to the original point, the Wizard of previous editions was largely a one-trick pony.  Give me a larger group of weaker baddies and I'll hit them with my Sleep spell, or Fireball as it struck my fancy...but when the wizards acted it had a huge impact on the direction of the battle.

This ability came with the penalty of not being able to act very many times before they required rest.  People that played Wizards in previous editions really dislike the equallizing that has been done in traditional 4E.

I'm dealing with this by the addition of effectively creating "Super-Daily" powers, that allow various paths to spend their daily, and effectively tap a second Daily to gain a times two benefit on the first one.

On top of this, their needs to be a broader range of their abilities, which I'm handling by having a class of rituals that can be "snap-casted" by trading in a Daily power of equal level.  There is another category or Rituals that can be pre-cast that work effectively by trading in an encounter power of equal level as the ritual to produce the effect.

This returns the functionality to Rituals like Silence, or even Anti-Venom could be reworked to do this.  I'm essentially going through my favor spells from all the other games I've played and categorizing them as candidates for Powers (At-Will, Encounter, Daily, or Super-Daily) or as Ceremonies (standard Ritual type, possibly with the ability to be snap-casted or triggered).

These simple changes gives players of the traditional "Wizard" class the old-school functionality that they once possessed, and giving them a more significant/specific role in a party than the other controllers.  Mass groups of creatures will howl in fear when they hear a Wizard shout "Fireball" from the back of the party, a (4d6+Int)x2 is after all, pretty close to a 10d6 fireball of the early days.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A brief history on Open Gateways

I haven't given up on creating my own site, but being a bit of a perfectionist in this area, creating my own site is taking a bit longer than I'd hoped.  Though I have a lot of ideas and things to say about the game system and campaign setting in general, so I'll be using this as more of a place to throw things out as to where I'm at, or answers questions about things that seem relevant.

First off, this blog is in regards to my effort, Open Gateways (where 4E means "For Everyone"). That will help fund the Kraterra Campaign Setting and the Core Rules for the game.

To the left is the campaign map for Kraterra, the land of the crater.  The continent is somewhat a Pangaea, so the image below has probably around 4 million square miles of terrain to explore.

The game system began about 13 years ago, when I was between groups, but had previously been playing mostly 2nd edition AD&D.  My goal was to take the classes and levels out of the game to make it more easier to customize the abilities that a player would want to give their character.

A player would have full control over their character, and I wouldn't have to arbitrarily save things like "Wizards can't wear armor" or "That item is only usable by Paladins", those are just some of the things that frustrated me, and just begged debate when the obvious answer was simply game balance, but I thought I could balance it in other ways such at these arbitrary rules did not have to be called out.

So the system progressed and eventually 3rd and 3.5 came out and I incorporated the best ideas of these into the "engine" of this system that I was calling Pathways at the time.  Then the schism of Pathfinder and 4th edition D&D occurred and I moved more toward the "Gateway" name, being that Pathways was close to Pathfinder.

At this time most of the game system was done on the d20 version of the game, which was the system that everyone seemed to be playing.  Once 4E came out, I realized that but I did like the segmentation they did for the classes and powers, which I had in my system at the time calling these Talents.  WotC also did a decent job balancing the classes (probably too good, as a lot of them felt like they were the same as the others).  What this did give was a way to break done the math behind the levels to come up with a relative cost for every improvement that a character was gaining.  This gave me an open system to begin to apply to my campaigns the ran under the 4E system.

It wasn't until I was going to publish my Kraterra Campaign Setting under the Wizards 4E GSL that I realized I needed my own game system, as I could not simply let them have the type of control that the GSL states.  It was at this time when I realized that combining my Gateway system with the math I took from the 4E system gave the best of all the previous editions in one system, though I needed to choose which to be more compatible with.

It was at this point where I went with the 4E system as the one to closer align with.  Honestly mainly because I felt it was better at its heart then the previous ones.  By this I simply mean that earlier editions had a sweet spot of 3rd level to 9th level, in this range you lived as a "Hero", not a peasant or thug as you did in the 1st and 2nd level range, and not a demigod as you did in the 10th plus range.

I felt like 4E took what was 3rd level and called it 1st level, then rather than each level being some monumental change as it was in the previous editions, each level was now 1/3 or 1/4 of what a level used to be.  So essentially, I felt like it took the 2nd edition AD&D level range of 3rd to 13th, and spread this over a 30 level range, and it did the same with the monsters, giving the DM an easy system to balance encounters and deal out xp on top of this.

So, that is why I aligned to 4E, but my tagline of 'Where 4E is "For Everyone"' attempts to portray the message to the Pathfinder folks that being 4E compatible does not mean that it's the same as WotC traditional 4th ed. D&D that they have heard about, and likely bitched about.

On top of this, Open Gateways is an Open system, I don't want any royalties for people using it for their own campaign modules, etc.  I simply want a game vocabulary that gamers can use share information, without worrying about trademarks and licensing.  I still need to craft the licensing agreement, but it will be closer to that of the Open d20 system.

In this blog I'll go over in detail about the things I've "fixed" and the things I'm simply leaving alone, but I hope when its finally shared in published form, most will appreciate the work that I've done.