Friday, March 11, 2011

Breaking the Mould

There is no reason that 4e character classes could not be designed radically differently. WOTC has a clear template for them (a flawed one) and there's a knee-jerk instinct to follow that same pattern, but I don't think anything makes that necessary.

I'd suggest that all that is really required for a functional 4e class is that it have about the right number of hit points, about the right defenses, and about the right range of attacks and abilities. It's not an exact science, but it's not hard to ballpark. If all you need to do is hit those benchmarks, then it becomes much less important how you do so.

For example, you could greatly simplify the game by using each existing class as a means of creating numerous more streamlined sub-classes, by simply taking away choices. The Iron Tempest class begins with these two at wills, this encounter power and this daily, and the power choices (and other choices, perhaps) might be mapped out from level 1 to level 30.

On the other hand, this means that much more radical (or perhaps regressive) ideas could be supported. There's nothing that keeps a 4e character from gaining abilities as he levels, the way that characters did in 3e. It need not even be encounter or daily powers. While those are the norm, it's still entirely possible to adjudicate something that's usable 3 times per day or the like.

Yes, any such model hits the big wall of all third party class creation - it doesn't work with the character builder. That's frustrating. But it occurs to me that it's only a barrier because of the complexity of handling 4e characters as is. If you're going to change the way you think about classes, is there any reason your new vision needs to be so complicated that it requires a tool?

It's an open door. If it was only a little bit open before, I think it's safe to say that Gamma World kicked it wide. No reason not to see where it goes.


  1. Maybe it is because I have only briefly flipped through 4e books, but I don't really feel like I know what you are talking about here Rob.

    Your jargon level is pretty high. Normally I understand posts you make about games I have never even heard of, but here I know how the game basically works and I am still lost.

  2. I've been thinking seriously about running 4e that is pure kitbash. I would essentially say to the players, "Let's work out one of those base classes that goes with your concept. Okay, what do your attacks look like? What utility stuff can you do?"

    When these characters level and get new encounter or daily powers, we have the conversation again, and I write the power or feat for them. I am sufficiently confident of my ability to loot & reskin existing stuff, as well as make up new ideas, that I think this could work. I would simply resign myself to maintaining all character sheets, including power sheets (that I like more than pages of power cards anyway), by hand. I had to do this when I ran D&D before there was a Character Builder or even a 4th edition, and I can do it again.

    4e is really an engine. Mr. Ford has told us that we can get the rest of the car in whatever color we like as long as it is black. I think we could have more fun some other way, at this point.

  3. Yep. Gamma World (an to a lesser extent Essentials) really changed my ideas of where you could take 4e.

    One of the features of 4e is the almost-perfect divide between player mechanics and GM mechanics. For example you could have the GM running 4e with the players running GW characters, and the main sticking point would be that treasure wouldn't be in a form that the characters could use.

    So I can imagine a completely re-designed player side of the game without having to change much if anything on the GM's side.

    I dream of someone taking the base of the GW character mechanics and re-imagining standard D&D character classes through them. Essentially taking Essentials to the nth degreI had ane. If I had any ambition it would be me fulfilling this dream :-)

  4. @greg In retrospect, you're quite right. Sorry about that, and I blame it on hastily writing from the road.

  5. I agree completely. Essentials and (most) psionic classes are other indicators of the flexibility of the underlying engine.


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