Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Legacy of 4e DnD and FALL IN!

Let the edition wars end: 4th was, and continues to be, superior.
I was on board with 4th edition before it even came out. From the very first preview I knew it was the edition I wanted to play. And when the game came out it did not disappoint. What most people saw as "samey classes" I saw as "good player shorthand". Everyone knew what everyone else had. Someone saying "I spent my encounter power" at level one signified that a resource had been used and everyone had to be more careful; busting out a Daily Power  signaled to everyone else that they had to step it up to cover the loss of resources.  The fact that it was so easy to get what other classes did because of the similarity of structure is a sign of good design, and the negative reactions strike me as more of a symptom of Stockholm Syndrome over bad mechanics than a legitimate critique. The encounter design continues to be the best of the editions, hand's down. A 1st level encounter was, indeed, actually manageable by 1st level characters. There were no surprises when it came to the vast majori

Not that the game was perfect, mind you; 4th was a seriously flawed game. The math was bad but at least it was fixable. Several classes were permanently broken by multiple attribute confusion, but again, that was nothing a few house rules couldn't fix. But the real issue with 4th was that it's really a combat only game. The rest of the mechanics weren't very good, despite the solid ideas that were behind them, and the lack of actual RP for the system meant it was, at best, a glorified combat simulator. Not that 3.5/Pathfinder/5th aren't, but 4th was the most honest about its intent of design since Dungeons and Dragons Basic. Either you liked the fact that 4th's niche was combat or you didn't.

Eventually I stopped playing 4th. I wanted more than just combat from my mechanics. I wanted a story game and 4th could not deliver. Fortunately, Andy had already suggested Burning Wheel, a game that has since become my favorite RPG of all time and is my go-to. This sparked a huge investigation of what else the RPG world had to it, and the stable of games that I flit between at earliest opportunity (Burning Wheel, MouseGuard, World of Darkness, Dungeon World, Torchbearer, Tenra Bansho Zero, and Misspent Youth) were from this period of joyful exploration. But 4th has remained in the back of my mind.  Apparently I'm not alone; a number of my friends who were there to play 4th with me are still trying to design their own games that ape what 4th did. Talk about playing 4th itself is out of the question at this point. Our tastes have evolved and we don't want to play a game that fumbled its own core message in the way it did.

But what was 4th's message? What was its interior reason to exist? The funny thing is that it's not combat. I've played and read through many a game that has better combat than 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, and have found that it lacks something... unique. 4th's take on combat, with its resource management and group combo's, is a unique animal in the RPG world. Ultimately, 4th's combat facilitated squad play, similar to games like World of Warcraft and MOBA's like League of Legends. These games have limited singular resources that are useful to the group in combat, and require everyone to be in sync in a way that one is not normally with people at your table. 4th aped this gameplay quite well, but forgot to add in an element that only TTRPGs can do: interpersonal interaction. TTRPG's superiority over computer MOBA games lies in the fact that the characters you are playing can interact with each other, thanks to the players. Training and bonding can continue past the battle and you can play the whole process out. And, while a good number of players did this sort of play with 4th, they did it without the help of the rules. But this type of game-play is what TTRPGs do best: turning the interpersonal into a game.

So it's here I'd like to throw my hat in to the task of making a game to fill a void that's been curiously absent since 4th's premature demise, with a game called FALL IN! FALL IN! is a game that will feature tactical combat in the spirit of 4th edition DnD, with systems for squad building such as training, downtime, upgrading equipment, infiltration, speeches, and ultimatums. Classes will probably work off of a series of proficiencies, skills,  bonds, and abilities, along with a mechanic called States, which are how you access your abilities and give you a bunch of raw material to roleplay with.

The following classes will be in the game. More may be in the game, but these definitely will be:

- Knight (a warrior with allegiance sworn to the local lord)
- Brigand (without attachment or care but hated by everyone)
- Paladin (a holy warrior sworn to God, but not necessarily the law)
- Ranger (the supreme guide in the wild)
- Monk (an ascetic who has learned spells from the esoteric writings)
- Sorcerer (someone in whom magic bubbles up, without restraint)
- Warlock (unable to find power any other way, this one has struck up deals with dark things)
- Swordsage (magic and swordplay are the same thing)
- Rogue (sneaky and daring, with a dash of improvisation)

There will not be a Monster Manual for this game; monsters should be unique to your campaign setting and I have no interest in telling you about the same boring orcs and goblins. Instead, tools will be provided to make monsters on the fly, with very little prep work involved. Also included will be rules for making NPCs and themes to be attached to NPCs or monsters. Also included will be rules for little to no prep-work in making encounters of all kinds; if you are spending more than an a half-hour to prep a game session in this game you are doing it wrong.

More in the coming weeks.

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