Behind the Screen: Don’t Feel Like a Wizard…

2010 June 10
by Dante

Continuing in the thread of “Vanir and I pick topics for one another”, he asked me to write an article on how to make classes not all feel like they are different varieties of Wizards in 4e.  So here it goes.

Focus on the roleplay

From our interview with Andy Collins and Bill Slavicsek at GenCon last year, this conclusion was clear to me: the mechanics are just mechanics, and you should be focusing on the roleplay.  Nerds latch on to rules and limitations, and often excel and enjoy min/maxing or using the mechanics to ends that they probably weren’t intended for.  What 4e provides for you is a way to have entry-level abilities and skills and have them FEEL impressive.  They even give you special racial abilities that help deepen your character from a two-dimensional cookie cutter into a honed, interesting, dynamic badass that is fun to play.

But I digress.  The criticism that 4e characters all feel like spellcasters, casting with their implements/weapons/rages/etc instead of having actual fighting tactics are ridiculously unfounded IMHO.  What has happened is that 4e characters have some very cool and dynamic abilities that allow them to participate in combat in a more meaningful way.

In our last session, our Avenger used on of his abilities to switch places with a bad guy, forcing said baddie into a situation that they had to struggle to get out of.  Our player actually remarked that that was one excellent battle tactic and that was an important distinction: the abilities read in a standard way, and its easy to attribute them all to a spell block since that’s what we’re used to from previous editions.  In reality, the non-magical character abilities are intended to be battle tactics, or primal abilities… something exceptionally physical to shape the battle in their favor.

So in short: view your character through the proper lens that the class outlines, and pay no mind to the fact that the ability card looks like the 3e spell block.  They’re just trying to simplify the presentation, and that’s it.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. June 10, 2010

    AMEN! 4E finally gave everyone cool stuff to do, all the time. Finally the fighter has some tactical options over simply hacking away with the same basic attack repeatedly. I do tend to think people get into the mindset of strictly adhering to description text, or the thought that powers all work the same.

    WotC continually pushes for folks to describe how a power is used to maximize roleplay. Still I think a fair amount of people just get wrapped up in the mechanics. They think their fighter ‘pushes the target 2 squares’, rather than ‘with a cacophony of steel on steel, she hurls a flurry of blows so intense the opponent is beaten back and breaks from the engagement.’

  2. June 10, 2010

    Everyone might have a power to use every turn, but that doesn’t make powers cool. Using the same At-Will thirty times in a row gets old quick. And then there’s the nightmare of tracking and deciding which of 30 powers to use on your turn followed by the pain of tracking ALL the effects going on at one time.

    “K, so I get a +1 from charging, -2 from a curse that I haven’t saved against yet, +2 for flanking, +1 from the Warlord’s power, +2 for the barbarian’s stupidity, and if I hit then I get to push the troll 3 squares + 1 for my belt of suicide, and he’s stunned until yet another round of saves.”
    DM: “The troll taps four mountains and a swamp and disappears from sight. Your attack misses and you take 10 damage.”

    What about the good old days of the fighters being fighters. The strategy is in working with the terrain and gaining tactical advantage through insights and role-playing and not with picking which spells to use.

    And don’t even get me started on trying to use powers outside of combat and rituals are a joke.

    But, my group has been playing 4e for over a year now and we’ve had some pretty cool battles but mostly because the DM puts the time in to making the encounters unique with interesting twists which is independent of using 3rd or 4th edition.

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