I’ve finished reading [this] post, on the very entertaining Cogito, ergo ludo blog and I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic. Besides, it ties very nicely with the series that I’m writing so it’s even thematically accurate!
So do yourselves a favor and go read that when you have a few minutes. As for me, these are my proverbial two cents on the topic…
Skill challenges are a development long overdue. They allow one to mechanically handle non-combat encounters in such a way that it takes some time, which focuses more attention on them.
The first thing I asked a friend when he told me about the skill challenges was something along these lines: If the skill challenges do something that could be done before, why do we have a new mechanic? That is, what does the mechanic add to the mix or what problems does it solve? I haven’t gotten a good answer so far and I haven’t gotten that far into the book myself yet (those articles are taking me ages :P ) but I’d like to know what your thoughts are on the matter.
However the system could make it easier for new Dungeon Masters to implement this kind of causality based non combat situations (with partial successes) in a way that makes it easier for them to apply the “Yes, but…” idea. In that regard (being newbie friendly) the new edition is showing some promise.
As a bonus, I will throw you a link to an excellent article which I consider to be very useful to build the kind of situation that I think skill challenges are trying to create.
At higher levels when getting a new level one does not so much gain new powers as swap old ones for new ones.
I get the gameplay advantage of this, but I’m not sure how precisely this ties to anything that’s happening in the game world. Do you forget the power? Do you decide not to use it anymore? What happens if you come to need it in a particular situation? I can understand that you can get rusty at things from not practising them but you wouldn’t forget a thing altogether. Any input on these issues?
This reduces the role of system mastery in character generation, which I think is a good thing. Nonfunctional archetypes are no fun.
Once again my lad, we’re on the same page. Each and every time I sat down to play D&D I didn’t feel like we were embarking on a heroic tale of adventure, but that I was sitting down to be laughed at by the system once more. This is a little exaggerated, but we’re talking feelings here and not facts. The system mastery and knowledge that you need to have to make efficient (in this particular game’s terms) decisions is just mind blowing. And believe me, choosing wrong will screw you badly. As far as the archetypes go, let me tell you that I’m a supporter of flawed characters (which means we’re talking about narrative elements that produce setbacks and conflicts) but I believe that nonfunctional characters are the bane of any self respecting system. These are broken things, not broken individuals… and especially in a game like D&D 4th Ed. playing with a broken thing is just not fun.
As far as rituals go, I’ll have to give you a proper answer once I get there. As for combat options, I can tell you from playing the game several times that yes… the players have at least a couple viable options each round, although not neccessarily effective options (sometimes it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever) as far as the combat goes. In any case the whole thing felt more easy going than 3rd Ed.
Here’s a bit of game design philosophy I support: Rules are bad if they are not used in actual play.
Elegant game design is functional at heart, is it not?