Monday, June 16, 2008

What Isn't There - My First 4th Edition House Rules

There was a lot of speculation as to what would be in 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. For a change, a lot of this speculation was fairly accurate thanks to WotC releasing a lot of information along the way. Still, there were a few things that didn't pan out the way I had expected. I thought I'd mention a couple of them, and some ideas I've had about integrating one of them into the game anyways.

First, somewhere along the way I had gotten the impression that they were doing away with alignments. I don't remember where I got this impression from, but it was a bit surprising when I first saw the books and realized that while it's been simplified, the alignment system is still there. I guess since it's been a core part of the game from the beginning they decided it should stay, but I still can't help but think it might have been better if they dropped it completely.

Second, I read somewhere that magic items were going to be "upgradeable" so that your gear could advance with you and you wouldn't have to be constantly trading in your old magic stuff as you leveled. Again, I don't recall where I read this. I suppose it might have originated with someone getting a sneak peak at the magic items with levels.

This was an idea that I really thought would be a good way to lessen the feeling of magic items as a commodity that has become a problem in D&D, especially in 3.5.

If I ever get the chance to run the game, I'll probably come up with my own system for doing this. One quick fix would be to allow the Enchant Item ritual to upgrade an existing item to a higher level version of the same item in exchange for components equal to the difference in cost between the two versions.

The problem comes when a character has a "signature" item that is already a higher level than the groups ritual caster. That item gets progressively less impressive as the character advances. Since the game suggests that the characters should have some items higher than their level, this still calls for a fairly rapid turnover among the most impressive magical items a character has. A possible fix for this would be to allow the Enchant Item ritual to upgrade an item up to the caster's level +5 as long as there is an existing item of the same type to upgrade. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether or not characters could reasonably be expected to pay the cost for such an upgrade. I don't know enough about the game economy yet to know whether or not that's feasible. If it isn't, then I might have to also propose some form of discount when upgrading.

On the other hand, I don't want players upgrading all their items this way, so the expense involved could provide a natural limit there. Otherwise, I'd have to institute a hard cap on the number of items per player that could be improved in this way.


rayipsa said...

One issue that doesn't make sense in 4.0 is that you can buy any magic item but selling them gives you only nominal amounts of cash. This makes no sense. There is a complete economic disconnect in 4.0.

Fulminata said...

Economically it makes no sense, but in terms of enforcing the overarching theme of "heroic" play it goes along with the idea that the default rules don't allow you to sell looted mundane equipment at all.

They're trying to enforce the heroic tropes from sword & sorcery fiction: you defeat the evil overlord and loot his treasury, but you don't sell off his weapons and gear, nor that of his defeated minions. If they're mundane you ignore them, and if they're magical you make use of them.

It encourages players to make use of the items they find rather than trade them in for the "ideal" items of their level. This was something that 3.5 was often criticized for, and was a big factor in the commoditization of magic items.

BlackDiamond said...

Those who discuss RPGs too much would say it's a "gamist" design decision rather than a "simulationist" decision.

The simulationists want the game world to reflect reality as much as possible. They pull their hair out over things like linear falling damage and the price of donkey saddles. Gamists can run roughshod over these guys, but their biggest sin is adding game mechanics that feel "gamey" rather than realistic, like "marking" opponents as if we their queen where in check or just ignoring economics like they did here.

I suppose it's a fine balance.

Fulminata said...

I'd say that in 4th Edition there is zero balance between simulation and gamism. It's a totally gamey system.

They are pretty explicit about it in their discussion of such things as the role of character classes in the game.

Personally, I usually am a simulationist (witness my rants on my Traveller pet peeves, a more simulationist RPG). I totally understand where Dave is coming from, but I have no problem so far with the way 4th edition does things, because it's pretty obvious that it isn't their goal to be a simulation of anything other than heroic fiction.

(Oh, and there's no such thing as discussing RPGs too much... unless you're on a date)

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