A moofable feast.

Be brave enough to burn and you'll be brave enough to fly.

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Immersiveness
polar bear 2
alexandraerin
So, I got an answer to my previous D&D post about broken mechanics... this one concedes that I have some points about the numbers actually working but says the real problem is that the rules, even if they work, "make no sense from an in-character perspective". I got linked to a couple of threads on a forum (the same one I got linked to before) that deal with 4E's lack of "immersiveness".

I find this ridiculous, because immersiveness is not a function of the system but of the DM and the players. That's why I love 4E and it's supposedly "Nothing But Combat" rules system. But the message and the forums contained several specific criticisms I'm going to take the time to address, since it's being claimed that they represent such shockingly ridiculous departures from reality that they make it impossible to forget you're playing a game.



"How is it that a minion takes no damage from a miss on something like a fireball, that does half damage to its boss, but dies from the slightest amount of damage of anything else?"

Ridiculous on its face.

Everybody who plays roleplaying games for "immersion" should already have the understanding that HPs are not a numerical slider tracking you from 100% unwounded to 0% unwounded, i.e., dead. Wounds don't work that way. You can go from totally healed to totally dead in a single wound, in real life, even with a weapon that does 1d4 damage in D&D terms.

But of course, D&D combat is a representation of people/creatures who are exceptional combatants trying very hard not to get killed, so you can't simply say "I stab him in the heart and he is dead." Outside of combat, if you've got an enemy tied up to a chair, it doesn't take a hit roll and a damage roll to kill someone with your 1d4 knife. In combat? It does.*

If you've got an immersive DM (or you're an immersive player, or a combination of the two), you understand that you're not stabbing the evil knight in the heart six times and then the seventh one kills him.... you hit him six times, wounding him and slowing him so that on the seventh hit you can get a good one in and stab his heart, or disembowel him, or take his head off. The actual difference in his bodily integrity between hits 0 and 1 and 6 and 7 are not necessarily that high.

The evil knight's minions are simply not quite in the same league as the evil knight, or the heroes fighting him. One good hit is all it takes to take them down. They can scurry out of the way, they can parry, they can throw a shield out, or any other thing that a "miss" result might represent, but once you get past their defenses you can put them down easily.

Think about the difference between a seasoned fighter and a monster tribe member who was just pressed into combat: the impressee is likely to have a pretty fair idea that it's bad to be where the sharp parts of a sword are and will have one or two ideas for avoiding that, but if you get your sword past its weapon/shield, it's not going to know what to do. The seasoned fighter will be wrenching your weapon with his or hers to turn a solid hit into a graze, turning his or her body, etc.

If a fireball goes off with minions and non-minions in its radius, everybody's going to feel the hurt. The non-minions will be in pain, their skin blackened and burnt, their senses overwhelmed and their reflexes slowed. It isn't that the minions it "misses" aren't likewise hurt... it's that the hurt doesn't cause a significant change in their status. The non-minions it hits without killing.. or "misses" without killing... are now going to be a little bit more killable. The minions? Just as killable. A DM could houserule that minions who are missed by a daily attack power incur stackable defense penalties or something to represent the way the damage does encumber them, but that adds bookkeeping to a game that requires little of it... and anyway, if this were how it worked as written, the same people would still be claiming about the problem of "immersion" when the "fireball kills the big dude, but just makes the little dudes easier to hit."

Of course, if there are minions near the edge of the blast radius, the DM could say that they did throw themselves just outside it. Or that they threw themselves to the ground. Depending on the caliber of the villain and the type of minion, they might just have less dignity... and yeah, a game mechanic shouldn't depend on this always being the case to make in-world sense, and this one doesn't.

It's merely one possibility. If you're actually playing for immersion, there's no reason not to explore them.

The system can't provide immersion in and of itself. There are games out there that have more complex systems of wounding and damage and healing that are more "realistic", but I can't say I've ever had a particularly immersive experience with them. Every time I have to turn my attention away from the unfolding story of the battle to look up some table, it pulls me out a little bit more.

Combat immersion is a DM thing. If my players are fighting agile, shifty minions like kobolds, I'm going to describe how the suckers squirm and dodge out of the way on a miss. If they're fighting big, burly minions like orcs... well, who says every miss is a "miss"? I might treat each miss as a grazing hit but it takes one good solid one to take the guy down.

The opponents of 4E might look at that paragraph and say, "It doesn't address the mechanical problem." And they're right, it doesn't. It addresses the question of immersion. The HP mechanic requires a "fluff cover" to begin with, one that's rarely consistently applied in even the "high roleplaying" groups I've observed... they treat it as 0-100% woundedness, as a life force meter, even though that makes no sense.

They just don't dwell on it and thus it doesn't ruin their roleplaying experience. It's an acceptable break from reality to them.

But the minion mechanic is new and different so it gets dwelt upon... it shakes up the disbelief that's already been suspended. Though if you picture it in your head as the battle would be unfolding, it really adds a whole new layer of realism: you stab the dude, the dude dies. You slash the dude, the dude dies. You put an arrow in the dude, the dude dies. Wounds that are fatal, not merely inconvenient... what a concept! I highlight the minion mechanic for its dramatic potential, but really, that's some harsh reality thrown in there.

"The death and dying rules mean that when you get hit by an attack that takes you down, you don't know until after you've made your saving throw and spent your surge whether or not it's actually a fatal wound or you're able to get back on your feet and start fighting again like nothing happened."

Yeah.

And?

Don't you think that when people take potentially fatal wounds, generally the first clue of whether it's actually fatal or not comes when it either kills you or fails to kill you?

If you're imagining the non-magical healing surge mechanic as time rewinding and wounds disappearing, then yes, this seems ridiculous... but if you're imagining it working that way, you can't be that interested in immersion to begin with.

It always amazes me how much the people who want to talk about immersion also want to treat HP like it's a video game life force bar and then they act like anything that's incompatible with that view is what's being unrealistic.

HP are not an objective measure of health. They're a variable for a Boolean evaluation of the most important component of health as is immediately relevant to a frantic melee battle: CAN YOU KEEP FIGHTING? So long as HP is a non-zero value, you can.

If you're at full HP and you get knocked down to just below 75% by a couple of good hits, and your Warlord uses Inspiring Word on you and now your HP's at 100%, the character in the game world is still just as injured. It's just that the injuries that were threatening to drag him or her down are now no longer an immediate factor. You can't keep doing that forever, though... your body's still suffering a toll... which is why eventually you run out of healing surges.

The same is true when you use your second wind. You're still just as damaged. It just matters less.

And when someone hits you and knocks you below zero, you go down. The blow is enough that the fight goes out of you. Does the fight stay out of you? That depends on a variety of factors, some of which amount to "random" things that may or may not be immediately apparent: were any major arteries nicked, were any organs damaged, etc. Obviously if you make your saving throw and spend a healing surge, your character did not have an arterial gusher that closed itself off.

Is this unrealistic? In real life, people have died from blunt trauma to the head that didn't look so bad (especially to those of us reared on the idea that you can knock someone out with a lead sap and they'll be fine and dandy, if you don't see blood and skull fragments from the initial blow)... and people have survived having blades go through their abdomen or even lodged in their rib cages. In real life, the exact same wounds that have killed some people have failed to kill other people, with no real tangible difference between the ones who laid down and died and the ones who got up again except that the latter... got up again.

Do these people get up and be "just fine"? No. But it's not inconceivable that someone of heroic willpower and determination can get up from a blow you thought would kill them and be "just fine for fighting", which is what the state of Having Any HP At All is.

You can say that divine and arcane healing is actually closing wounds while "martial" healing, like Second Wind and a saving throw-induced healing surge is not. You can handwave the longterm damage done by saying that the divine healers are taking care of it during the long rests.

Don't have a divine healer with you? Hey, battle scars come from somewhere. If you want to immerse yourself in the game, then talk about the bit of metal that's still lodged in your shoulder from the crossbow bolt that took you down, or the scar on your face from the slash, or whatever. There are people in history who went through their lives with holes in their bodies from battles/attacks that almost killed them.

Maybe your character has bandages around the abdomen to keep the insides from spilling outside, after running into one too many kobold pikes. Why doesn't it have a game effect? Who says it doesn't? If someone rolls a crit or maxes out their damage... OUCH. They hit your old war wound. Why doesn't it give you other penalties? Because you've learned to function with it.

If nothing else, a healing surge or the healing from resting can represent exactly that: you've adjusted to the pain. You've compensated for it or moved past it.

I'm sure that the people who see 4E as an immersion killer, if they read this, will howl with laughter and point to it and say, "This dumb bitch says it's implied that you pretend your intestines are falling out every time you fail a death saving throw!" Because that's typically how they seem to respond to suggestions about how to interpret the mechanical results in-character.

But that's what immersion is.

It's not the fault of the game mechanics that you imagine the party rolling out of their sleeping bags every morning looking freshly showered and without a scratch and then say "This thing I'm picturing makes no sense."

"Even if you have someone completely helpless, you still have to grind down their HP to kill them. How does this make sense?"

Under the combat rules for a coup de grace, you still have to roll an attack. Outside of combat, things are left to the DM's discretion, and if your DM says you have to roll initiative, hit, and damage when you say you're slitting the throat of a sleeping guard, your problem is with your DM, not the immersiveness of the mechanics.

Yes, even if your foe is tied up you still can't kill them instantly in combat... a coup de grace in 4E terms is not automatic death but max damage on an attack with combat advantage. Why? For the same reason you get a flanking bonus even if the flanker has no intention of attacking the flankee... because on the side you're supposed to be immersing things in, combat is not playing out in nice little orderly turns and so you have to watch your fucking back. If your Wizard casts sleep on a group of enemies, it can be assumed your character is taking the fucking shot that he or she sees. You get a net bonus to hit for combat advantage... this represents you not having to worry so much about the enemy actively interfering, but your character, in the moment, is not thinking, "It's my turn to act and this dude doesn't even get a chance to wake up until the end of his next turn to act." You don't get to sit there and take unlimited time lining up your sword or axe because "it's your turn". You take the shot you've got.

And if it hits? Maybe you get the heart. Maybe you take off the head. Or maybe it's going to take you a couple of tries. That's not immersive? Before the invention of the guillotine, executions were not that smooth. Executions. Where the guy is bound in ropes and held by a couple of burly guys and he's completely unarmed and there are no enemies about and his head is elevated and his neck extended and braced against something nice and solid, it's still not a guaranteed one-hit kill. Why would it be so when you're trying to hit someone who's on the ground in the middle of a pitched battle?

Your chances of killing the downed foe are better than they would be in another circumstance... a hit is an automatic critical because you do have your pick of targets, and if you manage to do enough damage to bloody the foe with one hit (i.e., half its maximum HPs or more), it is an instant kill.

And you know what? The class that would be really good at spotting a vulnerable point, targeting it really quickly, and hitting it is the Rogue. Rogues deal extra damage on an attack with combat advantage, via their Sneak Attack mechanic. The people who complain about immersiveness are probably going, "So, what, every time the Rogue is in an advantageous spot, their daggers become extra pointy?" No. This damage represents exactly the sort of advantage a skilled killer would have in this situation. In practice, it means the Rogue will whittle through the HP of a helpless foe faster and has a greater chance of doing enough damage to kill them in one.

If somebody is completely off to the side of the battlefield and completely restrained, I'd probably let someone say, "Okay, I kill them.", but in the thick of things? No. Taking the time to grab someone's hair, pull their head back back, slit their throat, making sure you sever the artery and don't just cut them up in a way that will be messy as hell but not immediately fatal is not something you can just do in combat, for the same reason you can't just casually move through the same 5'-by-5' square as your enemy since he doesn't take up the whole thing and he shouldn't be able to move to block you since it's not his turn to go. Stuff's happening. Even when it's your turn.

"How does it make any kind of sense that a fighter can swing a weapon for seven dice of damage but only once a day? I can understand a wizard only being able to do a big spell once, but a fighter?"

I dunno, Sure-Shot. How does it make any kind of sense? If you're expecting the system to provide your immersion for you, you don't need to be playing a roleplaying game... you need to be watching a movie.

Do you think maybe it takes a lot out of you to swing your big fucking metal lever seven times as hard as you normally swing it?

You could start arguing, "Okay, then why can't I split up those extra six dice and swing it three times as hard three times per day?"

Well, that begins to look like an actual argument... but then, this isn't anything new or peculiar to 4E. I've often wondered why an old school wizard with a 20d6 fireball couldn't use that one spell slot to throw off ten 2d6 fireballs, or similar... if you have the arcane knowledge and power to do the big one, what stops you from doing lots of small ones?

For the fighter at least, it could be argued that a human body operating under battle conditions is not a precision tool: you're already swinging your sword at optimal efficiency, at the intersection of a variety of factors: you not hurting yourself, having the best chance of hitting, and doing the most damage. Through practice and training you can learn a few ways to extend that. The random factor of damage and the chance of a critical hit already represent that sometimes you'll see an opportunity to get in a bigger or better hit of a lesser caliber than your daily attack powers, doesn't it?

Really, I'm surprised that the people who complain about the lack of "immersion" coming off 4E's rules aren't complaining about random damage dice in the first place. "So wait, sometimes I hit someone with a sword and it does 1 point of damage and sometimes I hit them with the exact same sword and it does 8 points of damage? WTF? How did the sword get 8 times as good in between two hits?"

Then we get into the meta. Even for the most immersive roleplaying experience, you the player are not the character. If your martial character has an awesome exploit, like nocking fifteen arrows at once and letting them loose in a single burst, or flinging a fistful of daggers and actually having a prayer of them going in point-first on a group of enemies, or whatever, you know that you can try to use it once per day... the character knows that it's difficult and it requires just the right circumstance and it's not the sort of thing that they can pull off every time.

You might try to say it's not "realistic" or "immersive" that you the player can pull "the right circumstances" out of your pants when you're supposed to be controlling the character, but it's no different than you dictating the events of your character's past life and backstory. You're collaborating with the DM, but you're shaping your chararacter's story from start to finish.

The combat mechanics simply generate results in terms of how much closer an enemy is to not being a threat any more. Putting it together is a job for the human imagination. If you require the game system itself to tell you what it all means, you might as well go play a game with twenty million random hit location and critical/fumble tables... and then interrupt play every five rounds to go, "What the fuck, I hit a golem and it says that I spilled its innards!" or "So which of the ettin's heads did I blind and how much does that matter?"

I used to game occasionally with someone who just plain didn't get the idea behind standard roleplaying combat systems. She'd say things like, "But the guy's standing right in front of me doing nothing. How can I miss?" and "But I swung my axe at his neck. If I hit, he's dead. Why do I have to roll damage?" No matter how many times we had the conversation about combat being simultaneous, people not actually standing there and waiting for their turn to hit back, etc., she just didn't get it. I get the same vibe from a lot of the people who complain about the lack of immersiveness in 4E's combat mechanics.

If you want immersion, treat your daily and encounter powers as a diving board and jump in headfirst. Tie them into your character. Maybe you just have to be that pissed off to swing your sword that hard... roleplay it. Maybe it's your father's father's father's sword and you have to call upon the spirit of your ancestors to guide you in times of great need. "The rules don't say that!" Yeah, and if they did say that then anybody who wanted another explanation would have to ignore them. We're talking immersion, not mechanics.

"The combat mechanics break down if you have NPCs who are cognizant. The only way combat works is if you play dumb with the monsters, and that ruins the immersiveness for the DM and the PCs."

Ah, I think this goes back into the idea that if the roles work as intended then it's only because the DM is letting players win.

But the thought is complete: NPCs who are cognizant of what? Of the fact that they are nothing more than a token on a gameboard and a collection of statistics with the goal of opposing another collection of statistics? Because the combat mechanics sure can break down a bit if you play combat like you're playing an MMO on a PvP/non-roleplay server... it's not as inevitable or inexorable as some of the critics say, but I'll grant that if the OMNISCIENT AND OMNIPOTENT STORYTELLER AND REFEREE decides that the damage-dealer or healer has to die first, it's likely to happen.

If you "roleplay" the minions as being cognizant of the fact that they only have a single HP each and if you "roleplay" the monsters as being perfectly aware of their exact chance of hitting or missing a given target, then the combat roles can break down... especially if that "perfect awareness" is actually imperfect and you fail to understand that a difference of 10% or 15% on a d20 roll that has less than a 100% base chance of success can result in far more than 10% or 15% hits.

I would really say that the root of this supposed "problem" is that the DMs in question aren't immersing themselves to begin with. They're immersing themselves in the game of dice rolling and token moving, not the gameworld of monsters and weapons and armor.

First of all, chances are excellent that the minions have never fought someone like the PCs before but that they have fought. LOTRs notwithstanding, level seven orc warrior minions aren't churned out of an orc warrior factory... these are experienced fighters who have fought and killed other orcs, humans, elves, etc. ("But how did they do it and not die with just one HP?" Yeah, I'm not sure "immersive" means what you think it means.) But nobody they faced ever proved to be enough of a challenge until they fight the party of PCs.

This is not "contrived." It's not "convenient." It's axiomatic. Everybody is undefeatable until they fight the person who can defeat them.

So you have this line of orc warriors who think they're hot shit. And they come up to the party and the Fighter (Paladin/Warden/Swordmage) steps up to challenge them.

You don't have to play dumb to take that challenge. You just have to play a horde of orc warriors who think they're hot shit, who have smashed every challenger who came before.

And until they know that the scrawny guy in back is a powerful mage who can toast half of them with one go, until they know that the fighter who's challenging them is strong enough to cleave through one of them and hit another, why wouldn't they stand bunched up? Massed charges probably won them a lot of battles. They wouldn't have gotten them through many fights with level 7 PCs, but again, this is the first time they're having one.

How is it "immersive" to play them like they've got copies of the rulebook and the character sheets?

When I run a combat, barring exceptional circumstances, it goes like this: the PCs who are leading the charge into combat draw the most ire at the beginning. If there are archers or the like who are at a remove from the action, they distribute their attacks more evenly to begin with. Thereafter, each turn, unless something highly significant has just happened, each monster/enemy will attack the most convenient target. Archers continue to distribute their attacks, though if it emerges that a few of the PCs are more obviously threats than the others, they'll split attacks between them instead of the whole party. This usually means the Defender, who they can see trading blows with two or three of their teammates, or with the biggest one, and whoever's wreaked the most devastation as a Striker or Controller.

If there's a single artillery character... a "sniper-type" like a non-minion archer or an enemy mage or whatever, they're more selective in their targeting because it's probably a smarter character and they're watching the battlefield from a distance... they'll recognize what the Leader is doing to hold together the cohesion of the enemies, or they'll notice that the Rogue is being less obvious but is doing craploads of damage at semi regular intervals.

What in there sounds like playing stupid? The fact that I'm not crunching numbers and then moving the gamepieces around like... gamepieces? Gah. I can't imagine anybody finding it "immersive" to play that way.

In the big climactic mass battle at the end of my last session's action portion, the PCs were fighting a combined team of several of their enemies. These guys knew the score. They didn't stand bunched up because they'd experienced the Wizard's powers. The team tactician, knowing they'd be fighting enemies who knew her capabilities, had her prepare her previously unused spell Flaming Sphere, to great effect.

Yes, I "played dumb" in that I didn't bestow upon this motley collection of kobolds, thieves, and assorted mercenaries the details of every spell in the PHB or the knowledge of the specific ones this Wizard had that they had never seen. There was an NPC Rogue sneaking up on the Wizard for a good deal of the fight. I could have gone even further and put in someone who could take the Wizard out from a distance to contend with her Thunderwave spell, but their intel was that the Wizard fought from a distance.

Doing this is the opposite of immersive, somehow?

This fight was harder for the PCs because the NPC tactics reflected knowledge of their capabilities and favored strategies. The (minion) archers who had survived a previous fight waited until the PCs were engaged to come out of the woods, where they stood some distance apart.

I could have done more... I could have taken the pieces I had on the board (double the standard XP value for a level seven encounter) and wiped out the PCs, but I couldn't have done so immersively. I kept the NPCs acting realistically.

"Monster versions of spellcasters and rogues have different sets of special abilities that players can't get, for no reason except 'just because'."

To me, one of the least immersive things about older editions is that everybody's got the same spells and everybody's magic works the exact same way 'just because'.

That's why I love 4E's embrace of player-driven fluff, and the fact that Wizards can't just buy/find more spells. Between the two, it's a lot easier to imagine each Wizard's magic as something unique and distinct. Not every Wizard is going to know how to cast a Sleep spell, and because there's less of a "catalogue" feel to it, if one Wizard says that his spell produces a soft orange sparkly cloud and another Wizard says hers plays a soothing lullaby that only the targets can hear, it's harder for anyone to say, "No, it doesn't."

Of course, this prompts more complaints that there should be some kind of consistency, but who says there isn't? Those Wizards learned their spells from somewhere. Somebody's teaching apprentices the lullaby spell and someone's teaching Wizards the orange pixie sleep gas spell.

3E was, as I've said elsewhere, a model of modularity... and a result of that was that if you encountered a monster/NPC who could do something, chances were good that you could do it, too. 4E's moved away from that, and the result is that it's a model of inventiveness. If I want to make a necromancer whose signature attack spell is conjuring a shrieking skull and throwing it at the player characters, I don't have to find one that does that. I just make an attack of the appropriate level, with the appropriate dice and hit modifier, and I call it Shrieking Skull, and I flavor it like-a-so. A player character wants to do the same thing?

Hey, there's a generic attack spell called "magic missile". If you want to say it's a shrieking skull, go for it. It's always been counter-immersive to me to imagine a world full of Wizards where the most common way they strike out with magic is to cast a spell called "magic missile" that creates a boring streak of glowy force effects. I've always read the spell's name as descriptive... these are the generic stats for a missile conjured with magical energy. If I'm DMing for a Wizard with magic missile or a Warlock with eldritch blast, I'm going to encourage them to treat these attack spells as not being the signature of their class but a personal signature. A shrieking skull? A silver falcon with talons flashing?

To bring this back around to monsters/NPCs... the fact that the DMs and designers are free to make shit up to differentiate the orc priest of this village from the kobold priest of that village and they're both different from the war priest of Kord traveling with the party shouldn't be an impediment to immersion. And it's not like making shit up is a one-way street.

"The world economy makes no sense."

This was actually brought up by someone (Stormcaller, maybe?) on one of my previous posts. My basic response is that the world economy is not detailed... only its intersection with player characters. The rules detail how much treasure PCs should find and they are formulated so that no character build can turn into a gold mill by churning out items for sale. This is for balance reasons. If you don't like these rules, you don't have to play by them... but note that me saying this is not an admission that the system is broken, because the objection to these rules is not mechanical but flavorful, and the flavor objection rests on the assumption that the world economy is based on PCs buying and selling magic items.

If you're postulating a world in which the entire society works according to guidelines made up in another universe so that people pretending to have adventures in the universe can have a fair and balanced expectation of returns for their efforts, you're either not playing immersively in the first place or you're immersing yourself in a meta-aware setting like Order of the Stick.

If players want to make money off their enchantments or alchemical creations or linguist feat or whatever, you don't have to say "You Can't Get Ye Flask" and leave them to imagine why. It's actually a very simple thing to say that when the character is not adventuring, they are a gentleman farmer or a scholar or second apprentice bunghole driller or whatever... and not worry about their income by the same light that you don't worry about their living expenses during the six months between the Quest of the Sacred Cave and the Adventure of the Holy Cavern. The game rules only care about adventuring. That doesn't mean that's all there is to the world, or to your characters.

I went to high school with a girl who said, to someone who was going off to major in computer sciences, "I don't know about computers. They seem good, but there's nothing about them in the Bible." What an absurdly restrictive worldview... if it's not in the book, it doesn't exist. If it's not in the book, you can't do it.

And what if you want your characters' profession to be more than background detail? Adventure Hook! When one of my player characters wanted to make some money off her alchemy skill, I made the players go through the equivalent of a skill challenge to find and locate a buyer in the local wretched hive of scum and villainy. It ended with a tense confrontation with the hobgoblin mafia in a backalley warren. At the end of the day, she brokered a deal that will give her the gold equivalent she'd get for beating an encounter. When the time comes to renew the deal, maybe the hobgoblins will decide the party needs to prove their trustworthiness by taking out a double-dealer. Maybe someone will come to sabotage the shipment and they'll have to protect it.

This is all with me staying within the broad ground rules of "you defeat encounters/challenges, you get treasure". I could also just fiat that she gets X gold per month from it, or roll dice, or whatever, but I think "we'll assume you can essentially just manage to break even, unless you get out there and make things happen" is a pretty decent model for a character starting a small business in a crowded market, don't you? A little generous, maybe, but then, the character's already assumed to be exceptional.

If they had "realistic" rules for a whole economy, the sorts of businesses player characters could set up in their non-adventuring time would net such a small benefit, such a tiny profit margin, that most people would look at it and go, "They used up pages in the rulebook for THIS? What a ripoff!" Most RPGs that include economic activity give payouts that are unrealistic to begin with, and the munchkins and number crunchers figure out how to wring out every last drop from them.

...

I could keep going, but really, this is the most pointless post I'll ever make, as it is. The people who are making these "points" I'm refuting seem to have such a strange idea of what it means for a game experience to be "immersive" that I don't think I could ever see eye to eye with them.

They're imagining that the game is supposed to be played like it's a video game with a health bar and then complaining about that. They're imagining the world that the rulebooks deal with one aspect of (adventuring) must be like that of Order of the Stick or Goblins and then saying, "I don't want to play in a world like this."

It's just bizarre to me.

I agree with you that most people complaining about immersion aren't thinking hard enough about it.

But you really can't blame people for being confused about healing surges when all DnD leading up to it (including stories with a healing system inspired by DnD-style RPGs, such as ToMU) has represented hitpoint restoration mechanics as being represented by wounds literally closing up, something that *always* broke immersion for me. Why is Cure *Light* Wounds capable of healing 99% of the world's humanoid inhabitants from "on death's door" to "perfectly fine now thanks", and why does it mean less to a guy who's only claim to fame is that he's been fighting in dungeons for a long time?

This was an issue long before healing surges existed, really.

Well, that's just it... if they were talking about the problems of HP in general, I could see them being confused though I'd hope that once they saw what 4E's really going for they'd go, "Oh, that actually makes more sense."

But they're holding this up as a brand new problem that 4E introduced or exacerbated.

And incidentally? All healing that's above the "here's a couple points as a small side benefit of this other thing" is now based on surge value, so it does scale up like you'd expect it to... Cure Light Wounds always heals 25% of your maximum HP, Cure Moderate Wounds always heals 50%... even interpreting HPs as "how dead you are", the same spell that brings you back from half dead at level one will do the same at level 30.

Yeah, but I'd say 4E did kind of exacerbate one problem that already existed even if it did "fix" healing spells. If by "exacerbate" you mean "bring to one's attention a less-obvious problem with HP/Healing conceptualization, one that everyone made from the very beginning, even you and me."

If healing surges are equated with cure spells, and cure spells are already equated with "wound-closing-you're fine-no-scar" (complete with some BS about why CLW works miracles on anyone but an experienced adventurer) then the only rationalization that doesn't involve retroactive concept shifts (clerical healing is just as abstract as hitpoints, no magic wound fixing for you!) is that healing surges work *exactly* like the previously understood concept of divine healing even outside the mechanics; no surprise that that is a sticking point.

I'd also say that the retroactive concept shift--which comes to the same basic conclusion as the immersion-breaking one in that it conceptualizes clerical healing as identical in scope to healing surges, but flips it around so that healing was always only a metaphor--is the only way to satisfactorily resolve this now-more-obvious problem.

Yeah, I just can't agree with you. You're making some logical leaps that are just that... leaps... and treating them as if we should take them as given.

Who said that clerical healing is equated to healing surges?

I said the value of HP restored is equal to it.

But there is no Law Of Meta-Cosic Convergence that decrees that if the immediate net benefit of Actual Wound Healing Clerical Powers or Magical Healing Potions is mathematically equal to the value of a non-magical resurgence ability then they must be representing the same thing in game terms.

That's like saying if a falchion attack by someone with Strength mod +3 does 2d4 +3 damage and a magic missile by someone with Intelligence mod +3 does 2d4 +3 damage, then the only logical conclusion is that the wizard is throwing a falchion.

Is it obvious that the wizard must be throwing a falchion?

If not, then I don't see how the problem you're positing is obvious, either.

Edited To Add:

And there's actually an important distinction to make, with regards to Cure Light Wounds and its bigger brothers - while the amount of HP restored is based on the recipient's healing surge value, they actually don't cost the recipient a healing surge to use. At a mechanical level, the damage is just gone, in a way that it isn't when an ability triggers an actual healing surge some other way.

Likewise the Paladin's lay on hands ability, pretty uniquely so far, costs the user a healing surge rather than the recipient... the toll passes to the Paladin.


Edited at 2009-07-21 09:12 pm (UTC)

Healing surges not eating a use makes things a bit better, but still a little weird, mostly because the net effects are still the same. It's identical to if you gave someone a free healing surge that you just used instantly, with the same in-game and meta effects as a real healing surge.

It's just hard to buy that if the only differences are cosmetic that there's a difference at all. (the thing about the falchions is different since not only does "magic missile" does not reference falchions, but there are separate calculations made when you activate them).

Say that we accept that divine magic is "true" healing while healing surges are simply adrenaline boosts mixed with renewed focus. Some of the complications associated with not getting "true" healing can be modeled with enough mental contortions; your "hit an old war wound with crit" example. But others cannot. Stuff like infection or bloodloss, for example, or anything that would logically differentiate surges from true healing. True healing may fix a sprained ankle, but trying to fix that with a surge would result in a temporary fix at best (lasts as long as your focus does) *at least relative to true healing*, whereas the model treats it as equally permanent, regardless of any other factors that may or may not be in play.

This does not necessarily imply that healing surges are instantaneous wound closing; perhaps a healing surge simply keeps you functioning "well enough" with a sprained ankle, until it is healed in a week or so. But then why does CLW have the same effect, even though it's supposedly perfect healing? It's a lot easier just to consider CLW as much of an abstract non-wound-closing form of healing as healing surges are.

I don't follow your logic at all. I really don't. What you're presenting as the most straightforward and logical and obvious conclusion seems to me to be a torturous stretch.

Separate calculations? 2d4+3. 2d4+3. If you think it's coincidence that magic missile does as much damage as a pretty good weapon attack... that's a deliberate design choice, just as it's a deliberate design choice to have 25% be the base amount of HP restored by most healing. They call this the "surge value" because that's how much you get when you surge, and because you've already figured it out, non-surge-using healing spells reference it.

CLW's only relationship to healing surges is that it heals the same amount of HP. You might as well say that a two hundred foot drop is the same as an ancient red dragon because they can both kill a level one character.

What exactly prevents a CLW's true healing effects from being represented by the same amount of restored HP as a healing surge? If CLW arbitrarily restored 20% or 30% of your HP instead of 25% (surge value), would you have an easier time accepting that it was something different?

And the fact that it doesn't use up a surge is non-trivial... it blows your model out of the water entirely. If I use my second wind to "shrug off" a wound, I have to rest to regain that healing surge... the body has to recuperate. If I receive a CLW, the damage is just gone. Saying "It's like receiving and immediately using an extra healing surge" is adding two steps... two steps... to the process that are only required if we must account for your conclusion that divine/supernatural healing and martial/mundane healing must be the same thing.

Deleted comment; sorry I didn't see your earlier post about distraction. I'll repost tomorrow or abstain if you prefer.

It's okay, I read the comment notification in my email.

And your logic does fail. I'm not trying to be belligerent. I've shown you the gap. You have yet to fill it in for me. Your explanation requires us to invent steps that don't exist if we don't invent them. It's a violation of Occam's Razor.

First, "different calculations, schmifferent schmalculations". If a Warlord inspires you, you use one healing surge and regain your surge value + xd6, whereas if you use your second wind you use one healing surge and regain your surge value, period. Other things that involve healing surges or invoke the surge value without using one add different modifiers.

It's the concept of "surge value" that they share among each other, and that's nothing more than a base amount, said amount being "25% of your HP". What I am saying and what you are ignoring is the fact that all these healing methods use that same base is a matter of the consistency of mechanical design that is no different than the same consistency which means that at-will spells have base damage values that are equivalent to ordinary weapons.

2d4 is 2d4. 25% of HP is 25% of HP.

You want to ascribe in-world significance to the one pattern but not the other. I don't find that logical.

And if we're going to assume that Cure Light Wounds replenishes a healing surge and then takes it away, why not assume it inflicts 20 damage and heals [healing surge value +20] in the same moment? The answer is that we don't need to add that extra step in to account for what's happening so there's no reason to assume it's happening and in fact we'd look kind of cross-eyed at anyone who suggested it was happening.

A lost healing surge is the mechanical indication of "actual damage", accumulated fatigue and injury that lasts after the immediate shock and pain of combat. If one method of healing actually uses healing surges (subtracting one from your stock) and the other simply uses it as an already existing benchmark for how much HP you get back, I'd call that fact significant. It means they aren't doing the same thing mechanically, which means it's not likely they're doing the same thing in-character, and since the thing that a healing surge use does that a cure light wounds doesn't do is the thing that the system uses to represent lasting damage, I don't see how it's logical to conclude that the CLW is behaving the way you would describe it.

That part that's bolded isn't bolded for shouting; it's bolded because it's the crux of the matter. The rest... talk about what is or isn't the same calculation... I think it lends weight to my side, but that's the core of the argument: they do two different things, and the thing they do different involves the game's value for "the toll your body has taken".

At the end of the day, this is a matter of flavor/fluff rather than mechanics and you're welcome to play it your way if it ever comes up. But divine, miraculous, supernatural, or magical healing being actually divine, miraculous, supernatural, or magical isn't some D&D trope that doesn't exist outside of D&D-influenced fantasy. Jesus did not say, "Lazarus, come forth... and shake it off! Me Christ, it's just a flesh wound!"

I mean, I could probably think of works of near-fantasy/low-fantasy I've read where "divine" healing turned out to be really effective psychosomatic stuff, but this game actually has stats for deities. When it says that a Cleric's abilities work through divine power, I think we can take them at their word. And this gets back to why I was talking about magic missiles and falchions... you ask why it's so important that they work differently in-character. It's the same reason that magic missiles and falchions work differently in-character even though they both employ the same mechanics (roll dice, add modifier, subtract total from HP): one is a mundane martial implement and one is an arcane spell.

Edit:

Actually, I'm going to amend it... the real crux of it is, you can play it however you want. I stand firm that your way makes absolutely no sense to me, but it doesn't have to.

Edited at 2009-07-22 07:22 am (UTC)

My problem (illustrated by the lengthy now-deleted example that I guess you read half of?) is still that any mechanical differences between CLW and healing surges only last a day, no matter how badly you were injured. To me, that's like saying they're basically identical in effect, given the nature of injuries, it's just that CLW has a temporary advantage attached to it.

Sure, a cleric's healing does work differently than the warlock's inspiration power, but both of them work differently from a paladin's Lay on Hands, and I definitely don't envision that as wounds disappearing from the layee's body and appearing on the layer's (which he then endures through willpower), or some sort of psionic shit like that. I think of it as working the same way as clerical healing/surges, which has identical effects and complications as a healing surge (including blood loss/infection if you want to tack those on)

And when I think of fantasy healing not based on DnD, I think of several things (and I don't even have to use the p-word to do it!) that aren't "okay you're absolutely perfect now!": the first and most obvious is the magic speeding up your natural healing processes, which is equatable to the free healing surge analogy I mentioned earlier, which will result in some wound closure, but doesn't erase it perfectly even if you're technically at "full" hp. There is "your wounds are still there but I magically strengthen your chakra/ki/Essence so you heal faster." aka "homeopathy really exists and I'm using it now, kthnx." It's still magic.

I also conceptualize hp and healing surges as representing different things from each other, whereas in yours, a healing surge expenditure changes what a wound is represented by (at first it was represented by HP loss, now it is represented by a lost surge). I think of HP as the net effect of wounds on a person; healing surges are the willpower to ignore them (also your body's ability to clot them and resist infection). Neither of which require "divine perfection," even if they might be aided by deities if you really need it.

I tend to think of clerical healing as letting your god shoulder your burden without depleting your reserves. Lay on Hands then involves the Paladin shouldering the burden without depleting the woundee's reserves.

Somehow though I feel we've had this argument before in a different context. It might help if I can see where you're coming from on this too?

I was actually thinking along the lines that a healing surge = divine wound closure right up until the point that I started reading about the Warlord, at which point the whole concept just sort of folded up, slipped into its carrying case, and was shipped off to parts unknown.

The warlord has no divine power, nor any ability to make wounds close up. All the descriptions are very much more in line with cinematic healing: the action hero gets shot in the shoulder, or maybe gets hit with some sort of sharp industrial tool, and he's hurt. But a scene change later, or just a moment to harden up his determination to win, and he's right back at it. Blood's still there. Hole in his shoulder? Still there. But he's using that arm again.

I'd almost say they're akin to analgesics- no actual healing, but the pain's gone.


It always amazes me how much the people who want to talk about immersion also want to treat HP like it's a video game life force bar and then they act like anything that's incompatible with that view is what's being unrealistic.

THIS. The video-gaming of tabletop really annoys me. But I am also going to be the one who argues that the immersiveness of a game is only as deep as its DM-- no rule, or lack of a rule, is going to do it for them, or for the players for that matter.

Well, yeah, that was kind of my overall point... or rather I'd say that it's a collaboration between the DM and the player. But I do agree with the general point that weirdly arbitrary rules can jar you out of immersion. The thing is, you have to be immersed to begin with for that to matter.

Pretty much... basically, I agree with what you've said in this post, overall.

The part I find most amusing about this is putting it in juxtaposition to complaints that 4th edition makes D&D too much like a video game because it 'feels' like an MMO rather than an RPG with all the powers, quick recovery, and so on.

I've heard that one too, but it seems to me that the main difference between tabletop and an mmo isn't in the ruleset, it's in the fundamentals-- is the story being told my computers with limited response options, or by a DM's interaction with the players? I don't have a problem with additional powers and abilities given to players, and I don't think that those alone make it more like a video game.

Now, DMs coming up with stories that involve collecting 5 of this and killing 10 of that to gain rewards... that would would be making D&D like an mmo, imho.

What's really hilarious is that one person on the forum said they were going to, as "satire", set up a game in a public place with five people who would all sit there and play D&D4E and act like it was an MMO and ham up the "video gamey" stuff to prove a point... about the system mechanics, somehow.

Silly sidenote to your point about magic missle. In my head it always I took it kinda literally. I always pictured bolts zooming out in all directions with glowing contrails, then homing in on the target Macross style. I loved busting out with 5 at once at level nine. Always made my day.

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

alexandraerin

2009-07-22 05:42 am (UTC)

Yeah, the fact that you can only cast one at a time is something where I feel 4E has suffered a bit of a lamentable loss from previous editions, just because that was such a part of the spell for me.

I have a homebrew variation called Magic Missiles that trades the damage modifier to split it up into multiple missiles of 1d4 each... so two missiles at level 1, and as many as four missiles when you hit the highest tier. To me, hitting more targets for less damage is more controllery, anyway.

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

luke_licens

2009-07-22 06:06 am (UTC)

Have you playtested it against minions yet? It looks to me like it might be unbalanced to give an at-will multi-target power considering its ability to auto-splat them even at high levels. What about Feating into it as an encounter power, like the 'multiclassing' powers?

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

alexandraerin

2009-07-22 07:20 am (UTC)

It's really strongly based on the Ranger's Twin Strike, which can already target two minions at level one. The main differences are lower base damage than a Ranger weapon, higher effective range, and the further subdivision at level 21 instead of doing extra damage.

Anyway, Thunderwave can target up to nine minions at level one. So can Scorching Burst. Both are at-will. You're not likely to get nine minions standing in a perfect square, but it's not hard to get two or three, sometimes plus a non-minion. Hitting all of them is another matter. Minions don't autosplat unless you hit them.

Magic Missiles is actually underpowered against multiple targets, compared to those spells. Its advantage is its flexibility: the targets don't have to be bunched up.

That... apart from nostalgia... is the main reason I think this would be a good addition for Wizards. Minion-splatting strikes me as the domain of a Controller.

The real damage concern would be when you start getting implements with enhancement bonuses. For multi-attack powers, those stack per attack. No advantage over the blast powers when targeting multiple opponents, but if you launch all the missiles at one... and they all hit... it could be taking a lot of damage from your wand's pluses.

Of course, again, hitting's far from a sure thing in this edition. But after seeing how it goes in playtest, I might explicitly make it so that each missile has to target a different enemy.

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

luke_licens

2009-07-22 07:59 am (UTC)

Excellent point about Thunderwave. I completely brainsneezed that particular power. Have you considered making it chaining, with the requirement that the next target be different than the current one? Something like:

Attack: Intelligence vs Reflex
Target: one creature
Hit: 1d4 damage. Make a Secondary Attack
Secondary Target: one creature other than the previous target
Secondary Attack: Intelligence vs Reflex
Hit: 1d4 damage.

At level 11, you may make a second Secondary Attack after the first. At level 21, you may make a third Secondary Attack after resolving the second.

So, at the extremes, you could pop 2 guys twice or four guys once. And I'm not sure what you do if there's only one badguy left. Pop the second one on the Fighter and forgo the final one?

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

luke_licens

2009-07-22 08:12 am (UTC)

Correction: the Make a Secondary Attack shouldn't be tied to the initial hit. You make it, and all the others, regardless of whether the 'previous' attack hits or misses.

Re: Magic Missle Massacre

luke_licens

2009-07-22 08:26 am (UTC)

Pardon my spamming. Latenight stream of conciousness. Knowing the results before assigning the attacks may be just as broken. Maybe:

Target: 2 creatures
..
Hit: 1d4

At level 11 you may target up to 3 creatures, or increase the damage against one target by 1d4. At level 21 you may target up to 4 creatures, or increase the damage on up to 2 creatures by 1d4.

I'm not sure that's quite right either, but it's getting closer and I'm too tired to see the flaw ATM.

And it hardly matters at all unless the implement stacking on your original version flops the playtesting.

You are viewing alexandraerin