Wednesday, August 17, 2011
4e Makes You Stupid
Case in point: last night's Vayniris game where I am running 4e. Vayniris is based on Vornheim, which pulls more from earlier D&D, even though Zak has provided monster stats in a 4e format as well. But the monsters still behave like early edition monsters.
The players are going up against a medusa. They know they are going up against a medusa. They are in the medusa's house. The Boy has read all of the Percy Jackson books. The Boy has watched Clash of the Titans. The Boy has read books on Greek mythology. He says 'Shouldn't we go get a mirror?'
The rest of the party just ignores him. They find the medusa. They run at the medusa and begin whacking at it. One character, upon finding out the medusa is so bad ass that he can't even hit it, wanders away from combat and begins looking for something that will help.
He finds . . . what? Can you guess what he finds?
Yeah. So he takes the mirror, shows it to the medusa, and POOF. Game over for the medusa.
It's not that the players are stupid, it's that 4e enforces the GRIND. You have to wear a monster's hit points down all the way from high to low. In standard 4e, that's what you expect, because that's really all there is. There are no shortcuts - short of tossing someone off a 500 foot tall cliff. And even then, the monster might survive.
The Boy kept on telling me "I don't look at it. I attack, and then I look away so when she looks, I can't see her!" There is no mechanic for this in 4e. The entry for the AD&D medusa, however, states that if you go around and not look at the medusa, it will tick her off and she'll come at you with her knife. So not looking WORKS. Showing her a mirror WORKS.
Such outside the box tactics are not part of the 4e mentality. The medusa 4e stat block doesn't say a medusa CAN'T turn herself to stone, but it doesn't imply that she CAN either. The designers don't build the monsters that way. The rules are not arranged around that type of problem solving. And what's worse, as a DM, your brain gets stuck into this mentality as well.
It can get bad. For example, in the RPGA, I've seen people out-think skill challenges and NOT receive the experience points for them, because they went around the skill die rolls needed to properly complete that activity. BLECH.
Remember, back when you were a kid watching monster movies, that each monster had a weakness to be exploited? One silver bullet - one stake through the heart, and the monster was dead. That kind of tradition goes back at least as far as ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks would HATE the hell out of 4e.
But I'll DM 4e for The Boy as long as he wants. I'm just going to continue to try to shake things up and force everyone as far out of the box as possible.
However . . . Pathfinder has gotten it's grip on The Boy - and he's super pumped to play a halfling sorcerer with a black cape, a staff that looks like a scythe, and a little dragon for a familiar. Great. The Boy is going GOTH. If it turns out he likes it, we may never get back to 4e.