01 February 2008

Per encounter abilities

Listening to the D&D podcast, they talked about “per encounter” abilities in fourth edition. Abilities that can basically be used once-per-fight. It’s also something I’ve been experiencing in the Star Wars Saga Edition. On one level, “per encounter” abilities are very artificial or meta-game-ish. Put simply, there’s seldom a good “in character” explanation for such things. On the other hand, though, in movies, literature, real-life, etc., heroes don’t tend to have a signature move that they use almost to the exclusion of all else. In games, however, that’s an easy thing to fall into. Trying to make the rules emulate the real reason for this dichotomy—I think—is both hard and tends to led to unnecessary complication. So, I’m thinking that “per encounter” abilities can actually be a very abstract way to improve simulation (whether you’re simulating reality or fiction). Improving the simulation without overly complicating the rules. The difficulty may lie in figuring out how to not make them feel artificial “in character”.


Anonymous Dimwit said...

Hey there, it's jackschmidt from the Wizards forum. The newbie who has the RC book. Nice entry and it's only now that 4E has come to my attention. Don't know a lot about it, but I'll stick with RC for now.

By the way, may I link your blog from mine?

Thanks. :)

Robert said...

Thanks for the comment!

And, of course, I'd be happy for you to link to my blog.

Wizards may not have the best RPG designers on the planet. Wizards may not be the best environment for great RPG design. But they do have good RPG designers and it isn't the worst environment for RPG design. I think it will be an amazing feat if they manage to create an edition of D&D that I'll refuse to play. But I don't expect it to keep me from wanting to play B/X D&D or Dungeon Squad or any other game.

Likewise, I no longer feel that any of the older editions are obsolete. I've come to appreciate them on their own terms. They were fun when they came out, and if you don't bring expectations for them to be something other than what they are, they are still fun now.

Which kind of works in reverse for the grognard. If you judge 4e through the lens of the older editions, you won't be able to appreciate it for what it is. In my mind, I'll be calling it "Wizards of the Coast's 2008 fantasy RPG". Because, for me, D&D will always mean B/X and AD&D will always mean first edition.

True gamers--in my experience--are willing to play nigh any game that someone is willing to run. As much fun as I have comparing and contrasting them, I try never to lose sight of that.

Anonymous Dimwit said...

Thanks a lot sir.

I totally agree with you, although the last time I tried reading 3E, I just went... WTF. I had the stupidest assessment of armor back when I played NWN and decided that at armor class 0 the game was extremely generous. Haha.

Each edition has its own intricacies and its own caveats. At the end of the day, I would rather strip the rules and do roleplaying in a very malleable state of rules.