[D&D 4e] Why does D&D 4e move slowly?

edited August 2012 in Story Games
In this post JonB writes, "Savage worlds is [easy to play / fun / tactical mapping without taking hours, like 4e D&D does."

Would someone please elaborate?

I have never played D&D 4e. In case it helps write a reply, know that I have checked out the (first) Player's Handbook from the local library, and so understand somewhat that virtues and problems of having the various character classes so similar. But that is a very different issue from "combat moves at a glacial pace", which I have also heard before.

Should I ask a more specific question. Perhaps "What slows down 4e compared to D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder?"
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Comments

  • From my own experience, it takes an inordinate amount of time because of the combination of an intense need for tactics, a huge arsenal of powers, and the prevalence of off-turn actions. Combat is built for everyone to always be taking the optimal action to beat the enemy, and that means that on your turn you're going to be sorting through your powers (tough if they're on cards, even harder if you're page-flipping, incredibly hard if you only have one or two copies of the appropriate book or if you have 5 books to flip through) for the best one - EVERY turn, and every one of your teammates will do the same. Couple this with off-turn actions, the Immediate Reactions and Interrupts, and now after every action everyone involved is looking through every one of their powers to see if they can stop it or react to it. This is compounded by the fact that, even when you're not rifling through powers, you still take a bit of time to think about what you're actually trying to accomplish before you even get to HOW you want to do that.
    This can make for some very strategy-building play that potentially has the players all collaborating to try to take down an encounter, but it does make the game run very slowly. Hence why probably the second-most-common house rule I've heard of is to put a time limit on each turn.

    Keeping track of miniatures wouldn't be so bad if there weren't a lot of fiddly conditions to keep track of on them individually - 4e did a good job of easing the issue of "when does it go away" by restricting to end of next turn and "save ends", but there's a lot of tiny conditions and modifiers being tossed around by Zones from the Controllers, Marking by the defenders, buffs and such from the Leaders, and the targeting mechanics of the Strikers (eg Hunter's Quarry or Warlock's Curse). So when you're making actions, even once you've determined the power to be used, whether there's any interrupts or reactions, and you know what you're doing, you have to look around and see if there's conditions or terrain or whatever changing things. 3.5 and Pathfinder have this to a degree, but in my estimation it was less common.

    And probably the other big factor is the HP to damage ratio. Monsters that aren't minions, especially solo monsters, are huge bags of health and you do vastly less damage than you would average in 3.5 or Pathfinder, or at least vastly less than my group would average. During development, they said they recognized that combat being over in like 5 rounds was an issue, and they seem to have extended it by making monsters take a million hits. Add this to the fact that individual turns take forever and your combats take a very, VERY long time. This piece is why probably THE most common house rule is to half your monsters' hp and double their damage.

    Now, maybe I'm wrong. We didn't play 4e for long either of the times we tried it out - we ran into this issue, speed. I'm also guessing that familiarity over time with your own powers will do quite a bit to speed things up. But this is what I've worked out as the problems behind speed for us.
  • Thanks for a very detailed reply!

    I played Pathfinder's Kingmaker campaign up through ninth level. My character was a debuffer (Hedge Witch) and the party also had a buffer (Bard). For my own personal taste, combat seemed slow and overly detailed, for similar reasons.

    (a) Not every Player was familiar with their PC's powers. Choosing which action to take could take time.

    (b) The game has too many rules. For example, the Bard tries to intimidate a troll. Does this work? The Player of the Bard looks up his numeric skill value and adds this to the roll of a d20. By how much does he exceed the target number? What was the formula for that seldom-used skill's target number again (flip pages)? Oh yeah, the troll is of a bigger size category, does that matter (flip pages again)? Does it matter that the Bard and troll speak different languages (flip pages again)? Etc.

    (c) The game had too many numbers. To that same intimidate attempt we increase the Bard's total by a bit because he is orating and has recently cast Good Hope. We also add a bit because a cohort is aiding the Bard's attempt. We also reduce the target number because the Witch has used her Evil Eye on the troll. Etc.

    (d) The game had too many flavors of numbers. Bonuses to die rolls could be flavored as "morale", "competence", "enhancement", "luck", "sacred", or a half dozen other adjectives. With one exception bonuses of the same flavor did not stack: only the higher counted. So not only were we awash with modifiers, but we also had to keep track of which modifiers played nice with each other.

    (e) The out-of-turn actions. These happened rarely, since our PCs happened to have few out-of-turn powers. Most common was how the Bard could stop orating out-of-turn to allow any ally to retry a saving throw die roll.

    It seemed absurd to me that the Player of our party's Fighter made up a spreadsheet to alter his to-hit and damage formulas based upon the plethora of common circumstances. (He was usually benefiting from one or more of Inspire Courage, Good Hope, Enlarge Person, Bless, Prayer, Guidance, Aid Another,...)
  • No problem! Been thinking a lot about 4e's issues in some of my examinations of D&D Next so it's been on my mind.

    Oh, both a buffer and a debuffer is a nasty combo for speed. I guess a very simple way of stating it is that 4e is like every character is playing a different flavor of 3.5/Pathfinder caster. Of those issues that came up in your Pathfinder game they're very similar to the issues of 4e with a couple key differences. 4e seems to have done an admirable job of simplifying all the number flavors down to a pretty small list, though I can't think of them off-hand. However, yeah, off-turn actions are a much bigger thing, though it takes a couple levels to get them. A character built around capitalizing on them would slow the game immensely - of course, 3.5/Pathfinder had its own characters who could be built to slow down the game, namely any major Summoners or Zookeeper Druids.
    As for too many rules, it didn't move back or forward but laterally instead. Instead of a ton of tiny rules, it seems to be a core set of simple across-the-board rules, but so many powers make tiny exceptions to these rules so you're still looking 'em up for what they do. Exceptions-based rules design is interesting, but it didn't do much to prevent tons of fiddly bits (though if you make Power Cards it cuts down on page-flipping at least).

    Thankfully, unlike 3.5/Pathfinder, 4e eventually stops getting longer and longer as your levels raise, thanks to a maximum number of powers that after that point you start swapping instead of adding new powers, unlike 3.5/PF's wizards and, worse, 3.5's Clerics who just get more and more and more spells as you level.

    From what I can tell, the Essentials stuff DID take a bit of the speed issue away, mostly by making classes look a little more 3.5-ish, and generally lessening the total number of powers you have to throw around.
  • In my very limited experience of 4E, each battle lasted a hour at least, "boss battles" lasting longer. This was low level play (thus, each player had only a short list of Powers to parse before setting on their move) and everybody in the group was psyched about the game, with very optimized characters, thinking up tactics when it was not their own turn (or they weren't at the game), plus we coordinated well: I think we were fast thinkers and waltzed through most battles comparatively fast, crushing and humiliating our (balanced) opposition with ease. Since we were using 2x experience rules, I think there were five or six encounters to an adventure? Outside of battles (or skill challenges) we only played short, colorful vignettes which set us up for the next combat encounter. This way, it still took us three sessions per experience level - meeting every other week. It was way too slow for people used to a variety of role-playing games, and our enthusiasm for 4E soon died out.
    (As a point of comparison, though, my own experience with 3E, which lasted six or seven years of near-weekly play, was that it was even slower.)
  • Nah, it doesn't take that long once you have it figured out. If you haven't played it a lot it goes slow, though. Like every other game.
  • Has anyone had much experience with how all this compares to Essentials Edition? I know a lot of people gave up on fourth after some playtesting of it early in it's life, but some of the issues I'm seeing here were directly addressed by later material.
  • If I were going to go in and clean up 4e to run faster, I think the very first thing I would do is to provide a small and simple list of Conditions, and have some means of easily tracking them as part of either the character sheet or the components that came in the box. The second thing I would do would be to cut down on fiddly little modifiers as much as possible. One of the things that D&D Next definitely did right was to introduce the Advantage/Disadvantage system that lets you do away with most of those.

    The ratio of HP to damage was definitely off. It got significantly better as of Monster Manual 3, but probably could still use some fine-tuning all the same.

    And there is a definitely learning curve, both for the game overall and for any given class. A group that's practiced with the rules and on the ball deciding what to do can play significantly faster, while one player who doesn't pay attention and takes time to decide what to use can make things grind to a halt.

    I think overall 4e has the basis of a good game, but there are certain things about it where the designers don't seem to have fully considered their practical effects at the game table. The warlock's curse is a perfect example; a warlock will likely put curses on several enemies over the course of a battle, yet the designers seemingly gave zero thought to how you would track who was and wasn't cursed during play. (My group has a box of colored rubber bands for that sort of thing.) They got better about it in Essentials, as evidenced by the switch from defender marking to defender auras, but still have a long way to go. On top of that they're hampered by D&D sacred cows, considering we're talking about a game that has the 3-18 type attribute scores entirely as a legacy thing.
  • I agree with most of what's been said here*. Two additions:

    -One of the things that makes combat fun and interesting but that can also slow it down is having fun and interesting battlefields: difficult terrain, obstacles, auto-sliding squares, etc., are all neat, but often serve to add rounds to an encounter.

    -Although it would be tough to track, "save ends" DCs should in my opinion go more like 12, 10, 8, ... or even 14, 12, 10, 8, ... Making the DC static means a not-insignificant chance that you Just. Can't. Save. I once had a Solo monster mind-rape one of my PCs into being its minion for like 7 rounds. Totally sucked for the player, though fortunately she was a good sport about it. And, on the other hand, too often enemies save right away**, so "save ends" conditions imposed on them by the PCs are only of marginal utility.

    One house rule I introduced, that I wish were more popular (though I like the lowering monster HP and increasing damage, and also shot-clock rules) is the +1 tokens. Any time you missed a d20 roll by 1, you got a +1 token you could spend on any future d20 roll, after rolling. And yes, you could save them, and use more than one at a time if you wanted. This really reduced the frustration factor of missing by 1 (and that happens 5% of the time, remember, so it's as common as a crit!), and allowed players to hoard them and spend a bunch on a crucial roll or if they were tired of having a condition or whatever. Note that this also sped things up slightly.

    The +1 token rule also served as a nice "color pacing" mechanic. As everyone knows, you get narration fatigue right quick if you try to narrate every blow in a game as dense as 4E. My rule was, any time you earn or spend a +1 token, give a little bit of color describing how you just missed / just managed to hit. Some of my players took to it more than others, of course, but it definitely fulfilled its purpose of spacing out how often you had to narrate something interesting, without making you do it All. The. Time.

    Matt

    *I don't think 4E is in any way worse than 3E in terms of pacing; at higher levels it's downright faster.

    **I'm also not fond of the way solos get +5 to their saves! +2 for elites is appropriate, to my mind, but +5 is a bridge too far.
  • edited August 2012
    ... We didn't play 4e for long either of the times we tried it out - we ran into this issue, speed. I'm also guessing that familiarity over time with your own powers will do quite a bit to speed things up. But this is what I've worked out as the problems behind speed for us.
    In my view speed is a decisive factor in interactive fiction. It is vitally important for the gamesmith to control the pacing of play. Ideally your players should have great tools for varying the speed in which the fiction is produced. But the production of fictional content should never be brought to a full stop. Keep the pace, keep the flow!

    Why is it so important? There are two main reasons ...

    1 - Dynamic pacing may be used to strengthen how players experience scenes and conflicts in the game; it may strengthen the emotional content of the game

    2 - RPG-interaction is, ultimately, about the production of fiction; and that has to be done with a certain speed; if not the players will loose contact with the narrative

    A lot of gamesmiths do not know this. I hope the team behind D&D have learned their lesson in this field of design by failing so badly with 4E, and that they have the wits to come up with something better ...

  • Under no conceivable definition of "failure" could D&D4 be said to have failed.
  • For the three times I played it, my peoples memorized our favorite tricks and when to use them. It wasn't much, like 3 or 4 abilities, and the game ran smoothly. Each combat lasted less than 10 minutes. Just don't let players make the number one mistake: Read the book mid-game for everything or even anything. Because almost every edition of DnD is a tome, it takes 10-20 minutes to find what you are looking for and usually isn't satisfactory once you find the answer.

    I personally stopped playing 4th edition because I noticed how every class wasn't that different and everyone just used the move that did the most damage versus dramatics or style. It was too stale and boring, at least for my group.
  • Under no conceivable definition of "failure" could D&D4 be said to have failed.
    OK! Let us agree to disagree.

  • Alex, out of simple curiosity (because your experience doesn't match mine, despite identical end results): did you play "by the book" or did you house-rule stuff (for example, perhaps an idiotic example, did you use grids and miniatures)?
  • There's a huge difference between 4e when people play to optimize tactics, and 4e when people play immersively. I am not saying that one is better than the other, because I don't believe that. I am also not saying that 4e as a whole doesn't push people towards the former, because I think it does. Note: as a whole; the culture, WotC's modules, the rulebooks, the whole thing.

    However, if you want to speed up play, convince everyone to skip the bit where they try to figure out the optimal thing to do and that's what the characters do. 4e combat does not break if people don't play optimally! I can't emphasize that enough. I spent a solid year playing and running over 100 games of LFR with groups of wildly varying tactical skill, and you had to be really really bad before combat started breaking.

    Combat actually breaks worse with optimizers. That's when you get those distorted fights when the ranger uses her action points and the wizard locks down the whole battlefield and the monsters don't even get to take actions.

    So: first think about your character's emotional state, then choose the action that fits best. Combat will go quicker. Promise.

    There are also things that are just slow. Conditions are definitely one of them.
  • edited August 2012
    Under no conceivable definition of "failure" could D&D4 be said to have failed.
    OK! Let us agree to disagree.
    Well, if we don't start by defining what we think a success looks like first, then yeah, that's about the only option.

    There's two answers to the initial question, I feel, both of them completely serious, if a bit curt:

    1) Compared to what?

    2) It doesn't if you play it right with the right group.

    (And maybe 2A, which is basically, if it runs too slow for everyone, even after they know it well, you're maybe playing the wrong game)
  • Yeah, I mean, I played a d20 game with someone who, after over 30 sessions of play, did not know how to roll a skill check. It wasn't that she was stupid or foolish. She just didn't care about the game or the system enough to remember things like that. She was way super casual and was mainly there to hang out. This is not due to any trait of d20.
  • Yup. I've got a player who's like that. Really rises to the narrative occasion if he's in the right role, but he's just like that - well, he eventually figured out the basic system bits, but dang am I glad to not have to answer "Which one is the d10 again?" after 4 years of gaming. But you're absolutely right, players like that aren't the fault of the game.
    However, 4e more than some games does require a significant amount of commitment to really understand your capabilities - in 3.5 or PF Daniel could manage a fighter (or a barbarian was even more his speed) whereas 4e effectively requires all the players to put up the same amount of memorization as 3.5's spellcasters did, and he's just not into the system enough to put in that much effort.
    I guess what that means is that it works if played with the right group, but the "right group" can be a little harder to find since it's much rougher/slower unless everyone commits to fully understanding their character's capabilities, whereas 3.5/PF had paths to accommodate mindless play.

    Also, as a quick aside from that, Matt said "One of the things that makes combat fun and interesting but that can also slow it down is having fun and interesting battlefields: difficult terrain, obstacles, auto-sliding squares, etc., are all neat, but often serve to add rounds to an encounter." I absolutely agree with this - all these elements make for a dynamic, interesting battlefield that can be a lot of fun to play. It just also happens to slow it down - which isn't necessarily a bad thing if that super-tacticalness is the intention, which I think it is.
  • Alex, out of simple curiosity (because your experience doesn't match mine, despite identical end results): did you play "by the book" or did you house-rule stuff (for example, perhaps an idiotic example, did you use grids and miniatures)?
    I must admit, highlighting the almost mandatory rule for miniatures and grids for 4e was funny. Most of the abilities don't function without heavy modifying. That is a lot of hacking my friend.

    Generally it was by the book when we played, but we hacked ourselves to not select time consuming abilities that caused a bunch of conditions and such. This would involve things like picking a fire wizard and using things like fireball. When I tried to play with people outside of my group, it did take a bit longer to do anything because they tried to do too much metagaming. Maybe I just found the standard 70% of DnD players, but that was the typical group I played with when they weren't my friends.

  • Most of the abilities don't function without heavy modifying. That is a lot of hacking my friend.
    Actually, a guy I talked to quite a bit on the Wizards forums during the lead-up to the Next playtest made the claim that he'd actually played it gridless and that it wasn't as tough as you'd think. He said that the primary shift involved removal of pushes, pulls, and slides since they're the ones about exact positioning, and that the rest of it actually worked pretty decently even without a strict grid (though you need to keep track of general distances, but general is close enough probably). I never saw any documents or anything so I don't know any specifics on how it worked, but I thought it interesting to mention.
  • FWIW, I played a good long campaign of 4E with a team of very determined and enthusiastic tactics/optimizer players and I would *not* have played it without grid: not only our group tactics often relied on areas, zones of control and effects, but my whole character's class (a Warden) and probably all the Defender ones (except maybe the Avenger) would lose meaning without the grid.

    Lose the grid: lose a good chunk of the fun and interest in 4E.
    It's no wonder I lost any interest in DnD again with the steady move towards DnDNext (which seems to want to harken back to the "old glory" of 2nd and 3rd ed... no thanks).
  • If you're interested in tactical combat, like minatures gaming such as Warhammer, then 4e is a great game. It gets right back to the roots of D&D providing character play in a wargame. It only seems to go slowly if you're not a big fan of this kind of combat. And if you're not, then they're are plenty of heroic fantasy games with much quicker systems. Play one of those instead.
  • Oh! Here we are. I have to say I agree with a lot of what folks are talking about here re: how to make 4e fast, at what point it becomes fast, etc. But, I do feel the need to explain my initial comment, which was really intended to take a few things into account. My foremost concerns in that thread were what the OP was looking for, so understand that it wasn't meant to be a "true" statement in all situations all the time.

    1) 4E grid combat is pretty demanding. It begs you to count squares and decide some. You don't have to do this, but any tactically minded player is going to have niggling little doubts in their mind. Other games have less demanding tactical grid combat.

    2) HP Bloat means that the game takes longer as you go up in level no matter what. Just does. Other games offer a 'faster' HP-like mechanic. Or at least one that never takes more time.

    3) It simply isn't a system designed for speed - it has other design goals. Comparisons to tactical minis games above give you a good idea of what they really wanted.
  • Ales, yes, it was a dumb example, but thanks for answering my question anyway. Now I've got a clearer picture. ^_^

    And now, unsubstantiated opinion time!

    ♥ Steve, 4E is so much subtler than Warhammer! And I agree with Renato that removing exact positioning would make it a wholly different, probably inferior, game. Also in Alex's answer to my own question I read of a sort of a "simplified" 4E, emphasizing direct damage dealing (a rush to end the battle fast) over teamplay to effectively neutralize opponents (effectively ending battles before their over - which is the proper way to play, of course), which is IMO like playing 4E with handcuffs.

    ♥ 3E was just as reliant on exact positioning, at least at low-to-mid levels, before high-level spellcasting kicks in and allows perfect encounter avoidance, instant save-or-die slaughter, etc. 3E was just as complicated and just as slow as 4E, though it's true it included some "kiddie" classes (like the Fighter!) which possessed no significant ability whatsoever and therefore cut down on decision-making time ("I attack it again, duh!"). 4E battles are just low/mid-level 3E battles made better, and a bit more varied (there were other things going on with 3E, besides battles, which 4E did not pick up, but the OSR movement got us covered there).

    ♥ Most of my (long and painful) experience with 3E was in group where the best players were like Alex's, while some of the worst ones, yes, they had a problem remembering how to roll a skill check. :( (Most of them great people I think I'd have a blast playing shorter, faster and better-designed games with, though, I'll add.)
  • Alas, Steve, I played Warhammer in the past and I think it is a much, much inferior tactical game than 4E. Same goes for WarhammerQuest (which was fun, though). I don't have any experience with Mordheim/Necromunda, but the insistence by GW to sticking to the same base mechanics and stat spread (and die size) makes me suspect they are really more of the same.

    4E has a lot of problems, chief among them the fact that progression is only marginally meaningful and that the game tends to break after circa level 16 due to the unpredictable interactions of the thousands of powers/effects in the game... but it's still on another level than any of the warhammer games.

    As I'm fond to remind when talking 4E... consider I went in without any emotional attachment to the DnD brand/experience, without any past experience in highly tactical step-on-up gaming, and with zero disposition to go and tweak and optimize... and instead discovered that if you give me a good game and the right company (*) I enjoy it A LOT.

    * ...and the right tools: 4E without the Character Builder is simply unbearable. Too many options, too many books, too many recalculations when changing levels, too heavy burden of experimenting with the build across the levels before reaching. Oh, and the CharOp forums: invaluable, even if you don't plan on building a super-optimized character (I generally find them a bit boring).
  • Yes, the treadmill effect is really awful. "My numbers go up. So do the monsters'. Yay?"
  • Games Workshop games move slow. 4e tactical play is positively glacial.

    The GW games have some reasons outside of the in-fiction battle to go with mechanics that provide for a slower game.*

    I'm not sure why WotC, who doesn't have those same reasons, opted to go with a system that encourages micro-managing styles of mechanics for their game ( and thus combats that take vastly longer to to play than the fiction they represent).


    *The reason? If you've just encouraged someone to spent $400 and a month and a half of free time to get their little toy people ready for a bash, you'd be shooting yourself in the foot to write rules that would see those little people off the field in 30 miniutes of real time, wouldn't you?
  • Komradebob, that's interesting!
    And still, I don't get it. If me and a friend could play multiple Warhammer battles over an afternoon, wouldn't that be just as much play time for my money and even more encouraging to us as GW customers? (I've never actually been a CW customer, so this is purely theoretical.)
    As for 4E, consider the DM-prep angle: the DM is supposed to continually come up with entertaining encounters, and it's a basic necessity of preparation time economy that it takes longer to play out an encounter (battle) than to plan it.*

    * = there was seriously a time during my 3E DM career when it would take at least as long for me to stat up the NPCs for an encounter as to play the ensuing battle out, with the very toxic result that I was aiming to bog my party down into even tougher and longer battles.
  • edited August 2012
    In my completely personal opinion, GW games move slow because they are badly designed, period (they are also generally pretty broken balance wise, leave many obscure interactions open, and so on... ). GW simply doesn't seem to care: as long as the minis sell, why bother? Also: "the next version will fix everything, buy the next version! ALL THE ARMY BOOKS for the next version! AGAIN AND AGAIN!"

    If a full game of WH40k took 1 hour instead of 3-4, then people would play 2 or 3 games. That's what people do with boardgames: play Axis and Allies (Arkham Horror, any number of other long games), complete maybe 1 game. Play Pandemic, complete a game in 25 minutes and play again, play at least 3-4 games in a row.

    As for the speed of 4E's combat... I don't know. I felt it could be improved, especially reducing many of the on-the-spot calculations, but again, having played WHFRP and WH40K in the past I felt the rounds kept moving much more smoothly than in GW the games. Even more importantly, the team dynamics and tactics in 4E meant I had to pay attention to the other people's turns, remaining engaged with the game.
    I also keep hearing about people finding 4E unbearably slow, though, so it might well be that we're hitting a "different groups, different skills, different perceptions" wall.

    ...all of this without even considering the "why did WotC make DnD in a tactical game" which I'll not touch with a 3 yard stick. I played 4E. I would not have played something more similar to 3.x. Personal taste, clearly.
  • Oh, hey, here's another super-important thing related to speed and 4E.

    How much time does the average 4E play group spend asking each other if their attacks hit? Answer: A metric shit-ton.

    When I ran, I only kept the monster Defenses hidden until each defense had been attacked. I kept my PCs' Defenses on their initiative cards, and then the monster initiative cards had spaces to write in the Defenses as they were discovered. Of course sometimes the PCs would have some bonuses to their Defenses, but those were generally easy enough to remember, and having a general sense that someone's AC is a 22 means you know you hit if you got a 28 (nothing gives +6 to AC!) and missed if you got an 18.

    Matt
  • edited August 2012
    In my completely personal opinion, GW games move slow because they are badly designed, period (they are also generally pretty broken balance wise, leave many obscure interactions open, and so on... ). GW simply doesn't seem to care: as long as the minis sell, why bother?
    You're kinda on the right track here, especially the bolded part.

    GW sells miniatures, and they are very good at it. And, frankly, good for them.

    Their rules ( think what you will about them), their promoted playstyle, and their promotional/marketing style all circle back to that central core business and supports it.

    WotC's design doesn't. They've designed in the negative. Their design is a PITA if you don't use some kind of positional markers, but at the higher level, they don't particularly give you a reason to actually go out and buy miniatures (or their miniatures specifically).

    It must give Hasbro fits. Here's a company already able to produce miniatures and distribute them on a scale that no other owner of D&D was able to do, and they can't get their shit together to really take advantage of that market potential.

    A couple of key points:
    Miniatures gamers like miniatures games because they use miniatures.

    Yeah, I know that last sentence is a wonder of circular reasoning, but it's fundamentally true. Miniatures gamers dig the toy quality of the minis. If they didn't, they'd be board gamers. God knows boardgaming combat games are cheaper and easier to carry around.

    WotC has basically designed some board game styles rules, and simply hoped for the best that people will buy minis. That one is largely a non-starter. That they haven't come up with a way to encourage non-GM players to buy minis doesn't help either.

    Why not make rules to play muliple battles in an afternoon, like the way board games are set up?
    Companies that aren't first and foremost miniatures-selling companies have done exactly that. The well regarded indie minis game producer Ganesha Games classically designs their games to be able to have multiple battles over an afternoon. Notably, the main designer doesn't sell miniatures and thus doesn't have that as an objective.

    The vast majority of minis rules that exist are short(ish) and simple and are not tied to selling specific minis. The exceptions tend to be the odd games out, but are money-makers because of it.

    When you play, you advertise, so keep the advertisement going already!Look, you can buy GW minis, and you can meet up with your pals at home and have a nice big bash. Chances are go though that you'll at least once in a while end up playing out a big bash at the FLGS. The FLGS that sells the minis. On a table near where those minis are sold.

    A big battle with nicely painted toy soldiers and bitty trees and houses just plain looks cool. It's a great visual. People who don't know what gaming is "get it" just by standing of and observing. It looks like playing with toys and playing a game too, because that's what it is. You play the game and you also advertise for the game at the same time for any curious onlookers like mom and dad (the folks with the purse) and little Jimmy or Janie. And they grok it in a way that they don't with rpgs or even collectible card games.

    Having a slow playing battle with a ton of minis on the table top plays back into this whole thing.

    But oh lord why!?! Why have those crazy long battles at all????
    For the same reason that the bulk of RPGs in the world are designed for long sessions and repeated, return play. Because you, the player, have put time and effort into your character and as the GM, into the setting and situation. It's the same thing with that miniatures army.

    Why not play a game that only lasts 45 minutes and your character could end up dead real quick?

    Well, because for most people, that would suck.

    It becomes even more true when the rpg involves a fair amount of Lonely Fun that only comes together to becomes Group Fun occasionally, a lot like what tended to happen with OWoD games back in their heyday. Minis games where you collect and build and paint your personal army work on a similar mentality, possibly involving even greater amounts of lonely fun and (perhaps) even more hard earned cash.

    So fine GW is explained, but not D&D 4e...
    D&D is currently owned by people who are trying to satisfy multiple masters ( fans and corporate) and trying to make a profit doing it. It's leading to a chaotic approach to the whole thing, where competing impulses are working against each other, rather than supporting one another.
  • Oh, hey, here's another super-important thing related to speed and 4E.

    How much time does the average 4E play group spend asking each other if their attacks hit? Answer: A metric shit-ton.
    Yes, I found radical transparency to be a huge help in keeping the pace up, and in making the game more fun for the players.

    Also, forcing everyone to roll hit and damage at the same time. Seriously. It cuts ten to fifteen minutes off of a typical four hour game.
  • edited August 2012
    @komradebob yep, I mostly agree with your assessment... except maybe for the fact that short (well designed) games are more fun than long (because of shaky design) ones, IME. And 3 shorter games of an hypothetical "welldesigned WH40K" will keep your store full (with the "ads" effect) the same amount of minutes than 1 long one. And won't scare people away from the game and the hobby. Sure, the people that are willing to invest the amount of time the long games take are probably more hardcore clients... I don't buy that that's a wise and healthy way to conduct business. Then again, GW has been risking blowing up for a long time, I gather.

    Oh and about 4E not needing minis... hell to the yeah man! Our group never used minis: we made custom tokens with washers, with our character's portraits on, plus several sets with "monster role" icons and an id number (soldier, shikmisher, solo, lurker, etc.). From WotC's bottom line POV, yeah, they made some design/business error because that's minis that they definitely won't sell. From my point of view, it's a game that works (with its problems) and that I can enjoy without transporting a cubic meter of stuff every time. Plus: random minis. WTH, Wizards?

    @Jim_Crocker oh yeah, I forgot about that. In our group very little was kept secret, especially after some attack/power would have revealed a defence or other stat. Monsters were almost all custom though, so we still had the surprise of which powers and effects the monsters actually had.
  • edited August 2012
    GW managed to sell even more stuff by targetting hard core fans when they released the superultradoulbeplusgiganto variant of 40K.

    WotC failed to give anyone but the DM a reason to buy miniatures beyond a single character figure. Even if you do like minis, you're still better off, as a character player, going out and simply buying a single character figure from some company like Reaper rather than buying a random pack or even one of those hero packs.

    Part of how My-Army-Menz vs. Your-Army-Menz type minis games in the style of GW games work on the business level is by encouraging all players to buy stuff. White Wolf stumbled into this formula as an RPG company with the player geared cheap splatbook concept.

    The DDM collectible game was an attempt to give people a reason to buy random packs based on the MtG model. I suspect they hoped it would all tie back to RPG D&D. It doesn't seem to have made that leap.

    The D&D boardgames seem to have gained some traction with fans of different sorts of games, although I have no personal love for them and find they move almost as slow as RPG D&D combat.

    At this point, WotC as a division of Hasbro, might be better off rereleasing those DDM miniatures as toys to the broader public with the D&D logo on them, without any sort of game anything attached and market them to nostalgic, no-longer-gamer parents who played D&D as kids.

    Edit:
    Of course, were I in charge of Hasbro, I'd also dump the idea of PnP D&D as a viable source of worthwhile profits and change it over to a support/promotional arm for selling toys, something that probably would be more profitable overall. Geez, everybody and their brother ends up pirating the written word these days, so just give that shit away for something like D&D. It would also kill the concept of edition warring: Play whatever the hell version of the game you want, oh and, btw, we have these sixty'leven other games and activities you can do with your littlemenz. Heck, why don't you tell us about how you play with yur littlemenz and what stories/worlds you make up, and we'll post 'em up on the company site!

    3 fast games vs 1 slow game: I don't exactly know the reasons behind it psychologically, but from what I have seen ( and it becomes a dain-bramaged chicken/egg sort of mystery), faster playing games don't tend to produce the same urge in fans to pretty things up on the tabletop (creating onlooker visual appeal) or to develop other sorts of gamer cultural ties. Long, clunky, and a bit convoluted actually seems to encourage a type of fanbase building. True of early D&D as well.
  • WotC's new Dungeon Command minis game take an approach much closer to what you're talking about, KB. It's a squad-based minis game that's sold in squad-sized boxes of multiple minis (that are also great for DnD tabletop play, as it happens).

  • 3 fast games vs 1 slow game: I don't exactly know the reasons behind it psychologically, but from what I have seen ( and it becomes a dain-bramaged chicken/egg sort of mystery), faster playing games don't tend to produce the same urge in fans to pretty things up on the tabletop (creating onlooker visual appeal) or to develop other sorts of gamer cultural ties. Long, clunky, and a bit convoluted actually seems to encourage a type of fanbase building.
    I agree. There are some fundamental relationships between the number of toys you can setup and move in a given time-frame. Short wargames tend to have few pieces and thus lack the visual impact of a wall-o-figs. Once you have gone to the play-time + effort of setting up that wall-o-figs it is a waste (ie it limits play options + depth) to pack it all away in an hour. That is not to say there aren't great 1-hour wargames (eg SoBH, DBA) but they scratch a different itch. I also agree the design is very limited in the GW stuff, most of their rules are firmly rooted in 1960s concepts + procedures, but it is not the rules that allow them to sell the figs!

    rgds
    rob

  • D&D 4e does not move slowly relative to D&D 3.5e. This is just false. I'm utterly confused by any statement which holds up 3.5e as some sort of model for streamlined play.
  • Jim: I wasn't even aware of those. They look pretty enticing.

    Rob: I think GW consciously decided to go back to 1960s roots. When they were beginning to put out their main lines, minis wargaming rules were reaching a point of niche echo-chamber rules bloating. Weirdly, a lot more of that sort of rules bloat ended up passing over to RPGs for a while, even as minis games were re-discovering simpler, earlier styles of rules. But then the same bloat phenomenon ended up following GW anyway, for several cycles of their rule design and redesign.

    Beyond just the spectacle of of masses of the littlemenz themself, lengthy games also seem to encourage a lot more attention to the play surface/terrain/table layout and it's visual quality/appeal. Probably not always true, but I even notice that I do it myself.
  • edited August 2012
    I'm utterly confused by any statement which holds up 3.5e as some sort of model for streamlined play.
    So am I! ARE there actually anyone doing that??? LOL

  • Under no conceivable definition of "failure" could D&D4 be said to have failed.
    You might want to talk to the suits at Hasbro about that.
  • Annecdotally, lots of people got out around the time Essentials came out. And then pathfinder sold really well at the same time wizards screwed up, and so the perception became people hated 4e which would come as a surprise to the many groups who play it and enjoy it.

    Not to mention, Hasbro has no control over WotC on that level, from what I understand anyway. As long as it keeps making money, they ignore it. And Magic is always going to make money.
  • I think the thing is that 4e's "failure" is a ridiculously amazing success for an RPG by any objective standard. It got into every major bookstore, had an aggressive release schedule, and had the most expansive digital content initiative ever done for a tabletop RPG, for 4 straight years.

  • You might want to talk to the suits at Hasbro about that.
    The "suits" (wherever they work) just gave D&D a huge thumbs up by approving a new edition. Failed games don't get new editions. Failed games get canned. Successful, awesome games get new editions.
  • 4e failed because it didn't make enough money for Hasbro? Crap. I think that leaves maybe AD&D as the only successful RPG ever.
  • D&D is a success.
    - but ...
    It is not a streamlined or elegant game.
    Nor is it very modern in its design.

    That don't matter to the players. They have learned to cope.
  • Wait, D&D 4e isn't exactly light and does have a few to many sacred cows but it is pretty streamlined. It has some of the most fun minatures combat I've ever played. The rules are complicated because of their permutations, not because the basic ideas are hard to understand.

    The game is also extremely modern. The designers looked at what parts of the game they wanted to focus on, and worked to make those parts of the game shine.

    And if by cope you mean there are people who love it and have a blast, then yes, they're coping.

    I say all these things as a person who doesn't even care for 4e all that much, but only because it doesn't cater to my tastes the same way, for example, Dungeon World does.
  • I was going to write pretty much exactly what Captain_Thark just said. Complete agreement there.
  • Yep, what @Captain_Thark said.

    I would like to see a 4E 2nd edition and who knows, the Dungeon Command game might be that, but I'm not holding my breath (I scratched my 4E itch thoroughly, I don't really need more, for some time).
  • edited August 2012

    You might want to talk to the suits at Hasbro about that.
    Failed games don't get new editions. Failed games get canned.
    Not if they have valuable intellectual properties behind them, they don't. In that case, it's the current edition that gets canned prematurely, and the game gets a new edition. Hmmm, now where have I seen that recently?
  • edited August 2012
    4e failed because it didn't make enough money for Hasbro?
    By the standards of the Hasbro execs, I'm pretty sure this is true.

    Remember the quote I was responding to?

    EDIT: BTW, that isn't my actual claim. My actual claim is that 4e failed (in the suits' eyes) because it didn't grow the brand, rather it diminished it -- by failing to prevent Pathfinder from becoming, well, Pathfinder.
  • edited August 2012

    Not if they have valuable intellectual properties behind them, they don't. In that case, it's the current edition that gets canned prematurely, and the game gets a new edition. Hmmm, now where have I seen that recently?
    Third edition D&D?

    Just kidding, bro. Actually what you describe doesn't happen for any game. There is no "prematurely" for an edition. The whole concept makes no sense.
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