Monday, April 30, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Looks at Mike Mearls' Latest Post - Looking at Fighters

The Grumpy Dwarf here.  Long time poster, first time getting credit for it.   Yadda Yadda. Listen, if you want to know why I tear apart bullshit posts on Dungeons & Dragons from the Wizzies Guys, know this - WotC is putting a version of a game that "isn't close to done" in your hands in less than a month, so you can test it and make it better.  They don't need to hear fuckin' Cheer Bear, they need to know what needs to be fixed in MY opinion.  You want it closer to a game you want to play? Give them YOUR opinion, as often and as loud as you can.  Maybe the powers that be will hear you, but don't bet your gaming fun on it.  - The Grumpy Dwarf

Last week, we announced that the D&D Next playtest will become open to the public on May 24th (aint that a scary thought?  the game, as per WotC is about 20% done, but they are putting it's future in your hands.  I'm no game designer, but if I were, I'd like to be a lot closer to being done before releasing my child into the wild)  This week, I’d like to talk a bit about the overall shape the playtest will take and what we need to get out of it. (lets see, a good game, a working game system, a marketable version of D&D that will let us save a few bodies from the Christmas Reaper that resides at WotC)
The playtest materials will initially consist of the basic core rules and a limited selection of classes and races (no surprise there - we are talking 1/5th of a game, and that fifth is subject to change). We’ll roll out the fighter, cleric, wizard, and rogue, along with the human, elf, dwarf, and halfling. (gnomes get the fuckin' shaft yet again!  I hate gnomes, but I feel for my cousins) In the earliest stages of the test, we’ll provide you with pregenerated characters. (that's a mixed bag.  it means the play test will be balanced, but isn't the point of a play test to find things that aren't in balance?  to "game the game" no, to prevent folks from "gaming the game" late?)
We are intentionally starting small so that we can collect feedback on specific portions of the game (you are starting small because you don't have much for folks to play with yet). To start with, we want the core rules to receive a thorough inspection. Obviously, if the basic rules of playing and DMing the game aren’t working, we need to know that sooner rather than later.the core better fuckin' work at this point, or else they have less than 20% - they have zero %)
As we collect feedback on the core rules, we’ll also release more material for players. We’ll start from a set of pregenerated characters, and then we plan on leveling up those characters to walk everyone through the first ten levels of the game (so if you die, just restart with the same one?  i know it's a beta test of sorts, but it is still a roleplaying experience, and character death and loss is part of that). Once that is done, we’ll then loop back and release material for building your own characters. (i wonder how fast this process will be, and I wonder how many groups are going to run many sessions with pregens)
In general, the playtest will start with the broad and then zero in on the specific. We want to make sure that the game feels right in terms of classes and races (they better not leave gnomes out yet again), ease of play at the table, the level of danger present in the game (which will be hard to evaluate fully with reboot able pregens, but whatever), and the flexibility of basic task resolution. Once we’ve established those baselines, we can start to look at player options, from classes to specific abilities, in more detail. (i'm going to assume the "we" referred to is the players, as if the game designers are part of that "we" and they are waiting on "us" it's going to be a longer process than it should be.)
Depending on the nature of feedback, we hope to maintain a relatively brisk pace of pushing new content out into the wild. (if they can keep to this, may the gods bless them and bear them many bearded children - if nothing else, it will give me post fodder ;)
Why are we going along this path rather than releasing the entire game at once? First of all, the game isn’t close to done. (SEE?  I said it wasn't nearly done, not even a quarter done.  Second, we want to make sure that each part of the game is thoroughly tested. (I can't complain about this in the least.  good call)  Releasing the material in small, controlled doses ensures that the feedback we receive is focused on a few specific areas. (alright, understandable - you don't want a bunch of Grumpy Dwarves swarming you with umpteen complaints and assorted issues at one time.)  It makes both our work and your testing efforts more efficient.
With that in mind, let’s keep talking about what you’re going to see in the upcoming playtest packet. Last week, I wrote about the cleric (oh boy.  yep, that was me last week). This week, it’s the fighter’s turn.

Fighter Design Goals

The fighter is one of my favorite classes, so I’m a little biased. I also think it is a class that has always suffered a bit compared to the spellcasters in the game (I dunno.  wizzies in my campaigns were always squishy and target first by intelligent advisories.  nobody wanted to play the cleric). Fighters represent the most iconic fantasy heroes, and it is perhaps the most popular class in the game (if they are so popular, are they really that week compared to casters?). Therefore, it’s important that we get the fighter right.

You can take a look at last week’s article to get a sense of our general approach to the classes. Here are the main points we’re looking at for the fighter.

1. The Fighter Is the Best at . . . Fighting!

This might sound like an obvious point, but the fighter should be the best character in a fight. Other classes might have nifty tricks, powerful spells, and other abilities, but when it’s time to put down a monster without dying in the process, the fighter should be our best class (hey, I agree with Mike.  Let's all have a beer!). A magic sword might make you better in a fight, but a fighter of the same level is still strictly better. Perhaps a spell such as haste lets you attack more often, but the fighter is still either making more attacks or his or her attacks are more accurate or powerful. (i dunno.  a hasted thief with backstab in the shadows can be an awesome thing)

2. The Fighter Draws on Training and Experience, not Magic

Fighters master mundane tactics and weapon skills. They don’t need spells or some sort of external source of magical power to succeed (somebody mark this down.  fighters won't be having an assortment of magical moves and abilities like they do in 4e.  gods damn but I can breath a sigh of relief now)  Fighters do stuff that is within the limits of mundane mortals. They don’t reverse gravity or shoot beams of energy.  (man, i always wanted my fighters to shoot laser beams!  maybe if i get a wish spell)

3. The Fighter Exists in a World of Myth, Fantasy, and Legend

Keeping in mind the point above, we also have to remember that while the fighter draws on mundane talent, we’re talking about mundane within the context of a mythical, fantasy setting. Beowulf slew Grendel by tearing his arm off. He later killed a dragon almost singlehandedly. Roland slew or gravely injured four hundred Saracens in a single battle. In the world of D&D, a skilled fighter is a one-person army. You can expect fighters to do fairly mundane things with weapons, but with such overwhelming skill that none can hope to stand against them.  (wait, if "none can hope to stand against them" WTF is the point to playing the game?  if you pit two fighters against each other, does it cause a rift in the space / time continuum?  turning undead was too powerful a cleric ability as written, but fighters trump everything?)

4. The Fighter Is Versatile

The fighter is skilled with all weapons. The best archer, jouster, and swordmaster in the realm are all fighters. A monk can match a fighter’s skill when it comes to unarmed combat, and rangers and paladins are near a fighter’s skill level, but the fighter is typically in a class by itself regardless of weapon.  (okay, i'll accept that.  so, fighters don't specialize in combat type.  they are generalists.  which works, because even if they used a spiked dildo, "none can hope to stand against them".  Not that they could find a spiked dildo in most campaigns, but it's just such a disturbing image, I had to keep it)

5. The Fighter Is the Toughest Character

The fighter gets the most hit points and is the most resilient character. A fighter’s skill extends to defense, allowing the class to wear the heaviest armor and use the best shields. The fighter’s many hit points and high AC renders many monsters’ attacks powerless (wait!  we aren't saying "less effective against fighters compared to other classes", instead we are told "renders many monsters attacks powerless" as well as "none can stand against them".  Mike, if you turn the fighter up to 11, then you have to turn the other classes up to 11 and we get 4e all over again just with tape over the serial numbers)

6. A High-Level Fighter and a High-Level Wizard Are Equal

Too often in D&D, the high-level fighter is the flunky to a high-level wizard. (again, I haven't personally seen this issue, but it's probably because all of our whizzies were terrified of dying real fast) It’s all too easy for combinations of spells to make the wizard a far more potent enemy or character, especially if a wizard can unleash his or her spells in rapid succession. (and then the survivors kill the wizzie with a blow or two - assuming the fighter failed his saves and doesn't kill the wizzie himself)  A wizard might annihilate a small army of orcs with a volley of fireballs and cones of cold. The fighter does the same sword blow by sword blow, taking down waves of orcs each round (if the orcs are dumb enough to throw themselves in waves at the fighter round after round.  wait!  what about the overbearing rules.  there are overbearing  rules, aren't there?). Balancing the classes at high levels is perhaps the highest priority for the fighter, and attaining balance is something that we must do to make D&D fit in with fantasy, myth, and legend. (how about we fit the new new D&D into D&D.  D&D has it's own tropes)  Even if a wizard unleashes every spell at his or her disposal at a fighter, the fighter absorbs the punishment, throws off the effects, and keeps on fighting.  (so, whizzes can't kill a fighter?  but a fighter can kill a wizzie?  this balance shit is getting confusing as hell, as I fail to see the balance)


  1. There was way too much "heroic" nonsense, I thought, in this write-up. No fighter that I ever played would want to stand in front of an onslaught of orcs. That's not how you get XP :)

  2. Sorry, but DEATH TO GNOMES!!!


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