Monday, June 22, 2009


This is a point that I read on Alex Schroeder's blog (link):

"Rare Healing: Players need to avoid wandering monsters and avoid unnecessary fighting. This makes strategic decisions (when to fight) more important than tactical decisions (how to fight)."

I've never been able to put my finger on the thing in 4E that troublels me so much. But Alex hit the nail on the head: "Healing"

In 4E you get a bunch of "surges" which are in essence a mechanic that allows characters to "recharge" from encounter to encounter in order to keep the pace. Now, while this might not sound bad, it is a distinct deviation from older editions of play.

It is MUCH more tactical in play than strategic. Due to this difference, the focus of the game shifts from adventuring (older strategic based game) and trying to get from point A to point B without using up your super vital resources, to encounter to encounter type play and worrying about resources that "refresh".

I know I've read this before and that this is certainly not a new observation. But for some reason Alex's post just suddenly jumped out at me and I hit the "Ah Ha!" moment.


Wax Banks said...

'It is MUCH more tactical in play than strategic. Due to this difference, the focus of the game shifts from adventuring (older strategic based game) and trying to get from point A to point B without using up your super vital resources, to encounter to encounter type play and worrying about resources that "refresh".'

True, but there are still day-to-day resources to balance if you play with heavy attention to detail. Because surges can be spent in battle as part of a defensive move (the 'second wind' standard action), and because being healed by the cleric/paladin can use the target's surges, they become a device for balancing risk. Is it worth taking on this encounter? Sure, I've got seven surges left, I'll last. Nah, I'm down to one, I'm at the end of my rope. Numerically, they have the effect of lowering HP variance at an encounter-to-encounter timescale; your hit points are more robust than before against 'typical' attacks, but a single big attack is still devastating.

Which is, I think, a decent way of handling something that D&D has never simulated well anyhow, and which doesn't actually need to be simulated. In stories, the heroes fight until it's dramatically appropriate to fight no more - death, surrender, escape, etc.

Storytelling games benefit from that same approach, and the abstract healing surges work well in that regard.

Banesfinger said...

I'm torn by this post:

I thought 4e was helping 'fix' one of the big problems I have always encountered in D&D - blast everything you've got in the first encounter of the day, rest and repeat. This made spell users very powerful.

Sure, you can say a clever DM should be able to 'force' the players to have multiple encounters in a day, but after several sessions, if feels contrived. (After all, how many times can you stop a party from teleporting back to their home-city...?)

But while I thought it was teadious to listen to the group setting up camp gaurds again after only 1 encounter - I also find that 4e's endless encounter after encounter is also teadious.

I wish there was a nice middle ground.

Timeshadows said...

I'm with you on this subject.

The game I'm Refereeing didn't have a Cleric for perhaps a dozen sessions, and the only healing potions they can find are 1d6+3.

This fact alone likely keeps my very non-tactically-minded players from engaging in combat at a whim.

More caution and emphasis on exploration.

Gamer Dude said...

@Wax Banks've got a point. But do those healing surges (along w/ the inflated HPs) feel a bit like the old healing potions to you? They do to me.

It seems to me that they've taken the healing-onus off of the cleric (who btw didn't even get a spell until 2nd level in OD&D) and sort of spread it out. I don't know if I necessarily mind this. But, I will say that it certainly brings that safety net much closer.

BTW: I'm not in any way trying to be argumentative here. I like gaming. Period. And I totally respect anyone's "Game of Choice". Neither am I bashing 4E. I might sound like it...and I apologize if that's the tone some of these posts take on.

The Recursion King said...

"I wish there was a nice middle ground."

There is: have the party attacked during the night, when they are low on memorised spells, either in the dungeon or in their home town (mob, thieves, rivals ... revolution??!...). Remember, wandering monsters and random encounters are your friends to be used to throw the players off balance and keep the game exciting.

Alternatively, put the party against the clock such that resting is not an option.

JJ Hendricks said...

Sorry I couldn't find any other way to contact you except through comment on your blog. I found your blog online and noticed that you live in the Denver area and enjoy video games. I would like to personally invite you to a video game competition I am hosting in Denver on Saturday July 18th.

The event is called "Retro Game Championship" and it will be loosely based on the movie "The Wizard" with Fred Savage. Basically we will have 10 TV's setup with original NES consoles. 5 TV's will be playing a rare Nintendo cartridge called "Nintendo World Championships" which gives each gamer 6 minutes and 21 seconds to get 50 coins in Super Mario 1, finish 1 lap in Rad Racer, and get a high score in Tetris. The other 5 TV's will be playing an even more rare game (there is only real copy in existence) called "Nintendo Campus Challenge". This game gives you 6 minutes to get 25 coins in Super Mario 3, 100,000 points in PinBot, and a high score in Dr. Mario.

The championship should be a great time. It gives you a chance to show off your retro gaming skills, hang out with some local gamers, and play some very rare video games. I hope you can make it.

Here are the full details again:

When: Saturday July 18th 2-9 PM (you can come during any part of the event)
Where: JJGames Store | 7975 E Harvard Ave, Ste G | Denver, CO 80231
Website With Directions:

I will be giving away prizes through-out the night and will be sure to save a free t-shirt for you if you RSVP and let me know you are coming. Feel free to bring some guests along with you too. I look forward to seeing you on July 18th.

JJ Hendricks