Dungeons and Dragons Essentially Covered – Adding the Egg

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And now I return with part 2 of my experience with D&D Essentials.

Let’s be honest, 4.0 has its flaws.  I can concede that point (I admitted to the flaws of 3.0 in a previous post).  I have issues.  You have issues.  I, for one, dislike roles (obvious when you see the dual roles in Amethyst).  I don’t like the idea of all fighters being defenders, or them needing to use strength at all times (later books offered solutions to these issues).  Fourth Edition was not about unlimited freedom.   When critics pointed out to me about D&D was encouraging “yes”, I shot back by saying that “yes” and “no” were interchangeable based on the wording of a question– that the rules of a game consist of bullet-point instances of “no”.

And dammit, I LIKE saying no.  It’s one of the cherished powers of the GM.  One recent game had my players in a desert with no food or water.  One of them (ironically Bilbo, mentioned in the previous post) had the money for a magic haversack that supplied food and water for everyone.  I said he couldn’t buy one.  He asked why.  I gave him some reason but…I didn’t need to.  I just said no.  No.  Just say it.  Scream it.  NO!   Cleans you out.  And 4th Edition says no all the time; it just doesn’t appear so.  If you were playing a Lord of the Rings game, would you automatically allow a player to create a tiefling?

Nnnnnooo…  Love saying that.

And this brings up the matter of psychology.  I have a player in my current game that controls a stalker (a techan ranger for those that don’t own Amethyst).  He uses the same powers all the time.  He rarely deviates.  Another player, controlling a warlord, is in a similar boat.  Whenever anyone creates a ranger, they select Twin Strike.  No exceptions.  It’s one of the most powerful at-wills in the entire 4E line and clearly the most powerful in the original PHB.  So there is a claim that Essentials limits diversity.   But all it really does is emphasize one specific build.  There are two fighter classes in the Heroes of the Fallen Lands, each geared to a specific design intent.   Players that elect for the most powerful abilities shouldn’t worry about not having options, especially if you are given the most powerful selections for free.

Consider RSTLNE.  Remember your Wheel of Fortune.  In the final round, the contestant was given a choice to select 5 consonants and a vowel.  Fairly soon, these contestants had done their research and came to the conclusion that those letters, RSTLNE, had statistically the higher chances of paying off (on a side note, later research concluded that H was more commonly used than R).  Eventually, the wizards behind the Wheel decided to offer those letters on gratis.  Every finalist was automatically given RSTLNE.  The puzzles were made larger to accommodate, and the contestant was asked to pick three more consonants with another vowel.  Of course, these four letters ended being exactly the same as well, but that’s beside the point.  The issue is choice can sometimes be an illusion if the option is obvious.  Complaining about the members of my game group, it almost appeared they preferred rejecting the bad choice over being forced to take the best one.  There are a few other issues at work here.

An experiment some years ago offered people the opportunity to acquire a piece of artwork.  After a set time, they were given a choice to exchange it.  Another group was given a choice of several pieces and after a set time, was also allowed to exchange it for another.  By the end of the experiment, the group that was offered the options at the inset disliked their decisions more frequently.  They changed their mind more often, taking less pleasure in both the initial decision and the later one.  The group given only one tended to keep it despite being allowed to return it.  They also often took greater pleasure in the original acquisition than members of the other segment.

Want another interesting anecdote?  Many many years ago, Betty Crocker Foods had asked a sampling of mothers and wives if they would purchase ready to bake cakes.  The package contained all the ingredients required.  All that was required by the cook was water and an oven.  The women surveyed expressed overwhelming approval at the idea but when marketed, they refused buy it.  Crocker brought in a psychoanalyst to find out why.  It came down to the guilt of making something without contributing to it.  The cooks wanted to believe that they were participating in the creation.  So the solution appeared simple…add an egg.  By removing an ingredient from the box and requiring the cook to add it overcame this guilt and the product sold like gangbusters for decades.

Perhaps this is also an issue relating to our situation.  Do players only want the illusion of choice just so they feel like they’re contributing?   Give players the instruction to select a power, despite one being the overwhelmingly popular choice.  These two situations appear to enforce opposite views.  Fourth Edition has a strength in that it offers you choices, even though most people select the same one, but it also has a weakness by offering too many options, thus paralyzing some people and rendering others unsure or unhappy about the decisions they made.

Which brings up my problem with Doritos.

Darn…ran out of space…will have to finish this next week.

Chris

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Chris Dias

Chris Tavares Dias is the literary equivalent of that crusty burnt cheese at the bottom of the fondue pot. Some people claim he looks like Mathew Perry. He would like that to be true. It's not. In 2010, Chris co-wrote and created Amethyst Foundations, a 4th Edition setting based on the previous version under 3.5. It has received critical acclaim for integrating science fiction into classical fantasy. In August of this year, Chris was last seen staring at a dead raven that had fallen beside his car. Two months later, his watch and notepad were found in the stomach of a basking shark that had washed ashore off the coast of Florida.

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