We try to marathon every question anyone sent us all week (spoiler alert, I just found another one this morning), as well as recommend a new game a listener made out of the leftover bits we tore off our last review. It’s a long one, so settle in. Regular length episodes to resume shortly.
I don’t understand why you’re so against variable complexity in classes. Variable power, sure, it makes total sense to demand that all classes are at the same power level, but complexity on top of that too? Why? It just seems amazingly petulant to demand that every class in a game with 20 classes should cater to the same type of person. People are different, and different people will wind up playing the same RPGs together. Surely it’s better to have options for everyone.
The problem comes when the complexity within the classes aren’t flexible. We already mentioned in the podcast about the player that loves complexity having a super awesome idea for a fighter but not being able to play one that does anything more than swing a sword turn after turn. The other half of that being the player that hates complexity but wants to play a sweet wizard and then has dozens of pages of spells to choose from making his head spin. In D&D 4e (take a shot everyone playing at home) you could play any class as complex or simple as you want. If you want to just use your At Will basic attack every round? Go for it. You can make a Wizard that Magic Missiles every round. You also have the ability to make a Fighter that can directly change the battlefield, has utilities that do rad out of combat effects, and can go into Ritual Casting so the party has access to those in case the 0-Complexity Wizard doesn’t care about rituals. Not saying every class should be completely equally complex but there needs to be a degree of options available, especially for the base classes in a game.
“If you want to just use your At Will basic attack every round? Go for it.”
That’s not playing a less complex Fighter, that’s just playing a Fighter poorly. A 4E Fighter that uses his dailies and encounter powers is directly superior to the Fighter that has them but doesn’t make use of them. To genuinely enable a simple playstyle (as a real option and not a trap), you’d need some type of feat that, say, takes away your daily and encounter powers forever but in exchange doubles the strength of your at-wills.
Honestly the less complex version is just the build that picks the power that is straightforward every time. So like when you get an Encounter power choice, they usually include an option at every point that is just straight more damage without the riders. So you’d get a power that does double your weapon damage instead of one that lets you reposition people.
There are a lot of things that they could have done to diversify the complexity. You can kind of see some of that in 5E, with the difference between the Champion and the Battlemaster, but it still feels like they didn’t go far enough.
In any case, that has nothing to do with why I hate 4E; for me, it all comes down to minions, and using different math for PCs and NPCs. A wizard is a wizard, and whether that’s a PC or an NPC is entirely a metagame construct that cannot possibly inform its in-game statistics.
That’s just the big divide between people who like games to act like real worlds and people who want them to act like games. I don’t think there’s any bridging that gap, and also, it probably doesn’t need bridging. Both modes are pretty good.
I’m not sure that I buy into your premise. If you had a class that required setting up certain moves in a specific order with the right positioning (or whatever), then it doesn’t necessarily follow that the pay-off for all of that should be identical to another class that just used basic attacks. I feel like you would want the complex class to have more potential, to make up for the fact that you’re constantly failing to live up to that.
If you can get the same return out of basic attacks, then there’s no reason to jump through the hoops. (I can’t imagine many people would do the extra work, if they knew they were getting nothing out of it.) If you can always outperform by putting in the effort and bookkeeping, though, then that’s the new baseline and anyone who wants less complexity is being penalized for it.
It’s not as simple as just making lots of classes with different complexities. There’s real merit to keeping all classes roughly similar on that front. Whether that’s worth the trade-off is up for debate.
God this was a funny episode. Your description of why people take insults to their rpg of choice was spot on.
Has anyone recommended that you cover Cthulhutech? It’s batshit, and you can rant about Lovecraft some more. Also, a new edition is coming out and the author straight up acknowledges how creepy the first one was, so you won’t be hurting anyone’s feelings
Good news! We covered it a long time ago: https://systemmasterypodcast.com/2014/06/04/system-mastery-20-cthulhutech/
I think since we just read the corebook we didn’t ever encounter all the terrifying sex stuff that made people so uncomfortable, so if I remember correctly we actually gave this game a moderate seal of approval. Of course the internet told us that A) the fun dice mechanics were actually horrible, and B) RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE.
Oh cool! Time to go enjoy some backlog episodes :)