A Cogent Observation

Following the comments on Chatty DM’s “The Tyranny of Fun is a load of baloney” blog entry, I came across the following, from poster Donny:

What is the biggest change in 4E? It’s not really the rules per se, its that there is no longer any place for a lone wolf character anymore. You see a little of that in the default party becoming one larger (it was 4 from 2nd – 3.5) now it is 5. The tactical aspect HEAVILY encourages teamwork and balance above all other considerations.

This was a revelation to me.  I hadn’t put the thought together in quite that way, in spite of stumbling around the edges of it pretty consistently.  Donny’s absolutely right:  4e puts emphasis on a group of characters that is a party of adventureres, rather than on a group of adventurers that happens to have formed a party.  Teamwork is much more central to 4e than to earlier editions.

Donny suggests that this is part of what’s behind the “edition war”:  a rift between those whose players preferred team play to begin with (the group I’m among, for the record) and those whose players preferred individual heroics and moments of glory.

I think there’s some truth to that; one of the most frequent pieces of criticism and praise (depending on the writer’s camp) I’ve often seen regarding 4e is the change in the wizard class from “weak early on, godlike later” to more balanced across all levels.  Even in my own overview, I touched on that.  But it’s not just wizards — everyone’s more dependent on the team now.  The rogue or ranger can still be sneaky, but when it comes to a fight, they’ll want backup.

I like that idea.  But of course, teamwork is my style of game.  I’m not heavily invested in my character being powerful in and of himself when I play, and when I GM, I very much prefer my party to stick together and share the spotlight.  4e makes this easier.

That’s not to say it’s bad to play the lone wolf.  I’ve done it.  It’s just not my preference.  But those who do prefer it will find it more difficult with 4e.  It’s obvious, once it’s pointed out.  And from that perspective, the animosity toward balance is easier to understand, even if I still don’t sympathize.

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5 Responses to A Cogent Observation

  1. […] As I was writing this, Ninetails also posted about the Teamwork focus of 4e. […]

  2. Ravyn says:

    I like the teamwork, but it seems to me that it can be death on individual character concepts. And no, I don’t mean the individual heroics angle, but being able to choose your own character.

    I was in a game a while back that was supposed to be a test of the system. It was originally planned for five players: one warlock, one wizard, a fighter, a rogue and a warlord. Then the fighter quit the group (the edition war was one of the reasons) and the session after… well, it was a tad awkward. Leaving aside the warlock’s player’s class-restlessness, and my irritation about the inability of an elf rogue to take advantage of racial weapon proficiency without losing half of her powers, we had one major issue that told me why I was probably going to stick to other games. With the fighter gone, the warlord was having to tank, which would’ve worked a lot better if he’d had more abilities that he could actually use on himself, and that threw just about everything off tactics-wise.

    Now, ordinarily I like a teamwork-based game. But in a game where a certain set of roles have to be filled, no choice, no sidestep, the last one to the table will usually get stuck with something they don’t want, or have to sacrifice a perfectly good concept because, good idea though they have for a spellslinger, that’s already filled and the party needs a healer, so pleeeeeeease? And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not fond of being pigeon-holed.

  3. […] of Fun – et indlæg om emnets absurditet (og lidt i relation til […]

  4. Tom says:

    I’m partial to a group of adventurers who form a party, holes and all. I like the challenge of having to deal with a situation when you don’t have a cleric or some other niche. I remember using the character with the most hitpoints to remove traps…by walking through them!

    You’re right. That’s a lot of what my issue with 4th Edition is, that I can’t play the character, just a cog in the machine that is the party. I’d rather play a character trying to fill in as that cog…much more interesting to me 😀

  5. […] As I was writing this, Ninetails also posted about the Teamwork focus of 4e. […]

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