Saturday, April 16, 2011

A TPK inspires me to do my homework.

Four different events have conspired to bring me to this blog post.
First of all, my usually gaming group (from whom I have been absent these many months) experienced an ATPK (Almost Total Party Kill). The DM graciously allowed the newest player’s character to escape unseen in the fog of battle.
Secondly, Heroes of the Shadowfell arrived on the bookshelves of my favorite hobby store and found its way into my hands.
Thirdly, I was listening to an old Podcast where we were discussing a training aid I used, my 4th Edition Class Matrix. To recap, I had to break down all of the classes into a matrix so I could visualize the roles and power sources of the party composition. In hindsight I guess I should have shared that our party was way too Striker heavy….oh wait, we knew that….probably the reason they are rolling up new characters. Oh well…
And fourthly, I (in my slightly anal retentive way) wanted to update the Class Matrix to add the new Shadow Power source material, which vexed me…because I was confused by several things. So I crack open Google Docs and open up my Class Matrix and start typing away. Then I jump over to the D&D Compendium just to check myself and the search result comes back with 60 class results. So I browse the list and immediately see that they count all of the Hybridizations as classes, so I discount those. Then I notice some name I did not recognize like, Mage, Scout, Hunter, Knight, Cavalier, Hexblade, Thief, and Warpriest. I started to discount them a sub builds or pre-generated solutions for the Essentials books. But then I checked them and started noticing that the sub builds of the Ranger, the Scout and Hunter did not fall into the Martial Striker box. The Scout leans in more of a Primal direction and the Hunter is not a Striker at all…it’s a Martial Controller. What the hell?
Brief aside here…I have actively campaigned for a Martial Controller and have built a few protypes….but for WotC to not only build one but then slip it in to a product I ignored is shocking!
So there you have it…the Matrix is full and pretty well balanced. There are some Role/Source intersections that are overpopulated but I suspect that is because they are iconic and the designers wanted everyone to have a taste of them. What have I learn from this? Well it reinforces my belief that 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons is a terminal edition for the brand. I believe that the Matrix of classes and power sources is an End of Life choice so that they can continue to add accessories without rebuilding the fundamental mechanics of the game. Also, when the Essentials Line was launched I was unclear about its intention and direction. I now believe that it is aptly named “Essentials” because it establishes iconic playable archtypes. Interestingly WotC was retconned the names of the base classes from PHB1. You can no longer play a "wizard", "rogue", "fighter", or "cleric". To see the new names, sign up for DDI and check it out!