Thursday, March 22, 2012

Great Honk!

While it is clear I shall have to remain near my toilet for such things, I shall remember in the future that when I am at a loss for something to say, I can go read something Mike Mearls wrote.

How baffling it is that this so-called writer of things D&D seems to have had his head firmly up his butt, particularly when he writes with apparent new-found wonder of the original game of D&D.  The Research & Development Group Manager for D&D didn't know this until last week?  That the core rules are easy to use, apparently, was a "milestone" for him and his little table of minions.  What wonderful research skills this man has - to have written all he has to date and not to have known this until playing last week.

Oh, I know, some of you will say that this is just a clever way of writing, something to appeal to the noob and to help sell the concept - but wow.  Just wow.

I have this ridiculous opinion that someone who is "developing" D&D should actually sound like he knows what he's talking about, and not like some rube falling off a turnip truck.  After three-years in a Colombian prison, apparently.

Is it really okay that some monsters can be complex?  I don't know how, exactly, I'm going to run a "big brawl" without getting a little complex.  Apparently our R&D expert hasn't run a big brawl in his whole fucking life, or he'd know that managing a combat with eight players at the table against 70 bugbears ain't no motherfucking picnic.

I love this little 45 minute schedule he describes.  An "entire" party (that sounds like SO many but apparently was just three people), a ruined keep, SIX rooms explored and TWO battles.  Whaddya say - let's just break that down some.  Mearls says the one character took 5 to 10 minutes, so we'll say 7.5 on the average - so that accounts for half our 45 minutes.  That gives us an average of 3 minutes and 45 seconds to explore each room - assuming we don't waste even as much as 1 second describing the ruined keep we've only just appeared beside.  Oh, wait, that gives us no time to have the combats!  Oh well, it only takes 1 second to roll a die and watch it bounce on the table, and another die to roll damage, so that's only 2 seconds a combat, right?  Well, 4 seconds if the other side even got a chance to swing.  That sounds about right.  ALL my combats take 4 seconds, maybe 8 seconds tops, if someone misses, to play out.  I guess I can't fault Mearls timekeeping there.

Yep, says right here:  "the fights were brief but sharp"  They sure fucking were.  Never mind getting up and using the can, if you took a drink from your pop and scarfed a handful of cheetoes, you'd have missed the brief and sharp combats.  No wonder Mearl's monsters get "sprinkled" like the everlovin' rain.

For my part, I'm so glad Mearls doesn't want us all to give up the way we play.  You know, the way DMs have to answer a couple hundred questions during a session (like what the ruined keep looks like, for one thing), squeeze in 5 or 8 seconds of laughter while rocket launching from room to room, or giving the players time to actually talk out their next fucking move without holding a stop watch at them and screaming "18 SECONDS TICK TOCK!!!"

Which isn't to say that Mearls flash-forward rooms and combat mechanics aren't wonderfully "flexible."  They obviously are.  In Mearls' twisted sense of reality, TIME itself is flexible enough that any length of it can be described as "45 minutes."

Including the additional 8 seconds it takes for any and every party in the gameplaying universe to divide up treasure.


Lukas said...

Hey now, character creation took 5 to 10 minutes. That could imply the whole process collectively did. However to get that kind of time everyone definitely is 100% familiar with the system and what kind of character they want to play from the outset. It also implies there was little to no DM consultation. Finally to me it implies the characters are somewhat simple with limited choices...

I like choices, and one thing I like about 4th edition is the ability for different characters of the same class to have very different choices for a different flavor of character.

Alexis said...

Without actually trying to do it quickly, I doubt very much if any person playing the game on a saturday night in comfort would roll stats, choose their class, choose their spells or weapons and buy their equipment in under ten minutes. People rushing? Sure. People having fun? Not a fucking chance in hell.

Lukas said...

I've made some characters for last minute entries into a campaign that quickly. They were very standard fighters or rogues or whatnot (non-spellcasters) and not made for my own use. Of coarse, I just like to make characters as well, so I can buzz through it very quickly, but making those I can say, generally not fun, just a program in my head.

Alexis said...

And so I am saying, Lukas, for someone who is supposedly an expert on how the game is played, it would be nice if he knew one freaking thing about how people play the game.

Black Vulmea said...

I've read Mike Mearls varoious columns and essays over the years, and I never fail to be amazed by how little he understands older versions of D&D. The other day I think I finally figured out why: Mr Mearls learned the game the way a great many people did, through oral tradition rather than actually reading the rules.

It's the only way I can explain some of the amazingly banal and outright stupid things that come from his keyboard.

Oh, and Lukas? You don't need baroque class abilities to differentiate between two fighters or two magic-users.

Lukas said...

That's a rather snippy reaction to a positive comment Black. Did I shit in your Cheerios? Or can you just not allow any positive feedback given to fourth edition?

No, you don't need "extravagantly ornate, florid, and convoluted in character or style" class abilities to differentiate between two fighters, but having the option to use 'baroque' abilities to personalize the character I intend to play for a year or more is nice.

Alexis said...

Lukas is right, it was snippy. And Lukas, that was flatly harsh. I'd rather this didn't expand. Please share out emails and go at it like strangers.

Lukas said...

Upon reading through it again, it sounds like they just sat down and said, "How fast can we play this?" I don't know anyone who plays who tries to do it in a fastest possible fashion. This however, seems to be something they want to 'be able to do' but not necessarily be the only way to do.

It sounds like they are playing to a very small audience. Perhaps trying to squeeze the game into more than just day long events, or whole afternoon killers.

I don't think you could settle down, set up, play, clean up and depart in less than 2 hours for most games I've played, and any games that short have been rather unsatisfying.

Alexis said...

Reading what you've said, Lukas, it suddenly hits me that WOTC's market research probably told them that a problem with D&D is that it "takes too long" ... so in true marketing fashion, they've created a concocted bullshit description of what D&D "can be."

Yeah, viewed in that light, the particular kind of crap spewed here makes sense.

Lukas said...

Furthermore, this doesn't sound like an appropriate pitch to general audience. It seems like something the designers and producers would write up for the investors as a response to said market research.

I can't imagine the audiences reading that bit of document to be nearly as interested in how the designers can fit the game into one hour.

Blaine H. said...

So... at this breakneck pace and bare bones carbon copy stick figure characters... what are they going to do with the next three to seven hours of their time that an average game session takes?

Short of running from modules and taking the lazy man's way out of running... this puts a good deal of work on the shoulders of a gm. Suddenly, the GM needs to prep 18 to 42 additional rooms (24 to 48 total rooms for a night), 6 to 14 additional fights, and have the whole nightmare mess mapped out a week, treasure and important details worked out ahead of time... every single game night... and somehow keep it interesting.

This is insane. All while keep players focused, drawing out the endless series of maps as fast as possible for the party to keep this insane pace going... which takes time to wipe clean the mat, dry the thing, and start drawing as fast as possible... while keeping it a bit of a challenge.

And as you pointed out, no time for real descriptions or the such. Heaven help us if there is an actual RP encounter that is not just a dialogue tree... this might derail the insane system that he wants.

Toss in the problem here that it is 1st edition at obviously low level. Heck, even 3.x, Pathfinder, and 4e are fast at low level when it comes to combat. It doesn't break down till it gets to higher level. Can he still justify the extreme fast pace once it hits 10th to 15th level, where most of the newer editions break down like a cheap import?

Black Vulmea said...

@Lukas & Alexis, my sincere apologies for coming across as snippy - that wasn't my intent, and I'm sorry I gave offense.

Alexis said...

No worries here, Black Vulmea. Just didn't want things to escalate.

JDJarvis said...

It usually takes the folks I game with 45 minutes to buy their starting equipment and most of them still manage to fail to record stats for said equipment even when it's on the same table they use view to select the equipment... and this has held true for about 30 years.