Looking for a summer job has trumped writing the last few days and I haven’t had time to properly write up my 4E posts. I will get back to them in the next few days. Until then, I want to address — at least partially — the question posed by Kodak and Callyn in the comments to my previous post.
It does bear pointing out at this point, my reasoning here also involves, mostly, situations where you are not playing with a long-term group that is comfortable with one another or good friends. I’m thinking mostly of groups that are either organized play, at game stores, or even a group where you play together sometimes, but otherwise don’t know each other outside this specific game experience.
When it comes to the idea of not wanting to house rule (or at least, not very much) it comes down to three things. I’ve touched on these before but I’ll attempt to explore them a little better.
The first is the idea of that common language that the players of a game (inclusive of GMs) share. When we talk about D&D 4E and we bring up Goliaths, or Artillery monsters, or Elites, we have a shared knowledge of what those things are and how they work. If I tinker too much with any aspect of the game, then we can’t share that common experience anymore.
More than that though, it has been my experience that if we, as DMs change more than a little of the rules to suit our own campaigns or play-style, it tends to either lead to players not actually pay attention to the changes (especially if the changes are only fluff), and it tends to cause players to have a disconnect with the game experience because the game doesn’t work when they try to play it.
And that sense of player expectation is the second thing. If I make a significant change to the way the game works mechanically it can create confusion for players. They expect the game to work a certain way but are consistently confronted with experiences that don’t match up to expectation. The DMG2 talks about this issue a little bit with it’s suggestions for Alternate Rewards to address the magic item dependency issue. The writers warn DMs of possible player reactions to such a change…
Recently, a summer game that I joined had several very significant changes to the way Action Points work. I was uncomfortable with the ideas, but talking to another player who thought about joining the game, she was put off by the house-ruling and decided not to ask to join because she was worried about the game not being what she expected. That’s just one example, but it’s a recent one that’s helped shape some of these thoughts for me.
Finally, to discuss 4E specifically, the Action Point house rules really put something else into perspective for me. 4E has a very narrow design space, limited by the very tight mechanical balance. Change the interaction of one aspect and it will have unforeseen consequences. These changes alter player expectation as well.
So, that was a lot of words and I’m not sure that it really explained my thinking all that well… or, maybe it made sense. I’ll get to writing about what I’d like to work with in 4E in the next few days, but for now, Comments?