Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Discussion on the Earthdawn game line, errata, and feedback not related to playing or GMing.
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etherial
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by etherial » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:52 pm

Dougansf wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:49 am
A related issue, the illusion of choice that is the extra threads for combat spells. Using a round to weave an extra thread at best breaks even. If you go for 1 extra target, you attack 2 things, like you would have if you'd just cast both rounds.

Again, only talking about Novice circles. Enhanced Matrixes changes everything.
You are mostly correct that Earth Darts with one extra Thread is not impressive. There is some utility in lower Circles of letting you spend one Karma to hit two Targets with a single Spellcasting Test, but mostly, using Extra Threads at low Circles is a bad plan because Extra Threads are there to keep low Circle spells relevant at high Circle.

You don't cast Earth Darts with Extra Threads when you're First Circle (unless it's some sort of ambush). You cast Earth Darts with Two Extra Threads out of your Standard Matrix as a Journeyman, when you are consistently rolling 10+ on your Elementalism test. So you apply the Debuff to 3 enemies, or at +2 against 2 enemies, or at +4 against one enemy, and also do some damage on the side.

As a fringe benefit, if you have a favorite 0-thread spell, Extra Threads allows you to meaningfully put the spell in an Enhanced Matrix.

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:44 pm

I'm sorry, I should have been more clear.

These are issues at our (rotating 15 person) Westmarches table. Because we're using multiple GMs and multiple groups we're running the game as RAW as possible. We keep a close eye on the errata because it has a significant impact on our gameplay, and we try to use everything by the book between the group of GMs to ensure a level, fair field between games.

Furthermore... I love the step system. Saying I don't like it is both aggressive and dismissive, and there's no call for being aggressively dismissive. I understand the math behind the step system *keenly*, I've dissected it, I've done reports on it and gotten good marks in university, I've touted it as a more balanced and modeled way of adding in the 'critical effect' while showing what real skill looks like. You can still smash your thumb with a hammer as a master carpenter, but you're unlikely to botch common tasks. My problem is the lack of bones in encounter design. A krillworm did 25 damage to my party's cavalryman... twice. Had it been 4 krillworms, that wouldn't have been a problem, but I put the party up against 12 thinking they'd scare them away, which didn't happen until almost none were left.

While "game books that read like instruction manuals" are less fun to read, it's true, they're also easier to understand, and create less mistakes. We have a large group of players playing under the same set of rules, as is written in the book, which means we're playtesting the system. This is valuable feedback that developers *pay* for. If Mataxes and Panda read the posts and talk about the issues, if they are made aware of them and consider them as they move forward writing more of the setting and rules and revisions and errata, then we've done our part.

Saying 'you don't like this' or 'this thing is abused' doesn't help the hundreds, if not thousands, of GMs who are world-wide playing the game, and have these questions, but don't come forward to ask them. Instead we have 7-10 pages of the book devoted to a system we have little if no understanding how to implement because the methods of actually *starting* to use those rules has been left so nebulous as to not be in the book at all.

This is an attempt to be constructive, helpful, and informative. Other players who have collected issues at their table are welcome to chime in with what they may have misconstrued, accidentally fumbled, or found blocked by their reading of the rules are welcome to add to this thread. Players who wish to dissect and dismiss our issues run into at the table are not. If you have a page number with a specific citation that shows where something was mis-handled or misconstrued, we welcome the assistance.

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by The Undying » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:49 pm

Sounds like you're reading animosity into messages where none is intended. I said it sounds like you don't like the Step System, not "you obviously don't like the Step System and are a bad person for that and should feel bad." :D Regardless, I'm sorry that it seems you took offense to the statement - none was intended.

Dice explode - it's awesome when it happens in favor of the PCs and can be heartbreaking when it happens against them. I was replying to the point you made about a Step 7 attack exploding to 25, which you made as part of your point that the encounter design system is whack. That's a 1% case, so it begs the question "does a 1% case require change or mean the system is inherently broken"? I'd say no, but you're welcome to disagree. If a system works as intend 90+% of the time, that seems fine, and as I said, it's those 10% that honestly are the most memorable, at least for our table.

As to the larger complaints about encounter balancing, I think Slim made the point where it's more art than science, and I totally agree with that. Are you just looking for more guidance than available in the Gamemaster's Guide? The GMG provides general information on how to size encounters and more-or-less how often to throw encounters at the party (at least from a "how to structure an adventure" point of view), but all it can do is provide a guideline. The HUGE variance between party composition and player playstyle means that no systemic formula will ever work consistently or well. The downside of rotating GMs (which is totally a neat idea, I'm not getting down on it) is that each GM has to learn the lessons for themselves - hot wash type meetings afterwards where the GM talks about how they tried to size it, how they felt it went, and how the players felt it went may help build common lessons learned across everyone to make the learning curve more for the group than the individual.
Purplefixer wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:44 pm
Other players who have collected issues at their table are welcome to chime in with what they may have misconstrued, accidentally fumbled, or found blocked by their reading of the rules are welcome to add to this thread. Players who wish to dissect and dismiss our issues run into at the table are not. If you have a page number with a specific citation that shows where something was mis-handled or misconstrued, we welcome the assistance.
Whe're all one team - us (players and designers) against the problems. People are going to chime in with what they think is useful and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes it may not be helpful to the poster, but that doesn't mean it won't be helpful to someone else. Were a community, we try to help each other, for better or worse. :)

As to the page number stuff, some things aren't as clear cut as a reference. Sometimes it's a matter of education, offering alternate points of view, and sharing experiences. Some of your stuff was very much subjective feelings ('IM&C is hot garbage') - all anyone can do is try to provide some feedback suggesting why that might not be the case. Disagreement isn't necessarily dismissiveness.

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Slimcreeper » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:43 am

Maybe it would be good to break some of these concerns into different threads so we try to work through some of them.

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:56 am

Legend Point Awards:
According to encounter design we take into account the average circle of the party to determine where our critters should fall. We do the same with the defenses, the wound threshold, and the health.

Why do we use individual circles for legend point awards? This means that characters who Multi-Discipline and Humans instantly begin to get less legend points because they didn't circle up the same game everyone else did. Further, since their LP awards are less, they slow down further and further as the game progresses. If one character is hurrying to C6 the others could rapidly be gaining a minimal fraction of what that character earns on each adventure.

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by The Undying » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:41 pm

This is something that *might* end up being at odds with the Westmarches stuff and requires some tweaking. There is an assumption (form my perspective) that an Earthdawn gaming group (or, more specifically, Group, because they are likely so cohesive as to have a Group Pattern) is fairly tightly clustered in LP, so they're all effectively the same "strength". That strength directly determines how the GM has to size the challenges to make them significant but surmountable, and the GM tailors all adventures for the group with that in mind. So, the group is always doing things that are challenging. In that mindset, you can just provide a uniform LP award to all players using the highest Circle in the group.

Why this might not work for Westmarches stuff is (a) less uniformity in group composition, and (b) greater potential for strong characters to engage in activities beneath them in terms of difficulty. The first makes it hard to create a challenge that is significant but surmountable, without resorting to cheap tactics (e.g., the "tough" monster for some reason only goes after the "though" character, and so forth), and it's harder to justify uniform LP awards. The latter makes it hard to keep characters from playing safe (by choice or necessity) and still reaping rewards based on their Circle.

Again, just looking at the Westmarches thing, I'd suggest you guys go with LP awards that meet the difficulty of the region (assuming you're going true Westmarches style with level-equivalent zones - I haven't been following this endeavour much at all). In that case, Adepts going to a Circle 3-4 zone equivalent will get Circle 3-4 LP awards. Groups with high Circle Adepts would get the higher end of the difficulty curve (Circle 4) but still only get Circle 4 level LP awards. The downside, though, is that players that play as often as possible will see their advancement potentially draw to a trickle because they have to do low-Circle areas with low-Circle partners (unless they wanna risk dragging outclassed Adepts into tougher zones, knowing that they'll be carrying, and knowing there's greater risk of failure).

I hope that helps. The Westmarches idea is neat, but there's no denying the fact that the play style is a bit at odds with the way Earthdawn is engineered (from my experience), so there WILL need to be some tweaks, mostly from the GM side (encounter sizing, LP awards, etc).

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Mataxes » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:10 pm

Purplefixer wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:56 am
Legend Point Awards:
According to encounter design we take into account the average circle of the party to determine where our critters should fall. We do the same with the defenses, the wound threshold, and the health.
To clarify (because a lot of people assume this), it's not generally intended that you award Legend Points based on the Circle listed in the creature statistics. That is, just because a creature is marked as a "Third Circle" challenge, it isn't worth 200-500 Legend, regardless of the player character Circle.

Rather, the challenge rating listed for a creature is used as a rough ballpark for the equivalent Circle value, mainly based on the modifiers to its base attribute steps -- so a "Third Circle" creature might have an attack step that is +3 to its Dexterity. (Again, this isn't 100% across the board, but a rough approximation.)

So the Circle value given for a creature is merely a starting point, and the more detailed analysis (comparing defenses, etc) is used to double check and see if a particular creature might be easier/harder for your group based on their composition and talent selections. Balancing encounters is as much art as science (if not more), and rather than say "X creature is worth Y Legend" (like they originally did), it's shifted to "for each session, the group should earn between A and B Legend for overcoming challenges. To help, here's a rough guide on how to determine how much of a challenge a combat encounter might be."

It's a campaign pacing mechanic, not a simulationist point system.
Why do we use individual circles for legend point awards? This means that characters who Multi-Discipline and Humans instantly begin to get less legend points because they didn't circle up the same game everyone else did. Further, since their LP awards are less, they slow down further and further as the game progresses. If one character is hurrying to C6 the others could rapidly be gaining a minimal fraction of what that character earns on each adventure.
Award everybody the same Legend, based on the highest group Circle. That's what I've always done (aside from the occasional bonus for roleplaying/heroics, which over the course of a campaign, tends to balance out). If two characters experience the same events, one shouldn't get fewer Legend simply because he's only Circle 2 while his buddy is Circle 3. That's... kind of obviously unfair?

What this means is that somebody who decides to branch out into a second Discipline, or invest into skills or Versatility talents, ends up with more tools, but those tools are a little bit less powerful. It shouldn't hamper their "earning" potential when it comes to Legend Points.

Edit to add: Undying brings up a good point with regard to a Westmarch-style game. I don't really have a good answer to the its particular challenges (yet). It's a style I have virtually no experience with, and would need to think about it.
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Purplefixer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:24 pm

Josh wrote: Award everybody the same Legend, based on the highest group Circle. That's what I've always done (aside from the occasional bonus for roleplaying/heroics, which over the course of a campaign, tends to balance out). If two characters experience the same events, one shouldn't get fewer Legend simply because he's only Circle 2 while his buddy is Circle 3. That's... kind of obviously unfair?

What this means is that somebody who decides to branch out into a second Discipline, or invest into skills or Versatility talents, ends up with more tools, but those tools are a little bit less powerful. It shouldn't hamper their "earning" potential when it comes to Legend Points.
I've always used Average Circle, so if you have an outlier either direction it doesn't impact everyone so much. Apparently the book reads this way, however, and if we're bound to running by Rules as Written that is an issue! It certainly seems like it's worth a revision or errata.

Thank you for reading the forums and weighing in, Mataxes!

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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Mataxes » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:44 pm

Purplefixer wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:24 pm
I've always used Average Circle, so if you have an outlier either direction it doesn't impact everyone so much. Apparently the book reads this way, however, and if we're bound to running by Rules as Written that is an issue! It certainly seems like it's worth a revision or errata.
That's a perfectly valid approach as well. As long as you're clear, consistent, and fair, it's all good.

(As ED4 starts reaching more people who haven't really encountered the game before, I find myself making a lot of notes about ideas for columns and blog posts to help explain some of the stuff to newer members of the community. If only I had more time...)
Thank you for reading the forums and weighing in, Mataxes!
Of course.
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Re: Collective Issues with the Earthdawn 4e Game System/Engine

Post by Telarus » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:12 am

I also use the "average group Circle" (using the higher Circle for multidisciplined characters) as the base, then scale on difficulty within that range.

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