Pen and paper DnD. Which one to choose?

Discussion in 'Other Games' started by klaymen_sk, May 16, 2012.

  1. klaymen_sk

    klaymen_sk Member

    Well, what the thread title says. I'd like to give it a shot, but I am not sure about which edition to choose.

    Many people prefer 3E or 3.5E and they may recommend those, or Pathfinder.
    4E got a lot of hate because it evokes a boardgame, yet that may be good for my group which composes of boardgamers. It even does not have (or has very limited) Vancian magic, which I personally hate.

    Then there is the new edition, pardon - iteration, which is supposed to be for fans of every edition, but we don't know much about it. I'll try to participate in the beta to know more about it.

    So what is your opinion? Also please take into consideration supplements and settings, because I may pick up some.
  2. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    Honestly it only matters if you play with uncreative rule-nazis.

    I enjoyed second edition the most, but that was due to time and availability more than anything.

    I would say to look for the materials first. If you can get a good deal on used and outdated rulebooks, use them. They were always good. Nothing of real significance changed since second edition besides things the DM can choose to overlook anyway.

    You can have a blast with any set you get, and you can even make up the majority of the materials you lack if any.
  3. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    If you want something that is a cross between storytelling and battles, take 3.5.
    If you want something that is a tactical turn-based game with some storytelling (whether or not that is bad depends on the players), take 4.0.
    And if you want a good story, take any playable (meaning: ones, playing which is enjoyable) RPG and a good GM/DM (personally I'd recommend Warhammer, but that's just because I got used to it; DnD 3.5 wasn't bad either, but you might need more house rules for it).
  4. Mr_Strange

    Mr_Strange Member

    I have some rather extensive opinions on these matters, but I'm probably not a very good representative of the norm.

    First things first - avoid 3E! 3.5 just clobbers 3E in every way.

    Between 3.5 and Pathfinder - I'd say stick with 3.5 (assuming you can find the books, which I'm sure you can.) Pathfinder is a way to keep extending 3.5 - and though it does clean up some mechanics slightly, I think 3.5 sourcebooks are a better way to start a new session. That said, Pathfinder has more & better extension materials, so if you're looking to sink lots of money into something, Pathfinder probably has the best materials for you to sink money into.

    The real question, though, is 3.5E or 4E?

    Personally, I love 4E. It normalizes a whole lot of mechanics, and makes every character class an interesting combatant. Instead of simply attacking AC with your Strength, there are four different defense stats to attack: Fortitude, Willpower, Reflexes, and AC. A given enemy might be very strong & sturdy (high Fortitude and AC) but be weak to reflex-based attacks. This means that characters can contribute to fights in multiple ways, which is really exciting and keeps people engaged during battles.

    3.5 has more stuff - more skills, more feats, more special abilities for each character type. I find character creation to be more fun in 3.5 when it's just me and the sourcebooks, pouring over them and selecting my gear. But all that complexity translates into more frustration and more choice paralysis during actual play. I think I'm a pretty good GM, so I tailor my adventures to make use of all those weird bits my characters pack, but after years of playing 3.5 I am of the opinion that most of that time & choices are never actually important during the game. They are lots of fun during character creation, but they simply don't impact the game much.

    The biggest complaint I field with 4E is that combats grind on too long - or they are too focused on miniatures, or "are too MMO like" or somesuch. But I think the root of the problem is different from what people say. I think 4E is much simpler and stripped down combat-wise, which makes players think they can hold every detail of a battle in their head - and can lead to more rules-lawyering from your players. 3.5, on the other hand, is a system where players just trust the GM to deal with the bookkeeping.

    It is important in any RPG, and perhaps especially in 4E, for the GM to really keep a handle on what is happening and corral the players. 3.5 forces you to do this or fail - 4E lets you slide a bit, but your battles become less fun.

    In general, especially for a new group, I think 4E is a better fit.
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  5. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    A good DM can and does always keep a handful of emergency escape situations. The entire party was wiped by a bunch of die rolls that went bad when no-one expected anything bad and now everyone is pissed? Now he roll a 1d6 to see who or what intervenes and at what expense to the party.

    A DM should expect to occasionally have a bad situation and not to be expected to fix it. Yet there are times that people want some almighty force to wreck the enemies and heal the injured party so they can demand a tribute or give them a new mission.

    Every rule has it's exceptions. And every exception has a purpose or a hundred.
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  6. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    Drop D&D entirely and play Everway.

    Just kidding. (Not really.) 3.5 is the best, but that's kind of like saying Phish Food is the best ice cream.
  7. Aegho

    Aegho Member

    I kinda liked the 4E system more at least in theory. There is much I hate with older DnD.

    That said, there's tons of RPGs out there, a lot of which will be orders of magnitude better than DnD. Mage: the Ascension is awesome, since it removes much of the weakness of the world of darkness system(combat), because magic is done by storytelling. Best combat system I've come across is probably that of Trudvang, which, unfortunately for most of you, is not only out of print(not that old though), but in swedish. It's an overall awesome RPG, the setting is great too, and character creation is varied and interesting.

    Oh and if you like 4E and WH40k, you'd probably like Inquisitor, which is more of a miniature wargame with roleplaying.

    I've had a lot of fun just freestyling with no stats at all too...
  8. mining

    mining Member

    I prefer 3.5 of the set because you can do a lot in terms of being exactly what you want to be.
  9. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    Yeah, if you have a good DM, freestyle can really be the way to go, though my group proved to like just a hint of structure to the whole thing. Thus: Everway. It takes a DM you trust, but Everway's system is flexible enough to encompass basically any genre, and it takes all of three minutes to make a character and get started.
  10. To answer the question that wasn't asked:
    • you need to play My Life With Master once. Put your most narrative storyteller in the DM seat
    • you need to play Mouse Guard once, if not multiple times. Put your most free-wheeling, says-Yes-to-the-players, improvisational person in the DM seat. (it doesn't need to pretty, just fast and loose - the players will tell the story)
    • If you want to find a surprisingly solid system that's more intuitive than D&D while being almost as complex, try Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. No familiarity with the show needed; I just played a angry black psionicist and had a mind blast!
    More directly answering the OP,

    3.5 puts a lot of work on the DM but it has rules for everything. If you want hard numbers and systems to adjudicate everything from the distribution of commoners vs artisans in a hamlet, to how slippery a wall is in the rain, to how long it takes you to punch a door to death, it's there.

    Pathfinder is a cleaned-up, semi-simplified 3.5 with a more normalized power curve - spellcasters get more fun things to do at low levels, and warriors scale a bit better into the endgame.

    4e is a whole new engine entirely, fast and simple but occasionally grindy-slow. Avoid using high level monsters (with concordantly high defenses) - pile on more low to mid level monsters! Magic isn't nearly as exciting in 4e as it is in previous versions, OTOH fighters no longer have to contend with an inferiority complex.
    OmniNegro and Essence like this.
  11. klaymen_sk

    klaymen_sk Member

    Thanks for the replies so far, I have a lot to think about.

    Not everyone in my group speaks English, but that may be avoidable. For example DnD 4E has some unofficial translation made by players. Even I can get the three basic books, PHB, MM, DMG, for a price of two (a deal in one store) so that might help to decide.

    On the other hand Pathfinder ebooks cost about $10, compared to $50 physical books (which is commendable, ebooks should be cheaper, IMO) and therefore the basic set may be purchasable for a few bucks. Printing them is not an issue.

    Do you mean using Warhammer as a setting?

    This, with the absention of Vancian crap makes it very interesting. The only problem is WotC's system of selling miniatures in booster packs which really sucks (if they did not drop it already), because 4E relies on combat with them.
  12. Aegho

    Aegho Member

    You can substitute pretty much anything for the figures, they're irrelevant to people with imagination, they can be neat, but never required. Most RPG clubs also tend to have some miniature wargaming somewhere that they can take minis from, or at least a boardgame(cardboard cutout characters work just fine).

    As long as it's fairly obvious what's what, so it doesn't get confusing, you're golden. "We're fighting Kobolds today, we didn't have any kobold minis so we're using goblins" is perfectly acceptable. So is "These tyranids are the town guard" if it comes to that.
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  13. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    It's fairly enjoyable if you know how to convert some of what you can get there to use DnD rules.
    Personally I played both Warhammer, and "Warhammer world using DnD 3.5 rules", and I have to say that both are fun (though I liked the former more, but that's because the guy who GM'd Warhammer for me was really good, and he refused to get close to DnD).
    Mind you, it will be more difficult to make such a conversion if you choose DnD 4.0 (still, nothing like a good challenge).

    I just used tokens in various colours (or with various graphics, you can make them together if you have some skill and some thin cardboard) for that, and the "boss" monsters/characters (and party members, to differentiate between them easier) used figures from another game.
    You don't really need to have the exact figurine that represents your character. You just need something that will make it easy for you to say "ok, that guy is me".

    I know I'm missing the point there, but I think it's better to represent player characters with Tyranids. It's much more accurate that way.
    klaymen_sk, OmniNegro and Aegho like this.
  14. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    When I played we had a girl that enjoyed making those little folded paper thingamajigs. That was what we used for everything.

    Use a hardcover book halfway open as a wall or hill, use pots and pans too if you can imagine a way to. Imagination is the only real requirement of playing an RPG. If you play with people that whine and moan that things do not look right, offer them the chance to buy the "Correct" pieces. That always shuts them up. Whenever they bitch and refuse to buy what they insist is required then a good DM will do the often mentioned "A rock falls and your character dies and goes to whiny-bitch hell." :)
  15. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    Hah, I was hardcore and used large sheets of hard paper with the general map overlay on it, with a transparent pseudo-plastic sheet with hexes drawn on it (I can't believe I wasted so much time then to get "acceptable" [as close to perfect as one could get with drawing it by hand with a lot of time, ruler, compass, and various other tools] hex-filled sheet, it took me over a week back then), held together on the table (I had a large drawing table back then, with the top having some sort of special clamps for that).
    We used that for pretty much everything that could use hexes, from DnD to Battletech to various lesser games (the only thing that used hexes that we never used the table for was Neuroshima Hex, but that's because it came with hexes of its own).
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  16. klaymen_sk

    klaymen_sk Member

    Sure thing. I quite liked those miniatures and wanted to get at least some, but I can live without them.
    Also relevant Order of the Stick comic here.

    Wouldn't WHFRP be better then? You know, a system already using the setting, instead of tailoring another system to it.

    And the town guard should be proxied with Imperial Guardsmen, in red shirts if possible? :)
    Kazeto likes this.
  17. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    Depends on whether you want the system, or the setting. Generally speaking, it is better to use WHFRP (to which I refer as "Warhammer", because it's easier for people to notice that I'm talking about this particular game that way) system if you are using the lore and setting, but there are cases when you just want to play DnD and are looking for a good setting to go with the whole campaign, in which case funnies like tailoring Warhammer's setting to DnD system do happen.

    It's not like I perceive it as a waste of time, though. Yes, there are better ways to spend one's time, but the insight on how some things interact and how they can be explained using different rules proved itself to be very useful when we started making our own tabletop RPG.

    If you have the WH40k figurines, it seems appropriate. But since the addition of combat orders, Imperial Guardsmen stopped being that red-shirty, so perhaps Tau figurines would be better for that (Tau are squishy, after all).

    Though we never really emulated town guards as opponents, since our GM didn't like using "generic" enemies (the only times when we actually had "mooks" as opponents was when the guy we were fighting had an entourage), as making a unique team of "rivals" for us to face was better, in his opinion. Opinion that I have to agree with, as even though we fought the same 8 or 9 opponents all the time, every fight was unique (depending on how many of them there were, who fought whom, etc.).
  18. Aegho

    Aegho Member

    That only works if it's hard to kill people, and hard to be killed, otherwise you can break suspension of disbelief.

    Btw, the best roleplaying I've had is probably those times where the GM put fear in the players. It could work there(oh no it's them again, run away!) On the other hand one of the best GMs for that, that I've played with, was kinda harsh, so it was a good idea to have spare character sheets! His recurring bad guys weren't people you fought, they were people who could manipulate, blackmail, or threaten you into doing what they wanted! (Like a ghost of a troll king that put some kind of geas on us, and we don't remember what happened for two weeks, and we missed a meeting that was required on pain of death, had to flee the law, and got railroaded into a suicide mission!)
  19. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    Well, it depends on the game. The last one we played had a rule that to actually kill a character, you had to attack him when he was down, or just leave him for some time when he was down (the chunky salsa rule was there, but it's very difficult to turn characters into chunky salsa there, since magic is not a "magical recipe for armageddon" and the only characters capable of easily turning people into sauce are some priests [and even then, they are priests, so they aren't particularly happy to kill people if they don't have to]).

    It has something to do with the fact that we play campaigns partially based on the characters' backstories, so losing a character permanently because of a bad roll is likely to wreck half of the campaign. Even more so when there is no convenient "reset button" that is the resurrection spell - you died, you are dead, unless you made proper preparations beforehand, and good luck with that because you probably didn't even know how to do that (and even then it only works once, for a very limited time, and only if your body is in the shape that would allow you to recover). Oh, but "mages" do have healing spells; ones that work by accelerating natural regeneration to insane levels for a short time, and thus can only heal some things and pretty much incapacitate the one that is being healed due to resulting pain.
    That being said, there were cases in the previous campaigns when a character was in a really bad shape and died because the others failed to do something that would've saved him. And there were also cases (in pretty much every campaign, including the last one where it happened to my character) where one of the characters was incapacitated and had to rely on others to recover, which meant that either he got to play as one of the "NPCs" for that meeting, or that for the next half an hour he was looking at all other players with what you could call "puppy eyes".

    But there were games before that where characters fell down easily, never to be seen again. It was when we were playing DnD, Warhammer, or Neuroshima (or Paranoia, but there the part "never to be seen again" doesn't apply).

    Heh, it reminds me of that time we met the commander of our enemies' team in the last campaign. After it became clear to other players that my character was the untouchable one (he specialised in shielding "magic"), we got the situation where he was running away in a sort of mini-maze from someone who could pretty much ignore his defensive spells.
    It was one of the two moments that established said character as badass, and it made for a very amusing moment later when my character actually managed to incapacitate him (even if he incapacitated himself in the process, and couldn't fight for some time [which resulted in him not being able to stop the demise of another important character]).

    Well, I'll just say that. In the last campaign of ours, we got to know that we were actually the bad guys after we killed the big bad, who was neither big, nor bad. And all that time we thought we were the good guys, because the evidence we had made it pretty clear. That the evidence was invalid because if was either fabricated or misinterpreted by us was another thing entirely (the real "big bad" was actually on the side of one of our characters, which is one of the reasons we believed his words and misinterpreted them, and he died to the supposed "big bad" [who killed him because of orders, the existence of which he could not admit to, which were given by other background characters who were also good, even if selfish] halfway into the story).
    And in said campaign we were fleeing the law. Only, they were pursuing us for a reason very different from what we thought it was, and said pursuit was the reason our characters became desperate enough to actually listen to the words of the big bad instead of actually trying to think before doing anything haphazard.
    And something like a "geas" was involved, and it was on one of the player characters. Part of the motivation for the big bad's actions was trying to remove the thing, and it all spiralled into oblivion that was our campaign from there.
    OmniNegro likes this.
  20. SkyMuffin

    SkyMuffin Member

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is budget-- 3.5 is a bit cheaper obviously, since it's older. Don't know if that is an important factor for your group. I also think 3.5 is generally easier to learn...feels more intuitive to me than 4. Once you understand DC, attack rolls, etc, the rest is just nuance and story