The skill challenge represents one of the many pieces of 4th Edition D&D technology that was underappreciated in its time and misunderstood in hindsight.
Ability scores in Dungeons & Dragons are one of the game’s many mechanical systems that float atop a liquid surface of questionable justifications. They’re a perfectly serviceable set of dials to use to define a character, they do a job and they create a lot of thematic hooks you can use, but also, under the hood, they are not sensible at all.
4e: Deploying Monster Types
People say that 4e D&D was ‘only good for tactical combat,’ which I don’t agree with, but I can understand the feeling when you consider it was the first time that it made the combat system kinda work. Part of how it worked was that rather than treat monsters as if they were all generic spots on a continuum, monsters were balanced based on general formulas of things they could do and ways they could be represented, and part of that was recognising that some types of monster were best suited to particular types of role.
The Yakuza Theme
There’s a chance if you played 4th edition, you never even knew Themes were a thing. They were introduced in a campaign sourcebook as a way to flesh out characters under level 10, to give more of that kind of granularity you might want if you say, belonged to a particular organisation, or had something […]
The Misbegotten Identity of ‘Ki’
The origin system in 4th edition D&D was one of the subtler bits of design tech they had. The basic idea was that if you made an overarching term to explain how a bunch of mechanics ‘felt’ you could then reference that term. If something worked one way because of how divine spellcasters worked, by […]
Look, don’t let the way I talk about 4e D&D (which is the best edition of D&D) leave you thinking that I think the game is flawless. It’s just much better than 3e and good enough that I don’t care to look at 5e. That excellence however doesn’t mean that the design within it is […]
Harmonising Mount Rules
When you ask people about the tropes of the fantasy adventure narrative, there’s a genre of those tropes that 4th edition D&D — which is the best D&D, by the way — handles badly. Well, not badly. Well, badly. Well, some of it is bad. Well, some of it is unreliable. Well, look, it’s complicated. […]
4E: The Hadalan
… And there, in the deepest and darkest of spaces, far from the prying eyes of those who would judge their work, or steal their designs, a god whose name is lost, did render the form of what it had seen, and sought to make its own. It made what it thought it saw, when […]
4e: Methods & Practice
Here’s a valuable lesson for tabletop RPG designers of all kinds I want you to learn from 4th edition D&D. I’ve been brewing on it for a while and I think I can summarise it cleanly thus: Methods & Practices should not be Entangled.
Rule of Threes: Designing a 4e Pooka
When I first decided to stat up the fuzzy firbolg for 4th Edition, I knew I wanted to follow it up with the gruuwar. But I had always intended for there to be a third “true fey” in the lineup too.