Sunday, February 5, 2012

Holy man

My favorite class, bar none, is the cleric. Crwth has been a cleric in his every appearance in D&D, and when he appears in other worlds (MMOs, etc.) he gravitates to the cleric/holy-man/healer role appropriate to that world.

Bruce Cordell asked in a recent blogpost about the reader's viewpoint on the cleric. Healer, or holy warrior?

I've always played Crwth as the heavy-armored cleric who wades into battle, taking some swings, providing some flanking, but mostly acting as field medic. Crwth the Cleric is like the IT in your company: doesn't bring a lot of tangible value to the endeavor, but the rest of the group couldn't function without him.

My wife plays a cleric the opposite way (she's not a D&D player except for Neverwinter Nights, but it's D&D enough). She has every slot filled with searing light, harm, holy word and fire storm. Once she's done mopping up the battlefield with the enemy, she might dig her party members' bodies out from underneath and pour one of their own potions down their necks.

The poll accompanying the article discusses the alternatives provided by 3.5 and 4e regarding how healing places in the cleric's turn. Third edition provided the spontaneous casting of healing spells (provided you were a Good cleric), which at first glance provided extra functionality to the battle medic I played. However, while I would happily go through the cleric spell lists, choosing select spells that sounded powerful and impressive, I could probably count on one hand the number of times those spells did NOT get converted to a healing spell via spontaneous casting. No matter how good it sounded to blast out a flame strike against a difficult enemy, it was instead saved for a Cure Critical Wounds to help out whichever party member went toe-to-toe with said enemy instead.

4e was definitely geared towards me as a cleric, providing ways to heal the party while still doing some magical damage to foes. But while we didn't exhaustively play 4e to 30th level, I did feel that 4e Crwth was always lacking in healing effectiveness, that I was giving up some of that total healing that I could accomplish by being given this other way of participating. Even with every character having their own healing surges and second winds, I still had the feeling (not backed by numbers, mind you) that we were worse off as a party in the healthcare department.

Along the same topic, Cordell also comments on the idea of holy damage vs. radiant damage. The difference, to me, was minor. Radiant is described as "light charged with uncommon energy", so that could include holy-backed energy, as well as "mystical moonlight or starlight, and the alien light of far realms". To me, all of these other lights are still the realm of the gods -- the moon, the stars, other realms. Perhaps it hasn't come from a prayer-backed source, but the deities are behind it regardless. Granted, this doesn't differentiate between good gods and bad - radiant doesn't have any alignment behind it. That's why I feel that holy/unholy is the better way to go, and yet the non-devout can still harness it through other means. That's just my opinion, of course, but you can guess how I voted in his poll.

And finally, in the same vein, there's the Angry DM's response to Cordell's healing post, and his take on healing overall. It's quite the interesting read, but I won't address his points for now; I mention it to bring together the discussion of such things as they stand in the early stages of #dndnext, D&D 5, or whatever they end up calling it.

So my overall view of what I want the new cleric to look like? The same as he was in 3.5. That's right, I thought the cleric in 3.5 was just fine, with his limitations and decisions. 4e was nice in that I felt more participatory in the damage-dealing (well, not really; I still can't roll worth a damn when it comes to attacks), but I felt less participatory as the field medic because everyone could heal themselves. I don't begrudge the party member who carries Cure Light Wounds potions, but leave the rest to me!

Of course, as long as they allow me to heal in some capacity, any capacity, I'll be there, no matter what the rules provide.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Everything that's old is new again?

Since you're here, you must know about the announcement of a new version of D&D being planned.

Since you're here, you probably noticed that this blog is going to be all about our opinions on where it should go, how it seems to be going, and, ultimately, where it ended up.

Since you're here, you possibly know that we've done this before. Go take a look if you didn't, to get a feel for what to expect.

The tl;dr version of our 4e blog: we didn't care much for roles; we didn't care much for the loss of customization (compared to 3.5); we did like the new encounter design (especially me, who's usually the DM). Do we have hope for this next version going "our" way? Perhaps it's too early to get my hopes up, but a post in Legends and Lore by Monte Cook left me a little hopeful:
Like simple rules for your story-driven game? You're good to go. Like tactical combats and complex encounters? You can have that too. Like ultra-customized character creation? It's all there.

In this game, you play what you want to play. It’s our goal to give you the tools to do so.

He also goes on to point out that D&D isn't just the rules, but the adventure, the story. That the rules are just a tool to provide some structure to the storytelling, to provide the suspense that you didn't know your story needed, or the twists that you never would have expected.

The story. Our group has been playing since 3rd edition was introduced, and we still revel in memories of adventures a decade gone. "The cowardly kobold Meepo in Sunless Citadel" that Cook mentions is our Meepo too, even though our stories of him are probably different than others'. Fleshshivering a dragon in mid-flight. Riding a beholder. Death-striking a dragon. Lightning-rodding party members. Citizens. Axiomatic rocs. All of these things bring back such fond memories of years gone by, and keep us coming back.

Our group is currently playing Pathfinder, having given 4e a somewhat fair shake. We had discussed revisiting 4e after a break, to see how we felt, but with this announcement, I don't know that we will. Some of us have applied to beta-test this next version, but if we can't (or depending on the NDA involved in such a thing), we'll write about our views here, and then use what we find out to decide if we're moving forward, or if we'll be stuck in our ways.

Cook says that their goal "is to make a game that all D&D players want to play." He says the right words so far, so let's see how they do.