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Why Are the Orcs Psychic?

I've been reading a long thread from late in 4E's lifecycle that was Let's Read 4E (From an Oldschooler's Perspective). It's been very interesting to see 4E discussed pro-and-con from the point of view of people who like it, rather than just flames from either direction in the era of edition warring.

Now I've got my own list of 4E pro-and-con points, but the one that drives me the most bonkers is what is famously referred to as the "disassociated mechanics." A lot of 4E stuff seems like random bags of powers designed to fill some game design function, with the story convoluted around to make sense of it, which for me is bass-akwards. Even in HERO System, the King of Disassociated Mechanics Rulesets, the powers are supposed to simulate what story-wise the character is intended to be doing.

Anyway, buried deep in the discussion, there was a recommendation of 13th Age as being a game system that has a lot of the same strengths as 4E but was simpler and faster. I decided to check it out, downloading a sample PDF, and found a batch of orcs which had an attack that did weapon damage, and then on a crit, added +[x] psychic damage.

I just blinked, and tried to parse it. I didn't see anything suggesting these were somehow magical orcs (although I was skimming, so I might have missed it). As far as I could tell, it was just randomly stuck on.

Later on I found references to the Essentials line Monster Vault series as being better than the core Monster Manuals, so I scrounged up a copy of one of those to look at (Threats of Nentir Vale, I think it was), and happened upon a wight whose attack did "[x] damage, and the wight turns invisible."

Again, just sorta, "Why?" I mean, there's no reason for wights not to turn invisible, I suppose, but that's the sort of behavior I'd expect from spooks rather than the walking dead.

Now 5E has a little bit of the opposite problem: most of the 5E critters have movement, and an attack (or bunch of attacks), and little else. I discussed this in detail on an ENWorld thread using the hippogriff as an example. The 4E hippogriff has an interesting "land on somebody and knock them down" ability on top of their regular attack, while the 5E hippogriff just does damage. (Plus, more than half the 5E Monster Manual entries are CR 2 or lower, which even with bounded accuracy is still a bizarre distribution.)

I've been threading this particular needle by doing a fair amount of monster customizing. I have the 4E Monster Manual and Monster Manual 2 on the same shelf with my 5E books to fish for ideas when I want to punch up a dull 5E critter.

But I'm still not going to have randomly-psychic orcs. ¬.¬

-The Gneech


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 14th, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
Well like I say, I was only skimming. I was mainly curious because I'd heard 13th Age being described as effectively "4E but better" on a 4E-friendly board, so I wanted to know what that would look like. My impression was that it had all the same 4E randomness, just squeezed into 1E-style single line stat blocks, which for me is actually the worst of both worlds. >.>

The setting, I have no idea. Like I say, these might have been magical orcs and I missed it. Thralls of mind flayers or something, maybe?

-The Gneech
Oct. 14th, 2016 11:58 pm (UTC)
Going Devil's Advocate, maybe it's filling in the mechanic for Orc Rage or something?

I Guess that for things like the hippogryph, you could effectively "improvise a combat maneuver" to execute the "land on" thing, i suppose, but that's not really satisfying, i agree.
Oct. 15th, 2016 02:02 am (UTC)
Sure, monsters can do anything players can, and a shove would knock someone down as well as anything. But it would be the height of foolishness for a monster to throw away its turn knocking a player down unless it had an ally who could follow up on it. (Rider, maybe.) At least with "knock down -and- do damage" as a power, it wouldn't waste a turn. XD

As the DM, of course, I have the amazing ability to add back in anything I want, but that also means time added to prep if I sit down and do that. Really it's the biggest weakness with all the 5E monsters, that so many of them have had tactically-interesting things stripped away in exchange for simplicity. I get why they did it, and it's better than 4E randomly adding the ability to turn invisible or whatever, but I think there's a middle ground to be found here!

Jun. 8th, 2017 04:26 am (UTC)
Just do what you want to do!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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