Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Notes on playtesting L16 Characters

Some commentary today. As a lover of game mechanics, I often playtest games by myself. In order to figure out how high-level 4th edition D&D combat works, I’ve been playing my playtest party in fights at higher and higher levels. I just had my first fight with the party at level 16, jumping them from level 11. I’m not using the quick-and-dirty rules for creating high level characters, I laboriously calculated every magic item they would have received under the guidelines during the passage to level 16.

I am very good at controlling and playtesting game characters, and in most games I have no trouble controlling 5 characters plus their opponents. But, wow, D&D 4th edition is not most games. These are the most complicated characters I’ve ever seen! Among the 5 characters I have a total of 195 combat-related powers and abilities. This doesn’t include abilities which simply factor directly into the combat values. And I gave the characters a very low number of consumable items, simply because I was getting overwhelmed. It is incredibly hard to remember all of these powers, especially since they tend to have little relation to one another or the character background (how am I supposed to remember the cleric is the one with the boots of swimming?). I guess these characters really are meant to be played by one person each who has controlled that character through 150-odd encounters and knows his abilities like the back of his hand.

Anyway, the fight was against a Rakshasa Noble, 2 Cambion Hellfire Magus, and 2 Rockfire Dreadnought. A lot of cool stuff happened, but it was 18 ROUNDS long! It just went on – and on – and on. I guess the issue is that the monsters have very annoying powers, and are extremely hard to hit while being super-accurate in return, but they only do about 2d8+8 damage. This just isn’t much against a level 16 character. The characters, in turn, used up their great powers to kill a few monsters, then they were all dazed or stunned, and with no effective powers left. So it just took forever to chip away at the remaining monsters. I hope this fight is an aberration, or I could be in for a long haul trying to playtest...

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