Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Resource management in D&D

One of the most radical design changes in 4e was the abandonment of Vancian magic. Some design features had been incorporated into D&D 3.x/Pathfinder in order to mitigate the problem of the "5 minute workday" such as bonus spells for high ability scores, school slots and powers and, of course, the introduction of the Sorcerer class which traded versatility for extra spellcasting. Still, the temptation to rest after every major encounter was still present, especially if more combat was expected. So, D&D 4e did away with the problem by allowing spellcasters to cast spells all day long (although, I must confess, from my brief flirtation with 4e, I found the constant reliance on that "go-to" at-will power got pretty monotonous in long fights...and let's face it, in 4e, they're all long fights).

I mention this in response to the most recent article from Mike Mearls entitled the The Five-Minute Workday. In it, he tries to explain how the next edition of D&D will include Vancian magic, while still allowing the spellcasters to be effective for a full day of adventuring. Based on what I've seen in the playtest, it still plays like 4e. For example, magic missile, one of the at-will powers for wizards in 4e, but a 1st-level spell in previous editions, is now a cantrip and useable at will. The new version of the venerable spell is slightly weaker in that it tops out at 4D4+4 instead of 5D4+5, but it is still way more powerful that any cantrip in D&D 3.x/Pathfinder. So, the issue of resource management is still being ignored in D&DNext. Wizards will still be able to go all day, only rationing some of their precious spells and still never having to come up with creative ways of being useful when their big booms are depleted.

Perhaps it is characteristic of our advanced years and accumulated aeons of gaming experience, but our group doesn't seem to have a problem with the 5-minute workday. Our spellcasters rarely seem to have a problem letting the fighters mop up after the first few rounds of heavy fighting. Sure, our wizard could blow his last fireball on the three remaining orcs that are running away instead of allowing the ranger to pick them off with his bow, then promptly demand the party rest for the day. But, it just doesn't play out that way. We consider resource management the mark of a skilled gamer. Besides, fighters do so much damage in Pathfinder, the spellcasters are usually better off keeping them in the fight than lobbing fireballs anyway.


1 comment:

Obiri said...

We don't have any problems with the 15 minute adventure day because I think we respect each other enough not to do so. If anything we tend to go the other way trying to squeeze in one more encounter before we rest. I think we like the challenge. I think it's a side effect of being an optimizer. Why build an awesome character if you don't challenge yourself?