A Roomful of Ogres

Hello there, and season’s greetings!

I find myself sort of “between books” at the moment. I’m waiting for Ulisses North America to begin publishing the TORG novels I wrote for them. My agent is shopping around a new alt-history novel for me, but I’ve got no news to report yet. And I’ve got two or three books I *want* to work on, but I’m just not sure where or how I’d get them in front of my readers. I suppose I’ve always believed “if you build it they will come,” but until I see where my alt-history lands, I’m not sure which would be the best use of my time.

Ah, well. In the meantime, there’s the day job. I’m hard at work on the main story quests for the next ESO chapter, so it’s not like I don’t have things to keep me busy!

Roomful of Ogres

I’ve been thinking a bit about the parts of 4th Edition D&D I wish 5th Edition had picked up. I believe 4e’s at-will powers would add a lot of flavor to otherwise repetitive basic attacks, and help define character roles at the same time. I miss monster roles, too. Fights in 4e were a lot more interesting than they are in 5e, and not much more complex.

But at the same time, there were things I didn’t like. Here’s one: a zeal for tighter balance in character classes. It was good for game play, but it diminished the wonderful asymmetry that makes D&D interesting and evocative. My favorite example is the fireball spell and a roomful of ogres.

  • In 1e and 2e, ogres had 4+1 Hit Dice (19 hit points on average). At 5th level, a wizard with his brand-new fireball spell (5d6, averaging 17.5 damage) could expect to kill 40% or so of the ogres in the encounter with one mighty blow. (Ogres need a 16+ to save vs. spells, so most will fail.)
  • In 3e, ogres had 4d8+8 Hit Dice, or 26 hit points. That same wizard wasn’t going to wipe them out a fireball, but he’d reduce most of them to single-digit hp. Still pretty impressive.
  • But in 4e, the ogre savage is a level 8 brute with 111 hit points. The wizard’s fireball spell deals 3d6 + Int mod fire damage, or 14.5 damage on average. All the wizard can do with one fireball spell is annoy several ogres at once.
  • In 5e, an ogre has 59 hit points. The fireball spell deals 8d6 damage, or 28 on average. You’ll half-kill a bunch of ogres. Not quite as encounter-wiping as it was back in the days of 1e, but miles better than the futility of being an area-damage-dealer in 4e.

Overall, I think 5e has it about right. We probably don’t want wizards to just win encounters with one use of their best spell, but we don’t want them to not even try to do damage (which is what smart 4e players running wizards generally did). So in Rich’s 6e, I’ll keep the 5e numbers. But I’ll bring back at-wills, class roles, and monster roles. Oh, and the warlord too. I miss that guy.

Obscure Song of the Week

Ridgetop, by Jesse Colin Young. A jazzy 1973 tribute to the Marin County life with some great saxophone.   

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