Monday, September 27, 2010

Game Mechanics

What the fuck is marking?

When a Paladin does it, it is a divine compulsion. With a Swordmage it is sorcerous link between you and the target, and with the Battlemind it is a psionic "Hey you, fucking look at me." The Warden has abilities that act on his marked targets when they do stuff, but like the Fighter, it is still just listed as "you mark X target(s)." The Fighter marks by attacking an enemy, and the Warden just goes and does it.

So a mark is -2 to the target's attack rolls if they don't attack you. Now, I get what it is about from the game mechanics standpoint. I understand that it is a mechanic for holding aggro and keeping your enemies looking at you as an attractive option to hit, rather than squishier targets.

But what does it mean? What happens in the game? It can't be that you're leaving yourself open for an attack, otherwise you'd get the -2 to your defense or whatever, rather than your mark getting it to attacks he makes against others. I just don't understand how it plays out in the game world. Are you yelling at your opponent or warning your allies about his attacks in some way? If so, does that mean in an area of magical silence you can't mark? Are you throwing sand in their eye or otherwise using some distracting technique? That doesn't make any sense, otherwise it would be a penalty to attacks rolls against everyone. Is it some repositioning attack technique that forces your opponent to shift their facing or some such? No, because there is no movement involved with the Fighter marking mechanic, unless it stems from the power itself.

With the Warden it is a little easier to brush under the rug. You can say that you call on primal spirits of the grass and trees and waylay your enemies and trip up their footing and strikes as they try to harm your allies. Even in the most barren of places, it is hard to get away from nature. There is wind to tangle robes, or pebbles that can shift underfoot in deep caves, and so on.

I know this Fighter marking shit is one little bitty thing, but it just sticks in my brain. Kethranmeer, my Soulless NPC is a fighter, but I never have him mark enemies. I just cannot find a way to justify in what I think of as role-playing terms. So my undead mini-golem dude doesn't mark. Luckily he was the only defender in the group while we were playing 4th Edition. Scratch that, Fred was a Swordmage, he just never used his Aegis to mark. Heh.

I suppose it is silly to expect realism out of a game where magic sword dudes can cast spells that allow them to teleport next to people when those people attack the magic sword dude's friends. I do though. I like it when things can make sense and game mechanics can duplicate reality within reason. I don't necessarily need to have my teleports displace air or my fireballs increase the ambient heat of an area, but I do like it when they do.

Now, this marking thing is a small thing, and I avoid it by not playing a Fighter. I've just been super pro 4th Edition of late and felt I should tone down the fanboy in me a bit. I recognize the system has its flaws and is not perfect.

1 comment:

  1. I think it goes back to WotC trying to make their 4th edition ruleset more palatable to video game makers. This is something that the previous versions were so-so at. I know when I played NWN, there were a lot of feats & skills from the 3rd edition that were left out or the playerbase ignored. NWN2 using the 3.5 edition was abysmal. Granted my experience is limited to these two game, never really played the classics such as Baldurs gate, Planescape torment, or Dark Sun Shattered lands.

    Now that being said, the 4e rule set has much more flexibility from a digital game design standpoint and implementation than others.

    Coming full circle to marking, I think it is a tough sell from a RPG perspective ... but I think it's their way of trying to let the players help control the battlefield. In previous editions what was to stop the DM from using all of the monsters/minions from ganging up on the hard-hitting / low HP wizards and taking his ass out first? How do you keep the bad guys from taking out the hard hitting artillery, put meatshields in their way ... and make sure they keep the baddies occupied. The most convenient mechanic to do this is marking.

    Despite it's idiosyncrasies, the 4th edition is very straightforward and just plain fun to play.