A couple days ago over at rpgbloggers I clicked through to the post Keep Randomness Out of Your Encounters out of sheer disbelief at the title of the post. I don't feel it's my place to run down 4E or its adherents, but I just don't follow the logic behind minimizing randomness in encounters. Why even use dice at that point? To me the whole impetus behind using dice is the tension inherent in the possibility that the situation could spin wildly out of everyone's control.
"After a few rounds, we ran like little girls." isn't the sign of a mechanically broken encounter, just one that didn't go the PCs' way. Hell, a good ol' fashioned party route can sometimes be the best encounter of the night: the wide-open eyes of the players, the heavy breathing, the frantic mental search for a way their character can escape their doom, the high fives when its clear that the PCs made it through.
Times like this make me suspect that it's a good thing we've got shiny new titles like Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, and Labyrinth Lord for our old versions of D&D. It's getting harder and harder for me to see any real relation between Wizards' product line and what I do. I'm not one of those dudes who scours the internet for stuff to get mad at, but when I stumble across something like Trask's article linked above I feel a little weirded out. Reminds me of a TV movie about Elvis I saw as a lad. As I recall old fat jumpsuit Elvis was watching TV, flipping through the channels. He happened across something like a New York Dolls performance. The King's brain broke a little when he realized you could draw a straight line from his earliest material to these guys.
Some days it feels like Gygax and Arneson invented Craps and these new guys are selling Go with a picture of two six siders on the box. That's a pretty weird situation even if you like playing Go.
Random Hexless Terrain Tables
3 hours ago