Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reasoning vs. RAW in 4e

MikeLemmer's comment here spurred a thought. In D&D 4th edition, how necessary is it to have reasoning for a 4e power? Does flavor text mean anything?

My own answer is typically "no." I have the RAW and the rules run the game. However, my day job is in computer programming, so this attitude should surprise no one. The computer does exactly what software tells it to, no matter how nonsensical, and that's the world I live in.

Still, I was surprised to find out a few days later that the Player's Handbook apparently backs up my answer right on page 54. "You can alter this description as you like" and "When you need to know the exact effect, look at the rules text that follows."

I can't help but think that the intense arguments over Commander's Strike that I referenced in my previous post would never have taken place if the flavor text had been altered or ignored. In fact, let me take a stab at rewriting the flavor so it matches the mechanics more closely. The rule referenced above explicitly says I can do this.
Warlord Attack 1
Commander’s Strike
With a deft feint, you force an enemy off balance, leaving him open to an attack by an ally.
At-Will * Martial, Weapon
Standard ActionMelee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: An ally of your choice makes a melee basic attack against the target
Hit: Ally’s basic attack damage + your Intelligence modifier.
Done and done. No more arguments about using this power by yelling from across the battlefield. The new flavor makes the RAW usage clear (not that it matters, since page 54 effectively says the flavor text is meaningless as an interpretation or explanation of the RAW anyway). This version simply clearly states in the flavor what the RAW already told us.

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