D&D 4th Edition:
First Impressions

By Shamus
on Jul 7, 2008
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

The two most notable things I’ve seen said about 4e are:

  1. The system is more streamlined, leading to more roleplaying.
  2. The system is more rigid, leading to less roleplaying.

I’m not done reading, much less absorbing, the fourth edition books, but it looks to me like both of these statements are true.

The system is certainly more rigid. There are “roles” in every party. (Combat roles, that is.) Someone to absorb damage, someone to deal damage, someone to manage crowds, someone to heal. The 4e manual calls them defenders, strikers, controllers, and leaders. These roles have existed in MMO games for years. The four-person team with one person for each of these jobs is so common that even the jokes about how cliché it is are old and stale. The classic D&D adventuring party is a fighter, a rogue, a wizard, and a cleric. Note that this is the ideal setup for both an adventuring party and a sitcom.

How it looks to me so far is that the system is less open to roleplaying because it wants to railroad you into a narrow idea of what an adventuring party is and what they do. But if you already play that way, then the rules are less cumbersome (because they’re not trying to accommodate all those other sorts of parties) and so you can get in a fight and get back to the plot with less time fussing around with numbers and charts.

So what it looks like to me is that 4e D&D is just specializing more than it has in the past. This is a trend that’s been going on since before I got into gaming. We’ve been moving away from monolithic systems that try to be all things to all groups, to more focused systems that are easier to learn and use but are a lot less flexible. Pirate games. Space games. Superhero games. Mob games. Etcetera games.

I haven’t tried to run a 4e battle, and that experience probably won’t come for some time. My group is in the early, faltering stages of trying to get a game going during the season of cookouts and nice weather. And when that game does get going, it will be our long-awaited Star Wars game. So I’m not going to be qualified to really comment on the thing in detail any time in the foreseeable future. So, I’ll hold off on the criticism until then.

I’m just messing with you. Let’s do this:

Justin Alexander comments on the dissociated mechanics in 4e, and I agree that the once-a-day powers do a good job of making the world make a little less sense. Moreover, it’s another thing you’ve got to track. Oh great, they got rid of the need for Wizards to renew their spells each day, and replaced it with a system where everyone has to renew all their little feats and tricks each day. This does not seem like progress to me.

“Okay guys, let’s rush these Orcs.”

“Hang on. Let’s wait a few more minutes until after midnight, so I’ll be able to use Greater Surprise Bitchslap on their leader.”

To be fair, there were several “once a day” powers and feats in 3.5e, but the problem seems to have spread. I never liked them either, not just because of the hassle of tracking them (tracking one is easy, but once you have several players with a few daily abilities each it’s much less so) but because it forces these characters into meta-game thinking and requires they suddenly be aware of the clock at a resolution that just isn’t available to them at the purported technology level. To wit: These guys aren’t wearing wristwatches. They shouldn’t know when midnight passes. But they do, because they can suddenly use their abilities again. (You could put the powers on a 24 hour cooldown instead of having them renew at midnight. But then you’d have to track what time of day everyone last used their powers, making the whole thing even more work.)

These powers are interesting when you’re moving minis around a grid. That is, it makes the tactical portion of the game better at the expense of making the world a little more arbitrary and mechanical. Hence the “less roleplaying” charge.

But if rumors are true and combat is quicker, then combat is over sooner and we can get back to the core of the game for me, which is stories and characters. Is combat faster? I don’t know. You can run a mock battle with pre-rolled characters if you like, but you don’t really know how a system holds up until you blunder into some contradiction in the rules when running an eight-man battle on a slippery hillside in the dark using improvised weapons against disguised attackers while one party member is blinded and their foes are under the influence of too much ale.

Fighting on a sterile grid is easy. Fighting in a world where some kind of dynamic story is going on is always going to be a challenge, and most rule systems can be judged on how well they don’t make things worse when things get complicated. I’m interested to hear how other people think it does at making fights both faster and more seamless.

EDIT: A Couple of people have pointed out that the powers don’t reset at midnight, but are tied to the new rest system, which actually sounds pretty good. I’m still not crazy about an ordinary power that can’t be re-used for purely mechanical reasons, but it’s not quite as bad as it sounded at first.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

A Hundred!8108 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

From the Archives:

1 2

  1. Craig says:

    About the once a day powers: they recharge after a 6-hour rest, not at some arbitrary time. Also, as someone who has just started running the system, I can say that the combat does go faster. The main problem for me is that I still can’t handle 7 players by myself, and people used to 3.x yell at me because they expect everything to be the same as 3.x. From what I can tell, the experience of DnD seems to really feel the same, just with less rules baggage. Everything has been put into these standardized terms. I’ve just started, but I like it so far, and the DMG is more useful than the older ones.

    Edit: 1st post, and a big one!

  2. mithmurr says:

    Actually, calling them daily abilities is somewhat wrong. They won’t renew at midnight, every day. They renew after the party takes an extended rest. Now normal people take an extended rest every day (we call it sleep), but if a band of adventurers push themselves for 5 days straight, they will never get their “daily” powers back. The only thing you have to track is you can’t use the extended rest more than once every 12 hours.

    (Note: the encounter powers are the same, except to regain them you only need a short 5 minute rest, which you can take however many you want during a day).

    Overall, I’ve liked 4e more than almost every other version after the old boxed D&D when I was a kid. There are a few things I miss from various other versions, but overall this is my favorite so far.

  3. Graham says:

    I do have to comment, daily powers don’t reset at midnight. Just like 3e Wizard spells, they reset once you sleep. It’s far less metagaming than you’re making it out to be.

  4. Rob Conley says:

    Actually recharge in 4th edition is defined by rest times not a specific point in the day. If you rest for 5 minutes you get your encounter powers back. If you can rest for X hours (I believe it is 6) then you get your daily power back.

    3.0 character creation and advancement felt a little like GURPS in terms of flexibility (class = templates). In 4.0 they took that away and now combat feel a little like GURPS advanced with all the options. With powers in a similar role as maneuvers.

    The length of combat feel the same but in GURPS it defend, defend, ouch, defend, defend, OMG I am down. In 4th it like power, ouch, power, ouch, I am healed, power, ouch, power ouch, I am healed, power, OMG I am down.

    D&D 4th edition involves lot less prep work than 3.X or most other fantasy RPGs. This is due to monsters being setup differently than PC. Possessing a lot more limited list of powers. However monsters can be put together to form encounter groups that are more effective then the individual creatures.

    Having run a few session D&D 4th is a good game especially for high fantasy but won’t replace GURPS 4th for me.

  5. Annikai says:

    I played it a couple of weeks ago and for keeping track of the powers we used note cards. We basically had each player write on one card for each power and then when the power became unusable we turned them face down. And yeah I have to say that it did breed a lot of meta gaming. Half the time we were wondering whether or not to use a power based on whether or not we thought we were going to need it to battle the final boss character (in our case it was some elven wizard who kidnapped some townies).

  6. Factoid says:

    Listening to the Penny Arcade D&D podcast on WoTC’s site gives a good impression of how this works.

    The DMs there are professionals employed by Wizards, and actually worked on developing 4th Edition. Their take on daily powers seems to be that you get them back when you sleep long enough. They’re taking a lax approach because it’s a fairly casual game, but that makes sense to me.

    Players should be able to track their own daily powers and encounter powers, so I wouldn’t think that the DM should need to do much more than make players THINK they’re keeping rigid track of them, thus discouraging dishonesty.

    The combat in the podcasts is getting a little tiresome, mostly because thats ALL they’ve been doing. The first DM had some interesting puzzles for them, but then they switched and the new guy just wants to do more combat.

    Personally, not being a D&D player, I’d be interested in seeing what a trip to town is like. How does NPC interaction work, etc… All they’ve done is go from one combat encounter into the next. It’s enjoyable, because the people on the podcast are funny, but I’m ready for something else.

    To their credit, the combat does go pretty quickly. In 6 episodes of about 30-50 minutes each, they’ve gone through at least 5 different encounters.

  7. Oleyo says:

    Is your new Star Wars setting going to use these rules, or the Star Wars D20 game?

  8. khorboth says:

    “We’ve been moving away from monolithic systems that try to be all things to all groups, to more focused systems that are easier to learn and use but are a lot less flexible.”

    GURPS 4th Edition. Come along! You belong! Feel the fizz…

    Seriously, I’ve pretty well abandoned D&D now that I have played a GURPS adaptation which preserves the feel while presenting a flexible, consistent set of rules.

    I have begun to see level-based systems as a different form of railroading. “You now have this ability weather you want it or not. Use it or you’re crippled as a character.” It just kinda chaffs.

  9. Catsclaw says:

    … the system is less open to roleplaying because it wants to railroad you into a narrow idea of what an adventuring party is and what they do …

    Having written and run several 4e mods by now, I’ve certainly heard this a lot, and it’s just not true.

    I ran some sessions of Harvestlands (our dark community-designed campaign setting) at Origins, with 6 pre-gen characters. In the party we designed, of the two “leaders” the cleric is a kind of quiet and soft-spoken and the warlord is a bitter, slightly crazy misanthrope. Both certainly play their roles in combat, but the party’s real leader is a striker class (she’s a Sharpshooter, a custom class that plays kind of like a ranged paladin).

  10. JFargo says:

    So how do you feel about the comment that 4e is built for gamers that enjoy MMOs? I figure since you have just forayed into both realms, you’ve got a pretty unique view, and I’d love to hear it.

  11. Josh says:

    My understanding of the power system is that it helps to think of it cinematically. It’s not a world reflection rule (I should be able to do this sword move as many times as I want), it’s a dramatic one where the hero only uses his greatest move once per episode or at the highest dramatic point. I’ve found (and heard that others have found) that this helps the disconnect. You just need to think about your game in more dramatic terms.

    Now, to be fair, if you are more of a simulationist, that is probably not appealing, but I love it.

  12. What about the old Star Wars game with d6s? Never played it, but I heard it kinda pegged the high-derring-do flavour.

  13. BlackJaw says:

    Nod to everyone above about daily powers being something stressful you character can only do once per 6 hour nap. You can only give it your 110% once per rest period. In 3ed the only Clerics regained powers at a set period of the day (you had to pick if you prayed for spells at sun rise, noon, sun set, or midnight). I’m not sure, but I think clerics didn’t have to sleep to get their spells so long as they prayed at the right time.

    As for the tracking issues… Each player has only a handful of daily powers. Only 1 at first level, but by 30th level they may have 6-8 depending on if they went with Daily or Encounter Utility powers. That means a group of five 30th level 4ed characters will have fewer daily powers then a single 15th level wizard in 3ed! Add to this that a player can only use 1-3 daily use magic items in a day, and you suddenly have less to track then 3ed.

    As for pigeonholing group compositions… well D&D has always assumed you had the standard party break down (it’s in the 3ed DMG, and I think the 2ed as well), but it’s never forced you use it. If you’d rather run a Thieves guild game set in the back alleys of a fantasy city, you could still do so. The group I play in has 2 defenders, 2 leaders, 1 striker, and no controller. Game still works fine… we just have to chop and shoot through minions.

    Really, I suspect Wizards of the Coast has a large chunk of marketing data telling them that most people run a “kick down the door, kill the monsters, take their stuff” kind of game and so built the game mostly to handle that. They dropped a layer of pretend simulation and are sort of running with the idea that the whole game is a big abstraction anyway, so “why not have Healing Surges and Cleric powers that blast with holy light and give out temporary hitpoints?” because it’s more fun that way. Some of it bothers me (cleirc attacks that also buff seem odd in some cases).

    The part that feels forced is the scope of each class has been reduced down. All wizards are now more or less evokers. All rangers are now two-weapon damage dealers or archery snipers. Fighters are defenders… So if you wanted to run a crossbow specialist fighter… your SOL. Want to specialize in thrown melee weapons? What class does that in 4ed? War clerics can’t be the party tank anymore, rogues can’t stand in for a wizard through Use Magic Device, Etc. All the classes are pre-focused with 1-3 build options.

  14. Alan De Smet says:

    The daily powers aren’t that bad to track. You start with 1, may 2 or 3 depending on your race and other high weirdness. If you run your game all the way up 30th level, you might be tracking a 9 or 10. (That’s from memory; I believe it peaks at 6 from your class, then maybe 4 from race and feats.) Compared to a 20th level wizard in 3e, where you might have 36 spells to track, it’s easy.

    As for the claim that combat is faster, I thought so, but I no longer know. Given a focused group of players (one of my groups), yes, it’s faster. Not exceptionally so, but maybe 20% faster. Given a typical group who spend lots of time hanging out, telling jokes, and being more out of character, it seems about the same. However, people are more involved. The fights are more interesting. Maybe we’re only getting 1 or 2 fights per night, but the fights are more fun. Or put another way, yes the fights are faster if you run the sorts of fights 3e tended to default to: PCs facing 1-3 enemies, relatively simple terrain, few complications. But 4e encourages bigger fights, more interesting terrain, more complications.

  15. Deoxy says:

    Gee, I was going to comment on the daily powers “time/rest” issue, but that got beat down HARD in the first multiple posts.

    Overall, I’ve liked 4e more than almost every other version after the old boxed D&D when I was a kid. There are a few things I miss from various other versions, but overall this is my favorite so far.

    This pretty well sums it up for me, too. Granted, it’s still early in the game life, and there could be flaws that I haven’t seen yet, but it seems to have dealt with a great many issues that were troublesome before.

    About roles: the “suggested” party is just that – suggested. I’ve already seen parties with only three of the roles covered (in a 5-man group, no less), and it worked fine. It is significantly different than a “standard” party, and it requires different tactics… but then, it should, eh? It can still be quite effective (MUCH more effective at some things, less effective at other things).

    The biggest loss, IMO, if the massive multi-class NERF. Granted, multi-classing in 3rd is what broke the game all to pieces, but non-munchkin players could get a lot of enjoyment out of 3e multiclassing. I see why they did it, and I don’t have a solution (especially not one that works in their new infrastructure), but it still makes me a little bit sad.

    More experienced DMs than I have said that the DMG is something that they really won’t use much… but that they would have paid their weight in gold for it back when they started. It’s aimed at less-experienced DMs, and people that I know who are already experienced DMs say that it’s solidly on target. Make of that what you will.

    The “roll for recharge” for monsters is a bit odd (IMO) – it can make the difference between “wow, that was just stupidly easy” and “OMG WTF BBQ!!!” (yes, that’s an Erfworld reference).

    Once I found that “encounter” powers last five minutes (easy to miss that little tidbit) when not in an actual “encounter” of the encounter goes longer (for whatever reason) and a few other little bits like that, it really makes things work out fairly well, I think.

    Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to give it a real “trial by fire” at some point soon (other than 1-offs).

  16. Matt` says:

    Most people would preface this with something like “I hate to be that guy”, but actually I don’t mind being him at all…

    Anyway, forth =! fourth, and rolls =! roles.

    It bugs me because I like you :P

  17. lebkin says:

    The key to being able to “believe” in the concept of daily powers (and powers in general) is to look at them as a story-telling tools. Many of the “hard to do, big effect” elements, such as trip, sunder, disarm, were turned to into powers. These powers are almost always as easy or easier than your standard at-will powers. Thus it gives the player the ability to decided WHEN he pulls off the uber-move, rather than continually trying and only succeeding when the random dice fall his way. Thus to me, a daily power means that, rather than being something a character can only do once, it is an action where the ideal situation to execute it only happens once a day. And rather than having the dice decide when that situation happens, the power system gives that story telling power to the player. Daily powers (and to a lesser extent, encounter powers) enable the player to craft those epic, cinematic moments. Unleashing the major hurt against the big bad guy is much more cool than doing it on some random enemy. Equally cool is unleashing the power at those desperate moments when things have gone bad, allowing the players to turn the tide of the battle.

    As for tracking these powers, it is no different than tracking spells. And due to the lower number of powers a player gets, I think it is actually easier than tracking spells in 3rd edition. And much like spells, it is something that the players themselves should track, keeping it from bogging down the DM.

    As for combat, I am not sure if a whole combat is any faster, but each player’s turn is now much faster. Thus you can get a lot more rounds in the same amount of time, so combat at least FEELS faster. There is also a lot more movement and tactics, which makes the pace of combat feel better as well. Things are less static and generally more enjoyable than past editions.

    Combat is also a lot faster on the DM’s side. Monsters are greatly simplified, with clearly defined roles, much like players. It is generally really simple to choose the appropriate action to take, allowing to easily move through combat involving large amounts of monsters. I am having more fun DMing 4th Edition combat than anything before.

  18. Dirty Dan says:

    What I always say is that if you need a particular sort of rules in order to roleplay, you must not be a very good roleplayer: roleplaying is about personality, not powers. And if you don’t like the powers, wait a while, and they’ll release more. Or, if you’ve got the chops, design your own.

    Regarding daily abilities, I like to think of martial-powered daily powers as having a sort of “ki drain”. It’s not arcane or divine magic, but it still draws on some mystical energy reserve.

  19. mithmurr says:

    Blackjaw: You want a crossbow specialist fighter? Make a ranger, and get some armor feats. A thrown weapon specialist would just be an Archer style Ranger that chooses thrown weapons. The titles of the classes are pure fluff. Decide what you want to do, and pick the class that most feels like that power-wise. Then pick up feats (including the multiclass feats) to further refine what you want your character to do.

  20. Axolotl says:

    Purple Library Guy: Having ran a few campaigns using the old West End Games D6 Star Wars system it really did suit the setting. Nice and easy to use, if you came across something unexpected it was easy to work out a way to resolve it and it seemed to encourage a swashbuckling approach from the players.

  21. John says:

    My group’s been bantering around lately talking about 4th ed. Play experience is minimal, so it may be all sunshine and kittens, but I don’t much like the rules as I’ve read them.

    Primary Reasons:
    1) It seems incomplete. 3.5 had tons of extra source books, but PHB/DMG/MM constituted a playable game. With 4th ed., many of the standard tropes didn’t make it into the core set of rules. Is this just part of the mad scheme to sell more books? (And WTF is up with dragonborn?)

    2) Everything revolves around combat. Period. If this is your cup of tea, and your definition of roleplaying is satisfied by roleplaying combat, then you’ll be happy. But the skill system has been gutted and there’s not much magic that doesn’t involve doing X amount of type Y damage.

  22. Ozzie says:

    Seems to me this is more like chess and less like previous editions of D&D.

    3.x had different classes having completely different mechanics. Now they all run off the same mechanic, but with slightly different effects. It plays like a tactical game in combat, not a role playing game.

    Previous editions were like swirl soft serve ice-cream. In most bites, you are likely to get an equal mix of flavors. 4ed is like Neapolitan; the combat and role-playing are pretty separate and do not naturally mix.

    Both ice-cream types are good eating for ya, but they are pretty different from each other.

    A less charitable analogy would be to the Matrix movies. Previous editions mix tactics and role-playing much as Matrix I mixed action and philosophy. 4ed does so more like Matrix II. There’s lotsa talking, and then the techno music starts apropos of nothing and it’s time for the pretty…

  23. Coldstone says:

    A friend of mine who is a great deal more obsessive than I am pointed out how 4th ed felt a great deal like WoW in how the characters were defined.

    I suppose this made a bit of sense, considering that WoW would be a significant competition with 4th ed, but pandering to WoW players just seems like a cop out.

    I don’t feel like I have anywhere near the freedom and flexibility of 3.5 ed for how my individual character develops. Oddly, I didn’t have the same impression of Star Wars Saga edition, which is based on the same ruleset (and often referred to as “4th ed lite”)

  24. BlackJaw says:

    D&D use to be a game that both Simulationists and Gamist could play (often uneasily) together. I think it’s fair to say that many Roleplaying (IE: Story telling) types fit the simulationist category. They will not, and have not, been happy with 4ed D&D. They make lots of arguments about dissociated mechanics. To them, it was fine that wizards had limited numbers of spells per day because that was just how magic in this system worked… it was a pattern of arcane magic in the mind of the user, and once released it had to be rebuilt, through study of a wizard’s tome, to be done again.

    The “Justin Alexander comments on the dissociated mechanics ” makes this very clear when it starts talking about blocking ruby beams of light with ruby colored glass… he’s looking for a game system that describes the world in detail.

    Josh, in a post above, describes 4ed D&D as a system that works more like a roleplaying a film. It’s about being Cinematic… and kicking in the door and killing the monsters. You have limited powers per day because you character should get to do something cool in each scene, but he should be doing it over and over again. Minions have effectively 1 hp because you should be able to drop them easily… it’s what they are there for. Etc.

    This is a big shift for D&D. Past versions didn’t work this way. The origins of D&D and TSR were for table top simulations of battles, then they modified the rules so they could do fantasy battles ala Lord of the Rings, then they stripped out the armies and made it a few heroes against monsters. In the Decades since then the rules have adapted and changed, but aside from the spell memorization system it has always been a system of simulating dugenons, dragons, etc… but it has been moving towards gamist setups since 3ed.

    Go back and look at the 3ed character classes. Many of them had powers that were limited to X uses per day. Why can a Barbarian only rage X times depending on level? What’s with the limits on a monk’s stunning fist? A Bard’s Music?
    Does the bard get worse at playing music over the day? Does the song that enchanted the ogre suddenly not work? Does he forget it? Does the Bararian get less angry as the day goes on? The does monk forget where the pressure points are?

    4ed is just a big leap in these ideas. I won’t (yet) say leap forward, but it’s certainly a big leap away from what 1st and 2nd ed were in terms of mechanical feel and design goal, but it’s not like it’s a entirely new concept.

    And simulationist won’t and don’t like it. A game they once loved no longer provides the feel the they loved. They’ve lost their D&D.

    That’s ok by me. I’m an accredited film geek. I’ve always run games with Cinematic Style. The Players were always actors in a scene & setting, not a simulation of a fantasy world. If Realism got between me and the story, or a big climatic event, or whatever… well realism was always the first to go. I want the veneer of realism, not a simulation of it.

    John wrote:

    Everything revolves around combat. Period. If this is your cup of tea, and your definition of roleplaying is satisfied by roleplaying combat, then you’ll be happy. But the skill system has been gutted and there’s not much magic that doesn’t involve doing X amount of type Y damage.

    You’re a bit off.

    Skills were condensed and skill points were turned into a flat trained bonus, but they built in an improved skill challenge system (well brought it back from Alternity) that removes some of the head aches from skills. The 3ed problem of 1 check diplomacy is gone now, as are all the other times 1 skill check became the life line or abuse of a group. Also, everyone in the group is now expected and able to contribute to skill challenges (including traps, chases, and other non-talking encounters), and they expressly formulated out in Xp terms… something past versions of D&D didn’t do very well.
    A few of the classes, the rogue especially, have powers very much tied to skill checks.

    Also, non-combat powers and spells are in the game still. The last chapter of the PHB is full of them… they are Rituals. For better of worse they removed them from the same collection as your combat powers for balancing purposes. They didn’t want you having to pick between being creative problem solving and being able to kick but. You now have a collection of controlled use Combat powers, and a collection of cost-to-cast use rituals (IE: Spells and prayers) that handle your illusions, phantom steeds, curing diseases, bringing back the dead, teleporting, questioning the gods, scrying on others, making food, making magic items, etc.
    There are also a number of Utility powers that are intended for uses other then combat. Many of them provide skill bonuses are alterations intended for using problem-solving and skill challenges.

  25. John Spencer says:

    I really like 4th edition. I am running it for my group right now. We started with Keep on the Shadowfell, and are now running a “normal” campaign. My whole group is having much more fun than before. We don’t have a Wizard, so I can’t really comment on them, but everyone likes the way their characters play. The healing mechanics are much better than older versions. No one in my party wanted to play a cleric because they were just a healing stick. They almost never got to cast ‘other’ spells, they had to spend all their time going from person to person healing everyone. Now the Cleric can heal(along with the Warlord) and still do something in combat.

    I’ll have to see if our opinion changes as time goes on, but right now, 4th edition is awesome.

  26. Chops-Frozen-Water says:

    Half the time we were wondering whether or not to use a power based on whether or not we thought we were going to need it to battle the final boss character …

    To be fair, this is something that all spell-casters have faced since (at least) 1st Edition AD&D; now every class gets to worry about it. Playing a Cleric/Wizard/Mystic Theurge in a 3.5 game, I seem to spend the middle part of each fight twiddling my thumbs, that being the part between doing my buff spells (Bless, etc.) and doing curative spells so we don’t all die. The character has some good utility, but rather pitiful attack abilities (as he’s no better than a Wizard’s Base Attack and no Feats for attacking effectively from range) so outside of a few offensive spells there’s not a lot to do in some combat encounters.

    At one level, all the “spontaneous caster” classes (e.g. Sorceror, Bard, etc.) that were added in 3.x (and its supplements) were a patch on an out-dated tabletop wargame mechanic that they’ve now changed at a fundamental level in the mechanics. To some degree, it largely breaks down as magic-users like the 4E class powers (“Cool, no more spell level slots!”), the “melee” types don’t (“What?! I have to deal with spells per day now?”). And I do agree with Dirty Dan that thinking of the “Martial” power source as “Ki minus Mysticism” helps in explaining the limitation of Daily powers.

  27. BlckDv says:

    4e has me very excited; which has been untrue of 3.5 (I seem to recall some excitement at 3.0, but then it died…)

    It is not the One True System, it does not cure Cancer. However, it brings the fun. It has been able to energize people with a desire to play that I was never able to do when trying to sell 3.5.

    From the few small battles I’ve played o9ut so far (pre gen characters running 1-2 encounters from published 4e materials) the combat is very dynamic and engaging, with folks eagerly watching other people go.. something that was a rarity in my 3.5 games.

    The skill system is what really stokes me though. I’ve always wanted to bring story, not skull bashing, and the new system of skill challenges does that very well. A nice system that layers some simple, non invasive rules into roleplay heavy scenes and provides a very solid guide to award an appropriate amount of XP allowing the scene to replace a fight for leveling. I love it.

    I’ll likely say more later.

  28. Re 3.5 wizards: 34 spells? Pah — try 69 (20th level specialist wizard, with a 32 Int (16, +5 for leveling, +5 for tome, +6 for item). And that’s just how many slots they have prepared; they could know an arbitrarily large number of them.

    Not to mention the Druid and Cleric — who have a comparable number of slots open, but on top of that, can try to prepare any spell in any book that’s campaign legal, unlike the wizard’s comparatively tiny “spells known” selection.

    Even counting Daily Utility slots, Item Powers, and Paragon and Epic Destiny daily powers, a 30th level 4th character has -nothing- on that.

  29. Jungian says:

    People seem to object to 4e’s combat-first approach. You know what? Combat is the ONE part of RPGs that demands the most rules, and any streamlining of combat means more time for everything else. Diplomacy, barter, puzzles– you don’t really need dice for those, that’s what roleplaying is for.

    Also people are griping about how limited character creation is compared to 3 or 3.5. You’re comparing the first release with a whole mature line of sourcebooks… wait a few more releases and I’m sure you’ll get enough feats for your crossbow-acrobat-monk build.

    And are people really griping about the at will/per encounter/day rules? Do you remember 2ed spells having funky durations? “Your haste spell will last 3 more rounds, you gotta cast invisible on me so I can backstab this ogre mage… hey how many rounds ago did he cast truesight?”

  30. J Greely says:

    I think combat goes much faster than 3.x, if you have the full details of your powers in front of you. That means either bookmarking both your race and your class in the PHB, or ditching their character sheet for something like mine (still in progress…). Even with mine, wizards and high-level characters have too darn many powers to keep track of, so I made a separate powers sheet.

    You really need to be able to see which powers are basic, at-will, (N/)encounter, or (N/)daily, and whether they’re standard, minor, move, immediate, or free actions.

  31. Ozzie says:

    It’s not the combat first; it’s the combat similarness. Combat is more like chess now. In 4ed battles were a purely a tactical problem to solve then previous editions.

    No more will battle be the hectic chaotic affairs of looking up odd esoteric mechanics or trying some kinda dodgy rule combo at the last moment. Now it’s a bit like video-games. “No, you can’t do that.”

    Now, this sounds like I’m a hater. I’m not, really. The 4ed sessions I played were actually awesome, challenging experiences. But it seemed to be a large departure in the feeling of the game. Certainly more then 2.0-3.0, IMO.

  32. Dirty Dan says:

    J Greely:

    It’s only a matter of time before we start becoming fluent in the powers of 4th Ed. If characters are run through the due number of encounters before gaining a level, the players will start to know their powers by heart. I can already tell you without cracking a book what Sure Strike, Cleave, Commander’s Strike, and Reaping Strike do. I observed during my first 4th Ed battle that certain things went slow — because we didn’t have the system down pat yet. It’s like learning a language: we all already know English (3rd), but we’ve only just started learning Dutch (4th); many things look familiar, but we still need to check dictionaries to be sure, though we’ll eventually be fluent with practice.

  33. BlackJaw says:

    Ozzie Wrote:

    No more will battle be the hectic chaotic affairs of looking up odd esoteric mechanics or trying some kinda dodgy rule combo at the last moment. Now it’s a bit like video-games. “No, you can’t do that.”

    They removed the dodgey rule digging up part, but DMG in general empowers the DM to let players try crazy things. Instead of providing a complicated set of spicific rules for every possible situation that might come up, they have the exalted rule “Use 42” Go to page 42 of the 4th ed DMG.
    If players ever try to do something cool (or stupid for that matter), use the rules on page 42. It will tell you how much damage is reasonable for their level (both dishing and taking) how hard a check should be, etc. It’s a great improvisational toolset, and it’s on page 42, so you know it’s The Answer.
    Drop the roof on a monster? Use 42 for the AC of the pillar and the damage it will do. Go ahead and immobilize the monster too.
    Bag of holding full of holy water vs vampire? Use 42
    Improvised Trap? Use 42.
    Grab some chemicals off the Alchemist Table to fight the plant monster? Use 42.
    Stun the gargoyles by shooting the bell in the tower they are flying next to? Use 42.
    Swing on the tapestry? Use 42

  34. Tizzy says:

    I haven’t played D&D in decades, so I’m not sure what my opinion is worth, but I just thought I’d throw it out there: how 4e plays will also depend on what level your party is. From what I’ve seen so far, 4e looks like the most friendly edition for running low-level characters. IMHO, each edition has its sweet spot, its ideal level it should be played at.

    Then again, I say that because I have a fundamental problem with the concept of leveling up.

  35. Dovienya says:

    Ozzie, improvised action is not only provided for, it’s encouraged by a list of sample DCs and damages for different types of actions, listed in the DMG (on page 42, hehe). The example provided is something to the effect of “swing off a chandelier and dropkick an ogre into burning hot coals”, which illustrates how detailed a situation the rules system can handle prety well. In that case, you make the appropriate skill check (Acrobatics probably, not looking at it right now), make an ability check (STR for the kick which is supposed to shove, plus a modifier for surprise/inventiveness/awesome), and then damage based on level and type of attack (burning damage from the coals, not from the kick).

    And considering the extreme youth of 4e, it’s inevitable that there aren’t many “esoteric mechanics” or “dodgy rule combo”s, because much of those stemmed from having so many sourcebooks for 2e and 3.Xe that no one could keep track of all the different rules. With 4e, there’s only what’s in the core books for now; give it time, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of surprise mechanics to bust out on your DM.

  36. Eldiran says:

    Exactly as lebkin said, daily powers are limited to a use per day as a bit of an abstraction; you can only manage to pull it off once per day, because it’s that impressive/draining/situational.

    I myself have DMed a 4e adventure of my own make (level 1-3) and I found it be excellently awesome. Battle was always entertaining, and the story flowed just as well as it always did. I’m not one to make use of, well… “rules” for roleplaying; I haven’t bothered to even read the section about skill challenges. I just ask for a skill check when I find it appropriate. Many people seem to use ‘rules’ for roleplaying, which is likely the gripe with 4e; they didn’t flesh out those rules very much.

    About the complaints I’ve heard that 4e seems incomplete: yes, there aren’t that many classes out yet, it’s true. But honestly, the PHB is as thick as any other edition’s PHB. Not to mention it encompasses 30 levels, and has information about magic items included. (If I recall correctly, the old PHB didn’t have magic items, but I could be wrong.)

  37. Ozzie says:

    Okay, point taken. One can indeed improvise in 4ed.

    Still 4ed feels more like chess less like D&D. I like chess, I like D&D. Once the novelty of 4ed wears off I’ll probably just have some days I feel like playing D&D, and some days I feel like playing 4ed.

  38. Russ says:

    While 3.5 has its merits, I really like 4th edition. As a player I think is it pretty cool, but as a DM, I love it.

    The rules and powers themselves read worse than they play. A recharging monster power or at-will/encounter/daily powers might seem like an odd mechanic, but in play the rules and powers work well to create heroic opportunities and tense situations. I’ve found 4 supports heroic fantasy adventure better than 3.5. I can’t wait to use 4 to play Eberron as I think it supports the pulp action themes better 3.5 did.

    Some people think the rule don’t support roleplaying, but I would argue they do a great job at it. The rules support roleplaying by getting out of the way and taking a back seat when it is time to roleplay. Honestly, I hate it when an awesome retort or idea is shot down because of a bad roll or the rules getting in the way. Fourth edition mitigates this by leaving roleplay in the hands of the DM and players and providing skill challenges. The skill challenge system can be used to resolve all sorts of conflicts that simple roleplaying won’t. And instead of hinging on a single skill or die roll you can pull in multiple skills and rolls to create a more interesting and dramatic conflict.

    And speaking of conflict, a combat encounter in 4 isn’t any faster than 3.5, but that doesn’t mean combat runs the same. Encounters in 4 usually have far more monsters and each person takes many more turns. But don’t fret, the monsters are dramatically easier to run and still do interesting things.

    Granted coming from 3.5 where there was a plethora of supplements, going to the core is a bit difficult. But, I feel I can do more with that core than the 3.5 core.

  39. Mike Lemmer says:

    My current experience with 4E D&D has been a trial run on D&D Day, a character creation session, and one full session. Here’s my impressions:

    Trial Run: We ran up against hobgoblins who had rigged sarcophagi as oil bombs. (Example of the new monsters + traps combat.) We all snuck up on the BBEG (reduced armor check penalties means even the fighter has a chance of succeeding on a Stealth check), knocked him off his high perch (creative use of a wizard push power), and beat him to death before the surprise rounds was over. (Hoorah for surprise!) We then bypassed the final boss entirely through some careful runic study and Arcana checks made by the wizard & cleric. (Skill challenges & the new ritual system.)

    It was fun. It felt like 3E, but I think a lot of its interesting aspects were made easier by 4E.

    Character Creation: Not much to say here; it felt like every other previous character creation, except for a few things:

    1. No dice rolling for HP or ability scores. No more joys of rolling obscenely high scores or the sorrows of getting a 13 and five 10s.

    2. Less developing characters in a vacuum. As my pal Fear put it, “You can still powergame, but you can’t powergame with just 1 PC anymore. You need 2 PCs working together to really break things.” The same thing applies to combat effectiveness. A single caster can’t eliminate an entire encounter anymore, and rogues depend on fighters for more than just flanking. Since everyone has fewer powers, it’s also easier to figure out exactly what your teammates can do. (In a 3.5 high-level game, we had 2 clerics in our party; it was hell figuring out what spells they had on any given day, and we quickly gave up trying to get them to coordinate on anything.)

    Full Session: We squeezed an Info Dump, a Visit to Town, and 4 Combat Encounters into 6 hours.

    Each combat encounter was us vs. 6-12 kobolds. Two were ambushes (one while we were escorting someone), two were an offense against the kobolds in their own lair. We went over the basics of combat, our rogue went stealth-sniping, I tested the tank-marking techniques, and we learned to use action points more often. We agreed combat was more exciting than in 3E. It was a large scale battle, we had multiple powers available for use, and no one dropped from a single attack at 1st level (except for the kobold minions). And it resolved about twice as fast as a 3E battle, but felt just as long.

    As for the info dumps & town visit, it felt just like 3E. I didn’t notice any “RP Decay”. I didn’t have training in all the skills I wanted, but I still had training in more skills overall than a similar paladin in 3E would’ve. Overall, it was just as, if not more, satisfactory than 3E in every aspect.

  40. Derek K says:

    “You’re comparing the first release with a whole mature line of sourcebooks… wait a few more releases and I’m sure you’ll get enough feats for your crossbow-acrobat-monk build.”

    Eh. I’ve played in Core only games (only stuff from PHB, DMG), and I can make a whole swath of varied characters, with multiple focus choices. I can’t make some of them on the same level, and TWF is fairly weak, but I can make a much greater variety than I seem to have access to in 4th.

    To be fair: I’m not sure I had a character with less than 3 classes in the last 5 years. I *love* multiclassing. It allowed me to pick up whatever I wanted, and do it how I wanted to.

    4e doesn’t even have a sword-mage archetype. They flat out admit it in the “Conversions” documents, when discussing Duskblade. They tell you to wait for the FR Campaign Setting.

    One of the biggest selling points for 4e was “Multiclassing is gone, but that’s okay, because you don’t need it any more! If you want to make a mage that fights, you can, with the base rules!”


    I think 4e is a fine game on its own. As a pure system, it’s good, focused, and interesting. But it isn’t DnD to me. Pathfinder’s 3.75 is an excellent system for the most part. And I think 4e is also an excellent system. I just don’t know that it’ll be my main choice.
    The skill points system, for instance, is easy, and elegant. But it completely negates one of my favorite parts of the game – skill point picking. I’m not one of those people that just picked X skills, where X is points per level, and maxed them. I’d max 1-2 skills, depending – tumble, conc, spot, etc. Then I’d drop 5 points here, 1 point there, 9 points there, etc. I loved being able to granularly define my skill set. This rogue was combatty, this one was knowledgy, this one was social. And the social didn’t have combatty skills, which was nice – it gave me a strength, and a weakness.

    Now I pick trained, and I’ve maxed those. Then I get the same skills as every other person of my class. Meh. Now I’m the social rogue, who can also do a lot of other stuff, just like every other rogue. I could well be interchangable with rogue NPC #8, except that I’m better at 3 things than he is…

    And please tell me – I haven’t read the combat section in extreme detail – that trip is *not* a daily use power?

    I can only manage the spiritual focus to *trip* an opponent once a day? That will make me mock the system for at least a week if it’s true.

  41. Ozzie says:

    Though I do love how Kobolds’ racial power is awesome both in name and mechanically.

  42. mithmurr says:

    There really isn’t a “trip” power, but there are many powers that can knock an opponent prone. Fighters can take an encounter power at first level that will knock an opponent prone.

    The thing is, a lot of people look at it as 1ed -> 2ed -> 3ed -> 4ed. Really, looking at it as version numbers, you would have 1.0 for 1ed, 2ed would be 1.1, 3ed would be 1.2, 3.5ed would be 1.2.1 or something, and 4ed would be 2.0. There are some things that are familiar, but they drastically changed a lot of things. So trying to compare it the same way you may have compared 3ed to 2ed isn’t really the correct way to look at it. Just think of it as a whole knew RPG based off of D&D.

  43. Kacky Snorgle says:

    I know nothing about the actual subject matter under discussion here, but I just had to comment on #8:

    Come along! You belong! Feel the fizz…

    Obscure reference FTW! I loved that episode…. :)

  44. Mike Lemmer says:

    Now for my own opinions:

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out where everyone gets this “it hurts role-playing” idea. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 possibilities, and my retorts:

    1. Multiclassing isn’t as versatile as 3E. This really doesn’t hold water for me. In my own game, I was quickly able to homebrew a Monk (treat as two-weapon ranger, treat their fists as a 1-handed martial weapon), a Ranged Warlord (warlord skills, just replace Str with Dex & Melee with Ranged), and a Druid (remove the companion, set off shapeshifting until the Paragon tier, mix the Cleric & Wizard power lists, toss in a couple animal rituals for kicks). With the general power system, you can easily homebrew a hybrid of 2 existing classes if the Official Multiclassing doesn’t satisfy you.

    I don’t see why multiclassing is So Damn Important to RPing. I never got into it and I did just fine RPing. Perhaps I’m too cynical, seeing how most examples of Multiclassing-as-RPing I saw were attempts to justify going into 2-3 base classes + 3-4 prestige classes with a template on top that caused massive amounts of GM Eyetwitching.

    2. Casters have less non-combat spells. As Fear said, “I bet 80% of the complainers about a lack of RP are just caster fans peeved they no longer have a spell for almost every occasion.”

    3. The skill system changes. I can’t see why this is a problem.

    First, they reduced the number of near-useless skills. (Hooray, I can act like my PC’s good at armorsmithing without taking training away from a vital skill!)

    Second, all skills scale with level, so you don’t automatically suck at skills you don’t train in at higher levels. It may be unrealistic that an Epic Wizard is better at Athletics than a Heroic Fighter, but it also means even the Wizard has a chance at succeeding an Epic Athletics check. Since when is letting everyone have a chance at something a bad thing for RPGs?

    (This is a particular sore point for me. A former group of mine split up for 3 sessions because the stealthers of the group said, “We’re leaving you out of this because you can’t sneak around worth a damn.” After they purposely avoided an attempt to get the group back together, and I nearly pummeled one of them with my PHB, I ended up quitting the group.)

    Third, they reduced the number of mandatory skills & increased the amount of skill choices overall. Casters don’t have to take Concentration. Fighters get training in 3 skills, one of which (Athletics) encompasses just as much as 3 skills in 3E. And then there’s the rogue.

    Oh, the pitiful rogue in 3E. Sure, you got 8+Int mod rank points per level for skills, but how many of those were mandatory? Hide, Move Silently, Spot, Listen, Search, Open Locks, Disable Device, Tumble… only your bonus rank points from Int could go into anything non-vital. Oh, the tears shed over how to distribute them… But now, you get training in 6 skills, and only 3 of them are Mandatory. I can finally, FINALLY, make my streetsmart rogue that can tumble across rooftops and dabbles in Arcana without banging my head against the wall over which Vital skill I need to trim down in return.

  45. J Greely says:

    Dirty Dan: It’s only a matter of time before we start becoming fluent in the powers of 4th Ed. If characters are run through the due number of encounters before gaining a level, the players will start to know their powers by heart.

    If they play a single character in a single ongoing campaign, they’ll know their most-used at-will and encounter powers quite well, but will generally not remember the exact effects of daily and utility powers (and wizards in particular get a lot of daily and utility powers). Then there are all of the magic-item daily powers that only get used occasionally. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially if you play no more than once a week.

    Then there are con games, where you might play a premade character or roll a new one just for one game. We run four groups of 6-8 players in our big events, and they’re all high-level premades; we really, really don’t want people getting bogged down looking up their combat powers.


  46. Derek K says:

    Points: ;)

    “I don’t see why multiclassing is So Damn Important to RPing.”

    Because the rules don’t let you build many many characters you’d like to play. Want to play an effective two weapon fighter? You couldn’t single class. Want to play a brash and bold swashbuckler that didn’t sing? You couldn’t (until PHB 2). Want to play a thugish character that wasn’t great at much, but could hit hard, and still sneak around? Nope.

    Want to play a former vanguard, who is skilled at spotting and sneaking, but not a woodsy hippie? Nope!

    You could do it, and simply ignore what you didn’t like, but that’s not right – I shouldn’t have to lose abilities simply to fit a concept. I’m not a true RPer – I’m a Steam gamer. I play to have fun, rp some, and kill stuff, because I enjoy it. So doing something sub-optimal simply because it’s a “character trait” is not my cup of team. And yeah, I can create alternative class features, new classes, etc. But that shouldn’t be something I have to do, just to play. I paid money for your game because I have more money than time. If I had more time than money, I’d still be doing freelance stuff, so that I’d get paid for my time. ;)

    “Since when is letting everyone have a chance at something a bad thing for RPGs?”

    Because if everyone is good at something, no one is. If the general level of skill is X, and the mastery is X 5, then there’s not that much difference between a master and Joe Blow. If you want to be a very good lockpicker, but not focus your whole life on it, you’re only a bit better than the archer with a higher dex. Etc.

  47. GeorgeR says:

    You last paragraph pretty much hit the nail on the head. Whenever I’m DMing with the friends I play with, people are weird, no one ever does stuff by the book and I know much of our time is spent figuring out just what counted as what.

    Admittedly though those grey areas were part of the fun for us. The rules weren’t set and rigid so we could play more. It is why a lot of my friends are still opposed to 4e. I’m still reading things over as you are, and playing with it by attempting to transfer NPCs and a town or two to see how things will line up. But You’re right, both arguments seem to be holding up from my understanding.

  48. GregT says:

    I’d say that 4th Ed is more about recognising that of all the roleplaying games on the market, D&D is the least supportive of actual roleplaying. So they’ve focused on making D&D an awesome tactical boardgame where the action is given context by character and story. And succeeded! I haven’t found D&D this addictive since…. ever!

  49. blah blah blah says:

    They really ought to just call the game World of Warcraft, Tabletop Edition. For example, there are four different roles you can play in combat. The smart, consistent designer would say, “Why not make these four roles the basic character classes, and allow players to choose from a variety of abilities?” The moronic, inconsistent designer says, “Why not take a bunch of the old D&D classes, shoe-horn them into the new categories, and then force the classes to become cardboard cut-outs of each other by removing most of the abilities that define them as a class? Then we can complain when people say the existing options are too limiting that people expect too much from a core release.”

    You might think the game is great from the standpoint that it allows you to play games like the movies, but if you’ve watched as many epic fantasy movies as I have, you’ll begin to see two things: first of all, any film that involves saving the world from a BBEG (the mere existence of an acronym for the concept should suggest to you what an over-used cliche it is) ends up being just like any other, and secondly that the plot is full of ridiculous holes (no man can slay the lord of the Nazgul, which means that in a world of hobbits, dwarves, elves, wizards, spiders, dragons, balrogs, talking trees, and Tom Bombadil, only a woman can kill him), characterizations that don’t make sense (Hi, I’m Gimli the Dwarf, stout warrior and loyal friend. Also comic relief), and long speeches about values that don’t matter because the hero really has no choice (Gee, I want to quit this quest and go back to the Shire. But if I try, evil will triumph and the Shire will be destroyed. Oh, the decision is so hard!). Throwing in minions with a single hit point just drives home the extent to which the cards are stacked in the players’ favor, even if they seem outnumbered. It’s a cliche, and a dumb one, of martial-arts movies that bad guys only attack good guys one by one, and are felled by a single punch, even though the hero gets wailed on for twenty minutes straight by the boss and his number two.

    I’d rather my games be more like James Bond films, where the heroes are given a bunch of interesting gadgets/abilities and use them to fit square pegs in round holes. Bond rarely overcomes his ultimate adversary using a laser watch, bulletproof sunglasses, or magnetic shoelaces. He uses those to get out of scrapes or past obstacles, and then settles scores the old-fashioned way.

    Lastly, if the Fourth Edition rules are so much simpler, why do the books keep getting longer? 1st ed. AD&D PHB was 128 pages, 2nd ed. was almost double at 244p, 3rd edition was 288p, and 4e is now 320 pages. Can you make a game simpler by adding more rules?

  50. BeAuMaN says:

    I have yet to meet up with my friends at the local tabletop gaming store and give the system a whirl, but through my reading and talking with them, concerning combat… it isn’t so much that it’s longer or shorter than before… they just changed up certain things within combat that are longer and shorter (Which will give varied results in time differences, but it ends up better imho).

    1.) First off, they get rid of the “esoteric mechanics” (someone above used that), and streamlined all the dice rolling and what-have-you so players should theoretically be able to finish their turns faster. This was always a problem at higher levels in 3.5 I thought, which leads into the next point…

    2.) … Being that all those crazy mechanics are gone, so are the uber-mega-death-combos (obviously, we’ll have to see in the coming books). See, in 3.5x, with the right combo of items, skills, feats, spells, special abilities, and classes… you could do potentionally 250 damage -before rolling the dice- at later levels. As a GM, this is really annoying, because you put a story-important nemesis in battle, and BOOM, dead, one hit.

    Sure, you could fudge the dice, but then the players would cry afoul. Even more so, you’d now have to dig up a newer, more powerful creature to be able to contend with your overly powerful adventurers, and then you’d have to justify why a crazy powerful uber-sword-wielding Githyanki just happens to be in the countryside. WotC saw this, which sets us up for point three.

    3.) To further prevent this, WotC decided that monsters should be more powerful. What’s also annoying though, apart from your main nemesis getting schucked out of the story by some ki-powered-magical-super-transdimensional-fortitude-save-backstab… is the player characters walking into an encounter with your new monster, and suddenly just dropping like flies because the monster is now -too- powerful. Solution?

    Give more HP to the monsters, Make them do less damage. Cobmined with the fact that PC uber-mega-death-combos are nixxed (for the moment), they also do less damage. This assures that both PCs and Monsters will not be destroyed immediately in a way that would ruin the story. If you want a good example, compare the White Dragon from 4E with the (Ancient?) White Dragon from 3.5E.

    So, given those three points, what’s the result? The mechanics are less cluttered, so that players turns can fly with no holdups, preserving the gameflow. Monsters take longer to kill, and players are given ample time to realize that “Oh crap, we’re losing, maybe we should retreat. This, in the end, makes the game more tactical. It becomes a game where combat is focused more on tactics instead of “I add my ki + my magic item + my racial butthairs + the dew point three days ago + the color of the monster’s eyes”.

    So, to sum it up, some parts of combat are shorter (math, essentially), and some parts are longer (Monster have more HP, Everything does less damage). Personally, I think this was the right way to go, as I was never a fan of insta-kills without any real reason (Though they make for great webcomic stories ;)). That’s my theory anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

    That’s sort of what you’d want too, right Shamus?

  51. J Greely says:

    blah blah blah: Lastly, if the Fourth Edition rules are so much simpler, why do the books keep getting longer?

    Because they moved almost all of the rules and tables out of the DMG into the PHB, and used that space to write a “how to be a DM” book. Which was probably a good idea.


  52. Runeweaver says:

    OK, here’s my 2 cents worth (and, seeing as they’re eurocents, they should be worth *more* than dollarcents, righ? =)

    I think (and a lot of my friend do, too… in fact, *all* of my RP friends, many of whom have been playing since the eighties) that the 4th ed is a console version of D&D — lots of flashy graphics & combat, but severly dumbed down. Mind you, I haven’t opened a single 4E book (and probably never will), but: as some of you have been pointing out in previous posts, the flexibility is lacking (4 roles? Come on! If I want to play WoW, I’ll play WoW, not D&D.)

    So nah… I’ll stick with 3E.

  53. J Greely says:

    Just to make it clear for all of the folks who haven’t actually read the rules, “roles” are merely a guideline for new players and DMs, with no actual game mechanics attached. They’re about as meaningful as your character’s eye color.


  54. Mengtzu says:

    Just a quick hint: if you’re going to make a sensible argument around “D&D4 == videogame!”, try comparing it to a strategy RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disagea rather than WoW. It’s really not very much like WoW at all :)

    I’m a fan of D&D 4 because it looks like it manages player learning curves much better than other gamey RPGs, and keeps a higher base level of character competence without trivialising play skill. This hopefully means that players are less likely to screw themselves over on the game layer by making choices according to their character concept. If that helps theorycrafters and concept-focused players sit down to the same table I’ll be very happy.

    I still wouldn’t suggest it (or any edition of D&D, ever) to anyone who values story and character above all else. There are plenty of great games who focus on those aspects, there’s no particular reason for anyone to try to beat D&D into that shape.

  55. Scott S. says:

    You say that both your statements are true. I’d say, rather, neither is.

    3. The system is more streamlined in some ways, more rigid in others, and has nothing to do with roleplaying in any case.

    The system in 3e had nothing to do with roleplaying, either. Neither did the system in 2e, 1e, or OD&D. Neither do the systems in most games I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few of them. The closest systems to come to having anything to do with roleplaying were diceless systems like Amber and Nobilis. And I’m not sure I’d concede anything even there.

    That’s because roleplay depends on the player. Period. The only thing the system can do in relation to roleplay is to restrict it. Some systems do so by including flaws or disadvantages. Some systems do so by saying “an elf magic-user cannot progress beyond level 9.” Some systems do so by imposing a greater law upon the characters such as Nobilis’ “You shall not love.” (These tend to be the most flexible, of course; in-character laws are often broken. But there are consequences for doing so, naturally, and the assumption of those consequences is built into the system.)

    The system is composed of rules. Rules can’t define roleplay. Rules can determine outcomes and consequences of the roleplay, can even determine when the roleplay might be allowed to occur, but they can’t determine the roleplay itself. If they try, then it’s no longer roleplay — it’s mechanics.

    4e allows exactly as much roleplay as previous editions; no more, no less. That amount is “as much as the players and GMs choose to have.”

    What 4e does provide less of is fluff. It’s focused heavily on the mechanics, yes. The fluff is the GM’s part, and to some extent, the players’. Some GMs are uncomfortable with this.

    I consider it a step forward, but I’m used to dealing with fluff-light, mechanics-heavy systems like GURPS and HERO. 4e is designed more along their lines. Not entirely; it’s not a generic system, as implemented. On the other hand, it could be. Write up some monster-hunting character classes, with their powers, and you could run Buffy the Vampire Slayer with 4e. You probably need some minor changes, mostly relating to the setting — a computer skill, at the least — but it wouldn’t be too difficult, compared to using 1e for the same thing.

    What they’ve managed to do, really, is to create a system that’s very flexible in most ways, but that provides a character class with a certain set role, a specific thing it’s good at. They’ve kind of split the difference between 3e/d20 and GURPS/HERO.

    I’m not sure I like the theory. But I have to say the game is a blast to play. Combat is fast. Everyone always has something interesting to do. (This was why I fell out of love with 3e; any skill-related challenge that the skilled character couldn’t sleep through was impossible for the untrained character by mid-levels. And by level 10 or so, there were only three real character classes: the wizard/sorcerer, the cleric/druid, and everyone else. If you were “everyone else,” your job was to keep the wizard and cleric alive until they could do the real work.)

    And although the classes are somewhat rigid, they’re more flexible than some people think. In reply to Derek above, for instance:

    “…the rules don’t let you build many many characters you’d like to play. Want to play an effective two weapon fighter? You couldn’t single class.”

    Ranger. The ranger is the “two-weapon guy.” Also the “ranged weapon guy.” Those are the roles the ranger plays. You can’t really effectively do a “two-handed-weapon ranger,” but that’s the fighter’s role. Think of them by role, not by class, and it gets easier.

    “Want to play a brash and bold swashbuckler that didn’t sing? You couldn’t (until PHB 2).”

    Rogue. That’s the sneaky Dex-based light-weapon-using class. Not looking for sneaky? Then Ranger (rapier and main-gauche, and moving all over the place) or perhaps Warlord (dazzling displays of skill that inspire allies) works.

    “Want to play a thugish character that wasn’t great at much, but could hit hard, and still sneak around? Nope.”

    Fighter, Rogue, or possibly Ranger. Depends on what you had in mind, exactly. Fighter’d be the big bruiser with the two-hander. Rogue (with brutal scoundrel option) is the hulking thug who mugs you in a back alley. Ranger would be more the highwayman type.

    “Want to play a former vanguard, who is skilled at spotting and sneaking, but not a woodsy hippie? Nope!”

    Member of any class with the appropriate skill training. Spotting and sneaking are not limited by class, unlike in 3e. Now, if you’re not a human, and your class has neither of those skills as class skills, you may need to wait until level 2 to acquire them, but that’s your decision to make. Just because my character concept in 3e is “Wizard who tosses fireballs” doesn’t mean I should get to start out at level 5+.

    There are concepts that a single class can’t handle, of course. That’s why there is some multiclassing — though it’s a fairly weak option in 4e, whereas in 3e it could lead to overpowered characters.

    There is a lot that can be done even with the eight classes they’ve included in the PHB. More are coming, I’m sure. Along with more powers for the existing ones. This is fundamentally not much different from earlier editions, except that the non-casters will (hopefully) actually get meaningful expansion like the casters do, rather than a couple of feats for a little extra damage or a new weapon that dices, slices, and… I mean trips, disarms, and has reach.

    I am (clearly) a pretty big fan of 4e. I didn’t expect to be; even when I was reading the rules, things seemed strange and off-kilter. But once I actually played the game, all of that went away. 4e is awkward to look at, but it runs very smoothly, in my experience.

    There are broken things. It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable. But I’m impressed by the relatively small number of broken things. That was not my experience with 3e, and 3e was great fun for a while. I expect the same out of 4e, but perhaps with more longevity.

    This comment is entirely too long. Apologies.

  56. Eric says:

    The thing I like most about 4e, is the fact that they finally evened it out in the higher levels between casters and fighters. The last campaign we did at shamus’s was really unexpectedly boring for my fighter, the cleric, and the thief. The wizard just took over completely, and ran the show. 4E remedies this by making actual teamwork the core mechanic, rather than the single all-star mvp, it really makes combat and roleplaying all the more interesting.
    In response to Scott S., he summarized what I was going to say next perfectly, rping is the players and dm’s responsibility, and not the PHB or DMG’s. Our group is a mixture of super rpers and casual ones, which has worked thus far but can get a bit tedious when one players is holding up the gameplay by being “in character” thankfully the DMG has addressed this issue proper.
    By the way the once a day powers comeback after a 6 hour rest. FTW!!!

  57. Wilcroft says:

    Having tried 4e, I’m not that impressed. They seem to have made things better, but in some ways they have not. IMHO, the game has become a combat-oriented scenario.

    Firstly, skills are much improved. There is no longer 50 billion of them, and the new trained/untrained is a good idea. However, the lack of increase between levels makes, in my opinion, leveling a useless venture. As well, the new “skill challenges” – a good concept – are extremely tedious. They remind me of combat, without the actual thrill of killing anything.

    Secondly, There is no more Base Attack Bonus. While this may seem like a small thing, it’s been around in various forms since 1e, stating that a fighter is more likely to hit a monster than a wizard of equal level. Now, the new “Base Attack Bonus” is 1/2 level.

    Thirdly, they have effectively nerfed mutliclassing. While a small thing, this gets rid of munchkin-ing (WotC’s Goal) as well as the RP aspect of, say, a rouge-fighter who left his honor guard to hunt down so-and-so. Not Cool.

    I have to say though, there are a few things to Wizard’s favour. Once again, feats are awesome, and the new “weapon-bonus-if-proficient” is a good idea. However, something as insane as not including social skill difficulties or rules appalls me. While a small thing, it is one more slip in my mind down the road to mediocre-ville.

  58. DocTwisted says:

    The key to me as a casual DM gamer has always been, and will continue to be, rule zero.

    Oh, is it true they took away that “death at -10 HP” rule? What is it now? Death at zero?

  59. J.T. says:

    A suggestion for a more “realistic” useage of once-a-days: measure by either sunsets or sunrises, a-la the Jewish or Muslim calendars. The moment sunlight breaks the horizon is a lot more convenient for a medieval-tech setting than the moment the sun is exactly overhead halfway around the world.

  60. Eric says:

    Every one complains about multiclassing being ruined. In our group one person mc’ed his rouge with a fighter just for the fighter’s attack bonus. Everyone who complains about mcing is just mad they can’t create a superman at the beginning levels.

    Oh you say it’s for roleplaying reasons, than you can talk to your dm about tweaking the base classes skill set, so you don’t have to put skill points into the mandatory skill sets, or just ask for a few bonus points in exchange for a piece of equipment you wanted.

  61. DanK says:

    DocTwisted: Here’s a quick summary of new death.

    Dying: hps drop below 0.
    While dying, make a death save each round:
    10 or less = fail, 3 x fail = death.
    11-19 = no change
    20 = spend a healing surge, you are now on 1/4 hps, conscious and prone.

    If you take damage equal to your bloodied value (half hps) as a negative, you die. This is the new -10, so if you have 100 hps, you can take -50 (or 3 failed saves) before dying.

    I haven’t played enough to see how this works in practice, but it seems quite robust on paper.

    Oh, and regarding multiclassing: 3e multiclassing was broken in a big way. The people sad that it is gone are the extreme power gamers who once they get over the hissy fit, will realize they don’t need to multiclass their rogue with fighter for BAB and feats, since there is no BAB and rogues have a goodly amount of kickassness without it!

  62. Graham says:


    Thirdly, they have effectively nerfed mutliclassing. While a small thing, this gets rid of munchkin-ing (WotC’s Goal) as well as the RP aspect of, say, a rouge-fighter who left his honor guard to hunt down so-and-so. Not Cool.

    Why can’t you do this in 4e?

    Pick your primary class (Fighter or Rogue), and use the multiclassing feats to dip into the other. Depending on what you want out of it, it may cost no more than a single feat.

    Or, depending, be a Fighter and train in Thievery and Stealth. This gets the Rogue feel without moving away from being a Fighter, if you’re primarily a Fighter.

    Or just be a Rogue and take armour training feats. Why does this character have levels in Fighter? They may not even be necessary.

    So, there you go, four ways to make that character that you can’t make in 4e, in 4e.

  63. Eric says:


  64. Graham says:

    YOU’RE WE…

    er… You’re welcome, Eric. :D

1 2

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>