D&D 4th Edition – What Went Wrong?

I’ve been playing D&D in some form for… let’s just say a long time. Through every major edition, including the minor revisions like Unearthed Arcana and Player’s Option.  Every release, there are some detractors and some controversy stirred up. It seems to grow louder with every edition, too. Some people still swear by 1st or 2nd Edition over 3 or 3.5, but for the most part 3rd Edition was rapidly accepted after some initial grumbling.  It’s this time delay that lets me write about it now, rather than just after release.  The game has had around three quarters of a year to settle into the minds of gamers and the community.  Yet a large portion of the community still gnashes teeth at the idea that 4th Edition is called ‘D&D’ at all.  This is very surprising considering the majority of pre-release reviews were positively glowing with praise for the new game. Obviously there’s some sort of split, even discounting the grouches who will hate the game regardless of how good it is.

What It Did Right

I’ll readily admit I’m biased. I don’t like the direction 4th Edition took Dungeons and Dragons either.  However, to be fair, it’s not because it’s a bad game on its own.  So I should start with talking about what I think 4th Edition does well, and the improvements it made.  On the whole, I can see that it’s a decently-designed game, and it is fun when played. I didn’t come to this decision without giving it a couple tries.  So in that respect, the designers succeeded.

The most prominent thing I’ve noticed about 4th Edition is the balance. Balance is king in 4th, and it’s drilled in for every class, every item, even how magic items are created and used. This isn’t an in depth review, of the system, so I won’t cover specifics here.  Either as a side effect or as a conscious decision, this balance has also normalized the mechanics of every class across the board.  Power, class feature, Skill.  All use the same mechanics for every class. The power effects themselves determine if it’s a support role or attack role or whatever.  Some people don’t like this, but if you’re going to streamline combat and balance it, that’s a good step.  Since it falls squarely within the design goals of the system, I’m marking that as a plus.

Streamlining was given a great degree of importance, as well. Better miniatures integration, easily adjustable monsters for the DM, and the aforementioned flattened mechanics make combats go faster… or at least they seem to go faster.  Actual time spent seems to be about the same, but the characters can handle a greater number of enemies in that time span. Mechanics in general were simplified, and though there are those who complain about this, I’ll mark it as a positive.

The presentation of the game itself is very bold.  I don’t mean that in an “in your face” way, either.  Just flipping through the book, all the races and classes are shown in half-page cuts with dynamic, colorful poses.  A newbie flipping through the book gets to see a bit of life in them, begging “pick me, pick me!”  At least that’s the impression I get from how its laid out.  This styling isn’t to be dismissed, honestly… it gets people into the game, visualizing their characters. Arguably it does a much better job than the relatively dull poses and artwork shown in the 3.x series.

First Mistake: The Launch

While I was too young to remember the launch of 1st Edition AD&D, I was playing during the introduction of 2nd Edition, and quite active when 3rd was launched.  The differences in approaches are astounding. The 2nd Edition launch can’t really be compared with the others, as the influence and size of the company, not to mention its management, were completely different at the time. I’ll concentrate on the launch of 3rd versus 4th Edition, instead.

When 3rd Edition was announced, Dragon Magazine made certain to give small overviews of each system and change on a month by month basis. They were honest about the fact that 3rd was a significantly different game, but provided a plethora of conversion material to ease the pain of buying all new books. Wizards of the Coast put in a presence at most of the conventions with various preview materials. Most interesting to me was their large booth at Origins, where they ran small demo games and had a preview printing of the not-yet-released Player’s Handbook, encased in glass but with holes that people could use to turn the pages and get a look at it.  Several of the actual developers of the game were there to answer questions and talk about the work that went into it.  Certainly, there was still some resistance to a new system, but the overall feeling was that everyone in the company understood that reluctance and was doing their best to assuage it.

Fourth Edition’s launch was different. While I was not reading Dragon Magazine at the time and therefore can’t offer an opinion on their coverage of that, I did see some of the debates online. There were the expected flare ups, but little real information until near the release date. A lot of hype was built up… and that’s fine. What wasn’t fine was Wizards basically having a public attitude of “you’ll convert and you’ll like it” in most of their announcements. It’s nice to have confidence in the product, but telling people they can throw away the shelves full of expensive books from the previous edition isn’t going to win any points.

And then there’s the convention presence. Or, more accurately, the lack of such. Wizards didn’t even have a booth at Origins at all, even though by then the game had actually been released. In fact, it was only around a month or so that it had been out, and there was no real attempt to sell it to the industry.  Most of the third party companies that used to do a lot of 3rd Edition work had nothing but complaints of the new licensing scheme, and there was no representative from Wizards to explain their point of view.  Even finding a 4th Edition game to play in was difficult, and this at the second largest gaming convention in the nation. And I was actually interested in trying out the game! Imagine how difficult it will be to convince the naysayers when they can’t just wander by and observe a game, like they could with the launch of 3rd Edition.

“Okay,” says my internal Devil’s Advocate, “But Wizards was trying to appeal to a larger audience, and only a small fraction of the hardcore players attend conventions, so is it that important?”  Well, maybe not. We’ll let these first two details slide, though it is still two strikes against the launch.  So why don’t we focus on the real bungling here?  Trying to appeal to a new demographic is fine, though it’s better to not disturb your base too much in the process. However, much ado was made about the online features of DnD Insider both online, and in the print release of the books. Various features like the Game Table and Character Visualizer were promised, along with a Character Builder and Compendium. Even for one such as myself, the temptation of easy online play with a streamlined system was enough to tempt me toward playing or running a game in 4th.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.  Upon launch, none of these features were available. In all fairness, the Compendium — arguably the simplest feature — went up not long after the launch. Even so, it’s been nearly a year since that day and the only promised feature that has been released is the Character Builder. Although convenient, I can do that without an online tool. I want the kickass features like the Visualizer and the Game Table.  But there’s no sign of such on the main page. Way to look professional, guys. I’m sure that inspires all the newcomers as to your dedication to supporting the system. Now there’s another book out, and they’re still pushing this new system, yet I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that bait and switch.

Change Is Good, Change Is Bad

All right, so they messed up the launch. It’s possible to recover from that. But that depends on the game having a wide appeal and/or a supportive fanbase. To be perfectly honest, I do think 4th has more than enough devotees to succeed and turn a profit. I’m not so certain the fanbase will ever be the same, though. More than any previous edition, 4th tossed out a lot of old rules and made something different. The complete elimination of backwards compatibility is controversial, but I’m of the opinion that sometimes, it’s for the best. I’ll not criticize that decision, by itself. The real problem isn’t that the old system was dropped, it’s that no upgrade path was provided at all. Wizards gave no real help to people wanting to transition from 3.x to 4th, and instead simply cut support as soon as 4th was released. Even popular products that were released a mere year before launch are getting hard to find now, and the sudden drop was a hard pill to swallow for people still trying to fill out their 3rd Edition collection.

The fact of the matter is, even the best of new editions takes some time to spread and replace the old.  And I wouldn’t call 4th the ‘best’ replacement for 3rd. A lot of people will protest because they love it, and I hasten to add that what 4th focuses on, it does extremely well. Here’s the rub, though:  4th edition focused on streamlining and appealing to one particular play style, at the expense of all the others.  Some of this is unavoidable, as increasing flexibility often increases complexity, unless things are abstracted to an immense degree. This alone is not too bad, but it’s combining with everything else to make 4th less appealing to the audience.

Fourth Edition represents not just a change in systems, but a fundamental genre shift. The first three editions have all been about simulating a fantasy world using pen and paper and possibly miniatures.  At first, it was combat only, with nonweapon proficiencies — “skills” — introduced in Oriental Adventures and the various Survival Guides.  In 2nd Edition, NWPs became standard to the system, but were heavily reliant upon initial stats and very primitive in execution.  Finally, with 3rd, D&D became a true skill-based system, even with the level advancement still present.

This is all changed in 4th. While skills are still present, only reduced in number, various other parts of the system have been altered to make it feel focused almost entirely upon combat. Skill Challenges are a nod to noncombat parts of adventures, but even with these the entire game feels set up as… well, a game. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but all previous editions had been a move toward a more simulationist feel, so 4th feels like a massive step back.  Arbitrary limits are place upon magic items, while many spells are no longer a limited resource and now just another attack. Classes are fixed, with the “multiclassing” thrown in feeling like some sort of half-forgotten crumbs to appease people who like combination builds. For that matter, the entire game is focused upon “builds” and planned character advancement rather than organic growth through roleplay. If someone decides that after five levels, their character no longer wants to be a fighter, but the cleric is a better calling… tough. They’re stuck as a Fighter for the rest of their life, with at best a smattering of pitiful cleric abilities that are paid for by sacrificing much better skills.  This is such a massive step backward it’s sickening… even 1st edition had dual classing, though the rules for demihumans made no sense.

And that is the big gripe. Where 3.X felt like the system was working with you to simulate roleplay, in 4th it feels like any roleplay of great complexity forces you to work around the extremely gamist elements of the system. The balance forced down the player throats is all, supposedly, meant to eliminate min/maxing and builds like the infamous Pun-Pun build, yet at the same time referring to different paths as “builds” in the main rulebook encourages, in my mind, a very metagame-level approach to creating a character. It bothers me on a fundamental level. Sure, nobody’s forcing me to metagame, but isn’t that what everyone was complaining about? I think this is one reason that everyone, rightly or wrongly, accuses 4th of borrowing from MMOs and such. Because it doesn’t feel like you’re adventuring in a fantasy world so much as, well… playing a game set in a fantasy world. It’s a step back from immersion, in my opinion.


Small rant here. A lot of people are complaining about the increased reliance upon miniatures in 4th as compared to previous editions. While I do prefer having the option of doing paper-only play, I’m going to withhold judgment on that for now and strike at the real problem. In any battle suggested by the rules or published adventures, the DM requires a large number of similar monster figures, not to mention player representations. Wizards recommends using their own, prepainted minis for this. While I like those minis, and think they’re decent quality for the price, they’re a collectible item. The distribution of figurines is random, in sealed packs, so collecting say… ten orcs, which should be a fairly simple exercise, would require an outlay of up to $100, easily. While it’s possible to buy preopened second hand for cheaper, I don’t think this is what WotC intended and it isn’t a good solution. And people say Warhammer is expensive! Minor subrant over.

The Future

I don’t think 4th Edition will fail, despite my own misgivings. PHB 2 has some interesting stuff in it, but not enough to really make me want to buy the supplements and play a regular game.  From what I’ve heard, supplements aren’t selling well, either.  I don’t think WotC will see a massive explosion in number of players, sad to say. As for myself, I don’t think I’ll be playing 4th much unless they can get Table up and running, and it isn’t terrible. I can appreciate the push toward balance, it just feels like the system itself was butchered to make it happen, and too many missteps tell me it wasn’t as well thought out as everyone says.

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  1. #1 by DrakeWurrum on May 8, 2009 - 10:45 pm

    I found this while Googling for some information about 4th Edition, and I just felt I had to register and comment on your post.

    Now, I’m going to say right now, i have yet to play an actual 4th Ed game, so perhaps my opinions are incorrect. But I am the kind of guy that loves game theory, and spends way too much time reading about the mechanics of the game, as opposed to simply playing it.

    I honestly like the changes that 4th Ed brings about, especially the way multi-classing works, even though everybody else gripes about it.

    You want to know the true reason everybody gripes about the new multi-classing system? Because it doesn’t let them be as godly powerful. That’s the cut and dry version right there. I can fully agree with WotC, in saying that multi-classing was broken in 3e and simply allowed characters to gain far too much power.
    This is why I, personally, never chose to multiclass. I liked keeping it simple, and I also liked keeping things fair. Multiclassing, for the most part, was a take mechanic. That is, instead of giving one thing and taking something of equal power, you just take power and add it on to what you already have.
    You can argue that you would “miss” a level of your first class’s development, but you could always come back to it. Even if you never did level up the first class again, you’re still much more powerful than before, because of the combined abilities of your two multiclasses. Especially if you min/max everything appropriately and plan ahead for the next handful of levels coming up. (When I make a character, I like to plan out all 20 levels before I decide I’m happy with my choice)

    And the flip side of that coin is it only worked for certain combinations. You want to be Fighter/Cleric? Great idea! You want to be Fighter/Sorcerer? Too bad, arcane spell failure. Attacks of opportunty from casting in melee. Etc etc. You’re better off becoming a Duskblade, or a Warmage, rather than multiclassing into Sorcerer.

    Now, think about that last statement. Think about how many extra classes were added in the dozens of 3.x supplements. Why would I make a Rogue/Ranger when I could instead make a Scout. Why make a Rogue/Wizard when I could be a Spellthief, or a Beguiler? Why be Fighter/Psion when I could be a Psychic Warrior. Why be a Fighter/Druid or a Rogue/Druid when I could just go ahead and be a Ranger.

    WotC noticed this logic, too. Why multiclass when you can instead pick a single class that combines those elements already? Hence the evolution of how 4e works it’s classes with builds, streamlining their powers, and making multiclassing more of a give-and-take mechanic.

    I think the mechanics are immensely better. It not only is balanced and logical, but it will also appeal to new players. Not because it’s like an MMO, not at all. I hate it when people make that connection, because it’s nothing like an MMO. It will appeal to new players because it’s easier to understand.

    4e is hard for me to understand because I am accustomed to 3e rules, and my mind is constantly trying to connect the rules of the two editions. A new player won’t have that problem.

  2. #2 by Alamar on May 9, 2009 - 1:33 pm

    Thank you for the well-reasoned and thought out reply, though I think you slightly missed the point of the article. While it’s true I’m not fond of 4th Edition, I say that outright at the start because I want to make clear that my bias is due to personal taste. From a mechanics viewpoint, I have no problems with 4th Edition as a game itself. It just isn’t the game /for me/.

    As I said in the article, I don’t think 4th Edition will flop… it has a number of backers, will probably bring some new blood in(which, despite what some will say, isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and for certain types of games it excels. The criticisms in the article are just that… criticisms. 4th Edition has a number of vicious attackers, and this is an attempt to pluck out the more reasonable of arguments. I could probably write one about 2nd Edition vs. 3rd, as well, or 1st vs 2nd… though I wouldn’t trust my memory of the latter.

    I don’t really think power is an issue. Having read and played 4th Edition, it actually tends toward letting players be /more/ powerful than 3rd. And that’s fine, as the game is geared toward that and everyone has fun. What I think you’re referring to is how some combinations are utterly imbalanced compared to others, and people took advantage of that. This, 4th Edition has so far done well in taking care of. As I said in the article, balance is one area that 4th handles extremely well. Kudos to that.

    Unfortunately, balance comes at the cost of flexibility. Was the multiclass system broken in 3rd? Maybe. Is the one in 4th better? From a pure ‘brokenness and unbalancing’ viewpoint, yes. But from a roleplaying standpoint of making your class fit your character’s experiences, it fails hard, and that is just as valid a criticism.

    Finally, in addressing your comment about 4th Edition not being an MMO… you’re very, very wrong. The designers of the game have outright stated, on the record, that their intention was to make it feel more like an MMO. I don’t want to sound combative, but I’m going to have to call you on your seemingly subjective claim with a completely objective refutation.

    Still, if that’s what works for you, it’s no big deal. I’m not trying to convince people to stop buying 4th Edition. Far from it, in fact. If that’s the game for you, great! I actually encourage the naysayers to drop in on a game and play a session or three before solidifying their opinions. All I’m attempting to do here is explain why some people dislike 4th, which more rabid defenders of 4th Edition can’t seem to understand.

  3. #3 by DrakeWurrum on May 9, 2009 - 8:13 pm

    I don’t think all that much flexibility was really lost, mostly because mutliclassing is no longer the only way to mix classes together. I’ve been hearing more and more about this “hybrid” system that WotC is planning to release, where you merge the features of two classes together. It’s a lot like what 3e multiclassing was, except you are literally both classes, both features level up at the same time, and it’s done in a way that involves weakening all the original features to make-up for the increase in power. I’ve heard it said that it’s a combination of 3e multiclassing and something called gestalt, which I am not familiar with. The great thing is, though you can only hybrid with one class, you can still take multiclass feats for other classes, and grab the features that matter to you. In a way, you can still multiclass with three classes, but you actually have to give things up in order to get the features of another class. You are giving up real power to gain different real power, and that’s how it should have worked to begin with.

    I think it’s ridiculous for a single character to have far too many “jobs” or “professions” in one lifetime anyways, which is what I consider a class to be. From a roleplaying perspective, 3e multiclassing never made much sense to me. I always saw it as people not being able to make up their minds as to which option they wanted to choose, and instead choosing all of them. “I want to use a sword and wear plate! Aww, but I want to cast arcane spells too. Maybe I’ll be Fighter/Wizard!” That multiclass doesn’t work in practice, of course, but I think you get my meaning. Options are great, but when you have a hard time choosing, you shouldn’t just be able to say “Oh, well I’m a Fighter/Shaman/Sorcerer/Psion.” I have to wonder how the hell he even utilizes all of his class abilities, or decides how his character should fight in any given encounter. Forget how much power he might have, and how hard of a time he will have in choosing his actions in combat; how did the character even manage to acquire skills from so many places? He can channel the primal spirits of the earth AND cast arcane spells of mysterious power AND use psychic abilities that have a mana-like power reserve, not to mention wielding weapons and possibly wearing armor (though that leads to arcane spell failure). It is a very good thing, in my opinion, to limit just how much a single character can do in regards to what power they have, while still supplying them with many options as to HOW to wield that power.
    I think that’s one of the good things about the 4e powers system. While it’s true that it can be frustrating for all the characters to feel similar, this means that you don’t really NEED to multiclass like crazy to get all the things you need. A lot of Martial powers can actually provide similar effects to those provided by a Wizard, though obviously not exactly the same. In 4e, what people are lusting after are the specific class features each class has, and multiclass feats cover that! Hybrid characters seem to cover that even better, though it basically leads to creating your own class by mixing two pre-existing ones together.
    You can still swap in and out powers through the power-swapping feats, but I think that’s not something anybody needs to do to acquire the powers they want.

    I like the concept that is used for 4e mutliclass feats, though I hate how they are releasing pieces of important information piecemeal, across several supplements. I have a dwarf fighter who dual-wields twin waraxes, and while you think right off that he is just a Tempest Fighter in 4e, if I were to remake him, that’s not the case. The Tempest Fighter gets almost all of it’s class benefits from wielding weapons with the Offhand property, and waraxes don’t fit that. So I grabbed a Multiclass Ranger feat to get the feature that is normally given to a Two-Blade Ranger, to allow me to at least WIELD the second axe, if not gain certain class benefits. And while a Waraxe is certainly stronger than a Handaxe in almost every way…I am giving up the Offhand bonuses I would have acquired, which is a rather logical penalty, one I happily take much in the same way I would take a penalty to my attack bonus in 3e. Is that a majorly big merging of Fighter and Ranger? Not at all. And I didn’t need it to be. That small little extra feature, taken from the Ranger’s two-blade fighting style, was all my dwarf needed.
    I have read online about people actually successfully creating a Sorcerer who fills the Defender role, which is normally something a Fighter or a Paladin would do. I’m not quite sure how, but it apparently works. So, you see, the builds and roles they present don’t limit you in the slightest. You just have to be creative within the new limits of the game rules…something people did all the time in 3e anyways.

    Your response to the whole MMO thing: they may have said they wanted to make it feel like an MMO, but it just doesn’t feel like one to me. If that WAS their goal with 4e, they failed at it. I have played plenty of MMOs, besides just WoW, and…4e just doesn’t feel like one. I have been an avid video gamer all my life, and I am painfully addicted to MMOs since I first touched one…and D&D just doesn’t feel like an MMO to me.
    They streamlined the rules, much in the same way that MMOs have everything streamlined in their game mechanics, this is true. They made the game easier to understand, more accessible to new players, this is true. But there are no similarities that I can find. I wrote a rather long blog upon the topic, and I think I made some very important points that there are at least no mechanical similarities between D&D and WoW. Literally, there are none.
    The only similarities I can find is the basis in a fantasy setting, and that’s not saying much. A roleplaying link is something all roleplaying games have in common; it’s to be expected.
    You can read it if you want, but don’t feel you have to, as I’m not really all the amazing of a game theorist: http://drakewurrum.blogspot.com/2009/05/d-4e.html

    I think I want to just finish off with what somebody commented on it with: “people continue to make the comparison as a way to diss 4e for making the game more accessible to new players and streamlining a lot of things that, frankly, needed to be streamlined in interest of a more fun game.”

  4. #4 by DrakeWurrum on May 9, 2009 - 8:29 pm

    Oh, and I thought i would just add this extra little tidbit; it suddenly crossed my mind.

    D&D Online, an MMO based on Dungeons & Dragons, was actually based on 3.5e, so clearly, D&D in general already has components that allow it to fit in with MMOs. I honestly attribute that entirely to the fact that MMOs and D&D are roleplaying games.
    Neverwinter Nights and Diablo 2 came closer to a D&D feel than any MMO ever did, but nobody complained about that.

  5. #5 by Alamar on May 11, 2009 - 12:21 pm

    NWN was intended to replicate the D&D feel, not an MMO feel, so I wouldn’t really count that. The hybrid class thing does have potential, if they can pull it off… but it still limits more than the old 3e system. That said, it may be flexible /enough/ for me, if it works out well. I don’t require the complete and wholesale freedom that 3.X had in order to enjoy multiclassing at all. My big beef, I think, is that my favorite character concept is currently impossible to model in 4e. Literally impossible, despite being something of a common trope in the adventure genre. Since both 1st and 2nd had a way to do it, this does bother me.

    For information on Gestalts, check out the Unearthed Arcana for 3.5, by the way. Just thought I’d throw that out. Hybrids aren’t Gestalts, however… Gestalts are more powerful than vanilla classes, and aren’t intended to be mixed with them. I’d give more of an overview, but I was never fond of the idea to begin with, so I’m not that clear on the details, myself. I don’t want to misinform. You might be able to find the info somewhere in the SRDs online, since the UA was mostly a collection of 3rd party mods rolled back into the system as optional rules.

    Like I’ve mentioned, 3.5 wasn’t perfect. I’m not going to argue that. A way to limit multiclassing somehow might help prevent those combinations… they did attempt to do so with the XP penalty and such, but in practice that didn’t work out so well. It’s really rather simple… I think that if someone goes through a few levels as one class, then decides they’d like to change to another, they should be allowed to. A short-term penalty should discourage this from happening too long, but in the long term you’re more flexible. Maybe make the penalties steeper the more times you do it.

    As for the MMO thing… I’m not sure what to say. To me(and I’ve played several MMOs, though I’m not too active in them right now), D&D 4e feels more like an MMO than, say, the World of Warcraft RPG. This isn’t to say it mimics WoW perfectly or anything… they are, by their nature, different games. Just as NWN needed to alter the rules to make it work on PC, some assumptions of the PC don’t work so well on tabletop. Of course, NWN immediately had people modding it to make ‘hardcore’ servers that were more strict with the rules… and discovered that, hey, needing to manage your rations in a PC game wasn’t all that fun, but it worked on paper! Same thing with 4e.

    Again, I’d better end this by clarifying that although 4e isn’t the game for me, I’m not too fond of people who blast it with silly excuses. Even the MMO thing, while it’s a criticism, isn’t /entirely/ a bad thing. I didn’t make a big deal of it in my article for a reason. The /big/ issue was the way immersion was hurt, but that’s sort of beyond the scope of this comment. I’ll take a look at your article and try to come up with something a little more clear when I’m not at work. I don’t exactly have my books with me.

  6. #6 by Kinowolf on June 28, 2010 - 12:15 pm

    I just don’t buy it. I’ve been playing 4th edition heavily this year in three different campaign styles and they’ve all played extremely differently.

    I run a very traditional weekly campaign, set in my own invented corner of the core setting, for a group of novice players. The modules are essentially on rails, which the players enjoy (they like to feel like they’ve ‘completed’ the challenge). The character creation system has been great for them. The new take on classes and builds gives them a clear idea of what their character is like, helping them wrap their heads around roleplaying. The powers system actually asks some fundamental questions (what spells or abilities do you have? where did you learn them? how do you cast them? how will you learn new ones) that give us more roleplaying hooks. I keep my NPCs very open. Any and all roleplaying is accepted. For example, my characters captured a gnome assisting a hobgoblin warlord and wanted to convince him to help him get his fellow gnomes to join them. I turned it into a skill challenge and then reconfigured the encounters to take into account the gnomes would probably be switching sides (or sitting out of the fight). There’s nothing MMO about that. The speed with which my players jumped into the game would have been difficult to achieve in the 3.x days. The complexity of the rules grows with their experience, instead of tossing them into a shark pit of options.

    I also play in a homebrew sci-fi campaign with a group of veteran players. This game is high-powered and deadly dangerous. Characters are designed to take full advantage of the rules and blur boundaries (my Ardent has been an effective Defender, Leader, and Striker when needed). The world is a completely open sandbox and we often create our own adventure paths and plot complications. The roleplay is more engrossing than any game I’ve ever played. Each character is totally unique, and bizarre, but is built off of the basic skeleton of PHB 1, 2, & 3 classes. This campaign really put to rest the idea that the race/class system was incompatible with immersion or simulation. It is and has always been a product of good DMing and playing.

    Lastly, I play in the D&D Encounters at my local store. This is pure gaming for gaming’s sake. It’s all about plugging in every week, playing tactically, and moving on. It’s quick, casual, and has very limited roleplaying opportunities, but it’s a fun afternoon diversion. This type of play would have been impossible in 3.x. I’ve seen teenagers, totally new to the game, and old vets that haven’t played since 2nd edition walk in and have no trouble adjusting to the play. They all walked away with some core books, and the intention to play more.

    I just really don’t see the problems. None of them seem to be grounded in my experiences. If anything, 4e is more effective at becoming different games for different groups of players, depending on their needs.

    But maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to hear some anecdotes of 4e going wrong for groups.

  7. #7 by Relic on November 6, 2011 - 9:37 pm


    Nvr actually got around to playing straight 4e (didn’t like the way the mechanics of it set up the world, so avoided it) but I presently play in a 3E/4E very mixed game.

    I will have to look at this “Hybrid multiclass” they are coming up with, but it sounds a lot like the *original* 1E/OD&D multiclassing (2 or 3 classes progress simultaneously, and in OD&D it was actually just one class w/both abilities). The only down sides were reduced average HP, level limits on some or all of your classes, and and thief mixes got fragged in not being able to do anything thiefly if the other class was reliant on bulky armor.

    Replying to Alamar’s main post. . .

    4E did not appeal to me from the start, as it was **all** about builds, which I appreciated in 3x, but got tired of. Call me old school, but builds seem more about narcissism than anything else. 4E had some great ideas, but I could just see all the players flexing their builds and going “Ooo, I’m cooool and am going to get this power, aaand THIS power , annnnd”. .

    Even tho 4E does focus on the “team effort”, it manages to make it less about comradeship and more. . MMO slot-filling. There is team effort and then there is cardboard character stand-ups. “Player A, you are a Controller. Player B you are a Striker”. Gods help you if someone dies and their role is empty. Total Party Wipe. One of the great things about prior editions, was that if someone fell, *most* of the classes could sort of take up the slack. The cleric could fight decently. The ranger could likely heal a bit. The paladin. . . err. . what *couldn’t* he do, again? Oh right. . he couldn’t fireball em. Mages could pick locks via magic, remove curses, protect vs evil, provide avenues of escape. . . Thieves . . . Were screwed but that’s *tradition*, dangit! Classes were flexible if run by a smart party, but keeping “the point of the spear” sharp did still require the team effort. 4E “toons” look pretty 1 dimensional. Builds are nice for variety (1E fighter literally was “the clothes make the man”; stack o HPs in armor and same ol song otherwise), but 4E went too far.

    As to the mage spells becoming more generic attacks, TBH I kind of blame the base of the game all the way back to OD&D for that, as M-Us were really just grenadiers in pointy hats. At least 1E magic did have some very RP spells (tho few took such as they were usually useless). Now, in 4E that Sorc’s spell really is just another melee attk, albeit w/a longer range and a different (imagined) “particle effect”. Maybe I’m very old fashioned, but that just does not appeal.

    This 4E business with EVERYONE casting “Ritual” spells, btw? Seriously, spells cast by ANYONE? That lost my dollar right there; way to kill the mystery/flush the RP of the magical classes.

  8. #8 by Relic on November 6, 2011 - 10:00 pm


    BTW, Drake. .
    With respect to 4e going wrong. I usually play in a “historical” game where magic is generally feared outright. Any flashy *anything* in public and a mob descends and the party dies from the town they were trying to save. Even glowy clerics are suspect. 4E isn’t very supportive of that sort of playstyle, at least not in the core books, from what I saw; it’s all BOOM BASH, BAM with dark roots from hands, glowing weapons, etc. Prior editions’ casters had the ability t pick thru their spell selections (or at least learn specific spells) that offered more RP opportunities and, at very least, the ability to attract far less attention. 4E is. . Whatever you have on that path, and it all has “animations” for the most part. 4E d/n look much like a game that really supports sessions w/*no* combat for 4-6 hrs straight. You could seriously have fun doing just that, previously, the way the rules could be focused on things other than combat. .

    My DM ran straight 4E for a few months. It did not fare well, and he went back to using mostly 3.5.

    LOL at me still calling the Warlock “Sorcerer” in my post above!!! Old habits die hard. We still have Sorcs in our game, and no WLs so I guess that’s part of it ;)

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