D&D 4th Edition What's so bad about 4th edition? What's so good about other systems?





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  1. #1
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    What's so bad about 4th edition? What's so good about other systems?

    I've been away from the game for awhle but will be starting up a new 4th edition campaign tonight with a few close friends. Naturally I've been browsing a number of forums and new products to get a feel for what's new since I left. (Right before Essentials was released IIRC)

    Now there's been some animosity towards 4th edition since before it was ever released, that's normal with every new edition, but the amount of hate I've come across on this and other forums seems to be at a level I've never seen before. So I've been searching to find out why and I'm still confused. Here seems to be the main issues I've come across in some form or another so far:

    Essentials Fallout

    This was what I imagined to be the culprit before I even left the last time. I myself was wary of what Essentials was going to do to 4E, but from what I've seen so far it really does seem to be an option for 4E which you can easily leave out of your campaigns. For myself, I'm happy to leave it in if my players want to try out one of the class variants as the CB seems to be able to take care of all the dirty work for me.

    So my question here is: Was it really that bad? Did it kill 4E?

    DDI Support

    I've been playing around in my DDI Toolbox since I've returned getting a feel for what's changed. I'm a little disappointed that the CB & AT's are online only now. I'm quite irritated actually by the removal of the "Copy to RTF" function the Monster Builder allowed me before which made converting modules/monsters so much easier.

    The consensus seems to be that the newer versions have less functionality than the old... and? Anything else? I agree this is disheartening but not enough to generate so much hate? Right?

    4E is Dead - 5E on the horizon?

    For one reason or another, this usually goes un-defended but people simply claim it's dead in passing as if it's a foregone conclusion. Occasionally people chime in to say they're expecting 5th edition to be coming out sometime in the next year or two so they've lost interest in 4E.

    I just don't understand this kind of position at all, but it's really part of the reason I've made this thread, to get a better idea of why people think the game sucks so much nowadays.

    <Insert your pet system here> is so much better so 4E sucks

    I'm sure I won't be surprising anyone here that Pathfinder is usually between those brackets but other systems can sneak their way in there from time to time. Just recently Pathfinder has been making the news with claims of outselling 4E and I'm sure PF fanboys are still in some state of orgasmic ecstacy they've yet to return from after reading this news. Once they've come down they may say that this is proof that 4E sucks so bad. That WotC failed, etc. etc.

    I'm by no means a D&D fanboy. I've thought about trying Pathfinder, as I have a fondness for the 3.x ruleset and that edition of D&D got the most play out of me of all previous editions. If anything I'm attracted to their adventure paths so I've thought long and hard as to whether I'd be willing to switch over. I like both systems. I'm not sure if it's taboo around here but I really like 4th edition's powers system but I'm also nostalgic for the 3.x days. I just don't have the time for two systems though with work, family and all my other hobbies so I really think the most likely outcome here is me converting adventure path stuff to 4E in the long run.

    Anyway, off that tangent and back to the point. Does the current perception/claim that Pathfinder has started to surpass D&D in sales a bad omen for the future of D&D? Or just WotC's involvement in its development? Does it lend any credence to my original question?

    Final Thoughts

    I guess what I'd really like to hear is some constructive criticism on why 4th edition "sucks". If you used to play what made you stop? If you're thinking of leaving the system or have found yourself playing less lately why is that? (Only if the reason relates to some aspect(s) of the system that you don't like please.)

    Nothing anyone can say will make me change my mind at this point, that's not what I'm looking for with writing this but I am really interested in getting and overview of how WotC has handled this edition and the details on what people dislike the most.

 

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    I like 4e, but for me the greatest failing is lack of quality adventures.

    For me, the adventure is the heart of D&D and always has been. When I have fond memories of previous versions, I'm usually recalling some specific exciting adventure.

    A couple delves in Dungeon every month just doesn't cut it for me. I like reading adventures almost as much as I like playing them.
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  • #3
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    My perspective, as a player who's only really been in the game a year and a half, starting with 4th Edition, and just now learning Pathfinder (though 4e is still my main game):

    -I think what a lot of people don't like about 4e compared to earlier editions is that it's more "gamist" and less "simulationist" (I hope I'm using those terms correctly). In learning Pathfinder, I see lots of things in the rules that seem to use game mechanics to more closely approximate "reality" but they're far more complicated than their 4e equivalents (burst/blast shapes, diagonal movement, racial flavor mechanics, etc.). I'm pretty happy with 4e in this respect, but I know lots of people don't like it.

    -The Essentials books have been good additions to the game in my opinion, but I know some people don't like them. They see it as a change in design philosophy that means that the type of characters they enjoy won't be getting future support. I think that feeling should be fading now that WotC has been addressing some pre-Essentials classes lately in Dragon, but we shall see.

    -DDI has been a mess from a business and communication perspective in a lot of ways. The rollout of the online Character Builder was depressing because it's not as good as the downloadable one in many ways (still no customizable character sheets or custom content, for instance). It's better today than it was at launch, but it still lacks functionality that the old Builder had. It should have been released as a beta. The Monster Builder at least HAS been released as a beta, and I haven't even bothered using it since it really isn't functional yet. I've been using Power2ool lately for monsters and enjoying it.

    -I don't think 5e is on the horizon. Judge for yourself - there's plenty of talk about the idea - but I don't think we'll see it before 2013 at the earliest.

    -Pathfinder appeals to people who like more "simulationist" play and don't like the innovations of 4e (healing surges, unified power structure across classes, powers, etc.). Also, a lot of people like Paizo as a company much more than they like WotC as a company. I'm personally fine with both WotC and Paizo, but I know that some people feel very passionately about this topic.
    Last edited by OnlineDM; Tuesday, 5th July, 2011 at 07:15 AM. Reason: Added spacing
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  • #4
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    Well, let me start by saying what I like about 4th Edition.

    - I like the new cosmology. I love the mythic feel that it inspires in me. I also love the three split worlds; it helps to make room from creatures which would otherwise feel too similar to certain other creatures. I never had a problem with The Great Wheel, but, I've come to highly prefer the feel and style of the new cosmology.

    - I like the lessened power curve between levels.

    - I like the ideals behind encounter design; a group of monsters against a group of PCs being the status quo.

    - I love the Warlord class.

    - I like the tighter balance (even if I think there still are some options which are quite obviously not balanced against each other.)

    - 4th Edition chose to have a more concrete identity.

    I'm sure there are other things, but that's what immediately comes to mind.
    ------------------------------------------------------

    Now, what bugs me about 4th Edition?

    - I didn't like the way that the build up to 4th Edition trashed older editions as well as making what I felt were somewhat disparaging remarks toward some play styles.

    - While I like the concept of skill challenges, I don't like how they sometimes feel like a separate game. Occasionally it can feel as though my character has a 'skill challenge mode,' and an 'encounter mode.' I prefer to have all of my character's abilities available at all times rather than having my choices governed by what mode the game is currently in. Yes, yes, you can most certainly use skills in combat, and you can most certainly use powers in a skill challenge, but there are (IMO) plenty of times when the two parts of the game don't work together as well in play as they do in theory.

    I've also had experience in which I felt -- as a player -- that I was somewhat railroaded by skill challenges. I wanted to do something or try an idea, but wasn't able to because I was forced into a skill challenge.

    ...great concept; not always a great implementation; don't even get me started on how I feel toward the suggested DCs.

    - 4th Edition chose to have a more concrete identity. This (as you can see) is both a plus and a minus for me. I think it's great that the 4th Edition team took a more solid stance on what defines the D&D experience, and what style of game they expect 4th Edition to be used for.

    However, for me personally, that means 4th Edition has also moved away from a style of play I like. Had I felt as though I were more informed about this before buying the original books, that would have been fine, but I felt as though the whole "The game will remain the same" mantra was somewhat misleading. As I've already mentioned; I also felt as though (and sometimes still feel as though) some of the ideals I have about gaming were viewed as badwrongfun.

    - Grab... well, grab kinda sucks. There's been some effort to remedy this with some character options, but it's still very difficult for me to play one of the character types I enjoy the most.

    - I don't feel as though the structure of the mechanics really supports the 'Points of Light' idea (which I highly enjoyed reading about in the 4E previews.) Many people will argue that there's little or no connection between mechanics and fluff. Personally, I disagree. I feel that certain mechanical structures are better (or worse) for certain feels.

    If I take a 4th Edition adventure, and run it using GURPS mechanics, the fluff will be exactly the same, but the different mechanics will still put a spin on how it feels. Certain mechanics will better highlight certain things while putting less emphasis on others; this is true for both systems, even if I'm running the exact same adventure fluff.

    Again, for me, this is a problem for me because I felt somewhat mislead. The previews of the game made me think it would be one thing. The way the game actually turned out to work in actual play was something quite different. I remember participating in one of the 'Build A City' threads over on the WoTC boards during the switch to 4E; the thread died after we realized that what we had built (based on assumptions of what style of game 4E would be) didn't really work with 4th Edition, and we had to start a new thread to start over -- building fluff that was easier to support with the mechanics given.

    - DDi... what can I say? This should be something I want. I had high hopes for it. As it stands, I don't think it's something I'll ever want.

    I'm sure there's more, but this is what immediately comes to mind.

  • #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Majin View Post
    Essentials Fallout

    This was what I imagined to be the culprit before I even left the last time. I myself was wary of what Essentials was going to do to 4E, but from what I've seen so far it really does seem to be an option for 4E which you can easily leave out of your campaigns. For myself, I'm happy to leave it in if my players want to try out one of the class variants as the CB seems to be able to take care of all the dirty work for me.

    So my question here is: Was it really that bad? Did it kill 4E?
    Some of Essentials was unqualifiedly bad, as the unworkable magic item 'rarity system' they released: it was even more half baked than the release of skill challenges in 2008 in that the numbers weren't just off - they didn't deliver useful information.

    But the real beef with Essentials (some of which I like a great deal, btw) is this: it pushed 4E.Classic books off the shelves and consumed space on the release schedule. Space which 4.Classic customers wanted to see filled by products they could use at their table. Remember that Essentials kicked off when 4.Classic had just reached a new peak in terms of quality (MM 3, Dark Sun, ...).

    And then, in January 2011, WotC decided to take further titles off the release schedule. Even if you are in full on support mode for Essentials, there are only two titles you can buy this year as a D&D player (contrast: as a DM). It doesn't help that one of them (HoS) is of questionable use and execution, to say the least.

    Contrast 2009 - you could buy three Power books, an Adventurer's Vault, a Player's Guide to Eberron, and what not. It was good to be a D&D player then. Right now, I don't care if 5E on the horizon or not, nor does it matter whether you're pro or anti Essentials, when the overriding vibe I get from WotC these days is simply: we have stopped supporting our current player base.

  • #6
    I think most critics of D&D 4 criticize Wizards of the Coast rather than D&D4 mechanics. Even before D&D 4 was launched, people liked to criticize Wizards of the Coast for every decision they made. Sure the D&D 3.5 thing was seen as a greedy move, and played a part in this vision of the company bad image.

    Moreover, everyone expected Wizards of the Coast to publish an OGL along with D&D 4. They did not, and players felt betrayed.

    Once this was done every little error in design would get huge in the eyes of the players.

    But there were other big errors... D&D4 is a good system: it is a pleasure to write adventures for this system. Contrary to what people often say on the forums, it is possible, and easy, to write every kind of adventure with this system. It's not combat and dungeon exploration only...

    Unfortunately, Wizards of the Coast chose to restrict the third parties productions. So we are left with below average (to say the least) adventures written by Wizards of the Coast. TSR and WotC rarely produced above average adventures, and D&D4 is no exception.

    The best "official" adventures, for earlier editions, were (in my opinion) to be found in Dungeon. Because there were lots of different writers and styles. Dungeon doesn't seem to be as creative nowadays... Rather than being creative, it seems that the adventures are there to illustrate one stereotyped vision of the system.

    It seems to me that the staff at WotC develops adventures with tried and true rules. So tried and true that they produce bland settings (Points of Light is as bland as possible for me). I remember listening to a session were developpers from WotC duscussed scenario writing. It was a terrible : one vision... D&D lost diversity in adventure/setting design, it impacted badly on the brand as a whole.

    Other blunders (in my opinion).
    1. The (first) Dungeon Master Guide was a failure in my opinion. Badly written, and some systems (skill challenges comes to mind) were badly depicted. The second DMG was a pleasure to read... But why did the ideas in this book never get implemented into official adventures ?
    2. The Players Handbook had too few classes and races. Everyone expected to have at least as many options as in the 3.5 book.
    3. The first published adventure (Keep on the Shadowfell) was bad/bland, and there was no alternative to this terrible adventure to test/taste the new game. I had the feeling the adventure was only there to illustrate one vision of the new system : the worst one.

  • #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Majin View Post

    Essentials Fallout

    This was what I imagined to be the culprit before I even left the last time. I myself was wary of what Essentials was going to do to 4E, but from what I've seen so far it really does seem to be an option for 4E which you can easily leave out of your campaigns. For myself, I'm happy to leave it in if my players want to try out one of the class variants as the CB seems to be able to take care of all the dirty work for me.
    I've been watching from the sidelines, but it looks like Essentials is going from a side product to get new players to becoming the core point of entry for 4E. I party base this on the fact that the PHB1, DMG1 & MM1 are no longer being printed - its expected you will now enter 4E through the Rules Compendium & DM's kit, Monster Vault and Heroes of... books.

    Quote Originally Posted by Majin View Post

    <Insert your pet system here> is so much better so 4E sucks

    I'm sure I won't be surprising anyone here that Pathfinder is usually between those brackets but other systems can sneak their way in there from time to time.
    ...
    Anyway, off that tangent and back to the point. Does the current perception/claim that Pathfinder has started to surpass D&D in sales a bad omen for the future of D&D? Or just WotC's involvement in its development? Does it lend any credence to my original question?
    The more systems one play, the more chance there is to see which system does what better. 4E pretty much put all it's eggs in one basket - and there were enough people that didn't agree with that arrangement that it split the community somewhat. 2E had a similar image problem; a lot of folks I knew who abandoned it for another RPG went to White Wolf products back in the 90's.

    As for an omen, I don't think by a long shot WotC is doomed, but they need to sit up and take notice. Personally, I compare it to the console market several years ago; When Playstation 3 came out, they proclaimed they'd won the the console war only to have the Wii rocket past them and Xbox 360 gain huge numbers as their own console fumbled along for a few years. Yes, PS3 is doing decently now but if they hadn't course corrected, they'd gone the way of Sega or Atari game consoles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Majin View Post
    Final Thoughts

    I guess what I'd really like to hear is some constructive criticism on why 4th edition "sucks". If you used to play what made you stop? If you're thinking of leaving the system or have found yourself playing less lately why is that? (Only if the reason relates to some aspect(s) of the system that you don't like please.)

    Nothing anyone can say will make me change my mind at this point, that's not what I'm looking for with writing this but I am really interested in getting and overview of how WotC has handled this edition and the details on what people dislike the most.
    WotC's handling has been schizophrenic. I think initially they had were overconfident that because they were the leader, everyone would simply fall in live and convert when the time came. They felt they didn't need or want anyone else producing product for them, so they could keep profits to themselves.

    It took them a bit to catch on that a not-insignificant number of people either didn't follow or shortly thereafter decided to hop off the bandwagon when they didn't like what they were getting into. The problems with the digital tools didn't help either, and several 3rd party publishers were able to tap into enough demand to keep the old system "patched up" and running.

    WotC's since been scrambling to figure "what went wrong" and coax folks back into their camp (witness Mearl's articles aimed at "healing" the community split). I get the feeling that's not going well as the D&D brand manager was recently laid off. I don't know how well essentials is doing to bring new folks into the fold, but I imagine it's ticked at least a few people off who aren't happy "buying the game" all over again in the new line.

    As for me, what turned me off to 4E was primarily the way it handled combat (there's other things, but this is the prime offender). Now, I've always loved a good combat or two in my games, but every 4E battle felt like a DDM tournament match. There was just too much time invested in the seemingly endless string of combats (Thank you, Keep on the Shadowfell) linked together by the barest threads of story.

    I also didn't feel like I was stepping into a fantasy world, I felt more like I was refereeing some sort of fantasy-themed sporting event. That was pretty annoying as well.
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    I started playing Fourth Edition right around the time it came out and have been playing it weekly (With a few hiccups) ever since. When it first came out I was ecstatic, and loved just about everything it had to offer. It's three years later and I'm not so sure it's really as perfect as I thought it was at the time. Off the top of my head, there are a few points I can think of that have been bothering me quite a bit as of late:

    - Skill Challenges. This is one of the first things that started to stick out as I played 4th Edition, and I started disliking it relatively early in my time playing the system. One of the strongest points of Tabletop RPGs is the concept of "Emergent Gameplay" - being able to solve any given problem in a potentially infinite number of ways. This can be accomplished in Tabletop RPGs (And some video games, most notably Deus Ex) due to the structureless nature of the problems given. "There's a chasm. You need to get across the chasm. GO!" Taking away this possibility and replacing it with, "Alright, if you can get 6 skill checks you can get across the chasm," ends up being harmful to the aspect of Emergent Gameplay and in turn harmful to the game's nature as a Tabletop RPG.

    - Broken Math. This is another one that seems to be a fairly common complaint in that, at least at launch, the game's math simply didn't work right. This is particularly true in the paragon and epic tiers wherein monsters become nearly unhittable because of how high their defenses get. With the release of the PHB2 this problem was solved by implementing the Weapon and Implement Expertise feats, which were more-or-less required to build a relatively effective character. What this results in is essentially being required to take certain feats because if you don't, your character will probably not be effective, especially in later tiers. Granted, this is a bit less of the case with more recent content, but it's still something that bothers me.

    - Option Bloat. This is a bit of a personal gripe, but in terms of feats, powers, and especially magic items, there's way too many options. It's a little disheartening to look at the character builder to choose magic items and see something like nine thousand choices. This wouldn't be so bad if 95% of the options presented weren't either terrible or intended for a very specific character type, and the other 5% being just objectively better than everything else. This sort of applies to feats and powers, too, but it's mostly a gripe with Magic Items.

    - The Essentials Books Look Like They were Designed by a Team of Chimps. This is even more of a personal issue, but I cannot stand trying to read Essentials Classes. They had a very consistent layout for Fourth Edition classes that made looking up content incredibly easy and fast, and replaced it with the Esentials format wherein certain entries (Like the "Ability Scores" section under each class) are printed multiple times in a book for each class. On top of that, there's the fact that the "Core" book was split into two books, with entire chapters being reprinted between the two releases. It all seems like a feeble attempt to pad out the page count of the books without actually providing more content. It seems like a really shifty and lazy design choice, and ultimately has discouraged me from actually giving the classes a shot.

    That all being said, Fourth Edition is by no means a bad system and I still love it to death. For example, I really like the more tactical approach that they took in terms of combat, along with how much easier it is to DM than, say, Third Edition. The monster format is fantastic.

  • #9
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    4e doesn't suck. I've had quite a bit of fun playing it.

    But what's so bad about 4e?

    - Combat grind. An incidental, run of the mill combat against a bunch of kobolds should not last 40 minutes. A minor combat to set the scene and tone for the adventure should not take more than two and a half hours out of a three-hour game session.

    Both of these are real examples from WotC published adventures (Kobold Hall and Tomb of Horrors, respectively), and in both cases they quickly degenerated into tedious slug-fests where both sides spammed at-wills to whittle away the others hit points.

    - The constant stream of ongoing updates. I've complained about this on other threads, and don't want to rehash it. Suffice to say, I absolutely hate it.

    - There are a few (very few) areas in the rules that just break my head.

    But for me, the biggest thing that's wrong with 4e is that it was just such a missed opportunity. I was ready for 4e. I was well aware of the weaknesses with 3e, especially at high levels. And much of what came out of WotC in the early days was really promising - an expanded 'sweet spot', a proper acknowledgement of play across all levels, a removal of a lot of excess baggage from monsters (particularly minor spell-like abilities that would almost never be used), and in particular a simplification of the DM's job.

    Yes, 4e should have been great.

    But, overall, it's just not. I've had fun playing it, yes, but I've had fun with almost every system I've played (including some really bad ones). It has some really good points, but it also has some glaring weaknesses.

    All in all, and on balance, it's just not an improvement on core-rule-only 3.5e (for me).

    And it could have been, and it should have been. And that's what's wrong with 4e.

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    There are many things that I have found troubling about 4E since playing it.

    1) Length of combat. Even low level fights seem to take forever thanks to the buckets of hit points you have to grind through.
    2) Ridiculously unrealistic, gamist mechanics. A warlord can heal by yelling at people? Seems silly, but he does it for no other reason than he's a "leader". A paladin shooting lasers at enemies if they attack someone besides him? Laughably ridiculous, but he can do it because he's a "defender". Don't even get me started on "Come and Get It."
    3) Ridiculous yo-yoing of hit points during encounters and complete healing after an extended rest. It's really offputting how a character can go from dying to nearly full mulitple times in an encounter, and how you completely heal all damage by resting for 6 hours.

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