What is the essence of 4E?
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    What is the essence of 4E?

    Hi everyone,

    I was having a discussion with someone else on another forum, concerning the topic of Pathfinder 2 (Electric Boogaloo), and a comparison came up between that game and D&D 4E. It was suggested that the two appear quite similar in many ways, because combat is very tactical (Theater-of-the-Mind being neither practical nor encouraged), and every character has a new choice to make at every single level. It was subsequently countered that making a choice at every level, in order to create an extremely customized character, was not considered one of the core defining traits of that edition.

    Following that premise, then, what is the core defining trait of 4E? Is it the choices? The grid? The unified resource structure? What do you consider to be the essence of 4E, such that you would recognize a game as being 4E-derived if it shared such an element?

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    As a GM, 4e is:

    A high-octane, action-adventure game featuring (1) mythical heroes who each contribute coherently (with respect to their theme/archetype) and meaningfully to conflict-charged scenes and where (2) GMing is frustrationless and rewarding due to the elegance and robustness of the system.
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    To me, the essence of 4e is really the structure of character powers, and the universal application of that structure to *all* characters.
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    Strategic builds, Tactical play. Bit like final fantasy tactics, in a sense.

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    To judge by the critics, bottomless hatred.

    I would say it was an attempt to make digital play into analog play.

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    Whatever its essence, I found it not to my liking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
    To judge by the critics, bottomless hatred.

    I would say it was an attempt to make digital play into analog play.
    Indeed. As a hater, here's my summary: if you want to play World of Warcraft, but you don't have a computer, then 4E D&D is the closest approximation.

    If you want to play Magic the Gathering, but all your friends would rather play a TRPG, then 4E D&D is the compromise.
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    Ok, let me take back what I said above.

    The essence of 4e is as the greatest Rorschach Test in RPG history. If you have it in you to be an obsessive and insufferable jilted lover, it may bring that out in you to confront and defeat, or not, at the peril of your present and future relationships.
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    Still amazed by just how many people feel the need to bash something a lot of people still enjoy. If you had a post titled name one good thing about 4e half the posts would still be complaining. Its been years, people. Theres no need to be dicks any more; anyone left playing it actually, you know, likes it. Save your bile for US politics.

    Id say the essence of 4e is tactical combat which encourages group tactics and enables players of many types of character to be equally effective.

    With other versions of D&D you dont really need much in the way of tactics. Its pretty rare that powers interact significantly, but in 4e it is common that when one character levels, they will ask others which leveling choices help them more. Healing, stats effects, attack bonuses, conditions characters interact way more in combat than in other editions.

    I havent played enough 5e to know if it addresses the issue, but the level playing field is another big 4e win. In most other systems the difference between a top-tier effective character and a regular guy is huge in 4e even bad classes are a positive help at the table. No LFQM, no dominating builds.

    So, in a short phrase: group tactical combat allowing many useful types of combatant.
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    Core defining trait of 4e. Hrrm. How's this:

    Characters are archetypes defined sharply by role and power source to populate a standardized array (AEDU) of primarily combat abilities centered around dynamic and highly tactical group combat system. It attempted detailed mechanical resolution of non-combat processes as well (skill challenges), and was willing to rewrite rules and subsystems that experience showed as containing flaws. Magic item were an integral part of character advancement math.

    This is pre-Essentials only. Essentials changed some of those, especially the AEDU framework. While in general Essentials seemed well received by those that liked 4e, it did have different defining traits. If it was just Essentials instead of fully compatible and expected to be played with all the previous, it could have been 4.5e.

    EDIT: BTW, I'm saying all of this respectfully. None of this is a jibe or edition wars - but I can see that some may be taken that way. Not my intent.
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