D&D 4E 4e Essentials as a new edition and 4e's longevity

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Heroes of the Feywild is 100% fine for people who don't like Essentials. And Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is meant to be 80% fine for both people who want Just Essentials and people who want No Essentials. For example the Sorcerer section has its own class. And the Warlock section has an intro (a side), Warlock pact (half a side), a Hexblade pact (a side and a half), and then powers and summons that can be used by either worth about six sides. And the themes and paragon paths are neutral.

In short whichever way you go it has a lot for you and just enough to try and tease you into going the other way if you don't already.
Yup. My groups liked 4E quite a bit and enjoyed the Essentials books as adjuncts/supplements. Two of the last three characters I played came out of those two books, too. My third to last character was a Blackguard who went Dark Lord (of Raveloft) for his Epic Destiny, and the last campaign I played (shortly before the pandemic my brother ran one, though most of my groups are on 5E now) I played a Skald. I liked them both quite a bit.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
I would expect that the people who used them together continued using the entirety of their PHBs, probably modified with that handy free conversion guide WotC produced - meaning that, yes, they'd have mixed sets of rules used at the same table. The extent to which 3.5e and 3.0e were 'incompatible' is frequently overstated online.

It was more a pain to do compatibility is stretching it.

Essentials was more errata snd dome new classes. It's like comparing a phb 3.5 class to Book of 9 Swords, PHB2 or the Psionics book.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
What were the rules updates in essentials? I don't recall those.

The closest I can think of are the sample improvisations for skills in the essentials books and arcana being able to be used to interact and affect magical phenomena.
Someone asked me this before, and I found a preview article in Dragon #390 where the developers discuss some of the specific changes to the game with the upcoming Essentials products. I'll copy the highlights and paste them here.


Implements
Going forward, ...will feature a system of proficiency with implements that works just like weapon proficiencies. If you are proficient with an implement, you can use it with any of your implement powers.

Previously, a power’s class determined the implements that could function with it. This change was made to make it easier to understand how implements interact with powers and to make multiclassing less arduous.

Powers
The Essentials products update a few powers. These updates fall into a few categories.

Rules Updates ...we went ahead and printed the updated version in that product. For example, weapon of the gods had its keywords updated and its text clarified. Nimble climb explains its effect in a way that better interacts with the rules for climbing.

Wizard Encounter Spells The wizard’s encounter spells can now include an effect on a miss. This change helps the wizard to better function as a controller. While some spells, notably burning hands, deal half damage on a miss, others provide for some sort of forced movement, condition, or other effect that deals no damage but harasses an enemy in some manner.

Races
Each race now provides a +2 bonus to one specific ability and a +2 bonus to an ability chosen between two options. For example, dwarves now gain a +2 bonus to Constitution and a +2 bonus to either Strength or Wisdom.

We’ve made this change to make the races a little more flexible and give players stronger options when creating characters. It also better matches the Dungeons & Dragons world.

Feats
Feats are arranged in categories. Each category embodies a concept, tactic, or some other unifying factor that ties together the feats within the category. For example, the Enduring Stamina category encompasses feats that make your character hardier and more resilient. A feat like Toughness gets slotted into that category.

The categories themselves have no mechanical effects. They serve to organize feats and make it easier to choose the best feat for your character.

The Essentials products no longer organize feats by tier. All of the feats in Heroes of the Fallen Lands, for example, are available at 1st level, provided that you meet any other prerequisites. The biggest effect of this is that some older feats have been surpassed in power by new ones. For example, you can now take feats that provide a bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, or Will defense in the heroic tier. Previously, such feats were reserved for paragon levels.

Whenever we introduced a new feat that makes an older one obsolete, we did so only because the feat was just as useful but no more powerful at lower levels. In some cases, such as feats that provide a bonus to defenses, the new versions provide a smaller benefit at low levels and scale up at the appropriate rate. In other cases, a feat was reserved for paragon tier but lacked any specific balance reason for that placement.

Finally, as you’ve seen in earlier previews, many classes in the Essentials products rely on basic attacks. The Melee Training feat allows a character to use any ability to modify such attacks. That feat has been updated so that it provides the new ability’s full bonus to attack rolls but only half to damage rolls. Melee Training offers its intended flexibility in creating characters without becoming a default choice.

Magic Item Rarity
one of the consistent pieces of feedback we’ve received...concerns magic items. While plenty of the items in the game are treasures worth risking a character’s life and limb for, the most powerful items felt a little flat. On the other hand,... magic items can sometimes crowd out a character’s other options. Particularly at high levels, a character’s boots, armor, gloves, belt, weapon, and other gear add quite a few powers and abilities that might overshadow other character aspects.

Rare Items
Rare items allow us to create a category of treasures that are clearly more powerful without simply forcing them to a higher level of play. For example, a flame-tongue longsword that can hurl bolts of fire at will is more powerful than a resounding weapon that dazes an enemy once per day.

So, what does mean if a magic item is rare?

First, the rules assume that the DM hands out one rare item per character per tier. Rare items are meant to be character-defining, powerful objects that help forge the character’s identity in the world. If you find a flame-tongue weapon, you’ve uncovered an important, powerful blade. Since the characters won’t have many of these items, they can be more complicated in terms of type and number of powers.

Second, characters cannot normally create or buy rare items. They are simply too hard to find to show up in the hands of a merchant or trader. You must find them or, at the DM’s option, track down the rare and wondrous reagents needed to create one. You can’t simply stock up on them or buy one for each item slot.

Third, rare items sell for 100% of their listed gold piece value. If you find one and want to sell it for cash, you have no trouble finding a buyer willing to pay an exorbitant price to take it off your hands.

Common Items
Common items are the exact opposite of rare items. They offer useful but limited abilities. The processes of their manufacture are well known, and anyone with the money can track one down for purchase.

Common items lack activated powers. They usually confer a simple bonus or a static effect that you note on your character sheet and forget about. For example, a pair of gloves that grants a +2 bonus to Thievery checks makes a fine common item. You note the modifier to your skill check, adjust the total bonus as necessary, and never think of the gloves again until you find new ones to replace them.

The intent behind common items is to keep the game’s complexity load manageable. Common items are useful, but they don’t create a distraction or an extra layer of choice within an encounter.

Common items sell for 20% of their listed gold piece value. They are valuable but relatively easy to find. About half the items you find on adventures are common items.

Uncommon Items
The rest of our magic items are now uncommon. They occupy the middle ground between rare and common items. They have powers, but these powers are typically daily abilities. They have static effects, but they are rarely character-defining or critical to a hero’s identity.

Like rare items, uncommon items must be found. They are seldomly up for sale and few people know how to craft them. Even those smiths who can make them require exotic, difficult-to-find materials to complete them. Uncommon items sell for 50% of their listed price. A little less than half of the items you find on adventures are uncommon.

Magic Item Usage
Before we bring this discussion to a close, it’s worth mentioning that the limits on using daily magic item powers are no longer part of the game. They existed to prevent the characters from stockpiling items that were far below their level but still had useful, daily powers. Under this scheme, such items are uncommon. Stockpiling a number of them is impossible without house rules or a Dungeon Master who willingly awards multiple copies of such items as treasure. With our new rarity scheme in place, we no longer need such rules.
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Contrast this with other (A)D&D editions:
2E: New PHB etc, old one no longer in print, rules changed significantly, classes completely redone.
Are you referring to the AD&D 2E reprints of the Core Rulebooks that occurred in the mid-90s? Because those didn't change the rules, much less significantly. (I think maybe somewhere something originally tagged as an optional rule wasn't given that notice in one of the reprinted books, but that was it.)

Now, if you're talking about the "Option" books, i.e. Combat & Tactics, Skills & Powers, etc., those weren't part of the 2E Core, being books full of optional rules, despite using the same trade dress.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
There's an easy check on whether something is a new edition: Is the existing Player's Handbook (in this case) still usable in a new game or has it been replaced by a new version?

With Essentials the PHB 1-2-3 were not replaced by these books - they were add-ons, not revamps. Having a different design philosophy is what made them interesting but it did not render the prior options obsolete.

Contrast this with other (A)D&D editions:
2E: New PHB etc, old one no longer in print, rules changed significantly, classes completely redone.

Are you referring to the AD&D 2E reprints of the Core Rulebooks that occurred in the mid-90s? Because those didn't change the rules, much less significantly. (I think maybe somewhere something originally tagged as an optional rule wasn't given that notice in one of the reprinted books, but that was it.)
Pretty sure he's talking about the change from AD&D (1e) to AD&D 2nd edition, in 1989.
 

I'm not sure if Essentials should be considered a ".5" iteration, but I know when it came out, that's the only way I ran 4e from then onward. And to be honest, I loved it. Still do. I'm trying to talk some of my players into a 4e campaign in the near future, but a lot of the local gaming crowd has bought into the "4e Sucks" or "There's no roleplay" myths.

For me, Essentials was peak 4e. The Warpriest was possibly the best expression of how I always played Clerics. Beat @SS and heal allies, lather, rinse, repeat. And do both in the same round, if necessary!
 

darkbard

Legend
I'm not sure if Essentials should be considered a ".5" iteration, but I know when it came out, that's the only way I ran 4e from then onward. And to be honest, I loved it. Still do. I'm trying to talk some of my players into a 4e campaign in the near future, but a lot of the local gaming crowd has bought into the "4e Sucks" or "There's no roleplay" myths.

For me, Essentials was peak 4e. The Warpriest was possibly the best expression of how I always played Clerics. Beat @SS and heal allies, lather, rinse, repeat. And do both in the same round, if necessary!
I'm curious about what I bolded above: have you ever found the (largely) missing AEDU structure from Essentials classes in favor of "spammed" At-Will attacks for (most) Essentials classes leads to boring, repetitive play? One of the things I find exciting/engaging about the combat portion of 4E is how diverse my tactical choices are with the full suite of AEDU Powers available. Not only does each combat present its own individual tactical challenge (type of foes, terrain features, and so on), but so too does turn-by-turn decision making within such combats.
 

I'm curious about what I bolded above: have you ever found the (largely) missing AEDU structure from Essentials classes in favor of "spammed" At-Will attacks for (most) Essentials classes leads to boring, repetitive play? One of the things I find exciting/engaging about the combat portion of 4E is how diverse my tactical choices are with the full suite of AEDU Powers available. Not only does each combat present its own individual tactical challenge (type of foes, terrain features, and so on), but so too does turn-by-turn decision making within such combats.
The Warpriest is a full AEDU class in play. What it does is something I'd have liked to see more of; it gives up flexibility in choosing powers in favour of some additional bonuses. Which really helps speed up character creation and encourages people to take odd powers.

As for the spammable classes? I don't like playing them - but they are not for me. They are for people who get analysis paralysis and don't visualise their abilities well.
 

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