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

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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.
Well, that's the thing. I also love and lean into B/X D&D, where martial types and even Clerics tend to be spammable "I hit it with my sword" all day, every day. Especially if you're playing Theater of the Mind. Now, with the Knight, the Slayer, the Cavalier, the stances and and Defender Auras do add a tactical element that wasn't there before. Explicit positioning and maneuver become part of the equation, and thinking ahead to how the triggering of those auras or the effects of the stances will have an effect on the battlefield is more interesting than it looks. Do I feel confident that I can hit the target? I'll go with a damage enhancing stance. Do I feel I'll have trouble hitting the target? Go with an attack roll enhancement. Can I move in such a way to force enemies into my Defender Aura and dare them to try to hit my allies?

There's more to those classes than just spamming Melee Basic, at least that's been my experience.


I particularly like having more at will options to shift among round to round. Playing human from the 4e PH for the bonus at will was always a big mechanical draw for me.

I like a lot of the 4e essentials stances and the tactical decision round to round of which to use more than the resource management of daily and even encounter powers.


The EN World kitten
I mean, maybe? But we have a long-time player in our group who will be the first to tell you she gets analysis paralysis, and will opt for a character design like this if given the chance.
There's a difference between saying that some people have that, and saying that "spammable classes" are for people who get that and who "don't visualize their abilities well."

It's like if someone said that board games are for people who can't handle the freedom that role-playing games have. Presupposing the reason for how something is designed, and that said reason is to act as a crutch for certain people who are less able to engage with a certain aspect of play, is judgmental in outlook, even if there are certain people who actually fit that criteria.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.

3E: All new books again, rules changed dramatically, classes completely redone

3.5E: Books replaced here as well, classes modified, many spells and some mechanics modified. You could use a lot of 3E material with 3.5 (and we did) but they did replace the PHB and assumed in new material that PCs were using the newer mechanics so it certainly counted in my opinion.
5.5E (2024): New PHB etc., old one no longer in print, rules changed significantly, classes completely redone.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
As I said above, the mentality behind why/how things were done and approached changed.

I haven't played 4E in quite a while, so I'm admittedly out of touch with the details.

However, the changing motivation and mindset behind the hows and whys of the game could be seen in how encounters were designed, adventures were written, mechanics were designed, and implied expected playstyles.

A similar thing could be seen in very-late 3.5. While technically the same game, mixing and matching elements produced varying results.

Certainly, a game should be revised and improved as flaws are noticed -as was the case with monster math.

In other cases, change for the sake of change ranged from causing new flaws to just not being necessary.

For example, the ever evolving Skill Challenge Guidelines never quite seemed to work, and a lot of Official advice on how to run Skill Challenged (and the game in general) was bad advice, which somehow got worse as time went on.

I felt that Skill Challenges were a good idea, but it took learning that I should ignore the "official" advice to get the best experience from them. That relates to Essentials in that the revised guidelines and advice went even further in a directing that I felt was bad.

Mechanically, the game was adjusted to better cater to an outlook that became increasingly at odds with what worked best at my table. Essentials was the pinnacle of that conflict.
Exactly how I felt with WotC's evolution of 5e.

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
It wasn't long ago that I dove into an experiment to see how feasible it was to run Essentials as a standalone version of 4e. I spent well over a year revisiting and researching whatever relevant material I could find, stripped it down to its bare basics, and refilled the empty bits where I felt it was deficient. After running a few solo games for a few levels, I quickly discovered that Essentials could reasonably stand alone, if you are willing to ignore certain aspects of the game before. You can read about it in my old thread on the subject.

I would not consider it a new edition, or even a half edition because it was dependent on many aspects/options of the system that existed largely in the pre-Essentials material. If anything, it was an extension of the game that already existed. You could say it was a different expression of the same game. But Essentials was still 4e, through and through. It didn't change the core game. It just offered some new ideas which could be easily ignored if one so chooses.

We, as gamers and hobby enthusiasts, seem to be either incapable or unwilling to accept normalized standards and ideas, like "editions" and game systems being in a perpetual state of evolution. A game that is designed properly and supported with materials that continue to let players enjoy that system never needs to be reimagined to keep it interesting or functional. They just get reprinted, hopefully with the errata and minor updates to address problems that actually need to be addressed (not the ones people imagine for themselves).
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