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D&D 4E 4e needs a Definitive Guide

Dungeoneer

First Post
Uh, I think you meant to say 'I think the feats and powers from Dragon magazine can probably be safely excluded', right? Our group has banned almost all of the Dragon material (excepting a few backgrounds) and I consider that a very good decision.
YUP. Sorry. :blush:

Oh yeah, backgrounds, I forgot about them. There's a ton of them, too! Actually most of them are fine but there was an early set of backgrounds where you could take something like "Born Under A Bad Sign" and get a bonus to HP, which is maybe a little too good for a simple background.

And of course there are themes. I think the main discussion you need to have about themes is whether or not your table is using them. Otherwise you are gonna see your min-maxer tricked out with a theme and your other players going "What?"
 

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I don't mean to provoke any of the old '4.5e wars' silliness, but honestly in the case of the people that are against calling Essentials the basic core 4e recommendation are you thinking about this in the right way? Sure, YOU may not love the E-classes and find it a less interesting (or whatever) set of classes and hate the exclusion of certain rules and material, but think of it from the standpoint of someone reading the recommendation. You don't know what their ultimate preferences are, maybe they would love the Essentials material, but even if they share your opinion in the end the guide is just supposed to give them a basis for getting into the game. For THAT purpose, Essentials really is quite good. You can pick up most parts of it for bargain prices or used for very cheap and its still a GOOD game that has all the 4e goodness. I'm not a die-hard Essentials fan, I liked the non-Essentials stuff a LOT, but for a group of players that lack access to DDI and are just starting having only 20-30 GOOD feats to wade through and a small number of items, cleaned up armor rules, fixed and errated general rules, and a good workable subset of material is gold.

So, I think its worth thinking about, personal play preferences aside, a guide should be written with maximum benefit to the reader in mind, not promoting one or another of the various subgroups of 4e players agendas and preferences. Honestly if its not Essentials then what? The original core 3 books? Even then you want MV and RC, which at best imposes a bit of confusing overlap in the core rules where RC updates the PHB1 and the DMG1 with its borked SC rules and replaced DC charts and such. From a clarity standpoint I'm not sold. The PHB1 classes are all classics as well, but some of them are almost unplayably wonky without supplements. Its hard for me to recommend an unvarnished PHB1 Paladin or Warlock as a good option and even the cleric's two builds are a bit of a piece to absorb right off the bat. Their Essentials counterparts are quite a lot more basically playable.
 

YUP. Sorry. :blush:

Oh yeah, backgrounds, I forgot about them. There's a ton of them, too! Actually most of them are fine but there was an early set of backgrounds where you could take something like "Born Under A Bad Sign" and get a bonus to HP, which is maybe a little too good for a simple background.

And of course there are themes. I think the main discussion you need to have about themes is whether or not your table is using them. Otherwise you are gonna see your min-maxer tricked out with a theme and your other players going "What?"

I agree about the backgrounds that were in Dragon early on, some of them were just out of whack, though for a starting group it isn't too bad. It was mostly an optimizer problem. Still, I'd just stick to what is in the PHB2 and whatever the player wants to make up that is in a similar vein. That's how I've handled it. If a player asks me for a background with a benefit I just give it to them if its in line with the '+2 to a skill or ability to train that skill' benefit that you normally get.

I've just left off themes entirely. I think there were many good ones and it was fun using them sometimes, but the added complexity was never good for the game and currently I'm setting up a game for some new players and some people that haven't played 4e yet. I'd just as soon leave off that level of stuff for them to sort through. Plus there is a really large disparity in power level between themes and its actually not too hard to end up with one weaker PC that then picks a lemon theme and another stronger PC that happens to pick one of the themes that is overpowered AND synergizes with their class well. All of a sudden things get a little off kilter. It won't wreck a game, but clearly they didn't spend a huge amount of time vetting all the themes (the ones in HotFW particularly are very strong).
 


Jhaelen

First Post
And of course there are themes. I think the main discussion you need to have about themes is whether or not your table is using them.
Yep. We're using them because we're playing a Dark Sun campaign. I don't think we'd have used them otherwise, although I think they're a really neat addition to the game - very helpful to round out a character concept.

I've had that discussion before, but what I greatly dislike about the Essentials classes is that they are mechanically different from each other. Of course I realize that this was actually a design goal, i.e. to create classes with different degrees of complexity. But in doing that they destroyed one thing that was a major appeal of 4e: All of the PHB classes were mechanically absolutely identical. So if a player grasped how to play one class, they were able to play any other class, too:
One of the players in my group had never played anything but fighters and paladins in AD&D 1e to 3e. And in 4e he suddenly discovered his love for wizards! This would never have happened had we started playing with the Essential classes.
And I have yet to meet a player who couldn't grasp how to play a 4e PHB class. All you need to tell them is the difference between at-will, encounter, and daily powers and what the purpose of the different character roles is and they're ready to go.
Some classes are still more challenging to play then others (e.g. Rogues and Shamans are more difficult to play well), but at least they all work the same.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
My main group loves themes. We first used them when we began our campaign in Neverwinter based on the outstanding Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Simply reading the themes helped define the setting for the players and, of course, choosing the themes really helped them work out who their characters really were.

I think they're a wonderful innovation. I wish 4E has been around long enough to see even more.
 


Vlark

First Post
BTW, I came across this blog post by a 4E fan who has managed to locate all the legally free 4E material on the WotC website after the old stuff was archived.

Just for the record, I'm not a fan of 4e (no offense; just not my cup of tea). But material can always be re-purposed for older or newer editions (or even for other systems). That's why I combed WotC's site to create the resource list. I hope you guys find it useful.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Just for the record, I'm not a fan of 4e (no offense; just not my cup of tea). But material can always be re-purposed for older or newer editions (or even for other systems). That's why I combed WotC's site to create the resource list. I hope you guys find it useful.

And here I was thinking you were an RPG fan of superior discernment and taste. :p More seriously, thanks for taking the time to collate that and share it with fellow fans. I wanted to post a thank-you note on your blog but it seems I could not add a comment.
 

bert1000

First Post
Uh, I think you meant to say 'I think the feats and powers from Dragon magazine can probably be safely excluded', right? Our group has banned almost all of the Dragon material (excepting a few backgrounds) and I consider that a very good decision.

I also agree there's way too many feats, even if you ignore all the ones from Dragon. For me it's the most time-consuming part of creating/leveling a character. (The next-most time-consuming being looking for magic items to put on my wishlist - although you could play just as well without using wishlists, I guess.)

I agree about Rules Compendium and Monster Vault being good choices for a start. But I didn't like the DM's kit much (excepting the adventure, which is awesome) and found the Essentials PHBs to be awful.
Instead I'd prefer the DMG2 and PHB2 - but I'm not sure if they would be sufficient for a starting player.


Not so much for balance but for sanity, I'd love for someone with high system mastery and play experience to come up with a shorter list of feats that could be used as a guide for newer players.

I'm not sure I'd limit choices to the list but would love to have it.

Say, here are 50 (75?) feats out of hundreds that provide a short list of feats that:

1) are the best of the feats that duplicate similar things
2) provide a nice menu of different types of abilities

The list could be used as a limiter for everyone (only feats on the list are allowed) or could just be used for newer players to prevent being overwhelmed (you can pick off this list if you want, these are generally the 'best' feats).
 

OnlineDM

Adventurer
As a big fan of 4e who played a LOT for two and a half years (2010 - 2012), my recommendations for the "on ramp" is pretty simple: Buy the Essentials books. Specifically:
  • Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
  • Heroes of the Fallen Lands
  • Rules Compendium
  • Monster Vault
  • I suppose the Dungeon Master's Kit, though this one is the least necessary

Don't bother with the other five Essentials products (Starter Set, dice, three Dungeon Tile sets). Don't bother with the older books (PHB 1-3, Monster Manual 1-3, DMG 1-3, splat books). Don't bother with the later books (Feywild, Shadow, Elemental). This is all the on-ramp you need.

Don't get me wrong; I love the original classes and races, and I love some of the later options from books like Heroes of the Feywild and such. But they're not the "definitive" books in my opinion. If you try these 4-5 definitive books and love the game and want more options, then absolutely pick up the other stuff, get a DDI subscription, etc. I just wouldn't recommend anyone start there.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
Don't bother with the older books (PHB 1-3, Monster Manual 1-3, DMG 1-3, splat books).
Uh, wait. DMG3?! That book was absolutely awesome! It was of such awesomeness it sold out before it was even published (or something like that, since I've never seen it anywhere...).

P.S.: I thought the wilderness tiles were pretty good. Definitely the most useful tiles ever published.
 

OnlineDM

Adventurer
Uh, wait. DMG3?! That book was absolutely awesome! It was of such awesomeness it sold out before it was even published (or something like that, since I've never seen it anywhere...).

P.S.: I thought the wilderness tiles were pretty good. Definitely the most useful tiles ever published.

I'm sorry, that was a typo. I meant DMG 1-2.
 

Jer

Adventurer
Uh, wait. DMG3?! That book was absolutely awesome! It was of such awesomeness it sold out before it was even published (or something like that, since I've never seen it anywhere...).

Can I take a moment to lament the fact that we never actually got a DMG3? Or at least a "big book o' Epic stuff for DMs", which is what I was hoping the DMG3 would be?
 

Not so much for balance but for sanity, I'd love for someone with high system mastery and play experience to come up with a shorter list of feats that could be used as a guide for newer players.

I'm not sure I'd limit choices to the list but would love to have it.

Say, here are 50 (75?) feats out of hundreds that provide a short list of feats that:

1) are the best of the feats that duplicate similar things
2) provide a nice menu of different types of abilities

The list could be used as a limiter for everyone (only feats on the list are allowed) or could just be used for newer players to prevent being overwhelmed (you can pick off this list if you want, these are generally the 'best' feats).

I would really honestly say use the ones that are provided in Essentials. Its a very concise list of feats without a lot of silly stuff that doesn't work. They have some flavor and can assist in character build, but they are not as 'interesting' as some of the core 4e feats. There ARE others I would say are perfectly fine and probably should be in a player's repertoire as well, but those are a good start, and I think they total up at somewhere in the 40's. Of course you are leaving most all the racial feats on the cutting room floor, but...
 


Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Can I take a moment to lament the fact that we never actually got a DMG3? Or at least a "big book o' Epic stuff for DMs", which is what I was hoping the DMG3 would be?

Yep, that was kind of what I wanted to say: If they had published it, it would surely have been awesome :(

On a positive note, we still have Chris Perkins's excellent DM Experience articles which are chock-full of excellent advice including the Epic Tier.

(I re-read them last week in two sittings. They really are good.)
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
I don't recall... but I believe the Builder currently does NOT have a means to filter out information by Source material, but does offer the ability to sort(?) by Source material.

It would be hugely beneficial if someone were to add this feature; this would solve a lot of issues for new players who don't want to wade through several hundred feats that are either redundant or repetitious.

I found Essentials class work better than most of the Classic classes, though I feel there will always be room for all of the various Leader classes.
 

Jhaelen

First Post
I don't recall... but I believe the Builder currently does NOT have a means to filter out information by Source material, but does offer the ability to sort(?) by Source material.
That feature was available in the old, offline builder, but, alas, not in the new. Our group would absolutely love that feature!
 

It's probably been said, but if you have the tools, all you really /need/ is the Essentials Rule Compendium. It's got all the rules, and the tools have all the details. You're missing a little fluff and cosmology, but nothing you can't have a great game without.

So as long as the tools are available there's that option.
 

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