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D&D 4E 4e needs a Definitive Guide

Sadras

Hero
I'm probably in the minority here, but I wish they would reproduce a concise
  • PHB with the basic races & classes with the most popular/useful powers (no magical items or psionics)
  • DMG from DMG 1 and 2, best advice from Chris Perkins re Epic Level Play and what not
  • MM with updated math of the most useful/common beasts
  • Treasure and Magical Item Vault, with multitudes of tables, interesting locations as treasure...and what not
  • Options Book, which would contain Psionics (everything related), Strange Races...etc
  • Planes Book dealing with all of them, including the prime material plane, and an updated final, finale, definitiva and teliko Orcus
  • Revised great 4e adventure, one adventure for each tier of play (it does not have to be an adventure path) - to function as an example

7 books for 7 years (2008-2014), until 5e officially came out.
If they had to change the font size, exclude the over-animated art, and use up the entire page they could really include quite a lot of the very best 4e had to offer. I for one would purchase such a set.
 
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7 books for 7 years (2008-2014), until 5e officially came out.
If they had to change the font size, exclude the over-animated art, and use up the entire page they could really include quite a lot of the very best 4e had to offer. I for one would purchase such a set.

I'd probably buy something like that too, but there's not even a small chance it will happen.
 

Erekose

Eternal Champion
I could probably be convinced to buy a new "premium" printing of the 3 core rule book with fully integrated errata.

WotC have done it for all previous editions other than 4E. Presumably either it's too complicated (too much errata) or not enough expected sales (or both).
 

I could probably be convinced to buy a new "premium" printing of the 3 core rule book with fully integrated errata.

WotC have done it for all previous editions other than 4E. Presumably either it's too complicated (too much errata) or not enough expected sales (or both).

It's the age of the internet. Of course, 5e is new, so there's still time for a premium rulebook set. I wish there was a good offline (but downloadable) rules source, with the crud pared out.
 

It's the age of the internet. Of course, 5e is new, so there's still time for a premium rulebook set. I wish there was a good offline (but downloadable) rules source, with the crud pared out.

Yeah, its way too soon. They only started offering a reprint of some of the 3.x books now, 6 years after they went out of print. Heck, the AD&D stuff was out of print for as much as 25 years. It could easily be 10 years before they get around to doing a 4e reprint, if they do it.
 

The guide should focus on telling players and DMs what the bare minimum is that they need to play the game the way it was meant to be played. It should not attempt to be comprehensive.

If I were going to create a guide for making 4e the best gaming experience it can be, I would focus on making sure the players (GM included) grok the fundamental 4e machinery (purpose and application) of the system and understand best practices (principles and techniques) which produce the high octane action/adventure pace and the thematic focus of 4e. In no particular order:

A. Skill Challenges

1) Stakes, player goals, genre tropes, and what the opposition actually is on a conflict by conflict basis.
2) Players telegraphing intent and the GMing techniques of fail forward/success with complication with (1) above as the foundation.
3) Scene framing, pacing, dramatic momentum, and coherent scene closure.


B. The Game Engine

1) Healing Surges (what these abstractly represent and how to use them, especially in Skill Challenges, to provoke tension and Big Damn Hero play)
2) The Keyword system (what these mean for the fiction, for the codified mechanics, and for GM adjudication)
3) Encounter and Daily resources (what these "mean" and the play experience they are meant to produce)
4) The Math (p 42 and monster/hazard creation)
5) The Encounter Budget system
6) The Rest/recharge mechanics (how to use/manipulate them to create the play experience you're looking for.
7) Forced, Tactical Movement, Terrain Interaction and how to create dynamic, exciting, and challenging player opposition (imperative that this is cogently and coherently explained at the concept level)
8) Exception-Based Design (and the logic/system expectations for those exceptions where GMs must make rulings)

There is plenty more (Ritual System, Disease Track, Immediate Reactions, Stealth, etc) but grokking each of these is so absolutely central to 4e play that they need to be clearly, cogently, and transparently canvassed. I think the rest is intuitive and/or needs less attention.

C. The Player Hooks or Game's Focus/Premise

1) Minor/Major Quests
2) Themes, Paragon Paths, Epic Destinies


D. General Principles

1) Open and close scenes dramatically and keep the pressure on and the pace up until the conflict is resolved.
2) Always focus play on what the players care about by way of their expression of their PCs (C above). Fill their lives with adventure that is centered around this and allow their decisions, the momentum of conflicts they resolve, and genre expectations to propel play.
3) Always push play towards conflict and escalate, escalate, escalate!
4) Keep battlefields large (abstracted out 2 to 3 times the real world measurements) and filled with stuff to interact with.


That looks pretty good off the top of my head.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
[MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION]
All of it looks very good.

I would, however, make a serious section about rituals - in many ways, they are the "spells and magic". That many thought 4e was "magic-less" is no coincidence. Rituals can be awesome, but they need a bit of work, and A LOT of explaining of what role they can play during ... well, play. :blush:

Things like how to adjudicate their use in skill challenges, pro-active benefits, etc, etc.

To me rituals are a lot like 4e itself - potentially AWESOME but so often mis-used or understood... :.-(
 

[MENTION=6696971]I would, however, make a serious section about rituals - in many ways, they are the "spells and magic". That many thought 4e was "magic-less" is no coincidence. Rituals can be awesome, but they need a bit of work, and A LOT of explaining of what role they can play during ... well, play. :blush:

Things like how to adjudicate their use in skill challenges, pro-active benefits, etc, etc.

To me rituals are a lot like 4e itself - potentially AWESOME but so often mis-used or understood... :.-(

Good stuff. You don't have to do much convincing of me for this. Note that it was the first thing that I mentioned (honorable mention) in The Combat Engine that didn't make the cut as "quintessential 4e". I initially had it up there (pretty much for the reasons you listed). Both of my 1-30 games and both of my PBPs featured PCs that used them (to great effect).

However, in the end, I moved them out because:

1) They're siloed PC build tools that (while being 4e through and through) can (and likely are for plenty of groups) be entirely excised from play if your game doesn't feature any Wizards/Druids/Invokers or any PCs with RItual Caster feat.

2) You could put general advice on how to use them in Skill Challenges in that section (as DMG2 does).

3) Personally, I find them very well written (cogent and clear mechanics and fluff) and intuitive to use at the table.

That being said, again, if I were writing a "Quintessential 4e", and the page count allowed for it, I would have a section on Ritual Magic.

The only thing I'll quibble with in your post is that they are the "spells and magic" of 4e and that the reason that "people thought 4e was magicless." I think a considerable portion of this is the inability (or in some cases the unwillingness) to grok the Keyword System (which is paramount to groking 4e). That is why I put Keywords as 2 above. If the system is well-understood by all players at the table (concept and application), like all the things I listed above, it is a game-changer for the 4e experience. If it is not understood, it becomes an insidious blind-spot that proliferates throughout the table experience.
 


MoutonRustique

Explorer
[snip]
However, in the end, I moved them out because:

1) They're siloed PC build tools that (while being 4e through and through) can (and likely are for plenty of groups) be entirely excised from play if your game doesn't feature any Wizards/Druids/Invokers or any PCs with RItual Caster feat.

2) You could put general advice on how to use them in Skill Challenges in that section (as DMG2 does).

3) Personally, I find them very well written (cogent and clear mechanics and fluff) and intuitive to use at the table.
All true. With regards to their inclusion or not, it then becomes a question of where we draw lines and why - which devolves to opinions, so not much to discuss. Your points are understood and quite valid.

[snip]
The only thing I'll quibble with in your post is that they are the "spells and magic" of 4e and that the reason that "people thought 4e was magicless." I think a considerable portion of this is the inability (or in some cases the unwillingness) to grok the Keyword System (which is paramount to groking 4e). That is why I put Keywords as 2 above. If the system is well-understood by all players at the table (concept and application), like all the things I listed above, it is a game-changer for the 4e experience. If it is not understood, it becomes an insidious blind-spot that proliferates throughout the table experience.
I can't fault what you say. In a sense, we're kind of both "preaching to the choir" here - feels like we're trying to out-convince each other of things we're both already sold on. :lol:

As a slight "correction", I was coming more from the "non-tactical / "real" magic-magic" aspect (as you can see, I am struggling with the correct words for the concept I am trying to convey... "real" magic-magic indeed... sheesh :erm:)

The spells that changed landscapes, allowed faster overland travel, disguised the entire party to infiltrate a ball, created castles, "rope trick", scrying, teleporting and plane shifting, etc. Those kinds of spells - as opposed to those with immediate tactical use (which were translated to powers). I heard a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the "loss" of these types of spells. I also believe that for many, that fireball used the same kind of resource as phantom steed really sold them on the fact that those were spells!. When they saw that 4e's fireball and phantom steed used different resources, one of them became "less a spell" (as a funny side-bit, which one wasn't a spell anymore changed from person to person :heh:). It's not a viewpoint I think is correct, but it's one I've seen fairly often (even among those willing to give 4e a fair shake).

All this being said, what I found people didn't connect with is pretty heavily influenced by the people I had contact with - so our experiences could vary by a pretty big margin...
 

pemerton

Legend
The Rest/recharge mechanics (how to use/manipulate them to create the play experience you're looking for.
To me rituals are a lot like 4e itself - potentially AWESOME but so often mis-used or understood
I've pulled these two quotes out because they reminded me of a conversation with my players yesterday evening, after our session finished.

I'm going to write up a full session report soon, but the summary version is that four 27th level PCs, with 9 healling surges between them, having already fought quite a large number of above-level encounters (they started the "day" about half-way through 26th level), defeated a 31st level solo with two elite 24th level friends. They did so at the cost of 3 healing surges, and with only the fighter PC actually losing non-temporary hit points.

As we were reflecting on this outcome, some of us were expressing surprise at the idea, seen more than once on these boards, that 4e is based around a very strict "X on-level encounters between extended rests" baseline. Certainly at paragon and above, the PCs are close to unstoppable!

Another idea that came up from the players was that dailies are far from the be-all and end-all of 4e play, because (at least in our game) you only get to use them once per level or so!

We were also reflecting on issues for solos (eg the well-known problems with action-economy), at which point I showed them the 5e sphinx entry to explain the Legendary Actions rules for 5e. In the course of this, I had to explain to one of my players, whose only D&D experience is with 4e, that in 5e spells don't generally roll to hit but instead are save-for-half! Which in turn led to some discussions about why 4e (and some of its fairly obvious innovations) have been so soundly rejected.

One player, who reads ENworld from time to time, commented that there is enough uniformity to the adverse commentary on 4e that it must somehow be a reflection of something in the system (ie it's not just random bad experiences). It seems that so many people have managed to systematically misunderstand the system, its parameters, its uses, its outcomes.
 

One player, who reads ENworld from time to time, commented that there is enough uniformity to the adverse commentary on 4e that it must somehow be a reflection of something in the system (ie it's not just random bad experiences). It seems that so many people have managed to systematically misunderstand the system, its parameters, its uses, its outcomes.

We've discussed this at great length. I think the area that is the most illustrative is the lack of grokking of how Keywords and the exception-based design philosophy are meant to work together.

Consider the AD&D and 3.x Fireball. These lengthy (unwieldy imo) spell descriptions are chock full of all kinds of exceptions embedded right into the spell itself. The mindset of the D&D player used to "casting spells" or adjudicating spellcasting was predicated upon interaction with this layout. Given enough time, somehow, this real-world book format was somehow then internalized as "magic" in the fiction of their gameplay.

Now consider any 4e Fire spell. It contains the Arcane and Implement Keywords. However, it also contains the Fire Keyword. This is absolutely fundamental as it is one of the two primary system components (the other being the math/noncombat resolution framework) for the exception-based design philosophy that the system is predicated upon. The 4e power statblock is meant to elegantly provide (a) only the necessities to facilitate minimal handling time in combat (single target or AoE, ranged or melee, action economy, etc) while also providing (b) the Keyword infrastructure such that when a player proposes an exception-based usage, the GM has the means to adjudicate the effect on the environment. The GM knows that Fire is "explosive bursts, fiery rays, or simple ignition." So if the player of the Wizard is in a Skill Challenge and wants to deploy the spell to ignite materials (for whatever reason), this is an exception (though clearly orthodox) to its standard stat-block usage. The GM uses the of-level math to determine a DC and the player rolls an Arcana check with the outcome being either intended effect (ignition for whatever sought end) or some kind of complication (perhaps still ignition but things may go pear-shaped because the fire/smoke becomes a hazard/impediment to be overcome).

Instead of this being intuitive/easily grokked because the Keyword system and exception-based design philosophy is comprehended, we get:

- "This powers system means there is no magic and/or martial characters are casting spells."

and/or

- "Players can't use any fire spells to cause ignition of building materials (etc) because the target line reads 'creatures'..."
 

We've discussed this at great length. I think the area that is the most illustrative is the lack of grokking of how Keywords and the exception-based design philosophy are meant to work together.

Consider the AD&D and 3.x Fireball. These lengthy (unwieldy imo) spell descriptions are chock full of all kinds of exceptions embedded right into the spell itself. The mindset of the D&D player used to "casting spells" or adjudicating spellcasting was predicated upon interaction with this layout. Given enough time, somehow, this real-world book format was somehow then internalized as "magic" in the fiction of their gameplay.

Now consider any 4e Fire spell. It contains the Arcane and Implement Keywords. However, it also contains the Fire Keyword. This is absolutely fundamental as it is one of the two primary system components (the other being the math/noncombat resolution framework) for the exception-based design philosophy that the system is predicated upon. The 4e power statblock is meant to elegantly provide (a) only the necessities to facilitate minimal handling time in combat (single target or AoE, ranged or melee, action economy, etc) while also providing (b) the Keyword infrastructure such that when a player proposes an exception-based usage, the GM has the means to adjudicate the effect on the environment. The GM knows that Fire is "explosive bursts, fiery rays, or simple ignition." So if the player of the Wizard is in a Skill Challenge and wants to deploy the spell to ignite materials (for whatever reason), this is an exception (though clearly orthodox) to its standard stat-block usage. The GM uses the of-level math to determine a DC and the player rolls an Arcana check with the outcome being either intended effect (ignition for whatever sought end) or some kind of complication (perhaps still ignition but things may go pear-shaped because the fire/smoke becomes a hazard/impediment to be overcome).

Instead of this being intuitive/easily grokked because the Keyword system and exception-based design philosophy is comprehended, we get:

- "This powers system means there is no magic and/or martial characters are casting spells."

and/or

- "Players can't use any fire spells to cause ignition of building materials (etc) because the target line reads 'creatures'..."

Unfortunately there is no section in the rules pertaining to this. I don't even see any indication that the designers INTENDED keywords to work in this fashion. I think it is probable that it was something they THOUGHT OF at some point, in passing, but that the primary intent for keywords was the purely mechanistic interaction with other game elements (IE vulnerability/immunity, other powers, items, feats, etc).

Regardless, they failed utterly to even mention the narrative function of keywords (which is more obvious, the DM describes the fire attack as FIRE, but still not ever discussed). More critically they failed to mention the use you describe, the extension of the rules into areas that aren't covered explicitly, the use of 'Page 42' and its ilk. It was a fatal oversight.

Personally I think the coherence of the objections to 4e has less to do with 4e 'weaknesses' and more to do with fan expectations for D&D. My experience is that most D&D players want to reproduce an EXACT experience with no variation. The details vary depending on when the player was introduced to the game, and there are certainly players that are more flexible, but the typical player is playing 'D&D' and they expect, just like Monopoly, that D&D will be a specific exact thing. Its irrelevant to debate with them or even speculate on why they have specific likes and dislikes.

That isn't to say that we cannot discern the areas that 4e could be improved on by looking at what people have said. I think some forms of complaints are largely spurious when considering 4e IN AND OF ITSELF as a game. For example I put the "classes are too much the same" complaint in this category. Its not a complaint about 4e, its a complaint that arises out of an expectation from a different game.

As for the whole thing with Rituals and being an area that 'needed improvement', I think my answer to that is that the text of the rituals themselves needs improvement. I also think that perhaps even using a scroll might want to be a trained only skill use, and that certainly casting a ritual itself should require training in the requisite skill(s). I think there might be more skills involved as well, though not TOO many. This would force ritual casters to specialize a bit and make things more interesting.

As far as the ritual text itself, I think ALL rituals should be scaling. Many of them are simply due to being a 'beat some DC' sort of thing (like Knock where you have to beat the DC of the 'lock'). Many others however don't have scaling effects at all. These rituals often suffer from becoming trivial at higher levels or are too powerful all around. The other thing that should have happened is that rituals costs should scale with results. If you are getting flying steeds from your Phantom Steeds, that's kinda expensive but getting an ordinary riding horse costs next to nothing.

I think the other thing is that rituals should probably be devised to be a bit more immediately relevant in adventuring. A lot of them ARE, but a LOT of them are pretty auxiliary and it seems to me almost like the design decree from on high was "rituals should never be required to make things work, they should always be an alternate way to do things". Obviously that inherently makes the whole system redundant.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
snip... design decree from on high was "rituals should never be required to make things work, they should always be an alternate way to do things". Obviously that inherently makes the whole system redundant.
That part struck me. I'd never actually connected that set of dots. If it is true (and, at the moment, it really feels like it is), it would explain so much!

Mind blown...

On the other hand - I think we're kind of straying from the point of the thread (my fault as much as anyone's) - I will thus try and refrain from further deviations. Like this one right here, that I'm doing right now.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I think the area that is the most illustrative is the lack of grokking of how Keywords and the exception-based design philosophy are meant to work together.

<snip>

The 4e power statblock is meant to elegantly provide (a) only the necessities to facilitate minimal handling time in combat (single target or AoE, ranged or melee, action economy, etc) while also providing (b) the Keyword infrastructure such that when a player proposes an exception-based usage, the GM has the means to adjudicate the effect on the environment. The GM knows that Fire is "explosive bursts, fiery rays, or simple ignition." So if the player of the Wizard is in a Skill Challenge and wants to deploy the spell to ignite materials (for whatever reason), this is an exception (though clearly orthodox) to its standard stat-block usage. The GM uses the of-level math to determine a DC and the player rolls an Arcana check with the outcome being either intended effect (ignition for whatever sought end) or some kind of complication (perhaps still ignition but things may go pear-shaped because the fire/smoke becomes a hazard/impediment to be overcome).

Instead of this being intuitive/easily grokked because the Keyword system and exception-based design philosophy is comprehended, we get:

- "This powers system means there is no magic and/or martial characters are casting spells."

and/or

- "Players can't use any fire spells to cause ignition of building materials (etc) because the target line reads 'creatures'..."
This is what puzzles me about the current mantra of "rulings not rules". 4e seems pretty "rulings" focused, to me at least.

Unfortunately there is no section in the rules pertaining to this. I don't even see any indication that the designers INTENDED keywords to work in this fashion. I think it is probable that it was something they THOUGHT OF at some point, in passing, but that the primary intent for keywords was the purely mechanistic interaction with other game elements (IE vulnerability/immunity, other powers, items, feats, etc).

Regardless, they failed utterly to even mention the narrative function of keywords (which is more obvious, the DM describes the fire attack as FIRE, but still not ever discussed). More critically they failed to mention the use you describe, the extension of the rules into areas that aren't covered explicitly, the use of 'Page 42' and its ilk. It was a fatal oversight.
I think they clearly thought of it when writing the object-damage rules in the DMG.

Outside of that context, I'm not sure if they overlooked it, or rather if they just took it for granted as something obvious. As I've often pointed out, the Moldvay Basic fireball spell also mentions only damage to creatures, but we always took it as obvious that you can use a fireball to set things on fire!
 

keterys

First Post
That part struck me. I'd never actually connected that set of dots. If it is true (and, at the moment, it really feels like it is), it would explain so much!

Mind blown...
Note that rituals were excised from the rules entirely with Essentials, not part of any class or even referred to. When I was designing adventures, I had to ensure that I never assumed ritual use (since I had no idea what PCs might play the adventure) which did limit the scope of possibilities. At the same time, I didn't want any ritual to completely alter the way an adventure might work, since I couldn't expect DMs to cope.

It did lead to me putting in a boilerplate reminder about the two rituals that let you extended rest in the middle of the day, since everyone always wanted to use them. People _always_ conveniently forgot the restriction on Fast Recuperation (no, seriously, you can't have had an extended rest in the last 12 hours) and I just had to point out that Solace Bole was from Dungeon and if your character had it, hey, you were cheating (for the campaign, home use do what you want), so that's that ;)

Anyhow, I agree that rituals weren't the best developed part of the system. One thing that struck me particularly as odd was that there wasn't more crossover with magic items. After all, if one group has a passwall item and another has a passwall ritual, you can work around that quite easily.
 

This is what puzzles me about the current mantra of "rulings not rules". 4e seems pretty "rulings" focused, to me at least.
Clearly when there are very detailed rules in ANY given area of an RPG the average GM/player basically seems to assume (at least these days) that said game will be very circumscribed. If we haven't heard 1000 times that 4e "only allows what is in the rules" in some form or other I'm a rubber duck.
I think they clearly thought of it when writing the object-damage rules in the DMG.
Except of course that oddly created the opposite effect. By actually covering one set of common situations that would come up they didn't create an exemplar of how to apply the rules, they just created one more specific rule subsystem that handled those few cases and apparently begged for more. What needed to happen was there needed to be a chapter called "what is beyond the rules, how narrative drives your story" that pounded out about 50 examples of ways you could utilize the different rules elements contextually in your narrative. Clearly whatever imagination it was that sparked the days of early D&D LONGGGGG since fled away from the vast bulk of the community at some point and has to be awakened very explicitly if it is to be relied on.

Outside of that context, I'm not sure if they overlooked it, or rather if they just took it for granted as something obvious. As I've often pointed out, the Moldvay Basic fireball spell also mentions only damage to creatures, but we always took it as obvious that you can use a fireball to set things on fire!

Yeah, it wasn't any more present in earlier editions except sporadically.

Honestly, here's the difference. The 1e rules (as an example) are really so fragmentary and incomplete that they cannot serve as an all-encompassing guide to making rulings in a game. They can serve to rule on the things that they cover, a lot of common situations. They DO give 'advice' on a lot of other situations, and on DMing generally, and it is all very much based in narrative. The 'rules' as such are just little raisins floating in a narrative pudding. So people MUST focus on the narrative needs of the game. The DM's experience is one of being continually faced with situations that are either wholly unique or at least different enough from past situations to require some sort of ruling, and since there is nothing approaching the unified check sort of d20 system of 3e or 4e its always 'wing it'.

If you run 4e (and 3.5 too pretty much) you have a different situation where there are universal mechanics and you CAN stick pretty much to 'the book' in combat at least and something will keep happening, you can go to 'board-game mode'. You can just make it clear that you're only going to apply rules and not ever extrapolate and your job gets very easy and the game is skirmish combat with some sort of varying quality of dialog in-between. Its a terrible way to run a game (unless your players love to play just nothing but minis and don't really RP much). The thing is its the lazy way so it is the most common way.

So, we can clearly see where different experiences come from. I learned the brutally difficult art of running an OD&D game from scratch, with barely even any time as a player and at age 12. It GOT easy, of course it got easy after years, but it was still hard. So when I come along and start running 4e I just laugh and think to myself "great, this is easy, it takes me 5 minutes to make an encounter and I have keywords and page 42 and whatever for in-game when someone pulls out the stops" and it works and there's no 'board game' in sight because I'm WAY into my narrative that I know have a huge amount of time for and rules aren't going to get in my way. But then there's I guess some other guy that just always really wanted a rule for everything if he could find one, and now he can....
 

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