D&D 4E Anyone playing 4e at the moment?

lockyreid

Explorer
Can you elaborate on a few of the changes? I'm very curious. Thanks!
Here are my basic house rules:
  • Only books players use for options: PHB1-3, AV1-2 and the x-Power line of books. No magazines, or other supplements. Keeps options interesting but low and reduces huge power creep.
  • I don't use treasure wishlists. Instead I randomly generate magic items for each parcel, and I 'drop' twice as many items, to make up for the randomness. Makes loot very fun and exciting, and the players get enough gold + junk items, to be able to buy enough to fill in mising slots, or save up for a juicy item they want.
  • All monsters (excluding minions) have half hp. So they start at their bloodied value, and become bloodied at 1/4. Speeds up combats a lot.
  • All monsters (excluding minions) do 2x dice damage and 1x flat damage. so a monster attacking for 2d8+7 is now 4d8+7. Balances out the half hp by making monsters hit a lot harder. This causes more 'spike' damage with big hits and huge crits, increasing the tension and making some enemies quite terrifying. Combined with the half hp this makes fights fast but intense.

Keeping options open but restricted has made the bloat of 4e easier to manage, and we can use the digital tools for the players, though I do have the physical books for looking up stuff at the table.
And speeding fights up takes fight closer to the quick and dangerous fights more common in things like pathfinder. Since this change the only time we've had a session with only combat was a big epic boss encounter with plenty of stuff going on. With the faster combat we've had more time for RP and exploration during each session.
 

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When I run actual 4e, I run it straight up by the book, HOWEVER I don't consider 4e to be a lot like other D&Ds. If you read the first couple pages of the 4e PHB1 and DMG1, and then go read the 'agenda' and 'principles' parts of the Dungeon World rules, you will see that they are actually evoking very much the same concept. It is just that WotC put it very mildly, used a much more low-key rules implementation of it, almost slid 'Story Game' in the back door. And then Mike Mearls came along and utterly did not understand what they were doing, not even a little bit. Maybe it wasn't even him particularly, but half the team was in some other universe. They tried and tried to put the genie back into the bottle, but you cannot really do it.

So, a LOT, maybe most, people mistook 4e for some sort of "tactical D&D", but that is NOT WHAT IT IS. It is a hardcore action adventure fantasy genre Story Now design. And that is how it plays best, IMHO. I mentioned extreme action before, there should be something exploding, burning, collapsing, etc. ALL THE TIME. The GM should be listening to the players, asking questions, guiding the action towards what they signal is 'story' for them. Things like backgrounds, themes, PPs, EDs, feats, power choices, etc. are all big here. Build on that. If the dwarf wants to be 'berserk axe dwarf', well then play to that! And build on his story, why is he like that? What does he want? etc.

Keep laying the pressure on the PCs too. Just lard it on. If they think they're in the sheep dip now, they ain't seen nothin' yet! You can push HARD in this game, and then when they think they've had enough, you can push harder. Characters have a big battery, they will come back from 99% dead, and get up and fight again. And read DMG2, it has a lot of ideas and tools that work to help showcase the story and move it forward, and make the DM's job easier (and much stronger SC rules).

And don't listen to people who say SCs don't work. They read DMG1 and were sad. They gave up and never got the part where an SC is a STORY, maybe a small one, but it should have a PLOT and go through at least a couple transitions. If you think of it as a little mini-adventure, one that keeps moving forward into different connected situations, then it will all work fine. DMG1 just totally had horrible examples, and some very rough alpha-quality mechanics.
 

Also, I think classes are a very strong part of 4e. I would NEVER 'just use source and role'. I think that is the part about Strike! that made it uninteresting. Source and Role is a great design framework for making classes. It can inform play too, but the classes with strong clear roles and built thematically to source, WORK and are sound. That is not just chance. Strong thematics and concept is what leads to solidly built classes. Every single 4e class works (there are a few later ones that aren't great, but they still work well).
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Interesting read @AbdulAlhazred
Are you saying that when Mearls tried to "save" it with Essentials, he was actually doing the wrong thing, or?
While I adore Essentials, I’ll be the first to admit it was a horribly unfocused mess. It was trying to be a 4.5e without invalidating any existing 4e material, and appeal to 3e fans, and codify a number or math fixes that had gradually been working their way into the system. all while being marketed as a streamlined new-player-friendly introductory product. I appreciated it for its redone class designs (which I maintain were excellent), but it had some serious identity issues.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
This, absolutely. 4e is one of my favorite RPGs, period. I continue to hold out hope that, in the future, it will gain new relevance for game design.
I think that it will (and likely already has). 4e has obviously influenced the design of 13th Age, 5e D&D, and Pathfinder 2, but I think you can also see the influence of 4e in games like Shadow of the Demon Lord and Lancer. Now that the edition wars have mostly faded, it's a little easier to talk positively about 4e with less vitriol spilled. From the fan-side of things, there are a number of 4e retrospectives on YouTube that are actually quite positive about the contributions and design features of 4e. Matt Colville, for example, has praised 4e monster design, minions, skill challenges, and bloodied condition among a number of other things from 4e.

However, it may take a 4e Renaissance for people to look back to the intentional design of 4e in the same way that OSR looked back at (mainly) the intentional design of B/X & 1e D&D if there is to be any hope of rekindling a resurgence of 4e in the TTRPG design space.
 
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Interesting read @AbdulAlhazred
Are you saying that when Mearls tried to "save" it with Essentials, he was actually doing the wrong thing, or?
You know, Mike Mearls seems like a pretty intelligent guy, with a wide background in game design, and should clearly understand the concepts and techniques which drive 'Story Now' play. Yet he displayed a desire to build these very classic setpiece static encounter filled adventures for 4e. So, either somehow he missed what it was all about, simply wasn't able to deliver, or really dislikes the concept and decided to try to reframe the game in classic Gygaxian D&D terms. Obviously Bill Slavicsek, James Wyatt, Collins, Heinsoo, et al were all in the mix, certainly in the first couple of years, too. So, perhaps we can speculate that 4e's overall course is a muddle between a 'classic D&D faction' and a 'D&D as Story Game' faction.

Inarguably the 'save' that Essentials was supposed to be was a flop. I mean, I don't really hate the material, I just think it was a waste of time and energy that could have been spent better on other things. There were a LOT of areas where 4e, pre-Essentials, had mapped out some area to explore, but then simply left it fallow. I feel like overall there was weak leadership throughout. A failure of the team to coalesce around a single vision, identify the most productive approaches, prune away dead wood before it got into publication, and just basically steer the ship in a good direction. So, yeah, Mike was not doing the 'right' thing, OTOH the problems started much earlier.

I think 3e was a smaller core team that was more focused. 1e was simply Gygax says it shall be this way. Other editions have tended to lose their way. 2e wandered off into 'GM Storyteller' and a rat maze of unstructured player options. 4e just couldn't bring itself to focus on what was best about itself. 5e at least I can give them credit for, so far, not getting too lost in the woods. I don't really like it, but it mostly sticks to doing what it does consistently.

So, for me, 4e means doubling down on the Story Now aspect and just running with it. When I run 4e it is about "what direction do the players want to go in" and making the world really seriously 'magical' and 'mythic' in feel. It isn't about plodding around counting torches, rations, and gold pieces. It is about being that guy who stands between the darkness and the only bit of civilization you are sure still exists. And the monsters are out there, and if you will all survive, your going to have to do some impossible stuff! But you're up for it, because YOU are a hero. Death awaits perhaps, but it will be no ordinary death. You will risk it all and either win big or die trying.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
You know, Mike Mearls seems like a pretty intelligent guy, with a wide background in game design, and should clearly understand the concepts and techniques which drive 'Story Now' play. Yet he displayed a desire to build these very classic setpiece static encounter filled adventures for 4e.
To be fair, story now is a difficult thing to write canned modules for. How do you follow what the players want to do when the adventure is already written start to finish.

This isn’t a problem unique to 4e though. Pre-written adventures are just not great at showing what a system can do.
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
These were my 4e house rules, but its been a couple of years since I last ran a 4e game:

I design tough set piece encounters and expect every encounter to potentially be a fight to the death. I never use wandering monsters, and every encounter is driven by the story and/or the actions of the PCs themselves. I use the following house rules in my game:

Character Creation:

All WotC books available for use with errata required.
One Expertise feat for free.
One Background OR one free multi-class feat.
One Theme (optional) - Some of my players didn't take a theme. Some did.
Inherent Bonuses are used.
During extended in-game downtime or when levelling up, can retrain any feat or power that you like.

In play rules:

No XP. You level when its story appropriate.
13th Age Escalation Die is used
One AP every encounter. Use it or lose it.
Any expended Encounter power can be recovered by spending a Standard Action with two caveats: You cannot use this rule to recover an Encounter power that already comes with built-in rules on its recovery or use (such as the Avengers class power, or Healing Word). You cannot recover an Encounter power that grants additional actions (to avoid infinite action combos).

DM Rules:

All monsters gain a damage bonus of +5 per tier to any attack or aura that does damage. Pre-MM3 monsters get +10 damage per tier.
Pre-MM3 solos get two intiative counts and a full set of actions on each count.
Solos make saves at the beginning of their turns.
Any elite or solo monster can choose to end a condition inflicted upon them (regardless of its normal duration) at the beginning of their turn but take 10 damage per tier of the PC who inflicted the condition. I use this sparingly, generally only if the PC's are over-using a stun locking combo.
 

To be fair, story now is a difficult thing to write canned modules for. How do you follow what the players want to do when the adventure is already written start to finish.

This isn’t a problem unique to 4e though. Pre-written adventures are just not great at showing what a system can do.
Yeah, I agree. OTOH KotS was the first, the prototype, of 4e adventures, though. It is basically as bad as it is possible to be. I mean, there are a COUPLE of points in even that adventure where they ACCIDENTALLY allowed in a crack of light. The sequence where the PCs take on the kobolds and get jumped by some toughs had potential. There was also a brief glimpse of some open narrative in the town part, though the structure of the adventure didn't exactly lean into doing much with it.

It just presented one dull 'steel cage death match' fight in tight quarters after another. Then there were the ham fisted Skill Challenges (well, I think there were two in the whole module, and both sucked). So, if Mike was trying to do something that would pass muster in a Story Now sense, he wasn't up to the task. Ironically the 1st 5e module is VASTLY better in this sense (mediocre, but still). At least it is reasonably non-linear and admits of a number of possible outcomes, although it seemed like there was a kind of 'golden path' that the DM could just run on rails if they wanted. Still, I would not call it a bad adventure, and it has potential in a Story Game sense. I never read Reavers of Harkenwold etc. They are supposed to be better, but I still suspect they're not really super story oriented. Gardmore Abbey is, but that is literally the last published 4e adventure, too little too late.
 

You could say we had one house rule, like @Dragonblade we never bothered with XP tracking. When a PC did something significant, or the story reached an appropriate point, the PCs leveled up. It was generally ever other week, just to give them a cadence where they could update their PCs and then spend a couple sessions at the new level before moving on to more fun stuff. Now and then there were one week or three week advances.
 


Hey, Keep on the Shadowfell has some serious problems but at least it wasn’t as bad as Horde of the Dragon Queen.
I wouldn't know... lol. I mean, the premise of HDQ doesn't sound terrible to me "uncover the machinations of the Evil Dragons." The devil is in the details though, so...

TBH I think the premise of KotS is rather weaker actually. It amounts to "there's something bad going on out at the old ruins, go delve!" with a number of preliminary/side quests that really don't seem needed and who's plot elements are not well spelled out. I guess either premise could lead most anywhere though.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I wouldn't know... lol. I mean, the premise of HDQ doesn't sound terrible to me "uncover the machinations of the Evil Dragons." The devil is in the details though, so...
Yeah, the premise is quite good! Unfortunately the adventure is one of the most egregious railroads I’ve ever seen, as well as having serious balance issues thanks to it being written while the 5e rules were still being finalized. I hear the Tyranny of Dragons revision helped with the latter issue, but there’s no fixing the former.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
AbdulAlhazred mentioned the "Kobold Hall" mini-adventure that's in the back of the DMG.

If you run that, make the first room have a trap: the two squares in front of the pool should collapse as soon as a character steps on one of them, tossing the character into the pool. The pool should cause ongoing poison damage (save ends--when the character gets put of the pool). The kobolds reveal themselves, and start slinging gluepots/stinkpots/whatever.

Change the end dragon from white to green (hence, the poisonous pool. In fact, make poison a theme--the kobolds use poisoned weapons, some of them seem sickly and weak, the air smells bad, etc.).

Put in some hostages in the last room (before the dragon's lair) that the characters want to protect (children, relatives, important persons, etc.), but who get in the way.

Add more treasure; it is a dragon's lair, after all, and this dragon has been having the kobolds attack travelers and merchant caravans for some time, plus, it has plundered the hall, so the loot should be good.
 
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AbdulAlhazred mentioned the "Kobold Hall" mini-adventure that's in the back of the DMG.

If you run that, make the first room have a trap: the two squares in front of the pool should collapse as soon as a character steps on one of them, tossing the character into the pool. The pool should cause ongoing poison damage (save ends--when the character gets put of the pool). The kobolds reveal themselves, and start slinging gluepots/stinkpots/whatever.

Change the end dragon from white to green (hence, the poisonous pool. In fact, make poison a theme--the kobolds use poisoned weapons, some of them seem sickly and weak, the air smells bad, etc.).

Put in some hostages in the last room (before the dragon's lair) that the characters want to protect (children, relatives, important persons, etc.), but who get in the way.

Add more treasure; it is a dragon's lair, after all, and this dragon has been having the kobolds attack travelers and merchant caravans for some time, plus, it has plundered the hall, so the loot should be good.
Those sound like decent ideas, the white dragon was a bit odd, though I think it was there mostly because it is the weakest of all dragons in MM1 (there are no hatchlings in MM1, they were added in Draconomicon I guess). Anyway, most of this dungeon is pretty OK. Remember to grant a milestone, and maybe it won't hurt if there's a healing potion or two lying around. They don't technically do much to increase actual healing, but it won't hurt, and getting all the way through to the end in one 'day' is a good workout for new 4e players.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
Those sound like decent ideas, the white dragon was a bit odd, though I think it was there mostly because it is the weakest of all dragons in MM1 (there are no hatchlings in MM1, they were added in Draconomicon I guess). Anyway, most of this dungeon is pretty OK. Remember to grant a milestone, and maybe it won't hurt if there's a healing potion or two lying around. They don't technically do much to increase actual healing, but it won't hurt, and getting all the way through to the end in one 'day' is a good workout for new 4e players.
Thanks!

Part of the point is that the kobolds have lived in this dungeon for some time, and they will have had time to make it comfortable for themselves. Kobolds like to use traps

What do kobolds eat? My first guess is insects and small animals. Describe piles of ratbones and empty beetle carapaces lying around.

The dragon has lived here, too, although for how long isnt specified. It has its own way of dealing with intruders. What do dragons eat? Traditionally fair maidens; so, people. There's your reason for prisoners.

Maybe put in the remains of previous adventuring parties scattered through the rooms.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
Build up the "something's wrong, here" aspect, as the players progress. Remember "the Paths of the Dead" in Lord of the Rings? The body of a dead warrior lying in front of a door nearly distracted Aragorn from continuing on his way. Maybe put the dead body of an adventurer somewhere that is bait for a crude trap.

At some point, describe that they have the feeling of being intently watched by someone in the room, but they see no one. If they investigate, the feeling passes. If they defeat the dragon, a ring of invisibility is part of the treasure--the dragon was using it to spy on them.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
In the fight with the dragon, make the dragon reprehensible. Introduce a half-starved, whimpering dog to the party. Have it help the party. Have it warm up to one member, especially.


Then, have the dragon kill it.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
Remember that both kobolds and dragons have darkvision; there is no need for them to have light in any part of the dungeon. The only light the adventurers have is what they bring.

In fights, the first priority of the kobolds is to douse the lights--throw water on torches, knock sunrods from the adventurers' hands and kick them away.
 

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