D&D 4E Inquiry: How do 4E fans feel about 4E Essentials?

LoganRan

Explorer
My first time starting a thread...be gentle. ;)

I am currently active in the Survivor: D&D Edition thread on the forum and have observed that while there are plenty of participants in said thread who like 4E I have yet to see a single upvote for 4E Essentials. I never played either version of 4E, have only a cursory knowledge of 4E and know nothing about Essentials.

So, 4E devotees, what were the changes made in Essentials that you dislike?

If there are any fans of Essentials actually out there, what were the changes that you DID like?

NOTE: I am genuinely curious about this topic and have ZERO interest in starting any kind of intra edition flame war, so please lets try to keep things civil.
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
In general prior to Essentials as a 4e GM I did not have to pay attention to things like the length of the adventuring day if I wanted the game to be balanced. I just basically run it however I wanted. The Essentials classes changed all that.

Even more importantly for me I really appreciated the 4e lore and Essentials walked back pretty much all of the conflict rich 4e specific lore for a more conflict neutral approach to the lore that was more reminiscent of previous editions.
 


LoganRan

Explorer
In general prior to Essentials as a 4e GM I did not have to pay attention to things like the length of the adventuring day if I wanted the game to be balanced. I just basically run it however I wanted. The Essentials classes changed all that.

Even more importantly for me I really appreciated the 4e lore and Essentials walked back pretty much all of the conflict rich 4e specific lore for a more conflict neutral approach to the lore that was more reminiscent of previous editions.
If it isn't too much trouble, could you elaborate on this topic. What changed about the classes?

(as I stated in my OP, I know absolutely nothing about the Essentials line except that it exists)
 

Retreater

Legend
I do like Essentials, but there are parts I prefer about the core 4E game. I think there is much more variety and interesting combinations of characters (more races, classes, powers, etc.) and more monsters.
Essentials is more limited, but easier to play. I guess it feels sort of like "beginner box" 4E. Still a lot of fun, great for one-shots/convention play, but I don't think that I could run a satisfying campaign with only it - there's just not enough options.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Although there are some design principles of 4e that are really not in line with the types of game that we run, I really liked some additions of the 4e lore, Feywild and Shadowfell, Raven Queen, Points of Light, etc. For me, the Essentials were mostly a money-grabbing operation, the game engine was running fine if that was what you were looking for.
 

the Jester

Legend
If it isn't too much trouble, could you elaborate on this topic. What changed about the classes?

(as I stated in my OP, I know absolutely nothing about the Essentials line except that it exists)
I'd be curious as to this, too. In my experience, 4eE characters did nothing to change the adventuring day or pacing- they all had at will, encounter, and daily powers, just like original 4e pcs. They just had a different way of achieving it.

Personally, I loved Essentials, thought it did a great job of answering the (totally legit) criticism that every class felt very samey with their powers, and ran 4eE and 4eO characters side by side with no problems.
 

Randomthoughts

Adventurer
So, 4E devotees, what were the changes made in Essentials that you dislike?

If there are any fans of Essentials actually out there, what were the changes that you DID like?
I'm neutral toward Essentials. I liked the AEDU structure found pre-Essentials and Essentials included classes like the Slayer who didn't follow that structure. But I found those classes to be compatible with pre-4e so didn't see any problems.

I recall back in the day how some folks saw Essentials as a betrayal of 4e's original design. Personally, I found the whole branding campaign to be a bit muddled. Was it a new design paradigm for 4e? I didn't find that much changed (besides new player classes).

The new player handbooks came out September and November 2010. I didn't care much for them but found some players did (especially the slayer, as an "easy-to-run" fighter). The Rules Compendium also came out in September 2010, which I had used extensively as a reference book during my run with 4e. So, go figure?
 

HammerMan

Legend
I'm neutral toward Essentials. I liked the AEDU structure found pre-Essentials and Essentials included classes like the Slayer who didn't follow that structure. But I found those classes to be compatible with pre-4e so didn't see any problems.

I recall back in the day how some folks saw Essentials as a betrayal of 4e's original design. Personally, I found the whole branding campaign to be a bit muddled. Was it a new design paradigm for 4e? I didn't find that much changed (besides new player classes).

The new player handbooks came out September and November 2010. I didn't care much for them but found some players did (especially the slayer, as an "easy-to-run" fighter). The Rules Compendium also came out in September 2010, which I had used extensively as a reference book during my run with 4e. So, go figure?

I mean the slayer just had there encounter powers pre selected (The hit for more damage one) and upped there damage... as a variant Fighter I loved it. I even played one that swapped one (hit for more damage) encounter power out for a regulars fighter encounter power and it played beautifully.

Having said that the Psionic classes for PHB3 had already pushed the A/U/E/D mindset. They had more at wills and power points to boost at wills into daily/encounter range... wait maybe they still had dailies?

I honestly wish they took everything they learned from essentials and all of 4e to build 5e instead of the step back we had. 4e needed help (the addition of theme and those later non AUED classes helped show how it could grow.)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I actually love Essentials, I just haven’t been upvoting it in the Survivor thread because I know it’s less popular among 4e fans and I want some version of 4e to last as long as it can. I’m playing strategically and picking my battles.

As for what I like about Essentials, I like that classes don’t all follow the same structure. This kinda started with the PHB3, where psionic classes had a different power structure than others, but Essentials revised the other classes and gave each power source its own structural feel, which I thought was really cool. In pre-essentials 4e, your class’s role made a real gameplay difference, but unless you were a psionic class, your class’s power source was mostly just flavor. Essentials changed that. It did come at the cost of a certain level of game balance, and it made it so as a DM you had to pay a bit more attention to the structure of the adventuring day, so I can see why other 4e DMs didn’t care for it. But I actually quite liked that about it.

Another thing Essentials did that I liked was it changed a lot of at-will powers to modify your basic attacks instead of being attacks themselves. I found that a common experience with new 4e players was having to sort of teach them not to use basic attacks. I don’t know if anyone else had this experience, but I often found that new players would assume their at-will attack powers were “for” specific situations and would default to basic attacks if they didn’t know which at-will power was “best” to use in any given moment. And there would end up being a conversation about how “you might as well use one of your at-will powers instead, because it’s pretty much the same as a basic attack, but better,” and once they caught on it would be like “why do basic attacks even exist then?” Essentials “fixed” that by re-working a lot of the old at-will powers from attacks to stances or reactions that modified your basic attacks to do the thing the original version of the power did.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Overall, I'm pretty neutral. But do understand that at the time, I had splurged an obscene amount of money on 4E books as WotC bombarbed us with material over three years. I played a ton of 4E, had some of my best TTRPG moments with it. Then, a mere three years or so after I got into it, they release a new set of books that invalidate some of the books I had.

For me, it was too early. I didn't want to invalidate hundreds of dollars of purchases (PHBs, Monster books). I bought Essentials out of curiosity and collection when it came out, but I had little intention to play it. I've been going back to it (mostly reading) in the years after, and I think it is positively mostly good changes. But I never played it.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I can't really say that I dislike Essentials as much as what it implied. On its own, I enjoy the cleaner, streamlining of the game itself. It was easy to see how it could run entirely without any previous 4e material and it would feel like a complete game. And while it is technically compatible with the older books, it really muddied the waters for people who were completely happy with the original structure of the game. It's not so much that we were allowed to choose if we wanted to do so or not, but it felt like a strong insistence that everyone should.

Also worth noting, Essentials became the only acceptable options for the Encounters program. So it wasn't even a gentle nudge at the point.

Regarding the survivor thread, it should be a matter of personal experience not dictated by popular opinion or thought. When I choose to play or run 4e, it is either pre-Essentials or Essentials only. Both are acceptable options for me. So I understand some of the animosity towards it from 4e fans. Its not unlike the 3.5 crowd trying to bury 3.0 or Pathfinder. :D
 

HammerMan

Legend
Another thing Essentials did that I liked was it changed a lot of at-will powers to modify your basic attacks instead of being attacks themselves. I found that a common experience with new 4e players was having to sort of teach them not to use basic attacks.
I agree, another good change. I think if they even had a pool of powersource at wills/always on that some did that it would do wonders...
 

Lord Shark

Explorer
As a 4E fan, I think the biggest problem with Essentials is not the books themselves but how poorly they were marketed. WotC wasn't clear about whether Essentials was meant as a replacement for the original books -- i.e., a "4.5E" -- or whether it was meant as a supplement to the game, and it produced a lot of confusion and arguments, especially since those of us who had been supporting the game all along were concerned about what it meant for the future.

I also don't find many of the Essentials classes very interesting or well designed. The slayer and knight are boring compared to the PHB fighter. There was also dreck like the binder, bladesinger, and witch that had apparently never passed a playtester; they were strictly worse than their parent classes.

I don't hate all the classes, though. The Essentials mage is an improvement on the PHB wizard, although possibly a bit overpowered. I did like the hexblade as well. The thief and scout looked interesting but I've never seen them in play. I liked the concept of the vampire, although it really needed a redesign and better balance. The elementalist sorcerer wasn't to my taste but it was a great example of what a simple caster class could look like (as opposed to the model of having all martial classes be simple and all caster classes be complex).

Beyond the classes, the Rules Compendium is really handy to have, and the Monster Vault books were an outstanding and necessary revision, so it wasn't all bad.
 
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Undrave

Hero
I'll probably have more to say, but the thing that stung the most was the feeling of 'giving in' to the Grognards. Walking back stuff to 3e, adding all that useless 'naturalistic language' that was really repetitive, and a lot of muddying of the great 4e Lore. It also felt like a lot of the classes in need of fleshing out were being kicked to the curb just to give us a redundant 'Mage' and bringing back the sacrosanct School of Magics, for exemple.
 

Undrave

Hero
The Essentials mage is an improvement on the PHB wizard, although possibly a bit overpowered
Considering how much the 4e Lead had to fight his team to keep the Wizard balanced... it was probably on purpose, even if only subconsciously.

I don't know if it's because it's the name of the company or just old school player bias, but the Wizard is WOTC's favorite class and you KNOW they give more weight to the grievance of Wizard players... who are also the most vocal whiners the moment somebody else gets a piece of the spotlight...

No I'm not bitter, what are you talking about?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Overall, I'm pretty neutral. But do understand that at the time, I had splurged an obscene amount of money on 4E books as WotC bombarbed us with material over three years. I played a ton of 4E, had some of my best TTRPG moments with it. Then, a mere three years or so after I got into it, they release a new set of books that invalidate some of the books I had.

For me, it was too early. I didn't want to invalidate hundreds of dollars of purchases (PHBs, Monster books). I bought Essentials out of curiosity and collection when it came out, but I had little intention to play it. I've been going back to it (mostly reading) in the years after, and I think it is positively mostly good changes. But I never played it.
I think this was mostly a marketing fail. While Essentials played great standalone, it also played great alongside the rest of 4e. But the marketing couldn’t decide if it was a beginner’s set, or an add-on to 4e, or a 4.5e, or “fixing” 4e, or what.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I don't hate all the classes, though. The Essentials mage is an improvement on the PHB wizard, although possibly a bit overpowered. I did like the hexblade as well. The thief and scout looked interesting but I've never seen them in play.
I loved the Essentials Thief. But it was kind of a “solved” class. There was one optimal way to build them, and not a lot of room to make it your own, short of just playing an unoptimized character.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think this was mostly a marketing fail. While Essentials played great standalone, it also played great alongside the rest of 4e. But the marketing couldn’t decide if it was a beginner’s set, or an add-on to 4e, or a 4.5e, or “fixing” 4e, or what.
Jein. It could be played alongside the rest of 4e, but it couldn't really be played "great alongside the rest of 4e" without quite a large amount of errata that plagued a lot of the early releases, especially until the math got fixed.

Wow, really? I didn’t know that. That definitely adds some context to the hate Essentials got from other 4e fans at the time.
Which precluded Warlords too.
 

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