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

I don't know. Who cares about any point you're trying to make here? Who cares about any of this really? Is this the route that you wanna take, Neonchameleon? A rude hand-waved dismissal?
My point is that if schools are something that apply only to wizards (as, in practice, they do) and wizards can't heal (which they can't) then that healing doesn't fit in the schools of magic doesn't matter. It is a type of magic that wizards don't categorise well because they don't do.

It's little more relevant a criticism than "Is a longbow a handgun or a rifle?" Well, no, it's not either although it might have some characteristics that overlap.
I'm skeptical that they do work because it's pretty clear that many spells that exist in the game exist to be work-arounds for the different schools of magic, as in how many ways can non-evocation schools of magic get spells that are damaging evocation spells in all but name? Or to put it another way, let's take the spells from the PHB and give them to someone who doesn't have any foreknowledge of which spells belong to which tradition, give them tradition guidelines, and then ask them to sort the spells into the various traditions. What is the likelihood that many or most would end up in the expected tradition? We could even repeat this experiment with different people. I suspect that the thematic groupings
And once more you are asking questions that aren't particularly relevant. Indeed you're falling down exactly the same purity rabbit hole that the attempts to put schools of magic in opposition to each other made. To quote you:
Most new players, IME, approach magic more thematically. For example, they want to play an elementalist, or a fire mage, or a dark magic, etc.
And you were absolutely right. But in order to play a dark mage (which as mentioned isn't catered to in D&D 5e as it uses the same school as the necromancer*) then the dark mage needs to be able to cast damaging dark spells that do shadowy things. And yes some of these dark and damaging spells will mechanically look like evocations. But they need to be there to enable the thematic casters to work properly.

You are making exactly the mistake made between Unearthed Arcana and the end of 3.5 with opposition schools of magic. Schools of magic should serve the game, not the other way around. The goal of schools of magic should be to encourage more viable character types - not to sacrifice viable character types on the procrustean bed of a defined magic system. And if that means almost doubling up some spells to put them in different schools then that's not a problem. If it means that some spells have multiple school tags attached then that's not a problem either.

* This is actually a mistake made by the 5e designers getting fluffier. When the pre-4e specialist wizards were bland and just got extra spells and +1s in their school then having the Necromancer and Nethermancer as the same school of magic made sense; necromancers cast dark spells because of course they do. And Nethermancers sometimes raise wraiths and skeletons. The same school covered both because there was about a 75% overlap between what they did and if you didn't want the rest of the school you just didn't take the spells. But with 5e actually making specialist wizards better at their own types of magic 100% of the dark-and-necromantic school went to the Necromancer specialism.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Aldarc

Legend
My point is that if schools are something that apply only to wizards (as, in practice, they do) and wizards can't heal (which they can't) then that healing doesn't fit in the schools of magic doesn't matter. It is a type of magic that wizards don't categorise well because they don't do.

It's little more relevant a criticism than "Is a longbow a handgun or a rifle?" Well, no, it's not either although it might have some characteristics that overlap.

And once more you are asking questions that aren't particularly relevant. Indeed you're falling down exactly the same purity rabbit hole that the attempts to put schools of magic in opposition to each other made. To quote you:
Most new players, IME, approach magic more thematically. For example, they want to play an elementalist, or a fire mage, or a dark magic, etc.
And you were absolutely right. But in order to play a dark mage (which as mentioned isn't catered to in D&D 5e as it uses the same school as the necromancer*) then the dark mage needs to be able to cast damaging dark spells that do shadowy things. And yes some of these dark and damaging spells will mechanically look like evocations. But they need to be there to enable the thematic casters to work properly.

You are making exactly the mistake made between Unearthed Arcana and the end of 3.5 with opposition schools of magic. Schools of magic should serve the game, not the other way around. The goal of schools of magic should be to encourage more viable character types - not to sacrifice viable character types on the procrustean bed of a defined magic system. And if that means almost doubling up some spells to put them in different schools then that's not a problem. If it means that some spells have multiple school tags attached then that's not a problem either.

* This is actually a mistake made by the 5e designers getting fluffier. When the pre-4e specialist wizards were bland and just got extra spells and +1s in their school then having the Necromancer and Nethermancer as the same school of magic made sense; necromancers cast dark spells because of course they do. And Nethermancers sometimes raise wraiths and skeletons. The same school covered both because there was about a 75% overlap between what they did and if you didn't want the rest of the school you just didn't take the spells. But with 5e actually making specialist wizards better at their own types of magic 100% of the dark-and-necromantic school went to the Necromancer specialism.
Reading through this several times, I get the feeling that you are more interested in condescendingly accusing me of making mistakes and berating me on a soapbox then in actually having a conversation. That's not a conversation, and it's certainly not worth continuing.
 

Gosh, and here I thought that a dwarf transmuter would be thematic! lol.
I definitely understand and don't blame you for picking a dwarf transmuter. It's definitely a legitimate criticism that the transmuter is a bad subclass - but the relevant criticism here is that the 5e transmuter is a bad subclass both mechanically and thematically rather than that wizard subclasses are bad. The transmuter is far the worst of the 8 PHB wizard subclasses.
I think basically that choices should matter. I will say this for 5e, they are better at that in many cases than 4e is, and I'm not going to bash 5e for that. I just never thought that TSRs schools were all that clever, even back in the AD&D days I always was rather befuddled by the triviality of it all. Go back and read the classic "Master of Five Magics" NOW THERE is some thematic wizards!
Master of Five Magics would have five different classes of spellcaster initially.

And no the original spell schools weren't particularly clever. What they were was a loose groupings of types of magic precisely so specialisations would be called out; I don't remember whether there was any meaningful rule attached to a school or whether it was a pure fluff tag. 1e also had the specialist illusionist with a bespoke spell list with a lot of missing spells and a lot of spells earlier (and this was good). 2e wanted specialist wizards, gave them a bonus, then tried to recreate the illusionist while taking away the bespoke spell list. And it was a mess.
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
It IS somewhat ambiguous. [Essentials classes]

You're right!

For the record, I was pretty generous in counting something as 'Essentials' when I did my math. So that means that if you want to use the stricter definition, then there were even fewer 'True Essentials' classes played at my tables.

It now also strikes me that an interesting stat would be: Which classes were never played at my tables? Like the LOL Witch, but were there others? Damn, I should be doing some real work, not math-ing years old 4e data that I obsessively collected for no good reason.

Anyway I feel like poor @LoganRan (this thread's starter) must be wondering what monstrosity he has unleashed.

Have we answered the question? Based on my reading, a large part of the 4e player reaction to Essentials was 'meh', with some happy about the additional options / better formatting / certain products (Monster Vault!), and some unhappy about the direction the game was being taken (and the early warning signs that 4e was being killed off).

I'd like to add one more thing, which is that some of the Essentials products as products were INCREDIBLY good value for the money: DM's Kit, both Monster Vaults, the dungeon tiles, and the poster maps all gave you resources to use at your game (monster pogs and maps) at a very reasonable price. So if nothing else, as a product that gave me stuff to use at the table, I did get value out of Essentials.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Anyone that liked 4th edition before Essentials probably didn't like it because it reminded them of any other edition of D&D. They liked it because it was so radically different and dared to make departures from the expected norms.

Essentials was a return to "classic" ideas that 4e originally managed to get away from. In other words, it was antithetical to the core ideas of what made original 4e attractive to its fans. So, regardless if it was good, great, bad, or awful, Essentials came with an underlying tone of dissonance for 4e as a whole. It was a disruptor, and an agitator despite any perceived best intentions.
 
Last edited:

Aldarc

Legend
Anyone that liked 4th edition before Essentials probably didn't like it because it reminded them of any other edition of D&D. They liked it because it was so radically different and dated to make departures from the expected norms.

Essentials was a return to "classic" ideas that 4e originally managed to get away from. In other words, it was antithetical to the core ideas of what made original 4e attractive to its fans. So, regardless if it was good, great, bad, or awful, Essentials came with an underlying tone of dissonance for 4e as a whole. It was a disruptor, and an agitator despite any perceived best intentions.
What I liked about 4e Classic was that it, IMHO, presented a more coherent sense of its fantasy through powers, roles, and its World Axis setting than in 3e and before. It wasn't trying to sell iself, as is often the case with D&D, as the omni-fantasy adventure game that can do any and every type of fantasy. There was also a lot of "seeing how the sausage was made" in its transparency, which I appreciated, especially coming out of games like True20.

* Edit: It's called D&D and not D&F aka the difficulties of typing with a large cat sleeping on your arm.
 
Last edited:

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Speaking personally the appeal to me was threefold:
  1. I could run the game in ways that were similar to the way I run other games. Namely Vampire, Exalted, and Legend of the Five Rings. I could have a game where there might be a fight every 3-5 sessions and where I did not have to worry about balancing daily resource attrition between characters. It was also pretty trivial to handle the smaller 3-4 person groups I like to run for. Players felt pretty able to just play what they wanted to.
  2. I was experimenting with Burning Wheel at the time and 4e had a structural framework that let me easily pull in techniques from Burning Wheel.
  3. The lore was like chef's kiss to me. It reminded me a lot more of the sort of setting material I saw in White Wolf games, especially Exalted. It was visceral, relevant, and full of the kind of conflict that drives play. I have still not seen anything like in the D&D space since. It's the games' setting that keeps pulling me back.
 

Yeah I don't think they really pushed them well enough, but I kind of always liked the idea, in 4e, of subclass pushing you to a different secondary stat and I liked the idea of the implement being used to reflect that and having riders on powers similar to what Martial types would get for their weapons. The Staff would obviously prefer CON, the Wand DEX for accuracy and the Orb be CHA to impose your will! That sort of thing. The Tome could go with WIS to show you have a flexible mind.
Yeah, I felt like there was a lot that could have been done with it. Opening up different feats and whatnot for example would have been really interesting. Also the feature is just not substantial enough.
That's for sure, the Wizard is the weakest of the PHB1 class in many ways. And I think they really should have come with something to define the Controller role, the same way Strikers have damage bonus, Defenders can mark and Leaders have 2 bonus action heal per encounter. Not sure what it could have been, specifically... maybe a way to, once or twice per encounter, spread a condition? Or get to use the same At-Will twice in a single round without using your Action Point? Just random spitballing here.
I think they sort of wanted to do that with the implement masteries, but for some reason the idea was stillborn or there wasn't time to go back and develop it. I think implements were a late addition to the game. That also explains the failure to give them a proficiency bonus to attacks, and then the weird kludgy skewing of AC vs NAD that lead to much other badness later on.

I think they needed to LEAN IN on riders for wizard. They had riders for warlocks that were sort of so-so, but they did work. Some were even pretty clever. What if wizard powers all had implement riders? Not just "here's a power and if you happen to be an orbizard BONUS!" but they could have had riders for each implement. All of them would be controller features, but each could be slightly different. Orbs mesmerize or otherwise debuff, or enhance some sort of mental effect, etc. Wands allow some more clever targeting options, and staves do your push, slide, knockdown kind of stuff. There could then be a signature power or two that you can only get if you have a specific implement. Tome would easily fit into that paradigm, and the use of the "and this is your secondary attribute" thing works fine with all of that.

It is sort of a signature of 4e that they came up with some interesting ideas, and then didn't execute them. There's a lot of unfulfilled potential in the whole class hierarchy.
 

pemerton

Legend
Anyone that liked 4th edition before Essentials probably didn't like it because it reminded them of any other edition of D&D.
For me this is a bit simplistic.

4e reminded me of the story elements of D&D I was familiar with from AD&D and years of using GH as a setting: the various humanoid peoples with their gods (Moradin, Corellon, Grumsh, etc), Demogorgon and Archdevils, wights and wraiths, etc. I thought 4e handled a version of G2 much better than AD&D did, and D2 too!

Obviously it differed in its mechanics from 3E at least as far as PC building is concerned. And it dropped 3E's veneer of simulationism. But in some ways it reminded me of AD&D - it's like someone read Gygax's essays about how hp and saving throws reflect luck and divine inspiration, and built a game that really takes that idea seriously.

Obviously when I say I was reminded of things, I don't mean that 4e emulated them. It built on them and made them better versions of themselves. (And I agree with you that, at least for me, Essentials was frustrating because it reverted back to some extent.)
 

I definitely understand and don't blame you for picking a dwarf transmuter. It's definitely a legitimate criticism that the transmuter is a bad subclass - but the relevant criticism here is that the 5e transmuter is a bad subclass both mechanically and thematically rather than that wizard subclasses are bad. The transmuter is far the worst of the 8 PHB wizard subclasses.
See below, its a hill of mush.
Master of Five Magics would have five different classes of spellcaster initially.
Well, no, not really. The premise is simple and works. There are certain 'rules of magic' and mastery of each rule gives you access to certain abilities. I don't even recall all the details of the five now, but they were each based on a rule, like 'sympathy', 'contagion', the 'rule of threes', etc. In some cases you could probably achieve similar effects with different rules, but the actual outcomes would be a bit different, etc. They didn't feel like different CLASSES in the story, not as I remember it. It was all basically academic wizardry.
And no the original spell schools weren't particularly clever. What they were was a loose groupings of types of magic precisely so specialisations would be called out; I don't remember whether there was any meaningful rule attached to a school or whether it was a pure fluff tag. 1e also had the specialist illusionist with a bespoke spell list with a lot of missing spells and a lot of spells earlier (and this was good). 2e wanted specialist wizards, gave them a bonus, then tried to recreate the illusionist while taking away the bespoke spell list. And it was a mess.
It isn't just that they weren't clever, they are basically ARBITRARY, and which spell logically goes into each one is, well, they don't logically fit in the schools! The fact is the spells came first, and then Gary or someone made up these schools and shoehorned them in, virtually arbitrarily moving some around so that each school had similar numbers and types of effects (this happened mostly in 2e since 1e didn't assign any mechanical significance to school, it was more of a 'keyword' and nothing keyed off it). Its been the same since, those arbitrary assignments have been mostly traditionally stuck to (because heck, everything in D&D has to honor tradition no matter what). lol.

Now, MAYBE if 4e had done it from the start, and maybe associated each type of spell with an implement and maybe some more detailed (ala Master of Five Magicks) tradition, and THEN devised the powers to reflect that, purely, maybe it would have contributed something. As it is, its not really doing that, and 4e's Mage schools were again something tacked on, so they lost the chance, though at least they did have SOME mechanics to them, which wasn't bad (except pyromancy merely stepped on the sorcerer's toes, but that's a different issue).
 

MwaO

Adventurer
Who cares what healing is? I mean it's not as if it's something wizards can do and no one else bothers with the schools.

I would just note in 4e, Wizards do have healing options, in large part due to the Witch's Full Moon Coven "White Mage" sub-build and Necromantic Mages. Herbal Healing, Glorious Presence(s), Lifetaker, but also Soul Harvest, Vampiric Strike
 

Yeah, I felt like there was a lot that could have been done with it. Opening up different feats and whatnot for example would have been really interesting. Also the feature is just not substantial enough.

I think they sort of wanted to do that with the implement masteries, but for some reason the idea was stillborn or there wasn't time to go back and develop it. I think implements were a late addition to the game. That also explains the failure to give them a proficiency bonus to attacks, and then the weird kludgy skewing of AC vs NAD that lead to much other badness later on.

I think they needed to LEAN IN on riders for wizard. They had riders for warlocks that were sort of so-so, but they did work. Some were even pretty clever. What if wizard powers all had implement riders? Not just "here's a power and if you happen to be an orbizard BONUS!" but they could have had riders for each implement. All of them would be controller features, but each could be slightly different. Orbs mesmerize or otherwise debuff, or enhance some sort of mental effect, etc. Wands allow some more clever targeting options, and staves do your push, slide, knockdown kind of stuff. There could then be a signature power or two that you can only get if you have a specific implement. Tome would easily fit into that paradigm, and the use of the "and this is your secondary attribute" thing works fine with all of that.

It is sort of a signature of 4e that they came up with some interesting ideas, and then didn't execute them. There's a lot of unfulfilled potential in the whole class hierarchy.
If 4e had been created with unlimited time then they might possibly have done that - but it is long, fiddly, and complex. And as mentioned 4e was put together far too fast (14 months from restart to publication).

Essentially what you are asking for is for almost every spell to be written essentially as three separate spells. And then if they'd done it the way you suggest they almost literally couldn't have added the fourth implement in (the tome) because they would have had to rewrite almost every spell in the PHB to give it its implement-based riders.

And even if they'd done this the basic approaches still wouldn't have been as evocative and easy to understand for newbies as Necromancers, Pyromancers, and Nethermancers. But you're probably right that they were added late in the day - as, I suspect, was the fighter weapon training (+1 with one handed/+1 with two handed? Seriously?)
 


If 4e had been created with unlimited time then they might possibly have done that - but it is long, fiddly, and complex. And as mentioned 4e was put together far too fast (14 months from restart to publication).

Essentially what you are asking for is for almost every spell to be written essentially as three separate spells. And then if they'd done it the way you suggest they almost literally couldn't have added the fourth implement in (the tome) because they would have had to rewrite almost every spell in the PHB to give it its implement-based riders.

And even if they'd done this the basic approaches still wouldn't have been as evocative and easy to understand for newbies as Necromancers, Pyromancers, and Nethermancers. But you're probably right that they were added late in the day - as, I suspect, was the fighter weapon training (+1 with one handed/+1 with two handed? Seriously?)
Actually, I hit on a good way to engineer this sort of thing in HoML, which is 'kickers'. They exist in 4e too, but were not used in this way, for whatever reason. That is, a kicker is just a supplementary free action power that gets dropped in on top of another attack, like the way Slayer's Power Attack drops in on top of an MBA (and both combine with the stance). MECHANICALLY it is just basically a rider on another power, but you don't have to 'rewrite every power' to add them in. Granted, they are a bit less specific to each individual power, since they will probably ride on a variety of different powers, but with proper keyword use you can get the effect you want, and when you intro a new item in the category you base your riders on, you also intro some new powers that have the very specific riders you want that, in this case implement, to get (IE Tome only really needs special riders on summonings, right? Then it gets 2-3 generic kickers to apply to other powers, you're all set).

Notice how vestige warlocks worked, there was a similar sort of a thing done there. It worked pretty well, the vestige 'lock was a perfectly viable addition even though it didn't get to have any of the PHB1 riders. Honestly, the other way to handle that particular one would have been to just have each vestige make you an 'honorary member' of another pact type for a round or two. That would also have worked OK, aside from the scattershot secondary attribute issue, but they already have that problem...
 

Aldarc

Legend
You seem to have gotten cut off there? Was there more?
Oh. Only that if we asked multiple people to group the spells into the different traditions (even with guidelines), it's likely that people would not reproduce the associated spell traditions with much accuracy. The traditions don't exactly have the strongest thematics and/or aesthetics that make such judgment calls easy for people. If I asked someone to do the same with SotDL and/or Fantasy AGE, then I suspect that it would be much easier for people to do so or with greater accuracy, but these are games that have magical traditions like Fire, Cold, Illusion, Death, Metal, Shadow, etc.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
For me this is a bit simplistic.

4e reminded me of the story elements of D&D I was familiar with from AD&D and years of using GH as a setting: the various humanoid peoples with their gods (Moradin, Corellon, Grumsh, etc), Demogorgon and Archdevils, wights and wraiths, etc. I thought 4e handled a version of G2 much better than AD&D did, and D2 too!

Obviously it differed in its mechanics from 3E at least as far as PC building is concerned. And it dropped 3E's veneer of simulationism. But in some ways it reminded me of AD&D - it's like someone read Gygax's essays about how hp and saving throws reflect luck and divine inspiration, and built a game that really takes that idea seriously.

Obviously when I say I was reminded of things, I don't mean that 4e emulated them. It built on them and made them better versions of themselves. (And I agree with you that, at least for me, Essentials was frustrating because it reverted back to some extent.)
Very much this... when someone says 4e abandoned Tradition I think poppycock. For me the edition made traditions work even some that had not worked for me started making more sense.
 
Last edited:

Aldarc

Legend
Very much this... when someone says 4e abandoned Tradition I think poppycock. For me the edition made traditions of work even some that had not worked for me started making more sense.
4e was one of the first genuine times that D&D self-reflected on its own mythos and tried to make more coherent sense of it. Open Grave, for example, tried to make provide solid explanations for the different types of undead and what death/undeath means in the grand scheme of the D&D (and World Axis) mythos. That was pretty darn impressive. It also did the same for the various planes as well.

Considering how James Wyatt adopts a similar angle in Fizban's Treasury of Dragons in trying to make a unified mythos for dragons in D&D, I'm wondering how much of 4e's World Axis mythos is the result of his influence.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
For me the edition made traditions of work even some that had not worked for me started making more sense.
I don't disagree with this. But unfortunately, most people couldn't look any further than the mechanics of the game, which is all that mattered for many. It is, after all, still a game. And for many players, the play is more important than the implied narrative.
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
4e was one of the first genuine times that D&D self-reflected on its own mythos and tried to make more coherent sense of it. [...] Considering how James Wyatt adopts a similar angle in Fizban's Treasury of Dragons in trying to make a unified mythos for dragons in D&D, I'm wondering how much of 4e's World Axis mythos is the result of his influence.

Everything good about 4e's fluff and world building can be credited to James Wyatt.

OK, not literally everything; there was a team. But the man is EXCEPTIONAL at fluff and world building.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I don't disagree with this. But unfortunately, most people couldn't look any further than the mechanics of the game, which is all that mattered for many. It is, after all, still a game. And for many players, the play is more important than the implied narrative.
Or the name.

If I had a nickel for every time someone said, "Oh, the game is fine, but I would never play it because its not D&D!', I would be riding into space atop a suspiciously shaped rocket.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top