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


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Kannik

Adventurer
If there's one thing I loved about Essentials, it would for sure be the Rules Compendium. Such a great, handy, and well laid out resource of the rules. Having just run a 4e game for a couple of friends who hadn't played 4e before, it was a total breeze to go through, refamiliarize myself with the rules, and use it during play.

Overall, I liked the addition of variety of the Essentials products, using the 4e framework and tweaking it in different and new and interesting ways to make different styles of classes. I never saw it as a replacement (and I didn't pay attention to organized play or the advertising very much, so I don't know if they marketed it that way), only as an enhancement with more options and more flavour. I knew that there were some issues with integration -- such as all the feats that boosted basic attacks that suddenly were thrice as powerful since so many essentials classes relied on basic attacks -- but on the whole everything played nicely together and in some of our games we'd have a mix of 'regular' 4e classes with one or two essentials class.
 

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.
Right, though PARTLY I feel like the traditions might be more interesting if they are a bit more esoteric. Like, basically in HoML you have power sources (and 'arcane' is not one of them). Every 'power' is keyed to one, and they have some significant game effects, a lot like 4e's version, but treated in a 'less is more' way. So, then you could have 'methodologies', which would be tags that deal with what traditions have developed which powers. 4e kind of does that under class really. So, now there wasn't much in 4e for a 'school' to do! But in another game there could be some simple typing, like I've identified 'enchantment', 'evocation', 'summoning', 'necromancy', and 'divination' as POTENTIALLY coherent categories, but you could easily go by something less concrete, like some sort of ancient traditions based on some academies and cabals that existed 1000's of years ago (and maybe still do) that practice certain styles of magic, but maybe not totally exclusively (and the lineage of any given power or practitioner could be complex).

Obviously you get very setting-specific with that pretty fast, but then maybe that's not so bad. There are plenty of builds, PPs, etc. that are fairly setting specific. Usually people just drag them into other contexts and hack the flavor as-needed. I always kind of wanted to see more of that. I mean, 2e was the only edition that ever kind of hinted at "hey make up these things", and they pretty much binned them all as 'kits', and that concept sort of died with 2e. That is, 3.x and 4e (and I guess you can say 5e too) don't really expect you to brew up your own. 2e kind of did (I mean it was real explicit with priests).
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
re: make up things --

4e gave us the first really good guidance on monster creation (it's literally the first edition in which I felt competent at making monsters that actually worked mechanically).

4e also gave us some less-good guidance on making NPC henchmen types.

Sadly 4e never gave us guidance on making our own classes, paragon paths, nor epic destinies.

I'd like to believe there were some internal guidelines particularly around the latter two (PPs and EDs) but I half suspect the real internal process was "Eh, wing it".
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
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.
D&D is not the numbers (numbers are there in service to the narrative?) ... is that the Wrecan quote that applies? or am I misremembering or is the context perfect (was never sure I agreed with him he should resurrect from the beyond so we can have a long chat)
 



re: make up things --

4e gave us the first really good guidance on monster creation (it's literally the first edition in which I felt competent at making monsters that actually worked mechanically).

4e also gave us some less-good guidance on making NPC henchmen types.

Sadly 4e never gave us guidance on making our own classes, paragon paths, nor epic destinies.

I'd like to believe there were some internal guidelines particularly around the latter two (PPs and EDs) but I half suspect the real internal process was "Eh, wing it".
Essentials certainly continued with the good monster vibes, though more in terms of its updated MVs vs actually anything new in the "how to do it" department. Honestly I never got a DMK, so maybe I have missed some gem of wisdom there... Still it was good.

I'm not sure what is 'less good' about 'henchmen types'. The classic henchman is in 4e parlance a 'companion character'. That specific formulation was a DMG2 thing, but it works quite well. Prior to that, there just wasn't really a methodology there. You could presumably build stat blocks for NPCs, but there wasn't specific guidance on what made a good ally. I guess you could also use the PC rules, which always remains an option anyway if someone really desires. Again, I don't know if DMK has anything to say about this. The rules in MME that outline an approach to HIRELINGS is a whole other kettle of fish. I think it works, its an approach, it is intended to make them very 'bit player' types, and it is admittedly a bit abstract in some respects.

I think 4e has VERY STRONG guidance on making classes, PPs, and EDs, at least in the sense that it clearly delineates both their mechanical structure and provides ample thematic structures on which to build them. I agree, nothing is written in the books on this, but AFAIK, aside from 2e, there never has been anything in any edition. I'd most strongly agree that 4e makes it HARD to develop a class in the sense of requiring a lot of material in the form of powers and probably feats. OTOH the fact that 4e classes are almost UNIVERSALLY solid, even the 'bad' ones in various people's estimation being only marginally not so good, that it is clear designers were on very firm ground when making these things. The combination of Role, Power Source, and the general AEDU structure pretty well puts it on rails!

I think the same goes for the PPs and EDs, which are pretty simple and straightforward (Themes too). While some are better than others, mechanically, there are not too many that are really thematic 'drek'. I suspect there's no PP that isn't appealing to someone and enabling something they want to do. They may have avoided many of them for optimization reasons, which is the one area where they fall a bit unevenly, but again even the bad ones are only 'not so good'.

I don't think it was 'wing it' at all, I think it was "look at what we did, follow our lead" coupled with a very consistent execution by the core team of what they did, and the scaffolds mentioned above.

I think they were actually LESS successful when it came to the monster side in this area. While they DID give extensive rules, they were kind of convoluted and certainly the DMG1 era ones don't work all that well (though oddly if MM1 had followed them it would have improved most of the monsters in it). I think it was another instance of "bake it a bit more please, folks!"
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
I'm hoping that if we wait long enough, 4e will become retro-cool and we'll have a 4e School Revolution (4SR).

Wizards will actually open-source the 4e rules. There will be an explosion of 4SR materials, including stuff like how to create classes / PPs / EDs to allow for maximum customization.

Meanwhile, one of the DDI developers will reveal he kept a copy of the code repo, which Wizards also approves for open sourcing. Hard working 4SR fans clean up the code to make it run on modern frameworks as well as make it much better and more extensible, allowing for the creation of new software tools to go alongside a rewritten character builder and monster builder.

A golden age of 4SR shines its glorious light across the world!

...

Hey, a man can dream.
 

I thought Essentials was fine as an addition to existing 4e. More class options that seemed to be fine alongside existing options for the most part. Redone classic monsters with the latest math. Rules Compendium was nicely laid out.

If I play 4e now, I have no problem including essentials material.

As a standalone or the "new direction" for 4e I didn't like it at all.

I thought the classes weren't that great for the most part, and wouldn't want to play essentials only. Also, the fact that instead of making the Ritual system more prominent, they decided to remove it, or at least not mention it, tells you something.

I always wondered what the effect would be if at 4e launch, the classes that got Ritual Caster also got free rituals per day like the Bard (but more) and had a table that showed "Rituals known" and "Free rituals / per day" that looked like the old spell tables. Even if the max rituals per free tapped out at like 1 or 2 per day per level. Then expand the Rituals section a bit to include all of the most classic utility magic that was eventually covered by other books and Dragon mag. Maybe split the rituals by skill so you had "ritual lists" -- arcane, primal, divine -- and more differentiation. Charcters could still pick up the Ritual Caster feat and gain access, but only to 1 skill affliation. This would have kept the old spell list feel. Centering Ritual magic more like this might have deflected some of the initial criticism.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I'm hoping that if we wait long enough, 4e will become retro-cool and we'll have a 4e School Revolution (4SR).

Wizards will actually open-source the 4e rules. There will be an explosion of 4SR materials, including stuff like how to create classes / PPs / EDs to allow for maximum customization.

Meanwhile, one of the DDI developers will reveal he kept a copy of the code repo, which Wizards also approves for open sourcing. Hard working 4SR fans clean up the code to make it run on modern frameworks as well as make it much better and more extensible, allowing for the creation of new software tools to go alongside a rewritten character builder and monster builder.

A golden age of 4SR shines its glorious light across the world!

...

Hey, a man can dream.
Speaking to the bartender: "I'll have what he's having..."
 

Undrave

Hero
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.
I dunno if the reason you mention makes sense because, from where I'm standing, the problem with 4e was that it was TOO MUCH of a 'game'. Apparently a lot of D&D paler don't like to be reminded they're playing a game. It breaks the immersion and all that stuff.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I'm hoping that if we wait long enough, 4e will become retro-cool and we'll have a 4e School Revolution (4SR).

Wizards will actually open-source the 4e rules. There will be an explosion of 4SR materials, including stuff like how to create classes / PPs / EDs to allow for maximum customization.

Meanwhile, one of the DDI developers will reveal he kept a copy of the code repo, which Wizards also approves for open sourcing. Hard working 4SR fans clean up the code to make it run on modern frameworks as well as make it much better and more extensible, allowing for the creation of new software tools to go alongside a rewritten character builder and monster builder.

A golden age of 4SR shines its glorious light across the world!

...

Hey, a man can dream.
There might be something happening.... hmmm let me see.
It was what was being discussed by Ron Edwards and that other guy.

Colvilles been giving plenty of positive advertisement for 4e
 
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cbwjm

Legend
I feel 4e never did that because the classes were the most complex and expansive in any generation.

If 4e had did shared power source pools of powers, then it could do it. Both both AEDU and Essential classes would take up several pages to do such guidance.
Shared power source pools is something I kind of wish 4e had done. If you're a martial class, choose from the martial powers list. Want some magic? Pick up a multiclass feat for an arcane class to choose arcane powers (so really, not much of a change to the initial multiclassing rules).

Then you could have abilities and modifiers lie in the classes so that a fighter hits with a martial power and marks their enemies, a warlord hits with a martial power and grants allies a bonus to hit. You miss out on powers that were enhanced by specific builds, but maybe the class abilities could address that to bring it back in rather than relying on specific powers.
 

Shared power source pools is something I kind of wish 4e had done. If you're a martial class, choose from the martial powers list. Want some magic? Pick up a multiclass feat for an arcane class to choose arcane powers (so really, not much of a change to the initial multiclassing rules).

Then you could have abilities and modifiers lie in the classes so that a fighter hits with a martial power and marks their enemies, a warlord hits with a martial power and grants allies a bonus to hit. You miss out on powers that were enhanced by specific builds, but maybe the class abilities could address that to bring it back in rather than relying on specific powers.
I'm experimenting with an even less restricted paradigm. Powers have an associated source, but you don't HAVE to be attuned to that source to use the power. You simply have to be attuned to it to drop RIDERS on top of it. That is, you only have riders from your source, and you can't spend power points to enhance an effect (which is basically just a slightly different way of saying "get a daily use") without that attunement. So, a fighter can unleash a really potent "Spend a PP and add a rider to a basic at-will to make it into awesome thingy" and a wizard could still access the basic 'at-will', if they have the right boon, they just can't pump it up. This cuts WAY back on the numbers of powers required, and pretty much provides the equivalent of hybrid/MC. You can always try to become attuned to several power sources if you want, though you only ever get the class features of your actual base class (which generally includes your role-defining riders).

Its an experiment, but I THINK it will work, and basically the result is kind of a bit 'covert', but its VERY close to identical to classic AEDU in effect, except you use power points to get your encounter/daily type effects. The PPs can double as HS and AP too, so you don't really want to just burn them casually. OTOH it does open up the possibility of spamming a specific potent power/rider/enhancement combo somewhat. I guess that is just sort of the price of admission though.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I dunno if the reason you mention makes sense because, from where I'm standing, the problem with 4e was that it was TOO MUCH of a 'game'. Apparently a lot of D&D paler don't like to be reminded they're playing a game. It breaks the immersion and all that stuff.
I'm not disagreeing with this, either. But I did not mean to imply that it was the only reason. Obviously, different people have different expectations. And sometimes the differences are shared.

When I mention certain mechanics, I am referring to the familiar parts of the game that players expect to see carried over, like Vancian spellcasting and other sacred cows. On whole, the difference in 4th edition was apparent in everything, even its presentation. Everything was presented in color-coded formats like trading cards; powers, magic items, monsters, etc.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Shared power source pools is something I kind of wish 4e had done. If you're a martial class, choose from the martial powers list. Want some magic? Pick up a multiclass feat for an arcane class to choose arcane powers (so really, not much of a change to the initial multiclassing rules).

Then you could have abilities and modifiers lie in the classes so that a fighter hits with a martial power and marks their enemies, a warlord hits with a martial power and grants allies a bonus to hit. You miss out on powers that were enhanced by specific builds, but maybe the class abilities could address that to bring it back in rather than relying on specific powers.

Personally, if 4e used shared power pools, it woulda helped Essentials feel more organic in it's introduction. Essential classes would feel more entangled within the original classes.

Here is my dream 4e Martial Power Source

ClassMartial At-WillMartial EncountersMartial DailiesArcane EncountersArcane DailiesDivine EncountersDivine DailiesPrimal EncountersPrimal DailiesShadow DailiesPsionic Dailies
FighterXXX
Ranger HunterXXX
RogueXXX
WarlordXXX
AlchemistXXX
AssassinXX
BerserkerXX
BlackguardX
BrawlerXXX
CrusaderXX
GadgeteerXXX
KnightXX
Hunter RangerXXX
RunepriestXXX
SkaldXXX
SlayerXX
ThiefXX
 


Shared power source pools is something I kind of wish 4e had done. If you're a martial class, choose from the martial powers list. Want some magic? Pick up a multiclass feat for an arcane class to choose arcane powers (so really, not much of a change to the initial multiclassing rules).

This would be neat. Maybe better, but I think it's not a strictly superior choice to class based. You gain certain flexibility, but you lose some ability to customize to class.
 


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