D&D 4E Let's Talk About 4E On Its Own Terms [+]


FIRST: This is a plus "+" thread. Please don't thread crap.

SECOND: Please no edition warring from any direction. That's what I mean in the title "on its own terms." I don't want to talk about how 4E did things differently from X because Y reason. I just want to talk about what 4E did, both in mechanics and lore.

All that said: I don't have much history with or knowledge of 4E. We tried it when it came out and I did not much care for it, so went to Pathfinder. I stayed marginally aware of what was happening at least from a publication standpoint, but did not buy anything after the initial Core 3 until Essentials came out. I remember really liking the Monster Vault and 4E monster design in general. I am sure if you look you can find me edition warring along with many people on this board, but I did not have strong feeling because of things I actually KNEW about 4E. I did more recently purchase a copy of The Astral Sea from DMs guild while planning a "PlaneJammer" campaign that never got off the ground.

Even more recently -- today in fact -- I was inspired to buy a copy of the Worlds and Monsters preview book. I remember owning it when it first came out but can't find it (or any of my 4E stuff). I don't know if I stored that material or just got rid of it. In either case, reading W&M now, far removed from the launch of 4E, I can see a lot of the good in the lore changes and the design intent.

So, what I would like to do in this thread, if we can, is just kind of talk about 4E on its own terms. Things it did well and things it did not do so well. Things it innovated -- both for D&D and TTRPGs in general -- and things it borrowed from other games. This is a + thread but that doesn't mean we can only sing the praises of 4E. it just means I don't want people to fight about 4E in relation to other editions of D&D. There will inevitably be specific instances where we can't help but make comparisons, but we shouldn't let those instances control the conversation.

As I said, I am coming at this from a pretty shallow understanding of 4E, both in mechanics and lore. So maybe we can open by folks giving their own impressions of 4E -- on its own terms.

log in or register to remove this ad

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
The thing I bring up the most is encounter/monster design. With the online DM tools, not only did you have access to hundreds of monsters, and could easily tally up the xp value of encounters, you could adjust them easily. For an adventure in the Feywild, I had my players encounter level 11 and 12 goblins, which only required me to click on "level" to get.

Powers doing exactly what they say they did did sometimes run afoul of verisimilitude, but it also meant you didn't need to go over them with a fine toothed comb to sort out what they were doing. Too many other games give you a wall of text making it harder to sort out what something is doing.

Non-Armor Defenses greatly sped up play; you use a power, you roll your attack, and a high roll means you succeed, no need to wait for the DM to make a saving throw. A lot of players (including myself) enjoyed the aspect of feeling like your destiny was in your hands, rather than throwing out an ability and praying the DM rolls low.

Most powers only effect the battle for a single turn, making it harder to "lock down" a character or NPC (save for those nasty daily powers!).

Healing surges being both a resource that didn't require you to have a Cleric and being a limit to how much one could heal per adventuring day greatly helped pacing. That a healing surge healed for 25% hit points meant that healing was a strong action, but if you kept taking hits, you'd be rendered unable to heal, so reckless play was quickly punished. The fact that you entered almost every battle at roughly full strength meant that encounters did not become dramatically easier/harder depending on when in the adventuring day they were encountered.

Action Points coming in on milestones was a far more reliable method of giving players extra oomph to deal with tough battles than hoping the DM awards you inspiration.

Characters start off able to handle more than 1-2 encounters at level 1, and you quickly feel like you're a member of your class (where other systems might make you wait a few levels to get core abilities).

Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies were very cool ways to make your character feel distinct, and give them a shot in the arm of flavor.

The implements of spellcasting such as wands and spellbooks actually affecting the use of your powers, instead of just being an extra source of powers is something I really enjoyed, especially when specialized implements with different advantages became available. A Wizard who uses a Wand can feel very different from an Orb user, for example.


Monster design was easy and thus making variants of the same monster was easy to throw into each encounter. I was also fine with taking powers from one monster to add to another and nobody would care. This also blended over into PCs and NPC, and the DMNPC. If I had someone tag along with the party, it was simple to modify and boost the abilities.

I feel one of the best things was attacking the saving throws like attacking AC. Cast a spell, the player rolls against the reflex save. I liked that so much I still have the players roll the monster saves now. Everyone likes rolling dice and if the mage is casting a spell, the player would like to roll tonight instead of watching the DM roll.

Does anyone know ifvtgere is a viable VTT implementation?
Roll20 has an implementation that works especially with the macro generator that is out there. For automation in Roll20 for 4e you use a lot of macros, one for each power. Again there’s an online macro writer, you input the parameters and it spits out the macro.

Fantasy Grounds has a good implementation but is missing the content you want already canned. It’s out there, especially if you check the 4e Discord. There’s a ton of help there.

Foundry’s implantation is coming along. It’s useable but takes some work on your end. Again the 4e Discord and the Foundry Discords are the place to go for help.

There’s a large Roll20 West Marches style group that operates from the 4e Discord as well. If your looking for 4e online help for any of the VTT implementations that’s the place to find it.


Staff member
Bear with me, I really am going to be [+].

My primary impressions of 4Ed are it’s a good FRPG, but it’s not a good take on D&D. There were elements of it I thought the system handled things better than prior iterations. The 4Ed Warlock class was particularly well done. But, IMHO, the system was hindered by trying to shoehorn its mechanics into reconciliation with D&Disms.

OTOH, you take the AEDU mechanics and the various class & race powers/abilities and divorce them from D&D class/race system expectations and you’d have a killer toolbox system for fantasy, horror, sci-fi or superhero games…and any blend of those you could imagine.

I’m pretty sure a clever game designer could also figure out how to model lower power versions of those as compared to D&D standard.


I think that D&D 4e probably had one of the most cohesive visions in D&D for the fiction of its gaming universe. Races, classes, power sources, monster types, magic items, deities, planes, etc. all had a real sense of place in the universe. Moreover, the universe was create with a real sense of player adventure. The implied setting of 4e is probably my favorite "core default" that D&D has produced.

There are mechanical things that I think that 4e did well, which I talked about before here.

OTOH, you take the AEDU mechanics and the various class & race powers/abilities and divorce them from D&D class/race system expectations and you’d have a killer toolbox system for fantasy, horror, sci-fi or superhero games…and any blend of those you could imagine.

I’m pretty sure a clever game designer could also figure out how to model lower power versions of those as compared to D&D standard.
I contend that the AEDU mechanics would have made for a killer MtG TTRPG.

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads