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

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
@Reynard , I am very sure you’ve seen me hold forth in my troubles with and lack of interest in detailed combat mechanics. 4e is one of very, very few exceptions, because I felt like the system repaid my effort with neat results. It did things I want to do.

Like, there’s a rogue exploit where you don’t do a lot of damage, but can move your opponent a couple of squares. I’ve seen many many swashbuckling movies and I know this scene: a duelist gets the drop on their rival and maneuvers them into the sword point to throat or heart. Usually while keeping up the banter or exposition. It’s not something many RPGs support, but 4e does, right there in the basic package.

Many other powers similarly hit “I want to do that, and I like this way of doing it” buttons.

Also the magic system feels more like magic in stories I like than just about anything in RPGs. The AEDU framework is just rhe neatest thing since sliced bread.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Jahydin

Hero
I played 4th edition nightly for about 4 years and had a lot of fun with it. I was also working two jobs and attending college which is really a testament to how easy this was to bring to the table if you bought fully in. Adventure paths that had every encounter mapped out and keyed with where to place monsters and special terrain, dungeons that were built using their Dungeon Tiles, and online tools to update/print out character sheets quickly. As for prep, since each combat took about an hour, you could get away with just reading the next few rooms and still have an entire night of gaming.

This way of playing D&D was pretty new and I think much of the first half of this version's life was trying to figure out how to best play it. IMO, this was either large 6 hours blocks devoted to exploring giant, pre-laid out dungeons (like a complex boardgame) or smaller 3 hour blocks where each session was built around a giant battle (think Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem).

What killed the game for us was a number to bad decisions made because D&D desperately needed to be a billion dollar franchise right away. One of the worst was selling randomized packs of cards that would give PCs "power-ups" for when they played at the table. As if any DM would let that fly... Another was to try and rope in the grogs by making an "other" version of 4E called Essentials that confused absolutely everyone as to what it's purpose was exactly thanks to vague promotional descriptions and two "Player Handbooks" that shared half the same information. The final straw though was not supporting their new Dark Sun setting via their online tools.

That seems like a whole lot of negative for a "+" thread, but I really wanted to drive home that many left not because the game itself was flawed, but because towards the end it was very clear they were laying tracks down as the train was moving with no destination in site. In other words, D&D was becoming a really bad investment, especially with that new game Pathfinder that just came out...

It was a great game for its time. And as someone that played a lot of 3.5, the design decisions we think of "odd" now, really were logical continuations of the "meta" at the time. Thankfully, the best parts of the system still live on through 13th Age and Pathfinder 2E.
 

Reynard

Legend
One thing I am interested in is, given how many PHBs and DMGs were produced, plus essentials, is what is the "final" or "correct" or "true" version of 4E. One criticism I recall is that they did so much updating via DDI that the books got out of date quickly. Was that true? if so, if you buy, say, the PDFs of the 4E books on DMsGuild, are they updated with said errata? Are they even usable?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
For what it's worth, I liked the idea that there were some spells which could be cast ritually (i.e. without preparation in a class-based spell slot), and that doing so only required (IIRC) an investment of a feat. (I'd also seen that presented in a 3.5 third-party book, though I can't remember if it came out right before or right after 4E.)

EDIT: Found it! It was the Incantationist feat, from Radiance House's Villains of Pact Magic (affiliate link). My copy was purchased in mid-2009, but the book itself has a 2008 copyright date.
 
Last edited:

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
One thing I am interested in is, given how many PHBs and DMGs were produced, plus essentials, is what is the "final" or "correct" or "true" version of 4E. One criticism I recall is that they did so much updating via DDI that the books got out of date quickly. Was that true? if so, if you buy, say, the PDFs of the 4E books on DMsGuild, are they updated with said errata? Are they even usable?
It would be difficult to identify a perfect snapshot of 4e chronologically; the monster designs improved throughout the product line, while the class designs and supplements got more experimental as the designers responded to the critiques appearing throughout the edition's lifespan.

To my mind, there are 3 books that encapsulate what 4e was doing at its best; the PHB2, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.
 

My preference is non-essentials but I do use the Rules Compendium and monster manuals from the Essentials Era. Player facing material comes pre-Essentials. I also give players the feat tax math fixes at first level.

The offline compendium is updated with the errata and in many cases the MM3 math fixes. It also relatively easy use the 4e monsters on a business card math to update things needed on the fly.

The errata is an issue but it’s still available at WotC, last time I checked, and if your playing via VTT your gonna be building powers from scratch so will have the opportunity to fix as you go.

One thing I think is underrated about 4e as it was released is the tactile nature of the game. It wants to be played with minis or pawns with tokens for conditions and action pianist and cards for powers. While none are strictly necessary I get delighted (in the same way I do with SWADE) with all the things to be ouch and handle. It’s a small thing but I love it.
 

Reynard

Legend
Another question about 4E: does it support sandboxy games. As in, is it easy to throw together encounters on the fly and does it support PCs sometimes engaging with challenges that don't line up with APL?
 

Reynard

Legend
My preference is non-essentials but I do use the Rules Compendium and monster manuals from the Essentials Era. Player facing material comes pre-Essentials. I also give players the feat tax math fixes at first level.

The offline compendium is updated with the errata and in many cases the MM3 math fixes. It also relatively easy use the 4e monsters on a business card math to update things needed on the fly.

The errata is an issue but it’s still available at WotC, last time I checked, and if your playing via VTT your gonna be building powers from scratch so will have the opportunity to fix as you go.

One thing I think is underrated about 4e as it was released is the tactile nature of the game. It wants to be played with minis or pawns with tokens for conditions and action pianist and cards for powers. While none are strictly necessary I get delighted (in the same way I do with SWADE) with all the things to be ouch and handle. It’s a small thing but I love it.
Tell me more about the bolded.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
Another question about 4E: does it support sandboxy games. As in, is it easy to throw together encounters on the fly and does it support PCs sometimes engaging with challenges that don't line up with APL?
I would say 4e works best if you run it like a sandbox, but how BG3 is like a sandbox. You seed the play zone with a bunch of interesting encounters; maybe you talk your way out of them, maybe you fight. But each fight should be varied and challenging, since 4e isn't as interested in attrition as a challenge. (Although you can absolutely set up lairs with multiple fights to make a more attrition-based challenge.)

It's less compelling as a pure sandbox where a lot of the encounter challenges are wandering monsters from a table, although it's workable if your encounter tables leverage having mixed encounters with just one enemy type. For example, an encounter with 2d4 gnolls can leverage the fact the 4e Monster Manuals have several types of gnolls that work together to make a more interesting challenge. Just add some interesting terrain to your random encounters (cliff faces, geothermal vents, trees with grasping vines, quicksand, etc.).
 

As a series of signposted leveled zones it would work fine. As a random encounter/ procedurally generated game not so much.

4e really want less, more complicated fights. It doesn’t work particularly well with ‘you open the door and there’s two orcs’. It wants big design spaces for the large effects and baked in movement effects. It was terrain and monsters that are interactive. It wants skill challenges combined with combat encounters (the final encounter in the Siege of Boridin’s Watch is a great example).
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top