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

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?
Easy encounter on the fly. Throw X monsters with level equal to the party level.

Otherwise the math of 4ed was unforgiving. roughly a monster 5 level higher mean that player need 15 to hit him, while thismonster need a 5 to hit the PC. So encounter were forced to have monsters that roughly match PCs level.

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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.

Kind of this.

We used 4E mechanics in Star Wars Saga. Wouldn't mind a revised version of tgat game dialing the numbers down.

The difference is though in D&D I expect some D&Disms something else doing its own things I didn't mind.

I used the 4E engine in my own D&D homegrown since updated with 5E.

You could use that engine for any class/level based game and possibly for a skills one as well.

Eg you could make an OSR game using 4E engine.


Great thread. There is so much I just love about 4e.
I want to mention just a few things:
  • Easy to prep monsters. At the moment I am GMing a PF1 campaign. And there's also things I like about PF1, but prepping 3.P monsters is like a full time job next to 4e monsters.
  • How power descriptions clearly segregate the fluff from the rules. I know many didn't like it, and feel 5e's "natural text" is more immersive, but I loooooove the 4e way way more.
  • A good DMG. 5e DMG is good for experienced players. But 4e's DMG and DMG2 are among the best in the biz. Across all games.
  • The fun combat. 4e is the "no you didn't just do that?!??! AWESOME"-edition. So so fun.
Not sure if it's against the +-thread rules? But the only thing I found was an issue, was that combat could take a long long time. Especially if players didn't pre-plan their turns.

Oh, and some of the adventures in Dungeon late into it's life cycle was quite good. But at that time nobody really noticed. All the 4e Dungeon and Dragon magazines are treasure trove of 4e stuff.


The biggest thing for me is that 4e is/was very flavourful. It might have started out slow, but as further books were released we got a plethora of character classes and character concepts that were neat and evocative and, best of all, were so right from level 1 (rather than being teased for X levels before you felt like you were both competent at your role but also embodied the character you wanted to play). And this got even better once backgrounds were expanded to come with abilities, and especially with themes. Between the multiple options within each class, plus different power choices within the class (and with backgrounds/themes as icing on top), the game was not only super flexible but even characters of the same class played, felt, and could be RPed very differently. It was a delight of character freedom. In addition, with clear language and effects-based design it was straightforward to re-fluff things.

The lore and worlds aspects of the game was also very flavorful, with items designed to be seen and have an impact in play. Opponents were designed to do things that matched their flavour and place in the world/fiction, and to lead to interesting tactics and surprises. (Natch, there were misses in the design of certain monsters, and the math at launch needed to be tweaked, so not all were excellent.)

The description of play, the DM advice, the improvisation guidance and tables, were all great to contribute to engaging and creative play.

Looking back on it (and playing it again right now as well), there are certainly bits that need cleaning up and could be evolved even further, taking into account the 10-15 years of additional game experience and development. There's some elements that could be expanded as well, and more rules/guidance given to account for a wider variety of playstyles (I published a few supplements in this vein on drivethrurpg).

And, FWIW, I am not on the whole negative to the Essentials classes. I don't mind playing around with the AEDU framework, and again some of those classes were quite flavorful. (Not that I am saying all were equally designed well, and/or don't need a second pass to iron out some deficiencies.)


New Publisher
One thing I know a lot of people don't agree with....but the fluff was great. The monster books were actually filled with it. The Nentir Vale and the Chaos Scar were great. It had a wonderful set of gods.

As a DM, being able to use the monster maker to make new monsters and to level up and down existing ones was amazing. It truly allowed me to surprise my long time players (who all DMd other games).

I, for one, liked the powers and how they were laid out. Minions were boss :). My players could make any kind of character they wanted.....IMO, the options were super varied, but easier to carry out than 3e and all the feats.

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
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.
Actually, those cards were used in public play, and some were a lot of fun. A favorite of mine let me gain combat advantage by then falling prone and taking a little damage- it was great for modelling the kind of character who is clumsy but lucky.


Entropic Good
The framework of the game was very solid. The basics: how you move, how you roll, how you take your turn, how this and that works, were all very very solid for a game. It was easily learned, quite consistant, etc. Then the way complexity build on top of that framework was quite elegant. It had solid Ideas that promoted creativity and exploration of the idea spaces in the game: arcane defenders, martial healers, classes, races, feats and such. There was a lot of things that could inspire your creative juices on the PC side (although too many arbitrary/unneeded options was eventually part of the [-]). DMing was very easy, you just needed to know the number and what worked at your level and you could make -anything- work out and make it up on the fly.

When you used it for what it was meant to do, it did it so very well, and very easily.


Deluxe Unhuman
I actively disliked 4E at the time - mostly because of the relatively heavy tactical focus - but since then I've grown to like a lot of things about it.

In light of 5E - which I'm not knocking, because my group has a great time playing it, weekly, for 6 years now - there are 4E things that seem genuinely elegant in comparison. The simplicity of daily, encounter, and at-will powers hits a nice sweet-spot for me.

More of a focus on behavior and ecology in 4E's MM is another.

Generally, for a game that rubbed me the wrong way at the time, 4E's finesse would alleviate some of what I don't like about 5E's combat-centricness - and that feels like a backwards thing to say to my 15-years-ago self.

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