4E messy's 4e newbie questions thread

messy

Explorer
allo

after spending a few years avoiding 4th edition (mostly because i thought dragoborn were completely silly), i've finally delved in. surprise, surprise -- i like what i see.

now i have some questions. please keep in mind that i've read only the player's handbook.

1. constitution score is added to first level hit points? am i reading this right?

2. constitution bonus isn't added to hit points after level 1? am i reading this right?

3. let's say bob is a dwarf fighter of level one with a constitution of 20 (base 18, +2 for being a dwarf). he has 15 hit points for being a fighter, +20 for his constitution score, and has chosen toughness for his feat, giving him... 40 hit points! a first level character with 40 hit points? am i reading this right?

4. let's say bob's friend chuck is a dwarf warlock, also with a constitution of 20. he uses flames of phlegethos to do 3d10 damage, +5 for his constitution modifier, +1d6 if the creature is the recipient of his warlock's curse, and so can do... 41 points of damage! a first level character can do 41 points of damage? am i reading this right?

5. can a shield be used as a weapon?

6. does a magical shield get an enhancement bonus to the bonus it gives to armor class?

7. i can't seem to find any powers that summon creatures. have i missed them?

8. there seem to be less magic item slots than in 3rd edition. why is this?

9. there don't seem to be too many epic feats. what's a 30th level wizard to do?

10. what is essentials?

11. how many player's handbooks were published?

12. how many dungeon master's guides were published?

thank you, to all who answer.
 
allo

after spending a few years avoiding 4th edition (mostly because i thought dragoborn were completely silly), i've finally delved in. surprise, surprise -- i like what i see.
I think Dragonborn are silly too, but a DM who doesn't like them can ban them. (Well, should be able to. It doesn't work in practice.)

No, I haven't banned them. I don't dislike them that much.

now i have some questions. please keep in mind that i've read only the player's handbook.

1. constitution score is added to first level hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes.

2. constitution bonus isn't added to hit points after level 1? am i reading this right?
Again yes. You can keep a low Con if you really want to. I haven't done this in 4e, but in Gamma World 7e (same basic rules) I had a PC with a Con score of 5, and didn't die. In my current campaign, one of my PCs is an eladrin rogue with Con 8. He hasn't complained about that. (Eladrin don't take a Con penalty, so it's obviously his choice.)

3. let's say bob is a dwarf fighter of level one with a constitution of 20 (base 18, +2 for being a dwarf). he has 15 hit points for being a fighter, +20 for his constitution score, and has chosen toughness for his feat, giving him... 40 hit points! a first level character with 40 hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes. You will never see a PC like that though. Ability score selections are very predictable, and the penalties for having a low stat where you shouldn't is very obvious.

For instance, a fighter will probably have a Strength of 18 or even 20 (you want as high an attack bonus as possible), and this will also boost your Fort defense. Con will boost your Fort defense too, but you only use the higher of the two stats. What is the difference between a dwarf fighter with Con 16 and one with Con 20? You lose 4 hit points and 2 healing surges, but you would spend those extra points in Wisdom (boost your low Will defense, plus improve your Combat Superiority class feature). If you desperately want more healing surges, I would point to the Durable feat. But I know this is theorycraft and not a real PC.

Those stats might seem high, but WotC must have noticed the effect that high point buy has on balance. Players want high stats for their PCs, so WotC gives you high stats. In fact, it makes you require high stats.

4. let's say bob's friend chuck is a dwarf warlock, also with a constitution of 20. he uses flames of phlegethos to do 3d10 damage, +5 for his constitution modifier, +1d6 if the creature is the recipient of his warlock's curse, and so can do... 41 points of damage! a first level character can do 41 points of damage? am i reading this right?
To do that much damage, you would need to crit (you only get 30 on a 3d10 if you roll max damage, which happens on a crit, on average you would get 23 damage). And a warlock is a striker, so they're supposed to do a lot of damage with a daily. Note that if that warlock had a +1 implement, he would roll an extra 1d6 damage on a crit, but that isn't maximized, so you could have done 48 damage.

That's not as crazy as it looks. In 3rd Edition, a CR 1 opponent probably didn't have more than 20 hit points, and many might only have 5 or 6. 4e is sometimes criticized because even a 1st-level (non-minion) opponent usually needs to get hit at least twice before it drops.

5. can a shield be used as a weapon?
Good question. I don't know. I presume if there's no specific rule about that, you would use the improvised weapon rules (but those are identical to unarmed attacks). Losing your weapon virtually never happens in 4e, and grappling doesn't prevent you from using a two-handed weapon.

6. does a magical shield get an enhancement bonus to the bonus it gives to armor class?
NO. Absolutely not! There's no more +X shields. It keeps the math simpler. (More on magic item math in a bit.)

7. i can't seem to find any powers that summon creatures. have i missed them?
There's a few cleric powers in the Player's Handbook like that. Invokers, and wizards in Arcane Power, get a bunch more. Essentials warlocks get them. And then more splats have a few more.

In general, summoning got hit by the nerf stick. Summons no longer mess with the action economy. The PC must spend their actions on the summon (so you can attack, or the summon can attack, but not both). You can potentially squeeze extra actions because the summon often gets opportunity attacks. This doesn't increase the number of opportunity attacks you can get per turn strictly speaking, but occupying two spaces on the battlefield increases the likelihood that someone will provoke an opportunity attack. Many summons actually have pretty good opportunity attacks.

There's a very few non-core long-term summoning rituals. All the ones I've seen are around 15th or 16th-level and up. And you need the Adjure ritual to make them stick around. (And yes, you can blow that skill challenge, in which case you become the servant!)

8. there seem to be less magic item slots than in 3rd edition. why is this?
CHEERS!

A typical PC has three or four items: one of level +1, one of level, one of level -1, and enough money for a fourth (but you might spend that on ritual components, consumables, etc).

In 3e, you needed the Big Six items. You needed stat-boosting items (at least one, but often several), a Ring of Protection, an Amulet of Natural Armor, a Cloak of Resistance, magical armor (and possibly a shield), and a magical weapon. Those overlap a bit though. This was because PCs didn't gain AC with level, so the majority of your expenses went into not having terrible AC. This was one area where wizards had an advantage (you had lots of ways of making your poor AC irrelevant). Due to the necessity of buying items the right way, PCs rarely were able to buy "cool items".

In 4e, there's only the Big Three: weapon or implement, amulet of protection, and magic armor. Even then, these items often have additional cool effects. The rate of increase is very predictable, so (unlike 3e) inherent bonuses work very well in 4e.

A lot of those "required" items in 3e, while they exist in 4e, aren't required. There's a Ring of Protection. I think it can reduce incoming damage once per day. Spend your money on a cool wondrous item instead.

9. there don't seem to be too many epic feats. what's a 30th level wizard to do?
Epic is sadly undersupported. :(

10. what is essentials?
A poorly-named product stream :( Essentials is cool, it just has marketing problems. Some people saw it as an "alternate core" set or a new half edition. In practice, you can have Essentials and non-Essentials PCs in the same party, and you won't notice any balance problems at all.

The first Essentials product is Heroes of the Fallen Lands. (Or is it Forgotten Lands?) It has new versions of the core four classes: fighter (knight and slayer), rogue (thief), cleric (warpriest) and wizard (mage).

These new versions are billed as being "simpler". Certainly the knight, slayer, and thief are simpler than their PH1 version, but the mage is almost identical, and the warpriest seems more complicated to me. Note that "simpler" also means "less choice". This can be a bug or a feature, depending on your views.

Some fans didn't like daily powers for martial classes, so the knight, slayer, and thief don't have any. The knight is very similar to the PH1 fighter, but the slayer is a striker that works much more like a 2e or 3e fighter than a 4e fighter. Naturally, for every fan who wanted those daily powers gone, there are those who were unhappy with this. Fortunately, Essentials isn't a rules revision, so you have the choice.

The mage has three subclasses in the first Essentials book: Enchanter, Evoker, and Illusionist. (If you're looking to play a generalist wizard, stick to the PH1.) Because the different versions of the wizard are so similar, I see Essential's new wizard powers are basically an extra set of core spells.

Since then, there's been numerous Essentials players books, called Heroes of X... where X is Shadow, the Elemental Chaos, the Feywild, etc. Some of these books have been well-received, others not so much.

The Expertise line of feats, proliferating in Essentials, is controversial. While tightening up the math, people noted that PCs' attack bonuses fall behind (by about 1 point per tier). The feats "solve" this but are so good that everyone has to buy one. Usually there's an extra benefit beyond the attack bonus that is thematically appropriate. (My wizard has Orb Expertise, which increases the amount of forced movement his powers dish out by 1. Orb wizards -- orbizards -- tend to take a lot of forced movement powers anyway.) DMs sometimes offer an expertise feat for free.

Magic item rules were changed. Someone else will have to inform you about this. I can't wrap my brain around the rules changes. (They're not all that big, but were controversial anyway.)

Not strictly related to Essentials, but shortly before Essentials came out, WotC updated problems with monster math and skill rules. These are available for free as errata. Essentials Monster Manuals are called Monster Vaults (there's two of them, and they're very good; I hope you haven't bought the MM1 as it's now very outdated). There's also a Rules Compendium and other such products that hold the same updates, plus more DM advice.

11. how many player's handbooks were published?
Three officially, but in practice any book that says Heroes of the X is a Player's Handbook, and there's quite a few of those.

12. how many dungeon master's guides were published?
Two. The Dungeon Master's Kit (from Essentials) is effectively a third one.
 
1. constitution score is added to first level hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes.

2. constitution bonus isn't added to hit points after level 1? am i reading this right?
Yes.

3. let's say bob is a dwarf fighter of level one with a constitution of 20 (base 18, +2 for being a dwarf). he has 15 hit points for being a fighter, +20 for his constitution score, and has chosen toughness for his feat, giving him... 40 hit points! a first level character with 40 hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes. 4e very consciously avoids the "1st level PCs can die to one lucky damage roll" trope of other editions, though even 40 hp isn't as much as it sounds, when you meet your first tough encounter.

4. let's say bob's friend chuck is a dwarf warlock, also with a constitution of 20. he uses flames of phlegethos to do 3d10 damage, +5 for his constitution modifier, +1d6 if the creature is the recipient of his warlock's curse, and so can do... 41 points of damage! a first level character can do 41 points of damage? am i reading this right?
Yes. Though this won't happen often; we are talking about a striker critting with a daily spell, after all.

5. can a shield be used as a weapon?
I believe there are shield spikes somewhere, which give shields a proficiency bonus and damage dice. There are also several fighter exploits which involve using a shield as a weapon. Other than that, it's up to your DM. Most would probably consider it an improvised weapon.

6. does a magical shield get an enhancement bonus to the bonus it gives to armor class?
No. The reason is that if it did, higher level combat would become turtle-matches.

7. i can't seem to find any powers that summon creatures. have i missed them?
I believe the cleric has one or two in the PHB. (Don't quote me though.) There are more in other books.

8. there seem to be less magic item slots than in 3rd edition. why is this?
Are there? Well, that shows you how much I think about magical item slots. :p

Anyway, if there are less, I imagine it's to cut down on the Xmas tree effect.

9. there don't seem to be too many epic feats. what's a 30th level wizard to do?
Yeah, the epic pickings were slim until the splats started coming out.

10. what is essentials?
A series of very much NON-essential splats that came out two years into 4e's life-span. On the players' side, these faux-essentials introduce more traditional classes like magic-users with all daily spells and fighters with no daily exploits. Unsurprisingly, the quality of classes went downhill here. Also, the faux-essential books are missing important stuff like ritual spells.

On the DM's side, though, the Monster Vaults are great. If you ever DM 4e, use them instead of MM1&2. (MM3 is good though.)

11. how many player's handbooks were published?
3. The second introduced primal classes, and the third introduced psionic classes.

12. how many dungeon master's guides were published?
2. The second one has lots of advice about running paragon campaigns.

PS: To get all the great character options that 4e has produced, you can buy a bunch of books, or get DDI. Or you can just use the Complete 4th Edition.
 
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Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
1. constitution score is added to first level hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes. the idea is to start out with higher HP; but see also your question 4.

2. constitution bonus isn't added to hit points after level 1? am i reading this right?
Yes. The attribute bonuses play a different role than in previous editions, and the level-dependet scaling has changed as well.

3. let's say bob is a dwarf fighter of level one with a constitution of 20 (base 18, +2 for being a dwarf). he has 15 hit points for being a fighter, +20 for his constitution score, and has chosen toughness for his feat, giving him... 40 hit points! a first level character with 40 hit points? am i reading this right?
Yes, but see question 4.

4. let's say bob's friend chuck is a dwarf warlock, also with a constitution of 20. he uses flames of phlegethos to do 3d10 damage, +5 for his constitution modifier, +1d6 if the creature is the recipient of his warlock's curse, and so can do... 41 points of damage! a first level character can do 41 points of damage? am i reading this right?
Yes; and it answers some of your previous questions. HPs have increased and so did the damage values. Now, please make sure that you're seated in a secure position :hmm: a MM1 Kobold comes with 24-42 HP!

5. can a shield be used as a weapon?
Yes and no. A shield doesn't work as a weapon per se, but there exist powers which require the character to have a shield equipped. 4e generally uses powers to define a character's capabilities rahter than 3e's way of providing the appropriate rules for all characters and adorning them with a hefty malus if you don't have a special feat, prestige class or whatever.

6. does a magical shield get an enhancement bonus to the bonus it gives to armor class?
Yes. The bonus of the shield itself is added to both AC and Reflex defense, but magical shield don't sport an enhancement bonus.

7. i can't seem to find any powers that summon creatures. have i missed them?
Nope, you are just reading the wrong book. 4e was designed to offer more basic classes tham 3e, and each of the classes would concentrate on one theme. So the theme of summoning was removed from the wizard. Note also that 4e curtails action multiplicity. If, say, a Shaman wants his spirit companion to act, he has to use his own action to do so. You can't summon some creature and benefit from additional actions.

8. there seem to be less magic item slots than in 3rd edition. why is this?
Ask the designers! :cool: 4e math actually uses magic items to keep characters on the same power level as the enemies. Magic item slots are themed to specific functions; like feet slot items granting you special abilities to movement related things.

9. there don't seem to be too many epic feats. what's a 30th level wizard to do?
Well, epic play isn't really one of 4e's strong suits...

10. what is essentials?
From the outset 4e would receive one set of basic books (PH, DMG, MM) per year plus a tryptichon (DMG, PH, adventure) for a campaign setting per year. This plan didn't survive very long. Essentials is a re-packaging of 4e. I don't own it and thus can't comment on it, but it moved away from the AEDU (at-will, encounter, daily, utility) structure which all classes up to PH3 used.

11. how many player's handbooks were published?
Three. apart from the PHB1 you know, there were PHB introducing the primal and PHB with the psioníc power source.

12. how many dungeon master's guides were published?
Two.

thank you, to all who answer.
You're welcome.

Please note that 4e has received a lot of updates, which aren't limited to actual errata but change and re-write some rules. In a way, +0.5 has been hjandled by updates instead of the release of a 4.5e. You can find all updates with this link.
 
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Yes. the enhancement bonus of a shield is added to both AC and Reflex defense.
Jan van Leyden gave very good advice and answers, but this one isn't the case. A shield gives a +1 (light) or +2 (heavy) bonus to AC and Reflex, but that's it. Shields never have enhancement bonus. A magic shield might let you deflect arrows or some other cool power, but it won't boost your AC beyond what a regular shield would.
 
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Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Jan van Leyden gave very good advice and answers, but this one isn't the case. A shield gives a +1 (light) or +2 (heavy) bonus to AC and Reflex, but that's it. Shields never have enhancement bonus. A magic shield might let you deflect arrows or some other cool power, but it won't boost your AC beyond what a regular shield would.
Of course you're right. This happens when your answering such a message at 1:30 in the morning after consuming some wine and beer!
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
5. can a shield be used as a weapon?

6. does a magical shield get an enhancement bonus to the bonus it gives to armor class?
1 - There are 41 class powers (35 Fighter, 5 Warlord, 1 Paladin) that are restricted by "Requirement: You must be using a shield". All of these are "Keyword Weapon" attacks and typically assume that the shield is fluffed as a part of the maneuver being deployed; eg after each swing, you use your shield to shove your foe backward, and then you surge ahead. Obviously the Fighter, being the weaponmaster, has a vast array of shield-driven exploits. You can create a seriously fun (and potent) Fighter build with a hefty suite of retributive or protective immediate actions.

2 - Spiked Shield is a superior one-handed melee weapon + a light shield (+ 1 AC and Reflex) and requires a feat for proficiency; 1d6 damage, + 2 proficiency, light weapon and off-hand tags. You can enchant it as a weapon and free up your Arm Slot for another item. You can wield it and another melee weapon and effectively dual wield. This will not improve action economy but it can be used with powers and feats requiring two-weapons and can be used as an off-hand weapon.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
Personally I prefer Essentials. I feel the PC archetypes run abit truer to past editions, and tend not to overwhelm new players as much..as I run games for 13/14 yo kids, that is HUGE deal. Core would be analysis paralysis for them.

For me I prefer Essentials as it is nice subset of the system with everything I need and nothing I don't in a convenient format of a few small books (though I would prefer hardcovers). As I essentialy (npi) run a light B/X style S&S game with the 4 classic classes and races, HotFL is perfect as a players handbook. Also I found the new math and design of MM3/Essentials monsters to have a very positive effect on keeping combat length more tolerable, and enjoyable.

I do prefer the MM1/2 bare minimum fluff vs. some of the "wannabe novelist" entries of the Monster Vault..MV reminds me of alot of the overly verbose 2e products.

But I am weird like that...
 

Lindeloef

Villager
In the shield question: Some classes have powers, that require a shield... or at least the Fighter has. They are basically an attack that use the shield and don't depend on the type of shield you have.
 

Balesir

Villager
Lots of good answers, I have just one note to add:

At the time that Essentials came out, there was an intention to "update" the PHB1 classes in a "Class Compendium". The CC never appeared, but the class revisions for the AEDU classes were published in PDF and are available on the WotC site. Linkies:

Fighter (weaponmaster) here
Warlord here
Cleric (templar) here
Warlock (never got past "playtest") here

In addition, there were changes to racial ability bonuses (all races get one fixed and one choice between two alternates in Essentials) and feats that were rolled back to the PHB1 classes - they are available here and here, respectively.

Edit to add: it's worth taking a look at the "Rules Updates" section on the WotC website, too. Many changes were good fixes, but not all. I loathe the changes to magic items, personally, but it's still worth taking a look and deciding for yourself what to use.
 

tuxgeo

Villager
Some general 4E comments, instead of explicitly answering the questions you raised:

For the sake of survivability, the WotC people decided to start PCs at the equivalent of what would have been 3rd or 4th character level in earlier editions, but to still call that starting place "1st level" anyway. This leads to having "1st-level" PCs who have 20 - 40 (or more) hit points, and whose attacks can do massive damage.

Fewer magic item slots, more feats: they were trying to reduce the dependency on magic items. There is even an option called "Intrinsic Bonuses" that allows a DM to give the PCs the numerical effect of magic items without having to make the PCs collect those things.

The errata: The online Compendium has those included, but it takes a D&D Insider ("DDI") subscription to use it. However, the errata documents are available for free in .PDF form if you want to try to connect the changes to the original wording. (The online Character Builder also includes the errata, but it's a resource-hog running with Microsoft Silverlight.)

The WotC designers were learning as they went, so the later Monster Manuals are reportedly much better: MM3, as well as the "Monster Vault" products, have received good reviews. Likewise, some of the later adventures have been well-received, such as the one in the Essentials DM's Kit ("Reavers of Harkenwold"), and "Madness at Gardmore Abbey."
 

sabrinathecat

Explorer
Some other items.
Shields: There is a magic item called a fighting shield that is a light blade, and you could build a Captain America type character if you wanted to, and there are some other powers. However, there is virtually no reason to get a magical shield. The to use the item and encounter powers, you have to give up your arm slot. That means you could not benefit from items like "Iron Armbands Of Power", which add to your damage every time you hit. Using a regular shield (which has the same defensive bonuses as a magic one) and having that arm slot for something else is a way better way to go.
I've been having fun with my Con-primary Dwarf Shield fighter from lvl 1 to 27 (as of tonight). Slightly lower hit odds because of hammer proficiency bonus and strength not being utterly maximized, but he hasn't been dropped below 0hp since lvl17, and that was an accounting error. Because of his feat build, he dazes with at-wills, with fighter challenge attacks, and opportunity attacks.

Epic Feats: well, it depends on the classes. Warlocks need every single feat slot they can get just to be competitive (or close to competitive) with any other striker class.

Player's Handbooks: don't forget _____ Power books, which provide a lot of the feat support you need. (Arcane Power, Divine Power, Martial Power 1 & 2, Psionic Power).

I would also recommend you avoid the WotC boards for most questions. Not only is their new board so incredibly ugly and unwieldy that most people left, but there are a lot of hostile and flamers there. Just isn't worth it. My experience has been that this board and Myth-weavers are much more friendly and sociable.
 

messy

Explorer
13. why can't fighters use plate armor? they are martial defenders, after all.

14. why does the phb have tiefling but not aasimar? it's weird having one but not the other.

15. related to #14, do the aasimar appear in any published book?

16. since just about all powers (as far i can tell) have combat uses, why do wizards get cantrips? is it simply to retain some of their "magic?"

17. devastating critical seems too powerful. am i missing something? does it only apply to melee attacks?

18. have enhancement bonuses to ability scores (by spell or magic item) been removed?

19. where can i find more epic material (especially feats)?

20. are there rules for two-weapon fighting other than the two-weapon ranger?

21. is there a general definition for "marking" a target? there is a ranger power (which i can't recall) that marks the target, but this aspect of the power doesn't seem to have any effect.

22. can a lower tier feat be chosen with a higher tier feat slot? in other words, for his 12th level feat can bob the dwarf fighter choose weapon focus?

23. can feats be used with powers? i'm thinking of power attack, specifically. can bob the dwarf fighter use power attack with tide of iron?

24. why can a feint be attempted only once per encounter? i realize there are plenty of other ways for a rogue to do sneak attack damage, but i'm still curious.

thank you, again.
 
13. why can't fighters use plate armor? they are martial defenders, after all.
They do in Essentials (the knight, anyway), but I guess someone doesn't like fighters walking about in plate. (I don't either.) Scale armor doesn't bother me nearly as much.

14. why does the phb have tiefling but not aasimar? it's weird having one but not the other.
Aasimar are in the non-core rules (renamed devas). Tieflings, dragonborn and all the other originally non-core races got a rocky reception.

15. related to #14, do the aasimar appear in any published book?
Yes, but I don't recall which one.

16. since just about all powers (as far i can tell) have combat uses, why do wizards get cantrips? is it simply to retain some of their "magic?"
Many utility powers aren't combat-relevant, and neither are most rituals (too long casting times). My own wizard PC found Light to be great for in-combat signaling, and Create Sound would have been useful at fooling people if they didn't keep making their Insight checks.

17. devastating critical seems too powerful. am i missing something? does it only apply to melee attacks?
I just read it up. No, that's actually pretty weak for paragon level. You crit 5% of the time for an average of +5.5 damage, so it's not even +1 damage.

18. have enhancement bonuses to ability scores (by spell or magic item) been removed?
Yes, and HALLELUJAH! The items are still present but aren't must-have. Gauntlets of Ogre Power, for instance, give you an item bonus to Strength checks and Strength-based skill checks, but not to combat checks. Once per day it can boost your melee damage. It's flavorful but nowhere near as powerful as the older edition versions. As I mentioned before, you only need to fill three slots.

19. where can i find more epic material (especially feats)?
Other than the DDI, there's no good answer. No edition of D&D has supported epic well.

20. are there rules for two-weapon fighting other than the two-weapon ranger?
There's a feat. It just gives +1 damage. There's also a Tempest Fighter build in Martial Power 2.

21. is there a general definition for "marking" a target? there is a ranger power (which i can't recall) that marks the target, but this aspect of the power doesn't seem to have any effect.
Marking is clearly defined in Combat Challenge, Divine Challenge and the glossary. The ranger power, called Hunter's Quarry, is not actually a "mark" but people sometimes use the wrong terminology for it. A ranger definitely does not want to mark anyone!

22. can a lower tier feat be chosen with a higher tier feat slot? in other words, for his 12th level feat can bob the dwarf fighter choose weapon focus?
Yes.

23. can feats be used with powers? i'm thinking of power attack, specifically. can bob the dwarf fighter use power attack with tide of iron?
It depends on the feat. Power Attack applies to any melee attack, whether that be a power, melee basic attack, etc.

24. why can a feint be attempted only once per encounter? i realize there are plenty of other ways for a rogue to do sneak attack damage, but i'm still curious.
Flavor. Presumably each rogue always uses the same feinting trick, and it stops working when opponents see it in use. (Of course, if the bad guy survives, he'll fall for it next time!)
 
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sabrinathecat

Explorer
13. why can't fighters use plate armor? they are martial defenders, after all.
Take the feat for Plate-mail proficiency, and they can.

16. since just about all powers (as far i can tell) have combat uses, why do wizards get cantrips? is it simply to retain some of their "magic?"
And the cantrips are vary useful in non-combat situation. And don't knock mage hand. The ability to close doors and break up the enemy reinforcements by making them use a minor action to open a door and bottleneck them can be very tactically handy. Especially when you don't have to be a squishy right next to the door when it opens.

17. devastating critical seems too powerful. am i missing something? does it only apply to melee attacks?
It isn't. Not really. Seems great at first, but then remember only about 5% of attacks actually score crits (maybe 10% at epic), and that 1d10 isn't very much considering what else comes with it.
18. have enhancement bonuses to ability scores (by spell or magic item) been removed?
Yes, they are gone
19. where can i find more epic material (especially feats)?
Epic material is scattered throughout the various books. Have you looked into the Heroes of Shadow/Feywild/Elemental Chaos yet?
20. are there rules for two-weapon fighting other than the two-weapon ranger?
Martial Power or MP2 has the 2-weapon fighter build, as well as the brawling fighter
21. is there a general definition for "marking" a target? there is a ranger power (which i can't recall) that marks the target, but this aspect of the power doesn't seem to have any effect.
Marking target means that it has -2 to attack anyone except you. (Area effects include you). The Fighter is even better because of combat superiority, which give it special benefits to enforce the mark (mainly an attack if the target doesn't include the fighter, and even an attack if the marked target attempts to shift away).
22. can a lower tier feat be chosen with a higher tier feat slot? in other words, for his 12th level feat can bob the dwarf fighter choose weapon focus?
Yes. Likewise, a lower level power can be chosen. Don't like your lvl13 options? Take a second lvl 9 power. Or don't retrain and keep your lvl3 power.

23. can feats be used with powers? i'm thinking of power attack, specifically. can bob the dwarf fighter use power attack with tide of iron?
Check the wording. Power Attack certainly.

24. why can a feint be attempted only once per encounter? i realize there are plenty of other ways for a rogue to do sneak attack damage, but i'm still curious.
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." The monster isn't dumb enough to fall for the gambit twice. A fighter flank-buddy is a rogue's 3rd best friend. Maybe 4th best...
 
13. why can't fighters use plate armor? they are martial defenders, after all.
To make plate special.

14. why does the phb have tiefling but not aasimar? it's weird having one but not the other.
Because a lot of people play tieflings, very few aasimar. Also 4e tweaked the cosmology so aasimar in the 4e default settings aren't very likely.

Quick version: Angels are servitors of the Gods, and near will-less. All gods including evil ones get angels. Devils are tempters and corruptors who believe they should be the ones in control but want to take over, and are thus the most likely group to breed with mortals. Demons come from outside, normally having been banished there because they just want to watch the world burn. And when push comes to shove the devils will throw the demons back out because they don't want to rule over nothing - but they'd rather be paid for that thank you.

15. related to #14, do the aasimar appear in any published book?
Most PCs that could be aasimar end up as Devas.

16. since just about all powers (as far i can tell) have combat uses, why do wizards get cantrips? is it simply to retain some of their "magic?"
Not all do - powers are just special moves that people can reliably pull off. Whether spells or stunts (and most rogue tricks/utility powers are much more common out of combat than in).

18. have enhancement bonuses to ability scores (by spell or magic item) been removed?
Good riddance! This means that you don't have to recalculate your character sheet in detail when you add magic items, remove magic items, or dispel magic.

One of the fundamental guidelines for 4e is that everything you need to play is on your character sheet and you don't need to recalculate it. Your spells? Powers - on your sheet. Your special attacks? Powers. Your magic items? Magic items. All automatically printed out. It's designed so the game might sometimes be slow (there's too much analysis paralysis) but never grinds to a complete halt.

20. are there rules for two-weapon fighting other than the two-weapon ranger?
Martial Power contains the Tempest (two weapon) fighter, Primal Power the Whirling (two weapon) barbarian, and Essentials has a fluffier two weapon ranger.

21. is there a general definition for "marking" a target? there is a ranger power (which i can't recall) that marks the target, but this aspect of the power doesn't seem to have any effect.
Target takes -2 to attack rolls that don't include the marker as a target. You may only be marked by one person at a time with the new one superceding the old.

22. can a lower tier feat be chosen with a higher tier feat slot? in other words, for his 12th level feat can bob the dwarf fighter choose weapon focus?
Yes.

23. can feats be used with powers? i'm thinking of power attack, specifically. can bob the dwarf fighter use power attack with tide of iron?
Yes. Although people don't often power attack.

24. why can a feint be attempted only once per encounter? i realize there are plenty of other ways for a rogue to do sneak attack damage, but i'm still curious.
Two reasons.

1: People are harder to fool a second time.
2: To guide people away from bad choices. Feinting is rarely a good option.
 

messy

Explorer
25. there don't seem to be any restrictions on spellcasting in armor. is this correct?

26. do ranged attacks (bow, sling) still provoke opportunity attack (like in 3e)?

27. is there a handy way to print out the specific power cards i need?

thank you, yet again.
 
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25. there don't seem to be any restrictions on spellcasting in armor. is this correct?
Correct. Of course, you get penalties for wearing armor you're not proficient with, so there's that to think about.

26. do ranged attacks (bow, sling) still provoke opportunity attack (like in 3e)?
Yes. Any ranged or area attack provokes OAs. (Note that only powers which actually say 'area' count as area powers; close powers do not provoke.)

27. is there a handly way to print out the specific power cards i need?
Yes, but I write mine by hand on index cards, so I can't help ya here.
 

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